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24 October 2014

US think tank faults Myanmar on Rakhine response

In this Aug. 14, 2014 photo, Shwe Maung, an ethnic Rohingya member of Myanmar’s Parliament who represents Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State, poses for a photo with a brown, tassled fez-like cap on a side table next to him in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP)

By Matthew Pennington
October 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — An influential Washington think tank is criticizing Myanmar's government for presiding over a "humanitarian catastrophe" in western Rakhine state and doing little to track down perpetrators of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence around the country.

Those criticisms come in a very mixed assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies of the situation in Myanmar, three years after it began a historic transition to democracy from decades of oppressive and ruinous military rule.

The centrist think tank, which has the ear of the Obama administration, visited Myanmar in August and issued its report Wednesday. President Barack Obama, who counts U.S. support of the Southeast Asian nation's reforms as a foreign policy success, will make his second visit to Myanmar in two years when it hosts a summit of regional leaders in November.

The report points to some hopeful signs in Myanmar, which is gearing up for elections in late 2015. It cites prospects for a nationwide cease-fire in long-running ethnic conflicts, improvements in a woeful health care system and economic reforms that have spurred rapid growth.

But the report also says power is deeply skewed in favor of the military, and that decision-making on key political reforms has stalled. It says that likely reflects a struggle between "reformists" allied to President Thein Sein — the former general who has overseen the shift to democracy — and establishment interests who fear losing privileges through more change.

"It is not yet clear that the military's overwhelming dominance will diminish significantly as the current government approaches the end of its formal tenure in April 2016," the think tank says.

The report says massive human suffering continues in Rakhine, where 140,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have been rounded up into barbed-wire-enclosed camps after sectarian violence erupted in mid-2012 with majority Buddhists. It said for months the Myanmar government has "abdicated its leadership responsibilities" as worsening violence drove international humanitarian groups out.

The government's action plan to address the situation in Rakhine — criticized by human rights groups as discriminatory — puts forward ideas for peaceful coexistence, citizenship and resettlement, but it remains to be seen if the government can defuse the crisis, the report says.

In the past three years, the United States has led the charge as Western nations have re-engaged with Myanmar and rolled back sanctions, and Wednesday's report advocates continued American engagement despite congressional concerns over Myanmar "backsliding" on reforms.

The report calls for the U.S. to double health aid to Myanmar, including in the fight against drug-resistant malaria, and to sustain limited U.S. engagement with the military. It says however, those ties shouldn't be expanded before it's clear the military hasn't intervened in the elections.

Source The Associated Press

23 October 2014

Loss of vote could push Myanmar Rohingyas to violence

A report by International Crisis Group says Myanmar's Muslims are 'not ripe for radicalization' but could be pushed to violence if voting right is removed
(Credit: Arche-Nova)

By Joshua Carroll
October 23, 2014 

YANGON, Myanmar: Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar could be pushed towards civil disobedience or violence if moves to strip them of their right to vote are successful, according to an influential report.

The International Crisis Group‘s 38-page advisory said the Rohingya, the Muslim minority from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, see their voting rights as “their last remaining connection to politics and means of influence.”

The report warned the situation in Rakhine is likely to become much more volatile as next year’s general election approaches. It added that sectarian violence, which has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, mostly Rohingya, is a “significant threat” to the country’s nascent democratic reforms.

At the heart of Rohingya’s disillusionment are proposals to take away their right to vote, which is granted through the identity cards, known as temporary registration certificates, that many hold.

Rakhine Buddhist politicians have submitted a bill to strip certificate holders of electoral rights. In September the government banned certificate holders from leading or being members of political parties.

If the proposal to ban them from voting becomes law, it would disenfranchise more than 1.4 million people, including many non-Muslims, the report, published Wednesday, added.

The report also urged the international community to pay more attention to the plight of the Rakhine Buddhist population, who it said are often “cast as violent extremists, which ignores the diversity of opinions that exists and the fact that they themselves are a long-oppressed minority.”

Ignoring their grievances is “counterproductive,” the report’s authors added.

“These fears, whether well-founded or not, need to be acknowledged if solutions are to be developed,” they said.

Myanmar has undergone sweeping changes, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners, since the ruling military junta stood aside in 2011 in favor of a reformist, nominally civilian government.

But the reform process has been accompanied by a rise in anti-Muslim violence and hate speech as tensions that had been supressed under military rule surfaced.

Despite decades of persecution, the report said, the Rohingya have rarely resorted to organized violence to defend their rights because “they believe that violence or even a threat thereof would be likely to prompt further discrimination against them.”

It added: “The Rohingya in Rakhine state are not ripe for radicalization for a number of reasons: they see Western governments as key supporters of their rights, which does not fit with the global jihadi agenda; they are not easy for global extremist networks to access; and it seems that most Rohingya religious leaders are not preaching violence.”

Despite that, there is a risk of radicalism if Rohingya are stripped of suffrage, one of the last basic rights left to them.

“In Rakhine State it could be incendiary,” the report added, “It would be hard for the Rohingya community to avoid the conclusion that politics had failed them - which could prompt civil disobedience or worse.”

Source: Anadolu Agency 

European countries ‘challenge Myanmar on Rohingya issue’

Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn speaks to the press. Photo: Mizzima

By Kay Zuu, Min Aung Khine
October 23, 2014

Some European countries have challenged the Myanmar authorities to prove the claim that Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar by providing strong evidence, according to Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn.

The minister raised the issue during an October 22 press conference held at the Rakhine State government office on the subject of the recent Asia-Europe Meeting held in Italy that was attended by Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

Myanmar has come under fire over its handling of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State who the government refers to as “Bengalis”, claiming they are illegal immigrants.

U Maung Maung Ohn said these European governments suggested that the Myanmar central government should publish a book to “prove” that Rohingya do not exist in the Rakhine State.

“There are some books published by some countries, which claim that Rohingya exist. But there is no book saying Rohingya do not exist, so the government should publish a book and give strong evidence, they said,” the chief minister told the media.

He said their suggestion was good, so he will inform the president about it.  

“Instead of using the words ‘Rohingya’ or ‘Bengali’, they urged us to consider choosing a label that can be accepted by both sides,” said U Maung Maung Ohn.

U Hla Maung Thein, the chairman of Rakhine Thahaya, a Rakhine cultural association, said, “We want the government to bravely prove it not only in Myanmar but to the international community.”  

According to figures compiled by the Central Census Commission, when the nationwide census was carried out, only 20,000 out of what the government classes as the estimated 1.09 million Bengali community in Rakhine State agreed to not be listed as Rohingya.

Although no officially sanctioned book has been published to dispute the Rohingya claims to citizenship, Dr. Aye Chan, professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan published a book entitled “Influx Viruses - The Illegal Muslims in Arakan” that claims those who identify themselves as Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

22 October 2014

Despite Myanmar’s ‘solution’, the Rohingya remain in a dire situation

A displaced woman cares for her baby at a camp on the outskirts of Sittwe in Rakhine state, western Myanmar. ( AFP/Soe Than Win)


By Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
October 22, 2014

In April, I wrote an article for The National on the worsening situation for Muslims in Myanmar. Their condition has not got any better. Instead, the government has adopted new legislation that is likely to have a further devastating impact on its Muslim minority.

Last month, the country’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, told envoys at the UN General Assembly that a long-expected strategy for the Rohingya minority would soon be put into effect. According to Mr Lwin, the “action plan” had been devised to guarantee peace and security for everybody in the area. He called on the global community to take part in the implementation of this strategy to provide a “durable solution” in the region.

Not long after Mr Lwin’s address at the UN, mainstream media such as Reuters shed light on what the scheme might practically involve: a set of coercive strategies that endanger the situations of thousands of people, while at the same time recycling legislation that was not in line with international law and was condemned when it was first enacted in 2012.

The suppression of the Rohingya community has been going on for decades. Since 1982, these people have been denied citizenship rights and have been considered illegal immigrants in their own homeland. Consequently, hatred, torture and killings have become a horrific daily reality for them. Over the past two years, Buddhist mobs have reportedly killed hundreds of Rohingya Muslims. The United Nations reported that the atrocities had also displaced almost 29,000 people, and labelled the Rohingya as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the government has done nothing to stop the continuing atrocities and has, instead, unwittingly contributed to them. At the same time, many in the mainstream media have been silent. The world community knows very little, if anything at all, about the situation.

This new strategy shows that the government of Myanmar has no inclination to put an end to the continuing repression, and is pursuing more coercive initiatives that will probably contribute to further injustice against Rohingya minorities.

According to Emanuel Stoakes of The Diplomat, a draft of this new strategy contains only a slight difference from the old policy. Under the policy, the Muslims of Rohingya, who were retrospectively denied citizenship in legislation enacted by the military leadership 26 years ago, are given the opportunity to attain certain privileges if they are able to comply to a “citizenship verification exercise” in which these people must identify themselves as Bengalis – indicating that they came from Bangladesh.

Refusing to identify as Bengali, or being unable to provide the necessary documents to prove their existence in Myanmar for generations, would give them no option but to be incarcerated in camps. After that, the policy envisages that they be relocated abroad by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Given that many people have said they are prepared to reject the verification programme and many others would be unable to find their official family records, it is likely that a very large number of Rohingya will have no option but to be displaced to camps. In such a scenario, the likelihood of violence and destabilisation would rise significantly.

Under its rules, the UNHCR may not be able to resettle the Rohinyga because they do not meet the definition of a refugee as someone who has “fled persecution and conflict across international borders”. This would mean that those Rohingyas who are denied citizenship could be forced to stay in camps indefinitely.

The unspeakable suppression against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar must end soon. It is more than clear that these people are in dire need of genuine and serious efforts by both the Myanmar government and the international community to mitigate their worsening situation.

More voices must join those speaking out in support of their rights. Organisations such as Asean must break away from their silence and insist that there be no normalisation with Myanmar while these outrageous policies are adopted against innocent men, women and children in their own homeland.

Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat is a writer based in Qatar and the UK

Source: The National

14-Rohingya arrested at Bangladesh-Burma border

Teknaf, Bangladesh: Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Bangladesh Coastguards arrested 14 Rohingyas from different entry points of Bangladesh- Burma border and handed over to Teknaf police station on October 21, Didar, a local from Teknaf town said. “A patrol team of BGB arrested nine Rohingyas from the Naff River on October 21, at about 3:00 pm while they were entering the Bangladesh through the entry point of Teknaf Jadimura by a small row boat.”

According to BGB sources, members of BGB arrested one male, four women and four children after being conducted operation. They all belong to Khunna Para (village) of Maungdaw Township.

After arrest, they were brought to Dumdum Meah BGB outpost of Teknaf Battalion No. 42 for further investigations. The BGB women checked their whole bodies and got more than 7,000 pieces of Yaba tablets, BGB sources said.

A relative of a victim Hamida (29) said on condition of anonymity that they crossed Burma-Bangladesh border by a row boat, but they had no Yaba tablets. They came to Bangladesh from Burma to visit their relatives in camps and for medical treatment in Bangladesh in illegal way as they didn’t get border pass from Burmese authority.

Besides, Bangladesh Coastguard arrested five Rohingyas from the Naff River, on the same day, at midnight while entering the Bangladesh by an engine boat. The Bangladesh Coastguard accused them that they are boat-people. They all hailed from Aley Than Kyaw village of Maungdaw Township, an officer of Bangladesh Coastguards said.

However, the above said nine victims were handed over to Teknaf police station along with Yaba tablets by BGB and other five were also handed over to Teknaf police station by Bangladesh Coastguards. Police has filed case against them in connection of Yaba smuggling and trafficking, a police officer said.

Source KPN

Increasing arbitrary arrests, tortures, detentions and killings in Maungdaw

By Fayas Ahmed
October 22, 2014

The latest tactics of arbitrary arrests, tortures, detentions and killings of Rohingya innocent people at Maungdaw Township in Arakan State, with false and fabricated allegation has become the daily phenomenon of President Thein Sein’s regime and his accomplices.

Since September last week, the BGP personnel arrested more than 100 Rohingya villagers (including Maulanas, Hafezi Quran, students. women and even minor boys ) with false and fabricated case in Maungdaw Township to take avenge who did not participate in so-called population data collection. However, the concerned authorities have been trying to frame case against them implicating with Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), which was not existed in Burma many years ago.

Every night, the BGP personnel went to Rohingya villages and tried to arrest the villagers, so the Rohingya villagers are not able to stay in their homes because of arbitrary arrest of BGP.  Some instances are as follows:

On October 18, at night, a group of BGP accompanied by some local Rakhine went to Singiri village of Lone Don village tract of Maungdaw north, and tried to arrest Rohingya villagers; but they failed as the Rohingyas villagers fled from the village. The BGP wants to arrest them because they did not take part in so-called population data collection.

Besides, the same night, they entered the Mezan Pru Arabic Madrasa, which has been closed since 2012, after the violence between Rakhine and Rohingya communities to comb people to arrest, but, none was found inside it.

In addition, the BGP also tried to arrest the villagers that went to Mosque for Ashr (night praying at 8:00pm ), but none was arrested because of fleeing from the scene sensing the presence of BGP personnel.

Again, on October 17, another group of BGP – more than 200 BGP personnel- went to Nyaung Chaung (Kadir Bill) village and arrested 7 villagers without giving any reason, but other villagers were fleeing from the village. The 7 arrestees were severely tortured by BGP personnel; of them one villager named Humaun Khobir (30), son of Yousuf is on critical condition. Now, he is taking treatment from local quacks. Nearly, all his teeth had been broken by the torture of BGP personnel. However, later, they all were released. They had been tortured by BGP intentionally.

On October 5, Farid Alam (35) hailed from Aung Zan village of Baukshu Pwe Yah village of Maungdaw north was arrested and killed by BGP personnel and thrown the dead body into river. He was arrested with false allegation of having links with RSO.

On October 9, a Maulana named Nazir (35), son of Jalal Ahmed, hailed from Kawar Bill (Kyi Kan Pyin) village of Maungdaw Township was arrested by BGP personnel from the road, at about 7:00 pm while he was going to his home from  Kollizabaga village under Butkargonanah village track by bicycle. After arrest, he was severely tortured and was released.

On October 10, nine villagers including five Madrasa students were arrested by BGP from Maung Nama Gyi village of Maungdaw north. At present, they are detained at  Hluntin Headquarters of Maungdaw 4 miles.

On October 13, four villagers including a 11-year old boy were arrested from Kwanthipin  village of Maungdaw north by BGP personnel without giving any reason. They are identified as—-Hashim Ullah (19), Mohamed Allam (30), Farooq (22), and Sayed Alam(11).

On September 14:  five villagers from Area No.5, twelve villagers from Balu Khali     (Thee Chaung) village of Powet Chaung village tract, on September 20: seven villagers from Kyauk Hla Gaar village; 10 villagers from Kawar Bill, and on September 27: some villagers from Tolatoli, Wet Kin Rwa, Padaka Rwa Thai, Kalar Defa and Chon Gaung  of Maungdaw north were arrested by BGP personnel.

The 1982 Citizenship Law was intentionally created by late Dictatorship General U Ne Win to exclude the Muslim Rohingyas from Burma citizenship, rendering them stateless and without legal and civil rights. At present, Burmese Central government, Arakan State government and Rakhine opposition party leaders are also influentially forcing the Rohingya ethnic minority to register as “Bengali” instead of as “Rohingya” in the current

National citizenship verification process statewide.

At present, the Burmese government calls for change with a proposed “Rakhine State Action Plan.” Its means to attempt to address the Rohingyas only further institutionalizes its discrimination against them.

As a result, people are not sleeping in their homes getting out of their homes, watching the BGP personnel when they will come. The villagers in Maungdaw Township are passing their nights and days with fear.

When the Rohingya community will be freed from the yoke of Burmese government

Source : KPN

Depraved situation in Buthidaung jail

October 22, 214

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The situation of the Buthidaung jail is very depraved situation for prisoners, especially for Rohingyas who are in the jail, according to a prisoner recently released from Buthidaung jail.
“Some of the recent arrested Rohingya villagers from Maungdaw Township had been sent to Buthidaung jail where they are being tortured severely every day.”

Some of the prisoners are identified as—Maulana Sayed Amin ( 35), son of Sultan, hailed from Tolatoli (Min Gyi Rwa) of Maungdaw south; Maulana Wares (40), son of Jahid Hussain, hailed from Badaka Dewan Ali village of Maungdaw north;  Master Abdul Hai (30), son of Ahmeddu, hailed from Wetkin village of Maungdaw north;  Sayed ( 35), son of Gura Meah, hailed from Garata Bill;  Maulana Shaker (40), father’s name unknown, hailed from Garata Bill, Mohamed Tayub (40), son of Younos, hailed from Garata Bill, the released prisoner more added.

Some others are unknown villagers that are also being tortured severely in jail. In fact, they were arrested by BGP (Burma Border Guard Police) because of not taking part in census or so-called population data collection, but the concerned authorities implicated them with RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), said Jashim (not real name), a local elder  from local.

Besides, recently, the commander of the camp No 24 under the BGP area No.4 of Maungdaw north is extorting money from villagers by making a list of villagers- the list included 40 villagers- inked with allegation linking with RSO. The villagers are being threatened with the list to pay money to the officer, Jashim more said.

The officer told the villagers that he received this information from the arrested villagers. As a result, he asked Kyat 300,000 per head who wants to drop from the list, otherwise, they will be sent to the court and will stay in the jail , a local youth said preferring not to be named.

For fear of arrest and torture by BGP personnel, most of the listed villagers are going into hiding places to avoid arrest. According to sources, some of the villagers have already paid money to the said commander.

21 October 2014

Dispatches: Decisive Action on Burma's Rohingya Crisis

By John Sifton
October 21, 2014

A lot has changed here in Burma in the last three years. Large-scale political prisoner releases have occurred. There has been a lessening of censorship and surveillance. The government has permitted some movement toward democratic reforms—although much of that progress now appears to have stalled. 

Not all changes, however, have been positive. In the midst of Burma’s recent transformations, caustic and divisive anti-Muslim voices have been on the rise. In May and October 2012 in Burma’s western Arakan State, ethnic Arakanese Buddhists with the backing of local authorities carried out extensive attacks on vulnerable minority Rohingya Muslims and other Muslim populations in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that amounted to crimes against humanity. Hundreds of people were killed and ultimately more than 100,000 were displaced. The effects of that violence are still felt now. Today most Rohingya in Arakan State live in segregated neighborhoods and camps, unable to travel freely and left with inadequate food, water, sanitation, or access to livelihoods. Unsurprisingly, more than 100,000 Rohingya have fled Burma by boat to Malaysia or Bangladesh. Hundreds are believed to have died in perilous journeys in leaky open boats. 

Muslims in other parts of Burma also face persecution. Not all Muslims in Burma live in Arakan State, and most are not Rohingya. Rangoon and Mandalay, Burma’s two largest cities, have dozens of Shia and Sunni mosques, as throughout Burma, Hindu mosques, Protestant churches, and Catholic cathedrals sit side by side with Buddhist temples. This is why this new rise of Buddhist extremism is so worrying. 

Sadly, the government has done little to hold those responsible for the 2012 anti-Muslim violence. More recently, the government inflamed the situation by drafting an “Action Plan” that appears to formalize segregation through restrictive provisions imposed on Rohingya and denies most of them access to citizenship. Those who refuse to declare themselves as “Bengali” – or Bangladeshi national – in a citizenship assessment process, or fall short of the plan’s impossibly high standards for proving citizenship, face indefinite detention in closed camps. 

Meanwhile, at the national level, the government has encouraged the National Assembly to pass overbroad and discriminatory laws on interfaith marriage and religious conversion. 

In November, the government of Burma will host a large set of international leaders at the East Asia Summit and associated ASEAN summit, including US President Barack Obama, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is important that these world leaders press the Burmese President Thein Sein to address the anti-Muslim crisis in his country. President Jokowi is especially well-placed to do so because he has pledged to use his new presidency to lessen religious tensions in Indonesia. President Obama should use his influence on these issues as well. 

The Burmese government needs to commit to acting against groups such as Ma BaTha or the notorious 969 that have engaged in hate speech inciting violence, discrimination or other crimes. World leaders should make it crystal clear to President Thein Sein that any further signs of connivance between extremist groups and government officials will harm Burma’s efforts to garner more international support. That’s a message the government of Burma needs to hear loud and clear.