Myanmar’s president praises Rakhine state for ‘auspicious’ year

Rohingya refugees gather in the “no man’s land” behind Myanmar’s boder lined with barb wire fences in Maungdaw district, Rakhine state bounded by Bangladesh on April 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Myanmar’s president praises Rakhine state for ‘auspicious’ year

  • More than 720,000 Rohingya have fled the western state since August 2017 after the military conducted “clearance operations”
  • Rakhine, one of the poorest states in the country, is also the site of planned economic zones

YANGON: Myanmar’s president said Saturday it had been an “auspicious” year for Rakhine state, the violence-scarred territory and epicenter of the Rohingya crisis.
More than 720,000 Rohingya have fled the western state since August 2017 after the military conducted “clearance operations,” sending a stream of refugees to neighboring Bangladesh with accounts of rape, arson and mass killings — acts that UN investigators say amounts to “genocide” by the military generals.
Another 120,000 of the stateless minority, who are largely reviled by ethnic Rakhine and have garnered little sympathy among the Myanmar public, have been forced to live in displacement camps in the region with bleak conditions and a dire lack of food.
But Myanmar President Win Myint painted a different reality in a statement Saturday when he congratulated the “ethnic brothers and sisters” on the 44th anniversary of the Rakhine State Day.
With no natural disasters, “we can say that 2018 has been an auspicious year,” he wrote in Myanmar’s state-run newspaper.
Rakhine, one of the poorest states in the country, is also the site of planned economic zones, he said, and the government is working to provide “24 hour electricity” to certain townships.
He also praised a pact signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya refugees and the arrangements made to receive “those displaced people who have gone over to the Bangladesh side.”
The process which was repeatedly delayed was supposed to finally commence last month but it fell flat when not a single Rohingya took up the offer of repatriation, with many on the returnee list going into hiding.
The refugees fear returning home without guarantees of protection, citizenship or rights from the government and the powerful military. Rights groups have criticized repatriation as premature and “reckless.”
As for those within the camps in Rakhine state, many have attempted to leave by boats to Malaysia and Indonesia since the monsoon season ended last month, enduring a perilous journey to escape what rights groups call “open-air prisons.”
“I wish to urge all Rakhine ethnic nationals and citizens to participate... (in the) transformation of Rakhine State into a beautiful and happy state,” Win Myint said at the end of his statement.
Win Myint was appointed to his position by Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has faced international condemnation for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.


UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

A European flag and a British Union flag hang outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices in London, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 3 min 44 sec ago
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UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

  • May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds
  • May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success”

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long — and possibly indefinite — delay to Brexit.
Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in Brussels.
But there was no sign of a breakthrough, and the government faces a deadline of the end of Tuesday to decide whether they have enough votes to pass the deal, so that a vote can be held on Wednesday.
May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success.”
May is likely to ask for a delay to Brexit at the Brussels summit. If a deal is approved, she says she will ask the EU to extend the deadline until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve the necessary legislation. If it isn’t, she will have to seek a longer extension that would mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament — something the government is keen to avoid.
May’s goal is to win over Northern Ireland’s small, power-brokering Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s 10 lawmakers prop up May’s Conservative government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop their opposition to the deal.
Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes last week.
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May’s deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union,” he told LBC radio.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw “cautious signs of encouragement” that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29 — although the power to approve or reject a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British prevarication.
EU leaders say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the extra time.
“We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. “The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is — to do what?“
Opposition to May’s deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no hard border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the deal meant “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”
“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about,” she wrote.
But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused to support her deal.
Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to argue that the backstop left the UK vulnerable to “an indefinite means of blackmail” by Brussels.