Myanmar seizes boat carrying 93 fleeing Rohingya camps for Malaysia

Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps outside Sittwe since violence swept the area in 2012. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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Myanmar seizes boat carrying 93 fleeing Rohingya camps for Malaysia

  • The navy stopped the boat on Sunday and detained the 93 people, who said they had come from the Thae Chaung camp in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe
  • The UN refugee agency has said Myanmar must “address the root causes of displacement”

YANGON: Authorities in Myanmar have seized a boat carrying 93 people, apparently Rohingya Muslims, fleeing displacement camps in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State and hoping to reach Malaysia, an official said on Tuesday.
The boat is believed to be the third bound for Malaysia stopped in Myanmar waters since monsoon rains began to subside last month, bringing calmer weather, raising fears of a fresh wave of hazardous voyages after a 2015 crackdown on people smugglers.
Moe Zaw Latt, director of the government office in Dawei, a coastal town in southern Myanmar, said fishermen had reported a “suspicious” boat to authorities.
The navy stopped the boat on Sunday and detained the 93 people, who said they had come from the Thae Chaung camp in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe, he said.
Thae Chaung is about 900 km (560 miles) northwest of Dawei and holds internally displaced people, most of whom are stateless Rohingya.
“They said they ran away from the camp. They said they intended to go to Malaysia,” said Moe Zaw Latt, adding authorities were preparing to send them back to Sittwe on Tuesday.
Photographs in media showed police standing by as passengers — many of them women in headscarves and children — huddled on the deck.
The boat resembled vessels the Rohingya typically use to escape the apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine State, where their movements and access to services are severely curtailed.
The UN refugee agency has said Myanmar must “address the root causes of displacement,” including the lack of citizenship for the Rohingya, who consider themselves native to Rakhine State.
Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps outside Sittwe since violence swept the area in 2012.
More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh last year fleeing an army crackdown in the north of Rakhine State, according to UN agencies.
UN-mandated investigators have accused the Myanmar army of “genocidal intent” and ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has denied most allegations of atrocities, blaming Rohingya insurgents who attacked police boats for sparking the exodus.
Myanmar officials say they are ready to accept Rohingya who want to return from Bangladeshi refugee camps. But refugees themselves and aid agencies oppose a repatriation plan that was due to begin on Nov. 15, saying conditions in Myanmar were not safe.
Myanmar detained 106 Rohingya men, women and children on a boat near the commercial hub of Yangon on Nov. 16, when their engine failed on their way from the Sittwe camps to Malaysia.
Those people have been returned to the camps, along with another group of more than 80 people whose boat was seized off the coast of southern Rakhine last week also bound for Malaysia, according to an aid worker in Sittwe monitoring the boat movements.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.