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Sunday, 19 October 2014
South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media
BANGKOK: Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of 176 people, including three women, who were on a people trafficker's boat that left Bangladesh.
There are fears traffickers intend to sell those on board to fishing trawlers or factories as slave labour in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Bangladesh officials are travelling to southern Thailand to interview 134 suspected victims who say they were on the boat with the 176 others.
All but one of the men and boys say they were kidnapped in Bangladesh and ended up being forced into the hold of a fishing vessel and shipped from the port of Cox's Bazaar to a remote island camp off the coast of southern Thailand.
Many thought they were being recruited for odd jobs in Bangladesh when they were grabbed by unidentified men.
They include a teacher who discovered one of his pupils on the boat.
Two Thai men have been charged with human trafficking after the discovery of the group of 130 in Takua Pa district of Thailand's Phang Nga province.
Police are searching for several others.
More than half of the group had been forced to swim ashore from a remote island after Thai authorities learnt the people smugglers had landed a large group of people there.
The group of 176 are believed to have been taken off the island by the people smugglers before authorities arrived.
Victims have told journalists from Phuketwan, an on-line news website based in Phuket, they were beaten, abused and given little food by the traffickers.
Sixteen of the victims are Rohingya, a mostly stateless Muslim minority from western Myanmar.
Thailand was downgraded in June to the lowest "Tier 3" category in the US State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons' Report for not fully complying with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.
The arrival of the boat in Thailand shows that trafficking routes through the country remain open in the southern part of the country where thousands of Rohingya were held and sometimes tortured by traffickers at jungle camps last year, human rights groups say.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2012 when violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed hundreds and made 140,000 homeless.
But most of those on board the latest boat insist they were not willing passengers seeking a new life in Malaysia or another country but victims of kidnappers.
"We have not seen this type of incident before," a Bangladesh official told Phuketwan.
"Kidnapping doesn't usually happen in Bangladesh," he said.
October is the start of a five month so-called "sailing season" when thousands of Rohingya are expected to risk their lives by boarding boats to flee Myanmar, many of them trying to reach Malaysia where there is a large Rohingya community.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.
A driller pulls up a torpedo-shaped capsule from an oil well in Lake Aye, Ramree Island, Myanmar.
Ramree Island, Myanmar - Zaw Myint looked quizzical as he sniffed a handful of grey sludge. He had just pulled the mud up from the bottom of an oil well he's digging on Myanmar's impoverished western coastline, hoping for the sweet whiff of black gold.
"The money I get working here is good," Zaw Myint said, standing in a shallow pool of water that glistened with the sheen of oil.
However, Zaw Myint's success may soon change. Big Oil is hot on his trail.
The hunt for hidden treasure in Myanmar, Southeast Asia's hottest frontier market, is rapidly gaining pace.
Companies from the United States, Europe, Japan and Singapore are elbowing their way into the country they turned their backs on during the past two decades because of its appalling human rights abuses.
The country fell into China's less scrupulous embrace and, for two decades, Myanmar was the monogamous partner in a loveless marriage of convenience.
In 2011, fearing the country was sliding towards Chinese client statehood, Myanmar began a process of liberalising the economy, releasing political prisoners, and rebalancing foreign relations.
As Myanmar took its first baby-steps towards democracy, Western nations eased economic sanctions. Last year, Myanmar's President Thein Sein met with US President Barack Obama at the White House, the first such visit by a Myanmar head of state in almost 50 years.
China is no longer Myanmar's only suitor; she's being courted, she's seeing other people. It's complicated.
Myanmar is one of the world's oldest oil producers, exporting its first barrel in 1853. Its discovery by British colonisers prompted the creation of the Burmah Oil Company, an early shareholder of the company that would later become oil giant BP.
Despite its early start, production has been negligible under the five decades of economic mismanagement since independence from Britain in 1948. In 2007, its output was just 8,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Total's website.
Still, the technique for hand drilling wells with simple bamboo rigs was passed down the generations, and has provided a healthy enough income for some communities living on Ramree Island.
The oil, which looks and smells like gasoline, was once distilled in makeshift refineries in the main town of Kyaukphyu.
The fuel was used in motorbikes and cars, but the refining process was dangerous. These days more reliable supplies of petrol are trucked in from Myanmar ' s commercial capital, Yangon.
"I found a lot of oil here 10 years ago," said U Tun Thein, who owns the land where the ramshackle village of Oil Mountain stands. He points proudly to a photograph of his daughter graduating from university, paid for on the proceeds of renting out his land to local oil drillers.
It's on this small resource-rich isle that Myanmar's disenchantment with its northern neighbour China is palpable, and its flirtation with the West will become increasingly obvious.
Like most people, U Tun Thein resents the large Chinese workforce that runs the nearby China National Petroleum Corporation's gas installation.
"The Chinese don't care about local people. They do as they like," U Tun Thein said.
For oilmen such as Zaw Myint, their troubles reflect the changing fancy of Myanmar's economic dalliances.
A couple of years ago he was uprooted by the construction of parallel 1,240km-long oil and gas pipelines stretching from Kyaukphyu, his coastal hometown, to China's southern Yunan province.
During the last year the gas pipeline, which connects to the offshore gas facility, has pumped 66.5 billion cubic feet of gas to China. The sister pipeline will come online later this year, and is expected to carry 440,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
"My family depends on this land. I want to regain the land I lost," said Zaw Myint.
His complaints are a common refrain on the island. Despite the abundance of offshore gas resources, locals say they've seen little of the revenue.
"Local people do not get enough profits from our natural resources," said Soe Shwe from the Shwe Gas Movement, a civil society group.
Driller Zaw Myint faces new trouble from plans to build a 17-square-kilometre industrial park on his oil field.
The "Special Economic Zone" will include a deep-sea port and a "one-stop service centre for comprehensive logistics and supply services for oil and gas exploration, development and production facilities", according to the development plan.
The oil facility will cater to the 20 offshore oil blocks auctioned off in April, several of which were awarded to Western oil conglomerates including Shell, ENI, Total, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
Chinese companies were notably absent; one of several potent signs of China's less-privileged position.
As Myanmar opened up its nascent banking sector earlier this month, only one Chinese bank was granted a license to operate, while Japan won three, and Singapore two. Meanwhile, Myanmar is said to have become dissatisfied with Chinese weaponry, preferring Russian planes and helicopters.
In 2011, President Thein Sein halted construction of the $3.6bn Myitsone hydroelectric dam, which would have sent 90 percent of the electricity it generated to China.
Four-years ago, China pledged $8.26bn worth of investments. The following year, Myanmar opened its doors to the West and that number halved. This year, China committed a paltry $56.9m.
Chinese investment in Myanmar has plunged, according to Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
"By broadening its foreign and economic relations, Burma has almost certainly reduced its dependence on China," he said in an email..
Even so, that doesn't mean the Sino-Myanmar romance is completely over. Despite the drop in foreign direct investment, bilateral trade remains healthy and this will continue to grow. In 2012, two-way trade almost doubled to $6.5bn.
"China remains a very important partner for Burma on nearly all levels," Storey said, pointing to the nearly 2,000-km shared border. Myanmar will want to maintain cordial and productive relations with Beijing, he said.
Asia's emergent superpower still wields considerable diplomatic power, pressuring Myanmar to end a brief offensive against Kachin rebels on the Chinese border in late 2012 when shells landed on the wrong side of the boundary.
As the Kyaukphyu economic zone develops, China wants to lay down a highway and railway along the same route as the oil and gas pipelines.
This would establish an economic artery from China's Yunan province to the Bay of Bengal that shortens transport times, avoids pirate-infested waters, and is, crucially, insurance against any future stand-off with the US over use of the shipping lane through the vital Strait of Malacca.
Relations have cooled significantly since 2011, but China's proximity and economic weight will always be compelling, said Sean Turnell, an economist from Macquarie University in Sydney.
"The old coziness may never come back, but the ties will continue to bind," Turnell said.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
The Rohingya people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) who mostly live in the western part - the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state, bordering Bangladesh, are undoubtedly the most persecuted people on earth. Denied citizenship in the Buddhist majority country, the Rohingyas have simply become the most unwanted people in our planet. The nearby Bangladesh does not want the persecuted Rohingyas to settle there either. In desperate attempts to save their lives, many Rohingyas have become now the 'boat people' of our time!
Who would have thought that in our time, some 68 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the world community to guide its behaviors and actions we would see so much of intolerance and persecution of peoples based on their race or ethnicity?
There are 30 Articles of the UDHR, starting with "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…" The second one reads: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status…"
When it comes to the Rohingya, sadly, not a single one of these rights is honored by the Myanmar government. These unfortunate people are denied their right to citizenship while the 15th Article clearly states: "(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality."
As the UN General Assembly convened last week, it is worth reminding ourselves that the preamble of the United Nations says, "WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, …."
And yet, the Myanmar government, being a member of the United Nations, denies such fundamental rights to the Rohingya people. It draws justification from the Burma Citizenship Law(1982), which was adopted during military dictator Ne Win's time. Under the section 3 of this law it is mentioned that "Nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D. are Burma citizens".
As can be seen the name 'Rohingya' was deliberately not mentioned in the list in spite of the fact that before the advent of the Tibeto-Burman races in Arakan, the Indo-Bengali ancestors (the first settlers) of today's Rohingya people had already settled in the territory and that they have had maintained an unbroken continuity of their existence since time immemorial. In so doing, Aye Kyaw (a neo-Nazi fascist, Rakhine academic) who had drafted the Citizenship Law for the military dictator Ne Win was killing two birds with one stone – permanently erasing the identity and sealing the fate of millions of Rohingyas by not only denying them citizenship in Burma but also from exercising democratic rights in Arakan where they comprised nearly half (or more correctly, 47.75%) of the population, second only to the Buddhist Rakhines. This was a devious ploy by any definition.
The same evil genius - Aye Kyaw - was also a key figure in the formulation of racial, apartheid policy of the ANC (Arakan National Congress). Its draft constitution for the Arakan state reads: "The citizenship of the Republic of Arakan shall be determined and regulated by law. The citizen of Arakan shall be known as Arakanese. Buddhism shall be the state religion. Only the Arakan legal entities and citizens of Arakan nationality shall have the right to own land." Since the Rohingyas are classified as Arakan Bengalis they will be subjected to a second class citizenship with no right to run for office or own land.
As can be seen, the ANC policy is an apartheid policy of exclusion, discrimination and marginalization of the Rohingya, who are derogatorily called the Kula (Kala) much like how the Afro-Americans were once called in the USA as the Black Niggers.
Interestingly, under the section 4, the 1982 Citizenship Law says: "Every national and every person born of parents, both of whom are nationals are citizens by birth."
In the section 6, it says: "A person who is already a citizen on the date this Law comes into force is a citizen. Action, however, shall be taken under section 18 for infringement of the provision of that section."
It is worth pointing out that the Rohingyas were accepted as citizens of Burma, and had elected members of the parliament from their own community. During the Parliamentary period (1948-1962) and the first years of Ne Win's dictatorship, there were not only many Rohingya organizations, both in Arakan and Rangoon, but the government recognized Rohingya as a Burmese ethnic group, and its language program was also transmitted through the national radio station in Rangoon. As such, to them sections 4 and 6 were only a confirmation of such rights.
But soon the controversial law was exploited by the military regime and its racist and fascist supporters within the larger Buddhist community, esp. the Rakhines, to treat the Rohingyas asnon-natives to Burma, opening the door for all types of discrimination against them. A chain of pogroms followed laying down the stepping stones for their genocide.
With the change of the old guards in Myanmar in recent years, we had high hopes that the apartheid Citizenship Law would be revoked. But we were wrong.
The former military general Thein Sein is the poster-boy of so-called reform inside the country. With him as the head of the state, there is a quasi-civil-military government in place that runs the fractured country. Myanmar had its election – albeit a limited one – in which many politicians with grass root support within the masses managed to win the limited seats available in the parliament. The new regime has also released many political prisoners (mostly Buddhists) who were once rotting in many of Myanmar's notorious dungeons. In reaction to such positive image-building initiatives, the western world has reciprocated by lifting its political and economic sanctions against the once hated military dictatorship, which has ruled the country for almost its entire life since earning independence from Britain in January 4 of 1948.
There was much expectation – probably too unrealistic and too premature – that the Thein Sein government was serious about 'real' reform and that the Rohingyas will be integrated as citizens at par with other ethnic/national groups inside Myanmar. What we have witnessed instead is worsening of their situations. They are now victims of a highly organized genocidal campaign in which even Buddhists like Aung San Suu Kyi – touted one-time as the democracy icon – are sadly, either silent or willing partners in this gross violation of human rights. Since May of 2012, an estimated 150,000 Rohingyas are internally displaced in the Rakhine state. Tens of thousands of Muslims living in other parts of Myanmar have also seen organized mob violence, lynching, and wholesale destruction of their homes, schools, mosques and businesses, which have resulted in some 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) all across Myanmar.
What is worse, the international NGOs, esp. from the Muslim countries, were barred from helping out the Muslim victims. In the face of reported protests from the Rakhine Buddhist community, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) could not even open an office to carry out its much needed humanitarian relief work in the troubled region.
This year (2014), the Myanmar authorities have cracked down even harder, making the situation worse. First, the government expelled Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which had been providing health care for the Rohingya. Then orchestrated mobs attacked the offices of humanitarian organizations, forcing them out. While some kinds of aid are resuming, but not the health care! As noted by award-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, expected mothers and their children are dying for lack of doctors. They need doctors desperately to save their lives, but the Myanmar government has confined them to quasi-concentration camps outside towns, and it blocks aid workers from entering to provide medical help. They are on their own in Myanmar, where democratic progress is being swamped by crimes against humanity toward the Rohingya.
Many of the Muslim IDPs now live in squalid camps with no provisions and are counting their days hopelessly to be relocated to their burned homes. And yet, such a provision seems unlikely. In recent months, Rakhine Buddhists have organized demonstrations protesting any resettlement of the Rohingya and other Muslims. Bottom line – they want the Rohingya and other Muslims out of Myanmar, if not totally annihilated.
Many international observers and some experts, including human rights activists, were surprised by such outbreaks of ethnic cleansing drives last year against the Muslims, in general, and the Rohingya people, in particular, let alone the level of Buddhist intolerance against non-Buddhists everywhere inside Myanmar. However, such sad episodes were no surprise to many keen readers and researchers of the Myanmar's problematic history.
We all knew that simply a transition to democracy would not and could not solve the Rohingya problem. Instead of a much-needed dialogue for reconciliation and confidence-building between ethnic/national and religious groups, what we recognized was appalling Buddhist chauvinism - outright rejection of the 'other' people from such processes by the so-called 'democracy' leaders within the Burmese and Rakhine Diaspora. As if, their so-called struggle for democracy against the hated military regime was a purely Buddhist one, the Rohingya Muslims were unwelcome in those dialogues between ethnic/national groups.
The level of Buddhist intolerance, hatred and xenophobia has simply no parallel in our time! The chauvinist Buddhists are in denial of the very existence of the Rohingya people, in spite of the fact that the latter's root in Arakan is older than that of the Rakhines by several centuries. While the vast majority of the late comers to the contested territory were Buddhists, the Rohingyas, much like the people living next door – on the other side of the Naaf River – in today's Bangladesh had embraced Islam voluntarily. Their conversion had also much to do with the history of the entire region, esp. in the post-13th century when the Sultans and the great Mughal Emperors ruled vast territories of the South Asia from the foothills of the Himalayas to the shores of the Indian Ocean.
As a matter of fact, the history of Arakan, sandwiched then between Muslim-dominated India and Buddhist-dominated Burma, would have been much different had it not been for the crucial decision made by the Muslim Sultan of Bengal who reinstalled the fleeing Buddhist king Narameikhtla to the throne of Arakan in 1430 with a massive Muslim force of nearly 60,000 soldiers – sent in two campaigns. Interestingly, the Muslim General Wali Khan – leading a force of 25,000 soldiers, who was instructed to put the fleeing monarch to the throne of Arakan –claimed it for himself. He was subsequently uprooted in a new campaign - again at the directive of the Sultan of Muslim Bengal, by General Sandi Khan who led a force of 35,000 soldiers. What would be Arakan's history today if the Muslim Sultan of Bengal had let General Wali Khan rule the country as his client?
The so-called democracy leaders in the opposition had very little, if any, in common with values and ideals of democracy but more with hard-core fascism. Their behavior showed that they were closet fascists and were no democrats. Thus, all the efforts of the Rohingya and other non-Buddhist minority groups to reach out to the Buddhist-dominated opposition leadership simply failed. It was an ominous warning for the coming days!
So, in 2012 when the region witnessed a series of highly orchestrated ethnic cleansing drives against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups not just within the Rakhine state but all across Myanmar, like some keen observers of the political developments I was not too surprised. Nor was I surprised with the poisonous role played by leaders of the so-called democracy movement. They showed their real fascist color. But the level of ferocity, savagery and inhumanity simply shocked me. It showed that the Theravada Buddhists of Myanmar, like their co-religionists in Sri Lanka and Cambodia, have unmistakably become one of the most racists and bigots in our world. With the evolving incendiary role of Buddhist monks like Wirathu - the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 Fascist Movement, which sanctifies eliminationist policies against the Muslims, surely, the teachings of Gautama Buddha have miserably failed to enlighten them and/or put a lid on their all too obvious savagery and monstrosity.
Myanmar is still locked in its mythical, savage past and has not learned the basics of nation-building. It uses fear-tactics and hatred towards a common enemy – the Rohingyas and Muslim minorities - to glue its fractured Buddhist majority. And the sad reality is – its formula is working, thanks to Wirathu, Thein Sein, Suu Kyi and other provocateurs and executioners!
On June 20, 2013 twelve Nobel Peace Laureates called upon the Myanmar government for ending violence against Muslims in Burma. They also called for an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence. Yet, the Myanmar regime continues to ignore international plea for integration of the Rohingya and other minorities. It proclaims – "There are no people called Rohingya in Myanmar." This narrative is absurd, as well as racist. A document as far back as 1799 refers to the Rohingya population in Arakan, and an 1826 report estimates that 30 percent of the population of this region was Muslim.
As I have noted elsewhere, today's Rohingya are a hybrid group of people, much like the Muslim communities living in many non-Arab countries around the globe, esp. South Asia. To say that their origin is a British-era or a Bangladeshi phenomenon is simply disingenuous.
In recent months, Myanmar has conducted a controversial census in which nearly a million Rohingyas were unaccounted. They were denied their basic rights to identify themselves as Rohingya. It was a gross violation according to scores of international law.
The Rohingya identity is no more "artificial" or "invented" than any other, including the Rakhine identity. The national politics around the Rohingya people of Arakan who are dumped as the 'Bengali illegal Muslim immigrants' is not mere bigotry but a viable toxic fruit of Myanmar ultra-nationalism- Bhumi Rakkhita Putra Principle. It is a deliberate act of provocative target-marking in line with YMBA's (Young Men Buddhist Association) amyo-batha-tharthana (race-language-religion) and is the foundation of the Burma Citizenship Act 1982. It is strong, powerful, and ultra-toxic. This apartheid law allows a Rakhine Buddhist like Aye Maung – an MP and chairman of the RNDP (a religio-racist Rakhine political party) whose parents only emigrated to Arakan state in 1953-54 from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) – to be automatically recognized as a Burmese citizen while denying the same privilege to millions of Rohingya and other Muslims whose ancestors had lived in the territory for centuries.
Myanmar espouses neo-Nazi Fascism, i.e., Myanmarism – the noxious cocktail of Buddhism, ultra-nationalism, racism and bigotry. It is a farcical ideology, which starts on the false premise thatthe different groups that make up its complex ethnic/religious mosaic today were always under the authority of a single government before the arrival of the British. It is a dangerous ideology since itpromotes the agenda towards genocide of the Rohingya and other non-Buddhist religious minorities. It is a medieval ideology of hatred and intolerance because it defines citizenship based on ethnicity or race, which has no place in the 21st century.
The Citizenship Law of 1982 violates several fundamental principles of international customary law standards, offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and leaves Rohingyas exposed to no legal protection of their rights. The 1982 Law promotes discrimination against Rohingya by arbitrarily depriving them of their Burmese (Myanmar) citizenship. The deprivation of one's nationality is not only a serious violation of human rights but also constitutes an international crime.
This apartheid law is a blueprint for elimination or ethnic cleansing. It has galvanized into genocidal campaign against the vulnerable Rohingya people who have lost everything in their ancestral land and has created outflows of refugees, which overburden other countries posing threats to peace and security within the region. Of the Rohingya Diaspora an estimated 1.5 million now live in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and other places where they could find a shelter. Such a forced exodus of Rohingyas is simply unacceptable in our time.
If Myanmar's leaders are serious about bringing their nation state from savage past to modernity, from darkness to enlightenment and avoiding becoming a failed state, they must abandon their toxic ideology of Myanmarism and revoke the apartheid Citizenship Law. They must learn from experiences of others to avoid disintegration. They must also learn that like everyone else the Rohingyas have the right to self-identify themselves. And it would be travesty of law and justice to deny such rights of self-identity.
Finally, it would be the greatest tragedy of our generation should we allow the perpetrators of genocide and ethnic cleansing to whitewash their crimes against humanity. The UNSC must demand an impartial inquiry and redress the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingya people need protection as the most persecuted people on earth. Should the Thein Sein government fail to bring about the desired change, starting with either repealing or amending the 1982 Citizenship Law, the UNSC must consider creating a 'save haven' inside Arakan in the northern Mayu Frontier Territories to protect the lives of the Rohingya people so that they could live safely, securely with honor and dignity as rest of us. The sooner the better!
The Rohingya American Society (RAS) based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rohingya Concern International (RCI) based in New York City, USA jointly held demonstrations under the banner of "ROHINGYA KOM-RED GROUP" in front of the United Nations (H.Q.) and Myanmar (Burma) Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City on the date of September 30, 2014 (Tuesday) to protest against 1982 Myanmar (Burma) Citizenship Apartheid and Black Law.
The so-called 1982 Burma (Myanmar) citizenship law which enacted on October 15, 1982 by the previous military dictator and late General Ne Win effectively denied the basic fundamental human rights including social, religious, educational, political, health care, justice, and cultural rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan-Burma (Myanmar).
Under this 1982 Citizenship Law, the Rohingya ethnic minority people were declared as" non-national" or" foreign residents." This law designated three categories of citizens (1) full citizens, (2) associate citizens, and (3) naturalized citizens. Unfortunately, none of the categories applies to the Rohingya people as they are not recognized as one of the 135 "national races" according to the military led current Burmese quasi-civilian government.
The 1982 Citizenship Law was intentionally created to exclude the Muslim Rohingyas from Burma (Myanmar) citizenship, rendering them stateless and without legal and civil rights. From the human rights aspects, this law violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international norms prohibiting discrimination of racial and religious minorities. It is a fundamental principle that everyone has a right to a nationality.
On the other hand, both level of Myanmar Central and Arakan State government as well as Rakhine ruling party leaders and ultra-nationalist Rakhine Buddhist monks are vigorously forcing the Rohingya ethnic minority who are residing in Arakan State to register as "Bengali" instead of as "Rohingya" in the current national citizenship verification process statewide. To force the Rohingya to accept the term as Bengali is to make them deny their citizenship as Rohingya in Myanmar despite the fact that the Rohingya have been living in Burma (Myanmar) for many centuries even before the date of 1823, the beginning of British colonial rule in Arakan.
The Rohingyas are already citizens by birth according to the 1947 Constitution, the 1947 Burmese Residence and Registration Act, 1948 Burmese Citizenship law, 1974 Burmese Constitution and the 1948 Burmese Independence Declaration according to the Nu-Atlee Agreement. Apart from this, the Rohingyas are also indigenous Burmese citizens according to the British Census of 1826, 1872, 1911, and 1974.
So, the 1982 citizenship law absolutely do not apply for Rohingya ethnic minority people as they are already the Burmese citizens as prescribed above Burmese national historical facts and British Census data and therefore, the protestors in the demonstrations call upon the Rohingya people to boycott and reject 1982 Burmese Citizenship law if Rohingya identity is denied and force the Rohingyas to accept Bengali ethnicity to make them stateless and foreigners on their native homeland of Arakan-Burma (Myanmar).
The protestors also demand the Government of President Thein Sein to immediately stop forcing the Rohingyas to register as Bengali and repeal the controversial and unjust 1982 citizenship law restoring the citizenship rights of the native Rohingyas of Arakan.
Mr. Mohiuddin (aka) Maung Sein, the President of RCI and Rohingya Kom-Red Group General Manager, Mr. Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (aka) MSK Jilani, the President of RAS, Mr. Pual 'Adam" Carroll, the Director of Burma Task Force - New York Branch Office, Dr. Nora Rowley, a Medical Doctor and Burmese Rohingya Human Rights Activist - USA, a prominent American Muslim Attorney Mr. Mohammad Aziz, and Mathida Khatiza spoke in the demonstration event.
After demonstrations in front of UN (H.Q.) and Myanmar Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City, the protestors led by Mr. Mohiuddin (aka) Maung Sein, the President of RCI and Mr. Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (aka) MSK Jilani, the President of RAS submitted a letter to UN Secretary General Mr. Ban-Ki-Moon through UN Security Agency and a letter to President Thein Sein through Myanmar Permanent Mission respectively.
They also met with Mr. Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in front of the United Nations Building.
For Rohingya general public information and reference, some demonstration pictures and 2 letters are attached herewith Joint Statement in Microsoft and PDF format.
(Media, Information & Publication Secretary)
Rohingya American Society (RAS)
Contact Telephones: (414) 712 6947, (414) 736 4273, (716) 544 1803, (414) 306 1751
by C.R. Abrar
Refugee protection is a core human rights issue. The fundamental right of seeking and enjoying asylum from persecution in other countries has been enshrined in Article 14(1) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The principle of asylum acknowledges that when all other forms of human rights protection fail, individuals must be able to leave their country freely and seek refugee elsewhere.
Over the last several decades while notable progress in protection was made in several areas of human rights, states have generally reneged on their commitment towards protecting refugees. Since the end of the Cold War one has witnessed increased propensity to undermine the spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention even among the states that were the principal architects of the international refugee regime and had ratified the instruments. As Human Rights Watch bemoaned: "Globally, there is less tolerance and more hostility towards refugees … and countries in the developed and developing world alike are closing their doors to the refugees." In sum, the world has become less respectful to the rights of the asylum seekers, refugees and the stateless people.
The September 2014 agreement between Australia and Cambodia on offshore refugee management is an important marker in this regard. Under this, Cambodia will accept refugees seeking asylum in Australia in return for $35 million in aid over four years, in addition to $69 million already allocated to the country. Initially, more than 200 people who have successfully claimed refugee status from the Australian authorities and are currently based in the offshore detention centre in Nauru would be brought over to Cambodia. It would be "an ongoing arrangement" with "no caps on total numbers involved," stated Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. He insisted that "this is a voluntary arrangement and no one was forcing anyone to go anywhere." He said: "It enables us to fulfill the policy which says that no one will be resettled in Australia." The minister said Australia would also provide expertise on developing Cambodia's capacity to settle refugees.
The Australian move to outsource refugee management to a third country has created widespread revulsion among a section of the Australian lawmakers as well as rights activists both at home and abroad. The plan to dispatch refugees to a country that has recent history of "civil war, genocide and occupation as well as better known for generating its waves of refugees" has been termed as shameful and unacceptable. Australian Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the immigration spokesperson for the Greens, berated the government for signing "an open-ended deal with one of the most corrupt nations of earth." Of particular concern to Hanson is the fate of unaccompanied refugee girls. Cambodia's recent track record of increased incidence of rape and sexual exploitation led her to conclude that "the moment these girls step off the plane, they will be put at risk."
Terming Cambodia as "completely unsuitable place for refugees," Australia's Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre expressed concern that the agreement "risked violating rights and endangering lives. …The reality is refugees will be forced to live a life of danger and despair on the margins." Amnesty International accused Australia of "putting the short-term political interests of the Australian government ahead of the protection of some of the world's most vulnerable people." "It makes Cambodia complicit in Australia's human rights breaches and seriously flawed offshore processing system," Amnesty noted.
Ou Virak, Chair of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said: "How irresponsible is it for Australia? Cambodia cannot protect its own people and violates every possible right they have. Australia is moving its burden offshore, knowing that the country cannot protect the refugees." A section of Cambodian Buddhist monks also expressed anger that Australia was burdening with refugees a poor country that is struggling to provide basic amenities to its own people. "If they are not good enough for Australia, why are they being dumped in Cambodia?" This question was raised by demonstrators at a recent rally in front of the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh.
In order to assuage public concerns the Australian minister underscored the voluntariness of the scheme. What Mr. Morrison did not state is that those who would refuse this re-settlement offer would continue to remain in atrocious conditions in Nauru, where they are currently based. Senator Hanson-Young observed that the Abbott government was forcing refugees "to choose between cruelty in Nauru and cruelty of Cambodia."
Australia's practice of transferring asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island has amounted to refoulement -- 'sending them to countries where they are subjected to human rights violations.' The practice breaches the country's obligations under both international refugee and human rights law and standards. Following a visit to Manus Island in November 2013, Amnesty International reported that asylum seekers were subjected to deliberately harsh and humiliating conditions. Those were designed to pressure them to return to their country of origin, regardless of whether or not they were refugees. In November 2012, Amnesty found that refugees and asylum seekers in the Australia-run detention centre in Nauru "were living in cramped condition, suffered from both physical and mental ailments, and routinely had their human rights violated."
Minister Morrison's assertion that those who chose to go would "be afforded all the same rights under the Cambodian law and those under Refugee Convention" has further aggrieved refugee rights activists. Cambodia has a track record of flagrantly contravening provisions of international refugee convention, an instrument that it ratified. In 2009 it deported 20 ethnic Uighurs back to China although members of the group received letters of protection from the UNHCR. Those who returned faced secret trials and several were reportedly sentenced to long prison terms. It is worthwhile to note that Cambodia was awarded $1 billion in loans and grants by China within days of the return of the Uighurs. Earlier in 2002, three persons in receipt of UN protection were refouled to their countries of origin. Two sent to China were members of the Falun Gong movement and another was a dissident monk in Vietnam. The Cambodian authorities meted out the same treatment to hundreds of ethnic Montagnards minority fleeing persecution in Vietnamese authorities during 2001-2004.
The Abbott government's latest decision has been termed as "inappropriate, immoral and likely illegal" by a consortium of organisations that included Unicef, Amnesty International and Refugee Council of Australia. Explaining the position of the consortium Alastair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of Australia's Family Court, stated that "it is inappropriate because Cambodia has no capacity within its social sectors to take an influx of refugees; immoral because these vulnerable people are Australia's responsibility; while we await the detail, it appears illegal in contravening Australia's humanitarian and refugee obligation to vulnerable children and families".
It is an irony that Australia has decided to work out this arrangement with a government that itself has criticised in the recent past. January 2014 witnessed violent crackdown on workers and activists that resulted in the death of at least four people with scores gone missing. The hypocrisy of the Australian policy is laid bare as the country only recently expressed concern about Cambodia's human rights situation, "restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association, particularly recent disproportionate violence against protestors, including detention without trial." In February 2014, the Australian Senate adopted a motion condemning the use of violence and excessive force against demonstrators and a repeal of a ban on demonstrators.
The latest Australian decision to outsource refugee protection will set a dangerous precedent. Refugee protection has struck a new low. At a time when the world is faced with the highest number of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless people since the Second World War such shortsighted nationalist xenophobic policies only betray the fact how insensitive the current leaders of the so-called free and liberal world has become when comes to upholding the lofty principles of human rights and humanitarianism.
The writer teaches international relations and coordinates the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of the University of Dhaka. He is president of Odhikar.
Last modified: 10:14 pm Saturday, October 11, 2014
Source Yahoo, 11 October
United Nations (UN) offices in Kuala Lumpur on July 16, 2014 (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
Bangkok (AFP) - Thai authorities on Saturday arrested 53 Rohingya migrants and two suspected Thai traffickers en route to neighbouring Malaysia, an official said.
The migrants were found on a rubber plantation in Takua Pa district in the southern coastal province of Phang Nga, district chief Manit Phianthong told AFP.
"We got a tip-off from an informant that a trafficking gang would be transporting Rohingya people to Malaysia," he said, adding that the migrants came from Myanmar's western Rakhine state and Bangladesh.
Thousands of Rohingya -- a Muslim minority group not recognised as citizens in Myanmar -- have fled deadly communal unrest in Rakhine since 2012, mostly heading for Malaysia.
The migrants arrested Saturday were ferried onto the Thai mainland from a small island in the Andaman Sea, Manit said, adding that one of the arrested traffickers confessed he was part of a bigger gang.
"We are still looking for the real masterminds," said the official.
Twelve Rohingya migrants are thought to have escaped during the raid, he added.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya -- described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world -- as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, and denies them citizenship.
They face travel restrictions, forced labour and limited access to healthcare and education.
Around 300,000 Rohingya have over the years gone to live in Bangladesh, which recognises only a small portion as refugees and regularly turns back those trying to cross the border.
Rights groups say the stateless migrants often fall into the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.
They have also criticised Thailand in the past for pushing boats of Rohingya entering Thai waters back out to sea and holding migrants in overcrowded facilities.
Thailand said last year it was investigating allegations that some army officials in the kingdom were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya.
Friday, 10 October 2014
|Prisoner come out from the Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar, October 07, 2014. Photo: Hein Htet/Mizzima|
Amnesty International says the release of some 3,000 prisoners by Myanmar is essentially an empty political gesture as scores of peaceful activists are believed to remain behind bars.
The Myanmar authorities announced October 7 that the prisoners would be released in an amnesty, but none of the country's prisoners of conscience – activists detained solely for peacefully expressing their views – will be included in the release, notes the human rights organization.
"This is nothing but an empty gesture on the authorities' part," said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International's Asia Pacific Director in a press release. "The timing, so close to the ASEAN summit in Myanmar in early November, smacks of political opportunism."
He said that if the authorities were genuine about improving respect for human rights, they would follow through on the long-standing promise to clear the country's jails of the dozens of peaceful activists.
According to the human rights group, Myanmar's repressive laws continue to silence dissent and to target those who peacefully oppose the government.
"We are still receiving reports of human rights defenders, land rights activists, journalists, political activists and others being imprisoned for nothing more than expressing their opinions," Mr Bennett said. "As long as these detentions continue, amnesties like the one [October 7] do nothing to improve Myanmar's human rights situation."
Amnesty says that among the new prisoners of conscience in Myanmar in 2014 is Ko Htin Kyaw, the leader of community-based Movement for Democracy Current Force who is currently serving 11 years and four months in prison for his involvement in a series of peaceful protests and for making speeches and distributing leaflets critical of the government.
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) tortured till to dead a Rohingya educated person hailed from Sector number two, Baukshu Phwe Yah Village tract, Aung Zan Hamlet in Northern Maungdaw.
On 3rd October 2014, Mohammed Farid @ Hla Htay (38 years), son of Badi Alam was arrested by a BGP team after his congressional (Jumma) Prayer and sent him to the headquarter of BGP without having any crime.
The culprit BGP personnel hit him up to dead to admit a false statement what they want as he had a contact with a foreign organization.
After being killed Mohammed Farid @ Hla Htay, the BGP sent his dead body to Maungdaw General Hospital Morgue for autopsy and made a death certificate mentioned that he was died of disease. Then the dead body handed over to the relatives. The BGP personnel guarded the corpse till to complete-bury in the cemetery of Ward number two , Maungdaw Township on 5th October, 2014.
Myanmar BGP and military personnel are arresting and brutally torturing many Rohingya religious and school educated persons from different villages of Northern Maungdaw since 27 September 2014.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today criticized a plan that would force many Rohingya to claim Bangladeshi origin as part of a strategy by the government of Burma to further isolate the minority group. Those who refuse to renounce their identity are reportedly being arrested, tortured, or sent to camps.
"Forcing the Rohingya, many of whom have lived in Burma for generations, to register as Bengali is yet another example of the persecution they face," said Andrea Gittleman, PHR's interim director of U.S. policy. "A 1982 law denies Rohingya full citizenship and equal protection, and this registration plan seeks to keep the Rohingya stateless. Denying members of an ethnic group citizenship and forcing them into internment camps is a crime against humanity."
Approximately 140,000 Rohingya have been forcibly displaced, are living in squalid conditions, and are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, including medical care.
According to news reports, Burma, also known as Myanmar, has confirmed it is finalizing a plan that would offer the Rohingya limited citizenship if they change their identity to Bengali, which indicates Bangladeshi origin. Rohingya leaders have told PHR that those who refuse to register as Bengali face arrest, detention, and torture.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
A mosque, a home and a shop were vandalised as mob violence broke out again in central Burma on Saturday.
The incident in Myit Chay, near Pakokku in Magwe Division, was sparked by the alleged assault of a Buddhist housemaid by her Muslim employers. After hearing the rumours of the assault, a gang of around 50 local Buddhist men gathered at the house of the alleged perpetrator and ransacked it. They then set about destroying the Muslim man's shop before turning their attention to a local mosque.
A Myit Chay administrator has told DVB that the housemaid has been advised to press charges against her employer and his wife, who is also alleged to have beaten the women, and that local authorities have assured the public that action would be swift.
It is believed the employer, Moe Win, is now in hiding.
Housemaid Cho Thet Mar says she was beaten at her employer's home after going there to confront him about unpaid wages.
"I went to ask for my money, but the boss' wife told me they would not pay me," she told DVB. "I told her that the matter wasn't her business and demanded to speak to her husband."
She said that when she began raising her voice and making a scene, both the employer, his wife and a manservant dragged her by the hair into the house and beat her. Cho Thet Mar said that she screamed for help, but although some neighbours heard her and saw the incident, they did not intervene.
Later on Saturday evening, a 50-strong gang of men attacked Moe Win's home and shop. The mob then vandalised a local mosque, before finally being dispersed by police at 11pm.
Police estimate the damage to be in the region of US$400.
Myint Kyaw, a local administrator in Myit Chay, said, "I immediately informed the township administrator and he instructed me to take swift action against the couple, so I brought the police station chief along and advised the victim to press charges against them."
He said he and the police chief assured the mob that swift action would be taken and charges brought against the Muslim couple.
The mob dispersed at first, he said, but later reappeared, threatening to seek further revenge.
The incident is the latest in a string of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma. Mosques, Muslim homes and businesses have frequently been the targets of rumour-fuelled anger, most recently in Mandalay in July.