Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar pin new hope on OIC support

Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar pin new hope on OIC support
A joint delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees conducts a humanitarian visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh from Aug. 6 to 11. (UNHCR)
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Updated 13 August 2023
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Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar pin new hope on OIC support

Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar pin new hope on OIC support
  • Rohingya refugees believe organization can ‘help us more’ as largest platform of Muslim ummah
  • Joint OIC, UN visit seen as ‘positive contribution’ to keeping Rohingya issue at top of global agenda

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar have sought support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as they continue to face uncertainties about their future compounded by a massive cut in UN food rations this year.

Aid for the Rohingya in Bangladesh was cut to $8 per person per month, or 27 cents a day, at the beginning of June. The World Food Programme said a lack of funding had forced it to reduce the rations, first slashed in March from $12 to $10.

The aid cuts are affecting more than 1 million Rohingya people, most of whom had escaped deadly violence and persecution in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh during a military crackdown in 2017.

After a recent visit of a joint delegation from the OIC and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh believed the OIC could provide them with the support they need.

“We request the OIC and UNHCR to create more funds to ensure enough food for our children until there is a sustainable and dignified repatriation,” Mohammad Zubair, chairman of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told Arab News.

Based in Cox’s Bazar, ARSPH works for the rights and justice of the Rohingya.

“No one can give any guarantee for our future though we have been witnessing frequent visits by international delegations. In this context, as the largest platform of the Muslim ummah, the OIC can help us more since those who are suffering here are the Rohingya Muslims,” Zubair said.

“We are fully dependent on the food aid provided by the World Food Programme. But how could a person survive with only $8 per month?”

Refugees in the camps face a multitude of problems, including malnutrition and domestic violence, which Zubair noted had “significantly increased” in recent weeks.

Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, another Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, hoped that there would be some changes after the visit of the OIC-UNHCR delegation.

“I hope there should be some changes in our fate, at least it may help to reduce the ongoing funding crisis,” Khan told Arab News.

He also highlighted the issue of repatriation for Rohingya refugees, a process that had made little practical progress despite being on the UN agenda for years.

“I think the Myanmar government will not repatriate all of us,” Khan said. “In this context, third country resettlement can be another sustainable solution to our crisis. The OIC is a big platform and can play a vital role in this process. Third country resettlement will offer us education and livelihood scopes with dignity.”

The visit of the joint delegation was also welcomed by former Bangladesh ambassador to the US, Humayun Kabir, who told Arab News that the trip had helped to keep the Rohingya issue at the top of the global agenda.

“The OIC is already playing a significant role in the diplomatic field for resolving the Rohingya crisis,” Kabir said. “Amid the funding crisis for the Rohingya, there are some potentials that some OIC members can come up with to mitigate the crisis. Here, we can expect more support from Saudi Arabia.

“I think this joint delegation visit is a positive approach as they witnessed the situation on the ground, and it’s a positive contribution to keep the issue vibrant in the global agenda.”

In a statement on Sunday, OIC Assistant Secretary-General Tariq Ali Bakheet called on the international community to show solidarity for the Rohingya.

“The diplomatic track must advance hand in hand with humanitarian efforts to deal with the root causes of the problem and reach a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis,” he said.


Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive

Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive
Updated 12 sec ago
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Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive

Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive
  • India battling extreme weather that caused severe heatwaves, landslides and floods
  • Billions across Asia are grappling with extreme heat this summer, in a trend worsened by climate change
GUWAHATI, India: India was battling on Wednesday extreme weather that caused severe heatwaves, landslides and floods, killing at least 11 people this week, among them a woman and her three daughters buried alive in a northeastern state, officials and media said.
The capital, New Delhi, sweltered through its hottest night in six years on Tuesday, with hospitals in the city of 20 million reporting at least five deaths from heatstroke this week, the Times of India newspaper said.
Floods and landslides triggered by incessant rain in the northeastern state of Assam killed at least six people on Tuesday night, officials said.
“A landslide buried a woman and her three daughters alive,” a state disaster management official, Siju Das, said by telephone.
“Their house was on a slope, and they died on the spot around midnight,” he said, adding that the bodies were retrieved after a three-hour search operation by rescuers.
“A three-year-old was killed too.”
Billions across Asia are grappling with extreme heat this summer, in a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.
Since March, temperatures have soared to 50 degrees C (122 degrees F) in Delhi and the nearby desert state of Rajasthan, while more than twice the usual number of heatwave days were recorded this season in the country’s northwest and east.
These conditions stemmed from fewer thundershowers, as well as warm winds blowing in from neighboring arid regions.
In Assam, more than 160,000 people were affected, with waters surpassing the danger level in the Kopili, one of the largest tributaries of the Brahmaputra, which ranks among India’s biggest rivers.
More than 30 people in the state have died since the end of May in floods and landslides brought by heavy rain, officials said.

Landslides kill nine as Bangladesh lashed by rain

Landslides kill nine as Bangladesh lashed by rain
Updated 11 min 3 sec ago
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Landslides kill nine as Bangladesh lashed by rain

Landslides kill nine as Bangladesh lashed by rain
  • Bangladesh, a nation of around 170 million people, is among the countries most vulnerable to disasters and climate change
  • Those killed in landslides were in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: Torrential rains in Bangladesh have triggered landslides burying alive at least nine people and forcing thousands to flee to higher ground, police and government officials in the low-lying nation said Wednesday.
Schools have been turned into shelters for those abandoning their homes to rising river waters, while more than a million people have been stranded in northern areas.
Bangladesh, a nation of around 170 million people, is among the countries most vulnerable to disasters and climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
The annual monsoon rains cause widespread destruction every year, but experts say climate change is shifting weather patterns and increasing the number of extreme weather events.
“At least 700,000 people have been stranded by flash floods and heavy rains in Sylhet district, and another 500,000 people in neighboring Sunamganj district,” Abu Ahmed Siddique, commissioner of Bangladesh’s northeastern Sylhet district, told AFP.
Those killed in landslides were in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district.
Eight were Rohingya refugees from neighboring Myanmar, and the other was from Bangladesh, said Amir Jafar, a police official in command of security in the camps.
“They were sleeping in their shelters when heavy rains overnight triggered the landslides in five spots of the camps,” Jafar told AFP. “They were buried under the mud.”
He said hundreds of refugees had been moved from areas deemed at risk.
“The rain is still going on,” he said.
About one million Rohingya live in makeshift shelters of bamboo and tarpaulins in dozens of scattered camps cut out of cleared forest land on the slopes of small hills, where landslides are a regular threat.
In Sylhet, lashing rain and rivers swollen by flooding upstream in India also swamped heavily populated areas.
“More than 17,000 people have been taken to shelters only in Sylhet district,” senior local government official Sheikh Russel Hasan said, warning rivers were still rising.
Much of Bangladesh is made up of deltas as the Himalayan rivers of the Ganges and Brahmaputra slowly wind toward the sea.
Floods in 2022 in Sylhet were some of the worst on record, leaving millions stranded and around a hundred killed.
Towhidul Islam, chief administrative officer of Gowainghat, part of Sylhet, said the river had risen two centimeters (0.7 inches) in the first three hours after dawn.
“If the rain and water level continues to increase, the situation will get worse, like 2022,” Islam told AFP.


US lawmakers’ visit to Dalai Lama sparks China criticism

US lawmakers’ visit to Dalai Lama sparks China criticism
Updated 19 June 2024
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US lawmakers’ visit to Dalai Lama sparks China criticism

US lawmakers’ visit to Dalai Lama sparks China criticism
  • Lawmakers led by Congressman Michael McCaul and former House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Buddhist spiritual leader at his home base in the northern Indian hill-town of Dharamsala

NEW DELHI: A group of senior US lawmakers including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi met Wednesday with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, sparking heavy criticism from China.
The bipartisan group of US lawmakers, led by Congressman Michael McCaul and Pelosi, visited the 88-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader at his home base in the northern Indian hill-town of Dharamsala.
Pelosi told crowds of Tibetans it was an “honor” to have met with the Dali Lama, in a speech carried by the government-in-exile’s Tibet TV.
“It is truly a blessing,” Pelosi said.
The visit follows the passage of a bill by the US Congress that seeks to encourage Beijing to hold talks with Tibetan leaders — frozen since 2010.
“This bill is a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and understanding in the issue of the freedom of Tibet,” she said.
Pelosi said the bill was “soon to be signed” by US President Joe Biden.
Ahead of the visit, China’s embassy in New Delhi criticized the meeting, saying the Dalai Lama was “not a pure religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion.”
Many exiled Tibetans fear Beijing will name a rival successor to the Dalai Lama, bolstering control over a land it poured troops into in 1950.
The Dalai Lama was just 23 when he escaped the Tibetan capital Lhasa in fear for his life after Chinese soldiers eviscerated an uprising against Beijing’s forces, crossing the snowy Himalayas into India.
He stepped down as his people’s political head in 2011, passing the baton of secular power to a government chosen democratically by some 130,000 Tibetans around the world.
“The democracy of the diaspora of the Tibetans in exile is very important to us,” Pelosi said.
Penpa Tsering, the sikyong or head of that government, said it does not seek full independence for Tibet, but rather to pursue a long-standing “Middle Way” policy seeking greater autonomy and “to resolve the Sino-Tibet conflict through dialogue.”
But Beijing’s embassy accused the Tibetan administration of seeking to break away.
“We urge the US side to fully recognize the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai group,” the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India wrote on social media late Tuesday.
It reiterated its oft-repeated position that the high-altitude territory “has always been part of China since ancient times.”


Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin meet amid worry about Pyongyang and Moscow’s military ties

Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin meet amid worry about Pyongyang and Moscow’s military ties
Updated 19 June 2024
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Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin meet amid worry about Pyongyang and Moscow’s military ties

Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin meet amid worry about Pyongyang and Moscow’s military ties
  • Russian leader hails ‘close friendship’ between the two countries based on ‘equality and respect of mutual interests’
  • North Korean state media described the meeting between the leaders as a historic event

SEOUL: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow and Pyongyang will sign an agreement that will bolster their ties, and thanked North Korea for supporting the Kremlin’s policies in Ukraine.
Speaking at the start of his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Russian leader said in remarks carried by Russian state Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies that the “new fundamental document will form the basis of our ties for a long perspective.”
Putin also hailed a “close friendship” between the two countries based on “equality and respect of mutual interests,” and noted their “fight against the imperialist hegemonistic policies of the US and its satellites against the Russian Federation.”
“We highly appreciate your consistent and unchanging support of the Russian policies, including in the Ukrainian direction,” Putin added.
Putin was met upon his nighttime arrival by Kim, who shook his hands, hugged him twice and rode with him from the airport in a limousine in a huge motorcade that rolled through the capital’s brightly illuminated streets, where buildings were decorated with giant Russian flags and portraits of Putin.
North Korean state media described the meeting between the leaders as a historic event that demonstrates the “invincibility and durability” of the two nations’ friendship and unity. Huge crowds lined up on the streets to greet Putin’s motorcade before the talks, chanting “Welcome Putin” and waving flowers and North Korean and Russian flags.
Putin, making his first trip to North Korea in 24 years, was quoted in official media outlets before his arrival as saying the two countries want to cooperate closely to overcome US-led sanctions and actively develop their partnership. He also said he appreciated North Korea’s firm support of his military actions in Ukraine. The Kremlin launched a full-scale invasion of the neighboring country in 2022.
Putin’s visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.
Putin is being accompanied by several top officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Denis Mantrurov, Defense Minister Andrei Belousov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to his foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov. He said a number of documents will be signed during the visit, possibly including an agreement on a comprehensive strategic partnership.
US and South Korean officials accuse the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles and other military equipment for use in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid. Both Pyongyang and Moscow deny accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.
Along with China, Russia has provided political cover for Kim’s continuing efforts to advance his nuclear arsenal, repeatedly blocking US-led efforts to impose fresh UN sanctions on the North over its weapons tests.
Aside of sending military supplies to Russia to help its war fighting Ukraine, the North may also seek to increase labor exports and other illicit activities to gain foreign currency in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions, according to a recent report by the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank run by South Korea’s main spy agency. There will likely be talks about expanding cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and mining and further promoting Russian tourism to North Korea, the institute said.


Taiwan president says only military strength can keep the peace with China

Taiwan president says only military strength can keep the peace with China
Updated 19 June 2024
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Taiwan president says only military strength can keep the peace with China

Taiwan president says only military strength can keep the peace with China
  • China, whose government views Taiwan as its own territory, held two days of war games around the island shortly after Lai Ching-te took office last month

TAIPEI: Only military strength can keep the peace with China and the Taiwanese people will not give in to Chinese coercion, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te said on Wednesday as the United States agreed on a speeded-up arms package.
China, whose government views Taiwan as its own territory, held two days of war games around the island shortly after Lai took office last month, saying it was “punishment” for his inauguration speech, which Beijing denounced as being full of separatist context.
Speaking at a news conference to mark one month since assuming the presidency, Lai said Taiwan’s people “love peace.”
“But peace must rely on strength, which is to say avoiding war by preparing for war to achieve peace. Empty promises are not true peace,” he said.
China’s national policy is to annex Taiwan, Lai added.
“Apart from using force, in recent years they have even been using non-traditional coercive measures to force Taiwan to succumb but Taiwan will not give in,” he said.
Taiwan says such coercive means include preventing Taiwan’s participation in international bodies and events, banning or heavily taxing certain exports to China, and “grey zone” tactics such as flying balloons over the island.
Shortly before Lai spoke to reporters at the presidential office in Taipei, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said US State Department had approved the sale to Taiwan of drones and missiles for an estimated $360 million.
The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, to the constant anger of Beijing.
Taiwan’s defense ministry expressed its thanks, especially for US efforts to increase arms sales to the island. Taiwan has repeatedly complained of delayed deliveries.
“The Taiwan-US special management team continues to work hard to improve the efficiency of arms sales operations between the two sides. This time, the administrative review time has been significantly shortened,” the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Although the United States is Taiwan’s main international arms provider, Lai and his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen have made boosting domestic capabilities a priority.
“Going forward we will continue to strengthen Taiwan’s defense capabilities, not only on arms purchases but also on defense self-sufficiency,” he said.
Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed.
He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are “not subordinate to each other,” which he told reporters was the consensus of society in Taiwan.