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Beijing’s response came two days after media reports on satellite images showing a massive infrastructure build-up in Doklam, the site of a 73-day face-off between India and China.

China on Friday said justified its construction of roads and infrastructure at Doklam near the Sikkim border, saying the area is under its “effective jurisdiction” and the work is aimed at improving the lives of troops based in its “own territory”.

Beijing’s strong reaction came two days after the Indian media reported that the People’ Liberation Army (PLA) is building a military complex, complete with helipads and trenches, close to the area where border troops from the two countries were locked in a stand-off for more than 70 days last year.

“Donglang (Doklam) always belonged to China and (was) always under China’s effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a news briefing.

“In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure, including roads in the Donglang area. China is exercising sovereignty in its own territory.”

Lu suggested India should not comment on China’s construction activities.

“Just as China will not make comments on India’s construction of infrastructure on India’s territory, we hope other countries will not make comments on China’s construction of infrastructure in its own territory,” he said.

Lu was responding to questions on the reports of a massive build-up by Chinese troops in Doklam region, which have triggered fears of another stand-off. The Indian media reports had cited satellite imagery of the build-up, including the construction of a military complex.

Asked about the satellite imagery, Lu said, “I have also noted the relevant report. I don’t know who offers such kind of photos.” At the same time, he added that he did not have detailed information on this issue.

In a reference to Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s recent remarks that Doklam is a territory disputed between China and Bhutan, Lu said: “The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border.

“This incident has put bilateral relations to undergo a severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident to happen again (sic),” he said.

Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Brics Summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said “the two leaders reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and chartering the course for future development” during that meeting.

“We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations,” he added.

In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry said on Thursday the face-off at Doklam was “resolved following diplomatic discussions between India and China, based on which both sides arrived at an understanding for the disengagement of their border personnel”.

“Subsequently, in response to repeated questions about any change in the status quo at the face-off site, the government had stated that there was no basis for such imputations. The government would once again reiterate that the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous,” said a statement from the ministry.

The Congress on Thursday accused the government of “snoozing as China occupied Doklam” and of misleading the nation on the issue, saying Indian security and strategic interests had been compromised. Source : ht

 

 

 

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12 January 2018 – The United Nations human rights office on Friday called on the authorities in Tunisia to ensure that protestors are not arrested in an arbitrary manner, and that all those detained are treated with full respect for their due process rights and other fundamental guarantees.

“We are closely watching the demonstrations across Tunisia and the authorities' response to them,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, expressing concern about the high number of arrests – 778 people since Monday, some 200 of them between the ages of 15 and 20.

“The authorities must ensure that those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are not prevented from doing so,” he stressed.

Ahead of the 14 January anniversary of the 2011 revolution, it is particularly important to ensure that demonstrators are able to protest peacefully.

Those taking to the streets should exercise restraint and calm, Mr. Colville said. There has been looting, vandalism and violence, including damage to police stations and shops but peaceful demonstrators must not be held responsible or penalised for the violent acts of others, he added.

The UN human rights office urges all sides to work together towards resolving, with full respect for human rights, the economic and social problems underpinning the unrest, he said. Source : un.org

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About half the 2.6 million people displaced in Iraq after a three-year war with Islamic State militants are children and persisting violence hampers efforts to ease their suffering, the United Nations said

About half the 2.6 million people displaced in Iraq after a three-year war with Islamic State militants are children and persisting violence hampers efforts to ease their suffering, the United Nations said on Friday.

While the Baghdad government last month declared victory over Islamic State after wresting back almost all the territory IS seized in 2014, persistent bombing and shooting attacks make it difficult to rebuild the lives of displaced people, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.

“We believe that as a result of the conflict, a lack of investment over the years, and the poverty ... that there are 4 million children now in need across Iraq,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF chief representative in the country.

He told a Geneva news briefing by telephone from Baghdad that 1.3 million of the 2.6 million displaced by the often devastating fighting with Islamic State were children.

“While the fighting has come to an end in several areas, spikes of violence continue in others - just this week, three bombings went off in Baghdad,” UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said in a statement.

“Violence is not only killing and maiming children; it is destroying schools, hospitals, homes and roads. It is tearing apart the diverse social fabric and the culture of tolerance that hold communities together.”Hawkins said UNICEF was also helping children of alleged IS militants now in detention by providing comfort and legal aid, and is trying to reunite those separated from their families, including those abroad.

The issue of civilians uprooted from Sunni Muslim areas previously under control of Sunni IS jihadists has become the latest bone of sectarian-tinged political contention in Iraq.

Sunni politicians are lobbying for postponing parliamentary elections due in May to allow the displaced to return to their hometowns to cast their ballots there.

Shi’ite Muslim politicians including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi insist on the vote taking place as planned on May 12.

The United States called on Thursday for the elections to be held on time, saying that delaying them “set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development”. Source : ht

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Pakistan Rangers opened heavy fire and shot mortars on Indian villages and posts in RS Pura, Arnia and Ramgarh sub-sectors since 6.30 am on Friday.

Two people including a woman were killed on Friday and at least six wounded when Pakistani troops targeted Indian villages with artillery and mortar in an early-morning ceasefire violation along the border in Jammu and Samba districts, officials said.

The incident took place amid a flare-up along the highly militarised border between the two neighbours, who frequently accuse each other of violating a 2003 truce.

A senior BSF official said Pakistan Rangers — the neighbouring country’s border force — opened heavy fire and shot mortars on Indian villages and posts in RS Pura, Arnia and Ramgarh sub-sectors since 6.30 am on Friday.

“Our troops are responding appropriately,” the official added.

Official identified the killed villagers as Bachno Devi, 50, Sai Khurd and Sahil Kumar, 25, of Korotana.

Additional deputy commissioner of Jammu district, Dr Arun Kumar Manhas, said schools within a 4 km radius of the border have been closed as a preventive measure.

Panicked over the intense shelling, people of the affected areas are not venturing out of their houses. Big explosions could be heard on audio clips shared on WhatsApp groups.

A police officer from Samba said that Pakistani troops targeted Indian posts at Narianpur, Chambliyal, Fathwal and SM Pura with heavy and small arms.

He informed that later Pakistan extented the arc of fire and targeted seven more Indian posts — Kandral, Nanga, Majra, SP-1, SP-2, Mallu chak and Tanver.

In the fresh spate of fire, Pakistan has been targeting nearly 40 villages and hamlets.

On Wednesday night, one BSF jawan A Suresh and a 17-year-old girl Neelam were killed in Arnia sub-sector in Pakistani shelling. Source : ht

 

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16 January 2018 – As the brutal conflict in Yemen nears its grim third anniversary, malnutrition and disease are running rampant in the country and virtually every child there is dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

“An entire generation of children in Yemen is growing up knowing nothing but violence,” said Meritxell Relano, the head of UNICEF operations in the war-torn country, underlining the gravity of the crisis.

“Malnutrition and disease are rampant as basic services collapse. Those who survive are likely to carry the physical and psychological scars of conflict for the rest of their lives,” she stated.

Since the escalation of violence in March 2015, when conflict broke out between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement, Yemen, already the poorest in the region, has been left on the verge of a humanitarian collapse.

Hospitals, medical facilities as well as water and sanitation systems have been rendered inoperable across large parts of the country, and humanitarian assistance is the lifeline for over three-fourths of the country's population.

Born into War

This dire situation in Yemen, has perhaps had the worst impact on the three million children born in country since the conflict erupted.

In its latest report, Born into War – 1,000 Days of Lost Childhood, UNICEF notes that 30 per cent of that number were born premature, another 30 percent had low birth weight and 25,000 died at birth or within the first month of life.

Furthermore, more than half of all children in Yemen lack access to safe drinking water or adequate sanitation, children-under-five represent over a quarter of all cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea. An additional 1.8 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished, including nearly 400,000 severe acutely malnourished children “fighting for their lives” adds the report.

The report calls on all parties to the conflict, those with influence on them and the global community to prioritize the protection of children in Yemen by putting an immediate end to violence and reaching a peaceful political solution.

It also calls for sustainable and unconditional humanitarian across the country and lifting of restrictions on imports of goods into Yemen as well as for sustained and sufficient funding for aid programmes. Source : un.org

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An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be deported if the administration goes ahead with the proposal which is aligned with President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision.

The Trump administration is considering a proposal that could potentially lead to large-scale deportation of foreigners on H-1B visas for high-speciality workers waiting for their Green Card — mostly Indians — and drastically alter the way high-tech companies operate in the United States.

The proposal circulated in the form of an internal memo in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees citizenship and immigration, intends to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (Green Card) had been accepted.

An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be sent home if the administration decides to go ahead with the proposal which is aligned with President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision to boost manufacturing and protect local jobs for Americans.

“If implemented this could lead to large-scale deportations, mostly of Indians, throwing hundreds and thousands of families into crisis,” said an official of Immigration Voice, an advocacy body in San Jose. Immigration Voice is planning to mount a challenge through outreach and sue when a decision is announced, he added.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self-deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” a US source briefed by homeland security officials told McClatchy DC Bureau, which first reported the proposal.

A response to Hindustan Times requests to both DHS and the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS) was awaited, but the existence of the memo was confirmed by sources in the US and Indian governments, industry and those that are likely to face action under the new rules.

An H-1B visa is granted for three years, with the provision of three more with one extension after which visa holders return to their countries. If approved for Green Card, they wait in the US using extensions.

For Indians, that wait could stretch for years given the massive backlog caused by the system of per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies.

The proposal is based on the power of discretion given to USCIS officials to decide on extensions to be given to H-1B holders waiting for Green Card. They could choose to extend from one to three years, and often chose the maximum of three, and granted some visa holders as many extensions as needed.

“If it has been left to their discretion,” said a lobbyist. “They can theoretically decide not to grant any extension at all.”

The Indian government is watching the development with mounting alarm as it had the administration’s previously announced plans and decisions to tighten H-1B rules and regulations with the objective of preventing its abuse to replace American workers with lower-paid foreigners.

One of the plans in February 2017 was to roll back H-4 EAD — a regulation introduced by President Barack Obama to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers by granting work authorization to spouses of H-1B visa holders awaiting Green cards. That will impact mostly Indians again.

The administration also plans to redefine high-speciality professionals for the purpose of H-1B visas. And there is a general review of the programme ordered by the President.

The United States grants 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visa every year — 65,000 to foreigners hired abroad and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in advanced degree courses in US schools and colleges. An estimated 70% of these visas go to Indians — hired mostly by American companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google and some by American arms of Indian tech giants Infosys, Wipro and TCS.

The US companies, which are large employers of foreign workers but escape the scrutiny facing Indian firms, will be hit the hardest as they are more likely to apply for Green Cards for their H-1B workers than their Indian counterparts, who tend to rotate their workers home at the end of the stipulated period.

These big companies can be expected to push back as well, as could the chamber of commerce. A response was awaited to a request for comments from Compete America, a trade body representing Silicon Valley high-tech firms in Washington DC. Source : ht

 

 

 

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GENEVA (AFP) - The UN human rights chief voiced alarm on Monday (Sept 11) at widespread rights abuses in Venezuela, warning of possible "crimes against humanity" in the crisis-wracked country.

"My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed," Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said at the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, calling for an international probe.

Venezuela's crisis has caused food and medicine shortages, deadly unrest and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to quit.

Clashes with security forces at anti-government protests left 125 people dead from April to July.

"There is a very real danger that tensions will further escalate, with the government crushing democratic institutions and critical voices," Mr Zeid warned.

He said an investigation by his office had noted the widespread use of "criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, recourse to arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees, which in some cases amounts to torture".

Late last month, Mr Zeid echoed international concerns that Venezuela was slipping into dictatorship, cautioning that democracy in the country was "barely alive, if still alive".

His office has previously criticised Venezuela's all-powerful constituent assembly and its "truth commission", which has been tasked with investigating several opposition leaders for treason.

On Monday, Mr Zeid said he supported the concept of a truth commission, but stressed that "the current mechanism is inadequate".

"I therefore urge that it be reconfigured with the support and involvement of the international community," he said.

He urged the UN rights council "to establish an international investigation into the human rights violations in Venezuela".

Mr Zeid also pointed out that Venezuela currently holds one of the 47 rotating seats on the Human Rights Council, and thus has a particular duty to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights".

Without naming Venezuela specifically, he also called on the council to consider "the need to exclude from this body states involved in the most egregious violations of human rights."

 

 

 

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The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on Monday afternoon on a watered-down U.S.-drafted resolution to impose new sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, diplomats said, but it was unclear whether China and Russia would support it. The draft resolution appears to have been weakened in a bid to appease North Korea’s ally China and Russia following negotiations during the past few days. In order to pass, a resolution needs nine of the 15 Security Council members to vote in favor and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The draft, seen by Reuters on Sunday, no longer proposes blacklisting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The initial draft proposed he be subjected to a travel ban and asset freeze along with four other North Korea officials. The final text only lists one of those officials. The draft text still proposes a ban on textile exports, which were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totalling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. Nearly 80 percent of the textile exports went to China.

The draft drops a proposed oil embargo and instead intends to impose a ban on condensates and natural gas liquids, a cap of two million barrels a year on refined petroleum products, and a cap crude oil exports to North Korea at current levels. China supplies most of North Korea’s crude. According to South Korean data, Beijing supplies roughly 500,000 tonnes of crude oil annually. It also exports 200,000 tonnes of oil products, according to U.N. data. Russia’s exports of crude oil to North Korea are about 40,000 tonnes a year.

The draft resolution also no longer proposes an asset freeze on the military-controlled national airline Air Koryo. Since 2006, the Security Council has unanimously adopted eight resolutions ratcheting up sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. The Security Council last month imposed new sanctions over North Korea’s two long-range missile launches in July. The Aug. 5 resolution aimed to slash by a third Pyongyang’s $3 billion annual export revenue by banning coal, iron, lead and seafood.

FOREIGN WORKERS

The new draft resolution drops a bid to remove an exception for transshipments of Russian coal via the North Korean port of Rajin. In 2013 Russia reopened a railway link with North Korea, from the Russian eastern border town of Khasan to Rajin, to export coal and import goods from South Korea and elsewhere. The original draft resolution would have authorized states to use all necessary measures to intercept and inspect on the high seas vessels that have been blacklisted by the council.

However, the final draft text calls upon states to inspect vessels on the high seas with the consent of the flag state, if there’s information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the ship is carrying prohibited cargo. The Aug. 5 resolution adopted by the council capped the number of North Koreans working abroad at the current level. The new draft resolution initially imposed a complete ban on the hiring and payment of North Korean laborers abroad.

The final draft text to be voted on Monday by the council would require the employment of North Korean workers abroad to be authorized by a Security Council committee. However, this rule would not apply to “written contracts finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution” provided that states notify the committee by Dec. 15 of the number of North Koreans subject to these contracts and the anticipated date of termination of these contracts.

Some diplomats estimate that between 60,000 and 100,000 North Koreans work abroad. A U.N. human rights investigator said in 2015 that North Korea was forcing more than 50,000 people to work abroad, mainly in Russia and China, earning between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. The wages of workers sent abroad provide foreign currency for the Pyongyang government. There is new political language in the final draft urging “further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement” and underscoring “the imperative of achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

 

 

 

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It's fine for the Canadian government to call the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar a "failure" of the country's government, as it did this week. But what it must do is to make it clear that Myanmar, with a government that is now essentially led by an icon of rights and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, is violating the fundamental human rights of more than a million people.

That might seem like a feeble protest at a time when Rohingya are fleeing in teeming numbers from what are essentially pogroms – violent attacks by, or sanctioned by, the military, and the burning of houses and villages. But so far, Canada hasn't said that simple thing: that Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya minority is a gross violation of human rights. And that it's unacceptable.

Words don't seem to have the muscle of measures such as reimposing the sanctions against the former Burma that have for the most part been lifted by Western countries. But there are reasons to be cautious about sanctions, and why words are important.

Myanmar has been able to live for a long time with excuses that its treatment of the Rohingya stems from complexities that outsiders don't get, or, more recently, that it's a response to "terrorists" within their midst. The Rohingya, a small, poor, mostly Muslim ethnic minority, don't have a lot of defenders: Myanmar doesn't want them, and neither does neighbouring Bangladesh; regional powers such as China and India don't care about speaking for them.

That's why Canada should speak up, and be clear.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that members of the minority who have been attacked need to be defended, and Canada is pressuring Myanmar to have it "de-escalate" the "conflict." Not clear enough.

More than 164,000 have fled to Bangladesh. There are reports, echoed by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, of the military attacking Rohingya villagers, or accompanying extremists from the Buddhist majority in Rakhine State when they attack or burn down houses.

Maybe one reason why Canada hasn't been clearer is that Ottawa is loathe to abandon the legend of Ms. Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and honorary Canadian citizen. Her status might be key to Myanmar's still uncertain reforms. Maybe Ottawa hopes she is playing a strategic game, measuring words because she does not hold full power. But we are past that now. On Tuesday, Ms. Suu Kyi blamed disinformation and "terrorists," although on Thursday, she said the government has to protect everyone in the country, "whether or not they are citizens."

There's a clue to the problem: The Rohingya are not citizens. Myanmar calls them illegal immigrants, even though scholars say they have been in the country for centuries and they certainly were there for generations before Burma's independence in 1948. Yet they're not citizens.

The bigger problem is that they don't have basic rights, such as legal status, said John Packer, the director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa, who has been following Rohingya issues since he worked as an aide to the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar in 1993. Without legal status, they are treated like squatters with no rights at all.

"The conclusion I've come to, in 25 years of looking at this, is that it's pretty unadulterated racism," Mr. Packer said. And now, the Rohingya sit on strategically valuable resource-transit routes. "In my mind, they are an inconveniently placed, darker, Muslim minority."

He said there are certainly a small number of violent rebels now among the Rohingya, but that hasn't been a part of the tradition of these people. And even they aren't demanding separation, but simple legal status, he said.

That's why UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's call for Myanmar to give the Rohingya legal status is important, in Mr. Packer's view. Granting citizenship is one thing, but Mr. Guterres is making the point that basic rights have to be respected. It's a point Canada should be making, too.

It's not too surprising if Western countries don't rush to reimpose sanctions out of a fear it could set back democratic reforms. Diplomacy is required. But Myanmar, just out of semi-isolation and led, at least in part, by a rights icon, should hear countries such as Canada saying that one thing is clear: They are violating the basic human rights of the Rohingya

 

 

 

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India should abide by its international legal obligations and should not forcibly return ethnic Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, where they face persecution, without fairly evaluating their claims as refugees, a global human rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju's statement to Parliament that "the government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas", noting that there were around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in India.

"India has a long record of helping vulnerable populations fleeing from neighboring countries, including Sri Lankans, Afghans, and Tibetans," HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said.

The Rohingya is a Muslim minority predominately from western Myanmar.

"Indian authorities should abide by India's international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees," she said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had also expressed concern about India's plans to deport Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, underlining that they should not be returned to countries where they fear persecution once they are registered.

Ms Ganguly said without the willingness or capacity to evaluate refugee claims, the Indian government should put an end to any plans to deport the Rohingya, and instead register them so that they can get an education and health care and find work.

"Most of the Rohingya were forced to flee egregious abuse, and India should show leadership by protecting the beleaguered community and calling on the Burmese government to end the repression and atrocities causing these people to leave," she added.

HRW said about 16,500 Rohingya living in India are registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), while the government contends that tens of thousands are unregistered.

The group said Mr Rijiju's statement does not accurately reflect India's obligations under international refugee law.

While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return any refugee to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom, it said.

The Rohingya are largely living in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan.

HRW said it has extensively documented the rampant and systemic violations against the ethnic Rohingya in Burma.

The estimated 1.2 million Rohingya, most of whom live in Myanmar's Rakhine State, have long been targets of government discrimination, facilitated by their effective denial of citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law.

The Rohingya have faced longstanding rights abuses, including restrictions on movement, limitations on access to health care, livelihood, shelter, and education; as well as arbitrary arrests and detention, and forced labor.

An estimated 120,000 people, the vast majority Rohingya, are currently displaced in camps in Rakhine State as a result of violence in 2012 that amounted to crimes against humanity and "ethnic cleansing".

 

 

 

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