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WikiLeaks cables: US pushed for reopening of Bangladesh coal mine
Ambassador urged country's energy adviser to approve plans, despite mine being closed in 2006 after violent protests
US diplomats privately pressurised the Bangladeshi government into reinstating a controversial coal mine which had been closed following violent protests, a leaked diplomatic cable shows.
The US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, last year held talks with the country's chief energy adviser, urging him to approve plans by the British company Global Coal Management (GCM) to begin open-cast coal mining in the country's Phulbari area, in the west of Bangladesh.
GCM were forced to shut down operations in the country in 2006 after a grassroots demonstration turned violent. Three people were killed as soldiers fired at protesters, and several hundred were injured.
But the company has continued to maintain a strong presence in the country and has continued to lobby for rights to operate the coal mine ever since. Earlier this month, Steve Bywater, GCM's chairman, said that a Bangladeshi parliamentary standing committee had recommended that the country moves towards extracting coal reserves using open-cut mining methods.
The government of Bangladesh has not yet given any firm assurances over whether they will give the coal mine project the go-ahead. It remains a deeply contentious issue, with activists fearing the country's natural resources are due to be sold off to a string of foreign investors.
Revelations that the US government continued to push for the Bangladeshi energy adviser to reinstate the plans are likely to cause greater anger among activists, who last month staged a "long march" from Phulbari to Dhaka to demand Asia Energy leaves the country.
In a cable posted by WikiLeaks which was sent in July last year, Moriarty says he had urged Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury, the prime minister's energy adviser, to authorise coal mining, saying that "open-pit mining seemed the best way forward".
Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: "Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months."
However, in the cable Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was "politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land". Chowdhury, according to the cable, then agrees to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.
GCM declined to comment.
WikiLeaks cables: US pushed for reopening of Bangladesh coal mine | World news | The Guardian
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WikiLeaks cables: UK hopes to influence Islamic education in Bangladesh
British officials working with US to change madrasa curriculum as a 'common counter-terrorism goal', cables reveal
British government officials have made moves towards influencing Islamic education in Bangladesh as part of regional counter-terrorism strategies.
A leaked diplomatic cable, released on WikiLeaks, has revealed how the Department for International Development (DFID) has been working with the US to change the curriculum of thousands of madrasas as a "common counter-terrorism goal".
In one cable discussing British and American counter-terrorism tactics for Bangladesh, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, notes how their plans involved asking the country's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to develop and implement a standardised curriculum for unregulated Islamic madrassah schools.
The moves followed a proposal for a madrasa "curriculum development programme" to the Bangladeshi government by the US government development agency, USAid.
There are around 64,000 Islamic schools in Bangladesh. They are seen as an important part of Bangladesh's education system, often providing free schooling to children whose parents are unable to send them to conventional schools.
However, the 15,000 or so unregulated madrasas have been a constant cause for concern for the current government, which claims the standard of education received is poorer than average.
Some have also blamed madrasas for radicalising children, with claims emerging that they could be used to set up jihadist training camps.
Last week, the Bangladeshi government ordered an investigation into funding for madrasas after claims that banned Islamic militant group Hizb-ut-Tahrir had been establishing bases there.
Dr Ghaysuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute in London, agreed that DFID's intervention was an attempt to prevent radicalisation of Muslim youths in South Asia. "This is a very old problem," he said. "There has been a need to look at the curriculum in unregulated madrasas for a very long time."
DFID declined to comment.
WikiLeaks cables: UK hopes to influence Islamic education in Bangladesh | World news | The Guardian