Rohingya refugees wary after Myanmar minister’s hostile remarks

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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
Updated 06 December 2018
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Rohingya refugees wary after Myanmar minister’s hostile remarks

  • Myanmar ambassador summoned by Dhaka
  • Crackdown on Rohingya was ‘ethnic cleansing’ said UN

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees have told Arab News they fear going back to Myanmar after a government minister made derogatory remarks about Islam.
Myanmar’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura Aung Ko also made comments about the Muslim minority group, which has been subjected to a military crackdown described by the United Nations as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
Ko alleged that Rohingya youths in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh were being brainwashed to “truly march toward Myanmar” and referred to the Rohingya as Bengalis, a term used by Naypyidaw to paint the group as illegal immigrants.
In another video, released by Radio Free Asia, Ko alleged that Myanmar’s Buddhist population was under threat.
“While we Buddhists practice monogamy and have only one or two children, an extreme religion encourages having three or four wives and giving birth to 15 to 20 children. After three, four, five decades in this Buddhist country, the Buddhist community will certainly become the minority,” he said in the video.
The Rohingya have faced severe discrimination in Myanmar and been the target of violence for years, notably in 2017.
Thousands were killed and more than 720,000 fled their homes following a Myanmar military crackdown purportedly aimed at militants, according to rights group.
Myanmar refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and they are denied citizenship and other rights.
“We were living in a highly hostile environment, in many cases that were backed by the state. Now the world witnessed it once again after the religious affairs minister’s comments,” Daud Ali told Arab News, a 47-year-old living in the Kutapalang refugee camp in the southeastern city of Cox’s Bazar.
Another refugee at the same camp, 27-year-old Sayed Alam, said the Rohingya had always been treated as second class citizens.
“Our movements were highly restricted even in Rakhine,” he told Arab News, referring to the western Myanmar state where the majority of the Rohingya live, “so it’s no wonder that a minister of (Aung) Suu Kyi’s government makes derogatory remarks about Muslims.”
Bangladesh protested Ko’s remarks, summoning Myanmar’s Ambassador Lwin Oo to the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Delwar Hossain, from the Foreign Ministry, said Bangladesh had conveyed its displeasure.
“We consider that these types of comments are unacceptable and disgraceful. Bangladesh has strongly objected and made its position clear. In the entire conversation, Myanmar’s envoy did not utter any words in defense of his country and only assured to convey Dhaka’s message to Naypyidaw,” Hossain told Arab News.
Ko, a former Myanmar army general, was appointed in 2016 by Suu Kyi after her party came to power in a general election landslide victory.
“Myanmar does not seem interested in Rohingya [refugees] repatriation,” former Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States Humayun Kabir told Arab News.
Myanmar would not be making negative remarks about Bangladesh if it were genuinely interested in creating a conducive environment for repatriation, he added.
“Actually Bangladesh has no other option to move forward with the repatriation issue except for creating more diplomatic pressure from the international community.”
An attempt to repatriate Rohingya refugees last month failed because of their refusal to go of their own accord.
They had a list of demands before any repatriation including safety and security in Rakhine, citizenship guarantee and freedom of movement.
The UNHCR is helping Bangladesh with the repatriation process to ensure it is voluntary.
One official report from humanitarian agencies said more than 15,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since January 2018.
“It is very clear that Myanmar’s government is not willing to repatriate us and that’s why they are constantly spreading negative comments about Rohingyas,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a 38-year refugee from Balukhali camp. “How can we return to Myanmar amid such an unpleasant situation and hatred?”


UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

Updated 16 February 2019
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UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

  • The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4
  • The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades

LONDON: Junior foreign ministers from Britain and Russia met in Germany on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two countries since an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain last March froze diplomatic relations.
Britain’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan held talks with Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, according to the foreign office in London.
“Alan underlined that we have deep differences, and the Russian state would need to choose a different path and act as a responsible international partner before there can be a change in our current relationship with Russia,” it said in a statement.
The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which Britain has blamed on Moscow.
The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades.
The attack killed a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.
Among a raft of responses, London suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the two countries, and canceled ministers and members of the royal family attending last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“(The) minister reiterated the UK’s and Allies’ firm stance in response to the Russian state’s reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury,” the foreign office added in its statement.
“He made clear that Russia must address the concerns of the international community.
“This includes ending its destabilising activity in Ukraine; and the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”
The foreign office said Britain would continue to “build and strengthen our cultural ties and people to people links with Russia wherever we can.”
Ministers from around the world, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, are taking part in several days of talks in Munich this weekend centered on global security issues.