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31 August 2014

Myanmar to start taking back Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in two months

30 August 2014

Muslims minority denied the right to identify as Rohingya

By KPN 
August 30, 2014

Mangdaw, Arakan State: The Muslims minority was denied the right to identify themselves as” Rohinggyas” in so-called population data collection in northern Arakan, which was  conducted  since March 30 to April 10 and then from August to till now,  said Rahim( not real name) from the locality.   The census has been conducting with the help of the UN population Fund. The government claims they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and calls them “Bengalis” though they have been living there thousand years ago.

Yesterday, on August 29, at about 8:00 pm, a group of BGP (Border Guard Police), army along with immigration officers went to Wabeg village of Pawet Chaung village tract of Maungdaw Township and tried to get so-called population data from the villagers. But, the villagers strongly refused to take part in the population data collection as the local authority tried to write” Bengali” in place of “ Rohingya” in the Form, a local leader from the village said on condition of anonymity.

As a result, some of the villagers including females and males were arrested and were brought to the police camp and put in the stocks (wooden boxes) and coerced them to take part in census. So, the villagers took part in census in fear of more torture. Then the authorities ordered to village elder to bring family lists of arrestees from homes and the authority conducted so-called population data collection by written “Bengali” instead of “Rohingyas,” the leader more added.

Some of the arrestees were identified as—Ms Amina Khatoon (32), wife Abdu Gaffar;  Ms Rahima Khatun (40), wife of Hamid Hussain; Ms Hasina (27), wife of Islam; Ms Minara Begum (17) daughter of Hasu; Fazal Karim (70), son of Abdu Salam; two brothers—  Ali Akbar(50) and Ali Hussain(40),  son of Abdu Shukur;  Nurul Amin (25), son of Jalal Ahmed; Anock (30), son of Serazul Islam and Ziabul Hussain (35), son of Gura Meah, said one of the arrestees’ close relative preferring not to be named.

In this way, the rest of the villagers were called to their (police) camp and took list of the villagers. This village has 125 family lists, the relative added.

Above and beyond, today, a group of military, police and immigration went to Balu Khali (Thay Chaung) village of Powet Chaung village tract of Maungdaw north. Seeing the group, some of the villagers ran away to the forest nearby, to avoid harassment by police and army and also they don’t willing to participate in census, a local elder from the village said.

However, the group forcibly took away the so-call population data from the villagers whom they met in the village. Villagers did not dare to face with the police and army because of frequent attacks by them. Now, the females are living in the forest and the males are seeing their homes, a trader from the village said, who denied to be named.

Myanmar 'loses ten million people' in census

By AP
August 30, 2014

Figures extrapolated from last census in 1983 estimated population at 60 million, but new count finds only 51.4 million.

Some isolated parts of northern Kachin state controlled by ethnic rebels were not counted [EPA]

Myanmar has discovered it has only 51 million people - far less than the previously estimated 60 million, according to preliminary results of the latest census.

State-run television, which announced the initial findings of the country's first census in three decades on Friday, said complete results would be released next year.

The census, conducted from March 30 to April 10 with help from the UN Population Fund, counted 51.42 million people.

The previous estimate of 60 million was based on extrapolations from the last census, conducted in 1983.

The tally went smoothly, except in some areas of the western state of Rakhine where an estimated 800,000 members of a long-persecuted Muslim minority were denied the right to identify themselves as "Rohingya".

The government says they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and calls them "Bengalis".

The census contained 41 questions, the most controversial of which was number eight on ethnicity, providing a list of 135 to choose from. The Rohingya option was not on the list.

Some isolated parts of northern Kachin state controlled by ethnic rebels were not counted, the AP news agency reported.Last updated: 12 hours ago
Figures extrapolated from last census in 1983 estimated population at 60 million, but new count finds only 51.4 million.

Myanmar has discovered it has only 51 million people - far less than the previously estimated 60 million, according to preliminary results of the latest census.

State-run television, which announced the initial findings of the country's first census in three decades on Friday, said complete results would be released next year.

The census, conducted from March 30 to April 10 with help from the UN Population Fund, counted 51.42 million people.

The previous estimate of 60 million was based on extrapolations from the last census, conducted in 1983.

The tally went smoothly, except in some areas of the western state of Rakhine where an estimated 800,000 members of a long-persecuted Muslim minority were denied the right to identify themselves as "Rohingya".

The government says they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and calls them "Bengalis".

The census contained 41 questions, the most controversial of which was number eight on ethnicity, providing a list of 135 to choose from. The Rohingya option was not on the list.

Some isolated parts of northern Kachin state controlled by ethnic rebels were not counted, the AP news agency reported.

29 August 2014

Surviving A Genocide

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

By Ananta YUSUF
The Daily Star
August 29, 2014

This week the Star interviews a Rohingya refugee who shares his experience of surviving the atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmarese (Burmese) junta

It was a cloudy night of September 15, 2012. Amidst an undulating sea of harvest and blades of tall grass, Alauddin Miah (pseudonym), a rich farmer, took shelter with his extended family. The thunder of clouds and the scream of the wounded, innocent people slowly faded away, but that frightening image remained with him as he says, “It was the third day, we were staying on the beel (wetland used as a paddy field). I can still hear the scream of the wounded. The nearby canal was flooded with blood and corpses.” In fear of ethnic atrocities, Udong, which is 12 km south to Mungdow town of Myanmar, was nearly abandoned. People left behind everything that they had at home in search of a safe place. Like Alauddin, many people took shelter in the wet lands of the beel, they thought it to be a safe hideout. It proved wrong later. 

Alauddin, a middle aged man, wearing a Panjabi, tupi and lungi, still lives with his traumatic memory. He says that these features and his language make him more vulnerable because the dialect is quite similar to Chittagonian. And he believes that it is one of the reasons that Rohingya community was excluded from their citizenship right. 

At the beginning of our conversation he seems happy. But as the conversation goes on and he recollects his chilling experience, his voice becomes louder and wet with grief.

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

He says that although the tension has always been there in the Rakhain State, a few years ago the situation was quite congenial for living and running business. For that reason, in 2007, he bought some land for cultivation. However, he lost most of it including cultivable lands during the last atrocities in 2012 that took many lives. He says, “My sons were also farmers, and they helped to cultivate my land which I was forced to leave behind. I have 20 kanis of farming land. I have also a garden of shupari, which is 4 kanis. Three years ago I built a three-storied building. Only my daughter-in-law and my wife decided to stay back. We tried to convince them to flee Myanmar but they didn't come with us. The Mogs (Burmese) grabbed all our land and left us nothing to survive on.” 

During last year's ethnic cleansing, the Rohingyas of Udong stayed home during the day but after the dusk, they went to the nearby hideouts and stayed there for the whole night. He recalls, “When the sun rose, one of my sons would check to see whether it was safe to return home. The adults would stay awake the whole night. My family is quite big. So we took care of the children but it was not an easy place to survive in.”

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

His family consisting of 13 members would lie down on the ground because if the Mogs saw any head above the grass they would shoot at sight. Even if a mosquito bit, they could not hit it with hands, and had to bear the sting, as the resulting sounds could wreak havoc on them. A young boy, Harun, died in a similar situation. After killing him, they threw his body in the river. 

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

He seems sad while expressing his grievances that still remain fresh in his memory, “I can still recall how two pious men of our village were killed in the village mosque. We were not permitted to visit the mosque, and if the Mogs saw anyone praying in the mosque, they would just shoot at them. A moulvi (priest) was killed while doing his ruku. I was present in the mosque when they killed those pious men, and I managed to flee from the scene. Many others were injured in the assault that day. A Mog tried to stab me with a dagger; I still carry a wound in my thigh. We were lucky to escape.”

From that day onwards, they could not return home and had starved for a week, and when the situation got a little better, they went back to collect some dry food and found that the whole village was looted by the Mogs. He says, “We found some food from our stock. We passed three months surviving on that, and shared it with our neighbours.”

After the recent ethnic violence erupted in September 2012, many Rohingyas were sent to refugee camps all around the state, with strict restrictions placed on their rights to travel, to continue higher education and even on their right to marry. So the young girls were sent to Bangladesh for marriage. In 2013, Alauddin sent his eldest son and one of his daughters to Bangladesh, “It is the only possible way to arrange marriage. They put restriction on every sphere of our lives. And for that reason we sent our girls to Bangladesh to survive.”

He says initially the Muslims tried to resist the attacks. But the Rohingya Muslim leaders warned them to remain silent because they feared that any retaliation by Muslims would lead to an even more dangerous situation. The leaders advised, “Let them do whatever they want to. Just try to be safe. Don't try to fight back. We are not in a situation to fight the Mogs or the Burmese army.” But some of the youths didn't pay heed to the advice, as they couldn't tolerate the murders and the looting any longer. He explains, “But they could not fight them. Is it really possible to fight against machine guns with bamboo sticks? In all these years, I've learnt that there is no other option for Rohingyas but to be killed, either by Mogs or by Bengalis.”

According to Alauddin, he had no other options but to cross the border, as his family was brutally tortured and one of his younger brothers was kidnapped. He says, “If we find the assurance of our own identity in the census as a Rohingya, the return of our grabbed land, and of course security, we are more than willing to leave.” He insists that he wants to go back because, “No one wants to die in a foreign land.”

28 August 2014

Authority impose restriction on Rohingyas’ social, livelihood in Maungdaw

By KPN
August 28, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Authority from Maungdaw district had imposed restriction on Rohingyas’ social and livelihood after denying to participate the so-called population data collection program, said Halim, a Human Rights Watchdog from Maungdaw.

We are facing so many restriction on social and livelihood – work, travel, education, marriage and health- which we need daily  for our survival, said Nur Mohamed at the meeting with authority and Rohingya community in Maungdaw middle school on August 27 at about 4:30pm.

The Burma Border security Police (BGP) population data collection program director Aung Soe and other immigration officers met Rohingya community from block number two, where more than 100 Rohingyas participated on it. In the meeting two Rohingyas – Nur Mohamed and Abu Taher – delivery an explanation on Rohingya and its background. They also asked the officer that the Rohingyas are facing difficult to participate the so-called population data collection program for using the headline “Illegal entering Bengali list” which was not accepted by Rohingya. The Rohingya also said all the activities for community survival are stopped by authority, said Halim.

The two Rohingya explained the officers that Rohingyas are not just entered in Burma, but living in the areas century long ago. Their generation – grand grandfather, grandfather and father- had served in government service and Rohingya  was recognized as ethnic  in the period of U Nu government, Rohingyas enjoyed in the parliament  till now. But, now the government is saying us “Bengali” in name of “Rohingya”. How we accept the name Bengali and to participate the so-called population data collection program, Halim more added.

The two Rohingya, on behalf of Rohingya community, handed over the printed booklets to the officers after explained about the Rohingya and its background, Halim more added.

The officer Aung Soe said we will open all for you, if you join the so-called population data collection program. It is only we are counting the population, no mention any race. We will come next to collect the data, it is up to you to join or not. We will give you to visit to Bangladesh with border pass if you joined the process with showing your family lists. You will get all facility for your survival if you join the process.

The so-called  Rohingya leaders ;- U Aung Myo Min (a) Master Jangir , the Regain and State Parliament member; U Aman Ullah, Lawyer; Dr. Nawzumaddin; Dr. Hla Myint,U Sadek from block 5; Azim Ullah from block 2 and Mujee Ullah from block 2 were also joined in the meeting. They all are from Maungdaw, said Mohamed Ibarahin from Maungdaw. “The so-called Rohingya leaders are also the collaborators of government and trying to participate the so-called population data collection with identification of “Bengali”.”

27 August 2014

Myanmar delegation arrives today

By The Daily Star
August 27, 2014

A five-member Myanmar delegation arrives here today for talks over issues concerning Bangladesh, including repatriation of Rohingyas, stopping Yaba smuggling, establishing a border liaison office to fast track dispute resolution, and holding regular security dialogues.

The delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Thant Kyaw and accompanied by two officials from the embassy in Dhaka, is likely to raise allegations of armed insurgents in yellow fatigues operating in the neighbouring country from Bangladesh, stated sources.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will lead the 10-member Bangladesh side at the foreign secretary-level 8th Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) on August 31, informed diplomatic sources.

The delegation will afterwards call on Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali in the afternoon. It will also go on a visit to Sylhet tomorrow.

Talks will also centre around human trafficking and security, economic issues including trade and investment, introducing coastal shipping, and cooperation in the fields of energy, education, agriculture and tourism.

Foreign ministry officials told The Daily Star that Dhaka will again invite President Thein Sein to visit Bangladesh. A scheduled visit was postponed after religious violence erupted in the Rakhine state in June 2012.

The FOC was also originally scheduled for June 18 but was postponed due to escalation of border tension when a Border Guard Bangladesh personnel was killed in May by Myanmar border guards.

There are around 30,000 Rohingya refugees living in two camps alongside several lakh undocumented ones around the country.

Myanmar’s Military Torture an Innocent Rohingya for Ransom

By MYARF 
Rvision TV
August 28, 2014

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The Myanmar Military arbitrarily arrested and severely tortured an innocent Rohingya at Paya-pyin-aung-pyaa’ village in Buthidaung Township for Ransom, say the reliable sources.Buthidaung
The military arrested the Rohingya man last Friday night upon a false complaint against him by the village administrator who is Rakhine extremist named Maung Chan Thar.

“Noor Ali (son of) U Islam (of age 25) is a local of Paya-pyin-aung-pyaa village in Buthidaung Township. The village administrator, Maung Chan Thar, arbitrarily accused Noor Ali of abusing him (the administrator) on August 22. Then, he beat him up.

Even yet, on August 24, the village administrator complaint to the military of Battalion 263 (based in Nyaung Chaung village) that Noor Ali had abused him. Around 10:00PM of the same day, the military raided Noor Ali’s house and arrested him. He was detained and severely in the military detention. Then, the military demanded a ransom of Kyat 150,000 from his family for his release.

Being poor, Noor Ali’s mother didn’t have the money. So, she sought help from her villagers and collected around Kyat 90,000. However, when she went to the military camp to get her son released with the amount, the military said that they would not release her son because their demand was not fulfilled.

Now, they are demanding Kyat 300,000 ransom for Noor Ali’s release citing that it was because the payment was not made in time. Therefore, Noor Ali is being tortured inhumanely and still detained” said eyewitness declining to be named.

“Besides, the military some horses and they (the horses) destroy Rohingyas’ paddy fields and crops. When Rohingya people try to prevent from destroy the crops, the military torture the people” he continued. 

Will the Rohingya, driven from their homes, spend the rest of their lives segregated in ghettoes?

Rohingya Muslims pass time near their shelter at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, on June 4, 2014. Over 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya, have been living in sprawling, squalid displacement camps in Rakhine following two bouts of violence in 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun   

By Thin Lei Win
August 27, 2014

There was a time when ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar lived and worked together. They were once neighbours, albeit uneasy ones, sharing a tense but relatively stable existence.

Then in June 2012, religious clashes between the two groups drove them apart and forced 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - from their homes.

When I first met the displaced Rohingya in May 2013 in makeshift camps outside the Rakhine capital Sittwe, I thought their displacement would be temporary, the conflict somehow eventually resolved. But when I went again two months ago, I was struck by how these camps – home to two-thirds of those displaced by the violence – had started to look like permanent segregated ghettos.

Houses, clinics and schools were larger, sturdier. There were newly-opened shops and pharmacies, where the displaced – whose movements are tightly restricted and who have lost all property and any means for making a living – sold their aid rations to buy medicines and other goods.

There is little sign of reconciliation or effort to bring the two communities together again: More than two years after they were driven out, Muslims who used to live and work in Sittwe are still barred from entering the city, and thousands of Rohingya may spend the rest of their lives in prison-like displacement camps, with no hope of going home and a perilous voyage by sea as the only way out.

“We're concerned that segregation is becoming permanent and not enough is being done to change it, let alone protect the fundamental rights of the displaced,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, a group that monitors Rohingya issues.

“Members of government at all levels still feel as though the Rohingya don't belong in the country, and that's part of the reason why the Rohingya remain segregated in ghettos.”

DETAINING THE UNDOCUMENTED

Further deteriorating the situation, Rakhine leaders have proposed a plan that would make the segregation permanent - on paper - and force all undocumented Rohingya to live in detention camps.

Local leaders are organising a public meeting this week to drum up support for the plan, which would apply to Rohingya who were driven from Sittwe into displacement camps, as well as those who were not forced from their homes and still live in nearby villages, according to Than Tun, a Sittwe resident and member of the government’s Emergency Coordination Committee set up to scrutinise humanitarian aid workers.

This would basically mean detention for all Rohingya - a minority group of around 1.33 million who are stateless despite living in Myanmar for generations. Critics say Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law makes it almost impossible for them to become citizens.

As Rakhine leaders push the segregation plan, the government is conducting a “verification process” to determine the citizenship status of Rohingya, but this is more or less a pointless exercise that forces Rohingya to identify themselves as Bengalis – a label that many Rohingya reject because it amounts to an admission that they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

PRECARIOUS LIVES

In another sign I spotted of the Rohingya settling in for the long haul at the displacement camps, there were small, dusty shops selling snacks and plastic bags of milk powder, pharmacies with shelves full of medicines with faded labels, mobile phone charging stations and people selling fresh fruit, vegetables and fish.

Some analysts see optimism in such commerce because it points to the resumption of small-scale trade between the Rohingya and the Rakhines, who are the main source of goods from the outside world.

Others say it underscores the irreconcilable differences that may separate them forever.

“As long as Rakhine extremists continue to monitor and target anyone in their community who reaches out to the Rohingya, it’s going to be hard to see how reconciliation can get started,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

In the meantime, their lives are precarious.

While at The Chaung camp outside Sittwe in June, I met Sayed Hussain, who used to work as manual labourer in Sittwe market and now lives with his wife and four children in a displacement camp outside town. Their mud-floored hut was a patchwork of walls made of sodden cardboard and old rice sacks, and a roof of ragged plastic and thatch.

“My wife has kidney problems and my children have coughs and diarrhea, but we have no money to go to the hospital,” 60-year-old Hussain told me.

As the early monsoon drizzle turned into a downpour, I wondered if his ramshackle shelter – and for that matter, his family – would survive the most ferocious rains of the monsoon season.

(Additional reporting by Min Zayar Oo and Paul Mooney; editing by Alisa Tang

26 August 2014

Over 310,000 in Rakhine State still need aid

Photos created by kalle.bergbom

By Wa Lone
Myanmar Times
August 25, 2014, 

Two years after inter-communal violence first broke out in Rakhine State more than 310,000 people are still in need of humanitarian assistance there, says the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Pierre Péron, public information and advocacy officer at UNOCHA, said those in need included both Muslim and ethnic Rakhine residents.

The number of international humanitarian staff in Rakhine State decreased sharply after attacks on UN and NGO facilities in March following accusations that they favoured Muslims.

Most of the 300-plus staff from NGOs and INGOs who were temporarily relocated following the attacks have returned to Sittwe.

But Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, which previously had more than 500 staff in Rakhine, has not been able to resume its activities since they were suspended by the government in February, despite being invited to do so last month.

The Rakhine State government announced in July that MSF and Malteser could resume operations in Rakhine, asking them to cooperate with the Ministry of Health in development projects, humanitarian assistance, healthcare and education.

Welcoming the government’s invitation, Marcel Langenbach, director of operations for MSF in Amsterdam, said, “We hope MSF can restart treating patients as soon as possible.”

Some Rakhine community groups have stated their disapproval of MSF’s return and it remains to be seen what the timeline and modalities for resuming operations will be. 

U Than Tun, a member of the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in Sittwe, said they had evidence of MSF partiality, adding, “We would not oppose MSF if they only provided healthcare.” 

U Hla Thein, who chairs the Rakhine State government information sub-committee, said that discussions on the timeline and scope of MSF’s resumption of work were ongoing. “The [Rakhine State] prime minister is still trying to engage with the Rakhine communities,” he said.

Rainy season has also intensified health problems. The UN has reported increased risk of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, including malaria and dengue fever. It also reports that heavy rains and flooding in some areas have restricted access for health teams to some isolated communities.

UN adviser calls for taking ‘leap of faith’ to ensure peaceful, unified Myanmar

Special Adviser for Myanmar Vijay Nambiar. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

August 25, 2014

The United Nations Special Adviser for Myanmar today wrapped up a visit to the country during which he visited Rakhine state to see first-hand the progress made to provide aid to local communities, as well as actions being taken to address underlying causes of recent violence.

This was the eighth visit to Myanmar in the past year for Vijay Nambiar, who took part as an observer at a meeting on national reconciliation between the Government and ethnic armed groups – the first of its kind held in the country.

“On behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nambiar called on all involved to take a leap of faith and to set aside all narrow agendas in the common interest of peace and a unified Myanmar,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

Several waves of clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, the first of which occurred in June 2012, have affected hundreds of thousands of families in Rakhine.

During his visit, Mr. Nambiar met with the President, Foreign Minister, and other senior officials, and also spoke with diplomats and members of political parties, representatives of ethnic armed groups, civil society, aid agencies, women and youth organizations.


He spoke about the reform and democratization process, development and strengthening the cooperation between communities and ethnic groups, and underlined the UN’s commitment to support Myanmar as it proceeds with reforms.