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Rohingya crisis emerging as thousands flee across Bangladesh border

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Rohingya crisis emerging as thousands flee across Bangladesh border | The Thaiger
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Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh

by The Daily Star, Asia News Network and The Nation

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas wait for food; govt, aid agencies yet to start adequate relief distribution

Shafiqa Begum was among the crowd chasing a minivan distributing food packets among starving Rohingyas near Tyingkhali Rohingya camp.

Holding her eight-day-old daughter tightly to her chest, she tried her best to push through the thick throng. But before she could go near it, the van started to move back as it ran out of food.

Shafiqa, 35, looked helpless. She abruptly stopped running and began to cry instead. By now, it was raining.

Touched by the scene, these correspondents stopped by and got Shafiqa into a three-wheeler to save the infant from rain.

“I have no food, nothing. If I don’t get to eat myself, how can I breastfeed my child?” she said.

Shafiqa and her four children, aged between seven years and eight days, left her village, Luthai, in northern Maungdaw in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, on August 29, a day after the baby was born.

“There were tortures everywhere. The houses were burned and people killed. Having no other way, I ran with other villagers,” she said.

She left behind her husband, who was working in the town. There is no knowing of his fate. After four days of walk through the jungles and rough hills, and finally the boat journey through the Naf river, she crossed the Whykkong border to enter Teknaf on September 3.

Forced to leave her homeland in Myanmar and no one to welcome her in Bangladesh, the penniless woman was crying for help by a roadside in Balukhali in Ukhia. A kind Samaritan came up to her. Upon hearing her story, he took her to his house and gave her food and shelter for the night.

The next morning, he gave her US$ 0.606 so she could travel to Tyingkhali, where new arrivals have set up makeshift camps with plastic and bamboos. Accordingly, she travelled to the camp and got a space.

“But, I don’t have any money to buy bamboo or plastic to set up a tent,” she said.

In Dire Need of Food

Shafiqa is one of the thousands of Rohingyas who fled the violence after Myanmar security forces began a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims following an attack by Rohingya rebels on August 25.

In the 11 days since, some 1.23 lakh Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh, the UNHCR said in a statement yesterday.

This is in addition to an estimated 5 lakh unregistered Rohingyas Bangladesh is already hosting for years. Another 32,000 of them live in two registered camps.

Rights bodies reported village after village were burned down and Rohingya men, women and children killed since violence broke out on August 25, forcing them to cross the border to Bangladesh.

But as they reached Bangladesh, they found the situation not so welcoming.

Many are sleeping in the open and are in dire need of food and water after walking for days to reach safety, AFP said yesterday, quoting a report by UN’s main coordinator in Bangladesh.

While travelling through Balukhali, Kutupalang and Tyingkhali of Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar yesterday, these correspondents saw thousands of Rohingyas, mostly sickly women and children, sitting or standing in small groups beside the roads. Some were levelling land to set up makeshift camps with the authorities not yet deciding where to give shelter to the new arrivals or how to feed them.

Sanwara Begum, 35, and three of her sons are one such family found by the road in Kutupalang, begging for help. The woman, abandoned by her husband a few years ago at Doubletoli village in Maungdaw, saw her house burning last week and fled to Bangladesh.

She crossed Ghumdhum border in Naikkhangchhari and took shelter in unregistered Kutupalang camp on Friday. She had some US$1.21, and she bought some biscuits. That was the food she had for her three children and herself. On two occasions, some people distributed a packet of khichuri.

“How can we survive with this food?” she said.

The situation is worse for children, who comprise almost 50 per cent of the Rohingya population.

Meanwhile, more and more Rohingya people are coming to the local health facilities, said Dr Romana Islam, medical officer of Ukhia Health Complex, which is supported by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

“Earlier, only around 80 patients would visit this health facility a day. Now, with the new arrivals of the Rohingyas, 140 patients are coming on average,” she toldThe Daily Star.

They mostly face cold, cough, measles, fever, skin disease and diarrhoea, she added.

Despite a huge refugee crisis since August 25, authorities have not yet begun any relief operations for the new arrivals. Local communities or some NGOs are providing some food in a scattered way.

Yesterday’s food distribution in the minivan near Tyingkhali Rohingya camp in Ukhia was an initiative by some locals.

Situation Very Shaky

Ukhia Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Main Uddin termed the situation of the newly arrived Rohingyas very shaky.

The government has yet to decide on a concrete plan to provide food, treatment and shelter for the new arrivals, he told The Daily Star.

The World Food Programme, IOM and UN Refugee Agency handed over some food – flattened rice, molasses, high protein biscuits and dry cake – to the Cox’s Bazar district administration for the Rohingyas.

“From tomorrow (today), we will distribute the food among the Rohingyas under the supervision of the local administration,” said Main Uddin.

He, however, said the food they received was inadequate.

Contacted, Cox’s Bazar DC Ali Hossain said, “The government was considering humanitarian assistance for the new arrivals but there hasn’t been a final decision yet.”

Meanwhile, a high official of the Refugee Repatriation and Rehabilitation Commissioner (RRRC) in Cox’s Bazar said thousands of Rohingyas took shelter in the registered camps at Kutupalang of Ukhia and Nayapara in Teknaf. These two camps used to house only 32,000 Rohingyas. But now many more thousands have taken shelter there.

“These two camps are now overloaded,” he told The Daily Star

.The UNHCR and the RRRC have begun making a list of the newly arrived Rohingyas in the registered camps.

On the other hand, the IOM is preparing a list of Rohingyas who took shelter in the unregistered camps – one in Kutupalang, one in Balukhali and one in Tyingkhali of Ukhia, and Roikkhang and Leda camps in Teknaf, the RRRC official said.

“There is an urgent need for additional emergency shelters and land as more refugees arrive. Coordination is crucial with the authorities to ensure that life-saving assistance reaches those who need it most,” the UNHCR said in the statement.

SOURCE:The Nation

PHOTO: VOA News

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Protests

Protester released from remand prison, demands Thai PM’s resignation by 4pm today

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Protester released from remand prison, demands Thai PM’s resignation by 4pm today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok remand prison

Protesters are continuing to pour on the pressure, now demanding the resignation of the Thai PM by 4pm this afternoon. Following the prime minister’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening, protesters had earlier said they would “stand down” and shuffled their deadline forward for the PM’s resignation to Sunday night.

But last night anti-government protesters set a 4pm deadline today for the resignation.

Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka. Pai Daodin, freed from the Bangkok Remand Prison yesterday after a hearing by the Appeals Court, demanded the release of all remanded protesters and announced his demand for PM Prayut’s resignation. Protesters are demanding the release of 8 other key protest leaders, still being held at the prison – Parit Chivarak, Panasaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jardnok,aka. Mike Rayong.

Chatupat joined other protesters who were camped outside the prison. Word spread of Chatupat’s release and even more people joined in the protest, until the entire road outside the prison was completely blocked. The protesters had cleared by 5am this morning, allowing traffic to pass again.

The spontaneous demonstration involved drawings of other prisoners, still in detention, as well as likenesses of the Thai PM, scrawled onto white cloth. There was also music and the singing of anti-government songs, and peppered with speeches.

The demands of the protesters for a resignation of Prayut Chan-o-cha by 4pm is unlikely to be met, nor the other deadline, set for “Sunday night”. The Thai Parliament enters 2 days of emergency joint sitting on Monday and Tuesday as they address the current political impasse.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Phuket

Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment

The Thaiger

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Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment | The Thaiger

A man has been found hanged in Phuket Town apartment yesterday. Police are treating the cases as a suicide at the moment.

The man was found hanged from the apartment’s ceiling fan. His lifeless body was discovered around 11am after neighbours complained to the manager about the smell coming from the man’s room.

Police and the local Kusoldharm Foundation rescue workers attended the scene. Police later confirmed the incident happened in room on the 3rd floor of an apartment lock in Soi Phoonphol Soi 1, Talat Nuea in Phuket Town. Police said the man was 35-45 years of age and had a 29 year old girlfriend from Chumphon. He was paying 1,000 baht a month and had been renting the room for 2 months. Police estimate that the man had been dead for at least 3 days.

Police told media that the man had used, what appeared to be a dress, tied around his neck and then to the room’s roof fan. The apartment manager told police that he had been late on on his recent rent, speculating that the man may have been suffering financial hardship.

The man’s identity has not been released at this stage.

His body was taken to Vachira Hospital for an autopsy.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Protests

Close encounter of the Royal kind – Thai King and Queen stop to praise a royal supporter

The Thaiger

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Close encounter of the Royal kind – Thai King and Queen stop to praise a royal supporter | The Thaiger
MONTAGE: Thai PBS World

It was a rare moment that has shocked royal supporters, in the best way possible, as the Royal couple turned on the charm after a merit-making ceremony last night.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida stepped away from the traditional royal protocol after last night’s official ceremony, stopping briefly to single out a man who was with a small yellow-clad crowd who had assembled outside the Grand Palace. Their Majesties presided over a merit-making ceremony on Friday night for the public holiday in commemoration of King Chulalongkorn

Well wishers were shocked when both the Thai King and Queen appeared to recognise a man who made headlines in Thai media last week when he held up a portrait of HM’s parents, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the Queen Mother Sirikit, in a show of defiance in the middle of an anti-government protest.

The man held the portrait high in the air, held his ground and berated the protesters. He said at the time that he wanted to show solidarity for royal supporters in reaction to the anti-government protests that had been rising in support since July.

HM the King approached and thanked the man, Thitiwat Tanagaroon, for his actions as the rest of the crowd yelled “Long live Their Majesties” (in Thai).

Posting on his Facebook page, Thitiwat recalled the few moments he is unlikely to forget when HM the Queen recognised him from media exposure of the anti-government protest event, and turned to explain to the King that he was the same man who had held up the royal portrait outside the Central Pinklao shopping centre.

Thai media report that the Queen said… “I grant you my support. Thank you very much.”

His Majesty then added, “Very brave. So good. Thank you.”

His Majesty then placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. Thitiwat responded “Long live the King. This is a very great honour for me.”

Thitiwat later posted on his Facebook page… “I am fainting. Their Majesties recognised me. This is the best moment in my life,”

He posted the photo of the King touching his shoulder as the Queen looked on smiling. Overcome with the moment, Thitirat was consoled by the rest of the band of royal supporters.

The posts and video clips instantly went viral on social media last night. The hashtags #FightOnYourMajesty and #WeLoveThaiMonarchy were trending on Twitter last night, pushing aside the #PrayutGetOut and similar hashtags that had been trending over recent weeks.

Royalists have been coming out in staged shows of support to show support for the Thai monarchy and counter the growing support of the recent Thai protest movement. The anti-government protesters have included demands for reform to the role of the Head of State, but have made it clear they don’t want to “get rid of the King”, a common rhetoric of Thai royalists, but instead want to codify the role of the Thai monarch, with limits on the monarch’s power, in a new Thai constitution.

The ‘Royal rallies’. also growing in number, have been in response to the ongoing anti-government demonstrations around the country.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Close encounter of the Royal kind - Thai King and Queen stop to praise a royal supporter | News by The Thaiger

Thitiwat Tanagaroo

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