Saturday, 27 December 2014

Democracy in Myanmar and the Plight of the Rohingyas

Source Kashmirwatch, 24 Dec



Written by: Prof. Anna Malindog

/Andrew Stanbridge/Al Jazeera

One of the first and largest IDP camps outside of Sittwe, Myanmar, where the first wave of Rohingyans fled when Buddhist mobs began to attack their villages, burning homes to the ground.

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die"
-Nelson Mandela-

"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity"
-Nelson Mandela-

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, lying strategically between India, China, Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand. In the 19th century, the British took over Burma and formed a single entity under the Indian colonial administration. The Japanese occupied Burma during the 2nd World War but were driven out by the British Empire Forces as the war drew to an end. In view of the strong Burmese nationalism headed by Aung San (Burmese National Hero), British granted Burma independence in 1948. Burma after independence faced communist insurgencies. The government afterwards found itself facing an increasing number of armed ethnic based conflict resistance groups all over the country most of which were seeking their own independence even until this very day.

In 1962, General Ne Win, the head of the Burmese Army, - the "Tatmadaw" overthrew the civilian government and established a military rule. Since then the military junta became the de-facto government of Myanmar. This led to many insurgencies, human rights abuses and atrocities, economic crisis, massive street demonstrations and rallies which killed thousands of people. Many also fled to areas controlled by ethnic and communist armed groups to form their own political rebel groups. 

Then came November 2010, when the first ever general election in Myanmar happened after more than two decades, or to be more precise, after 22 years since the last general election in 1990. Then March 2011 happened when the ruling military government that ruled Myanmar for almost five decades since 1962 was not only dismantled, but more importantly, the generals in Yangon relinquished power to the newly elected and formed "civilian government" headed by President Thein Sein. Undeniably, these two historic political events marked Myanmar's transition towards democracy and democratization. These events also generated mixed and varied emotions and thoughts among the different stakeholders of Myanmar. For some people, what is currently happening in Myanmar is quite bizarre. Others are simply happy about the prospects of democracy taking a foothold in the country. Others are very skeptical and cynical. But there are also some who are hopeful that, indeed, this path, this transition towards democracy will continue and will persist until Myanmar becomes fully democratic. 

Moreover, cynicism and skepticisms among many observers loom around this new political trajectory that Myanmar is pursuing. For one, the military is still and remains still the "arbiter of power" in the country. The military occupies and governs still all the important state institutions created after the November 2010 Elections. The military directly controls a quarter of the legislatures, which were filled with lower-ranking officers, ensuring that the military bloc remains cohesive and compliant with the wishes of the military superiors. With the provision of a quorum of 75% necessary to change the Constitution, the military effectively has a veto power over constitutional changes, since it occupies more than 75% of all the seats both at the lower and upper house of the Parliament. The new National Defense and Security Council is the most powerful institution and this is controlled by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In terms of civil–military relations, the military remains fully autonomous subject to neither executive nor judicial civilian authorities. Furthermore, the issue about the on-going conflict between the Burmese army and the ethnic-based armed groups remains crucial and unresolved. To add, this current "civilian government" in Myanmar needs still to fashion a politically inclusive process of national reconciliation with the involvement of all possible actors such as, the National League for Democracy, the military, and the ethnic nationalities among others if it wants to confidently sustain the democratization process that is said to be taking place nowadays in the country. 

Moreover, the already skeptical and cynical perception of many international observers about the real score if indeed Myanmar is serious in its quest towards democratic transition once again was challenged by recent events in Myanmar. The cynicisms and skepticisms of people whether Myanmar is serious and genuine in pursuing democracy grew more due to the worst ever humanitarian disaster on the planet that happened just in the recent past, and that's the enormous "genocidal vehemence" against the "Rohingyas". These apartheid atrocities against the "Rohingyas" already claimed thousands of lives of ethnic-civilian "Rohingyas". It is being estimated that around 1.3 million "Rohingyas" from Myanmar's Western Arakan/Rakhine region have been uprooted since June 2012. "Rohingyas" are victims of intermittent religious violence, killings, internal displacements, and most of them ended up in filthy camps for internally displaced peoples in countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia to mention the least. In these countries, "Rohingyas" are seen as illegal migrants and they writhe from stern discriminations, hefty restraints on marriage, religious activities, health, and educational opportunities. In extreme cases, they are not even permitted to identify themselves as "Rohingyas", and are forced to ascertain themselves as "Bengalis"

"Rohingyas" are a minority ethnic group who practice Islam. They speak "Rohingya", an Indo-European language of the Easter Indic branch, closely related to "Chittagonian" of Bangladesh, and more distantly to Bengali. The UN ascertained that these people are one the most discriminated and persecuted minority groups so to speak of this day and age. Their sojourn in Myanmar is disputed. 

Some claim that they are to some extent indigenous inhabitants of Rakhine/Arakan state given that they settled in this part of Myanmar for thousands of years already. But many Burmese, most especially the Buddhist Rakhines are challenging this claim. They are saying that "Rohingyas" are originally from Bengal (Bangladesh) and therefore are "Bengalis". Accordingly, "Rohingyas" migrated to Myanmar during the British rule. Thus, they are not indigenous to Myanmar and are categorically being labelled as illegal migrants. 

Sadly, the perpetrators of this "genocidal infringement" against the "Rohingyas" are said to be government-sponsored "state security forces", and the "Rakhine Buddhist extremist militias". Just this year (2014), the so-called "civilian government" of Myanmar disqualified "Rohingyas" from participating in the census. The same government according to reports just last September also drafted a plan conscripting "Rohingyas" to identify themselves as "Bengalis". In any case, "Rohingyas" remain stateless and many of them are unfortunately forced to stay in detention camps, ghettos, are internally displaced, and worst of all, those who fled from Myanmar to take refuge in other countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia suffer from severe discriminations, and are way too far being treated as lesser mortals. The plight of these people is indeed somewhat bleak and precarious. 

Many have observed and even the Burmese people in general alleged that the root cause behind all the atrocities against the "Rohingyas" are far more complex and has historical underpinnings. Nonetheless, whatever the root cause of these persecutions and discriminations against the "Rohingyas", one thing is clear, a government that claims to pursue a democratic path, and in this case the current "civilian government" in Myanmar, must not turn a blind eye to the quandary of these people. One of the basic tenets of democracy is the recognition and respects of the basic rights and existence of people including minority/indigenous groups like the "Rohingyas" regardless of their creed, religion, color or race. Recognition and respect are not always or not necessarily and directly denote political recognition if the situation does not seem right yet given the volatile political landscape of the country. However, at the barest minimum, recognition and respect of the basic rights of peoples, and in this case the "Rohingyas" can mean accepting that indeed these people exist, that they are human beings, and that they need to be respected and treated accordingly and humanely.

If indeed, the so-called "civilian government" in Myanmar that claims to be crisscrossing the pathway towards democracy is serious in its democratic pursuits, then by all means, they should resolve and do whatever is necessary to put an end to the atrocities, discriminations, and persecutions accorded to "Rohingyas". This same government in Myanmar, if it truly wants to pursue a democratic path where recognition and respect for the fundamental freedoms of human beings flourish, must extend to the "Rohingyas" the rights to self-identification and citizenship. Only through this democratic act, to a greater extent, one can ascertain that indeed Myanmar is truly in its path towards a genuine democracy. 

Anna Malindog is the human rights advocate. She is also an academic. You may get in touch with her througharmalindog@mail.com

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Indonesian officials seek desert island for refugees

Source ustoday, 22 Dec

AP MYANMAR ROHINGYA TRAFFICKING I MYN
A boy wades through the water carrying a basket of fish at the Chaung refugee camp, on the outskirts of Sittwe, Burma.(Photo: Kaung Htet, AP)

JAKARTA — Senior Indonesian officials say they are looking for an island to accommodate some 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees waiting for resettlement in the country, as they have become a "burden."

Asylum seekers flock to Indonesia from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, hoping to reach Australia. But Indonesia's southern neighbor has recently announced that all refugees registered at the Jakarta office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from July 2014 will now automatically be banned from resettlement in Australia.

Australia's immigration minister Scott Morrison compares the ban to "taking the sugar off the table," and says it's in Indonesia's interest. "We're trying to stop people thinking they can go to Indonesia and wait around till they get to Australia," he told Australia's ABC Radio in late November. "This is designed to stop people flowing into Indonesia. It will help Indonesia."

But Indonesian authorities don't see it that way. "It's Australia's right, but it's creating a burden for us," said Indonesia's Justice and Human Rights minister Yasonna Laoly on Australia's ABC News. "There are 10,000 foreign citizens, which becomes a burden for us."

As a signatory to the United Nations' Refugee Convention, Australia is bound by international law to protect refugees. Indonesia has not signed the treaty.

Several high-ranking Indonesian officials have reportedly suggested to president Joko Widodo that these refugees should be moved to one of Indonesia's 17,000 islands.

"If the Australian government cannot handle them, we suggest placing them on an empty island, so they don't disturb the public," Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno told local media in late November.

It's not the first time this option has been put on the table.

In the early 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Indochinese refugees were placed on Galang Island, in the northwest of Indonesia. In 2013, a plan to forcibly resettle refugees on the impoverished and isolated Sumba Island, in the eastern part of the archipelago, was finally abandoned.

"Now we have started thinking again about this policy," Laoly told The Australian. "We only need to find the island."

While Indonesian officials have suggested UNHCR could be involved in handling the refugees' cost of living, the agency's Indonesian representative Thomas Vargas told GlobalPost he hasn't been contacted on the matter. He did not want to comment on this specific proposal, but said UNHCR would "certainly not encourage" this kind of option. Placing refugees and asylum seekers on an island "is probably the costliest and the most ineffective way" to deal with the situation, he said.

New asylum seekers arrive in Indonesia every week. Many sleep on the pavement, in front of the UNHCR gates in Jakarta. Tolosa, an 18-year-old Ethiopian, says he made it to Indonesia just two months ago, before Australia announced its new policy. But he says he would have come anyway. Like many here, he says he has nowhere else to go. Tolosa was hoping to get to Australia, but he's happy to be resettled anywhere.

Actually, even the idea of an empty Indonesian island doesn't seem to bother him much. "If I go back to my country I might die, so I'm OK with staying on an island," he said. Other asylum seekers agree. Faisal, a 23-year-old Somalian who calls Australia's policy "inhumane" and "cruel," says even an empty and isolated island "is better than going back home and dying there."

Ahmad, 18, is from Pakistan. He registered in UNHCR's office in Jakarta more than a year ago, and hopes he will still get to resettle in Australia. He worries though, as Australia has announced it will also reduce the quotas of resettlement for refugees who registered before July 2014. Soon, Ahmad won't have any money left. He says he might present himself to one of Indonesia's overcrowded and run-down detention centers. "Many people try to get into detention centers, even if it's like prison, because they don't have money," he says.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's anti-immigration "Operation Sovereign Borders" was launched shortly after he took office in late 2013, and has created tensions with Jakarta. Indonesian authorities haven't been happy with Australia towing back boats of migrants en route to Australia toward Indonesian waters.

Thomas Vargas says Australia, one of the only signatories of the Refugee Convention in the region, should set the example. But Australia's current policies, he says, are "certainly not in the spirit of the Refugee Convention, and not in the spirit of regional cooperation."

"Unilateral action by states is not going to work," he says, calling for all affected countries to work together on a solution that meets the protection needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

Arakans sentenced to hard labor for refusing Myanmar census

Source worldbulletin, 20 Dec

Arakans sentenced to hard labor for refusing Myanmar census

file photo 

Many Rohingya have previously refused to register as "Bengalis" because they say the term implies they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

World Bulletin/News Desk

Eight Arakan Muslims (Rohingya) from Northern Maungdaw Township in Arakan State were sentenced to two years for refusing to participate in census conducted by Myanmar Border Guard Police, Rohingya Blogger reported.

Myanmar's national government gave around a million members of the persecuted Arakan Muslims a bleak choice: accept ethnic reclassification and the prospect of citizenship, or be detained.

On August 1st, 2014 the Border Guard Police conducted a census in the name to register Arakans as illegal Bengali immigrants. As the census referred to Arakan Muslims as illegal Bengali immigrants the villagers refused to participate. Although the whole village refused, nine were targeted and arrested, according to the report. One of them was released on that day and eight were tried and sentenced to two years prison with hard labor.

The court decision was made on December 2, 2014 at Maungdaw Township court, according to locals. They were tried under Burma panel code 353 which is assaulting a public servant during the time they are on duty. The arrestees didn't convince anyone in the village to refuse participation in the census nor organized any event to deny the unofficial census conducted by BGP. They simply stayed at home not willing to participate if the term 'Rohingya' is forbidden. The authorities targeted against them for the term "Rohingya" and they were punished unjustly.

During the hearing at the court, the families were not allowed to attend and the arrestees were not allowed to hire a lawyer.

Ages of the eight Arakan Muslims who were imprisonment for two years with hard labour are ranges from 17 to 50.

Most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Arakan Muslims already live in apartheid-like conditions in western Rakhine, where deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 displaced 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya.

The government plan proposes Rakhine authorities "construct temporary camps in required numbers for those who refuse to be registered and those without adequate documents".

Many Rohingya lost documents in the widespread violence, or have previously refused to register as "Bengalis", as required by the government under the new plan, because they say the term implies they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Rights advocates say it could potentially put thousands of Rohingya, including those living in long-settled villages, at risk of indefinite detention.

The government will offer citizenship for those that accept the classification and have required documentation.

Many Arakan families have lived in Rakhine for generations. They are stateless because the government does not recognise the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, and has to date refused to grant the majority of them citizenship.

Accepting the term Bengali could leave the Rohingya vulnerable should authorities in future attempt to send them to Bangladesh as illegal immigrants.

Pickup truck crash injures 19 Rohingya

Source Bangkokpost, 21 Dec

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PHATTHALUNG — Nineteen Rohingya migrants were injured, 11 of them seriously, after a pickup truck veered off a slippery road in Khao Chaison district on Sunday morning. 

The group, reportedly including a few children, were going from Ranong to the Padang Besar border checkpoint in Songkhla province when the accident took place on a local road in Moo 1 village in tambon Koke Muang at 8am. It was raining at the time. 

Police said the unidentified Thai driver failed to negotiate a curve in the wet conditions. He lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a roadside ditch and overturn.  

The driver fled the scene, leaving the injured Rohingya behind and unattended. They were later taken to Tamod and Khao Chai hospitals.  

Speaking through an interpreter, a Rohingya migrant told police the group had left Myanmar by boat for Thailand. They stayed overnight in a forest behind a military camp in Ranong province before setting out on their journey to the Padang Besar checkpointearly Sunday. They were supposed to travel to Malaysia from there. The Rohingya migrant said each of them paid a Thai middle man 60,000 baht.  
   
Chaison district police chief Pol Col Pon Wanna said police are now investigating the Myanmar minority Rohingya and trying to track down the driver who is believed to be a member of a human trafficking gang.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Controversial Report of "Burma and Bangladesh: A Strategy to Combat Statelessness"

By admin,

A new report written on 14 Dec 2014, came out here. 

"Burma and Bangladesh: A Strategy to Combat Statelessness"


How controversial is- 
Despite the report calls to solve the crisis strategically, it undermines the primary existence of the people through wisely labelling as recent settlers from the waves of Bangladeshi migrations..

The writer itself viewing 'sympathizer' and much eager to bring the solution over the problems. In deed, the hidden fact is that the writer smartly and wrongfully proving  these vulnerable people as late settlers by crediting on the doggy documents of the dictators and other oppressive operations/processes which were forcefully exercised during 1978-King Dragon Operation, 1990-Pyi Taryar Operations..

Specially in these parts from-
"The Rohingyas are mainly the descendants of Bengali/Chittagonian labour migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh who had settled in Arakan after the 1824 British annexation of that province. After Burma gained her independence from Britain in 1948, an unknown number of settlers from the Chittagong area continued to enter as migrants."
"Those 800,000 stateless Rohingya/Bengali are often referred to as Temporary Registration Card (TRC) or White Card holders. This group of stateless people were recorded in the 1983 Burma Census as foreigners. There are indications that the 1973 Burmese Census has registered this same group as foreigners. It would appear that the Burmese immigration begun issuing Temporary Registration Cards (TRC) to this group of foreigners since 1950s. After 1995, with the returning of 230,000 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and at the requests of UNHCR, the Government uniformly issued the TRCs to all those 800,000 stateless people within Arakan State."

This is how the educated one's double dealing and instigation of all parties in order to keep the crisis alive. So, no Burmese, nor government will take initiation to issue citizenship to people who are being indicated as "late arrivals".

The writer doesn't understand the plights of Rohingya at all or intentionally undermine the several waves of violences that have been conducted on Rohingya during 1942, 1949, 1958-60, 1967-68, 1978, 1990-92 and the crisis of " 1784-1824- The 40 year Burmese tyrannical rule of Arakan".

The such over-championing reports should not be re-credited..

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Turkish aid agency sends aid to Rohyinga muslims

Source worldbulletin, 17 Dec


Turkish aid agency sends aid to Rohyinga muslims

file photo

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency has distributed food, clothing, and stationary to the people of Myanmar in Arakan state.

World Bulletin/News Desk

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency has distributed food, clothing, and stationary to the people of Myanmar in Arakan state.

Along with AFAD (Turkish State Emergency Services), distributed food, clothing, stationary to the Rohyinga muslims of Arakan state – 600,000 people have benefitted from the distriubtion that took place in the Yangon area, with two separate shipments of 600,000 tons to the capital Sitwe.

The Rohyinga Muslims live 20km away from the capital city where they are in 10 different towns and districts. The organisation of the distribution was done jointly with TIKA and local ngo's.

In the press statement, it was explained that many were in camps and faced difficult condition with nearly 300,000 were close to starvation and the local organisations thanked TIKA and AFAD.

At the same time, the Myanmar United Nations Food programme had reduced their limit and as a result many Muslims in Rohynga are starving.

The Muslims who live near in the camps and villages expressed their gratitude for the people of Turkey for helping them in their difficult time.


32 Rohingyas Arrested And Tortured By Arakan Army, To Be Sold as Slaves In Thailand

Source RB news, 15 Dec

Maungdaw, Arakan – 32 Rohingyas working in four fishing boats owned by a Rakhine businessman from Aley Than Kyaw village tract of Southern Maungdaw Township in Arakan State were arrested and tortured by Rakhine Militia, Arakan Army. They will be sold in Thailand according who escaped. 

On Saturday night, December 13, 2014, four fishing boats owned by Than Htay (a.k.a) Maung Saw Tin from Aley Than Kyaw village tract of Southern Maungdaw Township, carrying 40 Rohingyas fishermen who were fishing at sea. The Arakan Army came by Thai boat which is commonly used for human trafficking and terrorizing the fishermen while they are fishing. 

Among 40 fishermen, 8 could manage to escape from the brutal attacks and torture of Arakan Army on their fishing boats. The remaining 32 were tortured on their boats and later they were detained and taken onto the boat of Arakan Army. 

On the Thai boat operated by the Arakan Army approximately 200 Rohingyas were carried. Normally such boat carried 600 but as the Rohingyas in Northern Arakan were alerted of the risk to be victims of human trafficking, the human trafficking led by Arakan Army received less than they expected, picking up the fishermen from the sea and torturing them. Their intention is to sell all these Rohingyas as slaves in Thailand, according to 8 survivors. 

The four fishing boats remain in the location they were left at and blood stains remain on the boats as 32 Rohingyas were brutally tortured and terrorized before they were taken to Thai boat by Arakan Army men, according to a local. 

Although three ships from Myanmar Navy at the Naf river saw that the Rohingyas on the fishing boats were being tortured by the Arakan Army they ignored the crimes and didn't rescue them because they were Rohingyas. 

As many tactics have been used by Myanmar government to cleanse the Rohingya minority from Myanmar, sometime the local authorities collaborate with Rakhine rebels to attack the Rohingyas, the authorities themselves bring the ships from Thailand and organizing the local Rohingyas to go to Thailand and Malaysia, and arresting the innocent Rohingyas in Northern Arakan so they will leave from the country.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Briefing by Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK : The Humanitarian Crisis of Rohingya in Rakhine State

Source BROUK, 12 Dec

Recent violence against the Rohingya

In June and October 2012 there were large scale violent attacks against the ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State. Ethnic Kaman Muslims were also targeted. In addition there were widespread and numerous other incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against the Rohingya. 


International organisations which investigated this violence, including Human Rights Watch, gathered evidence that the attacks met the international legal definition of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Humanitarian consequences of recent violence

Estimates of those killed in the violence range from several hundred to more than a thousand. The UNHCR has said that in the two years since the violence began more than 80,000 Rohingya have fled Burma by boat. Around 140,000 Rohingyawho were forced to flee their homes now live in temporary camps where humanitarian access is severely restricted as a result of Burmese government policies and the failure of thegovernment to ensure a secure environment for delivery of aid.

Context of the humanitarian crisis

While the appalling conditions of the Rohingya in camps in Rakhine State since 2012 has received international attention, the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State is not new. Since the 1960s governments in Burma have gradually introduced laws and policies designed to repress and impoverish the Rohingya, and drive them out of Burma. Increasing poverty and blocking economic development of the Rohingya is a deliberate and integral part of the Burmese governmentsRohingya policy. Since the reform process began under President Thein Sein in 2011, the application

 

Recommendations

• United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should personally take the lead in negotiating free and unhindered international humanitarian access in Rakhine State. Individual governments should encourage Ban Ki-moon to take up this issue and give high-level support to his efforts. 

• Governments need to make it clear that futurepositive diplomatic relations are contingent on unhindered humanitarian access, reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and abolishment of discriminatory policies and practices against the Rohingya.

 
• Diplomats and UN ofcials should use the word "Rohingya" both in public and private. By avoiding the term, they legitimise the Burmese government's ongoing discrimination and campaign to portray the Rohingya as illegal immigrants.

 
• The humanitarian crisis for the Rohingya in Burma is part of a systematic policy of impoverishment of the Rohingya. These policies may constitute crimes against humanity, and have helped lead to ethnic cleansing. The international community should support the establishment of an independent international investigation into possible violations of international law against the Rohingya in Burma.

 
• Robust and specic language on the Rohingya mustbe included in the next United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Burma. This should include use of the word "Rohingya," demand unhindered humanitarian access, reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law and lifting of alldiscriminatory policies, and establish a UN Commission of Inquiry into possible violations of international law against the Rohingya in Burma.

 


of these policies has been stepped up, leading to a serious deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Rakhine State.

Buddhist nationalists led Burma's struggle for independence and this nationalism is central to politics in Burma today. In 1961 Buddhism was declared the state religion. Following this declaration a series of laws and policies were introduced designed to repress and impoverish Muslim ethnic Rohingya. These include the notorious 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to the Rohingya, and the 1988 banning of Rohingya from travelling outside Rakhine State. 

Other policies and laws introduced include restrictions on Rohingya travelling from some townships to others, and even within some townships, checkpoints on roads targeting only Rohingya which include body searches and extortion of money, restrictions on marriage through a tax fee requirement, arbitrary taxation on a wide range of activities, even including death of cattle, forced labour, land conscation, arbitrary arrests and extortion for releasing the person arrested, almost no  provision of government services such as health, education or infrastructure in Rohingya areas.

All of these policies are part of a systematic approach of impoverishing and oppressing the 
Rohingya in order to attempt to drive them out of Burma. They are deliberately designed so that there can be an element of deniability by central government, which tries to blame some of these  policies on local authorities, rogue individual police and security officers, and a lack of adequatetraining.

The humanitarian consequences

Even before the violence in 2012, the humanitarian consequences of decades of government 
repression and impoverishment of the Rohingya were severe. While the government has traditionally failed to provide adequate services to the population in Rakhine State, including for the ethnic Rakhine, services were very limited, and especially for the Rohingya. Rohingya arefrequently denied access to hospitals and clinics. 

• 70% of Rohingya have no access to safe water/sanitation services
• In the Maungdaw Rohingya District there is just one doctor per 160,000 people. The World 
Health Organisation 
    recommends one doctor per 5,000 people.
• Only 2% of Rohingya women give birth in hospital.
• 44% of the population of Rakhine State lives below the poverty line, almost 20 percent higher than the average in 
    most parts of Burma.

Government restrictions placed on humanitarian aid

"…the deprivation of health care is deliberately targeting the Rohingya population, and that the increasingly permanent segregation of that population is taking place. Furthermore, he believes that those human rights violations are connected to discriminatory and persecutory policies against the Rohingya Muslim population, which also include ongoing official and unofficial practices from bothlocal and central authorities restricting rights to nationality, movement, marriage, family, health andprivacy.

"
Report  of  the  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, April 2014.

• International organisations have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government which is more
   restrictive than in most countries and can take years to obtain.
• The MoU limits what an organisation can do, so if they 
  want to work in a new area or provide 
a different service to meet a newly identied need they have to start difcult and 
    lengthy 
negotiations.
• The government uses 'security concerns' to block humanitarian access to certain places at certain times.

• Foreign staff need special visas to enter Burma and only limited numbers of visas 

  are     given. Aid   workers have had visas denied.
• In times of emergency restrictions on numbers of visas given still apply, effectively 

  stopping an    adequate response, such as when Hurricane Giri struck Rakhine State.
• Foreign staff who are given visas can face restrictions on where they are allowed to go

   within Burma,     and only be allowed in the country for a short period. 
• Travel authorisations are needed for Burmese humanitarian staff going to remote

         areas. These often  need renewing every month and may be delayed or denied.
• Rohingya staff working for international organisations face additional travel  

  estrictions. These have become much stricter since the violence in 2012.
• Rohingya humanitarian aid workers working for international organisations, including

   the United  Nations, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.
• Several days advance notice needs to be given to the government before aid workers

  can   travel to  some areas.
• Overall, access has become more difficult and restrictions more severe since the

  violence in   2012,  despite the need for humanitarian assistance increasing.
• Permission to stay overnight in remote areas is often denied, and as travel times make

   going to a  place and back in one day impossible, projects are effectively blocked

   without    officially being denied.
• The government has not taken effective action to stop the spread of misinformation and

   incitement of    violence against international humanitarian aid organisations and their

   employees.
• Government of
cials and leading politicians have directly or indirectly supported or

  appeared to support the spread of misinformation and incitement of violence against

   international humanitarian  organisations.
• Aid organisations, including MSF, have faced threats of expulsion or have effectively

  been   expelled, permanently and temporarily, from working in Rakhine State.

• Local humanitarian staff and their families have faced threats and abuse.

• Local campaigns against international humanitarian organisation have resulted in

   blocking  of delivery of aid, and refusing to rent offices, land, cars or other services to

   humanitarian  organisations. The government has taken no effective action to counter

   these campaigns.As  with many of the policies of impoverishment and repression

   against the Rohingya, the   Burmese government tries to deny responsibility for many

  of these restrictions, citing local anti-Rohingya sentiment, the local government, and

  bureaucracy for which they need international aid to improve. Taken together though

  they amount to a clear pattern and  policy of obstruction of humanitarian assistance in

   line with the policy of making life for   the Rohingya as unbearable as possible so that

  they leave the country.President Thein Sein has stated that his goal is for all Rohingya to

   leave Burma:

 

"The solution to this problem is that they can be settled in refugee camps managed by UNHCR, and UNHCR provides for them. If there are countries that would accept them, they could be sent there."

 

11 July 2012, while discussing the issue of Rohingya with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres.


Camps For Internally Displaced Rohingya


"I witnessed a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never see before…appalling conditions…wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation."


Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang in June 2014 after visiting IDP camps in Rakhine State.

 

"I have seen many camps during my time but the conditions in these camps rank among the worst… Unfortunately we as the United Nations are not able to get in and do the range of work we would like to do with those people, so the conditions are terrible….It's a dire situation and we have to do  something about it."
 
Valeri  e     Amos,   Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Baroness Amos after visiting IDP camps in Rakhine State in December 2012

Around 140,000 ethnic Rohingya have been living in camps in Rakhine State since 2012. There 
is no adequate provision of health services, education for children, housing, sanitation, or food. The United Nations has not publicly published and promoted information about the situation in the camps, presumably for fear of upsetting the Burmese government, and also as such statistics would result in criticism of the United Nations and international community for allowing such dire conditions to continue.

In March 2014, 33 offices of humanitarian organisations were attacked by violent mobs. Extremists used the pretext of an aid worker insulting the Buddhist flag to incite the attacks. However, there was no evidence this had happened, and there had been well organised incitement against aid organisations building up for weeks with no preventative action taken by the government. 

The so-called 'spontaneous' mobs had the names and addresses of aid organisations offices and 
were allowed to systematically attack them without interference from police or security forces. Aid workers were forced to ee for their lives, and many had to leave the area altogether. Humanitarian access gradually started to resume in the following weeks, but has still not returned to the already limited level it was at in March 2014.

Outside the camps

Around 800,000 Rohingya who live outside camps are also in dire need of humanitarian assistance. In some areas the rates of malnutrition are over 20 percent. Provision of health services are almost non-existent. Detailed information is hard to obtain as even where the UN and aid agencies do manage to get access to obtain statistics, they do not often publish these for public distribution, either for fear of upsetting the Burmese government, or for fear of facing further restrictions as  punishment by the Burmese government for doing so.

Conclusion

The humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State and impoverishment of the Rohingya is part of a long-term  policy of repression of the ethnic Rohingya which has been stepped up since the reform process  began in 2011.

As a result of Burmese government policies, actions and inaction, almost one million ethnic 
Rohingya are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 140,000 of these are living in squalid camps in Rakhine State. There is a downward spiral with an overall decline in the ability of international organisations to deliver humanitarian assistance. The Burmese government strings the international community along with promises of future change, or using its old tactic of taking two steps back, one step forward, then being praised by parts of the international community for the one step forward, even though the overall situation is now worse than before. The case with MSF in 2014 is a classic example of this.

The government policy of increased violence and repression, and denial of humanitarian assistance, is working in terms of achieving their goals. Since 2012 more than 80,000 Rohingya have ed Burma by boat. More have left by other routes. This could amount to around ten percent of the entire Rohingya population in Burma driven out of the country within two years.
 
The lack of international action following the violence in 2012, despite evidence from Human Rights Watch of state involvement in what amounts to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and the conclusion of the special rapporteur that crimes against humanity may have taken  place against the Rohingya, has emboldened the Burmese government to step up repression and humanitarian restrictions against the Rohingya. 

The international community, including the USA, European Union and agencies of the United 
 Nations are even retreating from previous positions held in defence Rohingya rights. They are not applying any signicant high-level pressure regarding humanitarian access, they are no longer actively advocating for reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and are now even stopping using the word Rohingya. How can the international community protect the rights of the Rohingya when they won't even use our name?

Recommendations

• United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should personally take the lead in negotiating free and unhindered international humanitarian access in Rakhine State. Individual governments should encourage Ban Ki-moon to take up this issue and give high-level support to his efforts. • Governments need to make itclear that future positive diplomatic relations are contingent on unhindered humanitarian access, reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and abolishment of discriminatory policies and practices against the Rohingya.

 
• Diplomats and UN ofcials should use the word "Rohingya" both in public and private. By avoiding the term, they legitimise the Burmese government's ongoing discrimination and campaign to portray the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. 
• The humanitarian crisis for the Rohingya in Burma is part of a systematic policy of impoverishment of the Rohingya. These policies may constitute crimes against humanity, and have helped lead to ethnic cleansing. The international community should support the establishment of an independent international investigation into possible violations of international law against the Rohingya in Burma.
 
• Robust and specic language on the Rohingya must be included in the next United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Burma. This should include use of the word "Rohingya," demand unhindered humanitarian access, reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law and lifting of all discriminatory policies, and establish a UN Commission of Inquiry into possible violations of international law against the Rohingya in Burma.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

20 Muslims Facing Trial on Terrorism Charges

Source Irrawaddy news, 9 Dec

  
An aerial view of Mandalay prison, where 20 Burmese Muslims are detained on terrorism charges. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)An aerial view of Mandalay prison, where 20 Burmese Muslims are detained on terrorism charges. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Twenty Burmese Muslims remain in prison awaiting a verdict almost five months after they were detained and accused of links to terrorism, with a lawyer representing some of the defendants saying odds for a fair trial look slim despite a dearth of credible evidence against the accused.

The detained men and women are from Taunggyi, Kyaukse and Naypyidaw, and were arrested in August in Konhein Township, Shan State, while they were traveling to a wedding in the town of Konhein.

"They were charged with Article 5(j) and 5(l)" of Burma's Emergency Provisions Act, said Khin Moe Moe, a lawyer for 12 of the detained. "They did not have any contact with insurgent armed groups, they were just traveling for a wedding. … They are just normal people. Even the police bringing charges could not provide evidence at court about links to an armed group."

Win Khaung, the national police chief, has disputed that claim, telling Radio Free Asia that the 20 detainees had links to an unspecified armed terrorist group and were planning to carry out an act of terrorism, allegations to which the police chief said the accused had confessed.

Both charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

"I do not think that these victims will get fair justice," Khin Moe Moe added. "I believe that there are instructions for the court in Taunggyi from top officers about how to punish these victims. The judge will sentence the victims even though the victims are innocent and even though police do not have [sufficient] evidence."

The 20 Muslims are all Burmese nationals, and some are even members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), according to their lawyer.

The accused have been held in a prison in Mandalay since August, with their lawyer objecting to their incarceration while the investigation is ongoing.

"Prison is for those who have been sentenced. These people are not guilty yet," she said. "An investigation is ongoing. They should not be in prison."

She said prison authorities have refused to let the families of the detained Muslims visit them. The four women and 16 men have appeared in court 20 times already, according to the lawyer.

Khin Moe Moe also claimed that monks aligned with the Buddhist nationalist 969 movement were interfering in the case. A group of 969-affiliated monks has attended every court hearing convened, and Khin Moe Moe said she had received a threat from a 969 member on Facebook.

"They come to show their power whenever the victims appear in court. They were waiting in front of the court during the victims' trial. They showed their power to create trouble sometimes. I told the victims' families not to come to the court out of concern," she said.

Members of Burma's Muslim minority are severely repressed in western Arakan State, but elsewhere in the country they have largely managed to avoid discriminatory treatment by authorities, despite rising interreligious tensions in recent years.

More than 200 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that have broken out sporadically since mid-2012. The most recent violence erupted in Mandalay in July, when one Buddhist and one Muslim were killed during rioting that lasted two days.

In Arakan State, more than 100,000 Muslims remain confined to displacement camps after they fled their homes in the 2012 violence.

Two Year Old Rohingya Boy Died At Sittwe Hospital After Doctor’s Injection

Source RBnews, 8 Dec

A woman carries her baby inside a hospital near the Dar Paing camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Rakhine state, April 24, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Min Zayar Oo)


Sittwe, Arakan – A two year old Rohingya boy died at Sittwe General Hospital in Arakan State's capital, Sittwe on December 6, 2014 after he was given an injection by the doctor. 

Two year old Twariq Zia, son of Zia Ul Rahman from Dar Paing IDP camp in Sittwe, was seriously suffering from diarrhea. The parents of the boy took him to Dar Paing clinic but the doctor at Dar Paing clinic advised them to take their son to Sittwe General Hospital. 

Alqama, mother of Twariq Zia took her son to Sittwe General Hospital on December 5th at 2:30 pm. On the day of admission to the hospital, the doctors and nurses treated the boy very well and he almost recovered. Alqama thought her son could be discharged from the hospital on the following day. 

However, on the second day, December 6th at 8:00 am, a doctor came and gave an injection. Immediately after the injection the boy lost breathing and died, according to Alqama, the mother of Twariq Zia. Two hour after the death of Twariq Zia, the body of the child and Alqama were sent back to Dar Paing IDP camp from Sittwe General Hospital escorted by security forces.

This most recent summer a string of similar incidents were reported at Sittwe General Hospital, where doctors administered injections to young mothers giving birth who died shortly after. Similarly there were reports of patients, including young mothers being beaten and killed while in the hospitals care. Discrimination and further victimization of Rohingya attempting to seek treatment at Rakhine run hospitals has been rampant in Arakan State, Myanmar, and several cases have been documented by Rohingya living in the state and independent agencies.

Saed Arkani contributed in reporting.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

More people risk lives across Indian Ocean despite abuse, deterrence

Source UNHCR, 5 Dec

Small boats in Teknaf, Bangladesh, carry passengers across the Naf River.                                                                                                     
Boys play football on a beach in Teknaf, Bangladesh, next to fishing boats often used to ferry passengers to larger vessels in the Bay of Bengal bound for Thailand or Malaysia. In the distance, across the Naf River, lies the coast of Myanmar.

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 5 December 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A new UNHCR report has found that more people are risking their lives on smugglers' boats in South-East Asia despite the prospect of horrific violence en route.

UNHCR estimates that 54,000 people have undertaken irregular maritime journeys in the region so far this year, based on reports by local sources, media and people who survived the journey. This includes some 53,000 people leaving from the Bay of Bengal towards Thailand and Malaysia, and hundreds of others moving further south in the Indian Ocean.

The outflow from the Bay of Bengal tends to peak in October, when calmer waters follow the end of the rainy season. Departures this October surged more than in previous years. Some 21,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis have set sail since then, a 37-per cent increase over the same period last year. About 10 per cent are believed to be women. Roughly one-third of arrivals interviewed by UNHCR in Thailand and Malaysia were minors under 18 years of age. Children as young as eight years old are known to have made the journey alone.

In total some 120,000 people are believed to have embarked on these voyages in the Bay of Bengal since the start of 2012. With payments ranging from US$1,600 to US$2,400 demanded for each passenger, smugglers plying this route are believed to have generated nearly US$250 million in revenue in the last three years.

Myanmar/Bangladesh

While the majority of people paid smugglers for the journey, there were isolated accounts of people who said they were forced onto boats, sometimes at gunpoint, in Myanmar and Bangladesh. UNHCR staff met two Rohingya boys in Malaysia who said they were kidnapped off the street in northern Rakhine state in late September and forced onto boats.

Conditions on the smugglers' boats were dire. Survivors consistently described overcrowded conditions and daily rations of one sparse meal and one to two cups of water. People who asked for more or tried to use the toilet out of turn were beaten with belts or kicked down ladders by the armed crew on the deck above. An estimated 540 people have reportedly died this year at sea from such beatings, starvation or dehydration, and their bodies thrown overboard.

Thailand

Survivors told our staff that they were ferried from the big boats on smaller boats to Thailand. There they were held in smugglers' camps and made to call relatives to pay for their release. When payment was not immediate, they were beaten or subjected to other acts of torture. A large number of survivors were able to show signs of serious mistreatment on their body.

Since last year, hundreds of people are alleged to have died in the camps from illness, starvation, dehydration and killings by smugglers when they tried to escape or could not pay.

According to survivor accounts, raids by law enforcement agencies in Thailand since the beginning of the year seem to have led to a marked reduction in the number and size of smugglers' camps in the country.

Some of the survivors UNHCR interviewed had gone through the camps more than once. They were rescued in government raids, placed in immigration detention, then opted for deportation or escaped and re-entered the smuggling cycle to escape the prospect of indefinite detention.

Rohingya and Bangladeshis who arrived in Thailand in recent months have been systematically screened by government multi-disciplinary teams to assess the potential for human trafficking. If found to be victims of trafficking, they are transferred to shelters to facilitate their rehabilitation and investigations of suspected smugglers. UNHCR hopes that this ongoing screening can be expanded to an assessment of all international protection needs.

Malaysia

Most arrivals in Malaysia crossed by land from Thailand and were kept in holding houses in northern Malaysia, usually for a few days. UNHCR staff met a teenage girl who married a Rohingya man after he paid for her and her brother's release from a holding house.

As a result of the abuse and deprivations they suffered on smugglers' boats and camps, this year nearly 200 people approached UNHCR in Malaysia with beri beri disease, a form of Vitamin B1 deficiency that left them unable to walk.

Several boats arrived directly in Malaysia from the Bay of Bengal this year. Nearly 300 people who arrived on three boats were arrested. UNHCR has been able to access people from the first two boats and is seeking access to the third group.

Yet others arrived by boat undetected and are living in the community. In interviews with UNHCR, they said they disembarked on Langkawi island off Malaysia's north-western coast or were ferried by speedboat from the Andaman sea to the mainland.

Indonesia

Two-way boat traffic continued between Indonesia and Malaysia, with some Rohingya moving to Indonesia after spending some time in Malaysia. More than 100 Rohingya were registered with UNHCR in Indonesia this year.

UNHCR staff spoke to some Rohingya who tried to sail onward to Australia but returned due to bad weather, engine failure or interception by Australian authorities.

Australia

In 2014 there were 10 known interceptions of boats carrying 441 people hoping to reach Australia. Seven boats with 205 people were returned to Indonesia. All but one of 79 passengers on two boats were returned to Sri Lanka. Separately 157 people on a boat from India were transferred from the Australian mainland to an offshore processing centre in Nauru, where they remain detained.

Of the more than 6,500 people of concern to UNHCR who travelled by sea and were put in detention in the region, over 4,600 were held in Australia or the offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Committee against Torture recently added their voice to UNHCR's own set of concerns about these practices.

Link to access the full report:http://storybuilder.jumpstart.ge/system/places/video/479/processed/2680__boats-web.mp4

http://storybuilder.jumpstart.ge/en/unhcr-imm

Government Blocking Aid to Kachin IDP Camps: KIO

Source Irrawaddy, 5 Dec


A view of the Border Post 6 camp for displaced persons, on the mountainous Sino-Burmese border that is administered by the Kachin Independence Organization. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)A view of the Border Post 6 camp for displaced persons, on the mountainous Sino-Burmese border that is administered by the Kachin Independence Organization. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

 RANGOON — Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), are facing a shortage of food supplies amid reported restrictions on UN and NGOs' humanitarian aid deliveries.

Kachin IDPs have seen food stocks dwindle in recent weeks as humanitarian aid has been blocked by the Burmese government, according to Doi Be Za, chair of the KIO's IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee.

Doi Be Za, who is also a member of the KIO central committee, said: "The UN and NGOs told us that they will come in October. To date, they have not arrived. Now we are surviving with the help of local donors. The government has suspended the UN and NGOs' permission to come to Laiza, citing security reasons."

It was not immediately clear if aid deliveries were being denied in relation to an incident on Nov. 19 in which a KIO military academy near Laiza was shelled by the Burma Army, killing 23 cadets.

There are more than 20 IDP camps under KIO management, with an estimated total population of 50,000 people living in them, according to Doi Be Za's committee.

"The UN told us that they would come in early November but they didn't come," said Mary Tawn, head of the humanitarian NGO Wunpawng Ningtoi, based in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State. "The government has closed the road for security reasons. Now, in the Laiza refugee camps, there is a shortage of basic groceries like rice, oil, salt and peas."

With IDP camps that in some cases are more than three years old, deteriorating conditions are beginning to take their toll on inhabitants. Some IDPs in Panwar, at a camp more than 10,000 feet above sea level known as Border Post 8, struggle to keep water from freezing and face other difficulties associated with the rugged frontier, Mary Tawn said.

Doi Be Za said as winter approaches, humanitarian aid groups face increasing difficulties in sending rations to Border Posts 6, 7 and 8, which are along the China Border. He said the IDPs are in urgent need of warm clothes, and are also fearful because their camps are sited in close proximity to Burma Army bases.

The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced since fighting resumed between the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and government forces in 2011. They are living in temporary camps across Kachin State, some of which are administered by the government and others managed by the KIO.


Friday, 5 December 2014

US has done nothing to stop Myanmar abuses: Analyst

Source Presstv, 1 Dec

An analyst says the United States has "done nothing" to halt the ongoing "persecution and massacre" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Ibrahim Moussawi, a political commentator, said in an interview from Beirut that the administration of President Barack Obama has failed to take any "solid action" against the ongoing human rights abuses in Myanmar.

The analyst said that Washington has failed "to exercise pressure" or "impose embargos" when it comes to the rights violations by the government in Myanmar. 

Moussawi strongly criticized President Obama for paying a visit to Myanmar, saying the visit has been considered an endorsement for the country's military-dominated regime.

"I believe the American president shouldn't have visited the country in the very first place," he said.

Obama travelled to Myanmar in November 2012, when he praised the country for its transition but called for progress on reforms, particularly in the treatment of ethnic minorities.

Moussawi also blamed Saudi Arabia and some Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf region for their inaction over the ongoing abuses in Myanmar.

Lawrence J. Korb, a foreign policy and national security analyst, who was another guest participating at the debate, defended the Obama administration's record on Myanmar, saying the US president has been an outspoken critic of the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been persecuted and faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country's independence in 1948.

Myanmar's government has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingya Muslims. A new report says Myanmar's Muslims face death threats and slavery at the hand of human traffickers while fleeing persecution at home.

JR/HJL/HRB