Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Letter from America: Partnership with Myanmar – dream or delusion?

Source Asiantibune, 26 April
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened a meeting in the UN headquarters on Myanmar on Friday, April 24, 2015. In his speech to the participants of the Partnership Group for Peace, Development and Democracy in Myanmar, Mr. Ban warned Myanmar that stability in its most sensitive region can't be achieved unless it addresses the issue of citizenship for minority Rohingya Muslims. He told a Myanmar delegation that the U.N. has seen "already troubling signs of ethnic and religious differences being exploited" as elections approach later this year.

Speaking at the meeting, India's permanent representative to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji noted that in Rakhine State, the Myanmar Government "has taken steps towards restoration of law and order and has expressed readiness to cooperate with UN and other humanitarian agencies regarding rehabilitation of those affected by violence." "We urged member states to agree to the discontinuation of annual resolutions on the human rights situation in Myanmar," Mukerji said. "In our view, this would convey the world community's strong support and encouragement for the reform measures that are already underway in Myanmar."

While disappointed to hear the statement from the Indian rep, I am not too surprised. After all, India has her own 'Rohingya problem' in Jammu & Kashmir, where people have been denied their basic human rights. The Government of India has not allowed a UN sponsored plebiscite - long demanded not only by its own people but also the world community as reflected in UN Resolutions dating back to 1948.

Much like the Burmese leaders of our time, the Indian leaders have repeatedly told the world community that the Kashmir problem is an internal affair which India will solve internally without outside interference. India has not done anything in the last 68 years since her independence in 1947 from Britain to solving the problem. It was a hypocritical gesture to derailing the world opinion and ignoring human rights of the affected Kashmiris. Since 1989 when serious insurgency began, at least 80,000 Kashmiris (mostly civilians) have been killed by the Indian forces. The Indian Occupied Kashmir remains a police state with one soldier for every 10 Kashmiris living in the valley. These Indian troops are not only responsible for the massive destruction there but also committing heinous crimes, like rape as a weapon of war, while ensuring the Indian control of the disputed territory by hook or crook.

Lest we forget, on November 2, 1947 India's first prime minister Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, standing beside Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, addressed thousands at Lal Chowk of Srinagar and said "The fate of Kashmir will ultimately be decided by the people. We have given that pledge and Maharaja (Hari Singh) had supported it. It is not only a pledge to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it." Much in contrast to that and other similar promises of holding a referendum made to the Kashmiri people the Indian government paid little attention to the political views of the Kashmiri people. The government would often dissolve assemblies, arrest elected politicians and impose president's rule. The government also rigged elections in 1987. The Indian record when it comes to honoring the pledges she has made to the Kashmiri people and her treatment of the non-Brahmins inside India, esp. those living in the north-eastern corner of India, sandwiched between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China is simply shameful.

So, it is not difficult to understand Indian rep Mukerji's deplorable position vis-à-vis Myanmar. Just as India has been able to bury the UN resolutions on Kashmir all these decades, Mukerji wants to sell the absurd idea that the discontinuation of annual resolutions on the human rights situation would encourage reform inside Myanmar.

What reform is Mukerji talking about when some 650,000 people are homeless and forced to live as IDPs inside Myanmar? What reform when one after another xenophobic, racist and bigotry-ridden bills and laws are passed in Thein Sein's parliament? What reform when the Rohingyas are targeted for genocide and elimination? What reform when they are put behind the bars with long prison term sentences or are sentenced to death when they are the ones who have been victimized while their tormentors get away scot-free in Myanmar's legal system? What reform when rape is used as a weapon of war against targeted minorities in the Rakhine, Chin, Kachin and Shan states? What reform when racism and bigotry are promoted by the very government agencies that is supposed to curb its deadly effect? What reform when the eliminationist policy against the minority Rohingya and other Muslims has become a national project with deep support enjoyed from President Thein Sein at the top to NLD leader Suu Kyi and RNDP leader Aye Maung in the middle to NaSaKa to local government agents and thugs at the bottom? What reform when the fascist groups like 969, led by the Buddhist terrorist monk Wirathu, dictate the future of Myanmar?

No one is fooled by such a statement from the Indian rep Mukerji. His condescending remarks say that his government is okay with everything that is going wrong inside Myanmar and the death and carnage of the victims are all 'collateral damages' in 'reformed' Myanmar. India is committed to investing billions of dollars inside Myanmar. That explains why Mukerji is urging member states to hide Myanmar's crimes under the rug, much like what it has been doing with the Kashmir crisis. As I have noted before, human rights have long ceased to be a guiding principle lived by and/or promoted by the government of India, and surely not under BJP's rule. With Modi's ascension to power, it is all too natural that we see tying knots with a murderous regime that promotes the Buddhist version of his Hindutvadi fascism!

2015 is the year that ASEAN aims to become one community of Member States that share a vision and goal to become a zone of peace and stability.

If ASEAN is genuinely serious about its declared objective, it must make it crystal clear that Myanmar's so-called reforms are not working and need an overhaul of intent and purpose. It must insist that the race, family and religious bills recently passed inside the parliament as well as the absence of swift action to regularize the status of White Card holders (most of whom are Rohingya people) will be seen as institutionalized discrimination. It must school Myanmar government that the long-term stability in the Rakhine state will remain unattainable without comprehensively addressing the issue of status and citizenship of the Muslim populations -- particularly the plight of those who self-identify and are recognized by the world community as "Rohingyas" but whom the government calls "Bengalis"; without these steps, the Myanmar Government will find itself continually exposed to international criticism. It must insist that the 1982 Citizenship Law violates several international laws and must be repealed. It must insist that the Rohingya and other stateless minorities (previously holding the White Cards) who were born there are given full citizenship rights immediately to live at par with other dominant ethnic groups and be allowed to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum, paving the way for participation in a general election later this year.

ASEAN must warn the Myanmar government that its insistence to depicting the Rohingyas as 'Bengalis', which they are not, is tantamount to denying a group's self-identification, and thus, qualifies as an international crime of highest proportion.

ASEAN must inform the Myanmar leaders that ethnicity is a colonial era invention which has no place in our time, and that it is divisive, and thus, suicidal or a sure recipe for disintegration in a multi-racial, -religious and –ethnic state like Myanmar. If Myanmar were to survive, it must embrace a federal character with regional autonomy, much in common with original Panglong Agreement signed between Aung Saan and leaders of other ethnic minorities.

ASEAN must insist that Myanmar's top leaders – civilian and military - send a unified message against incitement of hatred and create and promote an environment of harmony and social cohesion in this fractured country of many races and religions. It must insist that the Myanmar regime punish terrorist Buddhist monks like Wirathu who have been behind most of the genocidal activities directed against Muslim and other religious minorities. It must insist that Myanmar's Buddhist political and religious leaders promote understanding and mutual respect with others.

ASEAN must insist that Myanmar allows for unimpeded access by humanitarian agencies to the vulnerable populations especially in the IDP camps to provide much needed aid in a timely fashion.

ASEAN must insist that Myanmar adopts a strategy to address her myriad of challenges failing which the stability and security of the entire region, as already seen through human trafficking and slave labor camps in places like Thailand and elsewhere, will be threatened. Such forced or voluntary exodus from Myanmar is destabilizing to the entire region and must be stopped through tangible measures which address the root causes of the problem, and not the symptoms.

Without such changes taking root inside Myanmar, delivering tangible results, ASEAN's shared vision and goal to become a zone of peace and stability will only remain an illusion, and nothing else. The desired changes won't happen with either flattering speeches or looking the other way.

- Asian Tribune -

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The International community's Donation are Using for Rakhine Insurgent (Arakan Army)

Source MMM, 25 April

The International community's Donation food ration and others for Internal Displaced People of Arakan state( Mostly Rohingya) are Using for Rakhine Insurgent (Arakan Army).

According to Myawaddy News of 23 April 2015,  the Burmese military had captured the armed members of Arakan Army (AA) with arms and rations included with the brad mark of "TIKA"  that were donated from Turky government. The fight between AA members and military was took place in Paletwa township of Chin state on the 21 of April 2015.

Read more here in Burmese..

ဒုကၡသည္မ်ားအတြက္ တူရကီႏိုင္ငံမွ ေပးပို႔လွဴဒါန္းေသာ အလွဴပစၥည္းမ်ားကို ရခိုင္တပ္မေတာ္ထံမွ သိမ္းဆည္းရမိ

Bangladesh to launch Rohingya head-count to push back into Burma

Source Dhaka Tribune, 26 April

<p>A Rohingya child returns with firewood to a refugee camp in Bangladesh (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)</p>

A Rohingya child returns with firewood to a refugee camp in Bangladesh (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)

The government has decided to start counting the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar living across the country from mid-September for proper documentation, official sources said.

The documentation would also help expediting repatriation of the Rohingya Muslims to their homeland.

The decision was made fearing fresh influx of the Rohingyas due to possible deterioration of political condition ahead of the general election in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, likely to be held in November.

The decision and concerns came from the seventh meeting of the National Task-force on Implementation of the National Strategy Paper on Myanmar Refugees and undocumented Myanmar Nationals held at the Foreign Ministry on March 31.

It was arranged by the United Nations wing of the ministry. Representatives of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) informed the meeting about the possible influx.

State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday told the Dhaka Tribune: "We have already ordered the BGB to push back Rohingya refugees if they try to enter Bangladesh territory ahead of the national election in November.

"We do not care what the foreign communities will say about our action because the Rohingya refugees are destroying livelihood of the local people and the environment."

He said: "The daily wage rate in Cox's Bazar has declined due to availability of Rohingya refugees as day labourer."

The meeting also decided that the number of police camps would be increased. Moreover, the BGB is carrying out construction of border outposts and observation towers which is likely to be completed by the middle of next year.

According to the meeting, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic would carry out photo-based listing or census among the undocumented Rohingyas in September for 10-15 days in Cox's Bazar and four other districts.

They have been asked to work in coordination with the Election Commission. The BBS is expected to prepare the preliminary report by January next year.

According to official estimation, there are around 28,000 registered Rohingyas living in two camps in Cox's Bazar. But the number of undocumented Rohingya Muslims is over 5,00,000 and they spread in Chittagong, and the three hill districts.

For the first time since 2005, the Myanmar government last year agreed to take back the registered Rohingyas in phases.

It is alleged that the political influential people in the coastal areas are using Rohingya refugees for illegal yaba trade which has increased criminal and unsocial activities in the country. Moreover, they have been used by Islamist militant groups of Bangladesh and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation – a separatist group banned in Myanmar.

The home state minister said: "It is necessary to count the Rohingya refugees as many of them have acquired Bangladeshi passports and are allegedly running terrorists dens here."

A large number of undocumented Rohingyas hold Bangladeshi passports and many of them went to the Middle-East countries pretending to be Bangladesh workers.

"Our workers are banned in the UAE because the Rohingyas in disguise were found involved in criminal activities there,"
Kamal said.

"Such incidents are tarnishing the image of Bangladeshi workers in other Middle-East countries. This should be stopped."

In 2007, the Saudi Arabia government deported a number of Rohingyas for their involvement in criminal incidents.

The meeting also discussed that the undocumented Rohingya Muslims living in makeshift settlements were sending their children only to madrasas and mosques for eduction.

The task-force agreed to provide those children with informal education. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Report states Rohingya crisis has all signs of genocide

Source aa, 23 April 

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights report claims longstanding persecution of Rohingya has led to highest outflow of asylum seekers by sea since the U.S. war in Vietnam.

By Jaiden Coonan


Days before ASEAN leaders meet in Malaysia, a report has been released by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) stating that the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has all the signs of genocide. 

It claims that the longstanding persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has led to the highest outflow of asylum seekers by sea since the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Charles Santiago - chair of the APHR, and a Malaysian parliamentarian - described the issue to the Myanmar Times on Thursday as "clearly not just an internal affair."

"This is an issue that affects all of ASEAN, from Thailand to Malaysia to Indonesia," he said. "Invoking the 'non-interference' policy in [a] situation that paves the way for genocide and crimes against humanity has no logic and undermines ASEAN's very existence." 

The report highlights Myanmar's continual denials of the ethnic group, its constant reference to the population as "Bengali," and its accusation that they are illegal immigrants. 

There are roughly 140,000 Rohingya living in IDP camps since an outbreak of violence between the ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya in 2012.

The majority of the camps are in squalid conditions and the population relies heavily on international assistance to survive.

During its turn as chair of ASEAN, Myanmar managed to keep the Rohingya issue off the agenda by declaring it an internal issue. 

But with the conference due to start in majority Muslim Malaysia on Monday, many rights groups are hoping that Kuala Lumpur will ramp up the pressure. 

The 26th ASEAN Summit will run from April 24 to 27.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Every Rohingya is welcome: The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar's Persecution of Rohingyas since 1978

by Admin,


The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar's Persecution of the Rohingyas

Venues:  The Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen

Oslo, Norway

26-28 May 2015

Refugees International (RI), Justice for All (USA), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI), and International State Crime Initiative Queen Mary University of London (ISCI) and Den norske Burmakomité will be holding a 3-day international conference to discuss the plight of over 1-million Rohingyas of Myanmar (Burma) and explore concrete ways to end their decades-long persecution.

George Soros who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary sees a parallel between his experience of life under the Nazis in 1944 and the human conditions for the Rohingyas in Western Myanmar, which he witnessed first-hand during a recent visit to the country.

At the conference, iconic leaders from diverse backgrounds including Soros, Nobel Peace laureates Mairead Maguire, Desmond Tutu, and Jose Rose-Horta, and the former prime ministers of Malaysia and Norway - namely Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad and Kjell Magne Bondevik - will join hands with the representatives of the two generations of Rohingya refugees and activists as well as international human rights researchers and scholars of genocides and mass atrocities. They will push for the end to Myanmar's policies of discrimination, persecution and oppression.


Tomas Ojea Quinta and Yanghee Lee, former and present UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar respectively, will also share their expertise with the audiences and other participants. 

The first day of the Oslo Conference is open to the public and will be webcast LIVE. 

To register, please RSVP by sending an email to OsloConference@yahoo.com .  Be sure to include your full name, organizational affiliation (if any), and country of residence.

For further information including the program (draft) visit the conference's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OsloConferenceOnRohingyas/posts/959355314097439?__mref=message_bubble

A 3-day Conference

26 May 2015The first day of the conference – open to the public - will be held at the Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen conference center on26 May 2015.   

27 May 2015: The second day of the conference – by invitation-only – will be devoted to exploring concrete ideas and proposals to help push for the restoration of basic human rights, nationality,  and citizenship to the Rohingyas.

28 May 2015On the third and final day, the conference will host a Burma Forum in central Oslo, a public roundtable with select group of Rohingya leaders, other religious leaders and human rights experts to discuss Myanmar's rising anti-Muslim hate campaign as well as other contemporary issues of relevance.  For more information about the Burma Forum email Norwegian Burma Committee at info@burma.no .



Backgrounder to the Oslo Conference

Rakhine Action Plan

In July 2014, Myanmar government floated a comprehensive plan, known as the "Rakhine Action Plan", to erase both Rohingya identity and the group's legal residency in their own ancestral land and sent a 3-member advocacy team – made up of President's adviser and former academic Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, Immigration Minister and ex-Brigadier Khin Yi, and Rakhine Chief Minister and ex-Major General Maung Maung Ohn - to lobby western governments and relevant international organizations  to accept Myanmar's official plan to solve "the Rohingya problem". 

Thein Sein's government in Myanmar is currently implementing the Rakhine Action Plan.  This is evidenced from the further illegalization and disenfranchisement of the vast majority of ethnic Rohingya since March this year, by forcibly confiscating their White Cards, the only documentation that Rohingyas had of their legal, permanent residency. Meanwhile, the international community's attention is diverted to the fighting along the country's Sino-Burmese borders between Myanmar army and Kokant Chinese armed resistance organization and its allies, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's attempts to push for changes in the military's 2008 Constitution in time for this year's planned elections

Myanmar's Policy of Official Denial and Persecution of the Rohingyas

Following the large scale violence against the Rohingyas in June 2012, Myanmar's "reformist" government officially proposed two solutions to the Rohingya issue to the visiting head of the United Nations Refugee Agency or UNHCR António Guterres - either the "resettlement" of the Rohingyas to third countries, or placing Rohingya in UN-financed camps on their own ancestral soil in Western Myanmar.   In his widely reported address to the Royal Institute of International Affairs (or Chatham House), in London, UK on 17 July 2013, Myanmar President Thein Sein officially denied the existence of Rohingyas as either legal residents or an ethnic group while his government has made consistent attempts to pressure INGOs, foreign missions and the United Nations agencies and officials – including the UN Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Myanmar -  to stop recognizing the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group of Myanmar. 

Such statements and policies have been met with stiff opposition from the international community, including the highest level of leaderships such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US President Barack Obama. In sharp contrast to the international recognition of the Rohingya as an ethnic group, deserving non-discrimination, equal rights, dignity, and the same basic respect as any other indigenous peoples of Myanmar, the country's Bama or Myanmar Buddhist majority and Rakhine nationalists  label the Rohingyas as "illegal Muslim migrants" from the impoverished Bangladesh.  As such, Rohingya have popularly been dehumanized and referred to by terms such as "viruses", "leeches", (ugly) "ogres", "dogs" etc.  

Sadly, Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition leaders and human rights organizations including Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy and other iconic human rights the leaders of the 88 Generation Group also share this anti-Rohingya sentiment.  The Myanmar government has, misleadingly, portrayed the plight of Rohingyas as the result of a communal conflict between the predominantly Buddhist Rakhine and the Muslim Rohingya and a supposedly inevitable consequence of the "transition" from dictatorship.  Periodically, unsubstantiated claims are made by Myanmar President's Office attempting to link the Rohingya community to global "Islamic fundamentalism", and worse still, "terrorism".


The Worsening Plight of the Rohingyas

The plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar has worsened since the two bouts of organized attacks on the Rohingya in June and October 2012.  In her 9-March-2015 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Professor Yanghee Lee stated that Rohingya refugees inside Internally Displaced Persons (or IDP) camps feel they have two (equally risky) options:  "to stay and die (in Myanmar) or leave by boat".   According to the UN High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 53,000 Rohingyas, including women and children, left Myanmar (and Bangladesh) by boats bound for Thailand and Malaysia in the 11-month period between January and November 2014.   International visitors to Rakhine state have described the human conditions for the Rohingyas, both inside and outside IDP camps, as "deplorable".  Even by Myanmar's official report of Myanmar President's Rakhine Inquiry Commission, doctor-patient ratios among the Rohingyas in the two majority Rohingya towns in Western Myanmar are 1: 76,000 and 1:83,000 (vis-à-vis 1: 1,000 for the national average).  Some local Rakhine groups routinely threaten international humanitarian organizations and attempt to disrupt and stop the delivery of basic humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas. 

International Responses

Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch have assessed Myanmar's treatment of Rohingyas as 'crimes against humanity' and 'ethnic cleansing'.  UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar including Tomas Quintana Ojea and Yanghee Lee have highlighted the official nature of discrimination and persecution of the Rohingyas that a condones popular racism and violence against Myanmar's Muslims.   The Pacific Rim Law and Policy Association has published a 3-year academic study entitled "The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya" in its peer-reviewed journal "Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal" (Spring, 2014).   Currently, two independent teams of researchers from the International State Crime Research Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, UK and Yale University Human Rights Law Clinic and Fortify Rights are investigating the Rohingya situation using the genocide framework. 

Renowned academics, for instance, Harvard's Amartya Sen have characterized Myanmar's treatment of Rohingyas as a "slow genocide".  Likewise, at the conference on the Rohingyas at the London School of Economics held in April 2014 the then outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomas Oeja Quintana observed reportedly "genocidal acts" in the case of Rohingyas.  

At this Oslo Conference, global leaders including George Soros and Desmond Tutu will call on the international community, both international investors, European Union and governments with close ties to Myanmar, to help end Myanmar's Rohingya persecution.  They will also call for the restoration of basic human rights, nationality and citizenship to one of the world's most vulnerable and oppressed peoples who, as a group, do have the fundamental right to self-identity under international human rights law. 

Malaysian PM urged to address Rohingya crisis

Source theSundaily, 22 April

Rohingya Muslims are fleeing Burma in their thousands to escape persecution. Pic: AP.Rohingya Muslims are fleeing Burma in their thousands to escape persecution. Pic: AP.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak must use his influence as the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to address the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya in Myanmar at the 26th Asean Summit to be held here.

Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) chairman Charles Santiago said Malaysia has the moral responsibility to raise the issue as Malaysia was one of the countries which promoted Myanmar to be included into Asean.

Speaking at a press conference here today, Santiago, who is the Klang MP, said Malaysia should also provide for the children of Rohingya refugees in the country to receive basic rights such as going to school and healthcare services as an example to other nations having these refugees.

Early this month, APHR MPs travelled to Myanmar to see the situation of the Rohingya.

Their findings and that of an independent research by human rights organisations were compiled into an APHR report on the Rohingya crisis which was released today.

APHR, a human rights intervention force of like-minded parliamentarians and influential persons, was founded in 2013 to protect the human rights of the Asean people.

Myanmar gov’t forces arrest five Rakhine rebels

Source Presstv, 22 April

This file photo shows troops on patrol in the troubled northeastern Kokang region of Myanmar.
This file photo shows troops on patrol in the troubled northeastern Kokang region of Myanmar.

Myanmar government forces have arrested five members of an ethnic armed group in the western Rakhine State of the Southeast Asian country.

The five were captured as government forces engaged in fighting with the Rakhine armed group at Pinlong village of the Paletwa area over the weekend, state-owned Myawaddy television network reported on Wednesday.

The report added that the rebels were caught in a hideout, from where arms and munitions were also seized.

Meanwhile, Rakhine rebels have been retreating from Paletwa area, and Myanmar government forces continue to comb the region in order to arrest remnants of the rebel group and also prevent any possible future confrontations.

The weekend clashes took place at the same time as Myanmar government forces were also battling ethnic Kokang rebels in the restive northeastern Shan State.

This file photo shows the rebel soldiers of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) at a military base in Kokang region, Myanmar.

 Myanmar has been wracked by unrest since its independence from Britain in 1948 as militancy flares among some minority groups demanding greater autonomy.

Last month, Myanmar's President Thein Sein hailed a historic draft peace deal with a host of rebel groups to end decades of civil war.

Kokang militants were not part of the deal. The self-administered Chinese-speaking Kokang region has been in a state of emergency since fighting erupted in the region on February 9 between government forces and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), known as the Kokang army.

Another ethnic armed group in Shan State, which is involved in the peace talks with the government, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), has expressed support for the Kokang militants.

Although the Kokang rebels are not directly involved in the peace talks, the ongoing fighting has drawn condemnation from the coalition of rebel groups at the negotiating table, who are yet to formally ratify the draft of the ceasefire deal.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

78 Rohingyas found on vessel arrival in Malaysian waters

Source The Star, 21 April

A powerless or engineless boat loaded with Rohingya refugees, moments before it was rescued by Indian Coastguards off Andaman Islands. Thai authorities forced the boatpeople board this boat which was then towed out to the middle of the sea and left to drift with very little food and water (photo: Asiapics)

The UN says more than 28,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the violence. Fishing boats are often the only way for families to reach safety.

BALIK PULAU: A two-month-old baby was among 78 illegals from Myanmar who were found crammed in a small wooden vessel shortly after it reached the shores of Penang in Teluk Bahang here.

They looked tired and scared when discovered at 2.30am yesterday. "The authorities not only provided food, but provided medical treatment for them," said Penang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Abdul Rahim.

Police personnel, on their crime prevention rounds, spotted the suspicious boat and moved in for further inspection before making the discovery.

Believed to be Rohingyas, the illegals consisted of 34 men, 19 women, 10 boys and 15 girls, aged between two months and 68.

"Initial findings showed that the illegals left Myanmar on April 8," SDCP Abdul Rahim told reporters.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Malaysia: Refugees not welcome here - Shahidan

Source theSundaily, 16 April

Rohingya men stand in a line at a centre to register for a temporary card issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur in this February 27, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Samsul Said

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not open its doors to refugees and asylum seekers, especially to the Rohingyas from Myanmar, even under humanitarian grounds, as they have become a security threat here.

Reiterating the government's stand in not recognising or accepting refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim called on the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) to speed up the repatriation process.

"If we open the gates, the waters will gush in and flood the country … the problem is their presence here is a threat to our security, they are causing a lot of problems here," Shahidan told the Dewan Negara today.

He was responding to Senator Datuk Noriah Mahat and Senator Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki on whether the government would consider opening doors to allow refugees and asylum seekers access for education in local institutions and/or welfare under humanitarian grounds.

"As we already know, we allow them to study in private schools, but that's not the problem, their presence here is a threat to our security.

"The government's stand is very clear, we will not allow them to stay unless there is a specific agreement made with regards to this," Shahidan said.

He added that the government has constantly urged UNHCR to speed up repatriation to either the original country or a third country.

Pointing out that Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the Refugee Status Protocol 1967, Shahidan said these refugees and asylum seekers, especially the Rohingya community, could go to Cambodia or Philippines, which are signatories to the convention.

Scholar Maung Zarni Defines Genocide in HHRP Lecture

Source maungzarni, 15 April

The word genocide calls to mind events like the Jewish and Armenian holocausts, but according to Maung Zarni, a Burmese scholar affiliated with Harvard and the London School of Economics, smaller-scale killing can also fit the definition "if done in an attempt to destroy a people." 

Such is the case with the victimization of Burma's Rohingya Muslim ethnic group by members of the Buddhist majority, which has involved explicit violence on a relatively modest scale but also forced birth control, forced relocation, and denial of access to food and medical care, said Zarni, who on April 13, delivered a lecture on the topic, sponsored by the Law School's Owen M. Kupferschmid Holocaust and Human Rights Project

How could Buddhists, raised to spare the lives of all creatures, even insects, perpetrate a genocide? The answer, Zarni said, is common to every genocide: the perpetrator learns to see himself as a victim, and a defender of his nation or ethnic group. "We have to frame the target of the attack as a threat to our livelihood, a threat to our national community, as a virus, a leach, a bloodsucker," he said. 

All genocides have another common element, Zarni said, in that the genocidal acts are orchestrated, not spontaneous. "This is not like football hooliganism," he said, "where your team lost and you want to express your rage. You always find an organization, you always find leaders who are mobilizing public opinion [in favor of] an act that is otherwise unthinkable."

Monday, 6 April 2015

Govt forces ‘kill civilians’ in Kachin State: NGO

Source Mizzima, 4 April

Myanmar soldiers walked past a village in Kachin State. Photo: kachinlandnews.com

Myanmar soldiers walked past a village in Kachin State. Photo: kachinlandnews.com

Free Burma Rangers, a frontline provider of medical aid to displaced civilians in Myanmar, has highlighted continued incidents of aggression by government forces despite the signing of a draft peace agreement between the opposing forces, according to a report in Karen News on April 3.

FBR said attacks are continuing including an incident on March 23 in which soldiers from the 10th Infantry Battalion allegedly killed a father, his wife and their son at Du Hku village, Kachin State. The village is located close to Kachin Independence Army positions.

The Kachin conflict erupted in June 2011 when the Myanmar military attacked Kachin Independence Army positions, shattering a 17-year-long ceasefire.

"Despite recent meetings between senior representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization, President U Thein Sein and Burma Army military head Min Aung Hlaing to discuss a potential ceasefire agreement, incidents of aggression by the Burma Army have increased to levels not seen since initial fighting in 2011," FBR said in a media statement.

FBR said it witnessed repeated air attacks from helicopter gunships and jet fighters throughout March.

A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch estimated that fighting in Kachin State had displaced 100,000 civilians. It also accused government forces of raping, torturing and killing civilians.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Thailand detains 76 migrants found on train, including Rohingya

Source Reuters, 30 March

A Rohingya Muslim illegal immigrant puts his hand on the railing inside the Immigration Detention Centre in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, July 10, 2013. MREUTERS/Damir Sagolj

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai authorities said on Monday they had found a group of 76 migrants from neighboring Myanmar, including six suspected Rohingya, in a sign that one of Asia's busiest smuggling routes is still thriving despite Bangkok's vow to stamp out trafficking.

It follows the discovery in January of a group of 98 suspected Rohingya trafficking victims, including dozens of children, who were found in pickup trucks in southern Thailand.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2012, when violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed hundreds. Many head to Malaysia but often end up in smuggling camps in southern Thailand where they are held captive until relatives pay the ransom to traffickers to release them.

The latest group were stopped at Tong Sung district in Thailand's southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province. They were heading to Malaysia in search of work, Police Colonel Anuchon Chamat, deputy commander of Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Police, told Reuters.

"They were sitting with Thai passengers and upon inspection by authorities were found to have no travel documents," said Anuchon, adding that police have yet to determine whether traffickers were among the group.

"It seems they wanted to go to Malaysia for work and had boarded the train at different locations along the route. It is difficult to say whether traffickers are among them."

Thailand is ranked one of the world's centers of human trafficking. It was downgraded to the lowest "Tier 3" status last June on the U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with minimum standards for its elimination.

Last week, Thailand's parliament voted overwhelmingly to introduce harsher punishments for human traffickers, including life imprisonment and the death penalty in cases where their victims had died.

Thailand's military government said in January it was "confident" it had met the minimum standards to improve its ranking in this year's U.S. State Department ranking.

But a government report aimed at lifting Thailand from the list of the world's worst offenders showed it had identified fewer victims of human trafficking last year than in 2013 and convicted fewer perpetrators.

Anuchon said the 76 migrants were being questioned by immigration police and would likely be charged with illegal entry.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Letter From America: ‘Hidden Hands’ Behind Communal Violence in Myanmar - I told you so

Source Asiantribune, 29 March

Police stand guard on a street in Mandalay, July 2, 2014. AFP

People on their way to the funeral service of Tun Tun, 36, who was killed during clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay on July 4, 2014. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima
People on their way to the funeral service of Tun Tun, 36, who was killed during clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay on July 4, 2014. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima 

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

In a country that has been infested with the blight of unfathomable racism ad bigotry for decades, rumors are enough to trigger communal riots. And if the press, priests, public servants and people's representatives are all working in cahoots as a party to a very sinister program – which I have been calling a 'national eliminationist project' – one does not have to be Einstein to understand the impact of such false rumors. And that is what happened to Mandalay in central Myanmar (formerly Burma) in July of last year when we witnessed anti-Muslim violence there. It was all part of a highly orchestrated criminal program with deep support at every level of the local and central government.

On July 3, 2014, U Soe Min, a Muslim man, was walking to morning prayers (Fajr) at a nearby mosque when a man with a machete struck him dead with a deep blow to his skull. The 51-year-old Mandalay resident, who ran a bicycle shop, was one of two innocent victims that day of communal violence sparked by reports – later proven to be false – that a Buddhist woman had been raped by two Muslim brothers.

Since May of 2012 starting with the gruesome lynching to death of ten Tablighi Muslims by a Rakhine mob, we have witnessed how the Buddhist mob and criminals have often been empowered by such false rumors to terrorize and exterminate Muslims, which sadly have been led by Buddhist monks and security forces.

The May (2012) ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims started under a similar pretext: a Rakhine woman - Ma Thida Htwe - was raped and murdered by 3 Rohingya (the so-called Bengali) Muslims. The dead body was found, rather conveniently, in a Rakhine village – not too far from a Rohingya locality. Interestingly, the lead accused - named Htet Htet - was not a 'Bengali' – and not even a Muslim. He was a married Buddhist Bama who in his childhood was adopted by a Rohingya Muslim family. As we have seen in many such incidents under police and NASAKA custody, Htet Htet was found dead in his prison cell. The police announced that he had killed himself.

Dr. Maung Zarni, a Burmese human rights activist, says that "the rape narrative of the Rakhine woman - the late Ma Thida Htwe - raped by 'Bengali men' was patently false, but spread by President Thein Sein's men the likes of Major Zaw Htay (Hmu Zaw), Colonel Ye Htut (now deputy information minister) as a trigger event to set the fire of genocidal hatred towards the Muslims. Ma Thida Htwe was NOT raped but was simply murdered - the doctor who examined her body told Ko Zaganar [a popular comedian], in no uncertain terms, that there was absolutely no evidence of rape on Ma Thida Htwe's dead body. The doctor was forced to sign the medical report which claims falsely she was raped. The rape story was spread by government agents on the social media and was used as a launching pad to start waves of mass killings against the Rohingya and the Muslims across Burma or Myanmar."

"Within a month of his death - when [Maung Thura[ Zaganar attempted to meet Htet Htet's wife," writes Dr. Zarni in his blog, "she was found dead in a village well. How convenient!" It is believed amongst the independent analysts that NASAKA security forces killed Ma Thida Htwe and possibly Htet Htet's wife.

For years I have been saying that if one is serious about finding the origin of race/ ethnic/ religious riots and pogroms inside military-controlled Myanmar that inquiry should start with the government itself. As subsequent inquiries have revealed I was not wrong: most of the anti-Muslim pogroms and genocidal activities inside Burma (or Myanmar) owe their origin to the government – central and local. These crimes are sometimes scripted and often times sanctioned by the government. True that we sometimes see the faces of angry Buddhist mob taking the lead in such heinous crimes, but these low-lives are often used as pawns in this chess game of ethnic cleansing of the targeted victims. And no one can deny the powerful influence of the Sangha in agitating and mobilizing Buddhists. The terrorist Buddhist monks have been employed by the regime to polarize public opinion against Muslims and aid in its sinister plan.

It is no accident that after his release from prison in 2010, Wirathu – the head abbot of the Masoyein monastery in Mandalay - with a large following has now become the face of Buddhist terrorism. His 969 (fascist) Movement provides the foot soldiers for Nazi-like blitzkrieg against unarmed Muslims. He led a rally of monks in Mandalay in September, 2012 to promote President Thein Sein's controversial plan to expel Rohingyas to a third country. A month later more violence was directed against Muslims in the Rakhine state resulting in displacement of some 140,000 Rohingyas. His fascist movement has been behind all the subsequent pogroms directed against Muslims (and not just limited to Rohingyas) all across Myanmar. His disciples have also been behind all state-managed protest rallies against the NGOs, UN and OIC reps, including the Doctors Without Borders, worsening the humanitarian crisis affecting the Muslims of Myanmar.

With the vast support Wirathu and other racist and bigoted Buddhist monks enjoy within the broader Buddhist community, they have been able to rally hateful Buddhists to attack and kill Muslims and burn their properties with impunity. Police and other security forces, if they did not participate in such heinous crimes themselves would often time stand unperturbed, as if nothing had gone wrong, or that they have no business to stop such horrendous crimes of fellow savage Buddhists.

According to multiple corroborated eyewitnesses, the Mandalay riots of July 2014 were carried out over two straight nights by a small group of Buddhist terrorists on motorcycles carrying clubs and swords who rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods destroying homes, businesses and mosques. This took place in plain view of fully armed riot police, who followed the rioters and watched the mayhem unfold without taking action. As hinted above, Mandalay – the second largest Myanmar city – is home of the terrorist monk Wirathu. The local Panthay (Chinese) Muslims were forced to hide or keep a very low profile.

Justice Trust - an international human rights organization that partners with lawyers and activists in Myanmar to strengthen local communities fighting for justice – investigated the matter. It found 'hidden hands' (read: government hand) in the attack. In its released report, "Hidden Hands Behind Communal Violence in Myanmar: Case Study of the Mandalay Riots," it documented the use of organized gangs of armed men to commit anti-Muslim riots under the guise of spontaneous mob violence.

The NGO held a press conference in Bangkok on March 23, 2015 to release the report.

"This report shows what most Burmese have known for a long time – that religious hatred between Buddhists and Muslims is being stoked by hidden hands and manipulated as a pretext for maintaining their grip on power," said U Thein Than Oo, a Mandalay lawyer who serves on Justice Trust's steering committee. "We have seen this script many times before – the deployment of plainclothes forces [Swah Ah Shin] rather than uniformed soldiers to commit national-scale political violence, and the scapegoating of minorities to divert public attention away from the country's real needs."

Drawing on six months of research by a team of local and international lawyers, the report analyzes the riots that shook Mandalay in July 2014 and places these riots in the context of previous waves of communal conflict carried out under past military regimes.

The Mandalay riots closely followed every element of this pattern, starting with a false charge of rape spread on Facebook. But unlike in previous riots, where large mobs developed and the violence spun out of control, local people in Mandalay refused to participate despite the best efforts of outside agitators. In fact, local monks, activists and journalists arrived and tried to contain the situation. Without the protective cover of a sympathetic crowd, the outside agitators were exposed, the stage-managed nature of their violence was made visible to the public, and the overall damage was limited.

"The Mandalay riots were designed to appear as a spontaneous outbreak of mob violence, but in fact were perpetuated by an organised gang of armed men brought in from outside Mandalay to enact a pre-determined script written and stage-managed by hidden hands for political ends," the report says.

The report states that: "The case of Mandalay therefore provides the clearest evidence yet of a deliberate political strategy to foment anti-Muslim violence, as well as the best example of countering this strategy through a local early warning system to mobilize an immediate on-the-ground response."

The report says they follow a similar pattern of events, including rape allegations, speaking tours by Wirathu and visits by gangs of fomenting outsiders. "Lots of people recognise that the 969 movement has a history of inciting riots … and once Wirathu posted the [rape] allegation to Facebook, the local civil groups alerted others to the coming storm," said Roger Normand, executive director of Justice Trust.

Mandalay is far from the only orchestrated incident inside Myanmar, which has a long history of military regimes employing the "dual threat of external intervention and internal disintegration" to ensure control, according to the report. Notable examples of such diversions include General Ne Win's anti-Chinese riots in the 1960s to distract from a countrywide rice shortage, and Buddhist-Muslim tensions after democratic mass uprising in 1988.

Anti-Muslim pogroms in Myanmar are not new. They have surfaced periodically in recent decades. The fascist elements within the Buddhist country have exploited their deep-seated racism and bigotry against ethnic minorities and non-Buddhists to glue the fractured Buddhist majority. Their propaganda encourages a blind racist nationalism and an unparallel bigotry, full of references to 'protecting the race and religion', meaning that if the national race Burmans (Bama) do not oppress other nationalities then they will themselves be oppressed and if the Buddhist majority likewise does not expel the non-Buddhists (esp. the Muslims) then they will become a minority, 'national reconsolidation', meaning forced assimilation, and preventing 'disintegration of the Union', meaning that if the Army (Tadmadaw) falls then some kind of ethnic chaos would ensue. In this new Myanmarism, ethno-religio-fascist Buddhism (coined first by self-exiled researcher Dr. Shwe Lu Maung), monks have become the regime's pit bulls that are aided from center to the local level politicians. Even Suu Kyi is a silent partner.

As noted by Human Rights Watch in its report "All You Can Do Is Pray", immediately after the first wave of anti-Muslim genocidal activities in Arakan in June 2012, local Rakhine Buddhist monks circulated pamphlets calling for the isolation of Muslims. For instance, on June 29, monks in Sittwe (formerly Akyab) distributed an incendiary pamphlet telling all Arakanese Buddhists that they "Must not do business with Bengalis [Rohingya]," and "Must not associate with Bengalis [Rohingya]." It implored the Rakhine people to follow the demands to socially and economically isolate the Rohingya to prevent the "extinction of the Arakanese."

On July 5, 2012 monks representing the Sangha in Rathedaung Township, 30 kilometers north of Sittwe, held a meeting and subsequently issued a 12-point statement. The preamble unabashedly presents a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya:'Arakan Ethnic Cleansing Program'. It called for the establishment of a "rule to control the birth rate of the Muslim Bengali community living in Arakan"; it advocated forced relocation by demanding the government "remove some Bengali villages located near Sittwe University and beside traffic communication roads throughout Arakan State"; and it expresses opposition to any reintegration plans that would "put Buddhist and Muslim people together." Furthermore, the statement called for a "peoples' militia in all ethnic villages along the border and [for the government] to supply sophisticated arms to the people's militia." The statement called for strict adherence to the 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively prevents Rohingya from obtaining Burmese citizenship. The Rathedaung statement was sent to President Thein Sein, leaders in parliament, and the presidential commission established to investigate the situation in Arakan State.

The statement also called on the Rakhine Buddhists in Rathedaung Township to avoid employing Rohingya in a range of jobs, including day laborers, carpenters, masons, and in farming. It also said that the Rohingya should not to be employed in government offices or by NGOs operating in the township, and that all NGOs providing aid to the Rohingya in the township must withdraw. On July 9, 2012 the monks' association in Mrauk-U (once the capital of Arakan) released a similar statement: "No Arakanese [Rakhine Buddhist] should sell any goods to Bengalis, hire Bengalis as workers, provide any food to Bengalis and have any dealings with them ..."

The ruling RNDP in the Rakhine state also played an instrumental role in stoking fear and encouraging isolation of and violence against the Rohingya. One of the racist provocateurs by the name of Aye Chan depicts Rohingya as 'Influx Virus' which needs extinction. Members of the Buddhist sangha and the RNDP have also called for changes to the demographic makeup of Arakan State and Burma, such as the expulsion of all Rohingya from the country, in interviews with the international media. The monk Sandarthiri likewise told BBC that Rohingya have no right to stay in Burma: "Around the world there are many Muslim countries. They should go there. The Muslim countries will take care of them. They should go to countries with the same religion."

The RNDP leaders issued orders to the Rakhine people to deny food entering the Rohingya part of the villages. "If any food comes, take it, crush it, and destroy it" was a notice on the corner of the road in front of the food market with orders saying no one could allow any food to reach the Rohingya village. On that paper it said that any Buddhist taking money from the Rohingya for rice or other things would be killed.

The HRW report directly implicated "political and religious leaders in Arakan State" in the planning, organization, and incitement of attacks against the Rohingya and other Muslims in October of 2012.

Buddhist monks were again in the headlines in June 2013 when it was reported that participants at a monastic conference were preparing a draft law that would put severe restrictions on inter-faith marriage and penalize Muslim men who married Buddhist women without converting.

The fact-finding reports from multiple NGOs have confirmed what we suspected for a number of years about who these 'hidden hands' are that are responsible for genocidal crimes against Muslims and other vulnerable minorities inside Myanmar. It is high time for the world community, esp. the UNSC, to try these fascists in the ICC for their crimes against humanity for surely the strongest antidote to genocide is justice. And nothing will sober the culprits of Myanmarism except such punitive measures.

- Asian Tribune -

Myanmar Military Aided Massive Land Grab From Ethnic Minorities: Rights Group

Source Theworldpost, 28 March

BANGKOK, March 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Businesses in Myanmar have colluded with military and government officials to seize vast tracts of farmland from ethnic minority villagers in the northeast, using much of the land for rubber plantations, a UK-based rights group said.

Over the past decade, 5.3 million acres (2.1 million hectares) has been leased to investors for commercial agriculture without the consent of landowners, and rubber plantations cover more than a quarter of this area, Global Witness said in a report released on Thursday.

Global Witness's 18-month investigation focused on northeastern Shan state bordering China, and found that the area's regional military command collaborated with district government and private companies to confiscate land, the majority of seizures taking place in 2006.

shan myanmar
Myanmar army soldiers carrying weapons patrol on a road in Kokang, Shan State, Feb. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Eleven Media Group)

"The army went in with company representatives to help them confiscate the land... land that farmers had used for generations," the group's land campaigner, Josie Cohen, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Myanmar.

Soldiers showed up in villages with no warning, once even moving into the village chief's house, and marked out the boundaries of the land they wanted with bamboo posts, forcing villagers to clear it, she said.

The main beneficiary of the land seizures in the area Global Witness surveyed was private company Sein Wut Hmon, it said. The owner and director of the company denied all allegations made in the report against him and the company, the report said.

An employee at Sein Wut Hmon, reached by telephone at the company's main office in Yangon, said the company's owner could not be reached for comment.

Global Witness cross-checked government land allocation documents with field investigations and satellite information.

It also interviewed 124 affected residents of 11 villages and more than 20 government officials, retired military officers, journalists and land activists.

shan myanmar
Residents who fled from conflict areas near the Myanmar and Chinese border gather at a temporary refugee camp at a monastery in Lashio, northern Myanmar on Feb. 19, 2015. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

The report said Sein Wut Hmon controls the largest amount of land of any rubber company in Shan state with a total of 4,608 acres (1,865 hectares) of plantations.

None of the villagers whose land was seized had land titles, but despite having land tax receipts as proof of ownership, they were not paid for their land, the report said.

"There was very little compensation - 98 percent of the people we interviewed hadn't received any compensation for the land," Cohen said.

Three villages have sent the government letters of protest but have received no response, while in most cases villagers were scared to take action because of the army's firm control of the area, she said.

The report said the main ethnic minority groups in communities affected by the company's rubber operations were Shan, Palaung and Kachin.

shan myanmar
Rice fields in the area of Inle lake, Shan state, Myanmar. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Land grabs are widespread in Myanmar, and some disputes over confiscated land turn violent.

In November 2012, more than 70 people were injured when police raided a camp where people were protesting against the expansion of a copper mine in northern Myanmar. Villagers said the expansion involved the unlawful confiscation of thousands of acres of their land.

Cohen said that as Myanmar drafts its new national land policy, Global Witness is lobbying to ensure it is "backward-looking," with a grievance mechanism and restitution for past land grabs.

She also urged international investors buying rubber from Myanmar to "conduct stringent checks to ensure that the rubber they buy doesn't fuel corruption or drive human rights abuses."

Related on HuffPost:

Crime In The Golden Triangle
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  • Thai officials check packs of confiscated narcotics before destroying them marking the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Ayutthaya province on June 26, 2013. More than 3363 kilograms of confiscated narcotics including methaphetamine, heroin, opium, cocaine and psychotropic substances with an estimated value of 10 billion bahts (324 million USD) were to be burnt. (PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Burmese fighter jets bomb Kachin outposts during peace agreement talks: KIA

Source DVB, 23 March

Myanmar Air Force Nanchang A-5C Fantan MRD-1 at Rangoon airport (Photo: Wikicommons/ M Radzi Desa)
Myanmar Air Force Nanchang A-5C Fantan MRD-1 at Rangoon airport (Photo: Wikicommons/ M Radzi Desa)

Burmese fighter jets reportedly bombed military positions of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma no less than five times on Sunday afternoon while representatives of the Kachin rebels met with government delegates for peace talks in Rangoon.

La Nan, spokesperson of the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), told DVB on Sunday that Kachin outposts in Mansi Township between the villages of Madan Yang and Kai Hteik were bombed by two fighter jets at3:15pm on 22 March following an armed clash nearby the day before.

"We are yet to receive a casualty report but we have been informed that the Burmese air force struck at least five times," he said.

The military clash in Mansi, southern Kachin State, broke out on Saturday evening and continued throughout Sunday. La Nan claimed it is a persistent tactic of government forces to use excessive fire power on enemy outposts, even positions of no strategic advantage, as a form of retaliation when suffering high casualties on the ground.

He said the KIA has informed the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents the main ethnic armed groups at ceasefire talks, about the incident.

Vice chief of staff of the KIA Gen. Gun Maw last week was in Rangoon for the most recent round of ceasefire talksbetween the NCCT and the government's Union Peace-Making Work Committee. A recess has been called on the talks until 30 March after an apparently successful six-day session, during which accord was reached on a number of outstanding issues that have prevented progress in the past.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Myanmar sentences journalists over 'defamation'

Source Aljazeera, 19 March

Myanmar sentences journalists over 'defamation'

Editor and reporter given two-month jail term each in ruling that raises concerns about press freedoms in the country.

On Tuesday a barman and his associates were convicted for posting a flyer on social media showing a Buddha wearing headphones [AP]
On Tuesday a barman and his associates were convicted for posting a flyer on social media showing a Buddha wearing headphones [AP]

A Myanmar court has sentenced two journalists to two months in prison on charges of defamation, in the latest ruling that raises concerns about press freedoms as the country emerges from military rule.

Thursday's conviction is the first time journalists have been convicted of defamation since President Thein Sein's government took office in 2011. 

The Myanmar Post's chief editor, Than Htaik Thu, and reporter Hsan Moe Tun were charged in February 2014 after their weekly newspaper quoted an unnamed lawmaker from southeastern Mon state making comments about military representatives in the parliament having low education.

Another 10 journalists are serving prison terms for other offences and nearly 20 are facing trials.

Thursday's ruling comes two days after a Myanmar court sentenced a New Zealand bar manager and his two business associates to two years and six months in prison for insulting Buddhism.

The trio were convicted on Tuesday for posting a flyer on social media that showed a psychedelic depiction of Buddha wearing headphones.

Phillip Blackwood, 32, Tun Thurein, 40, and 26-year-old Htut Ko Ko Lwin were given two years for insulting religion and six months for disobeying an order from a public servant.

The trial of the three men came as the predominantly Buddhist nation grapples with a surge of religious nationalism, including violence against members of the minority Muslim community.

They were arrested in December after the image was used on Facebook to promote the tapas bar and lounge, and sparked outrage on social media. 

Source: Agencies


Myanmar police crack down on student protesters

Myanmar police crack down on student protesters

Scores of people protesting against education bill arrested in violent clampdown by baton-wielding police in Yangon.

PoliticsAsia Pacific

Myanmar court jails three for insulting Buddhism

Myanmar court jails three for insulting Buddhism : 

Trio, including a New Zealand national, convicted over Facebook post showing a depiction of Buddha wearing headphones.

Asia PacificMyanmar

Eight years for Rohingya leaders is injustice, says lawyer

Source DVB, 16 March

Local Rohingyas stand on a road in Aung Mingalar, Sittwe (Lux Capio Photography)

Local Rohingyas stand on a road in Aung Mingalar, Sittwe (Lux Capio Photography)        

The recent re-sentencing of three prominent Rohingya community leaders in Arakan State and the ongoing detention of two others points to the uneven application of the rule of law in the restive region, their lawyer claims.

The trio – Ba Tha, Kyaw Myint, and Kyaw Myint's son, Hla Myint – were sentenced by Sittwe's Appellate Court to eight years in prison on 27 February for their alleged role in inciting violence against government officials, and remanded into custody on 8 March.

Their sentencing stems from an incident that occurred in April 2013, when a delegation visited the Rohingya village of Thet Kay Pyin near the state capital of Sittwe to forcibly register its inhabitants as "Bengalis." Another Rohingya community leader, Kyaw Khin, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on the same day and is currently in hiding, according to a statement issued by Thailand-based watchdog Fortify Rights.

The officials' arrival at Thet Kay Pyin, on 26 April 2013, prompted a group of some 200 villagers to demonstrate against the registration process, spearheaded by Burma's Ministry of Immigration and Population as part of a contentious "citizenship verification" process that was paused in February 2015.

The Burmese government does not recognise the Rohingya as one of the country's 135 "national races", and most Rohingya reject classification as "Bengali", a term they consider pejorative that implies origins in neighbouring Bangladesh. The trio were sentenced to one and a half years in prison in May 2013, but were released as part of a presidential amnesty in October 2014.

At Thet Kay Pyin, the villagers defiantly chanted, "Rohingya! Rohingya! Rohingya!" in protest, and the demonstration turned violent. Although the circumstances under which violence broke out remain disputed, government officials allegedly sustained injuries after coming under attack by incensed villagers.

Two other individuals charged by the authorities in May 2013 – Suleyman Begum and Muhammad Hashim –remain in prison after being sentenced to three and a half years on charges relating to robbery, intimidation and disturbing civil servants. On 27 February, five additional years were added to their sentences.

According to Hla Myo Myint, a Rangoon-based lawyer representing the Thet Kay Pyin prisoners, the re-sentencing of the three community leaders was prompted by allegations that they abetted the rioters by compelling them to reject registration as Bengali, a charge the trio deny.

"There's no rule of law. It's all bias of race in conflicts," Hla Myo Myint told DVB. He claims that the evidence presented by the prosecution was accepted blindly by the court, and relied heavily on the testimony of one policeman, which he classified as "tainted."

The eight-year sentence was passed down after the defendants were found guilty of violating three sections of Burma's Penal Code:  147, 333, and 395, for rioting, causing "grievous injury" to a public servant, and "dacoity," or banditry, respectively.

Burma's penal code is a piece of colonial-era legislation that was penned back in 1861. Its outdated statutes give the authorities sweeping, arbitrary prosecutory powers, offering the accused few avenues for recourse or a meaningful appeals process. Across Burma's justice system, 90 percent of charges end in conviction, and free legal counsel is not a legally enshrined right.

Hla Myo Myint feels that his clients were arbitrarily singled out due to their prominence in the community. He claims that the authorities have no way of knowing who was responsible for starting the conflict, leading them to slap his clients with trumped-up charges in an attempt to stifle further dissent.

Three years of the sentence justified under Section 395 for "dacoity", for example – a term that originally referred to roving bands of thieves in colonial India – was passed down because the mobile phone of an immigration official went missing during the riot, he claims.

Bias by the ethnic Arakanese [Rakhine Buddhist] judges overseeing the cases – who many feel are likely to be prejudiced against Rohingya plaintiffs – has made a mockery of justice, he feels. "The real problem is the evidence in the case, the justification for punishment. They don't have any evidence," he said. "But Thein Aung, the appellate court judge, is Arakanese, and he is sensitive towards the Rohingya. He can change the primary order, and give punishment."

The government has demanded that stateless Rohingyas currently possessing "white cards" that provide them with temporary identification turn them in at the end of the month, a factor that has contributed to heightened tensions across the state. Despite their non-citizen status, voting rights – facilitated by the possession of "white cards" – have been among the few privileges afforded to Rohingyas by Naypyidaw in recent years, albeit out of self-interest as their votes offset popular support for Arakanese nationalist parties in the 2010 polls.

Hla Myo Myint – an ethnic-Burman Buddhist with close ties to the opposition National League for Democracy – has forged a career taking on contentious cases. He has represented farmers embroiled in land disputes in the Irrawaddy Delta and leading monks in the 2007 "Saffron Revolution" uprising against military rule. In 2009, he represented Aung San Suu Kyi after an American citizen, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside residence, prompting the authorities to extend her house arrest for an additional eighteen months.

It is exceedingly rare for lawyers in Burma to advocate on behalf of Rohingya clients, owing to their pariah status both in and out of the corridors of power.

But Hla Myo Myint feels that to deny anybody counsel on the grounds of ethnicity would amount to a dereliction of duty. "I'm an advocate, and because I follow the ethic of an advocate, I will take every case. I have no choice. Ethically, I am obligated," he said.

He intends to bring the Thet Kay Pyin prisoners' case to Burma's supreme court in Naypyidaw, but it remains to be seen if the case will be re-opened. As far as he is concerned, however, there's no reason why it shouldn't be. "I have good legal grounds for revision," he said.