Rohingya fear delay in repatriation efforts after Myanmar coup

Rohingya fear delay in repatriation efforts after Myanmar coup
Rohingya refugees at Jamtoli camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 February 2021

Rohingya fear delay in repatriation efforts after Myanmar coup

Rohingya fear delay in repatriation efforts after Myanmar coup
  • Military’s seizure of power in Myanmar could ‘hamper’ talks with Bangladesh, experts warn
  • Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya who fled from persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s military

DHAKA: A day after Myanmar’s military overthrow of the government, Rohingya leaders said on Tuesday they fear the move could “further delay” efforts to repatriate the refugees in Bangladesh to their homeland in Rakhine.

The Myanmar military, locally known as Tatmadaw, seized power in the early hours of Monday and detained its the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other associates. 

The coup followed a landslide victory of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in the general elections in November last year. 

The army rejected the results, citing poll irregularities and fraud. During the takeover on Monday, army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing declared a state of emergency for a year in the country. 

 

 

Khin Maung, head of the Rohingya Youth association, an organization based in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, said he feared that the coup would have a “huge impact” on the peaceful repatriation process as the military lacked the “political will to take us back.” 

“They killed us, burnt down our villages. It means they intend to destroy us. They are busy taking power and strengthening their positions in state mechanisms,” Maung told Arab News.

He added that the military refuse to negotiate with the Bangladeshi government to repatriate the Rohingya, causing further delay.

“Of course, repatriation negotiations will be delayed. Both the civilian and military government have the same policy on Rohingya, and in this situation, the existing Rohingya in Rakhine state will have a worse future,” Maung added. 

 Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya who fled from persecution at the Myanmar military’s hands in the Buddhist-majority country.

The Rohingya endured decades of abuse in Myanmar, beginning in the 1970s when hundreds of thousands sought refuge in Bangladesh.

Between 1989 and 1991, an additional 250,000 fled when a military crackdown followed a popular uprising and Burma was renamed Myanmar. In 1992, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed a repatriation deal that led to thousands of Rohingya returning to Rakhine state.

The latest Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh resumed in August 2017 following a military crackdown on the ethnic minority group.

According to the UN, by the end of 2020, a total of 866,457 Rohingya refugees had been registered at 34 camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh due to a joint initiative by Dhaka and the UNHCR. 

“It’s very shocking news. We are upset, and there was diplomatic talk to send us back in the coming days, but the current situation in Myanmar is an obstacle to that,” Ro Yassin Abdumonab, a refugee, told Arab News.  

He said that this was the “third time an attempt to repatriate the refugees had failed,” adding: “It seems our stay in Bangladesh has been prolonged. We strongly condemn the situation in Myanmar.”

Another refugee said that fate had avenged the Rohingya.

“Suu Kyi remained silent over the atrocities on the Rohingyas. Now she is detained by the army. I feel happy with her fate,” Joinab Bibi, from the Kutupalang camp, told Arab News. 

However, the Bangladesh government expects Myanmar to uphold its democratic and constitutional processes for “a sustainable Rohingya repatriation as soon as possible.”

“As an immediate and friendly neighbor, we would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar. We have been persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Myanmar and working with Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation of the Rohingya sheltered in Bangladesh. We expect these processes to continue,” a statement by Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday. 

Experts are far from optimistic.

“The Myanmar military staged the atrocities against the Rohingya, and now they are in power. So, it’s anticipated that the repatriation talks may get stalled again,” Prof. Amena Mohsin, of the international relations department at Dhaka University, told Arab News. 

“Bangladesh needs to continue its efforts on various diplomatic fields to exert more international pressure on Myanmar for a quick Rohingya repatriation,” she added.

Ambassador Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, said that the country needs to “observe” a little more to have a clear understanding of the political situation in Myanmar.  

“Earlier, the military was a part of the Myanmar government and had a very strong hold. Now they came forward again, and there is no curtain in between. Now we will have direct talks with the military authorities over the Rohingya repatriation issues,” Hossain told Arab News. 

“I don’t think the shift in power in Myanmar will have much impact on the bilateral relationship with Bangladesh,” Hossain added.


Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
Updated 19 April 2021

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
  • Police said Albanian man, 34, wound five people with knife attack in mosque in Tirana
  • Man was arrested by police that haven’t disclosed any motive for the attack

TIRANA: An Albanian man with a knife attacked five people Monday at a mosque in the capital of Tirana, according to police.
A police statement said Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in downtown Tirana about 2:30 p.m. and wounded five people with a knife.
Police reacted immediately and took him into custody.
The five wounded, all men aged from 22 to 35, were taken to a hospital and police said they are not in life-threatening situations.
Police have not disclosed any motive for the attack. They and prosecutors are investigating the case.
Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the armed man attacked worshipers and staff, and added he hoped it was “not a terrorist attack.”
The mosque at the time was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Albania’s 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Christian Catholic and Orthodox communities that have gotten along well with each other.
Police said Nikolli was from the northern town of Burrel and his religious background was not yet clear.


Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations
Updated 19 April 2021

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations
  • Second round of negotiations to take place Monday morning
  • Security was beefed up in capital Islamabad overnight with heavy contingents of police

ISLAMABAD: Eleven security personnel taken hostage on Sunday by the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party during police clashes in Lahore were released in the early hours of Monday morning following the first round of negotiations with the government, interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said in a video announcement on Twitter.
Rioting by the rightwing group has rocked the country since Monday last, after TLP chief Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore a day after he threatened the government with rallies if it did not expel the French envoy to Islamabad over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in France last year.
The protests paralyzed major cities and highways, leading to the deaths of six policemen, according to the government, with thousands of TLP workers under arrest, police say. The riots also prompted the French embassy to recommend all its nationals temporarily leave the country last week.
“Talks have started with the TLP. The first round of negotiations went well and the second round will take place after sehr,” Rashid said.
“They [TLP] have released 11 abducted policemen hostages and have gone into the Rehmatul Lil Alameen Mosque. The police have also stepped back,” he said.


“These negotiations were held successfully by the Punjab government. We hope that the second meeting after sehr will also be successful and matters will be amicably resolved with the TLP,” he added.
Earlier, on Sunday evening, Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry said in a statement the government believed in negotiating but wouldn’t be blackmailed.
“The government believes in negotiations but can’t be blackmailed,” he said.
“The operation was started after police and Rangers personnel were kidnapped. The state can’t be blackmailed by a proscribed armed outfit. [Prime Minister] Imran Khan has the strongest affection with the Prophet (PBUH) and he has talked about this at every forum.”
Earlier on Sunday, a police spokesman, Arif Rana, said the operation against the TLP had been halted as the attackers were armed with petrol bombs and a tanker with 50,000 liters of petrol.
By Sunday evening, he said the situation was “at a standstill” with protesters sitting on roadsides with sticks and petrol bombs in their hands and law enforcement personnel standing guard.
Last week, the interior ministry said it was moving to have the TLP party banned for attacking law enforcement forces and disrupting public life during its protests. The interior ministry’s decision has been approved by the federal cabinet but needs to be ratified by the Supreme Court for the TLP to be dissolved.
Talking to the media in Islamabad on Sunday, Ahmed said no negotiations were underway with the TLP.
“We tried to negotiate for two, three months with them but in vain. They are not ready to retreat from their agenda, so the government is left with no option but to establish the writ of the state,” the minister said.
Security was heightened overnight in the capital, Islamabad, the DIG operations tweeted Sunday evening.
In October 2020, protests broke out in several Muslim countries over France’s response to a deadly attack on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils during a civics lesson.
During similar protests in Pakistan, the government negotiated with the TLP and met a number of its demands, including that it would debate expelling the French ambassador in parliament.
A deadline to make that parliamentary move expires on April 20.


Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths
Updated 19 April 2021

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths
  • Three deaths were reported

BANGKOK: Thailand reported 1,390 new coronavirus cases on Monday, slowing from six days of record highs, amid a third wave of infections in the Southeast Asian country.
Three deaths were reported. The new cases took the total number of infections to 43,742, with 104 deaths.


France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
Updated 19 April 2021

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
  • Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.


Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists
Updated 18 April 2021

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists
  • Warning comes amid fears that new, India variant could become dominant
  • Virologist: “We’re still early on in the lifetime of this virus as a human pathogen”

LONDON: Humanity is engaged in an “arms race” with the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, and its capacity to adapt and evolve remains unknown and should not be underestimated, scientists have warned.
“I think it’d be a brave person to say that the virus is nearing the end of its evolutionary route and can’t go any further,” Prof. Deenan Pillay, a virologist at University College London, told The Independent.
“We’re still early on in the lifetime of this virus as a human pathogen. It normally takes many years for viruses, once they cross the species barrier, to really optimize themselves to be able to replicate well within humans.”
Pillay’s warning comes amid fears that a new strain of Sars-CoV-2, known as the India variant — which has caused a surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 — could become a dominant global strain in the coming weeks.
The India variant is known to carry two mutations that could reduce the efficacy of a number of COVID-19 vaccines.
Whilst that has not yet occurred, the nature and speed at which the virus has mutated thus far, including in the form of the South African and UK variants, has caused alarm among the scientific community that the positive impact of vaccine rollouts could be undone in the near future.
Specifically, scientists worry about Sars-CoV-2’s ability to alter spike proteins, used to attach onto human cells, through mutations.
The spike proteins, referred to by Pillay as “keys” to entering human receptor cells, are the mechanism through which most of the world’s successful COVID-19 vaccines look to attack the virus, by training various immune system responses to identify them. 
One such mutation, E484K, has been found in the South Africa and UK variants. The India variant carries a similar mutation, E484Q.
The fear is that by altering their proteins, these variants could render them less visible to the immune system of vaccinated people, making it harder to ward off infection.
Aris Katzourakis, professor of evolution and genomics at Oxford University, said beyond altering the spike protein, mutations such as E484K could “unlock a whole load of other mutations elsewhere in the spike” that have not yet been identified by scientists, with unknown repercussions for the severity of the virus.
“E484K took about 12 months before it became something we cared about. Presumably, 12 months from now, there’ll be another one or two that are just as important,” he told The Independent. 
Prof. Stephen Griffin, a virologist at Leeds University, said he believes that rather than continue to mutate indefinitely, there “will be a limit on how far the spike protein can evolve. But I’m not sure we can accurately determine what that limit may be at this point.”