Rohingya activists call for more international pressure on Myanmar

Rohingya refugees gather at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar. (Reuters/File Photo)
Rohingya refugees gather at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 21 July 2023
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Rohingya activists call for more international pressure on Myanmar

Rohingya refugees gather at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar
  • Rohingya Muslims, other Myanmar minorities have endured decades of persecution
  • Latest UN resolution calls on Myanmar to create conducive conditions for repatriation

DHAKA: Rohingya activists in Bangladesh are calling on the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar following a renewed call at the UN for safe and sustainable repatriation of the persecuted minority to their homeland.
Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar have endured decades of systematic discrimination and persecution, including the 2017 military crackdown that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands from Rakhine State.
Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the human rights situation of the Rohingya and other Myanmar minorities, making it among the latest to call on the government in Naypyidaw to create “conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable” repatriation.
“To ensure sustainable repatriation, there should be much more pressure from different sides by the international community on the Myanmar government,” Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya rights activist in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News this week.
“All of us Rohingya are eager to return to our homeland. But there should be a conducive situation over there in Rakhine. In the current situation, if we return, the Myanmar government will persecute us again.”
Khan is among more than a million Rohingya languishing in refugee camps in Bangladesh, which for years has hosted and provided them with humanitarian support despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
The developing country spends an estimated $1.2 billion annually to support the Rohingya, as international aid for the community has been dropping since 2020. The UN World Food Programme cut food rations for the group earlier this year, as its pleas for donations had not been met.
The Rohingya community in Cox’s Bazar is suffering as it seeks certainty about their future, Khan said.
“If we are forced to live here for a longer period, it will create a lost generation of Rohingya,” he said, alluding to the lack of educational and work opportunities for the community.
Rohingya in Myanmar also feel “they are not safe enough,” Khan said, while those in Bangladesh similarly feel unsafe due to rising crime in the camps.
“A sense of insecurity prevails here among us all the time,” Khan said.
“I don’t know when I would be killed by whom; that’s why we don’t want to continue living here. We appeal to the international community to ensure a sustainable solution to this Rohingya crisis.”
An increasing number of Rohingya risk perilous boat journeys to leave Bangladesh for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. In 2022, over 3,500 attempted dangerous sea crossings, according to the UNHCR.
Despite various plans for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar over the years, no practical progress has been made. The latest attempt took place in May, involving refugee community leaders and Bangladeshi officials visiting Rakhine State to assess the possibility of repatriation.
Mohammad Jubaer, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights in Cox’s Bazar, highlighted the importance of accountability.
“The international community should ensure some accountability issues like dignity, security, etc. In the place where we will be living in Myanmar, it should be a safe zone maintained by the international community. Otherwise, the Myanmar authorities will again forcefully send us to Bangladesh like before,” Jubaer told Arab News.
“It’s not only the issue of persecution of Rohingya. All other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar should be protected,” he said.
“The international community should exert more pressure on Myanmar to ensure this.”
Developed countries and intergovernmental organizations bear “ethical responsibilities” when it comes to the Rohingya issue, said Mohammed Nur Khan, a Bangladeshi rights activist and migration expert.
“Since they are in an advanced position in terms of political and financial situation, so, ethically, the responsibilities go more on them. Firstly, they can open the door of discussions at the UN platform. It’s very much crucial,” Khan told Arab News.
“Secondly, they can compel the Myanmar junta to create a favorable environment by exercising different approaches like imposing economic sanctions and others. The international community should engage regional platforms like ASEAN more actively,” he said.
Khan said the latest UN resolution may spark more efforts from the Myanmar government to improve the situation in Rakhine State, but he is unsure it can create a thoroughly conducive environment for the Rohingya.
The UN resolution comes following high-profile visits to refugee camps in Bangladesh, including OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan.
“But it should be done, even if it takes time. Without ensuring this, it wouldn’t be the right decision for us to repatriate the Rohingya. I don’t think the current situation in Rakhine is favorable for ensuring a secure living environment for anyone.”


DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army

DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army
Updated 24 sec ago
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DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army

DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army
  • Army spokesman said around 40 of the attackers, some of them foreigners, had been arrested, and four — including their leader — were killed
  • The coup plotters reportedly carried flags of Zaire, the DRC's name under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997

KINSHASA: The DR Congo military on Sunday said it had thwarted an “attempted coup” near the offices of President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa involving “foreigners and Congolese.”

It happened in the early hours of the morning outside the residence of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe, in the Gombe area in the north of the capital, near the Palais de la Nation that houses the president’s offices, a spokesman said.
“An attempted coup d’etat has been stopped by the defense and security forces,” said General Sylvain Ekenge in a message broadcast on national television.
Shots were also heard near the Palais de la Nation at the time of the coup attempt, according to a number of sources.
Later on Sunday, army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge said several Americans and a British man were part of the group involved in the operation.
The coup bid was led by Christian Malanga, a Congolese man who was a “naturalized American” and had been “definitively neutralized” — killed — by the security forces, Ekenge said in a broadcast on Sunday evening.
The group was made up of “several nationalities,” Ekenge said, adding that around 40 of the attackers had been arrested, and four — including Malanga — killed.
“We also have a naturalized British subject, the number two of the group,” the spokesman added. Malanga’s son, Marcel Malanga, was also among the attackers, he said.

Links to deposed dictator

Kamerhe and his family were not harmed in the attack but two police officers looking after them were killed, said a source close to the minister.
The group had planned to attack the home of the new Prime Minister Judith Suminwa, and the residence of Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba.
But they “could not identify the home” of Suminwa and had not been able to find Bemba at his residence.
After the attack at Kamerhe’s home, the group then went to the Palais de la Nation, brandishing flags of Zaire, the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo under the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.
“I am shocked by the events this morning and very worried by the reports of American citizens allegedly being involved,” Lucy Tamlyn, the US ambassador to the DRC, posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“Rest assured that we are cooperating with authorities in DRC to the fullest extent possible, as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizen involved.”
France’s ambassador had reported automatic weapon fire in the area, urging nationals to avoid it.

During the day, certain streets near the Palais de la Nation remained closed to traffic, but the situation appeared calm, AFP journalists reported.
“I’m a little afraid to move around like that in Gombe, there aren’t many people... But I have to sell my goods,” bread-seller Jean-Mbuta said.

Videos on social media showed men in fatigues at the Palais de la Nation, brandishing flags of Zaire.

The Zaire flag was mostly green while the DRC one is largely blue.
“The time has arrived, long live Zaire, long live the children of Mobutu,” a man who appeared to be the head of the group said in Lingala, a language spoken in parts of the DRC.
“Felix has fallen... we are victorious,” he added.
AFP was also unable to verify the videos.
Tshisekedi was re-elected at the end of December when he received more than 70 percent of votes in the first round.
The parties backing him won around 90 percent of seats in the parliamentary elections held the same day.
But he is yet to form a government some five months after the elections.
Kamerhe on April 23 was named as a candidate for president of the National Assembly, the DRC’s main legislative body.
 


Daesh group claims deadly Afghanistan attack on tourists

A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 May 2024
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Daesh group claims deadly Afghanistan attack on tourists

A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
  • The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence

KABUL: The Daesh group on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack targeting tourists in Afghanistan that killed three Spaniards and three Afghans.
The terrorist group said in a statement on its Telegram channels that “fighters shot at Christian tourists and their Shiite companions with machine guns” in the mountainous city of Bamiyan on Friday.
The tour group was fired on while shopping in a market in Bamiyan, around 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of the capital Kabul.
The terrorists said they attacked a “bus of tourists who are citizens of coalition countries,” referring to a US-led coalition that has battled Daesh in the Middle East.
“The attack comes in line with the directives of the leaders of the Daesh to target nationals of coalition countries wherever they may be,” the statement added.
Taliban officials said on Saturday they had arrested seven suspects in the aftermath of the attack.
The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has reduced dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power.
However, a number of armed groups, including IS, remain a threat.
The terrorists have repeatedly targeted the historically persecuted Shiite Hazara community, considering them heretics.
Hazaras make up the majority of the population in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan’s top tourist destination.
The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence.
Increasing numbers of visitors have traveled to Afghanistan as security has improved since the Taliban ended their insurgency after ousting the Western-backed government.
The Taliban government has yet to be officially recognized by any foreign government.
It has, however, supported a fledgling tourism sector, with more than 5,000 foreign tourists visiting Afghanistan in 2023, according to official figures.
Western nations advise against all travel to the country, warning of elevated risks of kidnappings and attacks.
The group targeted in Friday’s attack was made up of 13 travelers from various countries, including six Spanish nationals.
Spanish officials said Sunday that all three Spaniards killed in the attack were from Catalonia.
They included a mother and a daughter and a 63-year-old man who worked as an engineer.
An 82-year-old Spanish retiree was seriously wounded and was evacuated to a Kabul hospital operated by the Italian NGO Emergency, where she and others injured in the attack were stabilized.
“She is progressing favorably from her injuries, but her prognosis is uncertain,” the Spanish foreign ministry said Sunday.
Spanish diplomats had traveled to Afghanistan and had been working to repatriate the bodies of the dead and transfer the wounded, in coordination with a European Union delegation in Kabul.
The Spanish embassy in Kabul was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of the Afghan capital.

 


Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia

Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia
Updated 19 May 2024
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Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia

Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia
  • Indonesia is the third Southeast Asian country where Starlink will operate
  • Starlink expected to improve internet access for thousands of Indonesian health centers 

JAKARTA: Elon Musk and Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin launched SpaceX’s satellite internet service on Sunday, aiming to boost connectivity in the world’s largest archipelago.

Musk, the billionaire head of SpaceX and Tesla, arrived in Bali by private jet on Sunday morning, before attending Starlink’s launch at a community health center in the provincial capital Denpasar. 

Wearing a green batik shirt, he inaugurated Starlink together with Sadikin, Communications Minister Budi Arie Setiadi and Maritime, and Fisheries Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, and said that the satellite service would help millions in Indonesia to access the internet. 

“We’re focusing this event on Starlink and the benefits that high-bandwidth connectivity can bring to a rural island and to remote communities,” Musk told reporters in Denpasar. 

“I think it’s really important to emphasize the importance of internet connectivity and how much of a life-changer that could be.” 

Indonesia, an archipelagic state comprising over 17,000 islands, is home to more than 270 million people and three different time zones. Following the launch, Musk said that internet connectivity was also integral for learning and business. 

“You can learn anything if you’re connected to the internet, but if you’re not connected, it’s very difficult to learn,” Musk said. “And then if you have some virtual services that you wish to sell to the world, even if you’re in a remote village, you can now do so with an internet connection. So, it can bring a lot of prosperity, I think, to rural communities.”

Indonesia is the third Southeast Asian country where Starlink will operate. Neighboring Malaysia issued the firm a license to provide internet services last year, while a Philippine-based firm signed a deal with SpaceX in 2022. 

On Sunday, Starlink was launched at three Indonesian health centers, two of which are located in Bali and one on the remote island of Aru in Maluku. Officials say the services will be prioritized for health and education, and in outer and underdeveloped regions. 

Starlink is expected to bring high-speed connectivity to thousands of health centers across the country, Sadikin said, allowing Indonesians in remote areas to access services that were previously not available to them. 

“With Starlink … 2,700 community health centers that had difficulties getting internet access and another 700 that didn’t have internet access, now can have them. So, the services will not differ with health centers … that are located in the cities,” the health minister said. 

The arrival of Starlink in Indonesia is expected to boost equal internet access across Southeast Asia’s largest economy. 

“A satellite-based internet service like Starlink will certainly be very beneficial for the country because there are still many regions which don’t have internet access,” said Pratama Persadha, chairman of the Communication and Information System Security Research Center. 

Other sectors in Indonesia, such as education and the digital economy, will also get a boost from Starlink, he added. 

“Wherever the location that requires good internet connection, whether on top of the mountain, in the middle of the forest, or in the middle of the sea, they can still enjoy the internet through satellite-based services like this.” 


Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir

Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir
Updated 19 May 2024
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Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir

Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • Two Indian tourists visiting the Himalayan territory were also wounded in a separate attack in Anantnag
  • Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have for decades waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Suspected rebels shot dead an activist from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in Indian-administered Kashmir, local authorities said Sunday after the latest violent attack in the disputed region.

Police named the victim as Aijaz Ahmad, a local leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was fired upon in Shopian district on Saturday evening, days after the region began voting in India’s six-week national elections.

The BJP’s local office in Kashmir confirmed Sunday that Ahmad had died and announced plans to stage a protest against the attack.

Two Indian tourists visiting the Himalayan territory were also wounded in a separate attack by suspected rebels in nearby Anantnag on the same day, police said, adding that both had been hospitalized.

Security forces had cordoned off the surrounding area to find those responsible for separate incidents, police said.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the Himalayan territory in full.

Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have for decades waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of backing the militants — charges Islamabad denies.

The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and militants dead.

Violence has drastically reduced since 2019, when Modi’s government canceled the Muslim-majority region’s limited autonomy and brought it under direct rule from New Delhi.

Security forces have reported a spate of clashes in Kashmir since voting began last month in ongoing general election.

Earlier this month suspected rebels killed an Indian air force member and injured four others in an ambush on a military convoy.
 


Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 
Updated 19 May 2024
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Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 
  • At least 5 Pakistani citizens injured in clashes in Bishkek
  • Islamabad is arranging special flights to get students home

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has repatriated 140 students from Kyrgyzstan after mobs attacked foreign citizens in the capital, Bishkek, over the weekend. 

A special flight bringing the first batch of Pakistani students home landed at an airport in Lahore on Saturday night, with Islamabad planning to use more such flights to bring back citizens who want to leave Bishkek after violent incidents in the Kyrgyz capital.

On Friday, hundreds of Kyrgyz men in Bishkek attacked buildings where foreign students live, including Pakistan citizens who are among thousands studying and working in the Central Asian country. 

The angry mob reportedly targeted these residences after videos of a brawl earlier this month between Krygyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting anti-foreigner sentiment over the past week. The Kyrgyz government deployed forces on Friday to mitigate the violence. 

“Our first concern is the safe return of Pakistani students,” Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said. 

“God willing, more students would be brought back via additional flights (on Sunday).”

Students who spoke to Arab News said that the Pakistan Embassy in Kyrgyzstan advised them to stay indoors after the mob attack. But when they ran out of food and water and some became fearful of potential riots, they asked authorities to evacuate them. 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the return to Pakistan of citizens who wished to do so would be “facilitated at the government’s expense.”

Sharif is sending a two-member delegation, including Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, to Bishkek on Sunday to meet with Kyrgyz officials and provide assistance for Pakistani students. 

“The decision to send this delegation was made to ensure necessary support and facilities for Pakistani students,” a statement issued by Sharif’s office reads. 

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it had summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to the violence in Bishkek. 

Five Pakistani medical students were injured in the mob attack, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hassan Zaigham said, with one student admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury. 

“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. 

“The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”