Asia in Review Archive (2019)


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03 September 2019

Bangladesh: High Court orders to remove “virgin” from Muslim marriage certificates

(ls) Bangladesh’s High Court has decided in a landmark decision that the word “virgin” must be removed from Muslim marriage certificates. The Court ordered the term to be replaced with “unmarried”. Before the ruling, brides had to select whether they were a Kumari (virgin), a widow or divorced. Rights groups had long criticized the term, used in marriage certificates since in 1961, saying it breaches the privacy of the woman getting married. [Al Jazeera]

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16 July 2019

Another winner of the U.S.-China trade war: Bangladesh

(ls) Not only Southeast Asian countries are largely benefiting from the trend to divert production bases due to the U.S.-China trade war. [AiR 3/6/2019] Also Bangladesh, which is the world’s second-largest garment exporter, has seen the value of its overseas sales rise to a record $40.5 billion in the year ended June 30, coinciding with Trump boosting tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The tit-for-tat trade war has seen American and Chinese orders for more than half of the 1,981 tariffed products so far being re-routed to other countries. [Bloomberg]

9 July 2019

Sex trafficking in Bangladesh

(ls) In Bangladesh, the business of sexual exploitation has thrived in recent years. The Bangladesh government estimates that 100,000 women and girls are working in the country’s sex industry and one study reports that less than 10% of those had entered prostitution voluntarily. While prostitution is legal, trafficking and forced labor are not. But poor enforcement of legislation in a country where women are easy prey means traffickers act with impunity. The Guardian has published an in-depth report that illustrates the large scale of the problem. [The Guardian]

9 July 2019

Bangladesh: Government announces social media interventions

(ls) The government of Bangladesh announced to introduce a social media content control system as part of its “safe Internet” campaign from September, enabling authorities to intervene on content uploaded on social media platforms, such as Facebook or YouTube. Dhaka has in recent months been trying to gain more control over social media tools in what it says is a bid to stop fake news. However, critics have pointed to the deep impacts on freedom of speech. [Arab News]

9 July 2019

Bangladesh: Sweeping NGO law draws criticism

(ls) Expressing grave concern over the draft of the Volunteer Social Welfare Organizations (Registration and Control) Act 2019, local and international development organizations in Bangladesh called upon the government to change, edit and repeal some of the sections that are unclear and conflicting. According to the law, all NGOs have to register, and renew their registrations every five years. Failure to renew registration or rejection by the authority will result in the dissolution of the NGO. Moreover, NGOs can be dissolved if government authorities have reason to believe they are not in the best interest of the public or have broken the law. [Dhaka Tribune]

4 June 2019

Bangladesh-Japan: Japan signs $2.5bn deal to support Bangladesh’s development programs

(jyk) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe has signed the 40th Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loan Package worth more than $2.5 billion in a bid to develop and invest in the main four projects including the development of port and high-speed public transport, and the promotion of foreign direct investment and energy efficiency. Japan has supported Bangladesh with ODA loans totaling $11.3 billion since 1972. [Dhaka Tribune]

4 June 2019

Bangladesh: PM urges the Islamic states to lodge the Rohingya case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

(jyk) In a bid to ensure the Rohingya refugees’ legal rights gets recognized in the ICJ, the prime minister of Bangladesh called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states to join her efforts in securing funding and professional help necessary for lodging the case to the ICJ. Despite its resource constraints, Bangladesh has sheltered more than 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims that fled the persecution and deadly crackdown of Myanmar’s armed forces, and whether these people could eventually be repatriated is still uncertain [Dhaka Tribune 1]. After attending the 14th OIC session in Saudi Arabia [Dhaka Tribune 2] and giving a keynote speech about the Rohingya crisis in Japan [Dhaka Tribune 3], the premier also avowed to use OIC institutions more actively to synchronize Muslim countries’ policies and induce more aligned collective measures against global issues such as Israeli-Palestinian conflict and rising tensions in the Gulf. In concurrent efforts to repatriate back the Rohingya refugees, Myanmar has recently met with ASEAN Secretary General to initiate high-impact projects that would restore order in the conflict-ridden Rahkine State [Myanmar Times].

4 June 2019

Chinese company to build submarine base for Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar

(jk) A Chinese company is building a submarine base for Bangladesh in the country’s south-eastern part in the Bay of Bengal. The decision to go with a Chinese state-owned enterprise is potentially worrying for India, as it is unclear what kind of access or rights China will have to the base once it is finished. The decision is all but surprising since Bangladesh and China have significant naval links. China has built many of the Navy’s surface ships, as well both of its submarines which Bangladesh has received in 2017. [TribuneIndia]

11 March 2019

Human Rights Watch urges Bangladesh to investigate garment workers’ mass dismissal

(cc) Human Rights Watch has urged Bangladesh to immediately investigate the dismissal and false criminal cases of garment workers. Following the massive protests of December and January, union leaders said that at least 7,500 people lost their jobs. The international NGO describes the “use of criminal complaints against large number of “unknown” people” as being a widespread abusive practice in the South Asian State. The rights group calls brands that produce in Bangladesh to push for the end of the intimidation of workers by the garment industry. [HRW] [Dhaka Tribune]

11 March 2019

After India and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is to continue South Asian investments in Bangladesh

(cc/ls) Bangladesh’s finance Minister said the country is expecting $35 billion of Saudi investment mostly in roads, rail, power and energy, tourism and hospitality, health, textiles, food processing and pharmaceuticals. However, no timeline has been given by the government and the current bilateral trade is worth only $1.4 Billion per year. Under Prime Minister Hasina, the ties between the two Muslim-majority countries have been reinforced. Saudia Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Salman recently also committed his country to major investments in India and Pakistan. [Reuters]

4 March 2019

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary tells Security Council it can’t take more Myanmar Refugees

(cc) On Thursday, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the members of the Security Council that his country cannot welcome any new Myanmar refugees. The announcement comes amid new waves of refugees coming from Myanmar due to the resurgence of conflicts since the beginning of the year. In 2017, a crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority by the Tatmadaw forced over 700,000 people to flee to the neighboring Bangladesh. The “clearance operations” have been qualified as being conducted with “genocidal intent” in a report of an UN independent fact-finding mission released in late August 2018. Since then, negotiations between the two countries have been held to organize the repatriation of the refugees but 18 months later, no tangible progress has been made. The UN says the conditions in Myanmar are not yet met for the safe and dignified return of the displaced people. Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary accused the Buddhist majority country of “hollow promises and various obstructionist approaches” in the remarks. [Reuters]