Western pressure is needed to stop Rohingya genocide say experts

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) march during a military parade (AFP)
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) march during a military parade (AFP)
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Updated 12 December 2020

Western pressure is needed to stop Rohingya genocide say experts

Western pressure is needed to stop Rohingya genocide say experts
  • Arab News / SOAS webinar discusses how the world community can help Myanmar’s beleaguered minority

LONDON: More must be done by the international community to come to the aid of the Rohingya people and more pressure must be put on Myanmar to reform its behavior, experts said on Friday.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim and Prof. Michael Charney, speaking at a webinar hosted by the Arab News Research & Studies Unit (ANRSU) and SOAS University of London, concluded that without international pressure the future looked bleak for the Rohingya.

The panelists said much of the response from other countries, especially in the West, to the plight of the Rohingya — which they said bore all the hallmarks of genocide — had been shaped by a belief that Myanmar, under the civilian rule of Aung San Suu Kyi, is on the path to a functioning democracy and a fear that any substantial pressure would bring a return to full military rule as seen before 2011.

But this is not the case, according to Ibrahim and Charney, who were discussing a recent ANRSU report written by Ibrahim titled “What next for the Rohingya?”

Suu Kyi is “not concerned” about the Rohingya or any other ethnic minority, Charney said. He added that a myth had been built up around her in the West, and that the only chance of a positive outcome for the minority in Myanmar would be a forceful challenging of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government and the removal of an “ineffective and opportunistic leader” in Suu Kyi.

Bangladesh has hosted fleeing Rohingya Muslims since 2017 in Cox’s Bazar and more recently on Bhasan Char island and it is playing an active role in helping the Rohingya, according to Ibrahim. But it is under pressure with more than one million refugees within its borders costing $900 million a year to look after, as well as waning good will from Bangladeshis toward the Rohingya.

Ibrahim said that, in the long term, the absorption of the Rohingya into Bangladeshi society — and other sympathetic societies in Asia such as Malaysia and Indonesia — is one solution to the crisis, but this would require assistance from the international community.

While this outcome would likely lead to the diminishing, or even eradication, of the Rohingya identity, he said it was the “most practical outcome.”

Both panelists agreed that the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling in a case of genocide brought forward by The Gambia was a powerful tool and that the court’s actions had to be supported by the international community, something Ibrahim called the “easiest” and “most realistic” way other countries could support the Rohingya, who currently have no global lobbyists working in their favor.

Both Charney and Ibrahim said an overhaul of how Myanmar was governed at a political and societal level was vital if the Rohingya were to be allowed to return home, where they are currently denied citizenship or inclusion in the electoral process.

This could be achieved through targeted sanctioning of Myanmar’s wealthy military leaders and their assets through the Magnitsky Act, something that Ibrahim noted has worked in other parts of the world.

Charney also said persuading China — which has traditionally sided with the NLD and military rulers in the Rohingya issue — to pressure Myanmar to play more active role in returning the Rohingya and including them in the country’s political process could also have an impact.

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France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
Updated 11 April 2021

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
  • Europe Minister Clement Beaune says Turkey set 'trap' for Ursula von der Leyen
  • Erdogan's snub dubbed 'sofagate' has sparked a diplomatic storm between Turkey and Europe

PARIS: France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said Sunday that Turkey had set a “trap” for European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen by forcing her to sit off to the side on a visit to Ankara, in a photo-op faux pas quickly dubbed ‘sofagate’.
The Turkish presidency’s failure to place a chair for von der Leyen alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU Council chief Charles Michel was “an insult from Turkey,” Beaune said on RTL television.

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“Turkey behaved badly,” he added, calling it “a Turkish problem done deliberately toward us... we shouldn’t be stirring up guilt among Europeans.”
Von der Leyen’s being shunted aside prompted recriminations from European capitals to Turkey, but also within Brussels.
For its part, Ankara insists the incident was down to tangled wires between the Council and Commission, separate EU institutions.
Michel’s staff claimed they had no access to the meeting room before the Tuesday event, but also highlighted that the Council chief comes before the Commission president under strict international protocol.
“It was a kind of trap... between the one who laid it and the one who walked into it, I’d rather place the blame on the one who laid it,” France’s Beaune said.
Echoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who called Erdogan a “dictator” in response to the sofa incident, Beaune charged that there was “a real problem with lack of respect for democracy and an autocratic drift in Turkey” that should prompt Europeans to be “very firm with the Turks.”
Nevertheless, “in future, it would be good if there was one single presidency of the European executive,” Beaune acknowledged.
“We need stronger European institutions.”


India bans exports of anti-viral drug Remdesivir as COVID-19 cases surge

India bans exports of anti-viral drug Remdesivir as COVID-19 cases surge
Updated 11 April 2021

India bans exports of anti-viral drug Remdesivir as COVID-19 cases surge

India bans exports of anti-viral drug Remdesivir as COVID-19 cases surge
  • Seven Indian companies have licensed the drug from Gilead Sciences
NEW DELHI: India said on Sunday it had banned the export of anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients after a record spike in COVID-19 cases sent demand surging.
“In light of the above, Government of India has prohibited the exports of Injection Remdesivir and Remdesivir Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) till the situation improves,” the health ministry said in a statement.
Seven Indian companies have licensed the drug from Gilead Sciences, with an installed capacity of about 3.9 million units per month.

Victim of London terror attack will return to rehabilitating prisoners

Victim of London terror attack will return to rehabilitating prisoners
Updated 11 April 2021

Victim of London terror attack will return to rehabilitating prisoners

Victim of London terror attack will return to rehabilitating prisoners
  • Stephanie Szczotko was stabbed by Usman Khan at a rehabilitation event for prisoners
  • ‘I’ve always enjoyed support work and helping people, so I want to carry on with that’

LONDON: A criminology graduate who was injured during the 2019 Fishmonger’s Hall attack in London has said she will return to rehabilitating prisoners.

Stephanie Szczotko, 26, was stabbed in the arm by Usman Khan during his murderous spree at a rehabilitation event for prisoners on license. 

Khan, 28, killed two of his victims — Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23 — both of whom were workers from the Learning Together initiative, a rehabilitation scheme backed by Cambridge University.

The terrorist, who was shot dead on London Bridge by a firearm officer, was wearing a fake suicide vest.

Szczotko, from Bath in the west of England, visited prisons on behalf of the initiative during her criminology degree, and attended the Fishmonger’s Hall event as an alumni of the group.

She has remained an advocate of prisoner rehabilitation and restorative justice efforts, saying the attack “didn’t really change my opinion.”

She added that many of the ex-offenders at the event put themselves in harm’s way by challenging Khan as he started his rampage. 

“I’ve always enjoyed support work and helping people, so I want to carry on with that — maybe working with youth offenders,” Szczotko said.

The inquest into the deaths of Merritt and Jones starts on Monday. Witnesses will give evidence as the inquest seeks to establish what, if anything, the security services and the police knew ahead of the attack.


Official says Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness is low

Official says Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness is low
Updated 11 April 2021

Official says Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness is low

Official says Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness is low
  • Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” said the director of the China Centers for Disease Control

BEIJING: In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to give them a boost.
Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” said the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, at a conference Saturday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
Beijing has distributed hundreds of millions of doses in other countries while also trying to promote doubt about the effectiveness of Western vaccines.
“It’s now under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” Gao said.
The effectiveness rate of a coronavirus vaccine from Sinovac, a Chinese developer, at preventing symptomatic infections has been found to be as low as 50.4% by researchers in Brazil. By comparison, the vaccine made by Pfizer has been found to be 97% effective.
Beijing has yet to approve any foreign vaccines for use in China, where the coronavirus emerged in late 2019.
Gao gave no details of possible changes in strategy but mentioned mRNA, a previously experimental technique used by Western vaccine developers while China’s drug makers used traditional technology.
“Everyone should consider the benefits mRNA vaccines can bring for humanity,” Gao said. “We must follow it carefully and not ignore it just because we already have several types of vaccines already.”
Gao previously raised questions about the safety of mRNA vaccines. He was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying in December he couldn’t rule out negative side effects because they were being used for the first time on healthy people.
Chinese state media and popular health and science blogs also have questioned the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, which uses mRNA.
As of April 2, some 34 million people have received both of the two doses required by Chinese vaccines and about 65 million received one, according to Gao.
Experts say mixing vaccines, or sequential immunization, might boost effectiveness rates. Trials around the world are looking at mixing of vaccines or giving a booster shot after a longer time period. Researchers in Britain are studying a possible combination of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.


Philippines to ease some tough COVID-19 restrictions from Monday

Philippines to ease some tough COVID-19 restrictions from Monday
Updated 11 April 2021

Philippines to ease some tough COVID-19 restrictions from Monday

Philippines to ease some tough COVID-19 restrictions from Monday
  • Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite will be placed under a less restrictive community quarantine status until April 30
  • The Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia

MANILA: Strict COVID-19 lockdowns in the Philippines capital and four adjacent provinces will be eased from April 12, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday.
Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite will be placed under a less restrictive community quarantine status until April 30, spokesman Harry Roque told a virtual briefing.
Roque gave the briefing from hospital where he is being treated for COVID-19. He gave no details on which restrictions will be eased but said details would be released on Monday.
The Philippines is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with hospitals in the capital overwhelmed amid record daily infections, while authorities face delays in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
On Sunday, the Department of Health recorded 11,681 new COVID-19 cases and 201 more deaths, bringing the country’s tallies to 864,868 confirmed infections and 14,945 fatalities.
New cases have surge in recent weeks, surpassing 15,000 on April 2, most of those in the congested capital.
Last week, Duterte canceled a weekly televised address and a meeting with his coronavirus task force as some of his staff and security detail were found to be COVID-19 positive.
Roque and Duterte’s defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, also tested positive.
Roque said the government will work to increase the number of COVID-19 beds in health care facilities and free up more room in hospitals.
Under the current quarantine classification for Manila and surrounding areas, non-essential movement is banned, along with mass gatherings and dining in restaurants, with longer-than-usual curfews also in place since March 29.
The reimposition of strict lockdowns has raised concerns the economy will take longer to recover from last year’s worst slump on record.