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RB News
June 26, 2017

Taung Pyo, Northern Maungdaw -- The Myanmar State's Security Forces have flared up VIOLENCE in Northern Maungdaw this morning (June 26) turning the situation chaotic and creating panic among the local Rohingya population, according to reliable reports.

Several people are feared to have been killed and many people have been injured since the joint Security Forces composed of 'Border Guard Police and Military along with hundreds of Rakhine extremists armed with machetes, swords and iron rods' have begun conducting raids on the village of 'Kyun Pauk Pyu Zuu' under 'Taung Pyo' sub-township in northern Maungdaw this morning. 

In fear of attacks and arbitrary arrests by the Security Forces and Rakhine extremists, the village men numbering around 1,000 fled to the nearby mountains, only to fall into the trap of the Securities Forces waiting standby there. Of them, approximately 500 people have managed to escape and several hundreds of people have been still besieged by the Security Forces. 

"Hundreds of Rakhine extremists armed with swords and machetes have been heading to the village of Kiam Mong (Kyun Pauk Pyu Zuu) to attack the villagers. The Military and the BGP are fully supporting them instead of trying to maintain security and stability in the region during Islamic Eid Festival. People are panicking and trembling.

The situation is a volatile. People are running for their lives", said a local Rohingya man in Northern Maungdaw on the condition of anonymity.

Many women were also rounded up and harassed by the Security Forces in the morning and were released later. At least a dozen of homes were vandalized or looted. 

The reported attack on four Rakhine men allegedly by some Rohingyas armed with swords on June 24 morning is apparently the reason behind the current volatile situation. The Myanmar State's Security Forces clearly seem trying to incite the local Rakhines against the Rohingyas and fan the violence even more into the form of 'Collective Punishment' on the Rohingya people. [Read the earlier report: VIOLENCE Looms over Northern Maungdaw ahead of Eid Festival]

The assailants behind the attacks on the four Rakhine men are still unidentified. The apparently retaliatory attacks on the Rohingya people at 'Kyun Pauk Pyu Zuu' are merely based on the assumptions that the assailants could be Rohingyas as the attacks took place nearby the village.

REVEALED: The four Rakhine men indulged in a fighting with some unidentified #Rohingya men, where two of them (i.e. the four Rakhine men) died, in Northern Maungdaw on June 24 morning - which has now led to ongoing violence on Rohingya at Kyun Pauk Pyu Zuu village - were NOT Rakhine civilians but Myanmar military personnel in civil dress.

This is a pre-planned plot by Myanmar Government to give a Communal Portrayal to the violence now going on against Rohingya", a reliable source has confirmed.

*Watch this space for more updates.

Rohingya Eye
RB News
June 25, 2017

Taung Pyo Let Wel -- Reacting on a report of alleged attacks on 4 Rakhine men - hailed from 'Ta-Rein' hamlet of 'Kyeing Chaung' village -- and subsequent abduction of 2 of them by some alleged Rohingya men armed with swords on June 24, 2017 morning, the Myanmar Security Forces besieged the village of 'Kyun Pauk Pyu Zu' in Taung Pyo Let Wel sub-Township this morning. 

The village men fled in fear of arbitrary arrests and Security Forces rounded up women and forced them to sit under hot-sun whole day, letting Rakhine extremists plunder Rohingya homes in the village. 

Meanwhile, Rakhine extremists waiting standby at tactical junctions in northern Maungdaw to attack Rohingya passers-by and shoppers ahead of Eid Festival in Myanmar on June 26.

In southern Maungdaw, meanwhile, a joint force of Myanmar military and Border Guarded Police conducted raids on Baggona village this afternoon (on June 25 afternoon) after an arrest of a village man allegedly connected to the Rohingya armed group operating in northern Maungdaw.

The joint Myanmar armed forces vandalized villagers' homes and used 'Village Women' as 'Human Shields' during the raids on homes in the village.

"The villagers believe the man arrested is innocent. Even if he is actually connected to the Rohingya armed group as alleged, there is no reason for the military to destroy homes and use 'women' as 'human shields.' They just want to terrorize the villagers ahead of Eid festival", said a human rights activist based in Maungdaw.

By Nurul Islam
RB Article
June 23, 2017

The Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim community, a people developed from the interactions of various ethnicities over the period of many centuries, have inhabited Arakan with a long history. In terms of their origin and culture, as well as their present geographical location, they have more in common with people from India rather than the other Burmese races. This has encouraged vested quarters backed by the military to unleash a successful propaganda campaign against this Muslim race to a point their very existence is not tolerated by people from other races in the country, despite the unceasing imploration of the minority community for peaceful co-existence. 

The Rohingya problem is a longstanding issue of ethnic, religious and political persecution to rid Arakan of the Muslim population. “… with increasing frequency over time, … 1942, 1977, 1991, 2012 and 2014, waves of Muslim minority Rohingya fled Rakhine (Arakan) due to extreme forms of repression from the authorities dominated by the majority Buddhist and Burmese people.”[1] The horrific Muslim massacre of 1942 where about a hundred thousand were slaughtered by a Rakhine dominated militia is now a forgotten chapter in the pages of history lost amidst the gory backdrop of the Second World War. 

With the 1962 military takeover, the determination of the military regime to expel the Rohingya entered a new phase, quickly assuming the nature of ethnic cleansing and genocide that by now mankind has made regrettably conventional in many other corners of the world. Since then, for decades, the defenseless Rohingya have been stripped of their citizenship rendering them stateless in their own homeland of Arakan/Burma and refugees beyond its borders. Violently rejected in Burma and unwanted in neighbouring Bangladesh and elsewhere, the poor Rohingya are even in a realm hardened by terror and genocide, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, a race without a country, adrift on the sea of sorrow. 

Sensing a bleak future amidst a hostile militant Buddhist environment, the 1942 pogrom motivated many Rohingya youths to embark on an armed revolution, on the eve of Burma’s independence in 1948, under the honorific nomenclature of Mujahid Party/Movement in order to safeguard the rights and freedom of their people. The Mujahids enjoyed widespread community support so long as they remained disciplined and steadfast. 

Unlike Buddhist Rakhine groups -- whether communist or nationalist movements -- the mainstream Mujahid and all succeeding Rohingya freedom movements never demanded separatism, although Burmese regime(s) and vested interests have engaged in a calculated and pernicious propaganda to tarnish the image of Rohingya emancipation movement as separatist, extremist, terrorist and having links with international terrorist organisations. However, Rohingya people did not show up in struggles outside their country and remained committed only as a community within Arakan. After the Mujahids ceased activities in 1961 in return for concessions promised by the regime, no significant Rohingya armed revolutionary groups have emerged only because the vast majority continued to believe in the path of peaceful political settlements, despite the continuous setbacks that followed. All armed remnants, including the much publicised Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) has become defunct for a long time. Nevertheless, there was no change of attitude by the government or representatives from the majority Buddhist communities towards the Rohingya people. They soon became invariably subjected to horrific crimes against humanity which amounts to ethnic cleansing and genocide. Giving little or no attention to the predicament and current terrible situation besetting the Rohingya people, those who practice unethical journalism have over the years shifted the Rohingya issue to that of illegal immigration and extremism rather than what it really is - - a case of the ethnic cleansing of a defenseless minority. 

Deviating from his previous position, a renowned Swedish Journalist Bertil Lintner recently wrote in his article titled “Militancy in Arakan State” dated 15 December 2016 that Muslims of Arakan who now call themselves “Rohingya” are unlikely to have anything to do with the Rooinga- as recorded by East India Company’s Scottish ethno-linguist Buchanan in 1789. He continued that it was not until the late 1950s that the name Rohingya came into use and the government recognised the designation. U Nu, who had resigned as prime minister in 1958 to give way to a military caretaker government headed by Gen Ne Win, wanted to get the Muslim vote when he sought re-election in 1960 – and the creation of the Mayu Frontier Administration as well as the recognition of the name of Rohingya was part of the campaign, according to Lintner. It is devoid of meaning as there was no such statement or record. The acceptance of ‘Rohingya’ as an ethnic name was also accepted by Prime Minister U Nu’s socialist rival U Ba Swe. On top of that no credible Rakhine political Party at that time did ever raise any citable objections to the recognition of Rohingya as one of the ethnic nationalities of the Union of Burma. In fact, “the plan to set up Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) for the predominantly Rohingya was made by the Ministry of Defence Border Affairs Division as the Rohingya leaders from North Arakan townships were bitterly opposed to granting Rakhine an autonomous statehood as promised by U Nu –and even long before that.”[2] At that time Gen Ne Win was Chief of Staff and Brigadier Aung Gyi was Deputy Chief of Staff. It may be pointed that the concept of MFA was based on “Muslim Area of North Arakan” that the British Military Command declared vide its announcement No. 110-CC/42 dated 31 December 1942.

As atrocities continued and attitudes hardened, the community slid towards desolation leading to desperation, especially among the young generation. It was in the midst of this already volatile situation that in 2012, the anti-Muslim riots took place, virtually obliterating the social fabric of the Rohingya community. It was an event where almost everybody from Maungdaw to Kyauktaw lost someone dear to them. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had long been the last beacon of hope for the Rohingya Muslims, but instead she attempted to shield the military rulers and the perpetrators of this gruesome violence. Gradually her stance moved more towards the anti-Muslim bloc till a time came when she started to pin the blame on the victims. It was a great shock for the Rohingyas, a community whose members had almost unanimously prayed for the day she would rule Burma. The so-called democratic transition made the Rohingya even more disenfranchised subsequently excluding them from the 2014 census. By then, many from the Rohingya young generation whether in their homeland or in their places of refuge were ready to listen to anyone who offered them a message of violent retaliation. 

Even then, it was four years after the public declaration of the Tatmadaw and their nationalist allies to annihilate the Rohingyas that the attacks on the Border Guard Police headquarters and its two outposts in Maungdaw district took place, on 9 October 2016. The attackers belonged to a hitherto unknown Rohingya group, apparently in hundreds, under the name of Harakat al-Yakeen (the Faith Movement or the Movement of Hope). It is, however, worth mentioning that the Border Guard Police (BGP), formerly NaSaKa, has been established by the former infamous Gen Khin Nyunt to steadily annihilate the Rohingya community from their ancestral homeland. The members of the BGP and security forces are unofficially licensed to indulge in extra-judicial killing, arbitrary arrest, rape, arson, destruction, looting, extortion, and other inhuman acts against the Rohingya community. 

The military under the pretext of cleansing operation or counter insurgency retaliated with excessive force indulging in summary executions including that of infant children, mass rapes and destruction of the properties of innocent Rohingya civilians, while aid organisations, foreign journalists and international observers were denied access. The government announced that the group was well trained and well-funded and backed by Middle Eastern patrons, ringing alarm bells across foreign capitals. In reality, the evidence and videos released suggest that the attackers while belonging to the country’s long oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority are ill quipped, and a significant majority of them are children under 12, armed with few assorted obsolete arms, swords, spears, sticks and even farm tools, devoid of proper uniforms or shoes; the attacks were confined to the Rohingya area of Northern Maungdaw; and their tactics and behaviours did not seem sophisticated. As a researcher with the Burma Human Rights Network points out in an article analysing the new insurgent group, “The feeling quickly sinks in that these children are being marched to their deaths for something they are not even old enough to understand. Frankly, it is horrifying.”[3]

It is impossible to comprehend how a force like the Tatmadaw, fighting guerilla movements for more than six decades missed the textbook conditions that were brewing up leading to the present armed insurgency in Arakan. The Armed Forces, well versed in ‘counter insurgency’ knew very well what was going to hit them. Whatever the objectives of the ill equipped attackers, they had played right into the hands of the shrewd Tatmadaw officials who have long been waiting for an opportunity to execute another bout of ethnic cleansing similar to 2012, but one that could be continued over time with more brutal efficiency. Intentions of such a violent confrontation with ill equipped Rohingya villagers would be to (i) frustrate regional and international efforts for communal reconciliation and to address the human rights situation in Arakan, (ii) keep the Rohingya majority area of northern Arakan under military control raising false security alarm from the angle of so-called terrorism thereby to create an “exclusive military administration within the government” and slowly but surely weaken the NLD-led government (iii) diminish the existing sympathy and support of the international community for oppressed and persecuted Rohingya by portraying them as having connections with militant Islam (iv) produce IDPs in Maungdaw district as in Akyab/Sittwe with the intention to ultimately destroy the whole community; (vi) push the Rohingyas into Bangladesh (vii) permanently divide the two sister communities of Rohingya and Rakhine on ethnic and religious lines; and (viii) divert the attention of the people away from the ongoing wars in Kachin and Shan states.

A report by the Brussels based International Crisis Group (ICG) published under an unfavourable title, “A new Muslim insurgency in Rakhine State”, perhaps unwittingly gave the Myanmar regime invaluable support. It does not help that Rohingyas are Muslims. In all fairness, the ICG report calls for addressing the root causes of the Rohingya insurgency. It condemns atrocities against the Muslim population and identifies the failure of the government as the reasons this insurgency was born. One of the authors of the ICG report said, it is at heart motivated by local grievances rather than trans-national Jihad like IS or al-Qaeda. Yet the practical truth is the ICG report did not lead the international media to carry headlines such as “Crimes Against Humanity or Genocide or Ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas creating new Muslim insurgency”. Rather the headlines read more like ‘Myanmar’s Rohingya insurgency has links to Saudi, Pakistan’, giving impetus to the government claim it was fighting well funded terrorists at a time when Rohingya villagers, including women and children were being slaughtered indiscriminately in what was a colossal assault on defenseless civilians and not a counter-insurgency operation. Through no fault of their own, the Muslim community was placed on the wrong side of the war on terror, with the situation playing into the hands of one of the world’s most brutal security forces. As for the group’s funds, by now it is well known they were indeed being financed by another ragtag band of refugees based only in Saudi Arabia, and not by conventional governments or oil barons. At a time when their friends and relatives were being slaughtered, with children being thrown into the fire, the bewildered Rohingya had to bear with allegations of supporting militant outfits whose very names sounded strange to their ears. 

It is shocking that the writer Bertil Lintner was callous to writes, “it is also not known whether today’s militants, as suggested, want to establish an Islamic state in northwestern Arakan State, or are only looking for operations in the region, including perhaps even India”. He intentionally avoids highlighting the clear statement of the Harakat al-Yakeen that rejected the trans-national terrorist label, called for the restoration of rights and freedom, demanded to resolve the Rohingya problem and redress the grievances of the beleaguered community, and expressed a feeling of abandonment by the international community, while calling on the Myanmar government to end the decades-old civil war with the ethnic nationalities in the country. Despite the fact that Rakhine youths are ganging up with the security forces in unleashing violence against Rohingya villagers, no Rakhine miscreants have been targeted by the members of the Harakat al-Yakeen. Their demands are minimum and legitimate. When all other remedies are completely exhausted, self-defense will accrue from all standpoints. 

[1] “Sanction Myanmar And Give The Rohingya A State Of Their Own”, an article by Anders Corr Contributor, Forbes, 28 December 2016 

[2] Bertiil Linter makes facts up about Rohingya while playing to popular and policy-Islamophobia, an article by Dr. Maung Zar Ni, 17 December 2016. 

[3] Taking the Rohingya Insurgency at Face Value”, an article by Richard Potter in Diplomat dated October 30, 2016

Nurul Islam is Chairman of Arakan Rohingya National Organisation. 

Rohingya men are pictured at a fish market in Sittwe in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on March 2, 2017. Source: Reuters

June 21, 2017

NEARLY half a million people have fled Burma (Myanmar) as of 2016, making the Southeast Asian nation the eighth among the top 10 countries of origin for the world’s 65 million refugees.

The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends study, released on Tuesday, said the number of refugees from Burma rose to 490,300 by the end of last year, up from 451,800 in 2015.

It said Bangladesh continued to host the largest number of these refugees at 276,200, while 26 other countries with large numbers of refugees from Burma include Thailand (102,600), Malaysia (87,000), and India (15,600).

As at end-2016, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, the study said. This brings the total number of refugees to one that is bigger than the population of the United Kingdom. The study also said there was an increase of about 300,000 more displaced persons in 2016 than the previous year.

It noted that the pace at which people are becoming displaced remains very high with 20 people driven from their homes every minute last year on average.

In a statement on the study released in conjunction with World Refugee Day 2017, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said:

“By any measure this is an unacceptable number.”

“It speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises, and ensuring together that the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued.”

In February, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said security forces in Burma committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

OHCHR’s allegation came following the government’s crackdown in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on border guard posts on Oct 9, which left several hundreds dead and saw more than 75,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

About 1.1 million Rohingya people are denied citizenship in Burma. This lack of full citizenship rights means they are subject to other abuses, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, and arbitrary confiscation of property.

The government withdrew their so-called white cards two years ago as part of a plan to expel them from the country and cancel their citizenship under the 1982 law.

Many in the Buddhist-majority country view the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh.

June 18, 2017

Already struggling to make ends meet, the Rohingya community in Bandar Puteri Puchong is often forced to pay money to locals for sitting on 'their land'.

PUCHONG: Members of the Rohingya community who fled Myanmar due to the hardship they suffered there are facing a similar fate here as well.

Many continue to struggle to make ends meet, besides enduring discrimination from the locals, some of whom allegedly extort money from them for entering “their land”.

306 Rohingyas from 36 families in Bandar Puteri Puchong are among those who find that life continues to be an uphill battle even here.

Without fixed jobs, the estimated income of each Rohingya family is about RM900-RM1,500 per month. When pressured by the locals, members of the community pool together their earnings and pay up for sitting on land which they are told does not belong to them.

Mohd Ismail Mohd Khairul Bashar, who is chairman of the Rohingya Education Garden in Bandar Puteri Puchong, told FMT that many were financially unstable as they had to pay for rent, food and school supplies for their children.

They were also frequently harassed by some locals in their neighbourhood who force them to comply with whatever was demanded of them.

“We are accused of entering ‘their land’ while searching for any scrap metal that we can sell to nearby factories to get money.

“They only do that to Rohingyas staying in the neighbourhood. If we refuse to pay them, they beat us up,” he said.

Ismail said it was a relief that the children were not harassed, only the adults, and that he felt a responsibility to stand up for them.

Muhammad Abdul Malik, another Rohingya in the neighbourhood, said he was forced to pay money whenever he sold things in areas where some locals claimed to have authority over.

“We will pay because we fear them,” he said, adding that he had been harassed many times.

“We cannot do anything as we are not from here, so we will just pay them whatever they ask.”

The Rohingya community in Bandar Puteri Puchong is often blamed for incidents that happen in the neighbourhood, but Malik said they were resigned to it as they wanted to avoid making a fuss or attracting unnecessary attention.

“If the neighbourhood is dirty, we are likely to be the main target even though it is not our fault.

“We found out that one of our motorcycles was burnt in a fire at night. Up till now, we still don’t know who did it.”

They have no fancy celebrations planned for this coming Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

They told FMT that they would offer their Raya prayers at the nearest mosque and eat chapati, which is their staple food, in the morning, with their family members and friends.

They will also try to send some money back to their families in Rakhine, Myanmar.

Nurul Azwa contributed to this article.

A homeless Rohingya female is wandering with her orphan child in a temporary refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh, on May 11, 2017.  Sushavan Nandy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

By Steve Shaw
The World Weekly
June 18, 2017

The Muslim Rohingyas of Myanmar is one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s role deserves more attention, argues journalist Steve Shaw. 

When Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a majority win in Myanmar's first openly contested election in 25 years, it was hailed as a landmark result and a huge step towards democracy. The NLD’s 2015 victory was expected to bring sweeping changes to a country that had suffered through decades of civil war and human rights abuses under a military government.

But two major uncertainties loomed over the party and its Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader. First, questions were quickly raised over how the new government could bring peace and stability while the military continued to operate in a political role. Second, it was unclear where the new government stood with regards to the minority Rohingya population, dubbed the most persecuted ethnic group in the world by the UN.

Both of these uncertainties were put to the test when a small Islamist militant group known as Harakah al-Yaqin in October 2016 attacked police outposts in the Rohingya-majority Rakhine State, near Myanmar’s northwestern border with Bangladesh, killing several policemen.

Instead of launching an investigation into the attacks, a ‘clearance operation’ was launched in Rakhine state and security forces, led by the military, were deployed. Human rights groups, aid agencies and journalists were all shut out from Rakhine’s Maungdaw district.

In the months that followed, Rohingya people began fleeing to Bangladesh in their thousands, each of them arriving with their own harrowing story of violence, atrocities, rape. A senior UN official told the BBC at the time that Myanmar appeared to be, “seeking the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority from its territory”.

“The situation has taken a dramatic turn for the worse for the Rohingya in the north,” Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights Group, told The New Republic. “We were talking with a group of people today, conducting interviews. In a group of nine or 10, every single one had witnessed family members being killed, every single one coming from different villages.”

The world soon looked to Aung San Suu Kyi but Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader kept quiet even after more than a dozen of her fellow Nobel Laureates published an open letter warning that “ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” were being perpetrated.

The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable - what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her.” 

 - Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein , UN high commissioner for human rights

Until today nearly 75,000 people from the persecuted minority have fled to Bangladesh but authorities are planning to relocate them to an island which is almost completely uninhabitable as regular flooding makes it impossible to grow crops or vegetation. In the meantime, the refugees are living in squalid conditions in camps where they are at risk of further abuses, such as child labour, sexual abuse and trafficking.

A history of persecution 

Ms. Suu Kyi has chosen to reject a decision by the UN’s human rights council to investigate the allegations of crimes in Rakhine State, saying she did not agree with the allegations.

“Aung San Suu Kyi does not control the military or security services so in that regard is not responsible for the latest round of human rights violations which began in October,” says Mark Farmaner of the UK rights group Burma UK. “But she does have moral authority and could have used that to bring domestc and international pressure to bear on the military to halt their abuses.”

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech at the Swedish Parliament on June 13, 2017. CHRISTINE OLSSON/AFP/Getty Images

Divisions between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority have existed in the country for many decades. Some of the most damaging measures came in the 1980s, starting with the passing of a law in 1982 which revoked the Rohingyas’ citizenship.

The government argued this was justified because the Muslim minority are illegal immigrants who only came to the country at the beginning of the British occupation of Rakhine State in 1823. Evidence points to Rohingya families settling in the region before that date.

Once they had been deemed stateless and unwanted by their own country, the government was able to remove some of their most basic civil entitlements, including the right to education, healthcare, employment and land ownership.

In 1988, the military government adopted a later leaked document known as the Rohingya Extermination Plan. In 11 points it laid out a blueprint for the persecution and eventual destruction of the Muslim population while attracting as little international attention as possible. “Mass killing of the Muslim is to be avoided in order not to invite the attention of the Muslim countries,” the document read.

Land grabs and geopolitics 

A civilian-led democracy has allowed the generals to become business owners with financial stakes in the domestic violence. Many of them are now linked with some of the largest businesses that exploit the country’s abundance of natural resources, including gems, industrial minerals, oil and offshore natural gas reserves.

Renowned Dutch-American sociologist Saskia Sassen believes that business and economic development has become the new driving force behind the violence. A turning point, she says, was an outbreak of violence in Rakhine in 2012.

“The military went in and killed, but perhaps most significantly they also forced all of the Rohingya out of particular areas, off of their land and into camps,” she told The World Weekly. “And that pattern has multiplied - it is not just killing, it is removing them completely from their land and burning down the villages.” The main problem, she adds, is that the rest of the country has been over-exploited, leaving land scarce.

Illegal land seizures, or land grabs, are seen as one of the most prevalent human rights abuses against the Rohingya, as well as other ethnic groups in Myanmar. Those who refuse to leave their land when ordered may face being charged with criminal trespass and there have been accounts of entire villages being burnt to the ground as punishment.

A Rohingya girl carries a water jug in a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on March 7, 2017. Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rakhine’s value is diplomatic as well as economic. A large section of the state was recently designated as the Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone, a Chinese-Myanma joint venture that aims to increase trade and investment and create jobs.

It is estimated that nearly 40 villages and more than 200,000 people will need to be relocated for the construction of a wide range of industrial projects, including a new port, the expansion of an airport and oil refineries.

‘Ruthless power’ 

The US has fully backed the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi and in the past few years strengthened its strategic and trading relationship with Myanmar.

In September, just one month before Rakhine descended into brutal violence, then-President Barack Obama announced that he was lifting longstanding trade sanctions, a move met with numerous objections from rights groups which said it came too soon.

John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, thinks sanctions have been crucial in pressing the military to end abuses and transfer power to civilians, and should not be fully lifted “until the democratic transition is irreversible”. But international pressure is likely to lessen further under President Donald Trump, who has shown little interest in advancing rights abroad.

For many though the key to ending the Rohingya plight lies closer to home.

In her 1991 essay ‘Freedom from fear’ Ms. Suu Kyi wrote: “Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.”

June 18, 2017

The United Nations has removed its envoy from Myanmar in large measure because of her failure to address the dire human rights scandal of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

Renata Lok-Dessallien, a Canadian, has not been fired — like so many supranational organizations the UN rarely takes such a radical step preferring always to look after its own — but her five-year term has been ended after three and a half years and she has been sent on leave to be “rotated” to some other post where it must be hoped she can do less harm.

The new UN Secretary-General António Guterres acted after a damning report that found that Lok-Dessallien was too close to the Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and she had preferred to focus the UN’s Myanmar mission’s development brief while ignoring controversial humanitarian issues of which the plight of the Rohingya is the most glaring. More conscientious members of her team protested with the result that the UN mission became fractured and, according to the private UN enquiry, “dysfunctional”.

Suu Kyi has thus lost an important level of cover for her failure to act positively to protect the interests of the Rohingya. And she has not improved her standing by refusing to accept a UN fact-finding mission, insisting that it would only inflame social tensions. In an interview given in Sweden she said that she was relying instead on the findings of a report which she herself commissioned from the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Among the interim findings of his Advisory Commission on Rakhine State published in March was a recommendation that the camps into which the Rohingya had been herded be closed down.

This has been adopted by Suu Kyi but instead of the process being run over five years as Annan proposed, the closures have already begun. This is interesting since the original excuse for setting up these camps was to protect the Muslims from their Buddhist neighbors. This was of course never true. The conditions in these camps were appalling and the luckless inhabitants continued to be brutalized and exploited by their military guards.

While Suu Kyi cries crocodile tears and blocks the formal UN investigation, the violence against Myanmar’s Muslims continues. Annan has called for those guilty of crimes against the Rohingya to be brought to justice but there is little sign that Suu Kyi has any intention of doing this. One of the extraordinary injustices has been that Myanmar’s courts have refused to hear cases brought by Rohingya on the grounds that they are not Myanmar’s citizens and therefore do not enjoy equal rights. It has been glaringly obvious for a long time that Suu Kyi could start to push back against the monk-led Buddhist bigots who have led the campaign of murder, rape and intimidation against the Rohingya, by recognizing that this community does indeed belong in Myanmar and ensuring that they have full citizenship.

In her early days in power, with the former military rulers still glowering from their barracks, Suu Kyi told the international community that she could not take the risk of making this important step. She is still trotting out this excuse. As a result her image is becoming ever more stained and tarnished. Unfortunately, by extension her seemingly willful failures besmirch all other Nobel Peace laureates.

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
June 18, 2017

The UN office in Myanmar is in disarray as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Renata Lok-Desallien, is due to leave the post prematurely. The office she presided over has been described as ‘glaringly disfunctional’ in internal UN documents, and the Coordinator’s strong emphasis on development programs and on having a good relationship with the Burmese government at the expense of human rights issues in the country has drawn sharp criticism from international observers. 

This emphasis on ‘business’ over humanitarian concerns has been a stain on the UN’s reputation, but it is too early to say whether the incoming coordinator would address this problem, or whether the UN more widely is content to watch on as the Burmese military continues its methodical campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the north-west of the country, or as it continues to crack down on other border minority groups.

Other aspects of the UN’s involvement with the Burmese government are also quietly acquiescent to the developments in the country, despite strong protests from other Humanitarian agencies within the UN itself, such as officials from the UN refugee agency. An ongoing UN investigation led by Kofi Annan was supposed to mark a turning point in the UN’s approach to the Myanmar, but the investigation’s remit has been very strictly confined to just poverty reduction, and does not have any authority to comment on the humanitarian situation.

Indeed, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese civilian government, has asserted that she would only accept recommendations from the UN in that narrow area, and that any UN probe into human rights abuses would be blocked on the grounds that it would “increase tensions” in the country.

The UN’s approach to this situation has been too patient. The idea was that the new, democratically elected government in the country, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi needed to be given time to turn around the humanitarian situation in the country, and that the boat should not be rocked while they get their bearings after so many decades of military rule. 

The hope was that under such a government the humanitarian situation would no doubt get better, even if it took some time for them to turn the direction of the country around. 
Siding with the perpetrators 

Unfortunately, the assumption that a democratically elected government under Aung San Suu Kyi would be keenly interested in the humanitarian issues the country is facing turned out to be baseless. 

Suu Kyi has been in power for over 14 months at this point and throughout that period she has systematically sided with the perpetrators of the human rights abuses against the Rohingya whenever the question has been raised by the international community or by the international press. 

She has reiterated and defended the ultra-nationalists’ absurd claims that the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants and that they do not exist as an indigenous ethnic group.

She has casually dismissed concerns that the country’s military is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the group, despite the glaring facts that the entire Rohingya population have been rendered stateless, half of them have already been pushed abroad, and perhaps as many as a quarter of those who remain in the country are held in internally displaced people’s camps and not allowed to leave.

And she has obstructed even the most timid attempt by international agencies to censure the agencies of the state who are carrying out the latest crackdown on the group. 

It should be clear by now that Suu Kyi is not on the same page as the rest of us on the humanitarian issues in her country. ‘Giving her space’ will not enable her to take charge of the situation and push for positive change.

It will simply allow her to give cover to the army to continue its crackdown on the Rohingya. Our patience will not be rewarded. And the price for our patience has already been and will continue to be paid with Rohingya blood.

This is a price we can no longer afford. Neither the UN, nor the rest of us in the international community can allow things to continue down their current trajectory. It is time to ramp up the pressure on the Burmese government, with proper humanitarian investigations, with the threat of UN peacekeeping missions on the ground if it comes to it, everything – lest we allow this to become a full blown genocide.


Azeem Ibrahim is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Policy and Adj Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He tweets @AzeemIbrahim.

Rohingya women gather as they attend the ceremony to mark International Women’s Day at the Thet Kel Pyin internally displaced persons camp near Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar, 08 March 2017. Photo: EPA/Lynn Bo Bo

By Euan Black
June 18, 2017

In a new report, Amnesty International says the systematic abuses that have drawn international attention in Rakhine state are also occurring against ethnic minorities elsewhere in the country

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are not the only ethnic community in the country suffering from abuse at the hands of the authorities, according to a new report from the human rights group Amnesty International.

“The international community is familiar with the appalling abuses suffered by the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, but in Kachin and northern Shan States we found a similarly shocking pattern in the Army’s targeting of other ethnic minorities,” Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty, says in the report.

“Almost 100,000 people have been torn away from their homes and farms due to conflict and human rights violations in northern Myanmar.” 

Based on interviews with more than 140 people on the ground between March and May 2017, the report, entitled ‘All the Civilians Suffer’: Conflict, Displacement and Abuse in Northern Myanmar, reveals that the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, have carried out torture and execution against numerous ethnic minority groups, often denying humanitarian access to the areas where they live. 

The report also found that the Tatmadaw had routinely used civilians as human shields and deployed landmines in their ongoing conflict with various ethnic armed groups. 

After Harakah al-Yaqin carried out attacks on border guard posts in Rakhine State in October 2016, human rights groups say the military indiscriminately murdered and raped innocent civilians. Since then, the plight of the Rohingya has dominated international news coverage of Myanmar, with many international observers calling out state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi for her seeming inability to rein in the military.

The Amnesty report comes just a day after the UN decided to dismiss its regional and humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, reportedly for failing to prioritise human rights. The UN is expected to present an update on its fact-finding mission into human rights abuses in Rakhine state to the Human Rights Council in September 2017 and a full report in March 2018.

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Statement by Ms. Yanghee LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council

Agenda item 4 
Geneva, 15 June 2017

Distinguished Representatives, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for the opportunity to once again allow me to address this Human Rights Council. This is the first time I am delivering a June oral update, and I will be covering some developments since March and will also look ahead to my next visit to the country which is scheduled to take place next month. I look forward to the Myanmar Government approving the dates, the length of my visit, and this time really provide access to the places I need to be in order to discharge my mandate appropriately.

I would like to take the opportunity at the outset to express my deepest sympathies to those affected by Cyclone Mora. My prayers are with all those who have suffered losses including their homes. I also express my sadness at the recent crash of a military plane carrying military personnel and their families which killed 122 people, including over a dozen children. My heart goes out to their families and friends at this difficult time. 

Mr. President, 

Since my last address to you, the Fact-Finding Mission has been established by the Council. I welcome their mandate to look into alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar. Establishing the truth in these alleged cases is in the interests of all of Myanmar and I therefore encourage the Government to fully cooperate with the Mission. 


In Shan and Kachin States, unacceptable reports of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by several parties to the conflict including the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups have continued to arise. I was particularly distressed to see an appalling 17-minute video posted on social media in May, apparently showing soldiers from the Myanmar army beating several bound and unarmed men. The incident apparently occurred in 2015 and the fate of those involved is still unknown. In another incident in Kachin State, three individuals were found dead, with their bodies reportedly showing signs of torture, a few days after supposedly being detained by the Tatmadaw. I note statements from the authorities that they will investigate both incidents. However, I am unaware of any investigations into another incident in November 2016, which I just learnt about, where 18 people from Nam Hkye Ho village in Shan State were reportedly detained by the army, and their burnt remains found in a grave a few weeks later. 

I have reported to you on a regular basis similar incidents, and I fear a recurring pattern here. The Tatmadaw, or some elements of it, conduct themselves in violation of human rights. Some of these cases are reported but cannot be verified for lack of access. A couple of these cases get out, often because they had been caught on tape and circulated. The authorities say they will investigate, and we, the international community, accept this as an adequate response and let it go. Until the next case comes out again into the public realm, and the cycle of events repeats itself. I must remind that investigations must be conducted into all allegations, not just those that are extensively picked up by the media. And I must also remind that all investigations must be carried out in line with international standards and with all perpetrators fully held to account. I will be following progress in the cases that I have highlighted and others closely in the coming months. 

Friends and Colleagues,

Sadly, the continuing conflict in Kachin, Shan and Chin States has caused more people to flee. Despite repeated requests from the United Nations agencies and their partners, and clear humanitarian needs, permission to travel to areas not under government control to assist those newly displaced has still not been granted. I am particularly concerned by recent reports that 1,500 civilians in Kachin State, who were instructed by the Tatmadaw to flee their homes, are stranded unable to travel further as the armed forces have blocked waterways normally used for transportation. 

Clearly, sustainable peace and demilitarization are sorely needed across the country. I note that the most recent union peace conference was held from 24 to 29 May, which was attended by eight ethnic armed groups with seven others attending parts of the conference as special guests and some other groups choosing not to attend at all. I welcome the inclusion of a number of human rights issues in the 37 general points that were agreed on by all participants. I was also pleased to see an increase in the representation of women in this conference, and hope that renewed effort can be taken to ensure that the minimum 30% target of female participation is achieved across all delegations and the full inclusion of civil society organizations and young people in the process. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome the release of a number of those imprisoned for simply exercising their rights in the amnesties of prisoners announced on 12 April and 24 May. This includes Hla Phone and Myo Yan Naung Thein whom I visited in prison in January. I note however that many such individuals still remain in jails, awaiting trial or serving sentences, including human rights defender Khaine Myo Tun, whom I visited in January and who also suffers from health conditions. 

The increasing use of the vaguely worded defamation provision in section 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Act is particularly worrying. It is especially notable that each case has to be approved by the Ministry of Communications and Transport in order to be charged, and that an estimate of 66 cases have been reported since the new government came to power. Discussing issues of public interest, satirising the military or the President should not risk criminal charges with a maximum three-year sentence. 

Mr. President,

In my forthcoming visit to Myanmar in July, I will continue to look into business and human rights issues, including the rights of those affected by Special Economic Zones. Investment projects should translate into a positive transformation, and more must be done to ensure this is the case for all and to uphold the rights of local communities. 

I am particularly concerned by the developments at Letpadaung copper mine where police fired rubber bullets at community members protesting an incident in March during which a truck hit a local villager. Ten villagers and six police officers were injured and 50 individuals were later charged with offences in relation to the protests. There also continue to be protests in various areas over land confiscations, including the case of ten farmers who were convicted in April in Shan State to 16 months in prison for refusing to vacate land which had been confiscated from them. 

I congratulate Myanmar on its achievement of becoming a medium ranked country in the human development index. I encourage further efforts to improve access to education and life expectancy which form part of the indicators. This must include further tackling child labour. Another shocking case of child abuse has recently come to light of a girl who was working as a domestic servant and I call on the government to do more to protect all children, including those forced to work, from abuse and neglect. 

Distinguished Representatives, 

There have been a number of alarming incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence since my last update. In April, extremist Buddhist nationalists reportedly pressured authorities to close two Islamic schools in Yangon that traditionally have served as a prayer site, with no consultation and investigation. That they remain closed through Ramadan, a sacred month for Muslims when they not only observe the fasting but are also encouraged to conduct additional prayers, has resulted in a sense of greater isolation amongst the community. Three individuals peacefully protesting the schools’ closure through prayer outside the schools reportedly now face charges. These undue restrictions are in contravention of the Muslim community’s basic right to religious freedom and right to manifest it through worship and observance. 

I commend the Government’s actions in pursuing the arrest of individuals involved in the Mingalar Taung Nyunt incident in Yangon where a mob of over a hundred Buddhist nationalists entered a Muslim home under the pretext of finding illegal residents, which later resulted in a clash breaking out on the streets. Many in the Muslim community are nonetheless worried that the Government is unable to counter the growing threat of extreme Buddhist nationalism. As I have said in the past, the Government must take more concerted, systematic efforts to curb hate speech and violence incited by such nationalist groups. 

The situation in Rakhine State remains tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture, kidnapping and a village official being stabbed to death continue to be reported. The situation for many of those who fled following the attacks on Border Guard Police facilities on 9 October last year and the subsequent clearance operations remains difficult. While the estimated 20,000 Rohingya who were displaced within Myanmar have mostly returned to or near their places of origin, returnees face significant shelter needs due to the large number of burnt homes, a situation exacerbated by the impact of Cyclone Mora. I am further informed that 332 Rakhine, Dynet and Mro evacuees are still unable to return to their homes. Whilst some of the reported 74,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh appear to have now returned, exact numbers are difficult to ascertain as people fear prosecution for illegal border crossing.

I am especially alarmed by the reported recent rise in the number of child brides amongst women and girls who fled Myanmar and live in neighbouring countries. As we are all aware, this perpetuates the cycle of violence and of poverty experienced by these young women. 

I am also concerned by reports that at least 13 children have been detained by police in Rakhine State in relation to the October 9th attacks. According to a statement released by the State Counsellor’s Office on 5 June, one of these children died on February 2nd due to health reasons. I remind the Government that children should be detained strictly as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be treated with humanity and respect in a manner which takes into account their age. I urge the Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights of these children not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and to fair and timely proceedings as well as to adequate medical care. Further, I urge the Government to immediately conduct a full investigation into this child’s death including why it was only reported four months later. 

Please allow me at this point to highlight again Myanmar’s international obligations, in particular, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As we all know, by being party to this treaty, the State has made a public commitment as to how it will treat everyone under the age of 18 within its jurisdiction. The provision that has particularly stuck in my mind is Article 2 of the CRC which, among others, reiterates the principle of non-discrimination, and requires appropriate measures to ensure that, “the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.” Myanmar has an obligation with respect to “each child within [its] jurisdiction” without discrimination of any kind. I repeat, within its jurisdiction. This includes all Rohingya children living in Rakhine. With your permission, Mr. President, I would like to ask the Government of Myanmar, if it really has respected and lived up to this promise? Now, I would also like to ask other distinguished representatives here if they have indeed made sure that Myanmar lived up to its promise? I ask this question because of the continuing dire, if not worsening situation of the Rohingyas. 

Mr President, 

During my last statement to you, I highlighted the shortcomings in the investigative mechanisms established by the Government to assess the situation in Rakhine State. Unfortunately, there have been no changes to address these concerns. In early March, the Maungdaw Investigation Commission conducted a three-day visit to Rakhine State, still without a robust methodology or witness protection policies in place. I remain unconvinced that the military investigation team, which recently announced its findings dismissing practically all allegations against the security forces as wrong or false, is sufficiently independent or impartial. 

I note the issuance of the interim report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State; and while Myanmar has said it “accepts totally” the interim recommendations therein, implementation has been tentative at best. Although the Government has been closing IDP camps as recommended, many individuals are not being permitted to return to their place of origin, despite their stated desire to do so. Muslims in Kyein Ni Pyin camp, most of who self-identify as Rohingya, were told that the Government would only provide housing in the location of their current displacement, whereas Kaman Muslims in Ramree were only offered transportation options to Yangon and financial support. In contrast, Rakhine Buddhists were offered re-settlement in a neighbouring area, in newly-built homes along with financial compensation, although they have raised concerns that the location is some distance from a school. I am worried that these different re-settlement practices offer little prospect of a durable solution for the 120,000 Rohingya still living in camps, and exacerbate the grievances between the Buddhist and Muslim communities. The Government has estimated that it will take five years to close all the camps, which means that some IDPs could spend as long as ten years confined in these camps. This is simply unacceptable.

Distinguished representatives,

During my statement in March, I highlighted the proposed joint benchmarks which the Human Rights Council invited me to work with the Government to develop. In the months since then, I have still not seen significant developments on the majority of these benchmarks. In my next visit to Myanmar in July, I hope to discuss with my interlocutors how we can work together to develop a work plan and time frame for their swift implementation. I recognize the inherent difficulties in any democratic transition, and as always, I seek to work with Myanmar to address and overcome the challenges she faces. I stand ready to assist in any way I can to achieve a Myanmar where the rights and fundamental freedoms of all are respected and fully realized. 

Thank you

Protest during Suu Kyi's Canada visit (Photo-KCC)

By Saw Lay Khu Wah
June 15, 2017

Anyone working for social justice in Burma should be disappointed by the mainstream media’s coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Canada last week. Given ongoing military abuses throughout Burma’s ethnic regions, it was frustrating to see headlines focusing again and again that Canada must press Aung San Suu Kyi regarding her government’s brutal treatment of Rohingya Muslim communities in Rakhine State, while ignoring the plight of other ethnic peoples in Burma.

Never once during the week was there any mention of the ongoing war in Kachin State that has displaced as many as a 100,000. On June 9, the day that Aung San Suu Kyi attended a Burmese community event at Toronto City Hall, was the sixth anniversary of the resumption of the Kachin war. However, the only Canadian media coverage of the event, an article in the Toronto Star, was silent on this issue. There was also no discussion of ongoing military occupation in ceasefire zones such as Karen State, where thousands of displaced villagers staged demonstrations last month.

In short, media coverage gave the Burmese military a free ride, while focusing all criticisms on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government’s treatment of the Rohingya.

The focus on Rohingya suffering is understandable, and we are certainly not arguing that this coverage should stop. To the contrary, it needs to be set in the context of historical and ongoing patterns of Burmese military abuses. Singularly focusing on the Rohingya does not do justice to the suffering of other non-Burman ethnic peoples in the country. It also creates the simplistic notion that if only the government would uphold human rights of Rohingya, Burma’s problems would be solved. However, Burmese military oppression is systemic in nature and permeates all of the military’s dealings with non-Burman ethnic communities.

Simplistic media portrayals of the situation in Burma are very troubling when we consider international development assistance to the central government. If international donors like Canada do not understand the complex situation in Burma, they risk subsidizing the Burmese government’s continuing efforts to oppress and control the ethnic peoples. Our Karen community in Canada is very concerned with recent funding announcements by the Canadian government totaling CAD $28.8 million. We are worried that this funding will be distributed through central Burmese government channels, marginalizing ethnic civil society that continues to be a much-needed lifeline for conflict-affected communities.

The following case illustrates the impact of ongoing media marginalization of our Karen community in Canada.
On June 9, our Karen community staged a demonstration in front of Toronto City Hall, while Aung San Suu Kyi attended an event with the Burmese community inside. Kachin and Rohingya communities staged concurrent protests. Our protest groups were gathered in the same area, all with strong messages condemning ongoing war, militarization, and human rights abuses in Burma. It was a perfect opportunity for Canadian news media to become more informed about the human rights situation in Burma. However, the resulting Toronto Star article only contained passing reference to the Rohingya protest, completely ignoring the Kachin and Karen demonstrations.

The Irrawaddy article covering our Karen demonstration made the opposite mistake, including reference to the Kachin protest nearby, but never mentioning the demonstration by our Rohingya brothers and sisters.

Media narratives that narrowly focus on single issues can be used to divides us and undermine our common struggle for justice. Following the demonstration, racist elements in the Burmese-Canadian community began attacking the Rohingya online. One of these attackers referenced incomplete coverage in both the Toronto Star and the Irrawaddy to bolster his attacks, taking to social media to claim that our Karen and Kachin protestors “keep a distance” from the Rohingya.

This is patently untrue. In fact, we collaborated with our Rohingya counterparts in organizing our joint events. Although there were times when our demonstrations diverged, we stood in solidarity together against the same oppressors – the Burmese military. We also agreed to work together more closely with our Rohingya brothers and sisters in the future, and to combat racist and Islamophobic attitudes that persist among some in the overseas Burmese community. There is no room for racism or discrimination in our movement.

The mainstream media’s singular focus on the Rohingya issue is unhelpful, as it overlooks ongoing suffering of other ethnic peoples under the same military oppression. There is a need for more informed media reporting on Burma issues to demonstrate that the plight of Rohingya and other ethnic nationalities in Burma are all part of the same root problem – denial of basic human rights and equal right to life for all ethnic peoples in Burma. This realization should build more unity in our resistance, for only in unity will we have the strength to prevail.

Saw Lay Khu Wah is an informed Karen Community member in Canada. He can be reached at

June 15, 2017

Item 4 Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Myanmar

The challenges the government of Myanmar faces in ensuring that the human rights of everyone in the country are respected and protected means overcoming a long history of oppressive military rule. Yet the authorities continue to arrest and prosecute those who criticize the government and the military under the now-infamous section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act. The army and to a lesser extent ethnic armed groups still commit abuses during the fighting in Shan and Kachin States. And nearly 100,000 people remain in displaced persons camps spread across both states where the government restricts access to humanitarian aid.

In Rakhine State, nearly 120,000 primarily Rohingya Muslims remain trapped in abysmal conditions in camps in violation of their human rights. Rohingya in the northern part of the state endured widespread brutality from security forces after militant attacks on police outposts in October. Over 90,000 were displaced by the violence of whom over 70,000 fled to Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch and others documented numerous abuses that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded likely amounted to crimes against humanity.

Local officials’ capitulation to mob demands to shutter two Muslim schools in Yangon is the latest government failure to protect Myanmar’s religious minorities. Muslim communities that have had to resort to praying in the streets during the holy month of Ramadan face arrest and prosecution by local authorities.

In March, this Council took a strong stand against the violations in Rakhine State and elsewhere in Myanmar by adopting a resolution that established an international fact-finding mission into human rights violations by military and security forces and other abuses in the country.

We welcome the recent appointment of the fact-finding mission members, but the Burmese government has shown no willingness to cooperate. If they refuse to grant access to the mission, they will join the ranks of Burundi, Syria, and North Korea, all of which have rejected similar international investigations.

This fact-finding mission represents a crucial opportunity to address the systemic challenges that stand between the Myanmar of today and an open democratic society that so many have long sought to achieve. This opportunity should not be squandered. We urge Myanmar not to isolate itself by refusing access to the mission, and would ask the Special Rapporteur what Council members and observers can do to ensure the mission is granted unfettered access to all areas of concern and allowed to carry out its work freely.
Boys play inside a Rohingya refugee camp outside Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state, Myanmar May 17, 2017. Picture Taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

June 15, 2017

Myanmar should guarantee the rights and medical care of children from the Rohingya Muslim minority detained in an army crackdown launched in October, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday.

Children as young as 10 were among hundreds of men detained on charges of consorting with Rohingya insurgents, Reuters revealed in March, citing a previously unreleased police document.

Thirteen juveniles were among more than 400 arrested since Oct. 9, when insurgents attacked police posts in northwestern Rakhine state, near the border with Bangladesh, according to the police document, dated March 7.

The insurgent attacks led to the biggest crisis of leader Aung San Suu Kyi's first year in power, prompting some 75,000 Rohingya to flee the subsequent army crackdown to Bangladesh.

Speaking at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Yanghee Lee, the organisation's special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said children should not be "arbitrarily deprived of their liberty" and the government should guarantee their right to timely proceedings.

"I remind the government that children should be detained strictly as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be treated with humanity and respect in a manner which takes into account their age," said Lee.

She also urged the government to investigate the death of a child who, according to the government, died because of ill health in February. The government did not report the death until last week, she said.

In April, a deputy executive director of the U.N. children's fund (UNICEF), Justin Forsyth, sought the release of the children while on a visit to Myanmar.

The United Nations, in report based on interviews with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, said Myanmar's security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya during their campaign, which could amount to crimes against humanity.

The military has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.

Myanmar's ambassador in Geneva, Htin Lynn, did not directly address the issue of the detained children, limiting his remarks to say that the Convention of the Rights of the Child applied "equally to all children in Myanmar".

Lee also called on Myanmar to "fully cooperate" with a recently established U.N. fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged human rights violations by the military.

Suu Kyi has opposed the mission, saying this week it would create "greater hostility between the different communities".

On Thursday, ambassador Htin Lynn echoed her comments:

"It will not help solve the problems Myanmar is facing in Rakhine State ... We are ready to work with the international community on any advice or arrangements should they constitute part of the solution, not part of the problem."

(Reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay; Writing by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Rohingya Exodus