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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.

 

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Maldives Immigration refutes claims of denying work visas to Indians

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Maldives

Male, June 18 : The Maldives Immigration has refuted reports that it is denying work permits to Indian citizens.

Immigration Controller Mohamed Anwar said that Maldives Immigration officers do not discriminate when carrying out their duties and the authority will continue to grant Indian citizens work permits and visas in accordance with the country’s regulations, the Edition newspaper reported.

The comments came in response to the media reports that the Maldivian Immigration was “denying work permits and refusing to renew the permits for Indian citizens” working in the atoll nation.

“We’ve been issuing business visas, dependent visas and work permits to Indian nationals… and we will continue to do so, within the confines of our regulations,” Anwar said on Sunday.

While Maldivian citizens are required to carry any previous passports when travelling to India, Anwar said “Maldives does not enforce any such protocols on Indian citizens” travelling to their country.

According to the Edition, some premier resorts in the country had reportedly stated that “Indians need not apply” on job advertisements since the Maldivian government was allegedly refusing to issue work permits to them.

It said that foreign recruitment agencies in Maldives also concurred that there had been some problems in acquiring work permits for Indian citizens recently. However, they said that work permits were still being granted to Indian citizens in white-collar jobs in the Maldives.

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Sushma Swaraj meets Italian PM Giuseppe Conte

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Rome, June 18 : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Rome. She is on a seven-day tour of Italy, France, Luxembourg and Belgium aimed at deepening India’s strategic engagement and trade ties with the four European countries.

Swaraj also met her Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi in Rome.The external affairs minister will then travel on June 18 to France where she will spend two days.In Paris, Swaraj will meet her counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian and the two sides will review the bilateral relations.

India and France are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Strategic Partnership.
Swaraj will be in Luxembourg from June 19-20 and it will be the first-ever visit there by an Indian external affairs minister, the MEA said.
During her stay, Swaraj will be calling on Grand Duke of Luxembourg Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

In Brussels, Swaraj will deliberate on removing hurdles for resumption of negotiations on the long-pending EU-India free trade pact.

The visit from June 17-23 will provide an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions with the political leadership on a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues and advance India’s growing strategic engagement with the European Union, the ministry of external affairs said.

“Swaraj will also have meetings with Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Pierre Gramegna, the Minister of Finance. In Luxembourg, she will also interact with the Indian community,” the MEA said.
On the last leg of her tour, Sawraj will visit Belgium from June 20-23.In Brussels, she will meet deputy Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairs of Belgium Didier Reynders.

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Macedonia, Greece sign historic deal on name change

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June 18: Greece and Macedonia setting aside the 27-year-old dispute over the latter’s name, signed a historic agreement that changed Macedonia’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia on Sunday, thus paving the way for Macedonia’s admission to the European Union and NATO.

The agreement led to violent protests in the Macedonian capital Skopje . Protestors threw flares, rocks and bottles at police outside the national parliament and chanted “Macedonia, Macedonia as they view deal as a national sellout.” Officers dispersed the protesters with tear gas and flash grenades.

The foreign minister of Greece Nikos Kotzias and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov signed an accord to rename the former Yugoslav republic.

The deal was sealed in the presence of European and United Nations officials.

“Our two countries should step out of the past and look to the future,” said Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

This move comes a day after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote mounted by Greece’s opposition in parliament over his handling of the dispute.

The agreement requires nod from parliaments of both the countries  and a referendum in Macedonia.But Macedonia’s president has also vowed to block the deal.

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