Asia in Review Archive (2017)


Date of AiR edition

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29 December 2017

Bangladesh: Rohingya refugees and jihadists

(kg) In their fourth month since being forced to flee military atrocities in Myanmar, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are beginning to sup-plement their meagre income by working for Bangladeshis inside the refugee camps. While aid groups provide basic food and shelter, some refugees earn extra income to make ends meet while others are setting up new businesses in the refugee zones [Voice of America] . Meanwhile, Rohingya jihadists have joined counterparts from Bangladesh, the UK, and India for terrorist training, weapons, and transport through Thailand. The discovery by Thai intelligence has sparked fear that a new arms-smuggling route now links Rohingya ter-rorists with South-East Asia’s notorious Golden Triangle, heartland of the region’s narcotics trade [The Indian Express].

29 December 2017

Bangladesh: Disappearances on behalf of the state?

The mysterious abductions of an academic and a reporter in Bangladesh are merely the latest in a series of disappearances there that may be linked to the government. The latest victims were released, but often abductees never return. Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year that Bangladesh’s law enforcement authorities have “illegally detained hundreds of people since 2013″, and 90 people were victims of “enforced disappearances” last year alone [Al Jazeera].

22 December 2017

Bangladesh: Agreement with Myanmar on joint group to oversee Rohingya repatriation

Some estimates place the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh at around 700,000. Of that number, roughly 655,000 are Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh in the last four months due to Myanmar military attacks. This week Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to establish a bilateral group to oversee the voluntary repatriation of the refugees. The movement back to Myanmar could begin by January 23. The refugees will be moved from camps and settlements in southeastern Bangladesh for resettlement in neighboring Rakhine. Not all refugees may choose to return to strife-torn Rakhine, though [Radio Free Asia].

15 December 2017

Bangladesh: Local challenges and interna-tional scrutiny of assisting the Rohingya

Local administrators imposed a week long ban Monday on NGOs involved in distributing aid to Rohingyas in an attempt to forestall the unin-tended ill consequences of international aid: loss to local business resulting from the illegal trade of relief supplies. Officials contend that the amount of food and non-food items being dis-tributed by the NGOs among the refugees is more than they require. As a result, they have a surplus of food items which “might be wasted” or sold at lower than market prices, affecting the local business. Accordingly, all NGOs except those working under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) must halt their relief activities from December 11 to De-cember 17. Since Myanmar’s brutal military crackdown on August 25, more than 620,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh [The Daily Star 1]. Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday said implementation of the Rohingya repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar will have “to be accompanied and monitored ex-tremely carefully.” The EU also helped push for a UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Myanmar last week, and has pledged more fund-ing than any other entity [The Daily Star 2].

15 December 2017

Bangladesh: Family of man accused of NYC attack questioned

Following the attempted bombing of the New York City subway by a Bangladesh man Mon-day, Bangladesh counterterrorism officers are questioning the suspect’s wife and other rela-tives. Bangladesh’s government condemned the attack, and reaffirmed its policy of “zero toler-ance” against terrorism. The botched bombing has played into America’s immigration debate, and particularly President Trumps efforts to limit certain types of immigration allowed on the ba-sis on family relationships. Muslim-majority Bangladesh has struggled with a rise in radical Islam in recent years [Fox News].

8 December 2017

Rohingya refugee crisis

In Dhaka, Pope Francis met last week with per-secuted refugees driven from Myanmar, and used a term to describe them that he had avoided while visiting Myanmar: “Rohingya”. The pon-tiff has refrained from using the term in an ap-parent effort to avoid reprisals against the small Christian community in Myanmar and in hopes of making diplomatic progress with Myanmar’s leaders on stopping the brutal military crack-down of Rohingya there [The New York Times]. In related news, the second article highlights the continuing abuse of the Rohingya women after they find refuge in Bangladesh: many are being sold as sex slaves. The International Organization for Migration says urgent action was required to keep women and girls safe in Bangladesh’s refugee camps [Al Jazeera].

1 December 2017

High Court approves death penalty for 139 in 2009 para-military mutiny massacre

Bangladesh’s High Court has confirmed the death penalty for 139 of the 152 accused who were awarded capital punishment by a lower court for their involvement in the massacre during the para-military Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny in 2009. The bloody mutiny was reportedly carried out to create a political crisis and overthrow the newly formed government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The resultant brutal massacre of 74 persons, including 57 senior officers and promising young army officers, left the nation numb. In 2013, a Dhaka court awarded death sentences to 150 BDR members and two civilians, and life imprisonment to 160 others in the case. Some have called for reform of the military’s “colonial” attitude towards subordinates as a result of the massacre [The Daily Star 1]. The Daily Star recalls in graphic detail what transpired during the BDR’s 40-hour mutiny, and how it impacted the neighboring civilian neighborhoods, the nation, and similar para-military forces nationwide [The Daily Star 2].

24 November 2017

Rohingya crisis to be solved internationally, not bilaterally

China urged Bangladesh and Myanmar resolve the Rohingya crisis through bilateral negotiations instead of an international initiative, openly criticizing the international community’s efforts to help resolve the crises as reflected in the Reuters article. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military clearance operation in Buddhist majority Myanmar’s Rakhine State. However, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali says Bangladesh is trying to resolve the issue both bilaterally and internationally as it could not afford the huge burden of the refugees. In the second article, a leading Bangladesh minister and political leader Obaidul Quader reinforced his Foreign Minister’s stand, saying that Bangladesh wants United Nations involvement in discussion with Myanmar for repatriation of the Rohingya. The international community remains engaged in the crisis, despite Chinese criticism: A U.S. Congressional delegation visited Bangladesh on Saturday, and Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kona will also visit Bangladesh this week.

17 November 2017

Domestic poverty and sexual abuse of refugees

Two articles highlight the troublesome human right situation in Bangladesh haunted by the current Rohingya refugee crisis.
The BBC report takes the fate of a 21-year old refugee woman forced into prostitution as a sad example for the realities on the ground [BBC News], while the second reports on Unicef’s findings that seven newborn babies die every hour in the country, mostly due to poverty [Dhaka Tribune]. This general condition reminds of the grave situation a poor nation like Bangladesh is facing with the Myanmar caused refugee crisis.

10 November 2017

School shut for ‘militant links’

Authorities in Dhaka have closed down Lakehead Grammar School on charges of harboring militancy and inspiring extremism, as detailed in these two articles. The school was allegedly operating without official permission, and was conducting activities against the nation and its independence, according to the Education Ministry. According to school insiders and official sources, a number of wanted militants linked with terror groups such al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula and Hizb ut-Tahrir worked at the school as teachers [BD News 24, The Daily Star].

28 October 2017

Arrest warrant against former Prime Minister’s son for sedition

A Bangladeshi court issued an arrest warrant against opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s eldest, London-based son, who is the senior vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, in a sedition case for delivering a provocative speech in London last year [NDTV].

6 October 2017

Supreme Court Chief Justice goes on one-month leave

Bangladesh Supreme Court Chief Justice Suren-dra Kumar Sinha is taking one-month leave from Monday on health grounds, and the President has appointed an acting Chief Justice. His leave begins as the regular activities of the Supreme Court begin on this week after a one-month break. The Chief Justice was widely criticized by ministers and the ruling party leaders for his observations made in a constitutional amend-ment verdict.

6 October 2017


Across the globe new counter-terrorism legislation comes along with new terrorist threats. France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a new counter-terrorism bill, making permanent several controversial measures in place under a nearly two-year-old state of emergency. It will allow the authorities to confine suspected militant sympathisers to their neighbourhoods, close places of worship accused of condoning terror and carry out more on-the-spot identity checks – all without the prior approval of a judge (AFP). In Bangladesh, the mass influx of refugees from Myanmar raises geopolitical risks for Asia as a whole, including terrorism and social unrest (Nikkei). And with the sudden emergence of an organization calling itself Jamaat ul Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, it appears al-Qaeda may be on the rise again in Pakistan. Authorities there also believe that the group is comprised of highly trained and battle-hardened Pakistani returnees from the conflict in Syria, where many fought for this Islamic State (IS). Pakistan is an important stronghold for al-Qaeda: the group survived the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan by seeking refuge in tribal areas of Pakistan. With IS weakened, having lost more than 60 percent of its territories in Iraq and Syria, the al-Qaeda move to re-establish itself in Pakistan appears calculated and timely (Jamestown Foundation). In a related development Pakistan’s Interior Minister ordered close monitoring of activities of extremist elements on social media to stop the extremists from utilizing the platforms to spread propaganda. He also directed devising and implementing strategies that would lead to a national counter narrative against extremism and to fight “fake news” (The Express Tribune).

29 September 2017

Special report: The breakup of Pakistan 1969-1971

This special report dives into the bloody history of Pakistan in the late 1960s and early 70s and describes the background against which the Bangladesh Liberation War took place and resulted in the independence of People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971. It examines both domestic as well as international attitudes and provides a detailed and astute historical perspective.

15 September 2017

PM warns Myanmar over Rohingya refugees

According to the United Nations, nearly 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh since August 25 when fresh wave of violence erupted. Bangla-deshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has prom-ised to help ¬Rohingya refugees but but warned her government would “take steps” to ensure Myanmar “take their nationals back”.

31 August 2017

Bangladesh jails owner of building that col-lapsed in 2013

A Bangladesh court on Tuesday sentenced the owner of a building that collapsed in 2013 in the country’s worst industrial disaster to three years in jail for unaccounted income.

24 August 2017

Power Struggle

Three articles addressing the current struggle for power in Bangladesh. The first article analyses the chances of Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena and her governing party, the Awami League, to be reelected in the general elections next year against her archrival opposition leader and for-mer Prime Minister Khaleda Zia from the Bang-ladesh Nationalist Party. The second article deals with the decision of the Supreme Court which paves the way for the trial against Khaleda Zia for bribery charges. If convicted she would be prohibited from running for election. The third article addresses Haseena’s attack on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court over the Court’s recent constitutional ruling which removed the power of the parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges.

24 August 2017

Bangladesh sentences 10 to death for plot to kill PM

A Bangladesh court issued death sentences against 10 members of the Islamic fundamental-ist Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami group. They have been found guilty of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina back in 2000.

18 August 2017

Judicial Politics over Constitutional Identity

A constitutional amendment which empowered the Parliament to remove top court judges from office has been invalidated by Bangladesh’s Su-preme Court triggering a strong reaction from the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Besides a general report on the crisis [The Hindu] some central passages from the verdict are quoted as well [The Daily Star]. The impact of the deci-sion lies firstly in the fact that the verdict refers to the constitutional identity of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and secondly in the deci-sion’s nature as one by which a Court decides on a law that is affecting its own business thus con-flicting with the principle nemo iudex in sua causa.

11 August 2017

The Opposition Disappears in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, hundreds have gone missing and many killed, including political opponents of the regime, suspected criminals, and Islamist mili-tants. The UN and human rights activists have called for these “enforced disappearances” to stop. But the pace of illegal detentions, disap-pearances, and deaths is on the rise.

21 July 2017

Bangladesh: Militancy rising due to poverty & misinterpretation of religion

Rising radicalization towards Islamic militancy is subject of this overview, which addresses changing pattern of radicalization, causes and catalyzing factors for militancy as well as possible counterstrategies [Prothom Alo].

16 July 2017

Political opponents held in secret detention: HRW

According to the Human Rights Watch, many opposition activists in Bangladesh have been secretly detained and killed by security agencies [Prothom Alo].