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31 October 2014

US urges Myanmar to support Rohingya rights

US President urges Myanmar leader to support civil and political rights of the stateless Rohingya Muslims minority.

Burmese President Thein Sein meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Yangon 2012 Photo (AFP)

US President Barack Obama has urged Myanmar's president to address ethnic tensions in his country, while also discussing political reforms with the opposition leader.

The White House said Obama had separate telephone conversations on Thursday with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ahead of a second presidential visit to Myanmar next month.

His visit in mid-November comes amid growing US concerns about human rights abuses in Myanmar, including the jailing of journalists and alleged oppression of stateless Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities caught in conflict with government troops.

Obama urged Sein to take additional steps to address ethnic tensions and support the civil and political rights of the Rohingyas.

The White House said Obama welcomed the commitment of President Thein Sein and his government to the peace process, and urged that every effort be made to conclude a national ceasefire in the short term.

Most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine state on the western coast of the predominantly Buddhist country. Almost 140,000 Rohingya remain displaced after deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

Fledgling democracy

Obama's call came just before Thein Sein and Myanmar's powerful military chief were due to hold an unprecedented high-level meeting on Friday with major political parties and ethnic minority groups as cracks widen in the fledgling democracy ahead of an election next year.

The talks will be the first of their kind in Myanmar and will see Suu Kyi meet the powerful armed forces chief, Senior General Min Aung Holing for the first time, talks that the Nobel laureate has sought since she became a lawmaker in 2012.

Obama also spoke with Suu Kyi about the upcoming elections, and how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment," the White House said.

"Obama expressed his appreciation for Aung San Suu Kyi's work to promote a more democratic Burma," it added.

Myanmar's last general elections in 2010 were marred by widespread accusations of cheating and were held without the National League for Democracy or Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who was detained until days after the vote.

Since then, Thein Sein has implemented a number of dramatic reforms, and Suu Kyi has entered parliament.

Her party is expected to win a good number of seats in the legislature in next year's polls, and parliament will select a president.

But the 69-year-old Suu Kyi is currently barred from taking the top job by the constitution because her late spouse and children are foreign nationals.

Source: Agencies

30 October 2014

Refugee teenage girl raped in Leda camp

Teknaf, Bangladesh: An unregistered Rohingya refugee teenage girl of Leda camp (Tal) was raped by a local on October 29, 2014, Jalal, a refugee committee member from Leda camp said. The victim has been identified as— Bibi (not real name), 12, from leda camp and the rapist is Farid Alam (40), son of Lal Meah, hailed from Leda village. He is a  local Bangladeshi and  a staff of “NGO Forum,” which is established in Leda camp. He has duty to look after the camp, according to sources.

On October 29, at about noon, the said Alam went to F-Block, shed No. 321 and suddenly entered the shed and forcibly raped the teenage girl while her mother was not present at the shed and the victim was alone. Her mother went to Nilla to buy some medicine, Hussain, a refugee from the camp said.

Some refugees saw the said rapist while entering the shed, but refugees believed that he was working there as a staff of NGO Forum, Hussain more added.

Suddenly, the victim gave hue and cry for help, so the neighboring refugees rushed to the spot and rescued her, but, the culprit ran away from the shed. The victim was immediately brought to Muslim Aids clinic for treatment.

However, the victim became in critical condition, so she was referred to Cox’s Bazar government hospital for better treatment, according to refugees.

According to a refugee elder, a group of police and persons from intelligent department went to the Leda camp to inquiry the event. Police has filed case against the culprit. But, the culprit has not been arrested till writing the report.

According to refugees, they are afraid that the culprit will give threatening to some neighboring refugees including victim’s family who had provided evidence the concerned authorities against the culprit in the connection of rape.

Source KPN 

28 October 2014

Maungdaw high level officers apply a new law for Rohingyas to send jail

Myanmar soldiers patrol in a street as Muslims take refuge at their camp in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Myanmar (Photo :AP)

October 28, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Maungdaw high level officers from all departments had applied a new law for Rohingyas who were arrested –more than 100 rohingyas- recently for so-called population data collection or census, said Halim, a Human Rights Watchdog from Maungdaw.

The concerned authority – Burma Border Guard Police (BGP) officers, District Administration officer, Township administration officer, Army officers and Immigration officers – decided to file cases with a new law for Rohingyas who were arrested recently for refusing to identify as Bengali instated of Rohingya in so-called population data collection or census. The authority applied an Act to file cases with linked to Rohingya Solidarity Organization – RSO (a rebellion group), which was not functioning in the areas, Halim said.

The false allegation of linking with RSO was exposed by Medias, then the authority has applied a new law – used for illegal border crossing 13/1 act from Immigration law –  to 25 Rohingyas when  the authority processed them to Maungdaw court on October 27, Halim more added.

The authority compromised with Rohingyas arrestees before to process to the court. The officers will not use “the linked with RSO” which will give Rohingyas for long termed jail, but used the 13/1 Immigration act for short termed jail. So the Rohingyas agreed to confess that they went to Bangladesh and come back to Burma without permission, at the court, according to reliable source from government office.

The Rohingya who were processed to the court must be bowed their head till to their waists when the Rohingya entered into court compound from the vehicle. They can’t show their face to public and talk. It is second point in the compromise, the source more said.

Finally, the court sentenced five years jail term to 25 Rohingyas – the one fourth of all Rohingyas arrestee recently in Maungdaw- which the court applied according to regional law, the source more added.

Moreover, the authority are planning to arrest all the Rohingya male from the areas expect the children, female and old age persons, to demolish Rohingya community in the areas, said Fasal Ahmed from Maungdaw who is working in an office as translator.

27 October 2014

Camps Bring Further Danger to Rohingya Muslims Fleeing Potential Genocide in Burma

Enforced confinement has created further danger for Rohingya Muslims, pictured here in refugee camps outside Sittwe in Rakhine State, Burma. Nic Dunlop

By Nic Dunlop
October 27, 2014

Thin Taw Li refugee camp filled me with foreboding. Although I had visited camps where people had fled civil war, this was the first time I had been among a people who face ethnic cleansing. The camp is home to more than three thousand Rohingya who fled sectarian violence in Burma’s Rakhine state.

For decades the Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to systematic persecution by their largely Buddhist countrymen: denied citizenship, suffering forced labour, rape and killings. The United Nations has described them as “the world’s most persecuted minority” and other observers have warned of an impending genocide.

In 2011, after decades of repressive military rule, a radical reform programme began. Elections were held, a new government was formed and Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. Burma, it seemed, was finally moving towards a democratic future. The following year violence erupted in Rakhine state between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingya.  Almost 140,000 people were displaced and at least 280 killed. Since then, the situation has stagnated and these people remain stuck in ­internal camps  and squatting on the outskirts of villages at the mercy of their ­persecutors.

Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print 

To reach the camps – nine of them located closely together with a population of 75,000 refugees, I had to pass through a single check-point on the outskirts of Sittwe, the state capital. At a railway crossing, armed police with antique rifles sat at a table. After paying a fee, the police waved me through and I entered the Muslim enclave.

A pot-holed road led to open country where the camps are located. Along the road we passed Muslim villages where markets spilled on to the road and crowds milled about. The ­drizzle was unrelenting. We then turned a corner and the blue and green tarpaulin of refugee huts came into view. It was a bleak landscape of flooded paddy fields. The only protection against storms was a single fence of battered palms that lined the Bay of Bengal beyond.

At first glance, Thin Taw Li gave the impression of a sprawling, squalid medieval village. The entrance was a series of muddy paths that led between huts with corrugated iron roofs. The women wore hijabs and some had their faces smeared with thanaka, a traditional Burmese cosmetic made from sandalwood.

Many family dwellings were no larger than a two-person tent. The monsoon only added to the misery of camp life, making it impossible to stay dry. Within minutes I was surrounded by half naked children, some with distended bellies and bleached hair; the tell-tale signs of malnutrition.

The refugees call the monsoon “the season of flu”. Everywhere I was accompanied by the sound of coughing. One Rohingya medic I met, who didn’t want to be identified, said malnutrition posed the largest threat to the refugees. “We’re worse than prisoners because prisoners are fed,” he said. “We’re not. We don’t know when we’ll get the next meal. There are many cases of diarrhoea, as well as numerous skin conditions and tuberculosis.” In this camp alone, at least 20 people have died from treatable conditions. “The clinic is open,” he said, “but we have nothing.”

At first it was easy to believe the people had escaped from violence elsewhere and were out of harm’s way. It was only when I talked with refugees that the full extent of their terror became clear.

I was taken to a shack to meet a woman who had been recently widowed. Sitting on a rattan mat in the darkness was 22-year-old Khie Runnisa. She was surrounded by relatives in her white mourning shawl, weak with grief.

Nic Dunlop

Two days before, she had accompanied her husband, Sham Sul Amam, to an internet café just outside the camp. They were going to call her father-in-law in Malaysia. While they were talking with him, armed police surrounded the café and ordered everyone out. They told them to sit on the road and place their hands of their heads. They said no one would be harmed. Hugging his four-year-old daughter, Sham Sul Amam did the same. The police told him to cover his daughter’s eyes so that she wouldn’t see anything. A policeman then placed the barrel of his rifle on Sham Sul Amam’s head and shot him.

Days later Khie Runnisa was still reeling in shock. At times she had to be propped up by her mother when she talked. “I have no idea why they shot him,” she said. “He had no enemies.”

A young man, 28-year-old Mohammed, said the police routinely terrorise people. “They look for the smallest reason, or ­wrongdoing, and they harass, provoke and shoot above our heads,” he said. “Or they shoot us directly.”

It is the night that the people most fear. At the same time that the police shot Sham Sul Amam, they mounted a raid on Thin Taw Li. Mojuma Begum left her stall near the entrance to warn her son and husband. Fearing they would be next they hid in the fields. She returned to her stall to find the police ransacking it. They threatened to shoot her and took everything.

One Rohingya I spoke to, who didn’t wish to be identified, described Thin Taw Li as a concentration camp. But unlike the concentration camps of Nazi occupied Europe, there were no barbed wire perimeter fences and no watchtowers; people were free to move between the camps. On occasion I saw armed police, but their presence was fleeting. What was happening was more insidious. There was no need for barbed wire.

The Rohingya have been terrorised into collusion as well as submission. And, like Burma under military rule, they are closely monitored. The camp leaders, Rohingya selected by the police to work for them, have been given mobile phones and ordered to spy on the camp populations. “They are like government informers,” a refugee told me.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, recently presented her findings to the UN General Assembly. After a 10-day visit to the area last July, she described the situation in the camps as “deplorable”. The report, while acknowledging Burma’s reforms, warns of backtracking and lists continuing abuses suffered by the Rohingya including: summary executions, disappearances, torture, forced labour, forced displacements and rape. “The government must meet its obligations,” says the report, to provide “lifesaving assistance” and adequate basic services including “access to livelihoods, food, water, and sanitation, and education”.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch says the Burmese government will be pressured into responding substantively. The big question, he said, is whether it “will accept that the Rohingya deserve an equal seat at the table with all the other people in the country”.

The issue of identity runs central to Burma’s on-going crisis. In March this year, the first census in 30 years was completed amid controversy. Despite living in Burma for generations, the Rohingya were excluded unless they agreed to be classified as Bengali Muslims. Both the Rakhine and central government have long maintained the Rohingya are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and the Rohingya fear if they change their status, they will be deported. When the UN Special Rapporteur met government officials, she was repeatedly told not to use the term “Rohingya”. “The rights of minorities to self-identify,” she retorted, “is a central principle of international human rights law.”

The 2012 violence was a defining moment. Like survivors of the Cambodian holocaust who divided their experience between “before Pol Pot’”and “after Pol Pot”, both Rohingya and Rakhine I met talked of “before the violence” and “after the violence”. Although tensions simmered for years, it was the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Muslims that set off the initial unrest. It later spread across the state. In ­Sittwe, police opened fire to separate mobs wielding sticks and stones. Some allegedly took part in violence against the Rohingya. “It was the Rakhine community who did this to us,” said Kyi Kyi Aung, who is married to a Rohingya and a convert to Islam. She now lives in one of the huts in Thad Key Pyin camp with her husband and six children. She showed me her arm that had been broken when she tried to escape the violence. It was grossly deformed at the wrist. She had also suffered burns on her leg when she jumped from her flaming house after it was torched by extremists. She only just escaped with her family. “We lost everything.”

As with other minorities in Burma, the government uses a divide and rule strategy. In Rakhine state, the government knows ethnic Rakhine could mobilise large numbers of people against them. By allowing anti-Muslim sentiment to be stirred up, the Rakhine remain distracted with the issue of the Rohingya.

Malnutrition and disease are rife in the camps and many say their "protection" is, in fact, a crime against humanity. Nic Dunlop

Before the reforms, Burma’s ­dictatorship had near total control and crushed any dissent. In March this year, ­Buddhist mobs went on a rampage in Sittwe, attacking the offices of international aid organisations whom they accuse of favouring the Rohingya.

The rioting began when a staff member of the Malteser International removed a Buddhist flag from their office building. Buddhist flags had been flown across the state capital as a ­symbol of opposition to the Rohingya community. When the mob attacked, the authorities provided protection to the aid workers. It was clear they wanted them out.

On the other side of this divide are Rakhine nationalists who see themselves as the ultimate victims in this crisis. They believe they are being squeezed between the Burmese government on the one hand and, what they claim as the ‘expanding’ Muslim population on the other. It is the Rohingya they see as the greatest threat. But, despite their fears, Muslims makes up only 4% of Burma’s population. There is illegal migration from overpopulated Bangladesh, but nothing on the scale the Rakhine nationalists imagine.

“They are our enemy,” said U Shwe Maung, a spokesman for the right-wing Rakhine National Party. A garrulous man in his sixties, he cited the rise of radical Islamic groups in the Middle East, believing the Rohingya were planning to create an Islamic state. “The Muslims are trying to take over”, he said. “We’re afraid of the extinction of our nation.”

According to him, it is the government’s interest to keep the situation tense. Running from the coast of Rakhine state to China in the north is the Kyaukpyu Shwe gas pipeline. This project includes a deep-sea port, overland oil and gas pipelines to China costing $2.5 billion. Last June, Burma announced revenues of $3.3bn from gas exports in the last fiscal year. “We could be a rich nation,” said U Shwe Maung, “but we haven’t been given the chance to shape our own futures.”

In September, al-Qaida called on Muslims throughout South Asia to rise up and join the jihad, including Burma. This only further fanned the flames of hatred in the state. Since then, there have been reports of arrests, torture and disappearances of Rohingya by the authorities. One man was allegedly tortured to death by police and his wife forced to sign a statement saying he died of natural causes.

Buddhist monks have stirred much of the anti-Muslim sentiment. Many are followers of the 969 Movement, which has instigated anti-Muslim violence in other parts of the country. It is the movement’s brand of xenophobic Buddhism that the more radical identify with.

According to the human rights group, Fortify Rights, persecution of the Rohingya is government policy. In a 72-page report, they documented senior ministers openly discussing policies that amount to crimes against humanity as well as guidelines for security forces that enable the abuse of the Rohingya to continue. Director Matthew Smith wrote by email: “All the preconditions for a genocide are in place.”

Coming to Rakhine state in the era of reform was like returning to Burma under military rule. I found people living in a fear that strained just beneath the surface. But I didn’t expect to be confronted with the very real threat of a genocide. There is a denial among more moderate Rakhine who are afraid to speak their minds, afraid they too may become a target of ultra-nationalists. The day I arrived in Rakhine state, two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders were sentenced in Cambodia for crimes committed 35 years ago. It has been 20 years since the Rwanda genocide, when more than 800,000 were butchered while the world looked. As journalist Thierry Cruvellier wrote, “people never imagine the worst will actually happen, even when all the signs are there”.

For now, the situation is on edge. A tense normality has returned to Sittwe, but there are no Muslims to be seen. They are either in the ghettos sealed by police, or in the camps outside. Nazir quarter where they once lived is now an empty lot, reclaimed by tropical vegetation. But few of the Rohingya I spoke to have any doubt about the ultimate aim of this segregation. “The extremists want to ethnic cleanse,” Mojuma Begum said. “They want to carry out genocide.” A fear confirmed by the chilling words of a young Rakhine refugee. “I want to kill the Muslims,” said Aung Ko Naing. “Many feel like me . . . I want to get rid of them all.”


People who belong nowhere 

By M. Mizanur Rahman and Tasfi Sal-sabi
The Daily Star
October 27, 2014

REFERRING to statements by some residents and an expert, Aljazeera reported on October 25 that a growing sense of despair had caused a mass migration of at least 8,000 Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar in the last two weeks. The number of people who have fled since communal violence broke out two years ago is more than 1,00,000. Usually, the popular destinations of these Rohingya people are Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Pakistan and India. In the last few decades, thousands of Rohingyas migrated to Bangladesh from Myanmar.

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

The Rohingya are one of the most down-trodden ethnic minorities in modern history, having been denied citizenship and basic human rights by the Myanmar government. For the Rohingyas, security of life, food, accommodation, arbitrary arrest, detention, sexual harassment and means of earning have been major problems even after their migration.

Many of the displaced and helpless Rohingyas have been living in overcrowded camps that lack adequate food, shelter, water and sanitation, and medical care. Currently, there are two refugee camps in Bangladesh sheltering a total population of 2,900, and a further 2,00,000 are living in unofficial camps and Bangladeshi villages located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh along the Myanmarese border.

Almost all the international legal instruments provide protection to the ethnic minorities in their home country and the refugees in the countries they migrated to. The United Nation Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the convention relating to the status of refugees 1951 and its protocol 1967, the Geneva conventions, etc. ensure the rights of the ethnic minorities and refugees. Though Myanmar has not ratified 73 important conventions, it has ratified a number of treaties and conventions which define almost all the human rights issues. The most important treaty that Burma is a party to is the UN Charter, which is considered a 'super-treaty' because Article 103 of the Charter mandates that “any conflict between Charter obligations and those under any other international agreement be resolved in favour of the Charter” (Global Justice Centre, 2012). Other treaties that the country endorsed include the Genocide Convention, the four Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

But no international legal instrument could protect these people who are actually not recognised as citizens by any state in the world. The Myanmar government does not want to recognise them as citizens and terms them as 'unwanted Bengalis,' and forces them to flee from the country. These people move to the neighbouring countries, especially to Bangladesh which is not in a position to accommodate them for various reasons.

They are also considered a 'burden' for Bangladesh. Support from Bangladesh government to the refugees is inadequate due to limited capacity and resources. Change in the demographic composition in the south-eastern zone, a very strategic one for the country, is always very crucial for Bangladesh. Being downtrodden from their very birth, the Rohingyas are usually unskilled, which is why there is hardly any scope for them to become an asset for any society. They cannot contribute to the human resource pool of Bangladesh, rather they are kept aside from the mainstream socio-economic activities basically for two reasons: Bangladesh has surplus human resources even in the rural labour markets and the Rohingyas do not have minimum skill and education for work. Their inability to achieve economic and social development and failure to have legitimacy often make them feel inferior and dejected. The situation in the other countries they migrate to is almost the same. So their struggle never ends.

In Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are not legally entitled to work and that is why those who are not supported by UNHCR become desperate for work even with low pay and poor work environment and condition, while some take to criminal activities. According to Rahman (2010), the Rohingya labourers are willing to work for far less than the Bangladeshi people, as a result of which a clash of interests causes conflicts. This situation between the native Bengalis and the Rohingyas creates the scope for social exclusion of the latter group, which breeds more severe social problems for both parties.  

Rohingyas are kept out of all the community affairs and in almost every aspect of life, they are facing challenges and living in an inferior condition. Lack of proper health service due to unavailability of medical staff, lack of proper sanitation and scarcity of pure drinking water make their life more miserable. According to the Human Rights Watch (2007), authorities do not allow building of permanent structures in the camps as a way of encouraging refugees to return home. Children are denied access to education. The provision of health services and access to medicines are also limited by the authorities, as are work and livelihood opportunities inside the camp. Moreover, support and assistance from UNHCR are insufficient to meet the demands of the large number of Rohingyas.

In this situation, the Rakhine State Action Plan has added a new dimension to worsen the situation. Human rights groups claim that this plan will force thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims into detention camps indefinitely if they do not qualify for citizenship. Some people see this plan as a new trap of the Myanmar government as it contains a section on a process to determine whether the Rohingya are citizens. They will be required to register their identities as Bengali, but it will imply that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite having lived in the area for generations.

But when this agenda was announced by the foreign minister of Myanmar in the United Nation, the global community remained silent; there was no individual or collective protest though this initiative violates many of the international treaties and conventions which the country has ratified. Not even a Muslim country stood up to protest this heinous act. With this background, who will take the responsibility of these 1.5 to 2 million people?

The writers are, respectively, Development Researcher and post graduate student of NOHA Humanitarian Action at Uppsala University Sweden, and a Researcher on social issues.

Army commits robbery in Maungdaw

October 27, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Amy committed robbery against four Rohingya villagers in Maungdaw north, Arakan State, Burma on October 22 in the morning, said Hamid, a village elder from the area.   “The robbery was took place at Balu Khali (Thee Chaung) village under the Powet Chaung village tract of Maungdaw Township.”

The house owners (victims) are identified as—Anwar (25), son of Abdu Munaf; Shuraz Zaman (50), son of Amir Bokshu; Abdu Shuker (30), son of Abdu Malek and Maulana Yousuf (45), son of Abdu Matalab,  Hamid more added.

The day before October 22, some of the collaborators or local agents of BGP (Burma Border Guard Police) informed to army that some of the RSO members penetrated to Balu Khali village from Bangladesh and taking shelter there. Therefore, about 200-army went to that village to see whether it was true or not, but, the army did not find any clue of RSO members, Ayub Ali, a businessman from the locality.

However, the army combed the whole village and finding nothing, but, at last, they destroyed four houses and one shop of the villagers’ to take revenge to previous enmity of not participating in census.  But, the house owners fled from their houses to avoid arrest. These were done by the indication of Kamal, the administration officer of the village. He wants close relation with government officials doing anti-activities of villagers, said Mohamed Noor, a village elder from the areas.

After the operation, all the army except 7 soldiers withdrew from the village. But, October 22 in the morning, the remaining seven soldiers accompanied by six BGP collaborators including Kamal Hussain (the village administration officer) committed robbery against the said 4 villagers and took away cash and some gold  ornaments after breaking Almali (cupboard), the elder more added.

The other five collaborators are identified as- Nurul Islam (27), son of Sayed Ullah;  Zubair (30), son of Mohi Uddin; Ali Ahmed (25), son of Kala;  Nurul Amin (42), son of  Jalal Ahmed and  Ayub ( 45), son of  Abdu Suban, according to a local youth.

The army took away Kyat 600,000 and one pair of gold earring from Anwar; Kyat 405,000 from Shuraz Zaman; Kyat 606,000 and some documents from Maulana Yousuf and some money from Abdu Shukur (the exact amount is not known). He (Shukur) went to Maungdaw to sell shrimps and he was arrested by the army while he was on the way to home on October 22.  After arrest, he was severely tortured according to the advice of Kamal (administration officer) and brought to unknown place.  The fate of the arrested villager is still unknown, said Moulvi Yousuf from the locality.

A local trader said, the concerned authority arrested innocent villagers with false allegation and tortured, extorted money and even sent to jail.  They are the judges and plaintiffs and the Rohingyas are always defendants, “because of might is right”.

25 October 2014

Interview: The Stateless Rohingya

The growing persecution of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

October 25, 2014

The Rohingya are one of the world’s most persecuted ethnic minorities and are internationally recognized as de jure stateless. As Myanmar struggles to form a democratic state during a period of transition after decades of totalitarian military rule, the Rohingya are receiving renewed attention. Vanessa Thevathasan recently spoke with members of The Stateless Rohingya about the plight of the Rohingya and regional responsibility for their human rights.
Tell us who you are and the aims of your organization, The Stateless Rohingya. 
My name is Mohammed Rafique and I was stateless for my whole life until I was resettled in Ireland along with 78 members of the Rohingya from a Bangladesh refugee camp by the government of Ireland in 2009.
Rohingya Community Ireland is a community organization that focuses on the development of Rohingya youngsters and interaction with the people of Ireland from the community to the national level, as well as working with Rohingya and non-Rohingya NGOs from outside of Ireland to bring changes to the Rohingya community as a whole.
The Stateless Rohingya is a blog run from Ireland, which aims to provide authentic, important and day-to-day news on the plight of Rohingya by bringing together news articles, the opinions of Rohingya and non-Rohingya authors, and other media. Its main objective is to make the world aware of the persecution of the Rohingya, who are being forced from being “Natives of Arakan” to statelessness.
How does Myanmar view the Rohingya?
Put simply, as “animals,” “non-human” or “aliens.” Many inflammatory Burmese politicians and authors refer to the Rohingya as a “virus.” Ordinary Burmese people view us as “Illegal Bengali.” There have been decades of propaganda and brainwashing of the general public against Rohingya by various government and non-government organizations. As a result, Rohingya are not accepted as an ethnic group or citizens of Burma.
The Rohingya are internationally recognized are stateless. Can you explain how Myanmar has declassified and revoked their citizenship rights?
Many people who have studied the Rohingya know that the Rohingya were an ethnic group and citizens of Burma, something that is still strongly anchored in the heart of every Rohingya. In 1962, dictator Ne Win came to power and set up plans to declassify and revoke the rights of the Rohingya. He cancelled Rohingya language programs in 1965, which had up until that point been broadcast on the Burmese Broadcasting Service as an ethnic language program. In 1974, he changed Arakan state to Rakhine, an ethnically motivated name. He then introduced the 1982 Citizenship Law that stripped Rohingya of their fundamental rights as citizens of Burma. The law was internationally condemned, but sadly it still remains in the current constitution that makes Rohingya vulnerable to discrimination and persecution.
Statelessness prevents individuals from accessing basic services and is the greatest inhibitor of individual progress. Explain the discriminations and prejudices they face as a result of not having citizenship. 
It affects every aspect of their life and makes them highly vulnerable to those who are willing to take advantage of these voiceless people.
It restricts freedom of movement even between villages. The travel restriction greatly impedes Rohingya from doing business and pursuing higher education, which is another discrimination that prevents Rohingya students from studying subjects like medicine, dentistry, history, law and engineering.
Another major discrimination is religious freedom. There are frequent demolitions, confiscations and closures of mosques and religious schools. Religious scholars are given irrational prison sentences, are humiliated by have their beards shaven, or are mutilating. In marriages, grooms with beards are required to be clean-shaven before the marriage is approved.
The two-child policy applies solely to the Rohingya. It has been widely approved by various extremist groups in Burma, despite breaking international law and having come under intense international condemnation.
Confiscation is a common practice. Houses, mosques, shops and cattle are being taken away from the Rohingya and converted to “modern villages” by the Burmese government in Rakhine to  depopulate Rohingya districts.
As they are classified as foreigners, forced labor without payment is common, as is torture. Other prevalent practices include arbitrary taxation, denial of access to healthcare, and arbitrary arrest.
Women and girls’ are being raped and attacked without any recourse to justice.
Recognized as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, have you been able to document the human rights abuses faced by the Rohingya?
Documentation has an important role in human rights abuses. Many NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Physicians Human Rights, Medicines Sans Frontier, Fortify Rights and the Irish Centre for Human Rights have documented human rights abuses over the years, especially in recent years when the world came to know the silent human rights abuses of the Rohingya.
The Stateless Rohingya blog has been reporting and documenting the human rights abuses since its launch. The latest violence was sparked in 2012 after Buddhist mobs reacted to the rumor that a Rohingya had raped a girl in a village; this rumor has never been verified. The blog has collected the names of the Rohingya massacred since 2012. It has now passed more than 900 murders, although the government reports that there were only 82 deaths. Without a doubt, there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of deaths that have not been possible to document due to the nature or location of the killing.
In short, the Burmese government and extremist groups have committed crimes and have directly violated nearly all 30 articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All violations are well documented.
How does statelessness affect Rohingya children?
Where there is discrimination and persecution, women and children always suffer most.  Every Rohingya child born after the 1982 Citizenship Law automatically becomes stateless, which has detrimentally impacted their development.
Children are unable to access proper education from primary to tertiary levels or receive essential healthcare and vaccinations to protect them from communicable diseases.
Since 2012, countless Rohingya children have died in the internally displaced camps from malnutrition and diseases due to the blockade against aid and aid groups by the government and extremist groups.
What challenges have aid agencies faced when trying to reach displaced Rohingya?
To understand the challenges that aid organizations face, you have to understand the situation in the internally displaced camps. The camps are literally open prisons heavily guarded by soldiers and various Burmese law enforcement agencies working within and around the camps, and a number of extremist monk groups, for instance, the notorious 969 terrorist organization and Rakhine extremist groups who decide what aid group or what aid should be allowed into the Rohingya. These extremist groups threaten aid organizations helping the Rohingya, and the government allows this to take place.
When an aid agency wants to provide services to the Rohingya they are told they must first provide services to ethnic residents in Rakhine, people who have committed and are continuing to commit crimes against the Rohingya. Early this year, Medicines Sans Frontier was kicked out of Arakan by the government, backed by extremist groups, who accused the organization of being sympathetic towards the Rohingya.  As a result, the camps suffered starvation, malnutrition and disease, with severe loss of life.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern that Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have been excluded from the latest census that the UN Population Fund helped conduct. Are you optimistic that the Rohingya will be included by the next census?
The Burmese government has made promises after promises, breaking them one after another. The UN Population Fund is also responsible for the exclusion of Rohingya from the recent census, firstly providing funds, secondly trusting [the government], and finally not taking action against the government for breaking its promise to include the Rohingya in the census.
There is so much pessimism regarding the next census, and we do not know when it will be held. It is unlikely to happen in this generation. When it takes place, many Rohingya will then be forcibly reclassified, detained in permanent prisons, or forced to flee.
In the latest debate about citizenship cards for the Rohingya, Burmese officials are now saying they will offer citizenship if they agree to be reclassified as “Bengali.” Alternatively they will face detention as illegal migrants. What further obstacles would the Rohingya face is this was to take place? 
The debate on the Rohingya citizenship cards has been ongoing for many decades. Until the recent debate, the government warmly welcomed any Rohingya who wanted the citizenship cards by doing a simple trade: “Accept Buddhism, and we will accept you as brothers in a fraction of second.” Now, the trade is at another level.
Indeed, the situation is different now given that a tenth of the Rohingya population is in heavily guarded camps and the rest in the enclosed Rakhine state. The abuses by the government and the extremist groups are escalating since no international action has taken place against them for what they committed in 2012. Unless the international community breaks its silence, the government will force Rohingya to either declassify or be detained as illegal immigrants.
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit Burma in November 2014. What are your hopes and expectations from this visit in mobilizing greater international effort to address persecution facing the Rohingya?
President Obama’s previous trip did little to help solve the plight of Rohingya, despite his call for the restoration of equal rights. It is not the time for superficial words or “concerns”; only real pressure and action will compel the Burmese government to [change].
Since you express this as a case of “silent genocide,” what response would you expect from the international community?
The international community should not let the government go unpunished. Their lack of action has not only motivated the government to commit more crimes against Rohingya and other communities but will also encourage other governments to commit similar crimes elsewhere in the world. We do not want another Rwanda. Yet we are letting it happen again.
Perpetrators must be brought to justice, the best way would be to go through the route of the International Criminal Court, to initiate an investigation and obtain prosecutions.
What impact, if at all, have the economic sanctions had in changing the situation for the Rohingya? Are they worth keeping and why?
It is absolutely worth keeping the sanctions. [But] the sanctions should be targeted at the government, it agencies, elites and organizations and companies that all support and enforce discriminatory policies against the Rohingya.
With China as Myanmar’s neighbor and regional economic powerhouse, what has its impact been internally in Burma and how has this affected the Rohingya?
China has tremendous influence in Burma politically and economically, although the West has gained influence in the past few years. China has invested heavily in Arakan, the home of the Rohingya. Chinese state companies have invested billions of dollars in a gas project carrying gas from Kyaukpyu in Arakan to Kunming in southwestern China. This project will further unbalance Rakhine for the Rohingya.
Public attention has been diverted towards the controversial project and the benefits it will bestow on the population, thereby allowing the state and its actors to continue its genocidal acts.
ASEAN has not taken action against Myanmar for its continuing persecution of the Rohingya. What role should ASEAN be playing?
ASEAN is purely a business and developmental platform, although its charter calls for it to promote and protect human rights, and to uphold the United Nations Charter and international laws. Its leaders avoid mingling in members’ internal affairs.
ASEAN should play an active role in providing humanitarian aid to the displaced Rohingya as well as pressuring the Burmese government. It should also apply economic sanctions, which might be more effective than the sanctions applied by the West since ASEAN is Burma’s bread-and-butter.
The worst part of ASEAN is that the leader of the Rohingya genocide, President Thein Sein is now heading the organization.

Border Guard Police Brutally Kill Rohingya Religious Scholar

By MYARF & Rohingya Eye ׀ 
October 25, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Myanmar’s Border Guard Police brutally beat up and killed a Rohingya Religious Scholar in northern Maungdaw Township on Thursday night, according to a reliable source in the region.

The victim is identified to be the 40-year-old Mv Hussein Ahmed (son of) Zahir Ahmed hails from the western hamlet of Kyi Kan Pyin (also called Khawar Bil) village, northern Maungdaw.

“The Myanmar Border Guard Police known as BGP frequently raids and besiege Rohingya villages. They arrest random people under false and arbitrary accusation of having links with *RSO. Then, they torture and kill the people in the detentions. They commit extrajudicial killings with impunity.

Mv Hussein hails from Kyi Kan Pyin village was on a visit to his sister’s home in Kyauk Pyin Seik (also known as Naari Bil) in northern Maungdaw on October 23. Unfortunately, the BGP and around 30 Rakhine extremists raided the village of Kyauk Pyin Seik at night and Rohingya men were running to and fro in order to escape the arrests and so was Mr. Hussein. Meanwhile, Mr. Hussein stumbled upon a group of BGP.

The BGP stopped him and beat him up in gang. They kicked him and beat him with their guns. They tortured him. When he was about to die, they threw him into a river. And the helpless Mv Hussein met an untimely demise in the river” said an elderly Rohingya declining to be named.

“The BGP Commander called Ye Hmuu from the BGP head-quarter from Kyi Kan Pyin the next day (i.e. yesterday) and took pictures of him. And they sent him to the Hospital for post-mortem. After that, they handed over the dead body for the burial.

The commander threatened the villagers he would punish all of them if they tried to report the truth of the death of the religious scholar any media based abroad. He ordered people to say he had died by himself falling into the river.

Since late September 2014, the BGP in Maungdaw has committed extrajudicial killings of at least ten innocent Rohingyas” he continued.

On the way to the burial of the killed Rohingya Religious Scholar

**RSO= Rohingya Solidarity Organization RSO is a former Rohingya armed group that has been disbanded long ago. Bangladesh government has officially announced that it is no longer existent today. Burma Experts on Minorities’ Armed Groups, Bertil Linter, has denied any such existence of RSO.

Now, Rakhine extremists and Myanmar Government have started to spread propaganda that militants from RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), are infiltrating into Myanmar so as to be able to scapegoat and kill even more innocent Rohingyas to achieve their respective political goals.