Four Arrested for Bangladesh Factory Collapse


Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 01:50 DST, 29 April 2013

Mohammed Sohel Rana, Photo by El Mundo Economia y Negocios

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - Two factory bosses and two engineers were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, three days after the collapse of a factory that created low-cost garments for Western brands.

The death toll has risen to 350 with many more being found alive. As many as 900 people could be missing, said police.

The owner of the eight-story building that collapsed on 3,000 people is still on the run and has yet to be found.

The police have alerted airport and border patrols and arrested his wife in an attempt to draw out the owner from hiding.

Officials said that Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, was built by the engineers without the correct permits.

The police and industry leaders blame the owner for false assurances that the building was sound despite the warning by inspectors to the engineers that the building was not to be opened, reports NBC. The day previous to the collapse, a jolt had been felt that resulted in cracking some pillars.

Rana Plaza reportedly listed many European and North American retailers as its customers, which occupied upper floors on the building that officials said had been added illegally, says NBC.

This incident led to an increase in pressure on Western companies to take steps to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi factories in light of the November deadly fire outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, and has a notoriously poor fire safety record, according to the New York Times. More than 500 factory workers have died since 2006, claims an anti-sweatshop advocacy group called Clean Clothes Campaign.

Analysts of the tragedy said that based on past experience, Western customers are also to blame due to the pressure to fulfill orders on a tight deadline. Ara O’Rourke, an expert on workplace monitoring at the University of California, Berkely, said that “Even in a situation of a grave threat, when they saw cracks in the walls, factory managers thought it was too risky not to work because of the pressure on them from U.S. and European retailers to deliver their goods on time,” reports the New York Times.

O’Rourke added that the prices the Western companies want to pay “are so low that they are at the root of why these factories are cutting corners on fire safety and building safety.”

Many companies are acknowledging their use of the factories and offering their condolences. A few Western companies, including Benetton, deny having garments made at the factory, reports the New York Times.

The collapse of Rana Plaza did not come at a surprise for anyone. News spread within the area about the risk that the building posed. Due to garment exports being a critical driver of the Bangladeshi economy, there is pressure to keep wages low and workers in line. Pressure on Western and European countries have mounted due to several incidents including the November fire, which has resulted in several companies endorsing to finance fire safety efforts and structural upgrades in Bangladeshi factories.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Sayeedi Death Sentence Sparks Bloody Bangladesh Riots

Sam Hargadine, ContributorLast Modified: 11:50 a.m. DST, 15 March 2013

Awami Police Kicking Protester in Bangladesh, Photo by Protibadi Musafir

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Reconciliation can be decades long affair; thus 42 years later, Bangladesh is still exercising the ghosts of its War of Liberation.

The ‘International Crimes Tribunal’ is currently trying men accused of atrocities during the 1971 war with Pakistan. Then known as East Pakistan, Bangladesh played host to one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century.

The tribunal in actuality is a domestic court and due to the weak nature of judicial institutions in Bangladesh, its rulings lack a sense of legitimacy. Due to this legitimacy gap, the sentencing of death to Delwar Hossain Sayeedi sparked the worst violent demonstrations in the country since the war.

Mr. Sayeedi is a leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami. During the war, this group fought on the side of Pakistan and committed brutal murders against pro-independence Bengali citizens, particularly those of minority religious groups.

Over 100 people have died since the tribunal started handing down verdicts in February. Human rights groups allege that on the day of Mr. Sayeedi’s sentencing state military forces shot dead at least 23 protestors. Violence has begat violence all over the capital region. Northwest of Dhaka, the capital, over 10,000 Jamaat supports attacked police stations with sticks and homemade bombs.

Bangladesh is a largely secular Muslim majority nation. Jamaat-e-Islami, once a viable Islamist opposition political party, is degenerating into an insurgent movement. Young Jamaat sympathizers are attacking minority Hindu temples and homes in the chaos of recent days.

While the goal of the court is reconciliation for decades old crimes, this aim is defeated by the tribunal’s sham image. Transcripts of Skype conversations between judges suggest collusion. After the court was reconstituted due to a resignation, none of the three judges heard the full range of evidence presented by both sides.

What was once an attempt to bring closure has devolved into a clamp down on Jamaat-e-Islami as a party. Indeed, it makes for an easy scapegoat given its leaders’ wartime history and Islamism; however the conflict is dividing the country down the middle.

Most foreign diplomats in Bangladesh are staying out of the crisis. The United States is hampered due to its association with Pakistan during the war. Saudi Arabia stays mum along with China. And any overt meddling on the part of India or Pakistan would largely antagonize the other. This is indeed an internal Bengali matter; however, terrible crimes are being adjudicated without proper due process. Nobody is winning.

GRAPHIC PHOTOS taken by Protibadi Musafir in March 2013 documenting the brutal crackdown by police on the protesters are pictured below. CAUTION - most of the photos are graphic and some depict deceased victims.