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Rohingya not native, Myanmar army chief says

While immigration increased under British rule, historians say Muslim communities were recorded as living in the Rakhine region long before the colonial era.

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Rohingya are not native to Myanmar and were brought by British colonialists, the country’s powerful army chief told the US ambassador.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gave his most extensive account of the Rohingya refugee crisis in the meeting with American Ambassador Scot Marciel, according to a report posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.

The general is the most powerful person in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and his apparently uncompromising stance would indicate little sensitivity over the crisis, in which more than 500,000 people have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Min Aung Hlaing, referring to Rohingya by the term “Bengali”, which they regard as derogatory, said British colonialists were responsible for the problem.

“The Bengalis were not taken into the country by Myanmar but by the colonialists,” he told Marciel, according to the account of the meeting posted on Thursday.

“They are not the natives and the records prove that they were not even called Rohingya but just Bengalis during the colonial period.”

The UN human rights office said on Wednesday that Myanmar’s security forces had brutally driven out half a million Rohingya from northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh, torching their homes, crops and villages to prevent them from returning.

Coordinated Rohingya rebel attacks on some 30 security posts on August 25 sparked a ferocious military response.

The UN rights office said in its report, based on 65 interviews with Rohingya who had arrived in Bangladesh, that abuses had begun before the August 25 attacks and included killings, torture, and the rape of children.

The country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to make a speech on television later on Thursday.

She was swept into office last year after winning an election, but the military holds immense power, including exclusive say over security.

“Local Bengalis were involved in the attacks under the leadership of ARSA. That is why they might have fled as they feel insecure,” Min Aung Hlaing said, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army fighters.

Min Aung Hlaing, whom rights groups say carries personal responsibility for the crisis, insisted the Rohingya are merely returning to their motherland.

“The native place of Bengalis is really Bengal,” he said. “They might have fled to the other country with the same language, race and culture as theirs, assuming they would be safer there.”

He said it was an exaggeration to say the number fleeing to Bangladesh was “very large”, adding that there had been “instigation and propaganda by using the media from behind the scenes”.

While immigration increased under British rule, historians say Muslim communities were recorded as living in the Rakhine region long before the colonial era.

This week, an AFP reporter on a rare government-steered trip to the conflict-hit Rakhine heard testimony from Rohingya villagers who are scared and fast running out of food.

They said Buddhist villagers are trying to starve them out of their homes.

 

Middle East

Saudi king inaugurates Mecca-Medina high speed train line

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

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Makkah to Madinah New High speed train

Riyadh, Sep 26 : The Saudi king inaugurated a high-speed rail line connecting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on Tuesday.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz declared, in a ceremony held in the Saudi city of Jeddah, that the service has formally begun and boarded one of the new trains for the inaugural trip between Jeddah and Medina, a spokesman for the construction consortium told Efe news agency.

“We thank Allah for the growth and prosperity in all fields in our country, and we thank Allah Almighty for His grace. Thank you,” the king said, according to the Saudi official news agency SPA.

Initially, the routes of the line will be limited and eight daily trips will be offered between Mecca and Medina for four days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

A consortium including 12 Spanish firms along with two Saudi firms has been tasked with building the second phase of the project.

“This inauguration is a milestone for Spanish engineering, which has demonstrated the ability of our companies and engineers to build a high-speed train under extreme weather conditions,” Iranzo said, according to a statement from the consortium.

The inauguration was attended by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and other Saudi officials, as well as by Spain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alvaro Iranzo, and the president of the High Speed Spanish Consortium, Jorge Segrelles, among others.

Bashar Al Malik, executive director of the Saudi railway company, told EFE that the actual start of service will begin on October 4.

He pointed out that the commercial operation of the line will begin within nine days, but without giving more details.

Al Malik said he expects the high speed line to overcome the difficulties and obstacles that have caused its delay, mainly due to sandstorms.

The Spanish consortium said in a statement that tickets will be able to be reserved “in the coming weeks.”

Regular trains will start operating on the line from next month between the stations of Makkah Al Mukarramah, Madinah, Sulaymaniyah in Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City, while trains to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport will begin around mid-2019.

The line is aimed at doubling the number of visitors and pilgrims to the holy cities and is in line with Saudi Arabia’s development plan, Vision 2030, which aims to expand the economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

With a fleet of 35 trains, carrying up to 417 people each, the service is expected to ferry around 60 million passengers yearly.

The trains will cover the distance between Mecca and Medina in under two hours, less than half the time that it takes to cover the same distance by road.

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US court declares Bill Cosby a ‘sexually violent predator’

At a retrial in April, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against Andrea Constand.

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Bill Cosby

New York, Sep 25 : Once dubbed “America’s Dad”, comedian Bill Cosby, 81, has been labelled a “sexually violent predator” by a US court, implying that he must undergo counselling for life and appear on the sex offenders’ registry.

The Pennsylvania judge made the ruling ahead of sentencing the comedian for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004, reports bbc.com.

At a retrial in April, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against Andrea Constand.

The classification by court means he will need to register with state police and notify any community he lives in of his sex offender status, as well as undergo mandatory counselling for life. Neighbours, childcare centres and schools will have be notified of his whereabouts.

The actor’s defence team had argued the state’s sex offender law was too severe given Cosby’s age, as well as the fact that he is legally blind.

The two-day hearing at Montgomery County Courthouse in Pennsylvania began on Monday.

Psychologist Kristen Dudley testified on Monday that Cosby showed signs of a mental disorder and was likely to reoffend.

Apart from the label, Cosby still faces a maximum prison term of 10 years after an agreement between prosecutors and his defence team, but there is no mandatory minimum for the convictions.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele called for five to 10 years in jail for aggravated indecent assault.

Cosby’s defence is pushing instead for house arrest, according to bbc.com.

In June 2017, Constand described how Cosby, whom she viewed as a “mentor”, gave her pills that left her “frozen” and unable to stop his assault.

The comedian was arrested in 2015 and a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial in June 2017.

This year’s retrial occurred amid the #MeToo movement that has seen people worldwide come forward to share stories of sexual harassment and assault.

IANS

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New Zealand PM takes baby to UN General Assembly

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Image : AFP

New Delhi, Sep 25: In a historic moment, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought her three-month-old daughter Neve Te Aroha to the United Nations General Assembly.

With this Baby Neve made her debut at the UNGA hall and watched her mother speaking at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.

The 38-year old was also cuddling and kissing her daughter.

While the leader delivered her address, Ardern’s husband Clarke Gayford held the baby on his lap.

Gayford, who is a fishing television presenter had traveled to New York to baby Neve. Later, he took social media to share an ID card for the infant.

The 38-year old was also cuddling and kissing her daughter.

While the leader delivered her address, Ardern’s husband Clarke Gayford held the baby on his lap.

Gayford, who is fishing television presenter had travelled to New York to look after baby Neve. Later, he took social media to a ID card for the infant.

“Because everyone on twitter’s been asking to see Neve’s UN id, staff here whipped one up.
I wish I could have captured the startled look on a Japanese delegation inside UN yesterday who walked into a meeting room in the middle of a nappy change. Great yarn for her 21st”, he tweeted.

WeForNews 

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