Friday, January 19, 2018 EDITORIAL

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 EDITORIAL

Banking sector is in the doldrums: Finance Minister is mute

Habitually of decorous composure with contented warm and winning avuncular smile, the incumbent Finance Minister on occasions has been quick to express indignant remonstrance if and when he was confronted with mild disapproval of his government's erroneous policies apropos of finance and allied fields. And oblivious to its negative connotation he invariably dismisses criticism with his favourite word "rubbish" to mean claptrap or balderdash.
Even if trivialized in a cavalier fashion by him, various perilous gaffes and blunders in policy decisions done during his tenure under PM Sheikh Hasina's government have been critiqued by contemporary economists as these will seriously affect the nation's financial health in particular, and the economy in general.
Though the nation's banking sector is in dire straits which crisis is attributable to the failure of the regulatory system and the practice of political patronage in access to credit, as eminent economist Prof.  Rehman Sobhan remarked adding that the ethical crisis in banking system is destroying the competitiveness of the financial sector. This being the case and as if enough is not enough, despite a chorus of protests from economists, banking experts and from a section of law makers, the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) passed the detrimental Banking Companies (Amendment) Act 2017 which will allow for four members of a family (in place of two) to become proprietorial directors in the board of a bank. It is big question as to how accountability will be maintained where the majority stake in a bank can lawfully be controlled by a single family.
Much ink has been spilt and tons of paper wasted by newspapers in which columnists as well as commentators wrote on the necessity for minimal governance in which the rule of law, of necessity, is fundamental. The person in command of the Awami League government's statutory human rights body chairman affirmed on August 11, 2010, "The country is devoid of the rule of law. The rule of law is totally absent in the country where most people fail to get justice because of poverty and ignorance." Inconceivable though it may sound, it explains the dire straits the nation faces.
The reason is not far to seek. During the Awami League (AL) regime of Sheikh Hasina from 2009 to date numerous custodial deaths, violent crimes, a terrifying number of enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders belonging to the opposition BNP took place. Besides, the journalist couple Sagor and Runi were killed; there was involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB personnel in seven political murders in Narayanganj; corruption of gargantuan proportions, namely, huge stock market swindling and big scams in government-owned banks hit the headlines.
Finance Minister was rather unperturbed in 2011 when the worst stock market crash in the country's history in which around a whopping sum of Taka 40 to 50 billion might have been siphoned off the country. A probe committee identified the culprits, but Mr A M A Muhith, for reasons best known to him, said the names of the persons could not be disclosed. Why this timidity? He kept his cool in the face of colossal scams in state-owned banks.
Never before it was heard that the FBI, CIA, KGB or India's RAW had a similar assignment, but the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) was involved in economic or financial affairs; and this happened one year back in Dhaka when "the government initiated a coup at Bangladesh's biggest bank, and its Board members received a visit from military intelligence." Terming it an odd job for a spy agency, the Economist of London reported how on the morning of January 5th military intelligence operatives phoned the chairman, a vice-chairman and the managing director of Islami Bank Bangladesh, picked them up from their homes and brought them to the agency's headquarters, in Dhaka's military cantonment. Polite officers presented the bankers with letters of resignation and asked them to sign. They did so. A few hours later the bank's board, meeting under the noses of intelligence officers at a hotel owned by the army, selected their replacements.
The bank is the country's biggest, and operates in accordance with Islamic principles. The quiescent shareholders from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had allowed it to appoint the top management. Islami Bank accounts for a third of the assets of the Islamic banking industry. It has 12m depositors, 12,000 staff and a balance-sheet of $10bn. It handled more than a quarter of the $14bn Bangladeshi workers abroad sent home last year.
In June 2017 the government allocated Tk20bn (US$250m) to recapitalise Bangladesh's state-owned banks. Though there were signs that the country's banking sector was facing mounting problems, and regulators' efforts have so far been insufficient to tackle the issue. Only limited action has been taken to penalise defaulters, improve risk management and strengthen bank management. In its Article IV report, the IMF stated that there are some underlying risks to the banking sector owing to excess liquidity. However, an improvement in conditions within the state-owned banking sector will be dependent on the political will to address the problem, which has been limited so far.
In its report, the London-based Economist's Intelligence Unit wrote quoting the IMF that there were weaknesses in the banking sector owing largely to the legacy of loans to large borrowers, who lack incentives to repay, and legal limitations that hamper recoveries. Six state-owned commercial banks account for about a quarter of total banking sector assets. They are supplemented by two state-owned specialised development banks, 40 private commercial banks and nine foreign banks.
In its comprehensive article the journal stated that the eight state-owned commercial and specialised banks suffer from problems related to high levels of non-performing loans (NPLs), low profitability, large capital shortfalls and balance sheet weaknesses.  The root of the problem is poor risk management.

Comment

Habitually of decorous composure with contented warm and winning avuncular smile, the incumbent Finance Minister on occasions has been quick to express indignant remonstrance if and when he was confronted with mild disapproval of his government's erroneous policies apropos of finance and allied fields. And oblivious to its negative connotation he invariably dismisses criticism with his favourite word "rubbish" to mean claptrap or balderdash.
Even if trivialized in a cavalier fashion by him, various perilous gaffes and blunders in policy decisions done during his tenure under PM Sheikh Hasina's government have been critiqued by contemporary economists as these will seriously affect the nation's financial health in particular, and the economy in general.
Though the nation's banking sector is in dire straits which crisis is attributable to the failure of the regulatory system and the practice of political patronage in access to credit, as eminent economist Prof.  Rehman Sobhan remarked adding that the ethical crisis in banking system is destroying the competitiveness of the financial sector. This being the case and as if enough is not enough, despite a chorus of protests from economists, banking experts and from a section of law makers, the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) passed the detrimental Banking Companies (Amendment) Act 2017 which will allow for four members of a family (in place of two) to become proprietorial directors in the board of a bank. It is big question as to how accountability will be maintained where the majority stake in a bank can lawfully be controlled by a single family.
Much ink has been spilt and tons of paper wasted by newspapers in which columnists as well as commentators wrote on the necessity for minimal governance in which the rule of law, of necessity, is fundamental. The person in command of the Awami League government's statutory human rights body chairman affirmed on August 11, 2010, "The country is devoid of the rule of law. The rule of law is totally absent in the country where most people fail to get justice because of poverty and ignorance." Inconceivable though it may sound, it explains the dire straits the nation faces.
The reason is not far to seek. During the Awami League (AL) regime of Sheikh Hasina from 2009 to date numerous custodial deaths, violent crimes, a terrifying number of enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders belonging to the opposition BNP took place. Besides, the journalist couple Sagor and Runi were killed; there was involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB personnel in seven political murders in Narayanganj; corruption of gargantuan proportions, namely, huge stock market swindling and big scams in government-owned banks hit the headlines.
Finance Minister was rather unperturbed in 2011 when the worst stock market crash in the country's history in which around a whopping sum of Taka 40 to 50 billion might have been siphoned off the country. A probe committee identified the culprits, but Mr A M A Muhith, for reasons best known to him, said the names of the persons could not be disclosed. Why this timidity? He kept his cool in the face of colossal scams in state-owned banks.
Never before it was heard that the FBI, CIA, KGB or India's RAW had a similar assignment, but the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) was involved in economic or financial affairs; and this happened one year back in Dhaka when "the government initiated a coup at Bangladesh's biggest bank, and its Board members received a visit from military intelligence." Terming it an odd job for a spy agency, the Economist of London reported how on the morning of January 5th military intelligence operatives phoned the chairman, a vice-chairman and the managing director of Islami Bank Bangladesh, picked them up from their homes and brought them to the agency's headquarters, in Dhaka's military cantonment. Polite officers presented the bankers with letters of resignation and asked them to sign. They did so. A few hours later the bank's board, meeting under the noses of intelligence officers at a hotel owned by the army, selected their replacements.
The bank is the country's biggest, and operates in accordance with Islamic principles. The quiescent shareholders from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had allowed it to appoint the top management. Islami Bank accounts for a third of the assets of the Islamic banking industry. It has 12m depositors, 12,000 staff and a balance-sheet of $10bn. It handled more than a quarter of the $14bn Bangladeshi workers abroad sent home last year.
In June 2017 the government allocated Tk20bn (US$250m) to recapitalise Bangladesh's state-owned banks. Though there were signs that the country's banking sector was facing mounting problems, and regulators' efforts have so far been insufficient to tackle the issue. Only limited action has been taken to penalise defaulters, improve risk management and strengthen bank management. In its Article IV report, the IMF stated that there are some underlying risks to the banking sector owing to excess liquidity. However, an improvement in conditions within the state-owned banking sector will be dependent on the political will to address the problem, which has been limited so far.
In its report, the London-based Economist's Intelligence Unit wrote quoting the IMF that there were weaknesses in the banking sector owing largely to the legacy of loans to large borrowers, who lack incentives to repay, and legal limitations that hamper recoveries. Six state-owned commercial banks account for about a quarter of total banking sector assets. They are supplemented by two state-owned specialised development banks, 40 private commercial banks and nine foreign banks.
In its comprehensive article the journal stated that the eight state-owned commercial and specialised banks suffer from problems related to high levels of non-performing loans (NPLs), low profitability, large capital shortfalls and balance sheet weaknesses.  The root of the problem is poor risk management.


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MUSLIM GENOCIDE  IN  BOSNIA
War criminals tarnished image of the world body’s peacekeeping forces

F. R. Chowdhury

THE BALCAN war ultimately saw the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and formation of a number of independent countries in its wake. In the process thousands of Muslims were massacred. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were eventually tried and jailed by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands but another person who was no less responsible walked free and was never even questioned.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Balkan states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia became part of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. After the death of longtime Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito in 1980, growing nationalism among the different Yugoslav republics threatened to split their union apart. This process intensified after the mid-1980s with the rise of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who helped foment discontent between Serbians in Bosnia and Croatia and their Croatian, Bosniak and Albanian neighbors. In 1991, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia declared their independence; during the war in Croatia that followed, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army supported Serbian separatists there in their brutal clashes with Croatian forces.

Peace and harmony during Tito’s rule
Communist Party president and war hero Tito emerged as a political leader after World War II. With a Slovene for a mother, a Croat for a father, a Serb for a wife, and a home in Belgrade, Tito was a true Yugoslav. Tito had a compelling vision that this fractured union of the South Slavs could function.
But Tito’s new Yugoslavia could not be forged without force. In the first several years of his rule, Tito sometimes resorted to ruthless strong-arm tactics to forcibly persuade his subjects. Many soldiers who had fought against the Parisians were executed to create an intimidating example. To this day, Croatians — many of whose grandparents fought proudly with the Ustaše, furthering their ideal of an independent Croatian state — feel that they were disproportionately targeted by Tito, and in some cases, denied development funding in retaliation for their prior support of Partisan enemies.

Equitable division of powers
Tito’s new embodiment of Yugoslavia aimed for a more equitable division of powers. It was made up of six republics, each with its own parliament and president: Croatia (mostly Catholic Croats), Slovenia (mostly Catholic Slovenes), Serbia (mostly Orthodox Serbs), Bosnia-Herzegovina (the most diverse — mostly Muslim Bosniaks, but with very large Croat and Serb populations), Montenegro (mostly Orthodox — sort of a Serb/Croat hybrid), and Macedonia (with about 25 percent Muslim Albanians and 75 percent Orthodox Macedonians). Within Serbia, Tito set up two autonomous provinces, each dominated by an ethnicity that was a minority in greater Yugoslavia: Albanians in Kosovo (to the south) and Hungarians in Vojvodina (to the north). By allowing these two provinces some degree of independence — including voting rights — Tito hoped they would balance the political clout of Serbia, preventing a single republic from dominating the union.
In Bosnia, Muslims represented the biggest single population group by 1971. More Serbs and Croats emigrated during the next two decades, and in a 1991 census Bosnia’s population of some 4 million was 44 percent Bosniak, 31 percent Serb, and 17 percent Croatian. Elections held in late 1990 resulted in a coalition government split between parties representing the three ethnicities (in rough proportion to their populations) and led by the Bosniak Alija Izetbegovic. As tensions built inside and outside the country, the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his Serbian Democratic Party withdrew from government and set up their own “Serbian National Assembly.” On March 3, 1992, after a referendum vote—-which Karadzic’s party blocked in many Serb-populated areas—-, President Izetbegovic proclaimed Bosnia’s independence.
We all know about the massacre of Jews during the WW II in Germany and Poland by the Hitler’s forces. That was the biggest massacre of civilians in human history. Europe’s largest massacre of civilians since World War II happened in Bosnia in 1995.

Bosnian Muslim genocide
The government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared in April 1992 its independence from Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, targeted both Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croatian civilians for atrocious crimes resulting in the deaths of some 100,000 people (80 percent Bosniak) by 1995. It was the worst act of genocide since the Nazi regime’s destruction of some 6 million European Jews during World War II.
During the rule of Marshal Tito the constituent units lived in peace and harmony even though Serbia always played a dominant role. Yugoslavia even enjoyed the status of a leading non-aligned nation. Things changed after the death of Tito. It was during the period of Slobodan Milosevic that the Serbs tried to maintain the national unity not by amity but by military force. This forced the units to defy Serb suppression and declare independence. Yugoslavia started to break up. Bosnia was the only state with Muslim majority, though Serbia and Croatia also had sizeable Muslim population.
The Serbs were determined not to allow Bosnian independence. They incited the Serbian population within Bosnia to take up arms against Muslims. Milosevic appointed General Ratko Mladic as the military commander of the Bosnian Serb forces. Radovan Karadzic became their political head like the president of Bosnian Serbs. The idea was to deprive Bosnia from becoming an independent state. Bosnians had no arms except local police force. Serbs had weapons and they laid siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It appeared that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic took up on them to take revenge of 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule of Serbia.
Eventually UN Forces were deployed on peace mission. On 16 of April 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 819, declaring Srebrenica and a 30 square mile area around the town as the UN ground. The UN French General Morillon came first came to the enclave to see the condition on the ground. He was kept there by the women of Srebrenica until UN promised enforcement of its resolution. On April 18 UNPROFOR soldiers entered the town. Bosnian troops in the enclave were told to give up their arms and surrender to the UN protection troops. The Bosnian Muslims complied with UN instruction as they felt safe under UN peace keepers.

Mliadic launched 8000 Muslim genocide
In 1995, the Serb forces under General Ratkno Mliadic suddenly attacked and overran the town. They took full control of the town including the enclave where unarmed Muslims were supposed to be under UN protection. The Dutch Commander Lt-Col. Thomas Karremans of the UN contingent offered no resistance. They simply pulled off to their Potocari camp.
It still remains a mystery as to why UN forces offered no resistance or asked for reinforcement or for air support from nearby UN/ NATO base. The UN troops kept looking as spectators when Serbs were separating the women and children from the enclave. The Serbs killed more than 8000 Muslims. The Bosnian Federal Commission of Missing Persons later compiled a list of 8373 names.
The killing was eventually declared as genocide by the International Court of Justice in Hague and it was subsequently recognised so by the EU Parliament, the US, UK, Canada and many other States. By his total passive role the Dutch Colonel proved his connivance with Serbian forces in the killing of over 8000 innocent unarmed people. Col. Karremans is as guilty as General Mladic of Serb forces. He is still at large. He has never been questioned by the UN or by his higher command back in his country. Trial of Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic leaves a big gap in the trial process – and that gap is Col. Karremans. He and the soldiers under his command have tarnished the image of UN peacekeeping forces all over the world.
The bereaved families will still have some consolation if the United Nations’ conducts and inquiry into the role of Col. Karremans and his unit working under the banner of the UN. The United Nations belongs to all peace-loving people of the world and they have the right to know about it.

Comment

F. R. Chowdhury

THE BALCAN war ultimately saw the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and formation of a number of independent countries in its wake. In the process thousands of Muslims were massacred. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were eventually tried and jailed by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands but another person who was no less responsible walked free and was never even questioned.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Balkan states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia became part of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. After the death of longtime Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito in 1980, growing nationalism among the different Yugoslav republics threatened to split their union apart. This process intensified after the mid-1980s with the rise of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who helped foment discontent between Serbians in Bosnia and Croatia and their Croatian, Bosniak and Albanian neighbors. In 1991, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia declared their independence; during the war in Croatia that followed, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army supported Serbian separatists there in their brutal clashes with Croatian forces.

Peace and harmony during Tito’s rule
Communist Party president and war hero Tito emerged as a political leader after World War II. With a Slovene for a mother, a Croat for a father, a Serb for a wife, and a home in Belgrade, Tito was a true Yugoslav. Tito had a compelling vision that this fractured union of the South Slavs could function.
But Tito’s new Yugoslavia could not be forged without force. In the first several years of his rule, Tito sometimes resorted to ruthless strong-arm tactics to forcibly persuade his subjects. Many soldiers who had fought against the Parisians were executed to create an intimidating example. To this day, Croatians — many of whose grandparents fought proudly with the Ustaše, furthering their ideal of an independent Croatian state — feel that they were disproportionately targeted by Tito, and in some cases, denied development funding in retaliation for their prior support of Partisan enemies.

Equitable division of powers
Tito’s new embodiment of Yugoslavia aimed for a more equitable division of powers. It was made up of six republics, each with its own parliament and president: Croatia (mostly Catholic Croats), Slovenia (mostly Catholic Slovenes), Serbia (mostly Orthodox Serbs), Bosnia-Herzegovina (the most diverse — mostly Muslim Bosniaks, but with very large Croat and Serb populations), Montenegro (mostly Orthodox — sort of a Serb/Croat hybrid), and Macedonia (with about 25 percent Muslim Albanians and 75 percent Orthodox Macedonians). Within Serbia, Tito set up two autonomous provinces, each dominated by an ethnicity that was a minority in greater Yugoslavia: Albanians in Kosovo (to the south) and Hungarians in Vojvodina (to the north). By allowing these two provinces some degree of independence — including voting rights — Tito hoped they would balance the political clout of Serbia, preventing a single republic from dominating the union.
In Bosnia, Muslims represented the biggest single population group by 1971. More Serbs and Croats emigrated during the next two decades, and in a 1991 census Bosnia’s population of some 4 million was 44 percent Bosniak, 31 percent Serb, and 17 percent Croatian. Elections held in late 1990 resulted in a coalition government split between parties representing the three ethnicities (in rough proportion to their populations) and led by the Bosniak Alija Izetbegovic. As tensions built inside and outside the country, the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his Serbian Democratic Party withdrew from government and set up their own “Serbian National Assembly.” On March 3, 1992, after a referendum vote—-which Karadzic’s party blocked in many Serb-populated areas—-, President Izetbegovic proclaimed Bosnia’s independence.
We all know about the massacre of Jews during the WW II in Germany and Poland by the Hitler’s forces. That was the biggest massacre of civilians in human history. Europe’s largest massacre of civilians since World War II happened in Bosnia in 1995.

Bosnian Muslim genocide
The government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared in April 1992 its independence from Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, targeted both Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croatian civilians for atrocious crimes resulting in the deaths of some 100,000 people (80 percent Bosniak) by 1995. It was the worst act of genocide since the Nazi regime’s destruction of some 6 million European Jews during World War II.
During the rule of Marshal Tito the constituent units lived in peace and harmony even though Serbia always played a dominant role. Yugoslavia even enjoyed the status of a leading non-aligned nation. Things changed after the death of Tito. It was during the period of Slobodan Milosevic that the Serbs tried to maintain the national unity not by amity but by military force. This forced the units to defy Serb suppression and declare independence. Yugoslavia started to break up. Bosnia was the only state with Muslim majority, though Serbia and Croatia also had sizeable Muslim population.
The Serbs were determined not to allow Bosnian independence. They incited the Serbian population within Bosnia to take up arms against Muslims. Milosevic appointed General Ratko Mladic as the military commander of the Bosnian Serb forces. Radovan Karadzic became their political head like the president of Bosnian Serbs. The idea was to deprive Bosnia from becoming an independent state. Bosnians had no arms except local police force. Serbs had weapons and they laid siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It appeared that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic took up on them to take revenge of 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule of Serbia.
Eventually UN Forces were deployed on peace mission. On 16 of April 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 819, declaring Srebrenica and a 30 square mile area around the town as the UN ground. The UN French General Morillon came first came to the enclave to see the condition on the ground. He was kept there by the women of Srebrenica until UN promised enforcement of its resolution. On April 18 UNPROFOR soldiers entered the town. Bosnian troops in the enclave were told to give up their arms and surrender to the UN protection troops. The Bosnian Muslims complied with UN instruction as they felt safe under UN peace keepers.

Mliadic launched 8000 Muslim genocide
In 1995, the Serb forces under General Ratkno Mliadic suddenly attacked and overran the town. They took full control of the town including the enclave where unarmed Muslims were supposed to be under UN protection. The Dutch Commander Lt-Col. Thomas Karremans of the UN contingent offered no resistance. They simply pulled off to their Potocari camp.
It still remains a mystery as to why UN forces offered no resistance or asked for reinforcement or for air support from nearby UN/ NATO base. The UN troops kept looking as spectators when Serbs were separating the women and children from the enclave. The Serbs killed more than 8000 Muslims. The Bosnian Federal Commission of Missing Persons later compiled a list of 8373 names.
The killing was eventually declared as genocide by the International Court of Justice in Hague and it was subsequently recognised so by the EU Parliament, the US, UK, Canada and many other States. By his total passive role the Dutch Colonel proved his connivance with Serbian forces in the killing of over 8000 innocent unarmed people. Col. Karremans is as guilty as General Mladic of Serb forces. He is still at large. He has never been questioned by the UN or by his higher command back in his country. Trial of Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic leaves a big gap in the trial process – and that gap is Col. Karremans. He and the soldiers under his command have tarnished the image of UN peacekeeping forces all over the world.
The bereaved families will still have some consolation if the United Nations’ conducts and inquiry into the role of Col. Karremans and his unit working under the banner of the UN. The United Nations belongs to all peace-loving people of the world and they have the right to know about it.


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 VIEW POINT

How will Rohingya Muslim crisis end as influx of refugees from Myanmar still continues?

A.M.K. Chowdhury

REPORTING from Cox’s Bazar the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on January 12, 2018 reported that the Rohingya Muslim refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh and the New Year does not seem to bring end to the media reports of violence, ethnic cleansing and killings, which forced them to flee their homes in Myanmar and take shelter in Bangladesh.
A major upsurge of violence in Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, in late August 2017 forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. Over 2,400 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Bangladesh during December 2017; and the influx still continues.

Ahmed’s two sons were slaughtered
Ahmed, aged 50 years (who was one of the first to arrive in Bangladesh in 2018 along with his two daughters, aged 20 and 18, and his 15-year-old son) said, “We couldn’t leave before now because our village was surrounded. A month ago my two sons were slaughtered. They went out fishing and they were killed.” He said that the family had endured weeks of fear in their village in Rathedaung, Rakhine, unable to leave their house even to collect firewood. Ahmed said that they had to pay a bribe of 150,000 kyat (c.USD $112) to the neighbours, who had been threatening them, to be allowed to leave.
On arrival at the Balukhali settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Ahmed and his remaining family received medical check-ups and shelter kits of ropes, tarpaulins and basic household goods to enable them to create a place to live in the sprawling camps where 655,000 other refugees have sought safety since August.
“I feel safe here,” said Ahmed’s 18-year-old daughter Raosuna, who said her mother had died years ago and her father had worked hard to bring up his family alone as a widower.

Distress among Rohingya survivors
As they waited at the arrival point in Balukhali, a puddle of water fell through a section of the tarpaulin roof. The unexpected noise left Ahmed badly shaken. “We continue to see a great deal of distress among Rohingya survivors arriving in Bangladesh,” said Olga Rebolledo, IOM’s mental health and psycho-social support coordinator in Cox’s Bazar. “They have faced a lot of adversity and many are in need of psycho-social support to help restore a sense of safety and further strengthen the resilience they’ve already shown,” added Rebolledo.

New arrivals after so many weeks after the main influx
As an indication of why some of the new arrivals have reached Bangladesh so many weeks after the main influx, out of the 17 families waiting to be led to their new shelter sites by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, on 4 January, 10 were declared “extremely vulnerable” cases: mostly single mothers, widows or people with disabilities, who will struggle to build their own shelters or even survive without the additional support, which will be provided by IOM and partner organizations. IOM guided the “extremely vulnerable” new arrivals to the less congested part of the site, where they will live, helping carrying their shelter kits. Once they got to the new site, help was given to construct their shelters.
“The houses on both sides of ours [in Buthidaung, Rakhine] were burned. Only my house was left,” said one of the new arrivals, Asama Begum, 35 years old. Her husband died before the violence, leaving her with a new baby and a son now 15 years old. She said the teenager was attacked a few months earlier leaving him with a badly cut leg, which became infected and swollen, rendering him unable to escape when others fled their village. “I stayed because my son was sick. We were really scared to be alone in the house, but tried just to find the mental strength to stay. But then [people] started burning down the [remaining] empty houses around ours and we could not stay any longer,” said Asma.She said she paid someone to carry her son to safety.
Nearby, Ahmed was about to become her new neighbour. Initially anxious about how he would clear the ground on which he would build his shelter, he relaxed after IOM partner’s site management volunteers put him in touch with the camp leader who was able to lend him tools.
“It will be peaceful here as no one is chasing or torturing us. No fear of death. I witnessed my daughter tortured and my sons slaughtered. I will never go back. I’d rather die here,” said Ahmed.
Since the crisis began in late August 2016: IOM has reached more than 620,000 individuals with shelter kits. IOM health workers have reached more than 150,000 patients with primary health care.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on Jan 16, 2018 to complete within two years the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled an army crackdown last year in Myanmar. Reuters reported that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), responding to the plan, said they were concerned about forcibly repatriating over 650,000 Rohingya who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a conflict erupted in western Rakhine state in last August.
Statements from the Myanmar and Bangladesh foreign ministries said Bangladesh would set up five transit camps on its side of the border. Those camps would send Rohingyas to two reception centres in Myanmar. Myanmar said it would build a transit camp that can house 30,000 returnees. The Bangladesh statement said: “Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop (the) outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh.”

UNHCR has not been involved
Guterres said the UNHCR had not been involved directly in the agreement. “It will be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operations abide by international standards,” he said. “A huge effort of reconciliation is needed to allow it to take place properly,” Guterres told reporters. “The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar, keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives.”
It is very difficult to guess how smooth the repatriation will be.

Comment

A.M.K. Chowdhury

REPORTING from Cox’s Bazar the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on January 12, 2018 reported that the Rohingya Muslim refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh and the New Year does not seem to bring end to the media reports of violence, ethnic cleansing and killings, which forced them to flee their homes in Myanmar and take shelter in Bangladesh.
A major upsurge of violence in Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, in late August 2017 forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. Over 2,400 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Bangladesh during December 2017; and the influx still continues.

Ahmed’s two sons were slaughtered
Ahmed, aged 50 years (who was one of the first to arrive in Bangladesh in 2018 along with his two daughters, aged 20 and 18, and his 15-year-old son) said, “We couldn’t leave before now because our village was surrounded. A month ago my two sons were slaughtered. They went out fishing and they were killed.” He said that the family had endured weeks of fear in their village in Rathedaung, Rakhine, unable to leave their house even to collect firewood. Ahmed said that they had to pay a bribe of 150,000 kyat (c.USD $112) to the neighbours, who had been threatening them, to be allowed to leave.
On arrival at the Balukhali settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Ahmed and his remaining family received medical check-ups and shelter kits of ropes, tarpaulins and basic household goods to enable them to create a place to live in the sprawling camps where 655,000 other refugees have sought safety since August.
“I feel safe here,” said Ahmed’s 18-year-old daughter Raosuna, who said her mother had died years ago and her father had worked hard to bring up his family alone as a widower.

Distress among Rohingya survivors
As they waited at the arrival point in Balukhali, a puddle of water fell through a section of the tarpaulin roof. The unexpected noise left Ahmed badly shaken. “We continue to see a great deal of distress among Rohingya survivors arriving in Bangladesh,” said Olga Rebolledo, IOM’s mental health and psycho-social support coordinator in Cox’s Bazar. “They have faced a lot of adversity and many are in need of psycho-social support to help restore a sense of safety and further strengthen the resilience they’ve already shown,” added Rebolledo.

New arrivals after so many weeks after the main influx
As an indication of why some of the new arrivals have reached Bangladesh so many weeks after the main influx, out of the 17 families waiting to be led to their new shelter sites by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, on 4 January, 10 were declared “extremely vulnerable” cases: mostly single mothers, widows or people with disabilities, who will struggle to build their own shelters or even survive without the additional support, which will be provided by IOM and partner organizations. IOM guided the “extremely vulnerable” new arrivals to the less congested part of the site, where they will live, helping carrying their shelter kits. Once they got to the new site, help was given to construct their shelters.
“The houses on both sides of ours [in Buthidaung, Rakhine] were burned. Only my house was left,” said one of the new arrivals, Asama Begum, 35 years old. Her husband died before the violence, leaving her with a new baby and a son now 15 years old. She said the teenager was attacked a few months earlier leaving him with a badly cut leg, which became infected and swollen, rendering him unable to escape when others fled their village. “I stayed because my son was sick. We were really scared to be alone in the house, but tried just to find the mental strength to stay. But then [people] started burning down the [remaining] empty houses around ours and we could not stay any longer,” said Asma.She said she paid someone to carry her son to safety.
Nearby, Ahmed was about to become her new neighbour. Initially anxious about how he would clear the ground on which he would build his shelter, he relaxed after IOM partner’s site management volunteers put him in touch with the camp leader who was able to lend him tools.
“It will be peaceful here as no one is chasing or torturing us. No fear of death. I witnessed my daughter tortured and my sons slaughtered. I will never go back. I’d rather die here,” said Ahmed.
Since the crisis began in late August 2016: IOM has reached more than 620,000 individuals with shelter kits. IOM health workers have reached more than 150,000 patients with primary health care.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on Jan 16, 2018 to complete within two years the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled an army crackdown last year in Myanmar. Reuters reported that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), responding to the plan, said they were concerned about forcibly repatriating over 650,000 Rohingya who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a conflict erupted in western Rakhine state in last August.
Statements from the Myanmar and Bangladesh foreign ministries said Bangladesh would set up five transit camps on its side of the border. Those camps would send Rohingyas to two reception centres in Myanmar. Myanmar said it would build a transit camp that can house 30,000 returnees. The Bangladesh statement said: “Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop (the) outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh.”

UNHCR has not been involved
Guterres said the UNHCR had not been involved directly in the agreement. “It will be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operations abide by international standards,” he said. “A huge effort of reconciliation is needed to allow it to take place properly,” Guterres told reporters. “The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar, keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives.”
It is very difficult to guess how smooth the repatriation will be.


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