UN urges Bangladesh not to close door to Myanmar refugees

The United Nations on Friday stressed that refugees fleeing conflict should be granted safe haven after Bangladesh declared that it would no longer take in Myanmar’s Rohingya. (File/ AFP)
Updated 02 March 2019

UN urges Bangladesh not to close door to Myanmar refugees

  • Around 740,000 Muslim Rohingya are living in camps in Bangladesh after they were driven out of Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state during a military campaign in 2017
  • Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the Security Council that the refugee crisis had gone from “bad to worse”

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations on Friday stressed that refugees fleeing conflict should be granted safe haven after Bangladesh declared that it would no longer take in Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the Security Council on Thursday that the refugee crisis had gone from “bad to worse” and deplored the fact that none of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya sheltering in his country had returned home.
“Bangladesh has been amazingly generous in the support they have given the Rohingya refugees,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“It is important that people fleeing conflict are able to find safe haven wherever they go.”
Under a deal reached with Bangladesh, Myanmar agreed to take back some of the refugees, but the United Nations insists that the safety of the Rohingya be a condition for their return.
Haque told a council meeting on Myanmar that “Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar,” suggesting that his government was ready to close the border to refugees.
Around 740,000 Muslim Rohingya are living in camps in Bangladesh after they were driven out of Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state during a military campaign in 2017 that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.
“Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighboring country?” asked the foreign secretary.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is conducting an internal review of the world body’s operations in Myanmar following accusations that UN officials in the country ignored warning signs of the attacks against the Rohingya.
The UN spokesman said the review led by Guatemalan diplomat Gert Rosenthal was to provide “possible lessons learned for the future” and advise on the way forward.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper first reported on the inquiry on Tuesday that will focus on the UN’s failure to prevent the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
Some of the criticism has focussed on allegations that the UN resident coordinator, Renata Lok-Dessallien, downplayed concerns about worsening abuses against the Rohingya and sought to prioritize economic development at the expense of human rights.
The UN has denied those claims.


Malaysia’s ruling party makes fresh push for Anwar to take over as PM

Updated 17 min 23 sec ago

Malaysia’s ruling party makes fresh push for Anwar to take over as PM

  • Mahathir Mohamad promised to hand over the reins to Anwar Ibrahim soon after laying the groundwork for a new administration
  • But says he may need more time to repair the damage left by the scandal-tainted government of his predecessor

MALACCA, Malaysia: Leaders of Malaysia’s ruling party on Sunday renewed a push for Anwar Ibrahim to lead the country, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dithers on the timing of the planned power transition he had promised to his former rival-turned-ally.
Mahathir, elected to power in May 2018, had promised to hand over the reins to Anwar, 72, soon after laying the groundwork for a new administration.
But Mahathir has said he may need more time to repair the damage left by the scandal-tainted government of his predecessor, Najib Razak, while Anwar grapples with deep-seated factionalism within his own People’s Justice Party (PKR), the largest member of the ruling coalition.
“As far as I am concerned there has been clarity (that it will happen), except for the time,” Anwar told a news conference after PKR’s annual congress in Malacca, about 150 km from the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur.
“But let us work out an acceptable formula so that the transition is smooth and orderly.”
Hundreds of delegates were seen holding “Anwar PM-8” placards at Sunday’s congress, a year after he was elected the party’s president. PKR was formed 20 years ago to carry on Anwar’s reform agenda, after he was first jailed on what he has said were trumped-up charges of corruption and sodomy.
Anwar, who would be the country’s eighth premier should he take power, has been jailed twice, receiving a second sodomy conviction in 2015. He was granted a royal pardon last May.
Last week, Anwar denied fresh allegations that he had sexually assaulted a former male aide, describing the accusation as “politics at its worst.”
“This is not an ordinary annual conference. It is an important platform for Anwar to legitimize his position as the successor to Mahathir,” said Adib Zalkapli, a Malaysia director with political risk consultancy Bower Group Asia.
“He won the party leadership last year. This year, Anwar has to show that he is still in control of the party.”
But on Saturday, Anwar’s party deputy and perceived rival, Azmin Ali, led a walkout after delegates hit out at the president’s critics for allegedly trying to destabilize the party and challenge Anwar.
Azmin denied it was a boycott of the three-day meeting, insisting that their message was for the party to focus on governance and not be hung up on the power transition.
“When the people voted us in, the people wanted us to reform ... that should be the focus of the new government,” Azmin told reporters.