Bangladesh garment industry examined after deadly collapse

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 3, 2013

Tragedy spotlights Bangladesh’s garment trade, Pakistani prosecutor killed by gunmen, and Myanmar’s Muslims react to steady sectarian violence. Today is Friday, May 3, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.


A woman holds a picture as she waits for news of her relative, a garment worker who is still missing after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, outside Dhaka, May 3, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Bangladesh’s garment industry examined. The death toll from last week’s building collapse in Bangladesh topped 500, bringing to light poor conditions in the country’s hefty garment industry:

Until now, there has been little pressure here to improve safety conditions and wages for the 4.5 million Bangladeshis working in the industry. That inertia stems, in part, from how deeply the industry has woven itself into the power structure. More than 30 garment industry bosses are members of parliament, accounting for about 10 percent of its lawmakers. Other owners, like Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the building that collapsed, have strong political ties: He was a local leader of the youth wing of the ruling party, the Awami League.

Western retailers also face heat for their role in the tragedy. Activists say that western companies secure the lowest cost by forcing local factory owners to compete for their business, forcing down wages in the impoverished country. Bangladesh ranked lowest in minimum wages in 2010, according to World Bank data, and one plant owner estimate that prices for their goods have fallen by 40 percent in the past two years. Nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse, including the building’s engineer, who warned the building was unsafe hours before it fell. Human rights say that factory owners have not been prosecuted in similar past cases.

Pakistani investigator killed. Gunmen shot and killed a prosecutor investigating the mysterious 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:

Police sources said Chaudhry Zulfikar was shot in his car after he left home and headed to a hearing in the case, a reminder of Pakistan’s instability just a week before general elections. “He was killed by unknown gunmen. Twelve bullets were fired,” said a police source.

Zulfikar was also examining the 2008 attack on Mumbai, which left 166 dead. Security expert Amir Rana said these investigations may have made Zulfikar a target. Some suspect that Bhutto was killed by allies of General Pervez Musharraf, who was put on a two-week-long judicial remand by a court last month on charges of failing to provide proper security for Bhutto before she was killed.

Myanmar’s Muslims adjust to violence. Muslims in Myanmar are fortifying their villages against Buddhist attacks in light of recent sectarian violence that shows no sign of easing:

Indonesian police said on Friday they had foiled a plan to attack Myanmar’s embassy in Jakarta, arresting two men late on Thursday and seizing explosives. A spokesman told reporters the suspects had planned the attack in protest at the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. At least 192 people, mostly Rohingya, were killed last year in clashes with Buddhists in Rakhine State. In April, eight people died when Muslim and Buddhist refugees clashed at an Indonesian immigration center.

Police arrested 18 people in relation with riots that killed one man on April 30 near the country’s largest city, including the woman who prompted the riot by accidentally bumping into a monk and causing him to drop his alms bowl. Some Muslims build bamboo fences and arm themselves with clubs and swords to protect themselves from violence. Tensions between Myanmar’s Muslims and a radical Buddhist movement have been high since March 2011, when the country transitioned to civilian governance after 50 years of military dictatorship.

Nota Bene: The United States said North Korea and Iran are violating U.N. sanctions on their nuclear programs.

Standouts:

Washington’s anemic civilian effort - Reuters columnist David Rhode discusses why the United State’s focus on military action in Syria is so misguided. (Reuters)

Baggage claim - Italian police arrested 19 Alitalia workers in relation to suitcase thefts. (BBC)

Religious campaign - A Mormon is running for president in Mali. (Time)

Baby boom - Egypt’s birth rate is at a 20-year high, as the Muslim Brotherhood led-government shifts away from Mubarak’s focus on contraception. (The New York Times)

Mystery meat - Rat is sold as lamb in China. (The Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

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  • Taking sides in Syria is hard choice for Israel
  • Four officials suspended in South Africa’s widening Gupta scandal
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