Friday, 1 August 2014

The Rohingya and Their Identity

Source burmatimes, 31 July

"They are generally known as Begalis or Chittagonians, quite incorrectly, and took at they are quite unlike any other product of India or Burma that I have seen. They are resemble the Arab in name, in dress and in habit. The women, and more particularly the young girls, have distintictive Arab touch about them" wrote Anthony Irwin in his Burmese outpost (1946).

"They are called Rohingyas. They are same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kaya, Karen, Mon, Rekhine and Shan. They are one of the ethnic races of Burma," anounced U Nu, the Burma's first elected Prime Minister on September 25, 1954 at 8:00pm from BBS Rangoon.

However, the present Thein Sein government vehemently denies the existence of a Rohingya ethnicity, referring to the group, even in official documents, as "Bengali." Ultra-nationalist Rakhine Buddhists vehemently reject this view, framing the Rohingyas as illegal immigrants who migrated from East Bengal during the British rule of Burma and/or after Burma and Pakistan's independence in 1948 and 1947, respectively.

Although the Government did not convince President Obama and the US Government to use 'Myanmar' instead of 'Burma', now they have success to convince not to use the word 'Rohingya' to the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, who has visited to gather the first-hand information on the country at the invitation of the Government.

The President's Office said in a July 29 statement that the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, needs to pay "serious consideration to [using] the term" if a "long-term solution" to problems in Rakhine are to be achieved. "While the people of Myanmar are ready, and as it has been the case, to accept those who meet the criteria of the 1982 Citizenship Law as citizens, we do not accept the term 'Rohingya' which has never existed in the country's history," the statement said. "The term has been maliciously used by a group of people with wider political agenda. The people of Myanmar will never recognize the term."

On her briefing at Yangon International Airport, on 26 July 2014, Ms Lee said that, 'issues around terminology and citizenship are particularly sensitive. I was repeatedly told not to use the term 'Rohingya' as this was not recognized by the Government.'

'Yet, as a human rights independent expert, I am guided by international human rights law. In this regard, the rights of minorities to self-identify on the basis of their national, ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics is related to the obligations of States to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups, which is a central principle of international human rights law. I also note that various human rights treaty bodies and intergovernmental bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which I chaired for four years and of which I was a member for ten years, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly use the term Rohingya,' she added.

Ethnic identity is an essential human need that provides a sense of belonging and historical continuity and created a foundation on which to build a concept of self. It is an individual's self-concept developed from knowledge of membership in a cultural group. Ethnic identity and self-identity has supported a strong relationship between the two.
According to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' For the 'equal in dignity' the right to self- identification is important. It is very significantly important to know differentially the incomparable difference between "ethnicity or ethnic group and ethno-religious group". "Ethnicity or ethnic group" is a specific term to identify the ancestral background of each community who are eligible to belong an ethnicity—particular language, distinct culture, racial dress, populous territory.

The Rohingya are a nation with a population of more than 3 million (both home and abroad), having a supporting history, separate culture, civilization, language and literature, historically settled territory and reasonable size of population and area. They share a public culture different from the public culture of those around them. They are determined not only to preserve and develop their public culture, but also to transmit to future generations as the basis of their continued existence as people, in accordance with their own cultural pattern, social institution and legal system.

The term

is widely used by the international community to identify a group of Muslims of Arakan. According to Dr. Ganganath Jha of Jawaharlal Nehru University of India, the term Rohingya is derived from Rohang the ancient name of Arakan. The Muslims of Arakan called their country, in their own language, 'Rohang or Roang' and called themselves as Rohangya (Rohang+ya) or Roangya (Roang+ya) means native of Rohang or Roang. In Burmese it is 'ရိုဟင္ဂ်ာ', in Rakhine's pronunciation it will read as 'Rohangya' but in Burmese pronunciation it became 'Rohingya' and now it's established as 'Rhinggya'. Like other peoples of the world, they have needed to identify as Rohingya to some degree for centuries.

In the work of Arab geographer Rashiduddin (1310 AD) it appears as 'Rahan or Raham'. The British travelers Relph Fitch (1586 AD) referred the name of Arakan as 'Rocon'. In the Rennell's map (1771 AD), it is 'Rassawn'. Tripura Chronicle Rajmala mentions as 'Roshang'. In the medieval works of the poets of Arakan and Chittagong, like Quazi Daulat, Mardan, Shamser Ali, Quraishi Magan, Alaol, Ainuddin, Abdul Ghani and others, they frequently referred to Arakan as 'Roshang', 'Roshanga', 'Roshango Shar', and 'Roshango Des'. Famous European traveller Francis Buchanam (1762-1829 AD) in his accounts mentioned Arakan as "Rossawn, Rohhawn, Roang, Reng or Rung". In one of his accounts, "A Comparative Vocabulary of some of the languages spoken in the Burman Empire" it was stated that, "The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan." . The Persians called it 'Rekan'." The Chakmas and Saks from 18th century called it 'Roang'. Today the Muslims of Arakan call the country 'Rohang' or Roang' or 'Arakan' and call themselves 'Rohingya' or native of Rohang.

Rohingya is not simply a self-referential group identity, but an official group and ethnic identity recognized by the post-independence state. In the early years of Myanmar's independence, the Rohingya were recognized as a legitimate ethnic group that deserved a homeland in Burma.

• On 31st December 1942, Brig-Gen C E Lucas Phillips of 14th British Army declared the North Arakan as "Muslim National Area" As per Public Notice No. 11-OA-CC/42. Then formed a Peace Committed headed by Mr. Omra Meah and Mr. Zahir Uddin Ahmed and entrusted for administration of the area. On 1st January 1945 Brigadier C.E Lucas Phillips became the Chief Administrator of the area and appointed members of Peace Committee as administrative officers of the area. The British recognized the Muslims of Arakan as a distinct racial group and the British officer-in-command promised to grant more autonomy in North Arakan.

• In 1947, Hon'ble Bo Let Ya the Deputy Prime Minister, came to visit Maungdaw, to expound the principles laid down in the constitution of the Union of Burma, but it appeared on the "New Times of Burma" that he addressed the inhabitants of Maungdaw as "Chittagonians" which was objectionable and contradictory in relation to the Muslims of North Arakan forming parts and parcel of Indigenous races of Burma. The Prime Minister U Nu expressed regrets for the use of wrong terms "Chittagonians" and as per letter No.153/22 PM 48 dated; 20 February 1948, instructed that it should be either "Arakanese Muslims" or "Burmese Muslims". The term 'Burmese Muslims' published in the form of Press communiqué issued by His Excellency Sir Domon Smith, the Governor of Burma, on 27th September 1941.

• On 30th 1949, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a Burma Gazette Extra Ordinary, as par letter No. 282/ HD- 49, in which it was, mentioned that the Arakanese Muslims of Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships of Akyab district as indigenous peoples of Burma.

• On September 1954, U Nu, the first elected Prime Minister of Burma, in his radio address to nation, announced that, "The people living in northern Arakan are our national brethren. They are called Rohingyas. They are on the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan."

• On 3rd and 4th November 1959, U Ba Swe, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Affairs, in the public meetings of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, announced that, 'The Rohingyas are equal in every way with other minority races like Shan, Kachin, Karen, kayah, Mon and Rakhine. They have lived in Burma ages according to historical facts. There is historical evidence that they have lived faithfully and harmoniously with other races of Burma.'

• On 4th July 1961, Brig-General Aung Gyi, Deputy Chief of Staff, officially explained that, 'On the west, May Yu district borders with Pakistan. As is the case with all borderlands communities, there are Muslims on both sides of the borders. Those who are on Pakistan's side are known as Pakistani while the Muslims on our Burmese side of the borders are referred to as 'Rohingya.' Here I must stress that this is not a case where one single race splits itself into two communities in two different neighbouring countries. If you look at the Sino-Burmese border region, you will see this kind of phenomenon, namely 'adjacent people'. To give you a concrete example, take Lisu of Kachin state, or La-wa (or Wa) and E-kaw of the same Kachin State by the Chinese borderlands. They all straddle on both sides of the borders. Likewise, the Shan can be found on the Chinese side as well as in Thailand – and they are known as 'Tai' or 'Dai' over there…They speak similar language and they have a common religion.'

• The Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma. Their representatives were in the Legislative Assembly, in the Constituent Assembly and in the Parliament. As members of the new Parliament, their representatives took the oath of allegiance to the Union of Burma on the 4th January 1948. Their representatives were appointed as cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. They had their own political, cultural, social organizations and had their programme in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BSS).

• As a Burma's racial groups, they participated in the official "Union Day' celebration in Burma's capital, Rangoon, every year.

• To satisfy part of their demand, the government granted them limited local autonomy and declared establishment of Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) in early 60s, a special frontier district to be ruled directly by the central government.

Thus, the Muslims of Rakhine region over the centuries have had many terms by which to identify themselves, including the terms Rakhine Muslim, Arakan Muslim, and Rohingya, the last of which has become more prominent in recent times.

However, the Rakhine nationalist claims that, the term Rohingya was created in the 1950s to promote the political demands of the Bengalis in Myanmar.

Ethnic identity is not a God-given thing, but different forms of identities are invented and reworked thorough space and time. That's why the process of identity formation is known as 'social construction'. And Ethnicity is not just a 'thing' but also a 'process' in which the state actors impose identities, and the people themselves actively articulate their own identities for the sake of political and material livelihood.

As Burma and Arakan state are the products of the nation-sate formation through a relatively long, history, The name 'Rakhne' and the place 'Arakan' have been "invented" at particular points of time, just like the name "Rohinggya' was invented another points of time. If Rohingya 'migrated' from Bangladesh of somewhere else at one historical point of time Rakhines must have 'migrated' at similar or another historical points of time. But immigrating earlier of later does not negates the problematic reality that both groups have migrated from somewhere else. None of these groups fell from the sky. The claim that the name 'Rohingya' is invented is unacceptable and completely contradicts the very foundational understanding of ethnicity and ethnic identity.

Since 1942, the Rakhine Buddhists pushed the Muslims from the southern Arakan to the northern Arakan.

Since 1962, successive military regimes denied their citizenship right by labeling that they are illegal immigrants from Bangaladesh.

Since 2012, the Thein Sein regime rejected their identity and forcefully making them Bengali.

The Rohingya Muslims of Arakan, both home and abroad, believed that they belong to Burma and they are parts and parcel of indigenous races of Burma. They never try to be Bengali. At present there are more than 3 million Roghingyas both home and abroad. Their only blood related community is the Roai people, a third and fourth generation Rohingyas, who strongly believed that their ancestors were from Arakan or related to Arakan. Their population is round about 10 million lived in Cox's Bazaar district and southern Chittagong district. These peoples are morally concerned to the Rohingyas Muslims of Arakan.

However, the present Thein Sein Government and Ultra- Natiionalits Rakhines are going to forcefully making the Rohingya to Bengali. Then the Bengali peoples became concerned to the case and cause of the Rohuingyas. In Bangladesh, there are 160 million Bengali, in India also about 100 million Bengali and other parts of the world also more than 40 million Bengali. So there are more than 300 million Bengali throughout the world. In the case of the Rohingya has forcefully became Bengali then they will be parts and parcel of other Bengali peoples, and the world's over 300 million Bengali will try to stand behind the ill-fated 3 million Rohingya people. The Government is playing with a great risk that will not good for the country and for the peoples of Burma, particularly for Arakan.

The Arakan problem can be easily solved to the satisfaction of all the stake holders if the Rakhine Buddhist is simply follow the golden rule of "Live and let Live". This will definitely put an end to all the mutual ill-feeling and mistrusts; and there lies mutual happiness for all.

aman_ullah

-- written by Aman Ullah

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, 26 July 2014

Source yangonsite, 26 July

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, 26 July 2014

Introduction:

Good evening and thank you all for coming today. I have just concluded my first official ten- day mission as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The objective of my visit was to assess the human rights situation in Myanmar through a better understanding of the realities on the ground. Accordingly, I sought to engage constructively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including Government officials, political, religious and community leaders, civil society representatives, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community. I was pleased to have had a frank and open exchange of views on a range of matters related to my mandate. And I am grateful that many were so forthcoming in their views on sensitive issues.

Today, I would wish to highlight some preliminary observations from my mission and from additional background research. These issues, along with others, will be elaborated in more detail in the report I will present to the 69th session of the General Assembly later this year.

I would like to warmly thank the Government of Myanmar for its excellent cooperation and flexibility throughout my visit. I would particularly like to note with appreciation the efforts made to ensure my safety and that of my team, including in challenging circumstances. I would also like to thank the United Nations Country Team for giving their full support to this mission and for their invaluable assistance and advice in organizing my programme of meetings.

In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Director –General of the ASEAN Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court, the Chair and members of the Constitutional Tribunal, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Border Affairs, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the Minister of Immigration and Population, the Deputy Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Home Affairs. I also met with Ministers U Soe Thein and U Aung Min in the President's Office, and the Legal, Political and Economic Advisers to the President. Additionally, I met with the Union Election Commission. I was grateful that many provided detailed information highlighting the sequence of events and the context in which certain policy decisions were made or actions were undertaken.

Also in Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the members of various parliamentary committees of the Amyotha and Pyithu Hluttaws and with the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee.

I also had a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, I met with members of the Interfaith Friendship Group of Myanmar and the Interfaith Dialogue Group, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, as well as with civil society actors working on a wide range of human rights issues, media professionals, lawyers and lawyers groups, members of the 88 Generation Student Group and released prisoners of conscience. I visited Insein Prison and met with six prisoners of conscience: Dr. Tun Aung, U Saw Gay They Mu, U Chit Ko, U Saw War Lay, U Htin Kyaw and U Nay Linn Dwe. I also held meetings with the United Nations Country Team, the Humanitarian Country Team and the diplomatic community.
During my mission, I also visited Rakhine State, Kachin State and Mandalay Division. I will elaborate on those visits shortly.

Preliminary observations:
Myanmar is undergoing an important transition and the sweeping and far-reaching reforms that we have seen in recent years have dramatically transformed the political, economic, social and human rights landscape. This was affirmed in my meetings with various Government officials in Nay Pyi Taw. In three years, Myanmar has come a long way since the establishment of the new Government. This must be recognized and applauded.

Yet, there are worrying signs of possible backtracking which if unchecked could undermine Myanmar's efforts to become a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights. As many have said, Myanmar therefore needs further encouragement and understanding in order to address these challenges and to continue on the path of reform. And I hope that my observations and recommendations will be taken in this light.

Shrinking of democratic space:
The opening up of democratic space for people to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of assembly and association is widely acknowledged as one significant achievement in Myanmar's continuing reform process. Yet, in recent months many of my interlocutors have seen the shrinking of that space for civil society and the media.
During my mission, I was informed of the use of the judicial system and the application of outdated legislation, such as the 1923 State Secrets Act or the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, as well as other legislation such as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act (now amended) to criminalize and impede the activities of civil society and the media. I learned of the continuing arrests and prosecution of people exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and association, particularly under Section 18 of the amended Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act. A disturbing example is the recent conviction of Chin activists who protested against the alleged rape of a woman by a military soldier in Chin State.

Civil society actors also face intimidation, threats and attacks and I was concerned by the alleged threats received by various activists who had publicly voiced opposition to a proposed package of draft bills related to religion, including a proposed interfaith marriage bill and a religious conversion bill.

Civil society actors campaigning on land and environmental issues, or trying to help communities affected by large-scale development projects, face particular challenges. They are routinely harassed and subject to arrest (including for violating the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act). There are also continuing reports of the excessive use of force by the police and the authorities in breaking up protests. During my mission, I met with one activist who had been arrested multiple times and was under trial in multiple township courts for protesting against land grabbing and forced evictions. He informed me that he would continue to protest, regardless of the personal consequences, so as to raise awareness amongst local communities and to ensure that the authorities "listened to what we have to say".

These patterns not only undermine the work of civil society, but also impose a climate of fear and intimidation to society at large. The Government should create a safe and enabling environment for civil society, given their central role in democratisation, national reconciliation, development and the promotion and protection of human rights. Thus, any administrative and legislative provisions that impede their legitimate and peaceful activities should be reviewed and abolished. Further, specific protections measures should be put in place to allow civil society actors to carry out their work safely and without fear of reprisals. Complaints of violations should be investigated and properly brought to justice.

With respect to the media, I arrived in Myanmar shortly after the sentencing of four journalists and an editor of Unity Journal to ten years' imprisonment with hard labour under the 1923 State Secrets Act, and charges were brought under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act against 50 journalists who had staged a silent protest against the verdict. I also received information of other arrests of journalists who had reported on issues deemed too sensitive or critical of those in power, such as Government corruption. Additionally, I was told of the threats and intimidation faced by journalists, including most recently in trying to report on the recent violent incidents in Mandalay. Many spoke to me of a climate of uncertainty, intimidation and fear of arrest resulting in a form of self-censorship of the media.

The enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly are essential ingredients for Myanmar's democracy and for debating and resolving political issues, particularly in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Electoral periods
are important moments in the life of a nation with the potential to consolidate and strengthen democratic principles and practices. The mere fact that elections are held is not an adequate indicator of democracy. The process leading up to the election is a crucial component of a democratic society. Thus, there should be strict and clear safeguards to prevent undue interference in public freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. In effect, genuine elections cannot be achieved if these rights are curtailed.

Prisoners of conscience:
I commend the 15 prisoner amnesties granted since the establishment of Myanmar's new Government. And I note that the most recent presidential pardon of 30 December 2013 (which released more than 41 prisoners) included those convicted under various laws, such as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, the Unlawful Associations Act, sections 122, 124 (a) and 505 of the Penal Code, and the Emergency Provisions Act of 1950.
However, I believe that there are several remaining prisoners of conscience who did not benefit from these amnesties or who were recently arrested (as I described earlier). The information I received from civil society sources as well as my interviews with several prisoners in Insein Prison, Sittwe Prison, Bhamo Prison and Myitkina Prison confirmed that this issue has not been resolved. I raised these cases in my meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and called for their review and release as a matter of priority.

In this respect, I was pleased to hear that the prisoner review committee would continue to function and would likely hold regular monthly meetings. I encourage the Government to continue working with this important body in order to release all remaining prisoners of conscience and to fulfil President Thein Sein's pledge. And I also reiterate my predecessor's call for this body to be formally established as a standing institution with a mandate to review continuing detentions that may be politically motivated and to consider questions related to the rehabilitation of released prisoners.

Development and economic, social and cultural rights:
I was encouraged by the priority attention given to education and health and the efforts made to improve Myanmar's education and health systems as a whole. I was also encouraged to hear of significant increases in public spending on these sectors though note that this is still a very small portion of the total national budget.

My meetings with both Government and civil society actors confirmed my predecessor's view that land rights issues, in particular land grabbing and confiscations, as well as forced evictions are and will remain one of the major challenges facing Myanmar. And I note that the majority of complaints received by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission related to land rights and that various parliamentary commissions have been established to address this issue.

These are complex issues requiring reforms to the legislative and institutional framework governing land use and management, the management and sharing of resources, as well as land tenure. A change in the response to public protests on land issues and the handling of complaints received by various institutions and bodies is also needed. While I will elaborate upon these issues in my report to the General Assembly, I will state generally that priority attention should be given to these issues in accordance with human rights principles and standards. This requires that the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, protection, transparency and accountability, including access to appropriate remedy, are fully taken into account.

I was also struck by the information I received regarding the impact of large-scale development projects, particularly on vulnerable groups, such as the rural poor, displaced persons and returning asylum-seekers, ethnic communities and women. In this regard, I believe that it is essential to ensure that environmental and social impact assessments are undertaken and recommendations implemented consistently, that relevant information about development projects be made widely available and accessible, and that concerned communities are able to participate actively, freely and meaningfully in the assessment and analysis, design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such projects.
The coming years present an opportunity for the Government to proactively manage development and investment processes so as to ensure a rights-based and people-centred form of sustainable development, inclusive growth, poverty reduction and equitable resource-sharing. I believe that Myanmar has started to embark on this path but further reforms to the relevant legislative, institutional and administrative frameworks, as well as a change in mindset and behaviour, is required.

Legislative reform and the rule of law
A recurring and cross-cutting concern mentioned in many of my discussions on a broad range of issues is the need to strengthen the rule of law in Myanmar. This is the foundation for any functioning democracy and underpins the entire process of reform. Thus, it should continue to be given priority attention by the Government.
Central to this is the continuing review and reform of legislation, particularly outdated laws that do not reflect current realities and those deemed to be inconsistent with international human rights standards, as well as the adoption of new laws. While I was encouraged by the scope and pace of the legislative reform process, I heard many concerns regarding the lack of consultation on draft laws, with some laws drafted in secret, published at a late stage with little time for comments to be provided or with unclear or no information on where comments should be submitted. In raising these issues consistently during my mission, I came away with the impression that greater coordination, priority-setting, transparency, consistency and clarity in the process by which laws are reviewed, consulted and drafted is vitally needed. Clear timelines should be given to enable broad consultation and proper consideration of draft laws, including by civil society and international organizations. Consultation should be meaningful and not merely superficial, with comments properly taken into account and concerns addressed. Additionally, more efforts should be made to raise awareness of new laws amongst the general public, beyond their publication in newspapers and journals.

Further, while legislative reform is an organic process, shaped and defined by changing realities, it should ultimately consolidate and further democratic transition and respect for human rights. I am therefore concerned by the legislative package on the protection of race and religion, which includes four draft bills on interfaith marriage, religious conversion polygamy and population control. I have spoken out publicly on this issue and have raised concerns that these bills are incompatible with international human rights standards, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar is party. I add my voice to those who have called for the package to be withdrawn.

Women's rights and gender equality
During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with civil society organizations and activists working on women's rights issues in Myanmar. Yet, it seemed to me that women's voices and women's roles are seemingly lacking on the public radar: women are severely underrepresented in Government and Parliament, as well as in the formal peace process, and there does not seem to be much public awareness and understanding of the important roles women could and should play in the reforms process – as both agents and beneficiaries of change. As party to CEDAW, I believe that Myanmar should do more to promote women's participation in all areas of public and political life.

Rakhine State
During my mission, I had the opportunity to visit Sittwe and Maungdaw and I wish to thank the State Government for its cooperation and logistical facilitation. In Sittwe, I met with the Chief Minister and members of the State Government, members of the Rakhine State Emergency Coordination Centre, representatives of the Rakhine Buddhist community and representatives of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and United Nations agencies. I also visited Shwe Say Ti Monastery. In and around Sittwe, I visited Set Yone Su and Baw Du Par Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, Ohn Yay Paw Village and Aung Mingala. I also visited Sittwe Prison and met with U Kyaw Hla Aung, U Than Shwe, U Kyaw Myint and three Muslim male prisoners. In Maungdaw, I met with four Muslim women who were being held under charges of arson in the Maungdaw police station detention centre.
I listened carefully to the views expressed by both communities in order to better understand their different perspectives and grievances. I recognize that Rakhine State is one of the poorest in Myanmar and for many years, has suffered from neglect and underdevelopment. I visited Ohn Yay Paw Village and saw a glimpse of how some in the Rakhine Buddhist community lived – with no toilets, no electricity and with a minimum of basic services. I was pleased to hear that the United Nations was cooperating with the Rakhine State Government to provide development assistance and I would encourage similar support and cooperation in other areas of Rakhine State.

In visiting the IDPs in and around Sittwe during the rainy season, I gained first-hand impressions of the difficult conditions in which men, women and children of both communities live. The situation is deplorable. Many have remained in the camps for two years and I do not believe that there is adequate access to basic services. In Set Yone Su (Rakhine Buddhist) camp, I was told that while children attended primary school in the camp, older children had to make their own travel arrangements to attend the middle school some distance away from the camp. A number of the IDPs also highlighted the lack of access to livelihoods, with women selling craft work and men performing day labour in order to earn an income.
Yet, it is undeniable that the situation is worse in the Baw Du Par camp I visited, given the sheer number of IDPs in the camp – around 10,000, the comparatively fewer latrines per person than in the Set Yone Su camp (around 40 persons to one latrine by my count), and the lack of a health clinic or adequate access to health services (particularly given the departure of certain INGOs providing crucial health services). Restrictions on the freedom of movement have a severe impact on basic rights, including access to livelihoods, food, water and sanitation, health services and education. One young woman told me that she had passed her matriculation exams and wished to go to university. Yet, she could not physically leave the camp in order to pick up the university application forms. In Aung Mingala, the only Muslim quarter in Sittwe, I was also told that the residents were only allowed to leave the camp twice a week to go to the market. Students were prohibited from attending Sittwe University and were told that they could only pursue distance learning if they wished. Many merchants wished to return to their shops in order to reopen their businesses.


The health situation in the Muslim IDP camps is of particular concern. With the departure of INGOs providing critical health services and the operation of humanitarian organizations not yet at full capacity after the attacks in Sittwe in March, health provision still falls far short of needs. While the local health authorities have deployed additional medical professionals and provided mobile clinics, I have received disturbing reports of people dying in camps due to the lack of access to emergency medical assistance and due to preventable, chronic or pregnancy-related conditions. There are frequent daily reports of illnesses, yet there is now limited access and limited capacity by INGOs and the United Nations to provide the necessary services, undertake the necessary monitoring of the situation, and collect the necessary data.

The operational environment for INGOs and the United Nations remains difficult with continuing reports of threats, intimidation and attacks against staff. At the same time, representatives of the Rakhine Buddhist community spoke often of the perceived bias and discrimination in the assistance provided over decades and currently.

In listening to all views from both communities, I am concerned about the prevalence of inaccurate rumours and false information about the conditions of camps, the quality of assistance provided and the perceived intentions and behaviours of members of different communities, which subsequently become accepted as reality. More must be done to stop misinformation which only serves to heighten tensions and hostility and to increase the sense of discriminatory treatment. The conditions of both camps and the situation of both communities must be accurately reflected and seen for what they are.

I understand the sense of grievance and perceived discrimination by the Rakhine Buddhist community. And I do believe that their concerns should be taken into account when trying to address the underlying causes of the intercommunal violence. We need to call a spade a spade.

By virtue of their legal status (or lack of), the Muslim community has faced and continue to face systematic discrimination, which include restrictions in the freedom of movement, restrictions in access to land, food, water, education and health care, and restrictions on marriages and birth registration. Since the 1993 report of the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the various forms of human rights violations faced by the Muslim community has been regularly documented by successive Special Rapporteurs. These include enforced disappearances, torture, forced labour and forced displacements, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence.

In addition, I have received continuing allegations of violations against the Muslim community, including arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment in detention, death in detention, the denial of due process and fair trial rights and rape and sexual violence. I believe these allegations are serious and merit investigation, with perpetrators held to account.

I also was provided information about the status of the three INGO national staff who were arrested in connection with the 2012 violence and who remain in detention. I believe that they have been denied fair trial and due process rights and were arrested under spurious charges. I call for their immediate release.

In my discussions on possible solutions with the Rakhine State Government, I was provided a brief overview of the Rakhine State Action Plan but was not able to actually study the Plan myself. I noted with concern, however, that the Government's plan for long-term peaceful coexistence may likely result in a permanent segregation of the two communities. As an immediate priority, more must be done to reduce tensions and hostility, and promote reconciliation between the two communities.

Issues around terminology and citizenship are particularly sensitive. I was repeatedly told not to use the term 'Rohingya' as this was not recognized by the Government. Yet, as a human rights independent expert, I am guided by international human rights law. In this regard, the rights of minorities to self-identify on the basis of their national, ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics is related to the obligations of States to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups, which is a central principle of international human rights law. I also note that various human rights treaty bodies and intergovernmental bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which I chaired for four years and of which I was a member for ten years, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly use the term 'Rohingya'.

In my discussions on the question of citizenship for the Muslim community, I was repeatedly told that the rule of law should be respected; in this regard, strong opposition was voiced by many against the review and reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law. Yet, laws by nature are forever evolving. As the reforms process in Myanmar has demonstrated, they can be and should be amended whenever there are deficiencies and are not in line with international standards. The 1982 Citizenship Law should therefore not be an exception.

Kachin State
I also visited Kachin State – Myitkyina and Bhamo – and I wish to thank the State Government for its cooperation and logistical facilitation. In Myitkina, I met with the Chief minister and members of the State Government, as well as representatives of civil society organizations. I also visited Waimaw IDP camp and Myitkina prison where I met with U Brang Yung. In Bhamo, I met with the District Administrator and members of the District Administration. I also met with Kachin and Shan civil society organizations and with organizations working on women's issues. Additionally, I visited the AD 2000, Robert Church and Shwe Kyi Nar IDP camps. I also visited Bhamo Prison where I met with U Mali Tan.
It has been three years since the resumption of conflict in Kachin and Northern Shan States and many IDPs have lived for years in camps that were only meant to be temporary. Many of the IDPs I spoke with highlighted the fervent desire for peace so that they could simply return to their homes. Yet, there was a general fear for their safety and security upon return, as well as uncertainty over what they would return to – with homes and farmland possibly destroyed or riddled with mines. Some noted the lack of access to livelihoods; in one camp, the majority of the IDPs were entirely dependent on amber polishing and the production of amber jewellery as the only means of income. The youth do not have any options for employment or livelihoods and many are turning to drugs.
While there has been progress in the peace negotiations, with another round of talks resuming this weekend in Laiza, almost all with whom I spoke were unaware of developments and had neither been informed nor consulted. Greater efforts must be made, therefore, to inform, involve and consult displaced populations or local communities. Greater efforts must also be made to inform and consult IDPs about the possibility of return. Any initiative to return IDPs to their places of origin has to be done with the free, prior and informed consent of those concerned, and also involve consultation with humanitarian actors including the United Nations.

Despite assurances by the Chief Minister of improved international humanitarian access to non-government controlled areas (where roughly half of the 100,000 displaced by the conflict are living in camps or with host families), in reality, access remains limited and there are concerns regarding the access of people in these areas to adequate food, water and sanitation, health care and education. The humanitarian situation thus has clear human rights dimensions – with consequent impact on basic rights. It is imperative therefore that the United Nations and international humanitarian actors be provided with more regular and systematic access to areas outside government control.

During my visit, I received information about human rights violations committed by both the Kachin Independence Army and the Tatmadaw, including attacks against civilian populations, sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour. These allegations are serious and must be addressed as a matter of priority, with perpetrators taken to account. All parties to the conflict must do more to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

Also during my visit, I met with two prisoners who had been convicted under the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Associations Act (for alleged ties to the Kachin Independence Army). Both allege that they had been interrogated continuously for several days and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. One individual noted that he had been forced to commit homosexual acts with another male prisoner. Both also allege that photographic evidence showing them handling explosives had been fabricated. These cases are similar to information I have received from civil society sources regarding the arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military of Kachin men accused of belonging to the Kachin Independence Army. When raising these issues in Nay Pyi Taw, I was told unequivocally that the Ministry of Defence was not aware of any such cases and that it did not have any information on the use of torture or ill-treatment during interrogation. I must state, however, that the disturbingly similar pattern of abuse in the cases I have received merits investigation by the Government. The allegations are serious and should be taken up accordingly.

Mandalay
In Mandalay, I visited the sites where the murders of two men were committed and where incidents of violence took place. I met with the Chief Minister and members of his cabinet, the police chief and the Division Administrator. I also met with members of a non-governmental Peacemaking Committee. I was given detailed information on the actions taken by the Government to quell the violence, including outreach to religious leaders, and on the numbers of people arrested in connection with the murders and with the destruction of parts of a Muslim cemetery. In contrast, the information I received from civil society actors alleged state inaction in stopping the violence and highlighted the lack of transparency in the investigations conducted and in the arrests made. Additionally, many with whom I spoke suggested possible criminal and organized instigators of violence – deliberately timed to destabilize or undermine political movements or reforms. I was also given similar information regarding the events in Meiktila last year, particularly with how the violence was instigated and progressed, and how the authorities responded. I am, however, not in a position to verify these allegations.

In my meetings with various interfaith groups and civil society actors, Myanmar's history of religious pluralism and tolerance was repeatedly highlighted. Yet the violence in Mandalay and previously in other parts of the country demonstrate that amicable relations and harmony between different religious and ethnic communities can never be taken for granted. In fact, the recurring outbreak of intercommunal violence reveals deep divisions and a growing polarization between Muslim and Buddhist communities. In this regard, I am concerned by the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility in the media and on the Internet, which have fuelled and triggered further violence. I understand that the Government is making efforts in working with religious and community leaders, as well as the media and civil society, but more needs to be done to counter this negative trend. A comprehensive series of measures is needed as a priority; this should include the adoption of specific legislation to prohibit and combat hate speech – one that is compliant with international human rights standards, carefully construed and applied by the judiciary so as not to excessively limit the freedom of expression. Such legislation should be accompanied by a set of policy measures to address the root causes and underlying grievances, foster dialogue and bring about a change in mindsets and discourse. This should include education and awareness-raising measures, as well as intercommunal and interfaith dialogue and cooperation initiatives. Political leaders and public officials have a special responsibility and in this regard, I welcome President Thein Sein's clear and public call against hate speech and incitement earlier this month. Others in positions of influence should also clearly speak out against hate speech.

Finally, I would encourage the Government of Myanmar to fully utilize and implement the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. The Plan of Action sets out a series of measures to prevent and respond to incidents of incitement to hatred while upholding the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and other freedoms.

Conclusion
These are some of my preliminary observations from my first official mission to Myanmar as Special Rapporteur. As noted previously, I will elaborate upon these and other issues in greater detail in my forthcoming report to the General Assembly. Allow me to note that I am very much guided by the work of my predecessor and in this respect, I am of the view that many of his priorities and concerns remain valid and will be carried forward during my tenure.
Upon my appointment as Special Rapporteur last month, I stated that it was my intention to discharge my duties and responsibilities under this mandate in an objective and impartial manner. It is indeed my wish to be able to contribute to the efforts Myanmar has undertaken in its path towards democratization, national reconciliation and development. As Special Rapporteur, I look forward to working closely with the Government and the people of Myanmar, in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Thank you.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Myanmar Muslims in remote Rakhine suffer worsening health crisis

Source Yahoonews, 25 July 

A relative holds Nurfasa at a village in Maungdaw
A relative holds Nurfasa at a village in Maungdaw June 6, 2014. For the first 20 days of her life, all …

By Paul Mooney and Thin Lei Win

INN DIN Myanmar (Reuters) - Visitors to the medical facility in one of Myanmar's poorest and most remote regions are greeted by a padlocked gate and a sign reading: "Clinic closed until further notice."

A vehicle that used to ferry around doctors and patients parked next to the neat compound of bamboo and brick buildings in the western state of Rakhine is covered in thick dust.

Since international aid groups were forced out of the area in February and March, members of the minority Muslim Rohingya community who relied on them say basic health care services have all but disappeared.

Worst affected are those in Northern Rakhine State (NRS), home to most of Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya who are stalked by sickness and malnourishment and as yet untouched by reforms under a semi-civilian government which took power in 2011.

Many people in and around the village of Inn Din, a collection of bamboo houses with thatched roofs and earthen floors a two-hour drive from NRS's biggest town Maungdaw, speak of disease and preventable death.

Nurfasa, born in late May, fidgeted in her grandmother's arms, her chest rising and falling with labored breaths. The desperately weak infant opened her mouth wide as if to cry, but no sound came out.

For the first 20 days of her life, all Nurfasa had for nutrition was ground-up rice powder mixed with water, because her mother, legs swollen and womb racked with pain, could not produce enough milk to feed her.

Rohingya Muslims attend a wrestling festival at Kyaukpannu village in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine sta …

"We don't have the money to go to Maungdaw and the MSF clinic here is closed," said her grandmother Montai Begum. "We showed the baby to the government midwife in the village, but she asked for money."

GLIMMER OF HOPE?

The expulsion of international aid organizations stems from the violence that erupted across Rakhine state in 2012 between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, killing at least 200 people and displacing 140,000, most of them Rohingya.

When Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland said it had treated people it believed were victims of sectarian violence near Maungdaw in January, the government expelled the group for flavoring Muslims. Myanmar denies the attack took place.

And after a foreign staff member from another aid organization, Malteser International, was rumored to have desecrated a Buddhist flag, NGO and U.N. offices in Rakhine came under attack and groups withdrew.

MSF's departure has had "a major humanitarian impact", said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the United Nations' coordination agency UNOCHA.

"MSF had built up a program over 20 years and it was reaching places that were very difficult to reach, and that's not something that can be done overnight," he said.

View gallery
A Rohingya Muslim man rows his boat on a river in  …
A Rohingya Muslim man rows his boat on a river in Buthidaung, June 7, 2014. Since international aid …

MSF hopes it can return soon after the government announced on Thursday that the group could go back to Rakhine, a decision the organization welcomed.

Whether that commitment is fulfilled, and under what conditions, may be questions for talks over the coming days.

Some aid workers fret that the announcement has more to do with politics than resolving the humanitarian crisis.

Yanghee Lee, the new UN human rights envoy to Myanmar, is in the country on a 10-day visit that included a trip to Rakhine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may visit Myanmar for the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in August, and President Barack Obama is also expected before the end of 2014.

Timing is crucial. The health crisis could worsen as monsoon rains set in, making sanitation more difficult, and experts warn of the risk of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis spreading in the absence of reliable medical care.

Than Tun, a Buddhist community leader and member of the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) set up by the government to oversee international NGOs (non-governmental organizations), confirmed MSF-Holland would be allowed back to NRS.

View gallery
Nurfasa lies on the lap of a relative at a Muslim Rohingya …
Nurfasa, who was born late May, lies on the lap of a relative at a Muslim Rohingya village in Maungd

But he underlined the level of mistrust between the Buddhist community and anyone it suspected of siding with Muslims.

"Although we have agreed to allow them in, we are rather worried that they will not cooperate with us with full transparency like other INGOs," he told Reuters. "We find it difficult to trust them."

TRUST IS SCARCE

Rohingya, who are stateless because the government considers them to be illegal Bengali immigrants, often do not dare go to state-run hospitals and clinics for fear of what may happen.

Aisyah Begum, 25, was still mourning for her husband, Kamal Husor, who was injured while working in the forest in May.

According to Aisyah, the private doctor in Maungdaw, a bone-jarring two-hour drive away, said he could not help.

She decided against going to the public hospital - she had heard Rohingya die there - and treated the wound with medicine from a make-shift pharmacy. Nineteen days later, Husor, 55, passed away from what was probably a treatable infection.

View gallery
A sign is seen outside a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic …
A sign is seen outside a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) clinic in a village at Maungdaw June 6, 2014 …

"Had MSF been open, I would have taken him there," she said, looking forlorn. "I trusted them."

Assessing the impact of the aid group's exit is difficult, with no one to provide reliable data on disease and death rates.

But in the last quarter of 2013, MSF treated about 9,000 patients every month, and about 1,000 pregnant women in the six clinics it ran in NRS. Over the same period, it referred 160-200 people monthly to hospitals for life-saving treatment.

Rakhine officials play down the role of international aid organizations.

Government medical teams have been making limited visits to Rohingya areas, but foreign aid workers say they are inadequate.

"The Ministry of Health has been providing better health care than MSF or Malteser," Than Tun said. "And we can see this with our own eyes."

ACCESS RESTRICTED

Access to NRS is severely restricted and only a handful of foreign reporters have been there.

A Reuters team traveled seven hours by boat and car from Rakhine's capital Sittwe on a recent visit, one of the few times an international news organization has been allowed into NRS.

They witnessed evidence of a growing health crisis in a region where Rohingya say their basic human rights are denied.

International news coverage of the Rohingyas' plight has focused on sprawling, squalid camps outside Sittwe where those displaced by violence live. In NRS, many more Rohingya exist in what they call apartheid-like conditions.

NRS's maternal mortality rate is double Myanmar's national average - which, at 200 deaths per 100,000 live births, is already one of Asia's worst.

In Buthidaung and Maungdaw, two of NRS's three townships, malnutrition rates rival those in war-torn regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Myanmar was a military dictatorship for almost 50 years until a semi-civilian government took power in 2011, but reforms have largely passed NRS by - many Rohingya cannot travel, marry or seek medical treatment without official permission.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the fight for democracy while the military ran the country, has faced rare criticism abroad for her failure to defend the Rohingya.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Iran Offers to Aid Myanmar in Resolving Problems of Muslims

Sourcve englishfarsnews, 21 July
Iran Offers to Aid Myanmar in Resolving Problems of Muslims

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced Tehran's readiness to help Myanmar settle the problems of the Muslim community living in the Southeast Asian country.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's government is concerned about the situation of the Muslims in Myanmar and is ready to cooperate with the Myanmarese government to settle the problems of the Muslims," Zarif said in a meeting with Myanmar's new accredited ambassador to Tehran on Monday.

He also underlined the necessity for increasing cooperation with Myanmar in different economic, cultural and social fields.

The Myanmarese envoy, for his part, stressed that his government welcomes investment of Iranian companies in his country, and called for the expansion of economic and trade ties with Tehran.

Violence by extremist Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims has killed hundreds of them and forced many more to flee the country.

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar account for about five percent of the country's population of nearly 60 million. They have been persecuted and faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country's independence in 1948. The UN recognizes the Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar's Rakhine State as one of the world's most persecuted communities.

The Myanmar government has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingya Muslims. International bodies and human rights organizations accuse the government of turning a blind eye to the violence.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Rohingya fisherman killed at Naff River

Source Kaladanpress, 20 July

Teknaf, Bangladesh: A Rohingya fisherman was shot to death at Naff River by unknown persons today, at about 2:30 am while fishing in Burma side, a fisherman from border town said.The dead body was identified as— Abdul Amin (43), son of late Abdul Motalob, hailed from Ngarkhura north village of Bawli Bazar under the Maungdaw Township.

Amin went to the Naff River for fishing today midnight while a group of people suddenly appear in front of him and asked to give fish with Burmese language, but he refused, according to one of the fishermen.

On hearing the voice, one of the miscreants shot to him for refusing to give the fish. After hearing gunfire, some of the fishermen nearby rushed to the spot and rescued him. He was immediately brought to Bawli Bazar hospital for treatment but died on the way, the fisherman more added.

Nurul Amin, brother of the victim told the Kaladanpress, "My brother was killed by a group of people at Naff River for fish while he was fishing."

When asked Nurul regarding the murderers, he replied and believes that his brother was shot to death by Burma Border Police (BGP) because they spoke in Burmese.

According to fishermen, BGP frequently disturb the Rohingya and Bangali fishermen and snatch away fish from the fishermen while fishing in the Naff River.

Earlier, many fishermen were caught and killed by Burma's border security force (Nasaka) and many woodcutters and fishermen have been languishing in Burmese jail, fishermen further said.

Besides, a dead body was recovered from the Naff River bank of Shapuri Dip Zalia para by the police of Teknaf police station yesterday at about 2:00 pm. But, police are not able to identify the dead body as it is Rohingya or Bengali, according to official.

However, he was sent to Cox's Bazar government hospital for autopsy, official more added.

A Charge to the People of Burma Residing in Canada

Source Asiantribune, 20 July
 
Keynote speech by Prof. B T Win*

On March 2nd. 1962, the day the military takeover Burma, Eugene's Younger brother Sao Myee Myee Thaike was deliberately shot on that night as the Burmese army raided the President's home. Since then more than half of the past-century, the various military administrations of Burma, was one of the worlds' most repressive and isolated. Prof. T.B. Win

Then, eager to escape international sanctions and fear of losing its independence to China, which was dominating its economy, and international political agenda the regime"chose another path,"

But which path has the regime chosen: true democracy or window-dressing? Full elections are scheduled for 2015 but they will be meaningless unless the nation's 2008 Nargis Constitution changed.

That is not only because the charter was written to exclude Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency, though barring the nation's most qualified, competent, sincere, dedicated and popular politician would in itself make any vote illegitimate. It's also because the existing constitution preserves the military as untouchable, reserving for itself 25 percent of the seats in parliament, which is not compatible with democracy at all. But a critical question is whether the ex-generals will get their goal of installing a soft authoritarian rule instead of a hard core dictatorships with the tactic support of the West including Canada and join in the pretense? As a Burmese now in Diaspora what can you do in our own little way to stop this carnage?

Today is also the 67th Anniversary Martyr's Day. It was declared a holiday following the official independence of the country, and was publicly celebrated until the popular uprising of 1988, at which point the military junta, tried to wipe out Aung San family including the Union spirit from the Burmese scene. It is only now just two years it was recognized as a holiday, and the political spirit that accompanies, is coming back. So as we remember the Martyrs, including the ethnic leaders such as Saopha of Mong Pawn (Minister of Hill Regions) Karen Christian ethnic leader Mahn Ba Khaing (Minister of Industry) and Rakhine Muslim leader U Razak, (Minister of Education and Planning,) the Chairman of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom Party, the leading political party, fighting for independence from Britain. The Martyrs policy is to reject the partitioning of the nation along ethnic community or religious lines. Aung San principles and his government advocacy thus remain relevant to the most pressing issues the country faces today, which also coincide what Eugene Thaike has been doing throughout his whole life.

It is our historical task is for the prevalence of democracy, human rights and genuine federalism as envisage not only by our ethnic leaders but also by Aung San. The country that was born only in 1948 and we ethnics nationalities are equal partners and not under the yoke of Myanmar imperialism. If the concordat inked in Panglong in 1947 is not implemented or not recognized then every ethnic has the right to fight back.

It was in this paradigm that the world especially the self-style Burmese scholars should look at, if they are desirous to help solve the Burmese gridlock. Burma is not a monolithic whole dominated by the ethnic Myanmar race. The Non Myanmar and the Myanmar came together willingly and if it is not working well, they will have to trash it out and if they can't do it they have the right to go their own way as Malaysia and Singapore did way back in 1965. That is why the country ranks as the longest running civil war in the world. Why is there a civil war? It indicates that something is very, very wrong. We ethnic nationalities must continue to work and fight for our inalienable birth rights not only for us but for the younger generations.

As Burma opens up to the forces of the global market at an accelerating rate, we are reminded of Aung San's anti-imperialist views that strongly opposed economic exploitation. Before his assassination, he spoke openly against the British and accused them of destabilizing the region in order to protect their interests, a position that many suspect got him killed. Today several foreign companies have benefited immensely from the country's perpetual unrest, and so have the handful of Burmese cronies. The problem is that the benefit has not trickled down.

Appealing business opportunities are hard to resist. To establish good relations with Burma's former generals, essential for investment, the Western governments including Canada now focus on providing them with encouragement and support. They always put it in nice words like, "Our objective is to support and accompany Burma in the transition process. We believe that this can be done more effectively through engagement and support than continued sanctions," Superficial reforms have been rewarded at the risk of reinforcing the old, authoritarian power structures.

The quasi-military government has quietly returned to its old habit of arresting political dissidents, including journalists, while the West continues to hand out rewards. Conspicuously not included in the benchmarks for the human rights dialogue is the inhumane treatment inflicted on the Rohingya, Kachin, the Shan and other ethnic nationalities.

After years of punitive measures against the Burmese's generals the Western governments now favor the carrot over the stick. With a massive potential for investment in Asia's "last frontier economy," while it has toned down its advocacy for human rights in a competition to win over the country's quasi-civilian rulers.

Did the world knows that no former Generals now in mufti, have never admitted their mistakes, nor asked for forgiveness, let alone punishing them, this explicitly means that they will repeat the same atrocities, as they had done for more than half a century, if things doesn't go their way. Cronies still control the economy. While the army continues to justify its repressive rule as essential to keeping the fissiparous country together.

This is because Burma's reforms are often measured against the practices of dictatorial times and, compared with the relentless oppression of the past, the reformist generals come off well. On closer inspection, however, the reforms appear to lack the depth needed for the development of a democratic union, and power remains with the army. In this current structure the whole country is ruled by the military chief, not the president.

Significant power is also vested in the bureaucracy, which consists mainly of former military officials in civilian clothes and civilians appointed under preferential treatment. These officials have acted with impunity under decades of military rule and often lack the willingness, as well as the knowledge, to act in accordance with new laws and regulations. The obvious conclusion is that as long as the foundations of military rule remain in place, the large Western funds flowing into Burma carry the heavy risk of supporting authoritarianism, instead of democracy. It also help to assist creating poverty through corruptions: while the fundamental principle of Business Ethics, Corporate Responsibity, Sustainable Development – are not incorporated in the new concept,planet +people +profit.

The Western countries including Canada, are involved to do this peacebuilding, they're talking about development, when in fact the ethnic nationalities are not fighting to establish a free-market, they're fighting to establish their own identities, to gain full recognition as political communities.

When the West comes in and says that economic development will help de-escalate the conflict, actually the total opposite is what is happening. Maybe 20 years from today, anyone who does the history of development in Burma will write about the war in Kachin as the world's first war driven by developmental calculations. It's a war for development. It's a war about development. And this development is not about people, this development is about capital interest. People say, the process in Burma is not perfect, but everyone who uses that phrase – I like to ask is it better than what we had before – No! no, this is not better. Before we did not have genocide, we did not have a full-blown war against the Kachin. We did not have thousands of Burmese people displaced by mega-development projects. There is no land grabbing from the working people working on the land. Ethnic cleansing particularly the Rohingyas of the minorities is clearly connected to economic projects

Our focus should be on the people without the people being involved in any change process it's just elite power deals. So there are two processes going on, one is the elite pact and the elite deals that is portrayed as the opening up of Burma with commercial and strategic interests, and then you have ethnic and religious minorities fighting back for their survival. They are fighting out of liberal principles, 99% of these people don't know what the word liberal means, but they fight back. When your land is taken away, the next thing you know you don't have any plot of land to grow rice or vegetables or for your chickens to go, so this isn't over. This is never over.

Because we dread a reversal of the modest progress of the past few years, we are afraid to boldly speak out for more meaningful changes to the political system. To conceal their own timidity, some intellectuals have even tried to rationalize acceptance of the status quo by arguing that letting the supposed "moderates" among the ex-generals hold on to power indefinitely is the best way to ensure that the country doesn't fall back into the hands of the hardliners.

Will we allow ourselves to be influenced by such weak reasoning, which is no more than a cover for cowardice? We all know the fear of speaking our minds in a country where that has long been a crime. We know what we want: a democratic constitution, free and fair elections, and a government that is truly chosen by the people. What we don't know is how or whether we can achieve these things. And in our self-doubt, we may be tempted to do what we have always done: accept lies as truth and simply hope that we will one day enjoy the freedoms that other countries take for granted.

But we must all admit that Business always overrules the conscience, last month Canada welcome a Burmese tycoon Steven Law (Son of Opium king Lo Hse Han) with deep ties to the drug trade. His Burmese name is Htun Myint Naing, Managing Director of Yadana Taung Tan Gems, part of the Asia World Company, which is Burma's largest conglomerates. He was travelling under the Chinese name "Lo Ping Zhong", was traveling with Burma's Minister of National Planning and Economic Development U Kan Zaw during a four-day "Asean Economic Ministers Roadshow". Whatever justifications have the Canadian authorities it is a fact the Canadian authorities in BC has warmly shook hands with the Burmese drug war lord.

It was against this backdrop that Seng Zin, a well-known Kachin human – rights activist from Kachin Women Association of Thailand applied for a Canadian visa to attend a human-rights training program in Ottawa, as she was sponsored by the Nobel Women's Initiative, which offered to cover all her expenses. Despite having received a visa to visit France the immigration officials at the Canadian embassy in Bangkok denied her a visa on the ground that she lacked of financial resources. This is the real Canada but you will have to sing Oh Canada, the true North Brave and strong.

I am just comparing these two cases and am not tarnishing the image of Canada which has open its door to refugees or accusing any persons or department, lest I will be in trouble, (once I have been kick off from Singapore). What I am just advising my Burmese lesson that residing in Canada is tha Business always over rules the Conscious.

Now the second lesson is that more or less we Burmese are previously refugees or asylum seekers i.e. we are being forced to run away by the Juntas and have no choice but to come and eke out our living in this alien environment. Whether you are a white color or blue color worker you will have to remember that the unwritten Constitution in Canada isIf you don't know anybody you are out. And as new comers there is very little chance of knowing any VIPs. This is the situation we are facing here.

So my advice to you today is that you all must be united and try very, very hard and educate yourselves, especially if you are an ethnic nationality of Burma and be united. The least we can do as is that we should develop the list for those products which are produced in Burma especially private contracts with the ruling quasi-military government. We will have to study sanction list, boycott list of products, services which are contracted, manufacturing, production from Burma…. Executethe campaigns, and watch dog monitor & control. We must be able to compile the list of military family members and relatives, and submitted to the Canada government, and have a web-list for public-knowledge (in English) for the public to know.

• A Speech given by Kanbawza Win to the Burmese Ethnic Community in Surrey, BC, Canada

- Asian Tribune -

Prof. T.B. Win
 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

UN Human Rights new envoy doesn’t meet Rohingya in Maungdaw district

Source Kaladanpress, 19 July

Maungdaw, Arakan State: The United Nations new human rights envoy to Burma, Ms. Yanghee Lee, didn't meet Rohingya from Maungdaw district, said Halim, a Human Rights Watchdog from Maungdaw.
Ms. Lee arrived Maungdaw at 11:41 am, from Buthidaung by helicopter, officers from all departments welcomed her from the helicopter, Halim said.

The Human Rights envoy's first visit to Maungdaw Police station's custody to see the Rohingya and Rakhine detainees. But, she met only one Rohingya –Mawgyi Ullah, a person of government- pretending as detainee and Rakhine detainees in the custody, said a closed aide from Maungdaw police station, who denied to be named.

All Rohingya detainees were shifted to three miles Hluntin Headquarters from police custody, he added.

The envoy moved from police station to Daywanadi at jetty road and discussed with officers of all departments, he more added.

Besides, the envoy arrived Buthidaung from Akyab (Sittwe) in the morning by helicopter and visited to the Buthidaung Jail. There also she didn't able to meet the Rohingya prisoners and also not able to meet the local Rohingya community in Buthidaung, according to an elder from Buthidaung.

We keep the two groups -Rakhine and Muslim- separately to control not to happen again conflict. We will check the Muslim under the 1982 citizenship law and whoever get the citizenship will be allowed to go all over the country, said Rakhine state Chief Minister, when he met the UN Human Rights envoy in Akyab.

"The situation is going like this in Rakhine state, the peace process and moving towards democracy by the government will not reach to the target," said the envoy while she met the Rakhine state government.

When Kaladan Press Network asked to a local from Akyab about the statement of deputy minister Kyaw Kyaw Win, "If they themselves identify as Bengali and request to check their citizenship status, then we will process under the 1982 citizenship law," published Yangon Times Journal, Vol. 10, number 27. The local Rohingya said, "If we accept the Bengali, it was finished when the government started the collecting of census. We don't accept "Bengali" so far and we want "Rohingya" only.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thai Junta to Repatriate Rohingya Muslims

Source onislam, 14 July
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.

BANGKOK — An announcement by Thailand military government of plans to repatriate more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who had fled violence and conflict across the border in recent decades has spread concerns among rights groups regarding the safety of refugees.

"We are not at the stage where we will deport people because we must first verify the nationality of those in the camps," army deputy spokesman Veerachon Sukhontapatipak told Reuters on Monday, July 14.

"Once that is done we will find ways to send them back. There are around 100,000 people who have been living in the camps for many years without freedom.

"Thailand and Myanmar [Burma] will help facilitate their smooth return," he added.

Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.

They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.

The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".

In July 2012, Burmese President Thein Sein said that Rohingyas should be settled in a third country.

Fleeing state-sponsored persecution, an estimated 120,000 Burmese refugees fled to live in 10 camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border, according to The Border Consortium, which coordinates NGO activity in the camps.

Many fled persecution and ethnic wars as well as poverty and have lived in the camps with no legal means of making an income.

On its part, Thailand has not encouraged the immigration of Rohingya Muslims, considering them to be almost exclusively economic migrants.

Last May, Thailand's military overthrew the remnants of an elected government after months of sometimes violent street protests.

Its National Council for Peace and Order has rolled out a raft of tough measures it says are needed to restore order and has promised a return to democracy next year.

Concerns

Commenting on the Thai decision, non-governmental organizations said they were concerned by a lack of infrastructure to help returnees rebuild their lives.

"The authorities said this time they are going to be very strict. It seems like they're really pushing for repatriation," said an aid worker who has been helping the refugees, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

"The situation in the camps is very tense because people don't know what's going to happen."

Activist, Bo Kyi, a campaigner for the release of political prisoners in Burma, said security remained fragile in the border regions.

"Sending back refugees to Burma is really dangerous for most of the refugees because Burma did not get peace and we don't know [when] there will be another conflict in Karen state," Kyi told Voice of America.

"Burma is not ready [with] job creation for those returning refugees, and then land confiscation also landmine problems are not over yet. Therefore I have great concern," he said.

Debbie Stothard, spokeswoman for the rights group, Alternative ASEAN Network, said the Thai military has shown resolve to settle the refugee issue since seizing power in May.

"Now I think there's quite a strong fear that this is going to happen especially because the UN [United Nations] and international agencies have been working on this," she said.

"But the situation is still extremely fragile and dangerous. We're actually seeing more people displaced. And if you happen to be a refugee of Muslim background then you are particularly vulnerable," she said.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Rakhine State Chief Minister Met Rohingya Community in Sittwe

Source Rvision, 10 July

Sittwe (Akyab): The newly appointed Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn and his team met Rohingya Community in Sittwe on Tuesday, sources say.

Former Deputy Border Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Maung Maung Ohn has been recently appointment as the Chief Minister Rakhine State represented the state parliament as a Military MP. (Photo: DVB)

The meeting was Maung Maung Ohn's first meeting with local Rohingya community since he has been appointed as the chief minister of the state. Accompanying him in the meeting were

1) Western Military Command Maj-Gen Aung Lin Htwe and his team,

2) Rakhine State Border Affairs Minister Colonel Htin Lin and his team,

3) Chief of the Rakhine State Police Force Colonel Nay Myo and his team

4) and Rakhine State Immigration Minister U Kyaw Yein Oo and his team.

U Maung Maung Ohn held preliminary talks on classifying Rohingyas as Bengalis and possible citizenships for Rohingya in the meeting held at 7:30PM on June 8.

In the meeting, he said "We will scrutinize Muslims in Rakhine State under 1982 Citizenship Law latest by December this year. We will examine if there are any illegal Bengali immigrants among you as per the demands made by Rakhine ethnic people. You have to cooperate with us.

We will provide citizenships to the people that have official documentary evidences issued before 1990. But we will classify you and your race as Bengali" said an internally displaced Rohingya on the condition anonymity and quoting the speech delivered by the minister.

Afterwards, U Aung Thein on behalf of Rohingya representatives gently replied "we are glad to have a chance to meet your Excellency Minister U Maung Maung Ohn. We, first of all, would like to greet your Excellency, Regional Military Commander and all other gentlemen in the meeting.

We, Muslims in Rakhine State, and our forefathers together with other ethnic people have been living here since immemorial until today. We participated in independent movements of the country and events during the time of independence. From the time of independence until 1990, we had been officially recognized as Rohingya. Post 1990, due to influence and incitement by Rakhine extremists, officials especially Rakhine state immigration has started to do crafty activities in order to wipe out not only Rohingya term but also Rohingya History.

However, according to historical evidences and in the earlier government official list of 144 indigenous ethnic groups included and recognized us as not Bengali but Rohingya. Although our ethnic name in the later government official list of 135 indigenous groups was removed, yet it didn't mention that we are Bengalis. We want to hold a dialogue with the government according to historical evidences. Gentle men can also find the term 'Rohingya' in historical evidences.

Nonetheless, we have been forcibly branded a label of illegal Bengali immigrants only post 1990 due to the demands made by the extremist section of Rakhine community. We are historically and racially Rohingyas. If the union government refuses us as Rohingya, we are sorry to say that we won't be able to cooperate. We abide by the existing union law. We kindly request you to consider us under the existing union law and from humane point of view."

Rohingya community representatives that attended the meeting are:

1) U Aung Thein from Aung Mingalar Quarter

2) U Shwe Hla from Aung Mingalar Quarter

3) U Hla Kyaw from Aung Mingalar Quarter

4) U Maung Maung Sein from Thay Chaung village

5) U Hla Kyaw from Thay Chaung village

6) U Shomshu from Thay Chaung village

7) U Ba Sein from Thay Chaung village

8) U Ba Maung from Thay Chaung village

9) U Shwe Maung from Bumay Quarter

10) Retired Police Officer U Hla Myint from Dar Paing village

11) Mv Amin Shariff from Dar Paing village

12) U Maung Ba from Dar Paing village

13) Mv Muhiyiidin from Thakkay Pyin Village

14) And U Oathman from Ohn Daw Gyi IDP Camps.

*Rakhine State was formerly known as Arakan state.