Rohingya reluctant to return to Myanmar with citizenship not guaranteed

Rohingya reluctant to return to Myanmar with citizenship not guaranteed
A Rohingya delegation returns to Bangladesh on a boat to Teknaf jetty on May 5, 2023, after visiting Myanmar’s border district of Maungdow township as part of efforts to revive a long-stalled plan to return the stateless minority to their homeland. (AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2023
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Rohingya reluctant to return to Myanmar with citizenship not guaranteed

Rohingya reluctant to return to Myanmar with citizenship not guaranteed
  • Delegation including Rohingya leaders visited Myanmar on Friday
  • China is mediating Rohingya repatriation project

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh expressed concern and fear on Saturday over plans for them to return to neighboring Myanmar.
Leaders of the refugees, along with Bangladeshi officials, visited Myanmar on Friday to assess the possibility of repatriating the estimated 1.2 million Rohingya refugees currently in Bangladesh.
The 27-member delegation visited Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the area from which the majority of the Rohingya fled due to a military crackdown that began in October 2016.
The repatriation of Rohingya refugees has been on the United Nations’ agenda for years, but no practical progress has been made, despite pressure from Bangladesh.
The team which visited Rakhine State took part in a pilot Bangladesh-Myanmar project mediated by China. On their return, some Rohingya members of the delegation told the media that they would refuse to go back to Myanmar because, under the current proposal, they would not be granted citizenship.
Bangladeshi Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mizanur Rahman, who led the delegation, told Arab News that Myanmar authorities were proposing a National Verification Card scheme for returning refugees. While such alternative identification was widely criticized by rights groups when the idea was first floated by Myanmar in 2019, Rahman said it was still better than what the refugees were being offered in Bangladesh.
“It is better to have a life with some civil rights than a life without any civil rights,” he said. “It’s their own country. Here in the camps, Bangladesh has not even given them refugee status.”
Although it has been hosting the Rohingya for years, Bangladesh is not a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
The violence the Rohingya community endured in Myanmar — which international observers have referred to as genocide or ethnic cleansing — understandably makes many reluctant to go back to their official homeland.
“What is the guarantee that we wouldn’t be tortured again by the military junta once we return?” Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya activist in Bangladesh, said. “We don’t want anything except our rights, so that we don’t turn into refugees again, not even after 100 years — our next generations must not turn into refugees. We want to solve this crisis, and the only solution is to ensure equal rights and provide citizenship rights to the Rohingya people.
“We just need citizenship, even if we are not given any other things,” he continued. “If we get citizenship, we can do the rest on our own; we will be able to earn money, study… we can do whatever is necessary for our community.”
If a peacekeeping mission could guarantee their protection in Myanmar, then the refugees would likely choose to return, he added.
“This process should involve the international community,” he said. “The US and other important countries should stand beside us.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has so far distanced itself from the current proposal, citing unsustainable conditions in military junta-ruled Myanmar.
For Mohammad Nur Khan, a Bangladeshi rights activist and migration expert, it is no surprise that the refugees are skeptical about what awaits them should they return to Myanmar.
“The Rohingya have been deceived for a long time. They were the subject of torture and atrocities. The team that visited (Myanmar) on Friday did not gain confidence from that visit,” he said.
Meeting the Rohingya community’s most fundamental demands — such as the issue of citizenship — is of utmost importance in building trust, Khan told Arab News.
“There will be no chance to reach a compromise through bypassing their main demands,” he said. “Without the involvement of all stakeholders and international aid agencies, I think it’s not possible to come to (an agreement).”


A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
Updated 8 sec ago
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A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
  • 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall
  • Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON: A small but substantial chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they would be so dissatisfied if Donald Trump became the party’s presidential nominee that they would not vote for him in November’s general election, according to AP VoteCast.

An analysis of the data shows that many of those voters were unlikely to vote for Trump, some even before this year, but it still points to potential problems for the former president as he looks to consolidate the nomination and pivot toward an expected rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
According to AP VoteCast surveys of the first three head-to-head Republican contests, 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall.
This unwillingness to contemplate a presidential vote for Trump isn’t confined to voters in the earliest states.
Lee and Bill Baltzell defected from the Republican Party to register as independents a year ago. They attended a rally for supporters of Trump’s last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, last week in Centennial, Colorado, to encourage her to keep running against Trump.
“We don’t know that Trump will run into more legal problems and be disqualified, and I’d rather not see Biden in there for another four years,” said Bill Baltzell, 60.
If it’s between Biden and Trump, Lee Baltzell, 58, said she would consider writing in an alternative.
“I don’t know. I did not vote for Biden the last time; I don’t know that I could do it this time. But I don’t know if I could vote for Trump.”
Opposition from voters like the Baltzells hasn’t slowed Trump’s march toward the nomination, but it could be an issue for him later on. It’s not clear how much of a problem, though, because a dive into the numbers shows that many of the “never-Trump” voters in the early states were unlikely to vote for him in the general election to begin with.
Many of the voters who said they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the nominee aren’t Republicans at all. In the first three head-to-head contests, anywhere from 17 percent to 31 percent of the voters who said they wouldn’t support Trump in the general election identified as Democrats, and between 14 percent and 27 percent identified as independents.
Even for some of those Republicans, voting for Trump was already a tough sell. Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020.
Then there is the fact that primaries tend to draw out the people with the most passionate opinions. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses, particularly ones that are relatively uncompetitive, is typically lower than it would be in a general election.
Still, about 1 in 10 early contest voters who said they supported Trump in the 2020 general election said they wouldn’t be doing so this year.
One question, though, is whether that means they would vote for Trump’s opponent instead.
“I won’t vote for Trump, I’ll just say that. I voted for him twice; I could never vote for him again,” said Linda Binkley, 74, a registered Republican who isn’t pleased by the prospect of a Trump vs. Biden matchup. She added, “I’m not sure I can vote for Biden.”
If Trump becomes the nominee, he will likely need to win over some of the moderates who supported Biden in 2020 if he wants to return to the White House. From that perspective, even a small amount of opposition from within his own party — not to mention broader skepticism among independents — could be a problem in the future.

AP VoteCast is a series of surveys conducted among 1,597 Republican caucus voters in Iowa, 1,989 New Hampshire voters who took part in the Republican primary and 2,466 Republican primary voters in South Carolina. The surveys were conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’

Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’
Updated 53 min 32 sec ago
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Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’

Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’
  • China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, brushing aside claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations

MELBOURNE: Philippine foreign minister Enrique Manalo told AFP on Monday that his country wants to solve maritime disputes with China peacefully — but delivered a simple message to Beijing: “stop harassing us.”
Speaking on the sidelines of an ASEAN-Australia summit in Melbourne, Manalo defended his government’s policy of publicizing Chinese maneuvers in contested maritime territory — including the recent passage of warships near Scarborough Shoal.
“It’s merely trying to inform the people of what’s going on,” Manalo said. “And some countries or one country at least has some difficulty with that.”
“But our simple explanation is if you would stop harassing us and, and perhaps performing other actions, there wouldn’t be any news to report.”
China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, brushing aside claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations.
Scarborough Shoal — a triangular chain of reefs and rocks in the disputed South China Sea — has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.
Philippine governments have tried to rally international and regional support to their cause — with mixed results.
“The Philippines is committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomatic means, or peaceful means,” Manalo said, while insisting “this will not be done at the expense of our national interest.”
“We are reaching out to partners in like-minded countries with similar issues and similar concerns.”
But Manalo acknowledged there were was at least a small question mark over support from the Philippines’ most important security partner — the United States.
The two countries are treaty allies, meaning Washington has formally pledged to come to Manila’s defense in the event of a military conflict.
Ask about the November election — which will pit incumbent Joe Biden against Republican firebrand Donal Trump, he said it was a topic of frequent debate behind closed doors.
“Every country in the world is probably thinking of that, of course. The United States is a major, it’s a treaty ally of the Philippines. So obviously, any differences or changes in US policy from existing policies would most likely have some kind of effect.”
“At this stage it’s fairly difficult to assess how it would happen, or what would happen,” he said.
“But all I can say is we are, of course, carefully monitoring the election season in the United States, but I’ve had talks with many of my other colleagues from other countries, and I think everybody is doing the same.”
“So certainly all eyes will be riveted on that election this year.”


Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
Updated 04 March 2024
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Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
  • “The government is steadfast in our resolve to locate MH370,” Loke told a remembrance event to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the jet

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s government said Sunday it may renew the hunt for MH370 after a US technology firm proposed a fresh search in the southern Indian Ocean where the Malaysia Airlines plane is believed to have crashed a decade ago.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Texas-based Ocean Infinity has proposed another “no find, no fee” basis to scour the seabeds, expanding from the site where it first searched in 2018. He said he has invited the company to meet him to evaluate new scientific evidence it has to find the plane’s final resting place.
If the evidence is credible, he said, he will seek Cabinet’s approval to sign a new contract with Ocean Infinity to resume the search.
“The government is steadfast in our resolve to locate MH370,” Loke told a remembrance event to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the jet. “We really hope the search can find the plane and provide truth to the next-of-kin.”
The Boeing 777 plane carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese nationals, from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off on March 8, 2014. Satellite data showed the plane deviated from its flight path and was believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
But an expensive multinational government search failed to turn up any clues, although debris washed ashore on the east African coast and Indian Ocean islands. A private search in 2018 by Ocean Infinity also found nothing, but the tragedy sparked moves to bolster aviation safety.
K.S. Nathan, a member of the Voice MH370 group comprising next-of-kin, said Ocean Infinity initially planned a search last year but it was delayed by the delivery of its new fleet of ships and assets. It is now on track to resume the hunt, he said.
Loke declined to reveal the fee proposed by Ocean Infinity if it finds the plane, as this is subject to negotiation. He said financial cost is not an issue and that he doesn’t foresee any hindrances for the search to proceed if all goes well.
Loke’s response sparked tears of joy in some family members at the event held in a mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.
“I’m on top of the world,” said Jacquita Gomes, whose flight attendant husband was on the plane. She said she is thankful that she may now have a chance for full closure and say a final goodbye.
“We have been on a roller coaster for the last 10 years. ... If it is not found, I hope that it will continue with another search,” she said.
Family members of passengers from Malaysia, Australia, China and India paid tribute to their loved ones during the event, lighting a candle on stage to remember them.
“No matter if it is 10 years, 20 years or more, as long as we are still alive...we will not cease to press for the truth. We believe the truth will eventually come to light,” said Bai Zhong, from China, whose wife was on the plane.


Canada sanctions six Russians over Navalny death

Canada sanctions six Russians over Navalny death
Updated 04 March 2024
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Canada sanctions six Russians over Navalny death

Canada sanctions six Russians over Navalny death

OTTAWA: Canada announced new sanctions on Sunday against six Russian officials following the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny last month in an Arctic prison colony.
The sanctions target “senior officials and high-ranking employees of Russia’s prosecution, judicial and correctional services,” a statement by Canada’s foreign affairs department said.
The six people “were involved in the violation of Mr. Navalny’s human rights, his cruel punishment and ultimately, his death,” it said.
“Alongside our partners, Canada will maintain pressure on the Russian government to conduct a full and transparent inquiry into the death of Mr. Navalny,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.
“This increased pressure on the Russian government sends a clear signal that human rights must be unequivocally respected.”
After the death of Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic, the Canadian government summoned Russia’s ambassador to “demand a full and transparent investigation” into his death.
Navalny died on February 16 in unclear circumstances in a penal colony in the Arctic, where he was serving a 19-year prison sentence for “extremism.” He was 47 years old.
His family and allies have accused the Kremlin of ordering him killed and Western leaders have said Putin is “responsible” for his death.


Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind

Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind
Updated 04 March 2024
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Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind

Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind
  • Armed gangs attacked the prison facility on Saturday while Haiti's PM is abroad trying to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to stabilize the troubled Carribean country

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Hundreds of inmates fled Haiti’s main prison after armed gangs stormed the facility in an overnight explosion of violence that engulfed much of the capital. At least five people were dead Sunday.

The jailbreak marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence and came as gangs step up coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince, while embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry is abroad trying to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to stabilize the country.

Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry gives a public lecture at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, Kenya, on March. 1, 2024, amid gang violence in his troubled Caribbean country. (AP)

Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance, which was wide open, with no guards in sight. Plastic sandals, clothing and electric fans were strewn across normally overcrowded concrete patios that were eerily empty on Sunday. In another neighborhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind their backs laid face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.
Haiti’s government urged calm as it sought to find the killers, kidnappers and perpetrators of other violent crimes that it said escaped during the outbreak of violence.
“The National Police is taking all measures to find the escaped prisoners and arrest those responsible for these criminal acts as well as all their accomplices so that public order can be restored,” the Communications Ministry said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Arnel Remy, a human rights attorney whose nonprofit works inside the prison, said on X that fewer than 100 of the nearly 4,000 inmates remained behind bars. Those choosing to stay included 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. On Saturday night, several of the Colombians shared a video pleading for their lives.
“Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said in the message widely shared on social media. “They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells.”
On Sunday, Uribe told journalists who walked breezily into the normally highly guarded facility “I didn’t flee because I’m innocent.”

Colombian inmates accused in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise talk to journalists inside the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (AP)

In the absence of official information, inmates’ family members rushed to the prison to check on loved ones.
“I don’t know whether my son is alive or not,” said Alexandre Jean as she roamed around the cells looking for any sign of him. “I don’t know what to do.”
The violence Saturday night appeared to be widespread, with several neighborhoods reporting gunfire.
There were reports of a jailbreak at a second Port-au-Prince prison containing around 1,400 inmates. Armed gangs also occupied and vandalized the nation’s top soccer stadium, taking one employee hostage for hours, the nation’s soccer federation said in a statement. Internet service for many residents was down as Haiti’s top mobile network said a fiber optic cable connection was slashed during the rampage.
In the space of less than two weeks, several state institutions have been attacked by the gangs, who are increasingly coordinating their actions and choosing once unthinkable targets like the Central Bank. After gangs opened fire at Haiti’s international airport last week, the US Embassy said it was temporarily halting all official travel to the country. As part of coordinated attacks by gangs, four police officers were killed Thursday.

Police officers battle gangsters trying to take control of Haiti on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)

The epicenter of the latest violence Saturday night was Haiti’s National Penitentiary, which is holding several gang leaders. Amid the exchange of gunfire, police appealed for assistance.
“They need help,” a union representing police said in a message on social media bearing an “SOS” emoji repeated eight times. “Let’s mobilize the army and the police to prevent the bandits from breaking into the prison.”
The clashes follow violent protests that turned deadlier in recent days as the prime minister went to Kenya to try and salvage a proposed UN-backed security mission in Haiti to be led by the East African country. Henry took over as prime minister following Moise’s assassination and has repeatedly postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which haven’t happened in almost a decade.
Haiti’s National Police has roughly 9,000 officers to provide security for more than 11 million people, according to the UN. They are routinely overwhelmed and outgunned by gangs, which are estimated to control up to 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.
Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, has claimed responsibility for the surge in attacks. He said the goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry’s return.
The prime minister, a neurosurgeon, has shrugged off calls for his resignation and didn’t comment when asked if he felt it was safe to come home.