Myanmar’s Hindu refugees mark festival in Bangladesh camp

This photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows Hindu refugees from Myanmar gathering to celebrate their festival at the Kutapalong refugee camp in southern Bangladesh. (AFP / Mohammad Faraz~)
Updated 20 October 2018
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Myanmar’s Hindu refugees mark festival in Bangladesh camp

  • The Hindus are camping only a kilometer away from Kutupalong near Cox’s Bazar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been living
  • The Hindu refugees say that their community was attacked in August 2017 in northern Rakhine state by Rohingya militants

KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh: Hindu refugees from Myanmar living in a camp in Bangladesh have been celebrating the festival of Durga Puja for the first time since fleeing violence in northern Rakhine state last year.
More than 500 Hindus escaped their homes last August along with over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims as Myanmar’s army launched a brutal crackdown that the UN says amounted to “ethnic cleansing.”
Hindu community leader Jibon Sharma told AFP that the terrifying circumstances of their escape prevented them from celebrating the annual festival last year.
But now local authorities in southeastern Bangladesh and the country’s Hindu minority have helped them, including with materials to build the pavilions housing displays of the many-armed goddess Durga.
“When we were in Myanmar we used to worship regularly. But it’s different here. Bangladeshis helped us beyond imagination with money and clothes,” Sharma told AFP.
“We are very grateful to them.”
The Hindu refugees say that their community was attacked in August 2017 in northern Rakhine state by Rohingya militants, and relations with the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh remain tense.
The Hindus are camping only a kilometer or two (a mile) around away from the world’s largest refugee camp — Kutupalong near Cox’s Bazar — where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been living.
“We have full-time security posted at this camp. We are well aware of the tension between them,” said police official Jahangir Alam.
The festival includes 10 days of music and cultural performances, as well as clothes being gifted to cheering children.
“I forgot when was the last time we had such a great Puja (prayer ritual). I am seeing my kids’ happy faces... I am very happy,” Suma Paul, a Hindu refugee, said as she cried happy tears.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 22 March 2019
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.