Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM

Rohingya refugees arriving by boat at Shah Parir Dwip on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River after fleeing violence in Myanmar. (File/AFP/Adib Chowdhury)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM

  • Patience is growing thin with Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and its military that wields the “main power” there
  • Myanmar has said it is ready to take back the refugees and has built transit centers to house them initially on their return

NEW YORK: Bangladesh’s leader accused neighboring Myanmar of finding new excuses to delay the return of more than 700,000 Rohingya who were forced across the border over the past year, and said in an interview late Tuesday that under no circumstance would the refugees remain permanently in her already crowded country.
“I already have 160 million people in my country,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, when asked whether Bangladesh would be willing to walk back its policy against permanent integration. “I can’t take any other burden. I can’t take it. My country cannot bear.”
Hasina was speaking to Reuters in New York, where she is attending the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders.
The prime minister, who faces a national election in December, said she does not want to pick a fight with Myanmar over the refugees.
But she suggested patience is growing thin with Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and its military that she said wields the “main power” there.
Hasina has previously called on the international community to pressure Myanmar to implement the deal.
Calls to Myanmar’s government spokesman, Zaw Htay, went unanswered. He said recently that he will no longer answer media questions by phone, but will answer questions at a biweekly press conference.
Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a bloody military campaign against the Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya still crossing the border into Bangladesh and the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.
“They agree everything, but unfortunately they don’t act, that is the problem,” Hasina said of Myanmar. “Everything is set but ... every time they try to find some new excuse,” she told Reuters.
Myanmar has said it is ready to take back the refugees and has built transit centers to house them initially on their return.
But it has complained that Bangladesh has not provided its officials with the correct forms. Bangladesh has rejected those claims and UN aid agencies say it is not yet safe for the refugees to return.
Given the delays, Bangladesh has been preparing new homes on a remote island called Bhasan Char, which rights groups have said could be subject to flooding. Cox’s Bazar is also vulnerable to flooding but this year’s monsoon season was light.
Hasina said building permanent structures for refugees on the mainland “is not at all a possibility (and) not acceptable” since they are Myanmar citizens and must return.
Rohingya regard themselves as native to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, but are widely considered interlopers by the country’s Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship.
Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have estimated thousands died in last year’s security crackdown, which was sparked by attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in Rakhine in August 2017.
This week, a US government investigation reported that Myanmar’s military waged a planned, coordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya.
Myanmar has rejected similar findings as “one-sided” and said it had conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
Ahead of December’s election, Hasina and her ruling Awami League have been on the defensive following student protests over an unregulated transport industry. The protest was triggered after a speeding bus killed two students in Dhaka.
However, the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has been in disarray after its leader and former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, was jailed for corruption in February — charges she says were part of a plot to keep her and her family out of politics.


At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

Updated 1 min 22 sec ago
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At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least three people have been killed and nine other injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands on Monday morning.

Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city's mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon

Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 

“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 

“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)