The tiny Pacific island nation that agreed to accept 13 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo prison has offered itself as a safe haven before.
Palau, famed for lush tropical landscapes and spectacular diving, earlier agreed to take in former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and rescued Afghan refugees, its president said on Saturday. But neither of those two deals panned out.
“It’s our age-old tradition to receive those in need whenever they somehow arrive on our shores,” Palauan President Johnson Toribiong said in an interview.
Palau, a former US trust territory about 800km east of the Philippines, made headlines last week after agreeing to US President Barack Obama’s request to take the 13 Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, after other countries turned Washington down.
Toribiong, however, said their transfer was not a done deal and described the likelihood of their arrival as “50-50.” And even if they do arrive, it won’t be for another two or three months, he said.
“It’s still tentative, it’s not definite yet,” he said. “The two previous times, we agreed, but they didn’t come.”
The plan to temporarily move Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator accused of genocide, to Palau before he faced an international tribunal never materialized because he died mysteriously in bed in April 1998, Toribiong said.
Several hundred Afghan refugees that Palau agreed to accept after they were rescued from a sinking boat near Australia in 2001 were sent instead to Nauru, another small South Pacific island.
Toribiong, interviewed at a beachfront resort, said he had never heard of the Uighurs until the US approached him earlier this month. He has sent four Palauan officials to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to learn more about them.
Palau is one of the world’s smallest countries, with about 20,000 people scattered over 490km². Only nine of its 340 islands are inhabited.
Most residents work in tourism, construction, fishing and farming, leading modest lives in stark contrast to elsewhere the Uighurs would live, or what they would do.
The government will build houses for them if needed and offer orientation to the nation’s language and culture.
They will likely be confined to Palau since they do not have passports.
“If they come to Palau and become constructive, positive, friendly residents, it will be OK,” Toribiong said. “We have 445 Muslims living with us right now. We have no problems.”
About 30 percent of Palau’s inhabitants are foreigners, mainly Filipinos and Bangladeshis. The majority of the nation is Christian.
The US will pay for the Uighurs’ move to Palau.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable