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?”


Trump ex-lawyer Cohen sentenced to 3 years prison on campaign charge

Michael Cohen
Updated 52 min 22 sec ago
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Trump ex-lawyer Cohen sentenced to 3 years prison on campaign charge

  • Cohen received 36 months for the payments and two months for the false statements to Congress
  • ‘It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light’

NEW YORK: Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, was sentenced to a total of three years in prison on Wednesday for his role in making illegal hush-money payments to women to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.
US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the payments, which violated campaign finance law, and to two months for the false statements to Congress. The two terms will run simultaneously. The judge set March 6 for Cohen’s voluntary surrender.
Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance charge in August and to making false statements in November. As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Cohen to forfeit $500,000 and pay restitution of nearly $1.4 million for the campaign finance law violations.
Cohen, 52, had walked into court on Wednesday morning with his wife, son and daughter, amid a crowd of photographers and reporters.
The sentencing capped the stunning about-face of a lawyer who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump but has now directly implicated the president in criminal conduct. The three-year sentence imposed by the judge was a modest reduction from the four to five years recommended under federal guidelines, but still underscored the seriousness of the charges.
“While Mr. Cohen pledges to help in further investigations that is not something the court can consider now,” Pauley said.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged that Cohen, just before the November 2016 election, paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 and helped arrange a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their past relationships with Trump, who is married. Trump denies having the affairs.
Prosecutors have said the payments violated campaign finance laws. Cohen told prosecutors the payments were directed by Trump, implicating the president in a possible campaign finance law violation.
Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen told the judge during the sentencing hearing.
“I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds,” Cohen said, referring to Trump.
Cohen was sentenced on the separate charge of lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty to that charge last month.
“He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in the country,” one of Cohen’s lawyers, Guy Petrillo, told the court on Wednesday, arguing for leniency. Cohen cooperated knowing “the president might shut down” Mueller’s investigation, Petrillo said.
Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has accused Mueller’s team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied US allegations of interfering in the election to help Trump.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Trump denied the payments were campaign contributions. “If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did,” Trump said.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has argued the hush payments cannot be considered campaign finance violations because they were made to protect Trump’s reputation and would have been made even if he had not been a presidential candidate.
In his guilty plea to Mueller’s charge, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the timeline for discussions about plans for real estate businessman Trump’s proposed skyscraper in Moscow. The project was never built.
Cohen said in written testimony to two congressional committees that the talks ended in January 2016, before the first electoral contests to select the Republican presidential nominee, when they actually continued until June 2016 after Trump clinched the Republican nomination.