Richardson, Google chief arrive in N. Korea

Updated 08 January 2013
0

Richardson, Google chief arrive in N. Korea

BEIJING: Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Google chairman Eric Schmidt arrived yesterday in North Korea, where a US citizen is being held awaiting trial, for what the politician called a private trip.
“This is a private humanitarian mission, not connected to the US government,” said Richardson, also a former US ambassador to the United Nations, at Beijing’s airport before traveling to the secretive nation.
“We’re going to be in Pyongyang, probably for two and a half days. We may go outside the city. We will find out when we arrive,” he said.
The North’s official KCNA news agency announced their arrival in Pyongyang as “a US Google delegation headed by former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson.”
Kenneth Bae, an American of Korean descent, is being held in North Korea and his son contacted Richardson to ask for his help, the politician said last week.
North Korea has in the past agreed to hand over detainees to high-profile delegations led by the likes of former US president Bill Clinton, and some observers suggested it may have requested Schmidt’s participation in this case.
But the US State Department has voiced concerns about the trip, saying it was ill-timed in the wake of Pyongyang’s widely condemned rocket launch last month.

Richardson has been to North Korea a number of times in the past two decades and has been involved in negotiating the release of US citizens held in the isolated country.
He told CNN Friday that he expected to meet several senior officials in North Korea, though talks with leader Kim Jong-Un were “very doubtful.”
He added that he hoped the trip would be “positive” and dismissed US concerns, saying it had already been postponed once at Washington’s request and the State Department should not be “nervous.”
Both he and Schmidt would be traveling as private citizens, representing neither the US government nor Google, he said.
Also on the trip were Richardson’s longtime aide on North Korea, K.A. “Tony” Namkung, Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, a think-tank run by the California-based Internet giant, and some staff, according to a statement from Richardson’s office.
Bae, who was arrested in November, entered the country as a tourist, according to the North’s official news agency which said he had admitted committing a crime against the state.
Nolan Barkhouse, spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing, said Sunday that Richardson’s trip was unrelated to the authorities in Washington.
“They will not be carrying any messages from the US government,” Barkhouse told AFP, adding: “They will not be accompanied by any US officials.”


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
0

Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”