No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

Bangladeshi officials said they waited for a whole hour at the Teknaf refugee camp for Rohingya refugees to hop on buses heading to Myanmar. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 August 2019
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No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

  • Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017
  • The refugees asked Myanmar authorities to guarantee their safety and citizenship

TEKNAF, Bangladesh: A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar appeared Thursday to fall flat, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.
“We have been waiting since 9:00 am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation,” Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp, told AFP after over an hour of waiting.
“Nobody has yet turned up.”
Some 740,000 of the long-oppressed mostly Muslim Rohingya minority fled a military offensive in 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining 200,000 already in Bangladesh.
Demanding that Buddhist-majority Myanmar guarantee their safety and citizenship, only a handful have returned from the vast camps in southeast Bangladesh where they have now lived for two years.
The latest repatriation attempt — a previous push failed in November — follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for “return.”
But on Wednesday, several Rohingya refugees whose names were listed told AFP that said they did not want to return unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.
“It is not safe to return to Myanmar,” one of them, Nur Islam, told AFP.
Officials from the UN and Bangladesh’s refugee commission have also been interviewing Rohingya families in the settlements to find out if they wanted to return.
“We have yet to get consent from any refugee family,” a UN official said Wednesday.
Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.
They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said they were “fully prepared” for the repatriation with security being tightened across the refugee settlements to prevent any violence or protests.
Officials said they would wait for a few more hours before deciding whether to postpone the repatriation move.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be “voluntary.”
“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue on Wednesday.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.


Japan court acquits energy bosses over Fukushima disaster

Updated 53 min 10 sec ago

Japan court acquits energy bosses over Fukushima disaster

  • The three former executives were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for failing to act on information about the risks from a major tsunami
  • No one was killed in the nuclear meltdown, but the tsunami left 18,500 dead or missing

TOKYO: A Japanese court on Thursday cleared three energy firm bosses of professional negligence in the only criminal trial stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
The three men were senior officials at the TEPCO firm operating the Fukushima Daiichi plant and had faced up to five years in prison if convicted.
“All defendants are not guilty,” the presiding judge said, ruling that the executives could not have predicted the scale of the tsunami that overwhelmed the plant and triggered the accident.
The decision is likely to be appealed, extending the legal wrangling over responsibility for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, more than eight years after the disaster.
Outside the courtroom, dozens of people staged a rally, including some who had traveled from the Fukushima region to hear the verdict.
“It is absolutely an unjust ruling. We absolutely cannot accept this,” one woman said angrily, addressing the crowd.
“We will appeal this and continue our fight,” shouted a man nearby.
TEPCO declined to comment on the verdict, repeating its “sincere apologies for the great inconvenience and concern” caused by the disaster.
The three former executives were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for failing to act on information about the risks from a major tsunami, but they argued the data available to them at the time was unreliable.
Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said the verdict turned on the “predictability” of the massive tsunami that swamped the nuclear plant in March 2011 after a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake.
He pointed out there had been no proposal from the government’s nuclear watchdog “that TEPCO should suspend operations until (safety) measures are taken.”


No one was killed in the nuclear meltdown, but the tsunami left 18,500 dead or missing.
The ex-TEPCO executives faced trial in relation to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who died after having to be evacuated following the nuclear disaster.
Prosecutors twice declined to proceed with the case, citing insufficient evidence and a slim chance of conviction, but were forced to after a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled that the trio should face trial.
All three defendants — former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73 — had pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutors said the men were present at meetings where experts warned of the anticipated height of a tsunami off the Fukushima coast and should have taken better safety measures.
They argued the executives were presented data warning a tsunami exceeding 10 meters (33 feet) could trigger power loss and a major disaster at the plant.
And a TEPCO internal study, based on a government report, concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters could hit after a magnitude-8.3 quake.
In the event, when a 9.0-magnitude quake hit offshore on March 11, 2011, waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems.
The resulting meltdown forced massive evacuations and left parts of the surrounding area uninhabitable — in some cases possibly forever.


The three defendants have apologized, but argued they could not have foreseen the disaster based on the available evidence and that they thought officials in the firm responsible for nuclear safety had taken appropriate measures.
“It is difficult to deal with issues that are uncertain and obscure,” Takekuro said during the trial.
Separately from the criminal case, dozens of civil lawsuits have been filed against the government and TEPCO.
Some district courts have granted damages to local residents, ordering TEPCO and the government to pay.
Before the verdict, protesters outside the court said the trial was a chance to hold someone accountable for the disaster.
“If we don’t hear guilty verdicts, our years-long efforts to bring this to court will not have been rewarded,” said Saki Okawara, 67, who came from Miharu in the Fukushima region to hear the verdict.
“And Japanese society’s culture of no one taking responsibility will continue.”