Saturday, 23 May 2015

Statelessness and the Perils of the boat people…

Source kashmirWatch, 21 May

Written by: Prof. Anna Malindog

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes naturally to the human heart than its opposites." Nelson Mandela

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
Abraham Lincoln

The plight of the "boat people" has come to the attention of the international community for several weeks now. The world is reacting to this cataclysmic humanitarian crisis that is even said to be tantamount to genocide already. Countries and peoples of the world including the United Nations are calling for humanitarian interventions to save and rescue these boat people who are suffering from all sorts of human atrocities and who are in such depressing conditions. Without doubt, the quandary of the "boat people", the "Rohingyas" is heartbreaking and entails global attention and humanitarian interventions. 

However, providing humanitarian assistance and help, and even accepting these "boat people" as refugees or asylum seekers in third countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines will only serve as short term solutions and would not resolve the issue at its core. All these will not necessarily resolve the influx or the exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar to escape their persecuted and gloomy situation in that country. Rather, this migratory crisis will continue as what has been the case since time immemorial unless the root cause of the problem will be arrested. On this note, it is but a must that, while humanitarian assistance and aid are extended to the boat people, and while they are being offered and extended safe temporary haven in third countries until their plight is resolved, the international community especially the members states of ASEAN must devise a concerted effort to address the problem by addressing its root-cause, and that's the "status of statelessness of the Rohingyas in Myanmar coupled with extreme discrimination against them cultural, politically and economically speaking". 

The issue of the Rohingyas is thus far an issue of "statelessness". Statelessness is so far an issue that left a smudge in Southeast Asia after the colonial period. There are many minority groups in the region who do not take pleasure and experience that legal attachment of nationality with any state, and one of these minority groups are the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are a group of Muslim people living the northern part of Rakhine State who are ethnically, linguistically, and religiously distinct in Myanmar. They are not considered citizens or nationals of Myanmar. This has been proven by the fact that when the new nationality law was passed in Myanmar in 1982, the Rohingyas were not included among the 135 national races that were granted full citizenship. They are considered both by the government of Myanmar and by a large part of the Buddhist population of the country to be "illegal migrants" and "Bengalis". But sad to say, even Bangladesh do not also consider the Rohingyas as their own which makes the plight of these people more perilous. 

The status of statelessness of peoples like that of the Rohingyas poses serious impediments in the enjoyment and exercise of their fundamental rights. In the case of the Rohingyas, these people were consistently subjected to stigmatization, harassment, isolation, deprivation, starvation, and were restrained to have access to basic social services that made their lives far more miserable. These on-going extreme discrimination, persecution, and dehumanization conferred to these people have already reached unprecedented heights, which is even substantially speaking, is considerably an act of genocide already, that a hegira of Rohingyas were forced to flee their homes on boats. All these resulted to massive displacement and immense migration of Rohingyas of which many of them are stranded in the Andaman Sea, and others are seeking refuge in third countries which in most cases are reluctant, or are not at all accommodating to see these people disembarking along their coasts. This scenario is now creating strain inter-state relations in ASEAN and beyond, precisely because, now it has spill-over effects from one country to the next. Thus, the plight of the Rohingyas, the boat people, is not anymore just a domestic issue of Myanmar but much more a regional problem that needs regional solution and interventions. Just to note, in the context of Southeast Asia, migration and statelessness are in many ways very much interconnected. Statelessness in most cases has been both a cause and a consequence of the movement and displacement of people in the region. The issue of statelessness as a consequence and a cause of migration is a socio-political countenance in ASEAN that needs to be confronted if the region is to prosper in its vision of having a people-centered regional integration wherein the free movement of persons as part of the ASEAN framework for regional integration is to bear fruits. 

Thus, the crux of the problem is the twosome quandary of the status of statelessness of the Rohingyas, and the extreme discrimination they are facing as a people from the government of Myanmar and its Buddhist population. 

And since Myanmar is a huge part of the problem and at the same time the key to the resolution of this colossal humanitarian crisis, the international community must ensure that Myanmar will do its part in ensuring the resolution of this problem through the exercise of maximum pressure. Myanmar on the other hand must address the problem of statelessness of the Rohingyas if the plight of the boat people has to be resolved. There is no other way. Addressing statelessness can to a greater extent facilitate deterrence and preclusion of massive forced displacement, veer social tension, and boost human capital. The recognition of this problem by the Myanmar government, coupled with the pressure coming from the international community on Myanmar to address this problem can serve as stimuli for all these actors and players to layout practical strategies and solutions. 

For the Myanmar government, it is not enough that it made pronouncements telling the whole world that it will provide humanitarian assistance to these "boat people". As a responsible government, it should integrate Rohingyas as part of the ethnic minorities of Myanmar, and part of the body of citizens/nationals of the country. The Rohingyas should be given proper identification and should be documented. Only by doing these that the Rohingyas will enjoy their fundamental rights and the extreme discrimination and human rights atrocities accorded to these people will cease to exist. Only through these that this massive humanitarian crisis of the "boat people" will truly be addressed and migration of Rohingyas as a consequence of their status of statelessness will to a considerable degree be lessened if not totally eradicated. 

These people have the fundamental right to a nationality, and this fundamental right is incorporated in almost all major and contemporary human rights instruments as enthused by article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that, "everyone has the right to a nationality". Concurring with international law, the Myanmar government is obligated to address the issue of statelessness of the Rohingyas if it wants to gain the recognition of the world as sincere in its vision of transforming the country into a truly democratic state. 

For the third countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, as they face the impending massive influx of migrant Rohingyas seeking solace and humanitarian assistance along their shores, it is but of the essence that these countries recognize these people as stateless persons. It is only through this recognition that these "boat people" will be able to enjoy their fundamental rights to life, to education, to healthcare, and many others as set out under international law until their situation is resolved. This is what protection and promotion of human rights truly means. In accordance with their human rights obligations, and under international law, states bear the responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of all persons within their jurisdiction, including those who are stateless without discrimination.

Philippines making plans to accommodate 3,000 Rohingya migrants

Source channelnewsasia, 22 May

The Philippines has said it is ready to help in solving the issue of Rohingya refugees stranded on ships in the region, making plans with UNHCR to accommodate about 3,000 migrants. 

Rohingya men from Myanmar prepare for Friday prayers at a confinement area for migrants at Bayeun, Aceh province on May 22, 2015 after more than 400 Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued by Indonesian fishermen on May 20. (Photo: AFP/ROMEO GACAD)

MANILA: The Philippines government has held a series of high level meetings with UNHCR to formalise plans to temporarily house the Rohingya refugees. 

Earlier this week, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the government is open to sheltering up to 3,000 refugees. Some analysts say such preparation is key for the plan to be successful. 

"They are already scouting around for several venues, but the venue is the least of our concern," said Clarita Campos, political science professor, University of the Philippines. "It's more important to figure out the medical needs of the migrants, as well as other health and food requirements first.

"Then later on, we need to think about education and job requirements. All of this has to be planned out and planned well."

While it is unlikely the boats carrying the refugees will reach Philippine shores, the government has said they are looking forward to being part of the solution to this regional humanitarian crisis.

The Philippines will present its position at the May 29 meeting in Bangkok which will bring together more than a dozen governments from Southeast Asia and beyond.

The UNHCR's Philippines representative said the country has the necessary legislative framework to take in the refugees, such as the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.

"The Philippines has experience dealing with refugee status to determine and to undertake individual interviews with people to understand the conditions which have pushed them into this ordeal - and to determine whether they are in need of international protection or not," said Bernard Kerblat, Philippine Representative, UNHCR.

The Philippines has had a long history of helping refugees, including persecuted Jews during World War II, Vietnamese boat people during the Vietnam War and the Chinese during the rise of communism and their civil war period.

But officials say proper measures also have to be in place to help classify these Rohingya migrants.

"They have to be able to establish their status," said Banuar Falcon, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. "Some process has to be made available to them. There are reports that the migrants are a mix of members belonging to a persecuted community and other economic refugees seeking greener pastures."

A Philippine Refugee Processing Center was set up in Bataan in the Central Luzon area where previous refugees stayed before being re-settled elsewhere.  That has since fallen into disuse due to lack of funding.  But the government also said it was mindful of resource limitations while it is still implementing a rehabilitation and reconstruction program for areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

- CNA/rw

Turkish military ship joins efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims

Source world bulletin, 21 May


Turkish military ship joins efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims

The Turkish government has sent Turkish military ships to reach the Rohingya Muslims stranded off Thailand and Malaysia

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Turkish navy is carrying out efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims stranded in boats off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.

Addressing a group of young people at Çankaya Palace May 19, Davutoğlu said that Turkey was doing its best to reach Rohingya Muslims at sea with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the help of a ship from the Turkish Armed Forces already sailing in the region.

Some 7,000 to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are currently thought to be in the Malacca Straits, unable to disembark because of crackdowns on trafficking networks in Thailand and Malaysia, their primary destination.  

Boats carrying about 500 members of Myanmar's long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim community washed ashore in western Indonesia on May 10, with some people in need of medical attention, a migration official and a human rights advocate said.

The men, women and children arrived on two separate boats, holding 430 people and 70 people respectively, said Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission at the IOM in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.

Rohingya Muslims have suffered for decades from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar.

Attacks on the religious minority by Buddhist mobs in the last three years have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War, sending 100,000 people fleeing, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project. The project has monitored the movements of Rohingya for more than a decade.

Tightly confined and with limited access to food and clean water, Lewa said she worries that the migrants' health is steadily deteriorating. Dozens of deaths have been reported in the last few months.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Queen Mary University of London: Myanmar's Rohingya humanitarian crisis is the product of genocide

Circulated by Dr. Zarni,

Humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya Muslims is the product of genocide, according to researchers from Queen Mary University of London
"The Rohingya are faced with only two options: stay and face annihilation, or flee."
[For immediate release]
London, 16 May 2015: Persecution of the Rohingya minority by the Myanmar government amounts to genocide, according to field research from the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), based at Queen Mary University of London.
Experts from ISCI, led by Professor Penny Green, conducted four months of fieldwork in Myanmar between October 2014 and March 2015. The team was based primarily in Rakhine state, the home of the Muslim minority. There, they undertook detailed research which exposes the Myanmar state's crimes against the Rohingya.
The current crisis is, according to Professor Green, the direct result of government sponsored actions against the Rohingya, which together amount to genocide.
"The Myanmar government's ongoing persecution of the Rohingya minority has, in the last two years, reached a level so untenable that tens of thousands haven been forced to flee on boats. The current exodus of those seeking asylum is just one manifestation of persecution consistent with genocide," said Professor Green.
According to Professor Green, there is a general reluctance to define an event as genocide until after mass killing begins. However, ISCI research reveals that the historic and current conditions of persecution against the Rohingya minority have developed into genocidal practice.
"Our research is being conducted within a state crime framework in which genocide is understood as a process, building over a period of years, and involving an escalation in the dehumanisation and persecution of the target group. The Rohingya have been subject to stigmatisation, harassment, isolation, and systematic weakening. The Rohingya are faced with only two options: stay and face annihilation, or flee. Those who remain suffer destitution; malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood, land ownership; and the ever present threat of violence and corruption," said Professor Green.
Details and more information about ISCI's findings, concerning the stigmatisation; harassment; isolation; and systemic weakening of the Rohingya are set out in the notes below. These initial findings are drawn from a report to be published in September 2015. The research is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The research team includes Professor Penny Green, Dr Thomas MacManus, and Alicia de la Cour Venning.

Media enquiries:
Researchers are available for comment and interview. Please contact:
Mark Byrne
Public Relations Manager (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Queen Mary University of London
T: 020 7882 5378
M: 078 1590 2560

From ISCI's forthcoming research:
Stigmatisation
Emerging from decades of oppression and poverty, Rakhine state is ripe for economic exploitation, particularly in relation to natural resources. Demonising the Rohingya as 'illegal Bengali immigrants', the Myanmar state has manipulated genuine Rakhine grievances and Buddhist monks' insecurities to foster conditions for ongoing persecution and violence for social, political and economic gain. The Myanmar government has been central in stigmatising the Rohingya, allowing hate speech, Islamophobia, the publication of inflammatory newspaper reports, and nationalism to flourish. The entire Rohingya population has recently been further disenfranchised, ahead of elections scheduled for November this year. However, the granting of citizenship cards with voting rights will not be enough to end the genocidal process. Citizenship has, for example, afforded little protection for the Kaman Muslim ethnic minority in Rakhine state.

Harassment
Physical violence resulted in some 200 deaths in Sittwe in 2012, and the threat of violence remains ever present for the Rohingya. Those responsible have enjoyed complete impunity for the violence. Our research reveals that the violence was planned and organised by local authorities supported by local civil society organisations, and political and Buddhist leaders. Continued harassment has contributed to the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

Isolation
More than 100,000 Muslims, formerly living in mixed Rakhine and Rohingya communities, have been forced into squalid camps in an overcrowded and isolated detention complex on the outskirts of Sittwe. A further 4,250 Rohingya live a precarious existence in downtown Sittwe's militarised ghetto, Aung Mingalar. Dehumanised and destitute, Sittwe's Rohingya live what can only be described as a 'bare life'. The parallels with 1930s Germany are undeniable.
Systematic weakening

Systematic weakening is the genocidal stage prior to mass annihilation. Physically and mentally weakened, and living in broken communities devoid of social cohesion, the Rohingya have been stripped of agency and human dignity. The expulsion of Médecins Sans Frontières and the regulation of humanitarian aid are state actions designed to systematically weaken the Rohingya community. As the Rakhine National Party spokesperson declared in his interview with us (January 2015), "When the international community give them [Rohingya] a lot of food and a lot of donations, they will grow fat and become stronger, and they will become more violent."
Background and biographies:
·        
More information about the International State Crime Initiative

·        Biography, Professor Penny Green

·        Biography, Dr Thomas MacManus

·        Biography, Alicia de la Cour Venning

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Rohingyas, the Victims of Sustained Genocidal Persecution for Nearly 40 Years

Source ihhakademi, 14 May

Rohingyas, the Victims of Sustained Genocidal Persecution for Nearly 40 Years

Interview with Dr Maung Zarni

Grave atrocities Rohingya people are facing in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is alarming. The Rohingya people numbering 1,3 million is a Muslim minority living in the Arakan state in western Myanmar. Although they are living in the country for generations they are denied citizenship and basic necessities including basic healthcare, work and schooling. They are primary targets of hate crimes and discrimination amounting to genocide fueled by extremist nationalist Buddhist monks and Thein Sein government. Yet there are notable figures within the country who embrace Rohingya struggle and dares to speak about the condition of Rohingya. Buddhist scholar Dr Maung Zarni, member of the Permanent People's Tribunal on Sri Lanka and a co-author of The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya (2014) is an outspoken critic of racist nationalism and violence in his native country. As a prominent dissident of semi-military regime of Thein Sein, he has fled from Myanmar due to safety concerns and resides in London. We conducted an interview via email with Dr Zarni offering invaluable insights into the complex sociopolitical situation in Myanmar today.

Some Rakhine Buddhists argue that they are falsely accused and they are real victims who are under constant threat in their own land. Do you think this is true? Do you think that both Muslims and Buddhists have equal share in escalating violence?

Both Rohingyas and Rakhines are victims of Burmese oppression. The Rohingyas fare worst as they suffer from double-oppression: the legalized persecution by the Burmese central government since early 1978, and direct and state-organized terror campaigns to drive them out of Burma -on grounds that they pose a "threat to national security" because of their historical and anthropological link with former East Bengal (East Pakistan until 1973 and Bangladesh since Bangladesh's independence in 1973)- and the racist and majority Buddhist Rakhine who treat them like dirt.

The Rakhines are a colonized people by the Buddhist Burmese since 1785 when their kingdom was decimated by the invading Burmese. The Rakhines outnumber Rohingya by 3/1. Rakhines man local administrative and authority structure, in addition. So, when Rakhines say they are threatened by the Rohingyas, it is really a case of Rakhines scapegoating the Rohingyas for the real oppression, colonial control and economic exploitation by the Burmese and the Burmese military. Because the Burmese military is way too powerful for the Rakhines to rise up against the Rakhine take their rage and grievances out on the most vulnerable but widely disliked Rohingyas in their midst.

The Rohingya population was denied to self identify in the 2014 nationwide census. What consequences do you foresee?

Not only are they denied the right to self-identity -which is international legal/human rights norm- they are being forced to assume an identity as "Bengali" by their oppressor: both the Burmese regime and the Rakhine and other Buddhists, especially the majority Burmese. The consequences are of genocidal proportions: destruction of the entire ethnic community, both starting and ending with the identity erase.

Myanmar is to hold general elections in 2015. Do you think elections' result will reduce the role of military in politics? Is there a possibility of emerging of a new political cadre which will address the Rohingya issue?

Regardless of what happened in the elections, whoever wins, there is generally speaking no political class or circle among the pro-democracy, pro-human rights opposition movement or the ruling military regime. They all share common genocidal strain of racism against the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi is no better in this regard, except she is likely to respond more positively to the international pressure than the regime has been.

The military will find ways to control politics and economy -in spite of the elections- as long as the Constitution is not changed significantly, especially the 3 clauses: 1) which legalizes any future coup by the commander in chief; 2) bars any type of judicial persecution against the military oppressors and 3) guarantee 25% of the parliamentary seats.

The leader of the 969 Movement, Monk Ashin Wirathu stated several times that the movement is unfairly blamed for rising Islamophobia in the country. And President Thein Sein defended Wirathu saying his order was just striving peace and prosperity. How do you see these remarks?

Wirathu was on the record (tape-recorded and it is now on line) that he wanted to launch and lead a campaign to purge Burma of all Muslims -"starve them to death, make them homeless"- in a style of a CIA operation -all in his own words. His intention was made public to a gathering of hundreds of monks at a well-known Buddhist pavilion in Mandalay as early as 2004 before he was sentenced to jail and jailed, for his involvement in burning alive an entire Muslim family -a well-to-do grocer and a Haj returnee- in his birthplace called Kyauk Hse (about 45 minutes drive from Mandalay).

Burmese intelligence and the entire government of Thein Sein (and before him the now aging despot General Than Shwe) knew all this. But the problem is the military regime agrees with Wirathu's ideas. Myanmar generals have systematically "cleansed" the armed forces in Burma of all Muslim officers over the past 53 years -as a matter of unstated anti-Muslim policies. In fact, only Buddhists are promoted. Now the military has stopped recruiting any Muslims for any rank, however low in the armed forces. In addition,Reuters news agency documented that the highest level of military leadership has authorized and commissioned the Ministry of Religious Affairs to publish anti-Muslim writings over the past 27 years -starting with Than Shwe's boss named Senior General Saw Maung. So, when Thein Sein as President was defending Wirathu he is lying with a straight face. Nothing less.

Do you think the Arakan conflict is for the advantage of Burmese government since Arakanese Muslims are often treated as a scapegoat?

Yes, so far the horizontal aspect of the conflict in Rakhine between Rohingyas and the Rakhine has enabled the regime in central Burma to divert attention of the domestic constituency -mainly Buddhist monks and Burmese public- away from the real issue of continued control of economy and power in the country. But mind you the conflict has been exploited, expanded and blown out of proportions by the Burmese military -which is the original sponsor of a state-directed, legalized and policy-induced mass persecution- in a word, genocide -of the Rohingyas.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a prominent opposition figure having massive popularity inside the country and abroad. Yet she kept quiet on the rights of minorities in the country especially Rohingya. What are the reasons behind it? Do you think it may change in the near future if she prevails in the political struggle with Thein Sein and military?

She is a racist herself -who has justified Islamophobia of the Buddhists on Britain's Radio Four, in the fall of 2013- to a famous TV and radio interviewer Mishal Hussein. There is no factual basis or prospect that she will be less racist in the least likely event that the military will ever let her assume presidency.

Myanmar is an ethnically diverse county and Rohingya is not the only Muslim minority in the country. How is the relationship of Rohingya with other minorities? Are all minorities subject same kind of aggressive minority policies of the government?

No, only Rohingyas are the victims of sustained genocidal persecution for nearly 40 years. Other minorities, Buddhists and Christians (including Karens and Kachins and Chins, etc.) as well as even non-Rohingya Muslims are racist towards the Rohingyas -as the direct result of nearly 40 years of the media and the education system demonization and illegalization of the Rohingyas.

How did British colonial administration treat the Muslim community in the country? What are the legacies of British colonial administration regarding the Arakan issue?

British colonialism was not simply about economic exploitation and political control. It was a huge edifice of multiple-racisms. British colonial rulers were racist and genocidaires themselves. It is well-documented that the British exported their racism -then justified on pseudo-scientific anthropology of the late 1900 AD- to its colonies. Ethnic and racial divide and rule was a corner stone of British colonial administrations all over the world. But generally, Britain is an irresponsible colonial master; to date Britain refuses to help address the problems of racial and ethnic conflicts around the world many of which have roots in their policies 100-200 years ago, from Palestine and the Middle East to India and Pakistan to Burma.

Discriminative policies including restrictions on marriages and birthrates were in force before Thein Sein. What are additional discriminative policies introduced in his term of presidency?

Restriction on population growth on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion and nationality is considered an act of genocide -out of five acts, when pursued with the intent to gradually destroy or reduce the number of a particular people. So, this genocidal population policy has been expanded by Thein Sein himself, when he requested the Parliament to draft four new laws that will restrict interracial and religious marriages. In addition, it is Thein Sein who revoked the last Rohingya legal documentation -the temporary registration cards issued to the Rohingyas in exchange for the formerly/originally citizenship cards.

If you would suggest a roadmap to break the cycle of violence against Arakan Muslims what would the main points be?

The roadmap will start with the UN -and key powers in the Security Council- holding a serious International Conference on the Rohingya affairs. Burma is a signatory since Dec 1949 of the UN Genocide Convention -which came into effect on 9 Dec 1948. As such, it is in violation of the treat- the Convention is a binding treaty, not just a resolution. The conference will call for immediate lifting of all restrictions and disruptions on humanitarian aid including food, medicine, and medical treatment; calls for the guarantee for the physical safety of all Rohingyas from the attacks by local racist Rakhine groups; calls for the end of blanket impunity for those local troops and Rakhine racists alike who harm Rohingyas; calls for the restoration of basic human rights; calls for the restoration of citizenship of anyone who belongs to the Rohingya ethnic community; and recognize their right to self-identity -and end the official denial that they were ever an ethnic group, on the basis of the government's documentation that irrefutably established the Rohingyas as the officially recognized ethnic group of Burma starting in the 1950s and ending around 1965.

International community has welcomed democratic reforms of Thein Sein and removed international sanctions. Yet the Rohingya situation has improved little. Do you think that international pressure to the government would result in policy change regarding Arakan?

Thein Sein regime reformed not out of will but out of a very difficult political and strategic situation where it was forced to rely on China and Russia alone -and in the face of the collapse of dictatorships in the Arab world where the leaders ended up being killed or jailed.

The only way the regime will change its genocidal policy towards the Rohingya is by sustained, strategic and serious international pressure. Only when they understand there will be a heavy price for them to pay internationally -in terms of economic squeeze, threats of arrests and trial at the International Criminal Court or support for the radicals in the country will the regime come to their senses and behave. They are thugs and bullies, in essence, who dare to beat up and murder the weak and the weaponless. The only language they understand and appreciate is bigger force, more powerful bully.

What do you think about the role of international relief organizations in the region? What kind of projects would you suggest to improve conditions of Rohingya people?

Humanitarianism is all well and fine. It plays an ameliorative role. But the root cause is politically and racially driven genocide. In situations of genocide, humanitarianism is woefully inadequate. It is a band-aid, not a cure.

Why No One Wants The Rohingyas

Source NPR, 15 May


Newly arrived Rohingya migrants gather at Kuala Langsa Port in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Friday after coming ashore. Most such migrants have been prevented from making port in Southeast Asia.

Newly arrived Rohingya migrants gather at Kuala Langsa Port in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Friday after coming ashore. Most such migrants have been prevented from making port in Southeast Asia. Binsar Bakkara/AP hide caption itoggle caption Binsar Bakkara/AP

The spectacle of thousands of desperate Rohingya Muslim "boat people" being denied landfall in Southeast Asia has laid bare the region's religious and ethnic prejudices as well as its fears of being swamped by an influx of migrants.

An estimated 6,000 or more such migrants are stranded at sea in Southeast Asia. Most of the people on the overcrowded and unseaworthy boats are thought to belong to the 1.3 million-strong Rohingya minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Others are believed to be from Bangladesh.

Reuters reports that while nearly 800 migrants on one boat were brought ashore Friday in Indonesia, other boats crammed full of people were turned away.

Such refusals underline "the hardening of Southeast Asia governments' stance on the boatloads of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar," Reuters says. The Rohingya practice a blend of Sunni and Sufi Islam.

'No Stomach' For Migrants

At best, the migrants have been received with resignation — at worst with contempt — even by the region's Muslim nations. As we've reported recently, many are victims of human traffickers.

The Thai and Malaysian navies have both turned away refugee boats in recent days. Indonesia has taken in some migrants but is now refusing to accept them.

Predominantly Buddhist Thailand has been battling an Islamist insurgency in its south for decades and has "no stomach" for bringing in more Muslims, says Lex Rieffel, a nonresident senior fellow and expert on Southeast Asia at the Brookings Institution.

In any case, the country has a long history of dealing with unwanted migrants fleeing conflict in Cambodia and has no desire to repeat that, Rieffel says.

"If they break the law and land in Thailand, how can we take care of them?" Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters Thursday. "Where will the budget come from? That money will need to come from Thai people's taxes, right?"

For Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries, the issue is less clear-cut, Rieffel says, but they are also interested in avoiding the appearance that they are opening the gates.

"We will try to prevent them from entering our territory, otherwise it will create social issues," Reuters quotes Indonesia's military chief Gen. Moeldoko as telling reporters. "If we open up access, there will be an exodus here."

"What do you expect us to do?" Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar was quoted by The Guardian as saying. "We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely, but they cannot be flooding our shores like this."

Michael Buehler, a lecturer in comparative politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, points out that Indonesia has taken in several hundred Rohingya migrants in Aceh Province. Even so, Indonesia — like Thailand and Malaysia — also fears "an uncontrolled influx."

'A Horrible Mess'

Australia, which has dealt with its own influx of economic migrants fleeing Indonesia, says it is providing millions of dollars in urgent humanitarian aid to help cope with the problem.

"There are no easy answers on any aspect of this horrible mess," Rieffel says.

The United States, for its part, has called on regional governments to work together to save lives, but State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke stresses: "This is a regional issue. It needs a regional solution in short order."



View image on Twitter

Kenneth Roth  @KenRoth

"You can't have these people float around until they die." ASEAN, take in Rohingya Muslims! http://bit.ly/1QP8YJW 

9:41 AM - 15 May 2015

 


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called his Thai counterpart Friday to urge Bangkok to give the refugees temporary shelter, according to the department.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, has implored the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to do something. Rieffel says that's unlikely to happen.

Unlike the European Union's response to migrants fleeing the North African coast on boats across the Mediterranean, he says, "the reality is that ASEAN is not the U.S. or the European Union."

ASEAN is "not a regional body and it doesn't have a budget or a mechanism for dealing with this situation," Rieffel adds.

And some experts say that simply towing refugees back out to sea may be illegal under international maritime law.

"These boats carrying overcrowded refugees and migrants are typically rickety wooden trawlers and hardly seaworthy," Eric Paulson, executive director for the human rights group Lawyers for Liberty, tells Bloomberg. "Turning or towing these boats away is as good as signing their death warrant as the occupants are normally starving, dehydrated, sickly and in dire need of immediate assistance."

Lawrence B. Brennan, a professor of admiralty and international law at Fordham University, agrees. "Historically, maritime law has the concept of 'port of refuge' for ships and people in peril at sea. There is a long-standing tradition of providing aid and comfort to people who are in danger," he says.

But enforcement is "murky," says Brennan, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps. Jurisdiction is national, not international.

Then there's the issue of time: "The courts have time. Refugees don't," he says.

Malaysia turns away 800 boat people, Thailand spots 3rd boat

Source Associated press, 14 May

Photo by:The Associated Press : Bangladeshi migrants have their lunch at a temporary shelter for the migrants whose boats washed ashore on Sumatra island on Sunday, in Lhoksukon, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara) 

Video:Thousands of migrants stranded at sea near Myanmar ...

▶ 0:55

LANGKAWI, Malaysia — Thousands of Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis abandoned at sea by human traffickers had nowhere to go Thursday, as Malaysia turned away two boats crammed with migrants, and Thailand kept at bay a third boat with hundreds more.

"What do you expect us to do?" Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar said. "We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely but they cannot be flooding our shores like this."

"We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here," he told The Associated Press, just days after about 1,000 refugees landed on the shores of Langkawi, a popular resort island in northern Malaysian near Thailand. Another 600 have arrived surreptitiously in Indonesia.

Southeast Asia, which for years tried to quietly ignore the plight of Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya, finds itself caught in a spiraling humanitarian crisis that in many ways it helped create. In the last three years, more than 120,000 members of the Muslim minority, who are intensely persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have boarded ships to flee to other countries, paying huge sums of money to human traffickers. But in the face of a crackdown by security forces of various countries, the smugglers have been abandoning the ships, leaving the refugees to fend for themselves. An estimated 6,000 remain stranded at sea.

Despite appeals by the U.N. and international aid agencies, no government in the region — Thai, Indonesian or Malaysian — appear willing to take them in, fearing that accepting a few would result in an unstoppable flow of poor, uneducated migrants.

Wan Junaidi said about 500 people on board a boat found Wednesday off the coast of northern Penang state were given provisions and then sent on their way. Another boat carrying about 300 migrants was turned away near Langkawi island overnight, according to two Malaysian officials who declined to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak to the press.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities also spotted a boat with migrants on the sea border between Thailand and Malaysia, Satun province governor Dejrat Simsiri told the AP by phone.

He said Thai boats, including navy and national parks vessels, are now checking out the migrants' boat "to make sure they do not come into Thai waters."

"We are monitoring from afar but it appears that the people are in frail condition ... there are hundreds of them," he said.

Dejrat said Thailand will provide food and fuel, and send them to a "third country" if that's what they want.

"It's unlikely that we will bring them to shore... we will need order from higher officials before we can proceed," he said.

Earlier, Thailand's Foreign Minister Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn said his government will not set up an official refugee shelter for the Rohingya people but is willing to provide short-term assistance based on humanitarian principles.

Malaysia, which is not a signatory of international conventions on refugees, is host to more than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority whom are from Myanmar. More than 45,000 of them are Rohingya, according to the U.N. refugee agency, many more than almost any other country.

But because they have no legal status, job opportunities are limited. They also have little or no access to basic services like education and health care, and are vulnerable to arrests and deportation. A small number is resettled to third countries, again because nobody wants them.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia accused Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia of playing "a three-way game of human ping pong." At the same time, the three countries and other sin Southeast Asia have for years bowed to the wishes of Myanmar at regional conferences, avoiding all discussions of state-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingya.

Denied citizenship by national law, members of the Rohingya minority are effectively stateless. They have limited access to education or adequate health care and cannot move around freely. They have been attacked by the military and chased from their homes and land by extremist Buddhist mobs.

Wan Junaidi, the deputy home minister, said it was time to put pressure on the former pariah-state to address the Rohingya crisis.

"You talk about democracy, but don't treat your citizens like trash, like criminals until they need to run away to our country," he said.

Indonesia denies it had a "push back" policy, saying the Malaysian-bound vessel strayed into its waters by accident.

"This is a grave humanitarian crisis demanding an immediate response," said Matthew Smith, executive director of non-profit human rights group Fortify Rights. "Lives are on the line. Regional governments should act decisively to rescue and protect asylum seekers and trafficking survivors, not drive them back out to sea."

Increasingly over the years, Rohingya boarding boats in the Bay of Bengal have been joined by people from neighboring Bangladeshi, most of them seeking an escape from poverty.

For those fleeing, the first stop until recently was Thailand, where migrants were held in jungle camps until their families could raise hefty ransoms so they could continue onward. Recent security crackdowns forced the smugglers to change tactics, instead holding people on large ships parked offshore.

Initially they were shuttled to shore in groups on smaller boats after their "ransoms" were paid. But as agents and brokers on land got spooked by arrests - not just of traffickers but also police and politicians - they went into hiding.

That created a bottleneck, with migrants stuck on boats for weeks.

___

Doksone reported from Bangkok, Thailand. Associated Press journalists Robin McDowell in Yangon, Myanmar and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed to this report.

Friday, 15 May 2015

'10 deaths' on stranded Myanmar migrant boat

Source BBC, 14 May

  • 1:38   The BBC's Jonathan Head: "This is just the most extraordinary scene


 <iframe src="http://mpd.mxptint.net/1/S1/G1/T3085

Myanmar migrants on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water say 10 people have died, while some are resorting to drinking urine.

The fishing boat, carrying about 350 people of the Muslim Rohingya minority, has been refused entry to Thailand.

Those on board told the BBC the crew abandoned them and disabled the engine. They said the bodies of those who had died were thrown overboard.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have been turning away migrant boats.

Several thousand people are still believed to be stuck in boats off the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia.

Most are Rohingya Muslims who cannot go back to Myanmar, also known as Burma, where they are not recognised as citizens of the country and are regularly persecuted.

The BBC's Jonathan Head reports from alongside the vessel off the southern coast of Thailand, off Koh Lipe, that it is a "desperate sight".

He said: "People are calling out to us begging us for food and water.

"There are a lot of women and children on board. This is a very old-looking fishing boat that's completely packed with people.

"We can see there are actually people drinking their own urine from bottles. We've been throwing them bottles of water - everything we've got on board."

Migrants on the boat
The passengers were abandoned by their crew six days agoMigrants on stranded boat
The boat surrounded by Thai fishing boats
Thai fishing boats found the migrant boat off the southern coast of Thailand

He said blankets had been tied up to try and provide some shelter from the sun. The average maximum temperature is 34C.

The migrants - including 50 women and 84 children - said they had been at sea for three months.

Their situation became critical when their crew abandoned them without a working engine six days ago anchored near the Thai-Malaysian border.

On Wednesday night Thai fishing boats found the boat and it was towed into Malaysian waters.

It was then towed back to Thai waters, our correspondent reports.

A Thai Navy colonel told him the migrants had intended to reach Malaysia, and Thailand would give them food, water and medical attention and let them go on their way.

Our correspondent said that could mean they are rejected again and they are effectively in a "tug of war" between the countries.

lineHumahai, a Rohingya migrant from Myanmar crying in Lhok Sukon Sport Stadium, North Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, 11 May 2015. I
 The migrants have been held in punishing conditions

Who are the Rohingyas?

  • Rohingyas are a distinct, Muslim ethnic group mainly living in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma
  • Thought to be descended from Muslim traders who settled there more than 1,000 years ago
  • Also live in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
  • In Myanmar, they are regularly persecuted - subjected to forced labour, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted
  • In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects

Myanmar's unwanted people

line

Thailand has launched a crackdown to disrupt people smuggler networks since the discovery of dozens of bodies in abandoned camps along regular trafficking routes.

As many as 8,000 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are believed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to be stranded at sea.

People smugglers are reportedly refusing to land their boats because they do not want to follow their usual route through Thailand since the government's campaign against them began.

A senior Thai official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia would all continue to turn the boats away.

Major General Werachon Sukhondhapatipak said that the three countries had decided "not to receive boat people".

On Sunday and Monday more than 2,000 migrants arrived in Malaysia or Indonesia after being rescued or swimming ashore.

The journey the migrants take - from Bangladesh or Myanmar through the Bay of Bengal to Thailand or beyond - takes several weeks. They have been slowed further by the refugees effectively being held hostage in many cases by smugglers.

genocides as inconveniences

by Dr. Zarni, 12 May

Genocides have always been inconveniences and unwelcome nuisances - to those in power. #Myanmar's genocide of over 1 million Rohingyas is no exception.    


Genocides are a garden variety.  Neither the scale of direct killings nor the methods of destruction of a people - on the basis of 1) ethnicity, 2) race, 3) religion and 4) national origin/identity/grouping matters as far as the UN Genocide Convention, a treaty, not a well-meaning humanist resolution like the Responsibility to Protect or so-called R2P.  

The Young Turks, reeling from the loss of Ottoman Empire, emptied the Armenian neighborhoods in 1915, by force-marching hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians across the deadly desert where a large number dropped dead - as they were expected.   When the survival rate proved a bit too high for the Turkish genocidaires they resorted to direct slaughters.  The Americans protested vehemently, and told to take a high.   The rest of "Christian Europe" was business as usual.    100 years later, the Church (Pope Francis) pronounced the 'G' word and led a memorial at St Peter's - just this April.  

The Nazis capitalized on the methodical culture and advancement in science.  General Electric - that now sells turbines to Myanmar today - was only too happy to sell the Nazi its products.  You got Auschwitz, across the borders in Poland.  The Swedes whose weapons Myanmar uses today were happy sellers of Saab engines to Hitler's Air Force.   Why not!??  There was profit to be made, under the guise of 'neutrality' - we in ASEAN calls it 'non-interference principle'.   The British intelligence knew Hitler's 'dark intention' as early he came to power and built the first concentration camp a short drive outside of Munich - at Dachau; but the Jew haters who ran Britain, symbolically (that is, the Buckingham Palace) and politically (10 Downing and the Foreign and Colonial Office (euphemistically termed 'British Foreign and Commonwealth', but the Brits vacuumed everything worth anything from other people's societies and Environments) looked the other way.  Aside from the typical anti-Semitism of Eaton-Oxbridged Upper Crust - remember the day when women, Jews, blacks and dogs were not allowed in the Enlightened institutions of the ruling classes in Anglo-American world which now parades itself as the torch-bearer of "Civilization" - Britain was more interested in collaborating with Hitler's military intelligence which had unparalleled knowledge of  Uncle Joe and his Soviets.   So, Britain of Scottish and English Enlightenment chose to feed the Jews to the likes of Himmler.  The Swiss that gave the world such wonderful things like  'Red Cross' and the principle of 'neutrality' when humans slaughtered one another by the hundreds of thousands were happily depositing the Nazi gold teeth and other genocidal loots in the old town Geneva.  All Mighty Christian God and his beautiful cathedral can co-exist with such dark institutions as Swiss banks with sick histories - against the beautiful backdrop of Swiss Alps.   The end of 'civilization' (or Reason and Enlightenment) as the world knew it then.  (Incidentally, the knowledge of USSR was so sought after by the Anglo-Americans that several thousand Nazis - including SS and intelligence officers - who were made redundant by the Nazi's defeat got put on Washington's payroll - all paid for by US tax payers.   If JP Morgan with a honorary doctorate from Oxford was bankrolling Harvard-trained Hitler's men to 'develop' the Germany economy then the Americans who were told their heroic troops saved humanity in the Old Europe they were kept in the dark - for about 70 years - that that humanity-saving Government in Washington was employing useful Nazis - while executing not-so-useful Nazis at Nuremberg.   

Fast forward to USSR's Gulags.    Stalin destroyed the lives of millions - 30 millions? - after 26 million Russians perished in the war with his buddy Hitler.   Of course, Uncle Joe from Georgia couldn't care less these Russians were slaughtered or dropping dead like flies.    Ah, that doesn't count as 'genocide' because the genocide convention was crafted to exempt destroying one's political enemies on grounds of ideology: ethnicity was - and is still - widely misconstrued to be a biological matter, not an ideology. (what is religion, which is covered by the 1949 Convention, if not an Ideology   - with a bold-faced big 'I'?  So, Russians on Russians; Commies on commies.  Who cared beyond substance for anti-USSR  propaganda!!??

Then come Indonesian genocide of the Chinese in 1960s.   No it was not a genocide.   It was part of the Cold War era necessity.   The CIA was giving the list of Commie suspects.  The Indonesian patriots and nationalists - meaning anti-Chinese genocidal racists - were unleashing the dogs of death on a few million Chinese.  Those who survived felt compelled to assume a new identity: so skinned Mr Wong and his family, for instance, would morphed into the Wanandis, post-Chinese genocide.   

What of the infamous Khmer Rouge, led by the French- and Thai-trained Khmer intellectuals?    (Pol Pot and one other bloke did their advanced degrees in France while Brother Number was enrolled at a top Thai law program in Bangkok)  The Khmer Rouge used young teenagers as executioners; they were very frugal.   No bullets; they were to be saved for the Vietnamese troops and the Yankees. Systematic underfeeding of its dystopian victims did its intended job.   Khmers were dropping dead like flies - like the Armenians before them in Kurdish deserts, except in their own cooperative farms - Kempuchaean gulags, really.   In nearly 4 years, a third of the population was wiped out.   Jimmy Carter's USA - yes, that Mr Human Rights and Peace, the ultimate Elder of the Elders - decided to not only seat the post-genocidal genocidaires - now kicked out into the jungles of Khmer-Thai borders by the Vietnamese intervention - at the UN as the 'sole legitimate representative' of the Khmer people; Vietnam was a Soviet proxy, so Khmer-on-Khmer slaughters by the million - nearly 2 million perished in less than 4 years - was preferable to the Red menace in Phnom Penh.  China did its part, pumping nearly $10 billion into the post-genocidal Pol Pot regime while the United Kingdom and Thailand gave respective helping hands.    Nearly 40 years on the dark event in the Killing Fields, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal - in its 7th or 8th year, now proudly funded by  the United States - because ECCC ( its acronym) would not raise the role of the Americans - the likes of Kissinger and his policy of 'carpet bombing' of Cambodia - in precipitating the Khmer-on-Khmer (and Khmer on Chinese, Cham and Vietnamese) genocides.  "Tell your Khmer friends that we don't mind that they are bastards, as long as they act as our bastards" - paraphrasing the renowned statesman and an idol of International Relations-types, namely Kissinger, who was on the record telling Thai Foreign Minister to convey the official sentiment tinged with dodgy if typical American 'pragmatism'.    (How a Jew who escaped the Nazis in Germany himself morphed into something far worse is a story for another time).   

You see.  I can go on and on and on about different genocides.   Not really an apt metaphor, but genocides are like a garden in spring time.   They come in different forms, shapes, smells, on different terrains, under different climates, on different soils. 

But invariably genocides are joint ventures - like economic exploitation, nah, DEVELOPMENT!   Some finance them.  Others partake in them.   A few clever ones would help whitewash, make light, deliberately mis-frame so that no one with an important political, economic, cultural or intellectual mission would be inconvenienced.   Pundits who desire a seat at the table, space for quotes, or air time would tailor their analyses to suit the ears that cannot be inconvenienced.  

My own country's genocide  in Myanmar, I take it very personally. Literally some of the leading genocidaires are my family friends, old mates and acquaintances.  Some helped lay the legal foundation - like the late Rakhine historian Saya U Aye Kyaw and Ne Win's legal hand Dr Maung Maung,  trained at Lincoln's Inn and Utrecht while having taught at Yale Law - for the Rohingya genocide.  Some Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, trained by Ben Anderson at Cornell, helps develop our own Burmese version of "Final Solution" - the Rakhine Action Plan, and sweet-handles  Soros, UN and other influential officials.  Then Thant Myint-U who moves in influential circles talking about saving the colonial heritage - Rangoon - while the real mission is saving the generals from un-due external pressure from reforming, ending the civil war - and yes, stopping their inter-general slow-burning genocide of the Rohingyas.  Even the Nobel Lady has observed Noble Silence and, in a misguided, typical Aung San Suu Kyi fashion, takes global criticism stoically on the issue of the unfolding genocide of her political partners in Naypyidaw  the likes of Shwe Mann, Min Aung Hlaing and the puppet president Thein Sein.  

When the Rohingyas were no more as a people in my country, how they were wiped up will attract many scholars and experts.  For this is the longest and most imaginatively executed genocide in recorded history of all genocides.  The methods, the pace, the laws, the players, the perpetrators evolve over a long span of nearly 40 years, since the Far Eastern Economic Review, then a reputable regional news magazine, sounded an alarm that Burma was building an apartheid.   Now FEER itself is no more.   But the genocide the seedling of which FEER's editors kinda forsaw is a fully grown tree: the Burmese Way to Rohingya Destruction is on display.

But like in any other case before Myanmar's genocide of 4 decades the powerful and the influential and those who should - and do - know better don't want to inconvenience themselves.  So, genocide is served up in the mass media as 'human trafficking', (forced and economic/voluntary) 'migration', human rights abuses, 'humanitarian crisis' 'communal conflict'.  

Human rights organizations that are bold enough to say the inconvenient 'G' word or 'R' word (for Rohingyas) do misconstrue, wittingly or not, the dark phenomenon that is unfolding before our eyes as if genocide were only about large scale direct killings, slaughter-house scenario.  

Mass graves, washed up humans, sea-stranded victims, starving infants, desperate humans caged behind barbed-wired fences, dying old or sick Rohingyas, murdered pregnant women, raped girls, or worse.   

None - absolutely none - of the above moves the really serious world of policy makers, academics, politicians and marketizers, beyond media and popular voyeurism. 

In his head as a teenager in pre-Nazi Poland, the late Raphael Lemkin asked a 6 million $ question, paraphrasing him: how come killing one man (a Turkish home minister and genocidaire on the streets of Berlin by an Armenian survivor of Turkish genocide) constitutes a murder while killing a million amounts to nothing.

We have to ask a similar question:  Myanmar's generals have officially commissioned the crime of the slow genocide since 1978 that still burns on with its dribbling effects with occasional spikes of direct killings.  And all that the world wants to do is to have a conversation about them not being nice to the wretched of Myanmar, the genocided Rohingyas.  

That sick war criminal Donald Rumsfeld might say, 'we don't live in the world we like; we live in the world that exists'.  

Sadly - and tragically for the Rohingyas - we do live in the world where genocides are always considered inconveniences.   

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

More Rohingya burial grounds found off Phuket

Source thephuketnews, 13 May

1431486644_1-org.jpg


Officials inspect the area believed to hold the bodies of Rohingya human trafficking victims.

PHUKET: — Officials from Takua Pa in Phang Nga have been requested by the Imam of Baan Ao Kaiey to exhume the bodies of two Ronhingyas who were buried at the local Islamic cemetery by a local hospital.

At noon yesterday (May 12), Phang Nga Police, Chief Lt Gen Chalit Kaewyarat; Phang Nga town clerk, Tinkorn Musikwat, and Takua Pa district chief, Manit Peintong, led local officials and police to search the Islamic cemetery in Moo 4 Baan Ao Kaiey in Kuraburi district after being informed that the bodies of Ronhingya human trafficking victims may have been buried there.

Officials discovered several graves in the area, which is located next to the border of Ranong and is an abandoned Rohingya detention camp. The camp had been raided by police several months ago.

Officials also found a further area where they believe Rohingyas had been buried in Moo 12 Baan Suan Mai Kuraburi.

Officials said that the areas were old detention camps for Rohingyas who had travelled from Ranong and stayed in Kuraburi temporarily before being transported to Satun and Songkhlar.

Takua Pa District Chief, Manit Peintong, said that they had been asked to go to the areas after the local Imam had asked them to exhume the bodies of two Ronhingyas buried in the cemetary after they had been found floating in the sea.

Officials found many burial sites near the abandoned Rohingya detention camps that they believe hold the bodies of Rohingya human trafficking victims.

Searches of the areas are continuing.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Is Derek Tonkin Delusional or simply Silly?

by Dr. Habib Siddiqui, 9 May

Derek Tonkin's latest article has appeared in his website, Network Myanmar. I had no intention to take a crack at Derek Tonkin's piece. After all, he is working for the murderous Myanmar regime promoting its cause and advocating for outside investment. His opinion is highly biased. And as I have noted a few times, he does this devil's job in a sly way abusing history to fit his ulterior motives. Nevertheless, I felt obliged to point out some inconsistencies in his latest article. 

 

I shall pick just a few points of his latest article. [There are plenty more which could have been discussed; but I felt it is unnecessary to waste my time and those of my readers. On the British-era demographic controversy, an interested reader may like to read my detailed analysis of the subject in my book - Muslim Identity and Demography in the Arakan State of Burma (Myanmar), which is available in the Amazon.com]

 

Tonkin is critical of Dr. Maung Zarni's thesis of the 'Slow burning genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya'. He claims that Dr. Zarni has claimed in his work, co-authored with Alice Cowley, that the present-day problems of the Rohingya only started in 1978. That would be a misreading of the work.

 

As I mentioned in some of my speeches, lectures and articles, the persecution of the Muslims of Arakan can at least be traced back to the time of Bodaw Paya's invasion and conquest of Arakan in 1784 when tens of thousands were killed; some 200,000 fled to Bengal (today's Bangladesh). As I have noted elsewhere, the tension between Rakhine plus Burman Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan worsened during the Second World War when emboldened by the fascist Japanese occupying forces, Muslims were ethnically cleansed from many parts of Arakan by their Buddhist (mostly Rakhine) exterminators. [Note: Some 600,000 Indians were forcibly evicted from other parts of Burma in the early 1940s; tens of thousands died on their way back to India.] So, surely the pogroms did not start in 1978.

 

Contrary to overwhelming documentary evidences, Tonkin claims that there was no desire from the Burmese government to push out the Rohingya from Arakan in 1978. He is referring to the Naga-Min (King Dragon) Operation of February 1978-79, which resulted in exodus of some 200,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh, and the death of at least 12,000. This is tantamount to claiming that the Rohingya voluntarily chose to flee to Bangladesh. This is a disingenuous claim, an absurd theory!

 

In his support of the hated Ne Win regime, Tonkin does not quote any Rohingya refugee that fled to Bangladesh in 1978-79 but a British official, the representative of the same government that had created the mess in the first place when Burma was granted independence while ignoring the precarious matter of this Muslim community that had geographical and historical ties with southern Chittagong (of Bangladesh) and had sided with the British during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Arakan. [As a scheming businessman, he has no qualms today that his friendly Rakhines were on the side of the fascists and killing British soldiers and their supporters during World War Two.] 

 

Dr. Abid Bahar (who submitted his M.A. thesis on the plight of the Rohingya at Chittagong University, and now a professor with Dawson College, Montreal, Canada) did field research work interviewing the refugees who had fled to Bangladesh. His thesis work presents an entirely different picture than what Tonkin would claim in his support of the murderous Ne Win regime. He says, "If Ne Win had really wanted to get rid of 200,000 'Rohingya' said to be illegal immigrants at the time, their unexpected flight to Bangladesh would have been too good an opportunity to miss and he would never have let them back in again. He had after all forced some 300,000 Indians to leave Burma between 1963 and 1967, in the process confiscating all their assets, and this hadn't exactly improved Indian-Burmese relations. But Indian Government concerns had left him totally unmoved (and no doubt there were many Muslims shopkeepers and small businessmen among those sent packing in 1963-67)." [Note: Tonkin's remark above tries to give the impression that many of those evicted Muslims were ordinary shopkeepers and small businessmen. Facts are, however, different. Quite a few of those evicted Muslims were very successful, big businessmen who lost everything. I have met a few of those Muslims who were forcibly evicted by Ne Win.]

 

Well, the case of Indians living in Burma in the 1960s was quite different than that of the indigenous Muslim population of Arakan (irrespective of how Tonkin and his Rakhine criminal buddies like to deny their "R" identity), whose ancestors had settled in Arakan before the Rakhine Buddhists. Most of the Indians living in Rangoon and some other cities like Mandalay were brought in by the British colonial government for a plethora of reasons. Many dockyard coolies were brought in to load and unload ships. Some Muslim businessmen (esp. from Surat and Gujarat) were attracted by the opportunity to expand their business empire in places like Rangoon. Many Hindu clerks, officers, police and soldiers worked for the British Raj. And then there were the much-hated Chettiar money lenders, who were all Hindus. The riots of 1930s and 1940s against the Indians had hardened the Burmese attitude towards them, and Ne Win was able to exploit such national grievances against them when he expelled them en mass, confiscating their properties, much like what President Idi Amin would later do with the British subjects, most of whom were Indians, in Uganda after he had come to power. 

 

Tonkin sounds as if the fleeing Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh by dint of their own volition and were not forced to do so. He is either a pathetic liar or an ignorant person. I am not aware of any group of human beings who had left en mass their ancestral home without any pressure. [Here we are not talking about individual migrations but of a group migration numbering more than a quarter million people in a short duration.] During the Naga Min operation, many Muslims of Arakan were murdered and many Rohingya women and girls were raped by Ne Win's security forces, terrorizing the entire community, thus setting the scenario for their exodus. And yet in his disingenuous attempt to whitewash Ne Win's crime, Tonkin says, "The Arakan Muslims, on the other hand, were not a threat to his [Ne Win's] Burmese Road to Socialism, and as they were mainly farmers were in a very real sense 'sons of the soil'."

 

True, the Rohingyas were not a threat to Ne Win's socialism, and yet his hostile policies led to the Naga Min operation that created the exodus of the Rohingya people. In a military-run government, it would be preposterous to suggest that President Ne Win was not accountable for the pogrom that led to the death of over 12,000 Rohingya. It was the world opinion and international pressure, esp. those from the UN, which motivated Ne Win to take back the refugees. Many Rohingya, however, did not want to go back because of the discrimination that they had faced in Burma since her independence. The once prosperous Muslim community had found itself increasingly marginalized. They lost their jobs, businesses, land and much of personal properties, and were being treated as 'unwanted' in the land of their birth.  As Tonkin himself quoted soon after Burma's independence many Rohingyas were "compelled to leave their ancestral homes as a result of a deliberate Burmese policy to remove them. Massacres by armed forces occurred on 10 and 11 November 1948, and the military told surviving 'Rwangyas that unless they vacated Maungdaw and Buthidaung they would be tortured and butchered like animals and that they were appointed to wipe out the Rwangyas from Maungdaw and Buthidaung'." [Reference:  Confidential Records Branch CRiV-10/51 in the National Archives of Bangladesh.]

 

Interestingly, however, almost in a confessional way, Tonkin says that the Rohingyas driven away from their home in 1978 were truly the 'sons of the soil' of Arakan. Is he not the same person who does not mind lecturing the whole world that the Rohingya are outsiders from Bangladesh? Is he not the same person whose website promotes anti-Rohingya polemics by the regime supporters like him? Which Derek Tonkin to believe who has mastered the art of hypocrisy, half-truths and lies?

 

Tonkin tries to justify Ne Win era crimes on citizenship by saying: "That those Rohingya, possibly as many as two-thirds of their Arakan Muslim communities who enjoyed full citizenship under 1948 legislation, did not receive new IDs was in my analysis due to the recalcitrance and corruption of Rakhine State officials, though central government did nothing to resolve this gross injustice. That is, it was State inaction rather than State action which was to blame, not the provisions of the 1982 Act."

 

Interesting observation! I don't know how Tonkin came about the figure that two-thirds of Arakanese Muslims comprised the Rohingya population. What comprised the remainder 1/3? Is he implying that the remainder had moved from Bangladesh? If he did, he is mistaken or spreading lies. There is no proof of any influx from Bangladesh in the post-liberation period, let alone during the Pakistan era (pre-1971). Aside from that false allegation, does not the central government under a military dictator owe the sole responsibility for why the 'sons of the soil' were not issued ID cards in spite of their 'enjoying' 'full citizenship' under 1948 legislation? 

 

While Tonkin is dismissive about the obvious discriminatory nature of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and criticizes Dr. Zarni for his thesis that the Law had led to the creation of the security-legal framework built around the statelessness of the Rohingya people, he fails to tell us that if the Law was so benign then why are the Rohingyas today stateless? It is difficult to excuse Tonkin's nonchalant attitude on this crucial issue. Does not he realize that Ne Win's statement where he said, "Racially, only pure-blooded nationals will be called citizens" is racism in its worst form? In his speech, Ne Win calls the Rohingya and other racially Indian Muslims and Hindus 'kalas', which is a very disrespectful term akin to 'niggers' in the English language. And I need not quote Ne Win's offensive statement about them to show his hatred of them.  A student of history would concur that the British had epitomized racism; it is no accident that Tonkin sees no problem with Ne Win's racism!

 

As an ex-British government servant, Tonkin is always very generous in his comments about the British era statistics and records. He says, "The degree of detail is impressive, the training of the enumerators detailed, the concern to record every possible variation found in ethno-linguistic analysis truly remarkable." The facts about the census are just the opposite. It is unreliable and highly flawed (my book discussing the British era demography vis-à-vis the so-called Baxter Report points this problem), which has been well recognized and discussed by many unbiased area historians. The census data not only failed in providing accurate estimates of population, but its categorization of people by so-called ethnicity is highly controversial. They are not consistent either. As I have mentioned during my talk at Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, during the British colonial period, its Military Command recorded the Muslim Rohingyas as "Arakanese" and catalogued the Rakhine Buddhists as "Maghs".

 

But more problematic is Tonkin's inability to understand that denial of the right of a group to self-identity constitutes a serious crime. If the so-called Mohamedans or Arakanese Muslims, or Chittagonians of Arakan choose to call themselves as Rohingya, they have every right to do so. I am not sure, if in his delusional mind and despicable arrogance, Tonkin has forgotten the simple fact that Muslims are not Mohamedans [again a term concocted by the missionary English Christians who falsely believed that Muslims worship Prophet Muhammad (S)].

 

Tonkin also forgets or is ignorant of the fact that Muslim identity has always been more important than the so-called linguistic and ethnic identity. During, before and after the British era that is why none of the so-called Dhakaiyas and other Bengalis who spoke colloquial dialects (much like the so-called Chittagonians) identified themselves as such. So, if the British-era records did not mention Rohingyas as a distinct ethnicity, it does not show any unusual pattern but is part of the general Muslim psyche that has been pervasive for centuries. Lest we forget, no Muslim ever called him/her as Mohamedan, and yet the British record depicts them as such.

 

As hinted above, Tonkin does not tell his audience that the British record does not mention Rakhine as a people, but only as Maghs or Buddhists. So, Tonkin's hostility to the Rohingya term depicts his deplorable bias.

 

Another problematic feature of his article is the condescending advice he gives towards a balanced discussion on Arakan. He should be reminded that his Rakhine genocidal maniac friends were invited to come and share the same podium with us in Tokyo and Bangkok, and they chose not to attend. For years, even to this day, these criminal inciters of genocide have refused to include Rohingya people in any discussion about the future of Arakan state. I don't recall Tonkin about reminding them that the Rohingya who comprise slightly less than half the population in Arakan are a legitimate group to have such a dialogue. Instead, his Rakhine-appeasing writings show that he is more interested in his silly, and often self-conflicting, way to disprove the very existence of the Rohingya people. He is delusional and in his unfathomable denial, he is oblivious of the pre-British 17th century Bengali literature that talks about the ancestors of today's Rohingya people. I am sure no argument of mine would cure his serious mental sickness. He has to find his own cure.

 

Obviously, Tonkin is irate about Maung Zarni and other right activists and researchers for poking his blurry eyes to open up and see the Rohingya problem from the eyes of the suffering people, who are termed by the UN as the most persecuted people on earth. And no matter how Tonkin may try to hide the crime of his patrons in Myanmar, the world now knows better that the Rohingya people are facing genocide, and need our help to stop their extinction. The Oslo Conference is a much desired event to bring this tragedy to an end.

 

I can see why Tonkin is upset. He is in the losing side – the side of mass murderers, the holocaust deniers. His delusional remark - In the last 100 years, the wheel has indeed turned full circle. It is no longer the Buddhist Rakhine who are threatened with extinction, but the "Mahomedans" – says it all. [Much in contradistinction to his false accusation 100 years ago Rakhines did not feel threatened by Muslims.] One can only pity an old greedy clown like Derek Tonkin who has not learned when to call it quits. His falsity is simply mind boggling! It is inexcusable and pathetic!