The dictator wants to negotiate with South Korea, at the same time he warns the USA. This strategy pursues at least three objectives.
South Korea’s government did not have much time to react to the offer of talks from the north: Association Secretary Cho Myong-gyon said on Tuesday that they were “ready for talks regardless of time, place and format”. He called on the North to hold a “high-level meeting” in Panmunjom, a step that was apparently coordinated with Washington, next Tuesday. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had said in his New Year’s speech that they were ready for talks and were considering sending athletes to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. At the same time, the young dictator warned the USA: North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a fact, not a threat.
Kim’s advance may seem surprising, but it was by no means unexpected. In each of his six New Year’s speeches, the dictator addressed Seoul with offers of reconciliation – and threatened the US with more confidence from year to year.
Kim pursues at least three goals with this strategy: Firstly, it needs a way out of the current crisis that allows it to save face. In Seoul, one suspects that if talks are actually taking place, the North could make its participation in Pyeongchang dependent on the abolition of sanctions. South Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon even fears that North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear power by the South.
Secondly, Kim could afford to forego further missile and nuclear testing. Although many experts believe the statements about the alleged capacity of its missiles to be massively exaggerated and accuse Pyongyang of bluffing, world public opinion has agreed to see North Korea as a serious threat to the United States. As he says, Kim has thus achieved his goal. “North Korea is trying to pretend to the West that it has better weapons than it actually has,”said Lance Gatling, a leading American rocket expert, recently in Tokyo.
Gatling doubts that North Korea is able to measure a trajectory, i. e. to learn from its “tests”. Nor does it have the precision instruments needed for precise missiles. “So far, North Korea has shown it can hit the Pacific. How accurate is that?”, mocks the aerospace engineer. Georgiy Toloraja of Russia’s “Academy of Sciences” believes Kim’s statement that the weapons program is complete is “visibly premature”.
Thirdly, Kim cannot have any interest in bringing the South Koreans even more up against him. In the long term, North Korea needs the economic aid of the South that Kim would disrupt the Olympic Games, which is why most South Koreans considered unlikely. He is more likely to use the games for himself and at the same time try to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. His grandfather had often appealed to the subliminal anti-Americanism of the South Korean left.
Kim’s nuclear weapons are all he has”
Brad Glosserman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), who has already represented the US in informal negotiations with North Korea, says:”No one believes that Kim will abandon his nuclear weapons. Not in Japan, not in China, not in South Korea. And not in North Korea anyway.” The survival of his regime depended on them, as did his personal life. “They’re all he’s got.” Future negotiations would, therefore, be about accepting North Korea’s limited nuclear capacity for the time being without recognizing it as a nuclear power. With Pakistan’s atomic bomb, the world has also learned to live.
The Russian Toloraja, who was stationed twice as a diplomat in Pyongyang, states that North Korea does not yet have a nuclear doctrine. The officials in Pyongyang have no idea yet of how and why North Korea intends to use its nuclear weapons. Nor are they aware of the political implications of their long-range missiles. From his talks in Pyongyang, Toloraja concludes that despite the prevailing mistrust for a diplomatic solution, it is not too late. Both sides could, for example, gradually freeze the potential threat and reduce it later. However, it would require stronger leadership by the USA, which admits that North Korea’s policy to date has failed, says the Russian Toloraja. He concludes:”After all, it would be better to live with a nuclear but peaceful Korean peninsula than for Northeast Asia to sink into war.”
Rohingya refugees may begin their return from Bangladesh to Myanmar in the next two months. A corresponding agreement was signed by representatives of the two countries in Myanmar. But many doubt whether the repatriation can be implemented.
Everyone has their own story – and all these stories are sad. They deal with shot husbands and sons, raped women and daughters, burned villages. 830,000 fates in the filth of the misery camp in Bangladesh. There is not enough to eat, too little clean drinking water, hardly any medicine. But soon the first Rohingya should be allowed to return from the refugee camps in Bangladesh to their home country Myanmar. This is what the two countries agreed today – both states declared.
But the people in the camps are suspicious. “I do not trust the government of Myanmar,” says one refugee. “I’ve fled for the third time in my life, that’s how it always is, I will return when I get Myanmar citizenship.”
Hunt on Rohingya
But that will probably not happen. Myanmar’s citizenship for Rohingya is not an issue for the government. Even the de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi still does not speak of “Rohingya” because that would mean their recognition. For most Burmese, Rohingya are “Bengali”, Bangladeshi people, even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Buddhist monks there called for real hunts against the Muslim minority. Muslims are terrorists – even abbots inoculated their listeners at rallies. They would have to be expelled.
Pictures of a whipped mob chasing Rohingya with clubs went around the world. The petrol-soaked black smoke of burning villages darkened the sky. And in this hate should the Rohingya return? The United Nations spoke in the rare clarity of “ethnic cleansing” and showed satellite images of army soldiers shooting refugees in the back. Only under the massive pressure of international criticism Suu Kyi expressed publicly on the situation in the state of Rakhine. And, in all seriousness, said she wanted to find out why these people flee so massively.
Fear of hatred in Myanmar
International pressure may also have led to the agreement signed today. In the meantime, it is nothing more than a declaration of intent, a vague basic decision with many open questions and unclear details. No more specific than Suu Kyi’s invitation to the refugees to return to Myanmar. A gesture of goodwill that was appreciated by the international community – but who wants to say if it was meant seriously?
Irrespective of any political explanation, the current situation is that the displaced are afraid of the hate that is hitting them in Myanmar and that the Burmese in Rakhine State definitely do not want them back.
According to Doctors Without Borders, thousands of Rohingya died in Burma within the first month of violence. Hundreds of children under the age of five were among those killed.
In the first month alone of the Burmese army’s crackdown on the Rohingya, at least 6,700 members of the Muslim minority have been killed. This is reported by the aid organization Doctors Without Borders. Among those killed are at least 730 children under five, the report said.
At the end of August, the army began violently attacking Rohingya rebels in Rakhine State, with approximately 640,000 members of the Muslim minority fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, according to UN sources.
The data provided by Doctors Without Borders, therefore, refer to the period from 25 August to 24 September of this year. These are conservative estimates based on surveys in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, it said. Actual deaths could be even higher.
The polls were reported to have taken place in November in 2434 families with more than 11,000 members in several refugee camps. The figures are representative of around 80 percent of Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh since the end of August. However, the families who did not make it to the neighboring country were not taken into account. According to the refugees arriving there, the violence in Rakhine is still ongoing.
Altogether, at least 9,000 Rohingya in Burma died in the period in question, according to cautious projections, of which around 72 percent were due to violence. Among them, the most common cause of death was shot with scarcely 70 percent. Almost nine percent of the dead and just under 15 percent of those under five were reportedly burned alive in their homes. In 2.6 percent of the cases, sexual violence led to death.
These are not empty words that Mr. Dipal C. Barua the 50-year-old economist blows into the ether. As a founding member of the nonprofit organization Grameen Shakti, he played a key role in ensuring that more than 1.5 million Bangladeshi households have been provided with so-called Solar Home Systems (SHS) since 1996. An SHS consists of a 250-watt solar panel, which is mounted on the roof and generates up to one kilowatt of electrical power per day.
In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the solar energy revolution is already in full swing.
For the more than 48 percent Bangladeshis whose households are not connected to the public grid, that’s a blessing. Because the SHS signify the end of the highly toxic and expensive kerosene lamps and provide cost-effective, clean light for private households and businesses. Especially in rural areas, climate-friendly electricity has given rise to thousands of new jobs and at the same time drastically reduced CO2 emissions.
The multi-award winning work of Grameen Shakti is funded by the IDCOL Solar Home Systems Project. The joint project between Bangladesh’s government and the World Bank awards low-cost loans to Shakti and 46 other partners, including NGOs and microcredit agencies, that allow people to purchase the several-hundred-dollar solar panels.
New jobs related to the sale, installation and maintenance of solar energy systems, as well as the increase in the number of potential working hours due to lack of light and electricity have already increased the income and living standards of many Bangladeshis, so that around 360,000 users have already paid their solar home systems in full.
In addition, Grameen Shakti has begun to drive forward the green revolution in the last few years in addition to the expansion of solar energy supply, installing around 14,000 modern kitchen stoves, 300 biogas plants and organic fertilizer systems in rural areas every month.
In order to be able to locally produce additional Solar Home Systems in the future, a total of 45 regional Grameen Technology Centers were set up. More than 40,000 people have been trained in dealing with renewable energy systems.
According to Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), there are currently 3.5 million households in Bangladesh that are powered by solar energy. The government’s plans envisage a total of 220 megawatts of electricity for around six million households using solar energy by the end of the term of the Solar Home Systems Project at the end of 2017.
Hundreds of thousands Rohingya are rescuing from Myanmar to impoverished neighboring Bangladesh. There one is not up to the crowd and is considering drastic measures.
Actually, Bangladesh already has enough problems: just the country has the worst flood disaster of the past 40 years behind it. Around one-third of the country was flooded, says the International Red Cross, and more than 700,000 homes have been destroyed.
The damage caused by this natural disaster is far from being resolved, as the next crisis over the impoverished country is already breaking in: Almost every day, around 10,000 fleeing Rohingya from Myanmar come across the border, many of whom are traumatized or injured. Initially, Bangladesh’s government tried to stop the refugees – but given the crowd was abandoned the project.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been rescued to the neighboring country, estimates reaching up to 500,000. But never before have so many newcomers arrived in one fell swoop. Since August 25, at least another 370,000 refugees have reached Bangladesh, according to the United Nations. Slowly, there should not be many members of the Muslim minority in Buddhist Myanmar. Almost a whole nation is now looking for a new home, and many are hoping for Bangladesh.
However, the government there is not interested in taking in the refugees in the long term. As head of government Sheikh Hasina visited one of the camps this week, she patted the cheeks of dozens of Rohingya women, comforting. On the other hand, the prime minister also made it clear that the refugees were welcome only in the short term. Instead, Myanmar should establish a protection zone for the Muslim minority, thus enabling a return of the refugees.
About one million Rohingya live in the Rakhine region of Myanmar.
A country of origin becomes a sanctuary
However, given Myanmar’s radical crackdown on the Rohingya, their chances of returning home are at least as low as they have been in years. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Raad al-Hussein, even called the actions of the Myanmar security forces “ethnic cleansing”.
So the Rohingya flee to the west. But because there is no longer any room left in the camps of the border region, the refugees now settle wherever they find a vacancy. With tarpaulins they protect themselves from the recurrent monsoon, some even found refuge with the local population. “Most newcomers live in temporary quarters or in Bangladeshi villages that generously share the few resources they own,” says Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UNHCR refugee agency.
Although international aid is starting up, there is the increasing concern in Bangladesh that the biggest burden will probably be borne by them. Yet the country does not have much: With a per capita income of around 1,300 US dollars, the state is one of the poorest countries in the world. One-third of the population lives below the poverty line. The living conditions are so bad that many locals even flee themselves. Despite the huge distance to Europe, the EU’s border organization Frontex makes Bangladeshis the second largest group of people who come to Italy via the Mediterranean as refugees.
Now the country of origin itself becomes a haven: The Bangladeshi economist Ashikur Rahman expects an additional burden of about one billion US dollars for his home country. The scientist at the Policy Research Institute in the capital Dhaka urges the international community to pay for the sum. “Otherwise, it will severely impact our own development program,” he told the local press.
There is hardly any room left in Bangladesh
However, Rahman’s bill is based on the fact that Bangladesh actually provides the refugees with dignity. In recent years, however, the government has been less than generous with refugees. Even before the recent outbreak of violence in Myanmar, human rights organizations complained of terrible conditions and malnutrition in the camps and the makeshift settlements all around. At the same time, the government repeatedly obstructed the work of aid organizations – fearing that otherwise more refugees could be lured. The Rohingya are not allowed to earn money, and only a fraction of the children can go to school.
In addition to money, Bangladesh also lacks space. Hardly any other country is more densely populated: according to the World Bank, an average of around 1,200 Bangladeshi live on a square kilometer – most of them are farmers who need arable land. The Germans have about five times as much space per inhabitant.
Settlement plans for an inhospitable island
Bangladesh’s government is now considering a radical move: several members of the Cabinet have voted to locate the refugees on the uninhabited 30,000-acre island of Thengar Char in the Bay of Bengal. The plan is not new, for the first time in 2015, the government was thinking aloud about it. But because of massive protests from abroad, he has initially rejected again.
In the face of numerous newcomers, the project is now back on the agenda. But the island plan has several hooks: The first appeared in 2006 island is considered inhospitable and is regularly flooded. Despite the lack of space on the mainland, no Bangladeshi has yet come up with the idea of settling there voluntarily. With the motorboat takes about two hours to get to the next settlement. Phil Robertson, Vice President of Human Rights Watch, expects a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the event of a real resettlement to the island. Even foreign diplomats repeatedly criticized the plans.
But while foreign countries call on Bangladesh to show more mercy, it does not seem to be helpful. Of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from Bangladesh, only a few thousand have been officially accepted in other countries in recent years. Some states have very different plans: just last month, India’s government announced plans to deport around 40,000 Rohingya refugees.