UN says 2nd attempt to return Rohingya to Myanmar planned

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after the military attacks in Myanmar. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 August 2019

UN says 2nd attempt to return Rohingya to Myanmar planned

  • The original list of returnees contained 22,000
  • Myanmar’s military launched a counterinsurgency campaign on the Rohingya Muslims after an insurgent attack

BANGKOK: Myanmar and Bangladesh will soon make a second attempt to start repatriating Rohingya Muslims, 700,000 of whom fled a security crackdown in Myanmar almost two years ago, officials from the two countries and the United Nations said Friday.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay, speaking in his country's capital, Naypyitaw, said the parties concerned had agreed that the process would begin next Thursday.
Bangladesh Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said the identities of the refugees have been confirmed by Myanmar and they could go back there if they want.
Speaking in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, he said the government had ordered local officials in Cox's Bazar district to locate those on the list in the four refugee camps there, but their repatriation would only happen if they want to return voluntarily.
He said Bangladesh is ready to provide support to any refugees who wish to return home, but also would not use force to make them go back.
Caroline Gluck, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told The Associated Press that the Bangladesh government has asked for its help in verifying 3,450 people who signed up for voluntary repatriation. She said the list was whittled down from 22,000 names that Bangladesh had sent to Myanmar for verification.
Leaders of the Rohingya refugee community in the camps said they had not been consulted on the matter and were unaware of plans for any imminent return.
Myanmar's military in August 2017 launched a counterinsurgency campaign in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The army operation led to the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.
The U.N.-established Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar's top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Myanmar has rejected the report and any suggestion its forces did anything wrong.
In July, Myanmar officials went to the camps in Bangladesh to talk to the refugees about their plans and preparations to bring them back, in the latest of several similar visits. So far, most refugees appear to distrust the promises and believe it is too dangerous to return.
Gluck said it is unclear when any repatriation might begin, given the need to find and check all the individuals and the fact that there is a major holiday at the moment in Bangladesh.
It is also possible it may stall, as it did last year.
Bangladesh authorities then had arranged transportation and other facilities for their return, but the refugees protested against the move, saying they would not go back because they did not feel safe. The authorities waited for a day to find a refugee who would go back voluntarily but found none. Bangladesh then suspended the repatriation attempt.
"It's very hard to say whether people will accept voluntary repatriation this time round," Gluck said. "They tell us very clearly we want to go back with ... full rights. . They are not willing to go back if nothing on the ground has changed."
The Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations.
Nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Zaw Htay said at a news conference that his country's authorities had checked if the people on the list had previously lived in Myanmar and whether they had been involved in what he called "terrorism attacks," a reference to sporadic armed actions by Rohingya insurgents.
"If they are sending these 3,450 returnees back, we can accept them immediately," he said. He said Myanmar's government has proposed resettling them as a group, not separately, a plan that is controversial because it suggests they will not be returning to their own homes.


Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

Updated 48 min 59 sec ago

Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

  • The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August
  • Judges ruled that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed

MANILA: A Philippine court threw out a high-profile, 32-year-old forfeiture case on Monday involving the family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, citing insufficient evidence to order the return of $3.9 billion of allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August, with judges ruling that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed.
It has been referred to widely as the “mother” of cases in a three-decade effort by a special presidential panel to recover an estimated $10 billion allegedly siphoned off by Marcos and a family that had lived lavishly during his 20 years in power, 14 of which were ruled under martial law.
The case lodged by the Presidential Commission on Good Government had sought the return of 200 billion pesos ($3.93 billion) it said was tied up in equities, numerous local and foreign banks and real estate at home and in the United States and United Kingdom.
It also included the value of 177 paintings and 42 crates of jewelry worth nearly $9 million.
In a 58-page verdict, the court “acknowledged the atrocities committed during martial law under the Marcos regime and the ‘plunder’ committed on the country’s resources.”
“However, absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten wealth, the court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury.”
The same court dismissed similar cases against the family in August, September and October, all for lack of evidence.
Despite being overthrown in a 1986 revolt and driven into exile, the Marcos family remain a powerful force in the Philippines, with loyalists throughout the bureaucracy and political and business elite.
The late leader’s wife Imelda was a four-term congresswoman, daughter Imee is currently a senator, as was son and namesake Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has been tipped as a possible candidate for the presidency in 2022. A relative is the current Philippine ambassador to the United States.
The family has a powerful ally too in President Rodrigo Duterte, who has spoken well of the former dictator, backed Imee’s senate run and expressed a desire for Marcos Jr to have been his vice president.