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Friday, 5 September 2014
Myanmar official considered Rohingya a constitutive ethnic group indigenous to the noth western borderlands of Burma & East Pakistan
|President Thein Sein with William Hague|
Thursday, 4 September 2014
RANGOON — Wai Wai Nu is a diminutive 27-year-old with pro-democracy activism in her genes and a quarter of her young life spent behind bars.
Activist Wai Wai Nu at her office in Rangoon. (Photo: Thin Lei Win / Thomson Reuters Foundation)
The former political prisoner is now working to end the persecution faced by her people, the stateless Rohingya Muslims in western Burma.
The mistreatment she and her family have suffered is just one example among many of abuse aimed at the Rohingya, a minority of around 1.33 million living mainly in Arakan State. Most are denied citizenship despite having lived in Burma for generations.
Wai Wai is one of Burma's brave, articulate and clear-sighted women working on countering the extremist views that tend to dominate the dialogue over religious intolerance and communal violence.
Whether the discussion is about the Rohingya or women's right to marry men of their choice, firebrand Buddhist monks and nationalists have successfully stoked Buddhist-Muslim tensions.
"Right now, the Buddhists are becoming more afraid of the Muslims and vice versa. Everybody feels insecure," she told Thomson Reuters Foundation in her sparsely-furnished office at the top of a six-story building in Burma's main city, Rangoon.
"There is little contact, trust or relationship between the communities at the moment so it's easy for an agent provocateur to incite riots and hatred."
Wai Wai's ambitions are long-term: peaceful co-existence of different groups in Burma, especially in her home state Arakan, also known as Rakhine, and an end to injustice.
"We would like Rakhine State to be a fair, developed and prosperous state for everyone, regardless of their race or religion," she said.
Her organization, Women Peace Network Arakan, conducts training to promote better understanding between the communities. She is also one of the few advocating for the rights of Rohingya women, who suffer multiple layers of discrimination.
Election to Imprisonment
Wai Wai was 18 and studying law when she was arrested in 2005. Her crime was to be the daughter of Kyaw Min, a Rohingya who was elected as member of Parliament in the 1990 elections, the results of which were ignored by Burma's military rulers.
A former state education official in Buthidaung in northern Arakan State, Kyaw Min was also a member of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament, a group of MP-elects from the 1990 vote led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The family had moved to Rangoon in the early 1990s after Kyaw Min faced repeated harassment from the authorities.
More than a decade later, the whole family was rounded up—Kyaw Min first, the rest two months later—and charged under state security and immigration laws. Activists say the junta wanted to silence Kyaw Min's championing of labor rights.
"Ever since I was young, I wanted understand law to make sense of the injustices that were occurring in the country," Wai Wai recalled.
"When we were jailed, my mother said, 'Well now is the opportunity to do so in a real, practical way,' so I guess I was lucky," she added, laughing.
The trial was held behind closed doors, without their lawyer, and the judge refused to listen to them, she said. Kyaw Min was sentenced to 47 years, and the rest of the family—the wife, two daughters and a son—got 17 years each.
"We were shocked into silence. My father was already 60."
"I remember turning to the judge and saying, 'Thank you for the sentence. Our grandmother lived a very long life so we will be ok.' I also told my dad not to feel bad," she said.
"I only burst into tears when I got back to my cell," she added, losing her composure for the first time and wiping tears from her eyes.
The Prison Years
Wai Wai spent seven years in Insein Prison, notorious for its harsh regime and squalid conditions.
She found the mental anguish of imprisonment the most difficult thing to deal with, and kept herself busy. One way was to talk to other female prisoners. Most were arrested for prostitution, running small-scale gambling businesses or drugs.
"They were very young. Some were even younger than me," Wai Wai said.
"They had to do these jobs because there is no other choice. Is it their fault they don't have opportunities?"
Hearing their stories turned her into a feminist and made her want to help marginalized women, she said. "I couldn't wallow in self-pity after meeting them. Insein Prison was my university about life."
Still, the privations of prison life left long-lasting scars on the family. Her father's health deteriorated and her sister contracted liver disease that almost killed her.
All the family members were released in January 2012, together with hundreds of other political prisoners, under the new government of President Thein Sein, which took power in 2011 and embarked on a series of political and economic reforms.
Conditions for the Rohingya in Arakan State, however, have only got worse.
Kyaw Min won the 1990 elections as a Rohingya politician. The term has always been debated but it was not the political lighting rod that it is now, made worse after religious clashes in June and October 2012 left 140,000 people homeless, mostly Rohingya.
The government and ordinary Burmese use the term Bengalis, implying they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
"The Rohingya used to lead dignified, respectful lives. They were not always stateless. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were citizens," Wai Wai said.
A citizenship law enacted in 1982 back-paddled history, took away the Rohingya's citizenship, and imposed restrictions on travel, education and jobs, she said.
"Not having this little ID card affects the whole community. It allows the violation of basic human rights and takes away people's dignity and mental well-being," Wai Wai said.
On Sept. 15, the world's first forum on statelessness will open at The Hague, focusing on the estimated 10 million stateless people worldwide. Wai Wai hopes it will raise the issue of Rohingya.
"How is it that our fathers were in the government service and able to run in and win elections but that is no longer possible during our time?" she asked.
She blames the negative perception towards the Rohingya—which stereotypes the group as polygamous and criminal—on decades-old propaganda by the military.
The United Nations has said the Rohingya are "virtually friendless" amongst Burma's other ethnic and religious communities. Even human rights activists, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have failed to speak up on the Rohingya's behalf.
"We too sacrificed many things for the same cause—democracy—and we too are working towards a better future for our country," Wai Wai said.
"So it really hurts when human rights advocates say Rohingya shouldn't have rights.
"But then, our history has been erased by the junta so it's not their fault. It's the system's fault," she added.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Some 70 Bangladeshi and Rohingya detainees staged a protest yesterday at Pibulmangsahan Immigration Police Office in Ubon Ratchathani province.
After border patrol police were sent to control the situation, office chief Pol Colonel Suthep Korpaibulkij negotiated with three representatives of the group and learned about their demand. The protest ended peacefully.
Friday, 29 August 2014
Maungdaw, Arakan sate: Police and army accompanied by immigration forcibly collected so-called population data in Maungdaw Township including south and north, said Hakim from the locality. "On August 25, at Raja Bill village of Aley Than Kyaw village tract of Maungdaw south, the police and army along with immigration— forced the villagers to take part in so-called data collection."
The police officer of Aley Than Kyaw camp sent warrant letters to 38 villagers of Raja Bill village on August 24, for not coming to the camp for giving list in so-called population data collection. So, a group of police went to the village on August 25 to arrest them, showing the warrant letters, said a local elder preferring not to be named.
However, the police arrested five villagers and brought to their camp where they were threatened and forced them to give promise that they will participate in population data collection and also they have to organize other villagers. After that they were released, the elder added.
The police also said, "If the villagers do not take part in the population data collection, they will be jailed six months per each."
As a result, 11 families were participated in population data collection, but other family members fled away from the village to avoid harassment of the police. The police ordered to the rest villagers to come to the police camp within August 30, to take part in so-called population data collection, said a businessman from the locality.
Police forcibly collected population data from the following families:- Sayedur Rahman (70); Mohamed Hassan(55), son of Fazal; Moulvi Mohamed Rashid (40), son of Mogul; Habi Ullah( 40), son of Mahadu; Abdul Alim ( 45), son of Kala Meah; Abdu Salam ( 70), son of Fozu; Ms Zubaira Begum (35), Daughter of Kala Meah; two brothers Ismail (35) and Salamat Ullah (50), son of Fazal Ahmed and Habi Rahman (60), son of Abu Jalil, according to a village leader.
Besides, today ( on August 28), a group of police, army and immigration went to Naya Para ( Wra Thait) village of Powet Chaung village tract of Maungdaw north, and arrest 10 villagers including males and females as refusing to participate in population data collection, said Jasim ( not real name) from the village.
The arrested villagers are identified as— Ms Taslima (17), daughter of Jalal Ahmed; Ms Sanowara (20), daughter of Baila; Ms Monowara (18), daughter of Dila; Ms Yasmin (20), daughter of Serazul Islam; Ms Parmin (18), daughter of Mohamed Shoffi; Ms Yasmin (17), daughter of Mohamed Khasim; Saiful (45); Shomshu Alam (25); Ayub (30), son of Abul Khasim; and Moulvi Mohamed Sayed (70), he more added.
The village Administration officer Kamal Hussain, police agents—Mohamed Shoffi, Mohamed Ali and Islam gave full cooperation to the police to get population data collection. All the arrestees were handcuffed by police and some young girls were beaten up severely for closing doors of their homes, said a local youth preferring not to be named.
The village has 70 families and the police are able to collect census most of the families. They wrote "Bengali" in placed of "Rohingya"in the Form.
The Burmese government will announce that they are successful in collecting census in northern Arakan and the villagers willingly participated in the so-called population data collection, said a politician from Maungdaw who denied to be named.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Maungdaw, Arakan State: A villager was shot dead in Maungdaw south by police on August 23, at about 8:00 pm while he was going to his home from outside the village, according to Mohamed Jalil, the father of the victim. The victim was identified as—-Abdul Hakim (32), son of Mohamed Jalil, hailed from Kyaukpandhu ( Sitar Pawrika) of Maungdaw Township."
On August 23, at about 8: 00 pm, a group of Burmese Border Guard Police (BGP) of Kyaukpandhu out-post camp went to patrol out of the camp and saw two Rohingya villagers were talking to each other with mobile sets on the road. So the police chased them to arrest, but they managed to flee from the scene, said a local elder on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, a villager named Abdul Hakim, son of Mohamed Jalil was going to his home and met with the patrol group. The police asked him his name and where he is going to. Hearing the answer from the villager, they went back to their destination. But, after a few minutes later, the police came again and shot dead to Abdul Hakim on the spot without giving any reasons, the elder more added.
Being informed, Mohamed Jalil, the father of the victim went to the spot to see his son and proceeded to the police camp and appraised the matter but he was severely tortured by the police in the camp, according to family source.
The police did not hand over the dead body to the parents and brought to Maungdaw Town by car. The relatives of the victim do not know so far, whereabouts the dead body, whether it was buried or not.
A village elder said, "The police increase harassment against the Rohingya community without giving any condition."
A local youth said, "It is a minor case to kill Rohingya by the concerned authority."
Thursday, 21 August 2014
In an exclusive interview with Karen News, Ms Charm Tong, a founder of the Shan Women's Action Network, expressed grave concerns over ongoing Burma Army offensives in Shan State in areas of supposed ceasefire, and criticised the international community for not applying more pressure on the government to stop its offensives.
"There are three thousand Burma Army soldiers in Shan State Army – North territory and villagers are fleeing for their lives because of offensives in this area. Crops are being destroyed, the houses of villagers are being occupied and their belongings are being looted." Charm Tong said, "Even villagers close to the conflict are facing greater restrictions on movement and cannot even go to their farms – threatening their livelihood."
Founded in 1999, SWAN seeks to promote the rights of ethnic Shan women and is a member of the Women's League of Burma.
Ms Charm Tong was critical of Burma's much lauded reforms, while it continued military campaigns in areas of Shan and Kachin State.
"Just making the so called peace process more difficult because the Burma Army are reinforcing their positions in the ceasefire, including with artillery," she said, adding, "How can the people think about peace when the Burma Army troops are there?
Ms Charm Tong, who has received multiple human rights awards and met top world leaders, including former US President, George W. Bush, said that the international community, keen to praise reforms under Burma's President, U Thein Sein, was "silent" when it came to the abuse of ethnic peoples by the security forces.
"There can be no more silence about continued aggression against ethnic people," Ms Charm Tong said, "the international community must not be quiet about these attacks, when the Burma Government are talking big about peace and a nationwide ceasefire."
Armed conflict in areas of Shan and Kachin States had raged for almost three years. Earlier this month, a coalition of Shan community-based-organisations, including SWAN and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, urged US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to pressure for a cessation in government offensives while on an official visit to Burma.
SHRF added their voice to Ms Charm Tong's concerns over a lack of action by the international community.
"When we see there is no real change from the government side – the people are crying for help. We are frustrated at the international community. We are human and we deserve human dignity like everyone else," Hor Hseng, from SHRF, told Karen News.
"The international community sees these as minor abuses because of the reforms. Maybe they think those issues are bigger than ethnic conflict. But if it was their relatives that were raped or killed how would they feel?" Hor Hseng added.
A report in June by the human rights watchdog, Fortify Rights, found that government security forces were committing "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" against civilians in Shan and Kachin States. The 71-page Fortify Rights report, Ending Wartime Torture in Northern Myanmar, documented dozens of cases of torture and abuse of civilians by members of the Burma Army, Police and Military Intelligence, since conflict first erupted in June 2011. The victims interviewed described being beaten, forced to have sexual intercourse with another prisoner, threatened with being shot and, in at least one case, forced to lick pools of their own blood.
Conflict in Northern Burma has displaced more than 100,000 civilians into 165 displacement camps and has claimed hundreds of lives. Far from a small and localized conflict, the Kachin and Shan State war has seen the use of government helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and airplanes.
Ms Charm Tong said it was hard for villagers to report human rights abuse cases to human rights groups and community organisations.
"It is hard to speak out against men with guns," Ms Charm Tong said, noting, "Our work is to present the voices of villagers on the frontlines of the conflict to the international community."
But Ms Charm Tong said even that could be difficult, since many organisations were still outlawed under Burma's State Protection laws. "Law 17 (1) can be used to arrest people in 'illegal organisations' anytime, even members of political parties running for office can be arrested. This law must be amended."
"Another key thing that must happen is that there is acknowledgment of human rights abuses committed by the Burma Army. Calling for acknowledgement that these cases as a crime against humanity should be a first step for trust building. There also needs to be a commission of inquiry on land confiscation, the torture of civilians and the massacres of innocents. We have to look at these atrocities and come face to face with Burma's history of systematic human rights abuses so we can move forward."
Ms Charm Tong concluded that accountability of military-perpetrated crimes was key as abuses continued.
"This is especially important because abuses are continuing today. As you can see in Chin State last month, a Chin woman was allegedly attacked and raped by a Burma Army soldier. The fact is, rape as a weapon of war is continuing right now."
By Theing Hlaing 21 August 2014
Burma Times: Maungdaw, western Myanmar-Saya(teacher) U Zahangeer was invited in Burma Times wechat group on 15th Augsut. The Chairman of the Burma Times Media Mr. Osman moderated the session of holding talks concerning Rakhine state with well-versed Rohingya (teacher) U Zahangeer. He, Saya U Zahangeer stated completely about the meeting in which the Rakhine state chief minister appointed by President Thein Sein,Mg Mg Ohn, pleaded both Rakhine and Rohingya people to obey the current rules of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar.
An exclusive meeting was held by Rakhine state's new chief minister Mg Mg Ohn, two other concerned administrators, Rakhine elders, Rohingya MPs and Rohimgya Elders in Thiri Mingla Hall which is located in the center of the town of Maungdaw on Thursday, 14th August in the evening at around 4: pm.
At the very beginning of the meeting, he said that Majority is ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Minority is ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
At the beginning of the meeting he introduced himself that I am not a public minister but I am the one who was appointed by the Myanmar president Thein Sein to dutifully carry out the national task in this Rakhine State so I became chief minister in this Rakhine State.
And he said that "I want to express a word that I am doing what was the Myanmar president ordered as well as I hoped that you will try to understand my speeches that what I said and think carefully what I urged and don't forget my speeches that it is not president ordered or announcement".
"We are making our country like international Democratic country. The democracy country can't stay alone and we have communication with all countries of this world, compromise with the international system and we must respect all the criteria of International. In the previous time, our country was in the poorest country declaration because we had done by one nation policy with our people without communicating other countries. So we remain in the lower part of this world. Now we are trying to be pure Democratic country with international system," said Mg Mg Ohn.
In our country, US President Obama had arrived last year to make strong relation with the United Nations. And our president Thein Sein had gone to the United State of America to in improve the bilateral relationship between USA and Burma. So our country is concerned to the world countries and we involved in the law of international Democratic countries. And we must respect international law but the Rakhine Buddhists thought that we don't want to compromise with international community.
Now we are obtaining international pressure from the world country. Pressure is two types—first is fearful and second is fearless. The international pressure is fearful for both Myanmar Government and its citizens. So the Rakhine citizens should understand about the Rakhine state's violence which is really interesting in the international media. This Rakhine state awful event became on this first step in the international eyes.
In the previous days, the international organizations had been driven out by the Rakhine Buddhists. So this kind of awful events occurred in Rakhine state got concerned in international affairs. I think these kinds of self-desires which trigger awful events should be stopped. And it is emphasized that the entire inhabitants of Rakhine state should refrain from involvement of creating tense situation as it is very important for the state. Peace is very important for the real Democratic country.
Another thoughtful fact is about UN organizations whether you like or not these organizations but you have to obey international law and you have no power to ignore the international system. The UN organizations are the most powerful and they are helping everywhere to every victims affected by war,psunami,Strom,natural disasters and so on. They can do everything what they want to bring peace in the ground. This is unacceptable performance of Buddhists Rakhine majority that you triggered violence against between INGOs. The Myanmar Government is facing many kinds of problems on a count of this unwanted immoral behavior of some Buddhists people.
When Rakhine Buddhists raised voices that we love our generations but it is not possible to love entire people of Rakhine State, he, Mg Mg Ohn told he thinks the above Speech of Rakhine Buddhists may bring disadvantages than advantages.
He urged Rakhine people that "avoid what you want to do and think carefully that what we should do".
In current situation, whatever the president or state minister does about these communities, should give precedence to public desire with international law through rules of law.
Nowadays I am hearing hate speeches about me in this Rakhine State. Whatever anyone say about me but I am making our country like full democratic country and I have no enemy in this Rakhine State. The Majority think that it's only concern of Myanmar Government and I think it concerns to all nationalities of Myanmar. If something occurs in the Rakhine State, it will be concerned for all of the people of Myanmar.
The old minister was very good but he didn't control his state so he resigned by his own decision from his seat.
Another interesting matter is there is many map in our particular state. I saw this Rakhine State's map in the wall of the president's Royal Room except all maps. Because president really interests the State of Rakhine!
Particularly, if it is said with example, when you want to develop your Rakhine State, you have to bring back your peace and If you want to improve your Maungdaw you must perform peaceful way. Peace can bring development and development can carry the peace of life. So both Muslims and Buddhists communities are very important to bring peace like before!
Many people had played with the flames and knives last two years but now I will handle it. And if a person tries to do anything to bring violence again I will not accept it at all.
Last Month, when I got an opportunity in the Pyay Thu Lutt Daw( Parliamentary house),my desire has been described that the education of Rakhine State where Many Rohingya have been banned to get normal Education since 2012.
In Maungdaw, Myanamr-Bangladesh border, thousands of Rohingya secondary students couldn't get opportunity to go the capital of Rakhine State for their education, said the State administrator.
Then, since2012-2013, many Rohingya University students and primary school students have been lost their education on account of the violence. In 2014,all Rohingya students have been facing educational crisis like 2012,2013 as well, explained by MP from Maungdaw constituency.
I intended I will show my desire to change this students' life in meeting of second Parliamentary House. In this 2014, many Rohingya students have obtained 3,4,5,6 distinctions in their favorite subjects so I would request on be half of them to get their suitable majors, the state minister said.
After concluded this meeting, at once, participated in another meeting with Rohigya elders including a former Rohingya MP U Kyaw Myint .
In this meeting, U Kyaw Myint asked about the historical evidence of Myanmar Government's citizenship card. He has his grandfather's card where it was prescribed as Rohingya and currently why I have to be accepted that name as Bengali.
"In this Maungdaw, ten percentage of population have checked by the MaKaPa(The branch of Immigration department). Why other 90 percentage ignore this inquiry and reject to the government's order? So I just want to say that all of you to obey and corporate with government. We need to check the population of Rakhine State i.e. how many people are in Rakhine State and what they want to survive in this current situation? So we need to update in the international media" Said the State minister.
Now one of Rohinbya MPs, U Myo Min raised his voice with public's questions saying that you are the father of Rakhine state, our honorable state chief minister, so I would like to express our public voices. Few days ago, I have visited d to the rural area about this populations list known as Alley Than Kyaw and I have met More than 200 Rohingya people in that village.
Why the whole Rohingya ignore to engage in population inquiry and I want to explain some public desire, said MPU Myo Min. '
At first Rohingya people think that Government makes us Bengali because Government is writing in the headlines of those population inquiry sheets like "IMMIGRATED BENGALI" so they dread official making Bengali instead Rohingya ethnicity.
Secondly,iIf we accept the name Bengali we know we will get temporarily white card according to the constitutional law of 1982.And we also know that we will never get the green card of Nationalities.
Thirdly, our religious school, Madrasah, Masjids( Muslim worshipping house) have been closed on a count of violence by the government since 2012 till now. Religious building is great place to make a perfect people. So our people concerned seriously as children are going to be uncivil due to lack of basic education day by day because Religious school or Masjids are closed, according to the statement of our religious elders from rural area.
The state minister replied that education question is pleasant for me because thousands Rohingya University student were banned to attend the state university. So I will go to the capital Naypyidaw in the next date of 18/19 then I will urge President Thein Sein about the education, by the way, you have to obey the rule of Myanmar government.
After displacing 200,000 and driven-out hundred thousands of Rohingyans and Kamans into foreign, what the government trying to set?
Remember this population list is neither Bengali nor Rohingya but we need the population list and you must compromise to succeed every role of government. If you all do this I hope everything will become normal such as religious building, school, Madrasa and we will try to open it all.
We are trying to withdraw the citizen cards in Maypon(a town from Rakhine State).fifty eight persons have been checked by the government among them All peoples can show the Burma evidence but some people can't show the Burma evidence.They will become a citizen who can show the evidence of Myanmar government according to constitutional law of 1982. If you believe me, believe my speeches and if you don't believe me then you ignore my speeches. I hope you all understand me to compromise with the government.
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
|FILE - In this June 25, 2014, file photo, a Rohingya refugee holds her daughter who suffers from a skin disease in their makeshift tent at Dar Paing camp, north of Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. Myanmar's downtrodden Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship, targeted in deadly sectarian violence and corralled into dirty camps without aid. To heap on the indignity, Myanmar's government is pressuring foreign officials not to speak the group's name, and the pressure appears to be working. U.N. officials say they avoid the term in public to avoid stirring tensions between Buddhists and Muslims. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced serious concern about the situation when he met with Myanmar leaders last weekend. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe, File)|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Myanmar's downtrodden Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship, targeted in deadly sectarian violence and corralled into dirty camps without aid. To heap on the indignity, Myanmar's government is pressuring foreign officials not to speak the group's name, and the tactic appears to be working.
U.N. officials say they avoid the term in public to avoid stirring tensions between the country's Buddhists and Muslims. And after Secretary of State John Kerry recently met with Myanmar leaders, a senior State Department official told reporters the U.S. thinks the name issue should be "set aside."
That disappoints Tun Khin, president of the activist group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. He said by not using it, governments are co-operating with a policy of repression.
"How will the rights of the Rohingya be protected by people who won't even use the word `Rohingya'?" he said.
Myanmar authorities view the Rohingya (pronounced ROH'-hin-gah) as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, not one of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. Longstanding discrimination against this stateless minority, estimated to number 1.3 million, has intensified as Myanmar has opened up after decades of military rule. More than 140,000 Rohingya have been trapped in crowded camps since extremist mobs from the Buddhist majority began chasing them from their homes two years ago, killing up to 280 people.
Racism against the Rohingya is widespread, and some see in the communal violence the warning signs of genocide.
The United States has called on the government to protect them. When President Barack Obama visited Myanmar less than two years ago, he told students at Yangon University: "There is no excuse for violence against innocent people. And the Rohingya hold themselves - hold within themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do."
Yet neither Kerry this month, nor top human rights envoy Tom Malinowski during a June visit, uttered the term at their news conferences when they talked with concern about the situation in Rakhine state, where sectarian violence is perhaps worst. Buddhist mob attacks against Rohingya and other Muslims have spread from the western state to other parts of the country, sparking fears that nascent democratic reforms in the nation could be undermined by growing religious intolerance.
The State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, said the U.S. position is that to force either community to accept a name that they consider offensive - including the term "Bengali" that the government uses to describe Rohingya - is to "invite conflict." The department says its policy on using "Rohingya," however, hasn't changed.
Foreign aid workers have been caught up in the tensions. Buddhist hardliners have attacked homes and offices of aid workers it accuses of helping Muslims and not the smaller number of Buddhists also displaced by the violence. Doctors Without Borders was expelled by the government in February and is still waiting to be allowed back.
The humanitarian situation has worsened. The U.N. said the number of severe malnutrition cases more than doubled between March and June, and the world body's top human rights envoy for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, last month called the situation "deplorable."
She said she'd been repeatedly told by the government not to use the name "Rohingya," although she noted under international law that minorities have to the right to self-identify on the basis of their national, ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics.
Myanmar Information Minister Ye Htut said in an email to The Associated Press that the name had never been accepted by Myanmar citizens. He said it was created by a separatist movement in the 1950s and then used by exile activists to pressure Myanmar's former military government at the United Nations in the 1990s.
While there is a reference to "Rohingya" by a British writer published in 1799, use of the term by the Muslim community in Rakhine to identify themselves is fairly recent, according to Jacques Leider, an expert on the region's history.
Rohingya leaders claim their people are descendants of Muslims who settled in Rakhine before British colonial rule, which began after a war in 1823. The British occupation opened the doors to much more migration of Muslims from Bengal. Current Myanmar law denies full citizenship to those whose descendants arrived after 1823.
The name debate is reminiscent of whether to call the country by its old name, Burma, or Myanmar - the title adopted by the then-ruling military junta in 1989. Washington still officially uses "Burma," although U.S. officials also refer to "Myanmar" - a sign of the improved ties with the former pariah state.
But in this contest over semantics, the stakes are higher.
Rohingya were excluded from a U.N.-supported national census this spring if they identified themselves as Rohingya. They face stiff restrictions on travel, jobs, education and how many children they can have. They are also unwelcome in Bangladesh, where they have fled during crackdowns inside Myanmar since the 1970s.
Either because of government prodding or a desire to avoid confrontation, staff of foreign embassies and aid agencies in Myanmar rarely say "Rohingya" in public these days, and may simply say "Muslims." In June, the U.N. children's agency even apologized for using the term "Rohingya" at a presentation in Rakhine, an incident which drew criticism from rights activists.
"Any humanitarian agency or donor who refuses to use the term is not just betraying fundamental tenants of human rights law, but displaying cowardice that has no place in any modern humanitarian project," said David Mathieson, senior researcher on Myanmar for Human Rights Watch.
Associated Press writer Robin McDowell in Yangon, Myanmar, contributed to this report.
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
The Burmese government is going where it ought not in matters of faith and conscience.
In December of 2013, something remarkable happened. More than 30,000 people — including many Baptist leaders from around the world — gathered in Burma to celebrate the life and legacy of a man and woman they'd never met.
Two hundred years earlier, Ann and Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to make disciples. Equally, if not more, remarkable than this celebration is the fact that beginning in 2006, as refugees from Burma1 began arriving in the United States, many sought Baptist churches in which to continue the practice of their faith. The mission that began with the efforts of the Judsons had returned full circle to the land of its origins.
As we celebrate this legacy and the deep bond between American Baptists and the people of Burma, we also lament the current state of affairs in that country including abuses targeting ethnic minority Christians and Muslims and a proposed "Religious Conversion Law" currently being considered by Burma's parliament.
In its 2014 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that "political reforms in Burma have not improved legal protections for religious freedom and have done little to curtail anti-Muslim violence, incitement and discrimination, particularly targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority." The report went on to indicate that "state-sponsored discrimination and state-condoned violence against Rohingya and Kaman ethnic Muslim minorities also continued, and ethnic minority Christians faced serious abuses during recent military incursions in Kachin state."
When an American Baptist delegation traveled to Burma in December 2013 for the 200th anniversary Judson celebration, the delegation heard firsthand testimony from the Kachin about the ongoing atrocities against them by the military. Based on these violations of basic human rights and freedoms, USCIRF continues in 2014 to recommend that Burma be designated as a "country of particular concern," a designation the State Department has maintained with respect to Burma since 1999.2
Meanwhile, Burma's parliament is considering legislation that would create a governmental registration board to approve all religious conversions. While stating that "everyone has the freedom to convert from one religion to another," the law would require that an individual seeking to do so supply a registration board with an extensive list of personal information and answers to intrusive questions. The legislation includes penalties of up to two years in jail for those applying to convert "with intent to insult, disrespect, destroy or to abuse a religion," though it remains unclear how such intent would be proved.3
Responding to these developments, the Board of General Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, USA, at its June 2014 meeting took action to support legislation currently being considered in Congress (S. 1885 and H.R. 4377) that would require advances in human rights and religious liberty by the government of Burma as a condition of security assistance. In addition, the board has expressed its strong concern to the governments of Burma and the United States over restrictions of religious liberty in the proposed religious conversion law.
As Baptists, we stand in a long line of those who have sought to defend and extend religious liberty. As early as 1611, we held, "The magistrate is not by virtue of his office to meddle with religion, or matters of conscience, to force or compel anyone to this or that form of religion or doctrine, but to leave the Christian religion free to everyone's conscience, and handle only civil transgressions, for Christ only is the King and lawgiver of the church and conscience."4
The government of Burma is clearly meddling with religion, not only with respect to ethnic minority Christians, but also with respect to other ethnic minorities, including Rohingya and Kaman ethnic Muslims. The government is going where it ought not in matters of faith and conscience.
As the mission of the Judsons has returned full circle to the land of its origins, let our concern for religious liberty return to the people of Burma. With thanksgiving for the freedom we enjoy, let us exercise it on behalf of all those in Burma who now suffer and struggle to practice their faith freely.
(1) According to a fact sheet from the Department of State, the military government in Burma changed the country's name to "Myanmar" in 1989, but "[i]t remains U.S. policy to refer to the country as Burma in most contexts."
(2) USCIRF Annual Report, 2014 (p. 43)
(3) USCIRF Deeply Concerned by Draft "Religious Conversion Law," June 11, 2014.
(4) The Amsterdam Confession of 1611 as cited in the American Baptist Policy Statement on Church and State.
OPINION: Views expressed in ABPnews/Herald columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.
Monday, 11 August 2014
Dr. Habib Siddiqui
August 10, 2014
On January 31, 1970, the great philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a message on the conflict in the Middle East, which was read on February 3, the day after his death, to an International Conference of Parliamentarians meeting in Cairo. He wrote, "The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to "reason" and has suggested "negotiations". This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annex foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate."
Israel obviously has perfected the art of negotiating from a position of strength. The Western nations - all former colonial powers - through their support of this rogue state have epitomized the art of double standard! In their condemnation of the Palestinian resistance movement they won't tell us that the tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was "given" by a foreign power to another (European Jewish) people for the creation of a new state (Israel) which resulted in expulsion of more than 700,000 innocent people who were made permanently homeless. They also don't want us to know that the then government of Great Britain had no authority to assign the land of Palestine to anyone other than the people who were living there (i.e., the Palestinians). They also don't tell us that when the United Nations assigned a portion of Palestine to the European Jewish immigrants in the so-called Partition of Palestine in 1947, it violated its own Charter which stated that it had no right to do so without obtaining the consent of the mandate territory's population.
What happened in Palestine was classical Western colonialism, which can sustain itself only via its superior military or economic resources and by enforced occupation. As aptly noted by Peter Cohen, a retired sociologist from the University of Amsterdam and a Jewish-Dutch World War II survivor, in a recent article in the Huffington Post, superior strength, however, does not create legitimacy. Israel has none. Cohen writes, "It is a territory in the Middle East under Western occupation, which possesses no political legitimacy now, nor can it ever acquire such legitimacy in the future because it has no raison d'être and cannot create one.
Instead, Israel's policy has always been to create faits accomplis, conquests that have been consolidated with the aid of its constituent Western states in Europe and North America. To date, this policy has never been effectively challenged, and so it continues in the same vein. Israel can carry on creating more and more faits accomplis, perpetuating its status as an ever-expanding occupation with vastly superior military strength. But if it loses the West's support, it will no longer have the means to defend itself, having nothing that could preserve its existence, nor the raw materials to sustain itself. It could use atomic weapons, but this does not in any sense bolster the legitimacy of the Western implant."
Israel, as a colony, is a constant source of violence and conflict. And it will remain so unless the very colonial structure on which it is founded is brought down - something that has happened in our time with apartheid South Africa. With every new conflict since the birth of Israel the number of refugees has grown. And the worst problem is: these refugees are safe nowhere, not even in the UN compounds, schools, mosques and hospitals of Gaza. There are scores of international laws that state that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this fundamental right is at the heart of the continuing conflict.
How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty of Israel? It is abundantly clear that no people anywhere in the world would accept being bombed and expelled en masse from their own country. How can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? Will the Palestinian people be ever free? Will they ever get justice for the crimes inflicted on them by the powerful against them?
I am beginning to doubt. I am very skeptical these days. True to the words of Bertrand Russell, Israel as a colonial enterprise has been able to abuse the process of negotiation to her advantage to extract further concession towards expanding its control while curtailing everything for the vanquished, occupied Palestinians. Every negotiation since the unholy birth of the state of Israel has been a deception, a farce, a show for public consumption to not only legitimize its illegitimate grab of the Palestinian land but also to delegitimize Palestinian struggle and aspiration for freedom.
And the Israelis have partners in their crimes – and it is not the USA, UK and western powers alone that dominate the UN and world bodies – but our own criminals ruling some of the Muslim countries. These governments who don't allow any form of democracy – the kingdoms, sheikhdoms and military dictators – are some of the worst enemies of the people of Palestine. Thus, not a single bullet has been fired in defense of the violated Palestinians by these regimes. And this, in spite of the fact that each of these Arab regimes spend billions of dollars every year to buy arms and ammunitions from their western patrons and beneficiaries! You wonder why they have all those deadly toys in their arsenal if they are never going to use such for what is right and just! Are those 'toys' supposed to be used against desert flies then?
A knowledgeable friend of mine said that he read somewhere that some of the rich, anti-Brotherhood, anti-Hamas, and by default, anti-Qatari, governments had actually bank-rolled Israel's latest massacre in Gaza. I don't know the veracity of his claim. But I won't be surprised if the story ever turns out to be true.
Many of the reactionary, anti-people regimes in the Middle East do not tolerate anything that could destabilize their regimes. The popular movements like the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood are perceived as existential threats to these regimes. They did not like the Arab Spring a bit. What became popular among the ordinary masses of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in northern Africa were nightmares for the rulers in neighboring countries (and their western patrons). They have done everything since the people's revolution in Tunisia and Egypt had succeeded in unseating the hated dictators to put the genie back to the bottle where it belonged. Thus, the popularly elected President Dr. Mohammad al-Morsi was soon toppled by their man – Sisi, the neo-Pharaoh of Egypt. All the leaders of Muslim Brotherhood are now awaiting death sentences or long prison terms. They wanted to put the death-nail on Hamas, too, which had historical ties with Muslim Brotherhood.
Sadly, as the Gazans bled to death, and their homes and businesses, mosques, schools, colleges, universities and hospitals were bombed by Netanyahu's criminal IDF, the Obama and Cameron governments of the USA and the UK resupplied Israel with more arms and ammunitions during the current conflict while hypocritically speaking about the need for de-escalation of the war through negotiation. Are these western patrons oblivious of the magnitude of their crimes? Don't they know that their actions, which have resulted in the death of thousands of innocent civilians, constitute war crimes? Will they pay compensation for the Palestinian victims? Just the reconstruction of bombed out facilities inside Gaza may cost ten billion US dollars! How about the dead and the injured people?
Israel and her patrons are for 'negotiations' - those same old parleys which have only endorsed Israeli aggression and dehumanized their victims! Those 'negotiations' have become part of textbook case for Israeli propaganda with the added impetus to extract further concessions, let alone requiring that the Palestinians accept the lawfulness of their expulsion.
Was not it Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's Foreign Minister, who candidly explained what such negotiations meant for Israel? Four years ago when speaking to the readership of the right-wing Makor Rishon paper, he said: "I do not think there is anything to be expected from negotiations. Even if lasting 16 years they will produce no agreement. But my travels around the globe have shown me that the world is very interested in seeing peace talks start, even if only for the sake of appearance. A willingness to talk and talk is something we can give. Why not?" (Makor Rishon, April 30, 2010)
Moshe Feiglin, aspiring to push Netanyahu out of his job as Likud leader and PM, was also heard saying in 2010, "We will win because we represent what most Likud members really want -- a government which says loud and clear that this country is ours and ours only. I definitely want to deprive Arabs of civil rights, unless they prove their loyalty to the state, and give them financial encouragement to emigrate from here. Any area from which Israel is attacked should be conquered and its whole population expelled." (Yediot Aharonot - April 23, 2010)
Dozens of Israeli leaders from top to bottom can be cited to show that statehood of the Palestinians with a just peaceful settlement of the crisis has never been the real intent of the Israeli leaders. Israel's laws make it clear that the Palestinians are not only militarily incapacitated but have also been stripped of all their legal rights.
Not surprisingly, we are told that Hamas is not falling for such old tricks put forth by the joint Israeli-Egyptian team where the Zionists set all the rules of the game. They are demanding opening up the Port of Gaza and easing of cross-border movement of goods. Upon their arrival in Cairo, the Palestinians had been informed by Egyptian security chiefs – speaking on behalf of Netanyahu – that the very issue of opening Gaza's sea port (and airport) is "not on the agenda". How about easing of conditions for the prison conditions under which a million and eight hundred thousand Gazans are held in Gaza - world's largest concentration camp by the two closely colluding warders, Israeli and Egyptian, who control all their access to the outside world? Fat chance!
We are told that this weekend missiles were fired from Gaza killing none and that IDF had bombed inside Gaza destroying a mosque and some homes, killing many Gazans. The death toll is now nearly 2,000.
Blame it all on Hamas for refusing to be duped again! And now criminal Netanyahu's government says that it will not negotiate under fire: the 'deadly', 'Iron-door-shattering' missiles fired by Hamas must cease in order to make it possible to talk. To these neo-Nazis of Israel lying and deception come very easily. They don't want us to know that of the Palestinian victims almost all were civilians, and that on the Israeli side only 3 civilians had died, which included a Thai worker. Out of a total 66 Israeli dead, 64 were soldiers. Thus, 97% of the dead Israelis were the IDF soldiers, and not civilians. And yet, Netanyahu's lies are parroted by the Obama administration and other western governments and their yellow journalists.
It seems that Gazans would have to fight – and fight hard whether or not Obama, Cameron, Sisi and other friends of Israel in the opposite camp like it. Their struggle is for freedom and human dignity. And they have a right for such values which we all take for granted without having to die for.
In his last message Bertrand Russell said, "Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long-suffering people of the Middle East." That call, sadly, remains unfulfilled. How long can the friends of Israel dupe us with hypocritical negotiations that reward the aggressor while ignoring the real issue which is Israeli colonialism?
Sunday, 10 August 2014
A Human rights organization has called for the release of a Rohingya activist and politician, Kyaw Hla Aung, 74, who has been detained by authorities for 13 months.
Fortify Rights, based in South East Asia, urged Burma's government to "immediately and unconditionally" release Kyaw Hla Aung and criticized the detention because the prosecution had "repeatedly failed to produce witnesses' in the case.
Kyaw Hla Aung was arrested in July for allegedly organizing illegal protests and instigating violence against the police. Fortify Rights said the charges were "unfounded." The protests, mostly made up of Rohingya Muslims, were sparked by government attempt to registerthe Rohingya population as 'Bengali' in a citizenshipsurvey.
If found guilty, the charges put against Kyaw Hla Aung could lead to a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
The Fortify Rights statement came as Sittwe's District Court, in Rakhine State, again extended Kyaw Hla Aung's detention, denying him bail and setting the next court hearing to August 18.
Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, claimed the case was a sham. "Rakhine State authorities have kept Kyaw Hla Aung locked up for over a year, demonstrating the urgent need for the central government to intervene to free him. The case against him is completely without merit. His ongoing detention violates his basic human rights and is an affront to the rule of law."
The Rohingya, an ethnic minority of around one million people, have faced mounting persecution in Burma from Buddhist extremists following deadly unrest in Rakhine State in June 2012 and are not recognized as citizens under the country's 1982 citizenship law, leaving 800,000 stateless. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that as many as 140,000 Rohingya are now internally displaced, with many forced to live in run-down camps that lack basic services. In February this year, Buddhist mobs attacked international aid group's offices, including the UN office, forcing them out of Rakhine State until July when the government, under international pressure, guaranteed the safety of aid workers if they returned.
Matthew Smith said that Kyaw Hla Aung was targeted because he was an outspoken campaigner for Rohingya rights. "The arrest and detention of Kyaw Hla Aung is part of a broader campaign of persecution being perpetrated against the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar. The international community must address the flagrant disregard for the rights of the Rohingya population."
A report by Fortify Rights released in February found the government at fault for serious human rights violations against Rohingya, including arbitrary arrests and torture. A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch said that Burma authorities and 'Arakanese groups' had committed "crimes against humanity" and were pursuing "ethnic cleansing" against Rohingya.
"The case against Kyaw Hla Aung is only one example of the multitude of abuses against the Rohingya population," Mr Smith added, "The human rights situation in Rakhine State is appalling and it's the direct result of policies implemented by the state and central governments."
Friday, 8 August 2014
Just days before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit Burma, more than 100 security forces came to the Rohingya IDPs camp in Thandawlee village in Sittwe, capital of Arakan State, and killed one Rohingya and seriously injured two others. More than 15 Rohingyas were arrested by security forces. At the same time, Rohingyas in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, in northern Arakan, have been arrested, threatened and harassed while the government attempts to collect population data.
"If the US government wants to see clear progress on the Rohingya issue in Burma, John Kerry should be setting timelines and benchmarks for progress, including to restore Rohingya citizenship and for the lifting of restrictions on aid, movement, marriage and education in Arakan," said BROUK's President Tun Khin.
Since June 2012, violence against the Rohingya has continued and the situation continues to deteriorate. In March, hundreds of aid workers were evacuated after facing attacks. More than 150 Rohingyas and 20 pregnant women died in the two weeks after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were expelled from Arakan in March. Many children have died because of malnutrition. Although MSF have now been allowed back into Arakan, there are still serious restrictions on aid and movement for the thousands of Rohingya IDPs.
"The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma has stated that the widespread and systematic human rights violations in Arakan State 'may constitute crimes against humanity'. The US government should be supporting an international investigation into human rights abuses in Arakan State" said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
BROUK urges US Secretary of State John Kerry;
- To support an independent international investigation into human rights abuses in Arakan.
- To put pressure on President Thein Sein (i) to stop immediately the violence and crimes against the Rohingya and to protect the lives of Rohingya (ii)to allow humanitarian NGOs full and free access to the Rohingya in all parts of Arakan; (iii) to repeal or amend the 1982 Citizenship Law in order that it conforms with international standards; (iv) to stop the segregation of communities in Arakan and replace it with a proactive policy of 'peaceful co-existence'.
For more information, please contact Tun Khin +44 7888 714 866.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
The Israeli war on Gaza has come to a temporary pause following an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour truce commencing on Tuesday morning. The difficult task of negotiating a long-term ceasefire has begun in Cairo. It could all collapse at anytime. Following four weeks of a relentless Israeli assault on Gaza, there is now dim hope that a political deal can still be reached to end the bloodbath in the stricken strip. Time is of the essence as the death toll among Palestinians has reached 1,900; the majority of whom are civilians. The humanitarian cost to the residents of Gaza has been enormous with half-a-million displaced, more than 10,000 injured and over 300 children killed.
The UN and its agencies are warning of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe due to the destruction of the infrastructure resulting in an acute shortage of freshwater. The coastal enclave's only electrical plant has been knocked out and as a result raw sewage now seeps through the streets of Gaza City and other towns and villages. According to various sources the rebuilding of the strip will take many years.
All eyes are now on Cairo where a united Palestinian delegation, representing all groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, has submitted a list of demands which the Egyptians have promised to add to their ceasefire proposal. But it is unlikely that Israel would agree to an adjusted initiative. Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government are inclined to engage in a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. They want to avoid any commitments that would allow for the lifting of the seven-year siege and opening border crossings, among other Palestinian demands. Israel wants guarantees that the Palestinian resistance will not fire rockets or dig new tunnels. In fact they are demanding the full demilitarisation of Gaza before lifting the siege, something which the resistance will never accept. The Palestinian side insists that it will not adhere to any cessation of hostilities unless Israel withdraws completely from the strip and commits to its list of demands. The gap between the two sides is too wide to bridge, even by the Egyptian side.
There are many lessons and conclusions to be absorbed in the wake of four weeks of Israel's bloody onslaught on Gaza, which did not spare UN schools and staff, mosques, hospitals, paramedics and doctors, houses and even cemeteries.
Here are some of these lessons and conclusions:
Israel is above all international laws and treaties — the UN and its agencies have hinted that Israel may be guilty of committing war crimes in Gaza, and yet, in spite of mounting evidence, the international community has been unable to force Israel to stop its aggression, or make it accountable. While public opinion in many countries is changing in favour of the Palestinians, Western governments are careful not to indict Israel, and most justify its "operation" in Gaza as a legitimate right to defend itself. As a result there are no guarantees that Israel will ever be investigated by the international community on suspicions that it committed war crimes against hapless civilians. No country in the world enjoys such impunity.
The Arab political system is out of order: The Arab League has been dubbed as dysfunctional in the past, but this latest onslaught has proved beyond doubt that this organisation has also become irrelevant. Initial reaction to the war has been dimmed by more than three weeks of silence, underlining deep divisions among its members on what to do and how to react. Following disastrous failures in Syria, the Palestinians have discovered for themselves that they can no longer count on their Arab brethren for help; they are simply on their own!
A political settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is dead — the two-state solution is one of the early casualties of the latest war on Gaza. Regardless of how this war will end, it is now evident that Netanyahu has no interest whatsoever in pursuing a political solution to reach a historic deal with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution and the Oslo accords. This means that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is running out of options. He will be forced to change strategy in the near future as public pressure in the occupied territories grows to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and hand over administration to Israel as an occupying power.
The United States is losing its influence in the region — we have seen US Secretary of State John Kerry change his position on the Gaza war time and time again. He was rebuffed more than once by Netanyahu who has ignored repeated calls from President Barack Obama to end the incursion. Israel has rejected an American initiative, which would have responded to some Palestinian grievances, thus undermining the US role and influence. An end to this war will only be decided by Netanyahu, regardless of mounting Palestinian casualties.
Gaza will continue to be a problem — it is unlikely that the Israeli offensive will destroy Hamas and other resistance groups. Even if Israel stops the attack, the Gaza challenge will not go away anytime soon. Netanyahu has discovered that going back to the status quo, before July 8, will not ensure Israeli security. He cannot afford to carry out a full-fledged invasion and occupation of Gaza either. In fact, the day after the pause in hostilities will force Gaza's humanitarian crisis back on the world agenda!
The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.
Photo: Muslim Rohingya women walk inside the Bawdupha Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state on October 30, 2012. (AFP)
A court in Myanmar's Rakhine state has extended the detention of a prominent Rohingya human rights activist.
Kyaw Hla Aung was arrested last year by Myanmar police who accused him of instigating protests against government efforts to register Rohingyas as 'Bengali', and not Myanmar citizens.
Human rights organisation Fortify Rights says the case against Kyaw Hla Aung is totally without merit.
Executive director Matthew Smith has told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific the 74-year-old activist's public profile has made him a police target.
"He's been meeting with ambassadors and other people who had visited Rakhine state who were very concerned about the human rights situation there and this, and some of his other activities, exposed him to the Myanmar authorities in a way that we think led to his arrest and detention," Mr Smith said.
"There are some Rohingya who do have connections to the outside world, to areas outside of Rakhine state and internationally, and there are some who have the ability to communicate the plight of Rohingya.
"Kyaw Hla Aung is one of those people.
"He hasn't done anything wrong, hasn't violated any laws, but he's being persecuted because he's a human rights defender.
"We're trying to urge the central government now to intervene because much of the problems with this particular case stem from the local authorities."
How effective that lobbying will be remains to be seen.
Matthew Smith says the Myanmar government routinely denies the very existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, and severe human rights abuses occur daily against the Muslim population, in spite of international condemnation.
But he says Kyaw Hla Aung has been in detention for more than a year and there are concerns for his health and well-being.
"He has suffered from ill-health in the past," he said.
"Rakhine state is a very difficult place to be if you suffer from health problems, and being in prison in Rakhine state is even more difficult.
"This should be reason alone to do something about his incarceration right now."
Fortify Rights says since violence started in 2012, authorities have arrested more than one thousand Rohingya men and boys, and an unknown number remain behind bars.
Matthew Smith says the international community needs to get serious about the severe human rights violations that are persisting in Rakhine state.
"What we're trying to do now is to press upon various actors in the international community to pressure not only Naypidaw, but also the local authorities in Rakhine state, to respect and protect the human rights of the Rohingya community."