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Myanmar must ‘allow Rohingya to leave camps’

Panel led by ex-UN boss Kofi Annan says camps where tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are trapped should be closed.




A panel led by former UN chief Kofi Annan says Myanmar needs to close the squalid camps in Rakhine State, where thousands of persecuted displaced Rohingya Muslims have been trapped for nearly five years, and allow them to return home.

“It’s really about time they close the camps and allow the people in the camps, particularly those who have gone through the (citizenship) verification process, access to freedom of movement and all rights of citizenship,” Annan told Reuters on Thursday by telephone from Geneva.

This screen grab taken on January 4, 2017 from a YouTube video shows policemen standing guard around Rohingya minority villagers seated on the ground in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on November 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

More than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims have languished in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) since they were driven from their homes by extremist Buddhists in 2012.

Most are not allowed to leave the bleak displacement camps, where they live in rundown shelters with little access to food. They have also been denied access to basic education and healthcare.

“We have made recommendations that can be implemented now and help improve the situation,” Annan said.

Ghassan Salame, a member of the body, also said at the launch of the body’s interim report in the Myanmar city of Yangon on Thursday that the commission calls for “an independent investigation into the violence in Rakhine.”

The report calls for the Myanmar government to ensure “security and livelihood opportunities at the site of return/relocation” for those leaving the camps. It also suggests building new houses for the displaced Muslims.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s office said it would implement the “large majority of recommendations” without giving more details.

Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of the Rohingya. Suu Kyi, who has received the Nobel Peace Prize, has been incapable of containing the violence against the minority community.

Rakhine has been under a military siege since October 2016 over a raid on a police post that was blamed on the Rohingya. A four-month crackdown on the minority group has seen some 75,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to Bangladesh.

A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby inside a refugee camp in Sitwe, in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, on March 4, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

UN investigators, who interviewed Rohingya escapees in neighboring Bangladesh, have blamed Myanmar’s government forces for responding with a campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that they say may amount to genocide.

On Monday, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, warned that the Southeast Asian country may be seeking to “expel” all members of the Rohingya Muslim community from its territory.

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has said treatment of the Rohingya merits a UN commission of inquiry and review by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Buddhist-dominated Myanmar has a history of discrimination against Muslims, considering the Rohingya illegal immigrants.

Rights groups and governments have challenged the claim, arguing that the Rohingya had historical roots in the country.


Punia enters World wrestling semis

In a thrilling quarterfinal, the Indian held the upper hand until the last minute, leading 4-1.



Bajrang Punia

Budapest, Oct 21 : Asian Games gold medallist Bajrang Punia beat Tulga Tumur Ochir of Mongolia 5-3 to enter the semifinals of the men’s 65 kg Freestyle category at the World Wrestling Championships here on Sunday.

In a thrilling quarterfinal, the Indian held the upper hand until the last minute, leading 4-1.

But Punia conceded to his Mongolian opponent three crucial points, including one for the neutral position and two for the takedown within 40-odd seconds, which almost stopped the Indian’s progress.

But luckily, Punia held his nerves and even thwarted a challenge by the Mongolian in the last second, thus earning an additional point for the CWG gold medallist.

The Indian will take on Alejandro Enrique Valdes Tobier of Cuba in the semifinals.

Earlier, Punia defeated Roman Asharin 9-4 in the first round and beat Korean Lee Seungchul 4-0 in a bout which saw both grapplers threading cautiously.

After having earned three points in the first period, Punia added just one more in the second even as the Korean was concentrating more on his defence.

In other freestyle bouts of the day, Sandeep Tomar scored an excellent first-round win over his Guatemala opponent Jose Mox Arias with a score of 10-0, six of his points coming in the second period.

He, however, lost the second round to Azerbaijan’s Giorgi Edisherashvili 2-2 — his opponent was declared as the winner because of a warning which the Indian received in the first period.

Sachin Rathi lost his first round 92 kg category bout 1-13 to Mongolian wrestler Unurbat Purevjav, the latter outclassing the Indian in the second period.

On the other hand, Deepak, who received a first-round bye, lost 0-4 to Liubomyr Sagaliuk of Ukraine in the second round.

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Middle East

Journalist’s death a mistake: Saudi Arabia

Khashoggi, journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, had been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.



journalist Jamal Khashoggi

New York, Oct 21 : Saudi Arabia on Sunday described as “a mistake” the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this month.

In an interview with Fox News, Saudi Foreign Minister Abel Al-Jubeir said that this was a “rogue operation”.

“They made a mistake and killed Jamal Khassoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it,” Al-Jubeir said.

Khashoggi, journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, had been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

A joint Turkish-Saudi team completed an investigation into the case on Thursday after searching the residence of the Consul General as well as the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The kingdom acknowledged early Saturday that Khashoggi died in a brawl in its consulate, but did not give any explanation on the cause of his death.

As of now, 18 Saudi suspects have been taken into custody in connection with the incident and two senior Saudi officials fired.


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I’m available as an actor across languages: Ashish Vidyarthi

“There are many mature directors. I am sure someday they will say ‘You know what? Let’s do something interesting’.”



Ashish Vidyarthi

New Delhi, Oct 21 : National Award winner Ashish Vidyarthi has acted in hundreds of films in languages like Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali, but the actor in him wants more. He also feels he has had less opportunities in Bollywood.

A few weeks ago, filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj said Bollywood hasn’t given justice to Ashish’s talent and that he is an underrated and under-utilised actor.

“I would (agree with Bhardwaj),” Ashish said with a laugh.

“There are many roles and I haven’t had the opportunity to do any of them. I jokingly tell people ‘Sometimes I wonder, is the film industry waiting for me to die and then say it’s sad. He was a good actor. He was underrated and didn’t have enough chances’,” he told IANS in a telephonic interview.

He wants the filmmakers to know that the actor is around.

“There are many roles and I am waiting for directors to come out. The actor is available,” said the “Aligarh” actor.

He has been in the film industry since the early 90s and he believes he has maintained “my sanity and kept my hunger alive for doing powerful roles”.

“There are many mature directors. I am sure someday they will say ‘You know what? Let’s do something interesting’.”

In fact, one of the reasons why he tried his hand at regional films is because the makers offered him roles of his choice.

“I have done 200 plus films in other languages,” he said comparing himself to a traveller.

“Thanks to this travel of mine, so many other languages have discovered me. I belong to them. I make the most of my journey. I am available as an actor across languages. I am looking forward to interesting roles…. in Hindi too,” said the actor, known for films like “Droh Kaal”, “1942: A Love Story”, “Arjun Pandit”, “Vaastav: The Reality” and “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai”.

But is he happy with his acting journey which started almost three decades ago?

“I am grateful and continue to ask for more. The journey of an actor continues. Even as we continue our life, what is important is that, we must keep hope for the future alive,” he said.

He is looking forward to the release of his Tamil film with actress Amala Paul.

“It’s an interesting one,” said the actor, who feels he has remained relevant.

The digital platform also excites him.

“It allows more people to consume entertainment. It is is readily available to people on their mobile phones,” said Ashish.

His short film “Kahanibaaz”, presented by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films, also released on the digital platform last month.

The thriller, helmed by Sandeep Varma, features Ashish as a cab driver, who takes an odd turn during a drive to Shirdi with a couple.

Talking about his character’s actions in the film, he said: “Even though we hate something, we do something else. People can’t express themselves where they need to and that’s why it comes out somewhere else.”

It is inspired by Gaana’s original “Kahanibaaz” podcast.

“I love that podcast,” he said.

Apart from acting, he keeps himself busy by being a motivational speaker.

“Over the last few years, apart from my acting, which has taken me all over, I have also had a very interesting innings as a motivational speaker. I conduct the Avid Miner programmes all over the world.

“Each time I curate a conversation. So, each conversation is new,” said the “Athanokkade” actor, who creates learning environment for life skill development and workplace well-being of corporate professionals, entrepreneurs and individuals.

(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at [email protected])

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