UN Warns of Catastrophe as 150,000 People Flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
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UN Warns of Catastrophe as 150,000 People Flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday voiced his concern about violencetaking place in Rakhine state in Myanmar, calling on authorities to take steps to provide Muslim Rohingyas there with “a normal life.”

Nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border to Bangladesh in less than two weeks, officials said on Wednesday after Guterres warned there is a risk of ethnic cleansing in the former Burma that could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

The UN Chief said that he has officially written to the Security Council, calling for a strong message to be sent to Myanmar on the need to end the violence in Rakhine and ringing alarm bells on the security, humanitarian and human rights situation.

“The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilization,” Guterres told reporters in New York. “This will only further increase radicalization.”

“The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need.”

The UN chief last week had called for restraint by the security forces to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe from the refugee exodus, but on Tuesday he stepped up the pressure, appealing to authorities to end the violence.

Myanmar’s government must grant the Rohingya “either nationality or at least, for now, a legal status that will alow them to have a normal life including freedom of movement, access to labor markets, education and health services,” he said.

The Muslim Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and have suffered decades of persecution, according to rights groups.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Myanmar to grant the Rohingya rights, and a recent UN report said the brutal crackdown against the Muslim minority could amount to crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, UN agencies in the region appealed on Tuesday for $18 million to aid for three months the civilians who are rushing into Bangladesh.

“Clear signs that more will cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar before situation stabilizes,” said the Director of Operations and Emergencies at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mohammed Abdiker, on Twitter. “Without more int[ernational] support, suffering will continue.”

Thousands of people are arriving daily in south-eastern Bangladesh, living in makeshift sites and seeking any space for shelter.



Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joe Biden holed up at his beach house Thursday, battling both a bout of COVID and calls by senior allies for him to abandon his 2024 reelection bid.

While rival Donald Trump prepared for his star turn at the Republican National Convention, the 81-year-old US president found himself in both personal and political isolation.

The top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both reportedly met with Biden in recent days to warn that his candidacy threatens his party's prospects in November's election.

Influential former House speaker Nancy Pelosi added to his woes by privately telling Biden he cannot win and could harm Democrats' chances of recapturing the lower chamber, CNN reported.

Several party figures were meanwhile quoted anonymously by the Axios news outlet as saying that they believed the pressure would persuade Biden to drop out as soon as this weekend.

Biden has insisted he is not backing down, adamant that he is the candidate who beat Trump before and will do it again this year. Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”

"He's staying in the race," Fulks told a press conference on the sidelines of the Republican convention in Milwaukee.

"Our campaign is not working through any scenarios where President Biden is not the top of the ticket -- he is and will be the Democratic nominee."

California Senator Alex Padilla said Biden was "not skipping a beat."

"I know having spoken to him personally he's committed to the campaign," he added.

Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could wipe out the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private, and now, the president’s own time off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was "doing well."

His COVID diagnosis however came at the worst possible time for his campaign, forcing him to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and isolate at his holiday home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

The split-screen with Trump could not have been more stark, with Trump set to formally accept the Republican nomination in Milwaukee.

US networks showed images of frail looking Biden gingerly descending the steps of Air Force One in Delaware, in a week when Trump is lauded by supporters each night at a packed party convention.

Former president Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, is riding a wave of support from his party after surviving an assassination attempt on Saturday that left him with a bandaged ear.

The United States could now be approaching the climax of an extraordinary three weeks in politics, which started when Biden gave a disastrous performance during a televised debate with Trump.

Biden blamed jet lag and a cold, but the fact that America's commander-in-chief has now fallen ill for a second time just as fears grow about his fitness for the job has merely intensified the panic in Democratic ranks.