Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Authorities ban food shopping for Rohingyas in Aung Mingalar, Sittwe-Arakan

Source RB news, 29 July

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Policemen stop civilians at one of the road blocks that surround Aung Mingalar, Sittwe's last Muslim quarter that is home to 6,500 people. (Photo: Jpaing/The Irrawaddy)

Sittwe, Arakan - In Aung Mingalar quarter in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state. Rohingya residents are facing a food crisis. This has been ongoing over the past two weeks as the commandant of the no. 12 police battalion banned food shopping.

After the violence broke out in Sittwe in June of last year, Rohingyas have been prohibited to leave Aung Mingalar. The movement restriction that was imposed, saw a selected few that were allowed to leave the blocked village twice a week to shop for food. Normally, security forces escort the Rohingyas from Aung Mingalar to the market nearby The-Chaung. 

Now the commandant of the police battalion says that they can no longer escort the Rohingya. He says that they are unable to protect them against the attacks of the Youth Monks Union in Sittwe. According to residents, it has been two weeks since they have been able to buy food.

"The security forces escort us twice a week. We had to go Sunday and Wednesday. We had to leave at 4 am and needed to return at 6 am. As we can't go to the main market in Sittwe, some of the shop keepers come down to nearby The-Chaung. So we can buy the stuffs there. Now it has been two weeks we can't go any more as the authority banned us going for shopping. We are facing serious crisis for the foods." a Rohingya resident of Aung Mingalar told RB News.

"We needed to pay from 120,000 Kyat to 150,000 Kyat per week to the commandant of police battalion and other ordinary police. We needed pay all the staff just to escort us." he continued.

Another a Rohingya said "The president said he will tack action whoever creating the problem in the country. But now this Youth Monks Union of Sittwe is barring us from shopping the food stuffs and the police are unable to control them. So whatever told by the president is just talking. We will be in big trouble by starving if this continues."

Sunday, 28 July 2013

undefined Rakhine police raid camps for laptops

Source mmtimes, 26 July

Muslims living in camps for displaced people near the Rakhine capital Sittwe say police have been conducting regular nighttime raids to confiscate laptops and smartphones.

The move appears to be designed to isolate IDPs and stop them communicating with foreign individuals and groups. Sittwe's Rohingya Muslims, who are referred to in Myanmar as Bengalis, are largely restricted to the camps and a few sections of the city and the internet is their only means of connecting with the outside world.

A Rakhine State government spokesman has denied the allegations, calling them fabricated.

But one IDP from a camp near Thatkepyin village, who asked not to be named, said police have been arriving several times a week since early June to search camps for laptops and other internet-enabled devices.

He said the visits usually involve harsh interrogation, with police even sometimes beating people in the camp for information. During the visits, the police regularly accuse people of using the internet to spread "wrong information".

"The are trying to stop us from communicating with foreigners," said the man, who was a university student before the violence broke out.

He said he uses the internet to keep in touch with his brother in Europe and communicate with sympathetic groups in Malaysia

"Rohingya people want to share their suffering with the world and share information," the man said.

U Aung Win, a Rohingya activist in hiding in the Sittwe area, estimated that more than 80 people found with computers or smart phones have been arrested on "false charges" in Sittwe in the past month. Other sources based in the area made similar estimates. 

"I also use a laptop secretly, everybody uses a laptop secretly ... in every IDP camp it's the same thing," he said.

Many of the IDP camps in Rakhine State lack basic amenities, such as running water and electricity, and residents are forced to be resourceful to recharge their electronic devices. Sources in the camps say that several groups have worked together to buy 15-watt solar panels, at K15,000 a unit, that can be used to charge their devices. 

U Win Myaing, a spokesperson for the Rakhine State government, denied that the raids were taking place and said he had never heard reports of police harassing IDPs. He said that U Aung Win and the other IDPs were being paid to spread disinformation.

He said the websites that post their information are "biased" against the Rakhine ethnic group. "No one ever talks about all the good things [the state government] does for the Muslim people," he said.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Who cares for a voiceless minority in Myanmar?

Source Arabnews, 25 July

THE United States says it's concerned over the growing Islamophobia around the world. In its annual report on the state of political and religious freedom around the world, the State Department has denounced a sharp spike in anti-Muslim sentiment and violence: "Government restrictions, which often coincided with societal animosity, resulted in anti-Muslim actions that affected everyday life for numerous believers." From Western nations like Belgiumhome to European Parliament, where the veil is seen as the flag of invading Islamic armies, to emerging Asian giants China and India, many usual and unusual suspects find themselves in the dock. However, it is Burma or Myanmar, lately the scene of raging atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, that justifiably attracts the strongest censure. Senior officials and security forces are seen as openly fanning the waves of attacks that have killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands. The persecution and witch hunt has been so overwhelming that the Rohingyas have been desperately trying to flee Burma using whatever means they could find but with little success. With the authorities turning a blind eye to the growing violence against Muslims and at times even colluding with the assailants, the attacks are spreading to new areas and are now being reported from across the country. News agencies report of mobs armed with machetes, pipes and long bamboos attacking Muslim towns and burning down mosques, shops and homes while security forces stand and stare. Earlier this month, Associated Presspieced together the March 21 massacre of madrassa students in Meikhtila by a mob led by Buddhist monks right when they were apparently being moved by police to safety after their school was burnt down. Based on the testimony of 10 witnesses, AP says that 36 teenagers were slaughtered before the eyes of local officials and police who stood and stared.
"And what has happened since shows just how hollow the promise of change has been for a neglected religious minority that has received neither protection nor justice," writes the author of AP's extraordinary report on Burma. "The president of this predominantly Buddhist nation never came to Meikhtila to mourn the dead or comfort the living. Police investigators never roped this place off or collected the evidence of carnage left behind on these slopes. And despite video clips online that show mobs clubbing students to death and cheering as flames leap from corpses, not a single suspect has been convicted." Rights groups say the lack of justice fuels impunity among Buddhist mobs and encourages more violence. The US report notes that Myanmar promotes Theravada Buddhism at the expense of other faiths. Which seems like a minor offense considering Burma sees Rohingyas as 'illegal aliens' and enemies despite their presence in the land for centuries. They do not exist and have no citizenship or rights whatsoever as far as the state is concerned.
Interestingly, Secretary of State John Kerry released the damning report on the day President Obama hosted Myanmar President Thein Sein at White House. Sein is the first Burmese leader in nearly five decades to get the honor, marking a turnaround in relations with Washington and rest of the West. Obama created history of sorts last year when he visited the country that Washington still calls Burma.
The US concern over the plight of Muslims is touching. Some would see it as typical US hypocrisy considering America's own role in Muslim lands. That said, there's no denying the fact that with every passing day the witchhunt of Myanmar's Muslims is turning into an all-out war mocking the world community which has been deafeningly silent on the issue. There's increasing evidence to suggest that this targeting of Rohingyas at the hands of Buddhist extremists and militant monks enjoys the blessings of powers that be. The government has even stonewalled international relief efforts. President Sein has the audacity to blame the victims themselves. He told CNN's Christiana Amanpour: "The trouble was started by criminal actions of some (read Muslims)."
Entire neighborhoods and villages have invited the wrath for imagined slights such as the accidental brushing of a Rohingya woman with a monk. These are but mere footnotes in the endless tragedy that is the Rohingya existence. Persecuted and hounded for the past several decades by a ruthless state and an increasingly jingoistic majority, they are strangers in their own land. Deprived of citizenship, they cannot even send their children to schools nor make use of essential government services.
Recently, the 'reformist' government issued a new diktat forbidding Muslims in Rakhine province from having more than two children. This is something that even the Nazis and Zionists couldn't come up with. One wonders if Myanmar is part of the same planet that you and I inhabit? Is this 21stcentury or have we somehow been whacked back in time? Is this the country that is supposed to be swept by winds of change and being warmly embraced by Western nations?
Clearly, in an age ruled by Mammon, economic interest takes precedence over everything else. Who cares for a powerless people in an isolated land on the far side of the world anyway! Even democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has chosen to look the other way while Rohingyas are hunted and killed like animals. She has criticized the two-child norm as 'discriminatory' though.
His Holiness Dalai Lama, feted in world capitals as champion of world peace, is yet to break his silence on Myanmar-or Sri Lanka for that matter. As in Myanmar, the Bodu Bala Sena's terror campaign against Lankan Muslims is led by militant monks and apparently enjoys the blessings of the state. After the Tamils, clearly it's time to discipline Muslims.
All this is unfortunate considering Muslim-Buddhist relations have historically been amicable. Islam and Buddhism have never been at war or in an ideological tussle. Buddha is hailed by Muslim poets as a messenger of peace. What went wrong then? Did it have anything to do with the mindless destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas by Taleban?
But there has been a long history of the Rohingyas' persecution and systematic dispossession. It goes way back-even before the military took over six decades ago. In recent months and years, it has crossed all limits even as the country flirts with democracy and cautiously opens up to the world after long years of isolation.
If the US, EuropeChina and India are salivating over the large economic pie that is the mineral- and oil-rich Burma, it's understandable. But should everything else including humanity be sacrificed for business? Besides, if the world powers need Myanmar's virgin markets, it also needs them for investments and development.
It's time the world held Myanmar to account and push it to respect the fundamental rights granted by the UN Human Rights Charter and that all member states are committed to. As Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights put it, Burma needs to be told that the only path from tyranny to democracy is through respect for human rights.
The US which has lately become close to Myanmar must walk the talk on human rights and religious freedom. Else the State Department's report isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Arab and Muslim states for once must put their economic clout to use to help the besieged Rohingyas. But Muslim nations can hold others to account only when they take care of their own minorities.
Given the state of minorities in some Muslim countries, they are in no position to lecture others. Many Muslim nations figure also in the US report for their "egregious and systemic repression" of religious rights.
What is happening in PakistanIraq and elsewhere doesn't help our case. It also goes against the Islamic history of tolerance and protection of minorities. This needs to change if we want a change in the condition of Muslims in countries like Myanmar.

• undefinedAijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf based writer. Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

Turkish youth in Melbourne embrace Rohingya

Source aa, 24 July
Young Turks used every means possible to take care of needs of Rohingya people settled in various parts of Melbourne
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MELBOURNE

Turkish youth in Australian province Melbourne embraced the Rohingya Muslims who fled the humanity tragedy in Myanmar.

A group of 20 young Turks used every means possible to take care of the needs of Rohingya people settled in various parts of the city including providing food, clothing, furniture and money.

Apart from all the initiatives to collect money, the group hosted a fast breaking meal and charity night where they called on families to foster for a Rohingya family.

Adem Temel, organizer of the charity group, drew a similarity between Rohingya Muslims and the migration or journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, adding that they should act like the Ansar, "helpers" and embrace the displaced Rohingyans.

Nur Alum, a Rohinya Muslim who has fled the violence in Myanmar, said the situation was still horrific and he was in prison for seven years just to attempt to travel to the capital as a university student.

Hoping the violence would end soon, Alum said he witnessed killing, burning and raping of Muslims.

englishnews@aa.com.tr

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Turkish charity groups with Arakan's Muslims

Source Anadolu, 23 July
 
Charity associations in Turkey do not leave Muslims in Arakan alone during Ramadan 

KONYA

Charity associations in Turkey, ranking fourth among the countries which provide international aids, do not leave Muslims in Arakan, a state in Burma, alone during Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims).

Muslims who were exposed to assaults from Buddhists in north of Arakan province sustained their struggle for life thanks to the aids of charity groups in camps. Turkish charity groups were also with Arakan Muslims during Ramadan.

Coordinator of South Asian Desk of Humanitarian Relief Fund (IHH) Eyup Ural spoke to AA reporter and stated that IHH aided two camps in Mektila region where there were Turkish martyrs' cemetery and a Turkish mosque.

IHH-AYDER Chairman Hidayet Yilmaz said that they opened 5th orphanage in Arakan region, adding they visited the camps in the region before Ramadan and distributed food packages to 8,500 families.

An authority of another Turkish charity group, Kimse Yok Mu Association, Yusuf Yildirim reported to have distributed 15,000 food packets and held iftars (fast-breaking meal) for 10,000 people.

englishnews@aa.com.tr

Myanmar frees 73 political prisoners - governement committee member

Note: No Rohingya or (muslim) included in this pardon
Source Reuters, 23 July

(Reuters) - Myanmar's government is releasing another 73 political prisoners and more could be freed in coming months to honour a commitment made by the president during a recent trip to Europe, a member of a government body looking into the process said on Tuesday.

President Thein Sein, a former general now heading a quasi-civilian government, has pushed through a series of political and economic reforms since a military government stepped aside in 2011.

He has freed hundreds of political detainees and promised in a speech in Britain last week to free all those still in prison by the end of this year.

"A total of 73 political prisoners are being released from various detention centres today," Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the Committee to Scrutinise Remaining Political Prisoners, told Reuters.

"The total number of remaining political prisoners has now dropped to lower than 100 for the first time in many years."

The government, embassies and other groups have different figures for the number of political detainees.

The military junta, and even Thein Sein's government in the past, rejected the term, but he set up the committee to examine the issue and decide which prisoners were inside for criminal acts and those there for political reasons.

The 19-member committee comprises 10 former political prisoners, six people appointed by the government and three mediators, including Hla Maung Shwe.

"The committee meets once a month and we expect the remaining political prisoners will be freed by the end of this year as the president said during his recent visit to Europe," Hla Maung Shwe added.

An official at the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, a pro-democracy activist group, confirmed the release of several dozen political prisoners, but said the group was still collecting names.

(Editing by Alan Raybould and Ron Popeski)

Rights groups condemn Australia asylum policy

Also read- Grant Bayldon: Stop passing buck with refugees
This month while in Thailand, I visited Rohingya women and children who had fled from appalling atrocities in Burma. I should be used to hearing such stories by now, working for Amnesty International, but the stories are always so far removed from my life in New Zealand that I don't think I ever will be.

Source Aljazeera, 23 July

Government accused of avoiding responsibilities by automatically sending all asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.

Kevin Rudd has said that anyone seeking asylum who arrives by boat will not be resettled in Australia [AFP]

Human rights groups have expressed outrage at Australia's decision to automatically send all asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.

The new agreement, signed by Australia's Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd of and Peter O'Neill of Papua New Guinea, is Australia's latest attempt to stop boats from Indonesia before national elections in which refugee policy is a heated issue.

The Refugee Council of Australia said on Tuesday that the Australian government's new arrangement with Papua New Guinea would exacerbate the Asia-Pacific region's challenges with people movement by undermining efforts to improve refugee protection for those who most needed it.

Paul Power, the Council's chief executive, said that Australia could not outsource its Refugee Convention responsibilities to a much poorer neighbour and remain credible in advocating that other nations improve protection standards for refugees.

"By unreasonably shifting its responsibilities for asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea through this Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA), Australia's international advocacy for responsibility sharing has been exposed as hollow and hypocritical," Power said in a written statement.

"This arrangement is without precedent in the world. It cannot possibly be presented as an example of regional co-operation because it is little more than a wealthy country paying a much weaker neighbour to take on its international responsibilities to people seeking asylum."

'Resentment risk'

Ian Rintoul, the spokesman for Refugee Action Coalition, told Al Jazeera from Sydney on Tuesday that the "right-wing Labor government" was "playing the refugee card" in the lead-up to this year's Australian general election.

Papua New Guinea opposition spokesman Tobias Kulang said his country had no capacity to deal with refugee settlements and said Australia had decided to "dump" asylum seekers.

Analyst Sinclair Dinnen, of Australian National University, said that Papua New Guinea was a volatile South Pacific country that had struggled to maintain law and order and where around 80 percent of 6.5 million residents lead a subsistence life in villages, with little access to health and education services.

"There is a risk there could be resentment towards a group of outsiders, foreigners, who could be seen to be eating up resources which could be used on Papua New Guineans themselves," Dinnen said.

Papua New Guinea is a deeply Christian Melanesian country which is going through a resources boom, including a $15.7 billion Exxon Mobil gas export project, due to start production in 2014 and expected to boost gross domestic product by about 20 percent.

It is fighting entrenched poverty, unemployment and law and order issues and this year reinstated the death penalty and repealed sorcery laws after a string of gruesome "witch" killings and gang rapes.

The Governor of Oro Province, Gary Zuffa, said the plan could fuel hostility.

"If Australia is going to finance that resettlement, then that's going to create a bit of hostility from the local population, because these people will be given funds to start a new business, a new life," Zuffa said.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Myanmar detains Rohingya community leader

Source ucanews, 16 July

A prominent Rohingya lawyer and community leader in western Myanmar was arrested yesterday on suspicion of provoking public unrest in the region, which has been hit by several waves of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities over the past year.

Police in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe confirmed the arrest of Kyaw Hla Aung on Monday afternoon at a Rohingya refugee camp outside the town.

Police officer Maung Maung Than said today that an interrogation is underway but did not explain the details of the allegations.

Kyaw Hla Aung, 73, worked as the administrator for the Netherlands-based AZG International NGO'sRakhine branch until the deadly clashes between majority Buddhist Rakhine and miniority Rohingyabroke out in the middle of last year.

This is the second time he has been detained, having been arrested in the immediate aftermath of the June violence, also on charges of inciting public unrest, but later released.

Shwe Maung, a Rohingya MP from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, said this arrest followed that of Kyaw Hla Aung, also a Rohingya community leader at the Thekalbyin refugee camp, who was detained on the same charges.

He said it was apparently related to a controversial family registration process administered by the local immigration and police forces.

Some scuffles had broken out in April between the authorities and the Rohingya refugees who refused to be identified as "Bengalis" in the registration forms, Shwe Maung said. The Rohingya community believes the term suggests they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, an excuse the government uses to deny them citizenship.  

"Kyaw Myint was not involved in any confrontation with the police. He was talking with an immigration officer when the incident broke out. He was totally innocent," he said. "I think the latest arrest of Kyaw Hla Aung is a similar case."

Kyaw Hla Aung's arrest came on the same day that President Thein Sein pledged to release all political prisoners by the end of the year. Thein Sein is currently in the UK, where he held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Myanmar government has been known in the past to use trumped up charges to detain opposition activists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in New York last week expressed concern over the plight of the Rohingya and called on the Myanmar government to consider granting them citizenship.

Rohingya: The Obligation of Refuge

Source Huffingtonpost, 19 July
José Ramos-Horta

Former President, East Timor, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate




News reached me today that Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar had reached the waters of my country, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and had been turned away.


As soon as I heard, I sought clarification from Timor-Leste's Foreign Affairs Minister, Jose Luis Guterres -- a good, caring human being. We spoke briefly this morning, in Maputo, Mozambique, where we were both attending a Ministerial Meeting of the Portuguese-Speaking Countries. I was attending as the UN Special Envoy for Guinea-Bissau to brief the ministers on developments in Guinea-Bissau.

According to Foreign Minister Guterres, the refugees had not wanted to stay in Timor. Their destination, he said, was Australia.

"Timor-Leste maritime police helped them fix their engine as per their request," he said. "And the refugees asked to be allowed to continue their journey to Australia. The maritime police escorted them to international waters and let them go."

Was this the correct approach? Is it politically and morally defensible? I do not comment.

In 2001 and 2002 when Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste, I was confronted with similar situations of boat people seeking shelter in our country. I argued strongly then and prevailed over some strong objections in letting asylum seekers disembarking in Timor-Leste. In the first instance, at the end of August 2001, hundreds of refugees on a boat who became known as the "Tampa boat people" were stranded in the Timor Sea attempting to travel to Australia. Australia refused to let them in. I advocated for them and consulted with my compatriots, Xanana Gusmao, Mari Alkatiri and Bishop Belo, and we unanimously agreed that Timor-Leste would welcome them as a temporary measure. However, as poor Timor-Leste showed greater compassion than rich Australia, there was such widespread outrage at Australia's attitude that Australia relented and let them into an Australian off-shore island. So the refugees never had to disembark in our poor country.

In 2002, newly independent Timor-Leste faced its first test in how to manage a humanitarian refugee crisis. A boat full of Sri Lankan refugees, all from the majority Singhalese ethnic group, had approached our shores seeking water and shelter as they wished to continue their journey to New Zealand, a very long and perilous journey. Key Ministers in the Government argued against allowing the refugees on shore. I forcefully argued for. In the end I prevailed; the Prime Minister sided with me in my altercation with the other Ministers involved in the decision making dispute.

As it turned out they were economic refugees, not political refugees. They were brought on shore, interviewed and told their story, how they were duped by unscrupulous smugglers whom they paid each $2,000 to sail them to New Zealand. The boat carried some 50 people when in fact it could fit a maximum of 20. It would have sunk in the perilous seas to the South. They stayed in Timor-Leste for a month, were well treated, fed, allowed to visit the city, while we negotiated with the Sri Lankan authorities for their voluntary return home. They all returned home.

A few years ago, while President of Timor-Leste and on a visit to our own Atauro Island, I addressed a small crowd and the island's tiny police force in the Island. I was asked a question by a local concerning many undocumented Indonesian citizens from isolated neighboring Indonesian islands seeking medical help in Atauro.

I responded that as Head of State, and particularly addressing the police present, that "Anyone reaching our shores seeking shelter, food, water, medical care, whoever they are, wherever they may come from, we welcome them, shelter them from persecution or fear, provide them water, food, medical care. Ask questions later, where they are coming from, where they might wish to go.

"If they have nowhere else to go, if they are unwanted in rich Australia, we share with them our homes, for they are people like us, poor, homeless, persecuted. Timor-Leste must never turned its back on people fleeing hunger and wars. We too were refugees once, we fled our country, we fled poverty and persecution and we were sheltered by kind, caring people, who taught us about solidarity, about humanity."

In the case of the unwanted and persecuted Rohingya refugees, I would have acted differently. As poor as Timor-Leste may be, we are no longer as poor as in 2002. In the last five years or so we have been in the fortunate position ourselves of offering aid to people in other countries affected by natural disasters, well over US$10 million. Surely, we can share our bamboo roof, a loaf of bread, a plate of rice, cassava, some coconut water with our fellow brothers and sisters from Myanmar.

I am saddened. Were I in Timor-Leste I would have pleaded with the Government to let the refugees in under my personal responsibility. I would have invited them to camp in my small family compound. I would sign off terms of responsibility to care for them. In 2006 during our own political-security crisis, when our people were displaced and fled the city, I hosted hundreds of unknown people, children and adults, men and women, in my compound. They stayed in the relative safety of my home for weeks.

Today, far away from home, I plead with President Taur Matan Ruak and Prime Minister Xanana to let these unwanted, persecuted people stay in our country. And I am ready 

Friday, 19 July 2013

EU opens markets for Myanmar, ignores Rohingya Muslims

Source kuna, 18 July
 
BRUSSELS, July 18 (KUNA) -- Despite the continued persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, the European Union Thursday announced that as of tomorrow, Myanmar is set to benefit once again from a special advantageous trade arrangement with the EU.

A European Commission statement said it has taken the move "after the country's recent efforts to improve the political, social, and labour environments there." The EU will bring the country back under the preferential trade regime, known as the 'Generalised Scheme of Preferences', which will grant duty-free and quota-free access to the European market for all products except for arms and ammunitions.

The EU's trade preferences had been suspended in 1997 as a result of Myanmar's serious and systematic violations of core international conventions on forced labour, the statement noted.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in press statements, "Trade is fundamental to supporting political stability and the EU's trade preferences mean we will give this reform-minded country priority access to the world's largest market. The EU is also going to help Myanmar boost the capacity of both public and private firms to make use of these new opportunities." Myanmar exports to the EU totaled 164 million euro in 2012, and this is approximately 3 percent of the country's total exports, and it comes to 0.01 percent of the EU's total imports. These limited exports to the EU are concentrated on clothing.

Meanwhile, the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in a statement earlier this month called on the government of Myanmar to assume its responsibility to eradicate all forms of discrimination against Muslims.
It said that this discrimination includes the 2005 law which imposes a policy on all Rohingya Muslim families that limits them to only two children.
According to media reports, last year, at least 180 people were killed in the western state of Rakhine in clashes between local Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In March, over 40 people were reported killed in Buddhist-Muslim clashes which broke in central Myanmar where mosques were burnt down and Muslim homes were destroyed.(end) nk.wsa KUNA 181513 Jul 13NNNN

Monday, 15 July 2013

Myanmar kills Muslims and that’s just fine!

Source Presstv, 15 July
 
Centuries ago, groups of Muslims from Iran, India and some Arab nations settled down in a region that's now part of Myanmar. To date, Rohingya Muslims, as they are called, have endured tremendous pain and suffering. Tens of thousands of them have been killed and many more displaced in the last century alone at the hands of local Buddhists, British colonial forces and the invading Japanese army--all seeking to eliminate a people described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.


The plight of the Rohingya Muslims came into the spotlight a few months ago thanks to citizen journalism and social networking websites. Activists have tried to shed light on what has come to be known as communal unrest in Myanmar's western Rakhine state whose main victims are "stateless" Muslims. They also revealed--in the absence of mainstream media coverage--that Yangon's plainclothes generals have given the "peace-loving" monks the green light to kill hundreds of defenseless Muslims, many of them women and children, in the past few months.
Myanmar's Muslim community has long suffered as the result of systematic discrimination by the central government. Muslims there, at best, are not allowed to purchase land, do business freely and enjoy education opportunities. International human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as UNHCR have repeatedly called for protecting the Rohingya people's rights.

A very alarming joint statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana and independent experts on minority issues says, "This situation must not become an opportunity to permanently remove an unwelcome community."

The UN investigator and experts fear Myanmar is seeking to get rid of nearly one million of its population. However, the US, Britain, France and other Western governments that claim to be the world's flag-bearers of democracy and human rights have chosen to take Yangon's side by remaining silent.

But why has Myanmar decided to settle its centuries-old scores with Muslims at this point in time? The answer could be that world media attention is currently focused on Syria. Therefore, even media outlets run by Western-backed Arab monarchies are so busy propagating in favor of anti-government insurgents in Syria that they will find little airtime to cover the worsening situation of Muslims in Myanmar. 
Aljazeera and Al-Arabia, for instance, prefer to use the funds provided by their dictatorial regimes to fan the flames of violence in Syria rather than working to put out the fire in Myanmar.

There are a number of major violators of human rights in the world that enjoy a high level of impunity. One can easily find instances of gross human rights abuses in the US, Israel, Canada, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc., that are never investigated by international rights bodies and the United Nations. And now, the club has a previously-unwelcome addition; the civilian-looking military regime in Myanmar.
Yangon is being rewarded for its recent attempts to reach out to the West. This is the same regime that the US and its allies condemned for decades for its brutal crackdown on dissent. The house arrest of Myanmar's so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi made TV and newspaper headlines across the world for a long time. But the deadly discrimination against a million people in Myanmar's western region never got as much attention. And now that Suu Kyi has been set 'free'and even joined the 'former' junta's political project, she still refuses to defend the Rohingya Muslims' rights. Ironically enough, she is a Nobel Peace prizewinner.

It's just a matter of time before Myanmar's Muslims start proving to the whole world that their threshold of pain is not as high as the international community thinks. They have already been extraordinarily patient. And while they may know that taking up arms to defend their families against Myanmar's repressive regime and its killer monks could put them on the West's terror lists, they know it well, too, that they must defend their human dignity at any cost. They have already paid too high a price for their failure to stand up to the oppressor and maybe that's why they have had to suffer for so long.

The government of Myanmar has already won US approval to join the Pentagon's war games in neighboring Thailand and is seeking to win more hearts in Western capitals through its new envoy, Aung San Suu Kyi. However, it seems like the 'retired' generals in Yangon do not read the news and still think that Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Tunisia's Ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi who polished Western shoes for decades are still doing the same.

HRE/HGH
Hamid Reza Emadi is a Tehran-based journalist and political commentator. He worked as a newspaper journalist for ten years before joining broadcast media in 2006. He has appeared in numerous TV programs talking about media freedoms, US-sponsored sanctions against the Iranian nation, Iran's nuclear file and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. More articles by Hamid Reza Emadi

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Rohingyas' Legal Rights to live as Dignified Human-Bein​gs in Burma

Source BRAFA,

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Burma: UK’s Cameron Should Press President on Rights

Source hrw, 13 July,
Demand Accountability for Crimes Against Humanity, Release of Political Prisoners
 
Prime Minister Cameron should not miss an important opportunity to press Burma's president on justice for crimes against humanity committed against the country's Muslims, the release of remaining political prisoners, or an end to repressive laws. Recent improvements in Burma will continue only as long as world leaders keep up the pressure to bring an end to the many human rights abuses still occurring in the country.
David Mepham, UK director

(London) – Britain's Prime Minster David Cameron should urge visiting Burmese President Thein Sein to bring those responsible for atrocities against Burma's Muslims to justice, release all political prisoners, and ensure that new legislation meets international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today. Thein Sein is visiting the United Kingdom from July 14 to 16, 2013.

Despite important changes in Burma over the past two years, many serious human rights problems remain.Pledgesmade by Thein Sein, including those to US President Barack Obama in November 2012, to improve human rights remain partially or completely unfulfilled, including granting full humanitarian access to ethnic conflict areas, releasing all remaining political prisoners, amending abusive laws, and allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish offices in the country.

"Prime Minister Cameron should not miss an important opportunity to press Burma's president on justice for crimes against humanity committed against the country's Muslims, the release of remaining political prisoners, or an end to repressive laws," said David Mepham, UK director. "Recent improvements in Burma will continue only as long as world leaders keep up the pressure to bring an end to the many human rights abuses still occurring in the country." 

On April 22, European Union foreign ministers lifted sanctions, includingtargeted sanctions on the Burmese army and government individuals and entities, leaving only its export ban on arms to Burma.

"The scrapping of targeted sanctions on Burma was premature and surrendered key leverage to improve the country's still dire human rights situation," Mepham said.

In 2012, state security forces, local Arakanese political party officials, and Buddhist monks participated in crimes against humanity during acampaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Rohingya and other Muslims in western Burma's Arakan State. More than 140,000 Muslims remain in camps, are denied freedom of movement, and lack adequate shelter, humanitarian aid, and basic services. Thein Sein has not fulfilled his pledge to take "decisive action to prevent violent attacks against civilians," hold accountable perpetrators of abuses, and "address contentious political dimensions, ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship."

Humanitarian aid organisations also remain without full access to conflict areas in other parts of Burma, including Kachin State in the north, where a two-year armed conflict between government forces and Kachin rebels has displaced over 80,000 people, and in eastern Burma, where over 400,000 people are displaced from decades of civil war.

The Burmese government should amend or revoke laws and regulations that discriminate against ethnic minorities. These include Burma's 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies Rohingya and other ethnic groups the ability to obtain citizenship, even when their families have lived in Burma for generations. Thein Sein should publicly repudiate a discriminatory decree that limits Rohingya families to two children each.

Burma has still not issued an invitation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and there has been no significant progress in negotiations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to set up such an office. Meanwhile, more than 200 political prisoners are estimated to be in Burma's prisons. 

"Prime Minister Cameron needs to insist that Thein Sein cease his foot-dragging on pledges he made to improve human rights," Mepham said. "There's no good reason why the UN should not be able to open an office and monitor the human rights situation across the country."

Doing business in Burma involves various human rights risks. These include the lack of rule of law and an independent judiciary, major tensions over the acquisition and use of land, and disregard of community concerns in government-approved projects. The military's extensive involvement in the economy, use of forced labor, and abusive security practices in business operations heightens concerns. Corruption is pervasive throughout the country. 

Thein Sein's government continues to use repressive laws to undermine peaceful protests against projects that impact livelihoods and land. The authorities violently cracked down on people protesting a copper mining project in northern Burma in November and prosecuted demonstrators peacefully protesting against a natural gas project in Arakan State in April. Major infrastructure projects and land acquisitions for companies have also generated controversy involving both companies and the Burmese military in land seizures.

The UK government should acknowledge that the political reform process in Burma is very far from complete. Key measures of progress include legal reform, free and fair parliamentary elections in 2015, and amendments to the constitution to remove the Burmese military's constitutional authority over civilian government, including ending the military's authority to appoint 25 percent of the seats in the parliament and to dismiss the parliament and president.

"Failure to press the Burmese government to meet its reform commitments will send precisely the wrong message to Thein Sein, leading him to believe his government is no longer under serious international pressure to follow through on reforms," Mepham said. "David Cameron should ensure that this trip is not a 'victory lap' for the Burmese president but rather a public re-commitment by Burma to meet its human rights obligations." 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Burma makes little drama: Burma jails 25 Buddhists for mob killings of 36 Muslims in Meikhtila

Source guardian, 12 July
 
Jail terms, among first for Buddhists in recent sectarian violence, follows attack on school that killed 32 and torching of mosques.
 
A man stands in front of a mosque as it burns in Meikhtila after the riots in March. Twelve of the town's 13 mosques were destroyed. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

A Burmese court has sentenced 25 Buddhists to up to 15 years in prison for murder and other crimes during a night of rioting, burning and killing in central Burma, after weeks in which it seemed only Muslims were being punished for sectarian violence aimed largely at them.

But the sentences handed down on Wednesday and Thursday did not erase a sense of unequal justice: a day earlier, a Muslim received a life sentence for murdering one of 43 people killed in March in the central Burmese town of Meikhtila.

A wave of violence in the past year in the largely Buddhist country has left more than 250 people dead and 140,000 others fleeing their homes, most of them Muslim. The attacks, and the government's inability to stop them, have marred the south-east Asian country's image abroad as it moves toward democracy and greater freedom after nearly five decades of military rule.

Many of the sentences were handed down on Wednesday, and the toughest stemmed from the deadliest incident of the Meikhtila riots: a brutal mob attack on an Islamic school, its students and teachers that killed 36 people.

Buddhist mobs torched Mingalar Zayone Islamic boarding school, Muslim firms and all but one of the city's 13 mosques after a row between a Muslim and a Buddhist at a gold shop and the burning to death of a Buddhist monk by four Muslim men.

People ride their mopeds past the remains of two persons killed in clashes in Meikhtila in March People ride their mopeds past the remains of two persons killed in clashes in Meikhtila in March after a dispute broke out at a gold shop. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

While security forces stood by, a mob armed with machetes, metal pipes, chains and stones killed 32 teenage students and four teachers. Video clips online showed mobs clubbing students to death and cheering as flames leapt from corpses.

The state-run Keymon daily said eight people – seven Buddhists and one Muslim – were convicted in Meikhtila district court for crimes connected to the school massacre.

Tin Hlaing, a local reporter present during the hearings, told Associated Press that four of the eight were found guilty of murder and causing other injuries, receiving sentences of between 10 and 15 years in jail.

He did not provide details about their roles in the slaughter but said the other four convicted were involved in lesser offences. The Keymon daily said the seven Buddhists received sentences of three to 15 years, but offered no details about the Muslim's case.

Student's murder

Tin Hlaing also said four Muslim men on Tuesday received sentences of at least seven years in prison – with one getting a life sentence – for their roles in the murder of a 19-year-old university student during the unrest.

The district court also sentenced 10 Buddhist men to one to nine years for their involvement in the death of a Muslim man. A township court sentenced six men and one woman, all Buddhists, to two years' imprisonment each for damaging the gold shop.

The Meikhtila district chairman, Tin Maung Soe, said one Buddhist man was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on Thursday for causing grievous harm in connection with the killing of two Muslim men.

Sectarian violence in Burma began in Rakhine state just over a year ago in the west, then spread in March to the central towns of Meikthila and Okkan.

There have been many earlier sentencings, in Meikhtila and elsewhere, but the majority involved Muslim defendants. Tin Maung Soe said most of the 73 people charged with crimes related to the rioting there are Buddhists.

Asked why Buddhists were given lighter sentences than some of the Muslims, Meikhtila district legal officer Khin Win Phyu said the sentences were handed down "based on the testimonies of the witnesses".

"The courts passed their verdict according to law and there is no bias or privilege toward any group," she said.

The state-owned newspaper Myanman Ahlin has reported that close to 1,500 people have been arrested on charges related to sectarian violence, and 535 of them have been convicted. Most of the cases are in Rakhine state, where more than 200 people were killed last year as tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were driven from their homes. The paper did not break down the numbers by religion.

About 12,000 people were displaced by the Meikhtila riots. Tin Maung Soe said about 3,500 Muslims and 850 Buddhists are still living in temporary shelters.

He also said three mosques in the town reopened on Wednesday as Muslims prepared for the holy month of Ramadan. Authorities provided security.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Bob Carr announces $3.2 million aid boost for Myanmar's Rakhine state

Source ABC news, 11 July

The Government has announced an additional $3.2 million in humanitarian assistance for people displaced by ethnic unrest in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr is in Yangon for a meeting with president Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ethnic violence in Rakhine has claimed 192 lives and left 140,000 people homeless.

Senator Carr says the new commitment lifts Australia's total aid contribution to the Rakhine state to $9 million.

"Our aid is going to mean shelter for an additional 9,000," he said.

"It means water and sanitation in the camps is going to be improved and it means we are going to help the safety and the security of displaced people, particularly women and girls.

"This means Australia is the biggest donor nation when it comes to looking after the acute humanitarian problems in this part of Myanmar."

The Government is also donating $3 million to help Myanmar conduct its first nationwide census in 30 years.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Ten myths around asylum seekers arriving on boats in Australian waters

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Source newscom, 8 July
 

Rohingya asylum-seeker Mohammad Zuhar bin Sayed Alam displays pictures of his wife and sister he left behind in Myanmar earlier this year. Rohingyas, persecuted Muslim minorities, flee deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar by boat with many grateful to end up in Indonesia. Picture: AFP/Romeo Gacad Source: AFP

DO you believe that thousands of illegal boat people are swamping our shores in unprecedented numbers and threatening Australian jobs and the economy?

You wouldn't be the only person to do so - and you'll be hearing more about it as politicians jockey for your vote ahead of the federal election.

Asylum seekers arriving on boats in Australian waters is likely to be one of the top issues debated throughout the election campaign.

News.com.au explains 10 boat-people myths.

Myth 1: We are being swamped

REALITY: The number of people arriving in Australia to claim asylum jumped by more than a third last year to 15,800 people, driven by an increase in arrivals from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Australia resettles the third largest number of refugees of any country per capita, but actual Australia's asylum seeker numbers, while politically sensitive, remain numerically small. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Australia receives about three per cent of the total asylum claims made in industrialised countries around the world and, "by comparison, asylum levels in Australia continue to remain below those recorded by many other industrialised and non-industrialised countries".

Myth 2: We're a magnet compared to other countries

REALITY: Nearly half a million - 493,000 - asylum claims were lodged in industrialised countries last year, the second highest number on record after 2003, as war, civil strife, political repression and sectarian violence continue to force movements of populations across borders. Europe received 355,000 asylum seeker claims, while North America had 103,000. In particular, conflict in Syria has prompted a new mass wave of refugees fleeing that country. Afghanistan alone has a diaspora of more than 2.7 million refugees across 71 countries, but more than 95 per cent are in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

Myth 3: We take more asylum seekers because we're a rich, First World country

REALITY: According to Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the reverse is true. "The burden of helping the world's forcibly displaced people is starkly uneven," he said. "Poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones. While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industrialised countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world's refugees."

Myth 4: They're illegal, queue jumping undesirables

REALITY: Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are neither engaging in illegal activity, nor are they immigrants. The UN Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory) recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. Australian law also permits unauthorised entry into Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australia has a proud history of boat people and other asylum seekers becoming good citizens.

Myth 5: Most asylum seekers come by boat

REALITY: Statistics from 2008 showed at least 13 asylum seekers arrive through Australian airports daily, more than 32 times the number of boat people supposedly ''flooding'' across our maritime borders in that year. A total of 4768 ''plane people'', more than 96 per cent of applicants for refugee status, arrived in that year on legitimate tourist, business and other visas - compared with 161 who arrived by boat during the same period. While boat numbers have increased, Australian Government statistics from the first quarter of 2013 showed more than 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrived by boat were found to be genuine refugees. In comparison, those who arrived by plane - despite being eligible for release into the community and not having to face years of detention on Nauru or Manus Island - were almost twice as likely to be rejected as refugees. The figure continued a long-term trend of high approval rates for people arriving by boat, with 93.5 per cent being found to be refugees in 2010-11 and 91 per cent in 2011-12.

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Asylu

Successful refugee: Les Murray is known as both the face and voice of soccer in Australia. As the most prominent commentator and presenter of soccer on Australian television, he is credited with championing the rise in popularity of the sport. He emigrated to Australia from his native Hungary as an 11-year old refugee in 1957. Picture: AP Source: news.com.au

Myth 6: Asylum seekers are taking our jobs

REALITY: The Federal Government released 16,000 asylum seekers into the community as they wait for their refugee claims to be processed. They receive about $220 a week from Centrelink, most of which goes towards rent and food, but they are on bridging visas which stipulate that they're not allowed to get jobs. Nearly half of those asylum seekers are subject to the government's "no advantage" rule, which means they could be in this limbo for many years. Most asylum seekers want to work and will take jobs other Australians don't want to do, report refugee agencies, but their visa conditions make work illegal. Refugee groups say that barring foreign migrants from the workforce could create an underclass, but they also reject the Federal Opposition's suggestion of a "work for the dole scheme".

Myth 7: People from war torn countries cause problems

REALITY: According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the number of settlers - people entitled to permanent residence, including people arriving in Australia on humanitarian programs - between July 2010 and June 2011 came from more than 200 countries and totalled 127,460.

Most were born in one of the following four countries:

• New Zealand (20.2 per cent)

• China (11.5 per cent)

• United Kingdom (8.6 per cent)

• India (8.3 per cent)

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Asylum seekers

Asylum-seeker Arzoo Bahram, 13, at Gleneg beach in Adelaide with new friends Brittany Drack, 14, Rhiannon Drack, 16, and Sarah Drack, 11. Picture: Andrea Laube. Source: News Limited

Myth 8: They don't assimilate or contribute

REALITY: Refugees have been coming to Australia for decades and the first big wave of boat people, from Vietnam in the 1970s, have proven to be successful migrants who have assimilated and added much to Australian society. After surviving perilous journeys by their courage and strength, these people epitomise the qualities admired and rewarded in Australian society.

Historically, refugees have contributed to the economic, civil and social fabric of Australian life and their success can be found in all fields of endeavour and marked by their presence on the New Year and Queen's birthday honours lists.

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asylum seekers

In 2009, Sri Lankan asylum seekers tried to communicate with the media from the deck of the Australian Customs and Immigration Fisheries Patrol vessel anchored off Indonesia's Riau Island of Tanjung Pinang. Picture: AFP/Roslan Rahman Source: AFP

Myth 9: Numbers are booming because we lack tough border protection policies

REALITY: In 2007, the total population of asylum seekers, refugees and internationally displaced persons of concern to the UNHCR was estimated at 31.7 million people. By the end of 2011, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 42 million and the number of asylum applications in 2011 was also the highest for almost a decade. The reason for the increase in numbers represents the upsurge in people affected by affected by war, military and social upheaval and human rights abuses, which is reflected in the fact Afghanistan continues to provide the most asylum seekers of any country in the world, with 36,600 last year, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic, Serbia, China and Pakistan. According to the Refugee Council of Australia, "most people do not wish to leave their homes, families, friends and everything they know and hold dear. They do so as a last resort, to escape persecution and find safety and security for themselves and their families".

Myth 10: We can just turn the boats back

REALITY: While this is the current subject of political debate between the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, (who says we can't) and the Federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, (who says we can) the truth is that wherever they come from, most boat people use Indonesia as a launching point for Australian waters. Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has indicated towing boats back into Indonesian waters is not an option and it is likely a regional summit will be held to discuss a joint solution for the issue of the maritime trade of asylum seekers.



Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world-news/ten-myths-around-asylum-seekers-arriving-on-boats-in-australian-waters/story-fndir2ev-1226676024840#ixzz2YbrLO2su

Nasaka loots Rohingyas’ home in Maungdaw south

Source Kaladanpress, 8 July

Maungdaw, Arakan State: A group of Burma border security force (Nasaka) personnel  looted valuable things after entering a Rohingya's home from Khonza Bill village on July 7 at about 12:30 am, said a relative of the victim.

Nasaka personnel entered Azida (35), wife of Abdul Hanan home after breaking the door while Azida was not in the house, according to villagers.
"Azida was visiting her relative in Maungdaw with permission of concerned authority while Nasaka personnel looted her home."

Nasaka personnel met Fatema (18), daughter of Abdul Rahim who is watching Azida's home while the Nasaka enter the home where the Nasaka tried attempt to rape and took Kyat 7000 and a pair of earning (6-Ana gold),according to an aide of Nasaka.

"Fatema screamed for help which saved her from rape as the villagers rushed to the spot."

Fatema didn't express anything about event for fearing of Nasaka's torturing.

However, Azida complained to Nasaka officer of area No. 7 regarding the matter June 7 after coming from Maugdaw. Nasaka officer told her that he will investigate the case. But, Nasaka officer has been not taking any action against the culprits regarding the matter till writing report, said an elder from Maungdaw south