Latest Highlight

Rohingya refugees sit on the ground after collecting aid supplies in Thyingkhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

By Zeba Siddiqui
January 21, 2018

GUNGDUM, Bangladesh -- Tensions mounted on Sunday at refugee camps in Bangladesh holding hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims over an operation to send them back to Myanmar, from where they have fled following a military crackdown.

Dozens of refugees stood holding cloth banners opposing their transfer as United Nations Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee visited camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border over the weekend. Some refugee leaders said Bangladesh military officials had threatened to seize their food ration cards if they did not return. 

Under an agreement signed last week, Myanmar is set to receive Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh at two reception centres and a temporary camp near their common border starting on Tuesday and continuing over the next two years. 

The refugees refuse to go back unless their safety can be guaranteed and Myanmars grant their demands to be given citizenship and inclusion in a list of recognised ethnic minorities. They are also asking that their homes, mosques and schools that were burned down or damaged in the military operation be rebuilt.

Over 655,500 Muslim Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine state in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug. 25. The United Nations described the operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies. 

Rohingya elders told Reuters that Bangladeshi army officials have called or met them over the last two days, asking them to prepare lists of families from their camps for repatriation. Four of them said they were among more than 70 camp leaders – representing thousands of refugees – who met army officers at the Gungdum camp on Saturday.

“When we said we cannot provide the lists because people are not ready to return, they asked us to bring their WP cards,” said Musa, a leader at the Gungdum camp, referring to relief cards provided by the U.N.’s World Food Programme. 

Rashedul Hasan, a spokesman for the Bangladesh army, said he was not aware of army men threatening to take away food cards.

Hundreds of refugees queue up at relief centres across the camps each morning to collect food using the cards. These centres are managed by the Bangladesh army. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has repeatedly said Rohingya returns need to be voluntary. 

“UNHCR has not been part of discussions (on repatriation) to date, but has offered support to engage in the process to ensure that the voices of refugees are heard,” Caroline Gluck, a senior protection officer for the agency, said by email on Saturday. 

“The pace of returns should be determined by the refugees themselves.”

Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

January 21, 2018

Bangladesh will not force the Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar, the foreign minister has said as the two countries signed agreements to start the repatriation process by Jan 23 despite international criticism.

“It will be voluntary. In all of our documents, [that Bangladesh, Myanmar signed] we have mentioned that it will be a voluntary return. We’ll not force them to go back,” AH Mahmood Ali told journalists after briefing Dhaka-based diplomats about the repatriation plan on Sunday.

But he would not give a specific date about when the first batch will start for the Rakhine State as the government does not want to draw media criticism if the deadline is missed.

Myanmar earlier announced the process will begin on Tuesday, two months into the signing of the first agreement on Nov 23.

“The process is on-going. I cannot put a specific day. You will see when it begins. If I give a date and then miss the deadline, then you [media] will say we could not [send them back in time],” he said.

Over 655,500 Muslim Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug 25.

The United Nations described the operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya – an allegation Myanmar denies.

Myanmar authorities have said they were making final preparations to take back the first batch despite growing doubts about the plan among refugees and in the United Nations.

They will start receiving Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh at two reception centres and the temporary camp near Maungtaw starting on Tuesday and continuing over the next two years, under the agreement two countries signed this week.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has expressed concern and said to ensure that the refugees are heard and their protection guaranteed in Bangladesh and on return in Myanmar, it is willing to be part of these discussions.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh side would incorporate UNHCR in the process and they are working to sign a MoU with the UN agency.

“We have sent them [UNHCR] the draft,” he said, adding that Myanmar is not willing to include UNHCR from their side, for now, instead they want to include Red Cross in the process.

The foreign minister told the diplomats Bangladesh has put its “best efforts” to ensure that the agreements facilitate “safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return”.

Mahmood Ali referred to provisions of the agreements, such as Myanmar’s commitment to implement the report of the Kofi Annan Commission, non-discrimination and respect for international human rights instruments vis-à-vis the returnees, and engagement of international community in the resettlement of Rohingyas in the Rakhine State.

In order to ensure that the return is voluntary, he said, Bangladesh has incorporated provisions for involvement of the UNHCR and other relevant international organisations in the entire return process. 

He mentioned that Bangladesh tried “to create space for international actors in every phase of the return, resettlement and reintegration”.

Ali referred to the initiatives of India, China and Japan in developing resettlement facilities in the Rakhine State and encouraged the international community to offer similar help to Myanmar.

He particularly mentioned the European countries that have embassies in Myanmar to offer help to the authorities.

US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat termed Bangladesh’s diplomatic efforts to send the Rohingya people back “amazing”, and said when she met the refugees in Cox’s Bazar, everybody wanted to go back.

“But they don’t want to go back to a dangerous situation again,” she told journalists, adding that during the briefing Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque “wanted us to stay with you and keep the pressure to resolve the situation in a way that Rohingyas are allowed to go to their country safely.”

“They don’t want to go back to uncertainty,” she said.

British High Commissioner Alison Blake appreciated the briefing and said as a partner of Bangladesh, they are going to continue work to support “so that safe and dignified return can take place when the conditions are right”.

She said at the briefing that “all of them wanted them to return in dignity, safety, sustainably, and voluntarily to their homes. 

“We believe what the Rohingya people want is getting the conditions right,” she said.

The foreign ministry later in a statement said ambassadors, high commissioners and representatives of 52 missions including the United States, UK, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Japan, Qatar, and EU engaged in “interactive” discussion with the foreign minister during the briefing on the practical questions related to sustainable return. 

Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and other senior officials of the foreign ministry were also present.

The foreign minister urged the diplomats to continue their engagement with Myanmar for “effective” implementation of the return arrangements. 

The diplomats commended the people and government of Bangladesh, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for taking the courageous decision to shelter the persecuted Rohingyas and for managing a humanitarian situation of such magnitude so efficiently, according to the statement. 

They committed continued support towards achieving a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.

Rohingya Muslims carry their children and belongings after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh in November [The Associated Press]

By Charles Stratford
January 21, 2018

Humanitarian conditions in camps hosting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are set to worsen in the next few months, a human rights investigator has told Al Jazeera, while also raising concerns about a plan to repatriate the fleeing minority back to Myanmar.

In an interview from Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Yanghee Lee, a UN special rapporteur who was banned from visiting Myanmar, said that with Bangladesh's monsoon season approaching, the crammed camps "will be witnessing landslides and we may see a huge number of casualties".

Lee also warned of the possibility of an "outbreak of diseases" that would spread due to heavy rainfall, which may become "impossible to contain from spreading elsewhere". 

The UN envoy was to visit Myanmar in January to assess the state of human rights across the country, including in Rakhine state, where a brutal military crackdown has sent more than 650,000 minority Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

People fleeing the violence have told of a systematic campaign of mass killings, rape and arson. The UN has described the situation as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Lee took up the rights monitoring role in 2014, and is required to visit Myanmar two times a year in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

She was banned last month from conducting her investigation. 

'It's just not human' 

In the interview with Al Jazeera, Lee urged the international community to aid in dispersing the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.

"The concentration of people ... it's just not human". 

As part of the repatriation deal signed by the two Asian neighbours in November last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar officials agreed last week on plans to facilitate the return, over the next two years, of those displaced. 

Some 1,550 refugees will be sent back each week, which will add up to approximately 156,000 over a period of two years.

But Lee said the situation in Myanmar is not conducive for refugees to return. 

"First of all, where would they go back to? They've lost their livelihood, they've lost their crops, they've lost their fields," she told Al Jazeera.

"All the rice now is reportedly being sold elsewhere to other countries. They've lost their homes, so the rebuilding process is going to be huge, and the people should not be subjected to living in another camp-like situation." 

She also urged that the return of any refugees to their homes be entirely voluntary, stressing there needs to be "informed consent ... so they will know exactly what they are going back to". 

The current Rohingya crisis started in August, when Myanmar's army launched a bloody crackdown in response to attacks on border posts by the armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

The mainly Muslim minority, living primarily in Rakhine State, is not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and are rendered stateless.

Min Khant
RB Opinion
January 20, 2018

Process of repatriation of Myanmar Rohingyas residents who fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh will be allowed on 23rd January 2018 in accord the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar Government wants all parties wholeheartedly join for the success of the systematic repatriation process, which will begin in January 2018.

The Union Minister for Social welfare, Relief and Rehabilitation, Dr. Win Myat Aye interviewed recently with Radio Free Asia that: ”the displaced Myanmar residents would stay for a while at transit camps (but he didn’t clarify how many days or months in transit camps), and after the completion of the houses for them, the residents be transferred to their respective villages”. There is not a visible big plan of the government yet to build houses or construct the villages, and he has once told the world media that the burned lands belong to government. That means Rohingyas do not belong again their abandoned villages. He also added that during their living in transit camps, the government would arrange so called “Cash for Work” employments for the returnees. There are neither factories, workshops nor any commercial activities available. All these are bogus and deceiving useless program of the government to escape the world attention & that of the community, which is very serious in regards Rohingya outline. 

The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps are not the strangers to the face of Myanmar government as they being the citizens of Myanmar. Though Myanmar government does not want international investigation, at least Myanmar authorities should better visit to the camps with the cooperation of Bangladesh authorities to survey the refugees’ sufferings and their wishes and demands due to returning to their original locations.

Myanmar government has been insisting throughout its political instrument to the world that the violence ensued since 26 August 2017, and which has unavoidably created nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees to be fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh within couple of months. And that had been just because of the ARSA’s attack only on several police stations, but not because of the excessive using power of military’s operations on innocent Rohingyas”. 

For which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the state Counsellor has been defending the military’s ethnic cleansing plots as a legitimate right of a state sovereignty to clear the so-called ARSA in ROHINGYA innocent localities: Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung townships.

To implement successfully the repatriation process, in the bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Myanmar regime persistently claims the returnees are responsible to show the relevant documents of Myanmar, which had been occasionally issued as Myanmar national documents such as white cards, then National verification Cards, and form 10, which verifies members of the family. 

Every concerning returnee, majority of the returnees may encounter a great deal of problem to show the documents that Myanmar government insists to prove by Rohingyas in accord the agreement struck with Bangladesh. 

During the ‘operation clearance’ conducted by military forces, Rohingyas might have merely absconded with their lives without grasping any single document from their burning houses, villages, and the paddy barns by ‘operation clearance’ forces. And they had been under great stress, constant worry and nervous by the extreme executions and threats of mass young men killing, and toddlers would have been robbed from their mothers’ hands and thrown into the blazing fire and some being killed and stabbed to death by gun-hit and bayonets of army’ in front of their mothers. 

Moreover, gang rapes by forces against mass young girls, virgin & pregnant women, and elderly women in front of their husbands, brothers, and parents who had been tied in their hands behind while these terrible affairs were being committed by the armed forces. In more, many runners who had to hide in mountains, ridges, dykes, valleys and they had to secretly wend to swamp border to cross to Bangladesh to escape from Myanmar military and Rakhine militiamen’s multiple atrocities, brutal inhumanities, and some of immoral behaviors compounded around. The army and Rakhine militiamen would have taken all the belongings in the hands of Rohingyas who were being met along the way to Bangladesh. 

Considering the above multi-color nightmares, therefore, at this horrible mass humans trekking in torrential rainy season day in day out in fear, how can these vulnerable and distressed Rohingyas runners be able to keep firmly their documents forever while they had just took care of their lives to be safer than others?

In these days, Myanmar regime has been revealing due to impossible ARSA members who may unbelievably have participated in the attack against the police outposts via daily circulating state owned newspapers.

Presumably, the shown suspected ARSA members by the government are quiet Rohingyas youths and men who have been bearing all the legal affairs of the respective family of their own in a peaceful manner in the regions. The Border Police Guard team, which has been in charge of taking and keeping the group photos of Rohingyas families once in six-month in the regions for two decades, has been easily sharing between the immigration department and military units due to the photos as members of ARSA who are allegedly accused as attackers against outposts. 

During the operation clearance, military would have been particularly and in prior searching out of the capable male persons, and after Rohingyas had known the trend; the male would either hide behind or disappear from public sight fearing from being picked up and killing by military units. Now, taking this as an advantage by the government, the irrational revealing of those photos in media as ARSA criminals is either to stop them from entering to their country again or censure & wrap the Bangladesh government for not apprehending the accused and then handing over to Myanmar government as culprits whom Myanmar demanded. This is the most beautiful dishonest art of Myanmar current regime to disgrace over all interaction of logical repatriation.

Undoubtedly, Myanmar government being a cruel, mischief and genocidal, it will apply all illogical, impossible and high handing vile against Bangladesh to illegitimate the international standard repatriation process in practical as per the demand of world community. From the other Myanmar regime’s idea is to keep untold about its inhumanities committed on Rohingyas and dragging the due matter as unimportant by alleging others as criminals to slip from reality. 

Rohingyas refugees in Bangladesh are all aware of the nightmares they have severely suffered in the hands of Myanmar military and they will not return at this unwelcome condition of Myanmar government’s unacceptable attachment, which seems Rohingyas returnees to be retaliated, punished, and tortured to death in their localities, even in transit camps before reaching to their respective villages. Right now, refugees believe that they are safe, and in touch with world communities who show heartfelt compassion and recognize the agony of Rohingyas and all refugees are able to access to medical facilities, food and shelter for a while, for that their long suffering have been at least alleviated by having emphatic touching of world communities in the camps. 

Rohingyas people were restricted and limited to have medical treatments in the regions, and there are many more chronic diseases infected patients remain uncured, that the regime intends to either be dying without proper treatments or shorten the Rohingyas people life span as depopulated scheme of the government. 

Just bringing a little parable due to refugees who infected the DIPTHERIA disease that: “ there was a big attention of WHO and the swift medical movement of ‘Doctor Without Border’ against the diphtheria infected patients as a matter of urgency to cure on time all the patients without delay and discrimination. Because of the effective care of medical team, the world communities have addressed all infected patients with a great care. 

In contrast, right now, Myanmar does not agree to allow the unfettered access of world community to the locations. Myanmar temporary camps, which aimed to be built as tents without minimum facilities, are very fragile to live for human beings. The returnees who should stay In Transit Camps for a while is uncountable days and people will be easily perished by the contaminated diseases that will be intentionally passed by Myanmar several agencies with a coordination efforts of all enemies. While, there all affairs will be run under the supervision of Myanmar as per the agreements reached between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and that the world body wont’ be allowed to examine the events.

There will not be international medical teams and the very limited medical facilities of Myanmar will not reach to the site to pay the medical attention while Muslims Rohingyas have been restricted from effective medical treatments as its Policy. Not only that, all the relevant affairs regarding to Rohingyas returnees in TC (transit Camps) will be the same horrendous and the mass killing of Rohingya either by the unattended disease outbreak or intentional arson killing by the hands of government’s multi- secret agents at the absence of community of the world.

Without international proper supervision and world firm guarantees for Rohingyas returnees’ safety, security, dignity, and recognition of nationality, the returnees should not be repatriated by Bangladesh and it should consider whether bilateral agreement would push all living Rohingyas in mass killing in TC through the cooperated agreement.

Dr. Aye Maung interacts with media before taken into police custody. Photo: Nyo Ban/ Irrawaddy

M.S. Anwar
RB Opinion
January 20, 2018

Something unimaginable happened on Thursday (Jan 18) in Arakan state of Myanmar (Burma). Dr. Aye Maung, Chairman of Rakhine ultranationalist party ANP (Arakan National Party, was arrested by the Burmese authorities. According to a statement released by Myanmar's Ministry of Information on Wednesday night, U Aye Maung was booked with 3 charges: Section 17 (1) of the Illegal Associations Act, Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code causing Public Disorder and Section 122 of the Penal Code committing 'High Treason' against the State.

Without any reservation (of words), Dr. Aye Maung is one fascist politician who had cooperated with Burmese military regime by playing a direct role in genocidal violence unfolded against Rohingya in June 2012 onward and continued to be complicit in it up until his arrest on Thursday. So, what has led the Burmese military regime to arrest their once partner-in-genocide?
It's no secret that the Burmese regime treats common people/political figures including their own proxies as expendables. When they are no more in use or perceived as threats, they are disposed like disposable items. Thus, Aye Maung could be no exception for the regime. 

The Burmese military have seen using Dr. Aye Maung as a political proxy more benefitting than the threats posed by his long-time associations with Rakhine rebel groups such as Arakan Army (AA) and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP). But no more! He's now perceived as a significant threat by the Burmese Army Generals to their power and the sovereignty of the nation and hence, leading to his arrest.
The humanitarian and political situations in Arakan state have significantly deteriorated since the state-sponsored violence against Rohingya in June, 2012. Especially October 2016 onward, under pretext of a Clearance Operation in response to a few sporadic attacks on Police posts conducted by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (known as ARSA, a home-grown but ill-trained Rohingya rebel group mostly armed with sticks and swords), the Burmese military have unfolded a systematic genocidal violence against the Rohingya with active collaborations of Rakhine Buddhist extremists largely followers of Dr. Aye Maung. 

Since then, we have witnessed the Burmese military, Security Forces and the Rakhine Extremists killing more than 10,000 Rohingya civilians; burning down entire swathes of Rohingya villages in Maungdaw District and Rathedaung Township; and expelling more than half a million of their population into neighboring Bangladesh, triggering one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in human history.
On January 16, during the 233rd commemoration ceremony of the Fall of Arakan Kingdom to the Invading Burmese Army, Dr. Aye Maung; U Wai Hun Aung, a Rakhine author and social commentator; and a few others were reported to have said that Burmese treated Rakhies as their Slaves and today's political climate in Arakan state was the perfect time for the Rakhine people to march towards secession of Rakhine state from Myanmar and create a separate independent Rakhine nation. They urged the Rakhine Buddhists in attendance to do civil disobedience to the Burmese government and revolt the Burmese military through joining Arm Struggles, apparently referring Arakan Army (AA).

Late Tuesday evening, following Aye Maung's speech in Rathedaung, around 4,000 Rakhine people in Mrauk-U (the State’s Ancient Capital) staged a protest which had been banned by the Government beforehand. The protesters reportedly attacked the police station and robbed Police's guns chanting the slogans of independence. The police responded recklessly by firing into the crowds killing at least 7 protesters and injuring a dozen. 

That created a perfect pretext for the Burmese regime to arrest Dr. Aye Maung, their one-time ally-turned-foe, and get rid of the threat from their way. And if he’s proven guilty, which is mostly like to happen as the Judiciary in Myanmar has always been subservient to the State’s Military; Aye Maung could face lifetime-imprisonment and even possible death penalty. [Note: punishments and penalties could be decreased through appeals and under the President’s amnesty.]
Nevertheless, my questions are "where do Rohingya, a people subjected to Genocide, stand amidst this increasingly hostile political climate in Arakan state? Do they have anything to gain or lose? Can they gain anything out of it and get a breathing space for themselves?"
Dr. Aye Maung clearly saw a political opportunity in the current fragile political environment in Arakan state which, if properly taken advantage of, is huge enough to create an Independent State. Thus, he dared urge the public to take up arms and resort to rebellion against the Burmese government knowing that it could risk him his career, his life or to a prolonged prison term.

So, does any Rohingya especially from among those leading the community see any opportunities to stop the ongoing violence and secure at least basic rights for the Rohingya out of the widening political gap between Rakhine and Burmese? Or will they still look on with their hands folded; and let Burmese military and others take advantage of the situation as usual? Will any of the Rohingya leaders dare take some risks like Dr. Aye Maung just taken?

Very soon, the Burmese military may need the Rohingya community to counterbalance the Rakhine separatist leaders and elements in Arakan state. Therefore, they could start approaching Rohingya leading figures at home and abroad to appease their fellow community members on various topics such as Rohingya refugee repatriations and other political rights etc with refreshed strategies. In their renewed strategies for Arakan state, the Burmese military could even try to conduct dialogues with ARSA, who knows? But as usual, their actions will be divisive and insincere to the core.

So, will the Rohingya leading figures and activists subject themselves to the Burmese divisive and exploitative politics yet again or be visionary and thoughtful enough to milk something out of the current political climate for their people?
To the Rohingya leading figures and prominent activists at home and abroad,

Do not subject yourselves to the divisive politics of the Burmese military for some narrow personal interests; or let others decide your future for you. Establish some careful strategies to achieve something out of the current political climate in Myanmar. Remember you have got another historic opportunity to your advantage. Do not let it go in vain.

Be thoughtful, smart, cautious, cooperative and proactive!

[About some terms in this article: Burma = Myanmar, Burmese = majority Buddhist people in Myanmar, Arakan = a Geographical Term, the name of the Western State in Myanmar now called Rakhine State, Rakhine = Minority Buddhist People in Arakan State (who also call themselves Arakan in English to imply to the World that the whole Arakan State belongs to them), Rohingya = Minority Muslim People in Arakan State]

M.S. Anwar is an activist-journalist and political commentator on Arakan affairs. Opinions expressed here are his. He can be reached at:

Public talks on Myanmar Genocide and the sham of democratic transition by Mandy Sadan, Michael Charney and Maung Zarni, co-organized by STAND UK and Lawyers without Borders (student society) on 19th January 2018.

Dr. Maung Zarni's Remark:

The best research on Rohingya history: British Orientalism which created the pseudo-scientific biological notion of "Taiyinthar" or "real natives" of #Myanmar caused that country's post-colonial cancer of official & popular genocidal Racism. 

This comprehensive keynote lecture by Professor Michael Charney of SOAS who did his PhD on Rakhine at the University of Michigan is the single best cogent tracing of the ideological roots of today's genocide:

He explains persuasively how colonising #Britain's ideological root of Myanmar's genocide of Rohingya ultimately resulted in Myanmar's historical imagination which in turn rested on the White Man's pseudo-scientific idea of neatly (artificially) defined racial/biological categories of "the real natives".

The stage was set for the racist Burmese state controlled by the military and the shaped public opinion to eradicate any GROUP that is excluded from the popular and official imagination about who really belongs and who doesn't belong to Myanmar.

The 1982 Citizenship Act explicitly rests on this originally British defined 'nativeness" of peoples in the colonial hierarchy. The 1982 Citizenship is broadly speaking in the vein of the Nazi Party's Nuremberg Race Laws by which the German Jews - who were more German
than Jewish in Germany - were "de-nationalized" at the Nazi Party conference at Nuremberg in 1935.


The Roots of the Rohingya Crisis: The Eradication of a Myanmar Ethnic Group

Michael Charney and Eaint Thiri Thu participated in a roundtable discussion moderated by Anne Blackburn titled 'The Roots of the Rohingya Crisis: The Eradication of a Myanmar Ethnic Group,' on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 in Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall.

The Rohingya are a largely Muslim minority group living in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. Denied citizenship by law, the Rohingya are often described as the most persecuted minority in the world. In August, Rohingya militants attacked police outposts in Rakhine. The Burmese military responded with a crackdown that UN officials have characterized as ethnic cleansing. Roughly half the 1.1 million Rohingya have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Bangladesh.

Michael W. Charney is a military and imperial historian specializing in Southeast Asia in both the premodern and modern periods. He received his PhD at the University of Michigan in 1999. Eaint Thiri Thu was born and raised in Myanmar. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in human rights at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. She was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship, an Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change fellowship, and a Humphrey School of Public Affairs scholarship to pursue her studies in the United States.

Many Rohingya living in the crowded, unsanitary camps in Bangladesh have said they do not want to return to Rakhine AFP/Munir UZ ZAMAN

January 19, 2018

DHAKA: Hundreds of Rohingya refugees staged protests in Bangladesh Friday (Jan 19) against plans to send them back to Myanmar, where a military crackdown last year sparked a mass exodus.

The refugees chanted slogans and held banners demanding citizenship and guarantees of security before they return to their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar.

The protest came ahead of a visit by UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee to the camps in southeastern Bangladesh where around a million of the Muslim minority are now living.

Bangladesh has reached an agreement with Myanmar to send back the around 750,000 refugees who have arrived since October 2016 over the next two years, a process set to begin as early as next week.

But many Rohingya living in the crowded, unsanitary camps have said they do not want to return to Rakhine after fleeing atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.

Rights groups and the UN say any repatriations must be voluntary.

They have also expressed concerns about conditions in Myanmar, where many Rohingya settlements have been burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.

The government has said it is building temporary camps to accommodate the returnees, a prospect feared by Rohingya, said Mohibullah, a refugee and former teacher.

"We want safe zones in Arakan (Rakhine) before repatriation," he told AFP by phone from Cox's Bazar, where the camps are located.

"We want a UN peacekeeping force in Arakan. We want fundamental rights and citizenship. We do not want repatriation without life guarantees," Mohibullah said.

Police said they were unaware of the protests.

A Bangladesh official said around 6,500 Rohingya currently living in no man's land between the two countries would be among the first to be repatriated.

The repatriation deal does not cover the estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were living in Bangladesh prior to October 2016, driven out by previous rounds of communal violence and military operations.

Rohingya refugees line up for daily essentials distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Zeba Siddiqui 
January 19, 2018

KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh -- Rohingya leaders in a Bangladesh refugee camp have drawn up a list of demands they want Myanmar to meet before authorities begin sending back hundreds of thousands in a repatriation process expected to begin next week and last for two years.

The petition is the latest indication of the challenges ahead for Bangladesh and Myanmar as they try to engineer the return of refugees who fear continued military operations in Rakhine State and are dismayed about the prospect of a prolonged stay in “temporary camps” in Myanmar when they go back. 

A half-dozen Rohingya elders, saying they represented 40 villages from Rakhine, showed the list of demands to a Reuters reporter at the Kutupalong refugee camp, where most of the 655,500 Rohingya refugees are staying. 

The petition, handwritten in Burmese, said none of the Muslim Rohingya would return to mainly Buddhist Myanmar unless the demands were met. 

The petition, which has still to be finalised, demanded the Myanmar government publicly announce it is giving Rohingya long-denied citizenship and inclusion on a list of the country’s recognised ethnic groups. It asks that land once occupied by the refugees be returned to them and their homes, mosques and schools rebuilt. 

It wants the military held accountable for alleged killings, looting and rape, and the release from jails of “innocent Rohingya” picked up in counter-insurgency operations. 

It also wants Myanmar to stop listing people with their photographs as “terrorists” in state media and on government Facebook pages. 

Myanmar state newspapers this week issued a supplement listing the names and photos of alleged members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 triggered a sweeping counter-insurgency operation. 

The United Nations has described the Myanmar military operations in the northern part of Rakhine as a classic case of ethnic cleansing.

The military says it has only conducted legitimate operations and denies there have been cases of sexual assault. 

But the military said last week soldiers had killed 10 captured Muslim “terrorists” during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the captured men into a grave the villagers had dug. 

It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine. 

ARSA said in a statement last week the 10 Rohingya in the mass grave were “innocent civilians” and not members of their group.


The Rohingya elders Reuters spoke to said they were still finalising their list of demands before showing it to Bangladesh authorities and to aid agencies administering the camps. 

They said the 40 village leaders they discussed the petition with represent the interests of all Rohingya at the camp, but that could not be independently verified and aid agencies were unable to comment pending formal issuance of the petition. 

Bangladesh and Myanmar this week agreed to complete the return of the refugees over the next two years, with the process due to begin on Tuesday. 

But even as preparations get underway for the repatriation, Rohingya Muslims continue to pour into Bangladesh. 

More than 100 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar since Wednesday and scores more were waiting to cross the Naf river that forms the border, newly arrived refugees in Bangladesh told Reuters. 

The new arrivals said they fled Myanmar because of military operations in their village of Sein Yin Pyin, and gave accounts of young men being rounded up and of discovering dead bodies in a pond and a forest. 

They said they fled out of hunger, after hiding in their homes for days, unable to go to work in the fields and forests that provided their livelihood. 

Myanmar Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe, spokesman for the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry, told Reuters on Thursday “there’s no clearance operation going on in the villages”. 

But, he added, “security forces are still trying to take control of the area” in northern Rakhine. He declined to elaborate. 

Rights groups and the UN say any repatriations must be voluntary. 

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human RightsWatch, told Reuters in an email authorities cannot deal with the Rohingya refugees “as if they are an inert mass of people who will go where and when they are told”. 

The repatriation deal does not cover over 200,000 other Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh prior to October 2016, who had been driven out of Myanmar during previous episodes of ethnic violence and military operations.

Writing by Bill Tarrant: Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore


Sunday 21st January 2018

Failures of International Institutions in preventing genocide: Myanmar’s Rohingya and Bosnian Genocides

12:00 Registration and lunch

13:00 – 13:10 Mr Sayed Jalal Masoomi - Quran recitation

13:10 – 13:15 Translation 

Session One Panel 1

13:15 – 13:20 Nazim Ali - Introduction to the panel 

13:20 – 13:40 Dr Maung Zarni – Genocide scholar and Human Rights activist

13:40 – 13:45 Narjis Khan- Poetry recitation: “Palestine”

13:45 – 14:05 Demir Mahmutcehajic - Bosnian activist and one of the founders of IHRC

14:05 – 14:20 Q&A discussion

14:20 – 14:35 Break/ Prayers 

Session Two Panel 2

14:35 – 14:40 Nazim Ali - Introduction to the panel

14:40 – 15:00 Daniel Feierstein – Director of the Centre of Genocide Studies at the National University of Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina

15:00 – 15:20 Ramon Grosfoguel - Professor at the Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

15:20 – 15:35 Q&A discussion

15:35 – 15:45 Latifa Abouchakra - Announcement of winner

15:45 – 15:50 Nadia Rasheed - Reading of genocides and one minute of silence 

15:50 – 16:00 Raza Kazim - Closing remarks

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was essential that the returns be voluntary and that the Rohingya are allowed to return to their original homes - not to camps. PHOTO: REUTERS

January 18, 2018

UNITED NATIONS, United States -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday (Jan 16) expressed concerns after Myanmar and Bangladesh reached a deal on the return of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas that sidelined the UN refugee agency.

"We believe it would be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operation abides by international standards," Guterres told a press conference at the UN headquarters.

The agreement, finalised in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw this week, sets a two-year deadline for the repatriation of the Rohingya.

Guterres, who served as UN high commissioner for refugees for 10 years, said the UN refugee agency was consulted about the agreement but is not a party to the deal as is usually the case for such repatriation plans.

The deal applies to approximately 750,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh following two army crackdowns in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state in October 2016 and August last year.

Guterres said it was essential that the returns be voluntary and that the Rohingya are allowed to return to their original homes - not to camps.

"The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar," said Guterres who spoke to journalists after presenting his priorities for 2018 to the General Assembly.

UN member-states in December adopted a resolution condemning the violence in Rakhine state and requesting that Guterres appoint a special envoy for Myanmar.

The UN chief said he expects to make that appointment soon.

More than 650,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled the mainly Buddhist country since the military operation was launched in Rakhine state in late August.

Myanmar authorities insist the campaign is aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25 but the United Nations has said the violence amounts to ethnic cleansing.

By Tarek Mahmud
January 18, 2018

The Press Information Department of Chittagong confirmed the numbers in a press release

A total 1,010,714 Rohingyas have registered their biometric data with the Bangladeshi government since September 12, 2017.

The Press Information Department of Chittagong confirmed the numbers in a press release adding that the numbers were collected from 12 Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas.

According to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), the last count of Rohingya refugees till Wednesday was 673,430.

“This kind of registration will help in the repatriation process of the displaced Rohingyas,” said Department of Immigration and Passport’s Director General Major General Md Masud Rezwan.

“About 12,000 to 13,000 Rohingya are being registered every day at seven biometric registration centres in Ukhiya and Teknaf. If this pace continues then we will be able to register all the Rohingyas in a month,” he added.

DIP’s Technical Engineer Squadron Leader Md Arefin Ahmed said this biometric database will also help in the relief distribution process, adding that they have registered all 10 fingerprints.

“This will also ensure that the Rohingyas will not be able to assume Bangladeshi identities and apply for NIDs, passports or make a bank account,” he said.

Rajib Chowdhury, deputy general manager of Tiger IT, the company that is providing technical support in the project said not only will biometric registration help in the repatriation process but by following Germany’s example of registering Syrian refugees, we will also be able to locate the Rohingyas’ movement all over Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees line up for daily essentials distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Zeba Siddiqui
January 18, 2017

TEKNAF, Bangladesh -- More than 100 Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar since Wednesday, with the latest refugees saying army operations are continuing in troubled Rakhine State, raising doubts about plans to send back 655,500 who had already fled.

Scores more were waiting to cross the Naf river that forms the border, even as Dhaka prepares to start repatriating next week some of the Rohingya who have escaped from what the Myanmar military calls counter-insurgency operations since late August. 

Bangladesh and Myanmar said on Tuesday they had agreed to complete the return of the refugees within two years, with the process due to begin on Jan. 23. 

The United Nations has described the Myanmar military operations in the northern part of Rakhine, launched in response to attacks by militants on police and soldiers on Aug. 25, as a classic case of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. 

One boat crossed the Naf river carrying 53 people early Wednesday, and another boat arrived from the Bay of Bengal with 60 people Thursday morning, according to a Bangladeshi intelligence official in Dhaka, and aid officials at the sprawling Rohingya camp in Kutupalong, near Cox’s Bazar. 

Those waiting on the Myanmar side to cross were stuck there because they did not have enough money to pay the boatmen, the recent arrivals said. They said they paid between 30,000 and 40,000 kyat (£14.4-21.6) a person for the night-time trips on rickety boats to Teknaf, in the southernmost part of Bangladesh. 

Most of the recent arrivals said they came from Sein Yin Pyin village in Buthidaung district, and escaped because they feared they would be picked up by the military if they left their homes to go to work. 


Mohammad Ismail, 48, and four others said two weeks ago they saw a dead body hanging by a rope in a forest where Ismail used to collect wood to sell at the market. 

“After this I never went to the forest again, and all my money was gone, so my family had nothing to eat for three days,” said Ismail. 

Myanmar Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe, spokesman for the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry, said “there’s no clearance operation going on in the villages”. But, he added, “security forces are still trying to take control of the area” in northern Rakhine. He declined to elaborate. 

Government spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to requests for comment. 

Myanmar’s military said in October that it was withdrawing soldiers from western Rakhine state. 

Villagers from Sein Yin Pyin said a group of soldiers caught around 200 of them sleeping in the forest on their journey to Bangladesh and looted them of their belongings, including rice, phones, solar chargers and money. 

They were stopped again later that day at a beach in Dongkhali village, where around 20 soldiers recorded video of them on their smartphones, while questioning the group and urging them to stay. 

“Why are you leaving? You are safe here, don’t go. We will give you a car, go back to your village. If you leave, you will not be able to come back again,” Arif Ullah, 20, said the soldiers told the group. 

More than two dozen refugees that Reuters interviewed recounted a similar version of events. 

“First their men looted us, and then they stopped us again to ask why we were leaving,” said Umme Habiba, 15. “We left because we were scared.” 

Fayazur Rahman, a 33-year-old labourer from southern Buthidaung, said 12 soldiers barged into his home two weeks ago and sexually assaulted his 18-year-old sister. “Day by day, things were getting worse,” he said. 

Reuters could not independently confirm the accounts the new arrivals gave. Myanmar has denied most allegations of abuses levelled against its security forces during the operations in Rakhine. 


In Dhaka, a senior foreign ministry official told Reuters that the deadline of next Tuesday for starting the Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar “may not be possible”. 

“The return has to be voluntary, safe and dignified,” said the official, who was part of a 14-member team at talks with Myanmar this week about the repatriation. 

He said Myanmar would take back 1,500 Rohingya a week, “although our demand was 15,000 per week”, adding the number could be ramped up over the next few months. 

They would sheltered in a temporary transit camp in Myanmar before being moved to “houses as per their choices”. 

“They (Myanmar) will create all kind of provisions including for their livelihood. We want to make sure there’s a sustainable solution to the crisis,” the official said. 

Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui; Additional reporting by Shoon Naing in Yangon and Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Alex Richardson

Rakhine State residents protest after a local gathering in Mrauk U celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent and many were killed and injured, in Sittwe, Myanmar January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

January 17, 2018

YANGON -- Myanmar police shot dead seven demonstrators, while 12 were injured in troubled Rakhine State, after a local gathering celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent.

The demonstrators gathered late on Tuesday in Mrauk U township in the northern part of Rakhine to mark the end of the Arakan kingdom, the secretary of the Rakhine state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters. 

The violent demonstration underscores the challenges facing Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a country where dozens of ethnic groups have been clamoring for autonomy since independence from Britain in 1947. 

Some 4,000 people surrounded a government building after the annual ceremony marking the demise of the Arakan kingdom over 200 years ago, Tin Maung Swe said. Organizers did not seek approval from local authorities for the gathering, he said. 

“The police used rubber bullets initially but the crowd didn’t leave. Finally the security members had to shoot. The conflict happened when some people tried to seize guns from the police,” he said. 

Tun Ther Sein, regional MP from Mrauk U, said some of the critically injured protesters were taken to the state capital of Sittwe, a three-hour drive south of the ancient town studded with Buddhist temples. 

The United Nations in Myanmar called on authorities to “investigate any disproportionate use of force or other illegal actions that may have occurred in relation to this incident”. 

“We urge respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and call for the security forces and demonstrators to act with restraint and to avoid further violence,” the agency wrote in a statement. 

The U.S. embassy in a statement expressed “deep concern for all innocent people affected by the violence” and hoped “reason and restraint will prevail.” 

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to requests for comment. 

The Rakhine, also known as Arakanese, are one of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar. Their identity is closely connected to the once powerful Arakanese kingdom along the Bay of Bengal, which was conquered by the Burmese kingdom in 1784. The kingdom was once an important stop on the old silk trade route. 

Tensions in Rakhine have risen since a sweeping Myanmar army operation in August inflamed communal tension and triggered an exodus of over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh. 

“Very sad to hear reports of civilian casualties in Mrauk U...Rakhine urgently needs non-violent rule of law,” Kristian Schmidt, the European Union’s Ambassador to Myanmar, said on Twitter. 

Reporting By Yimou Lee, Shoon Naing and Thu Thu Aung; Editing by Bill Tarrant

Myanmar’s new deputy information minister Aung Hla Tun. Photo: Facebook

By Jacob Goldberg
January 17, 2018

Veteran journalist and media critic Aung Hla Tun was appointed as Myanmar’s deputy minister for information on Monday. The Rakhine State native has built a reputation recently as a guardian of Myanmar’s public image, but his selective adherence to media ethics has been a source of anxiety among critics of the country’s military.

Aung Hla Tun worked as a reporter and editor for the UK-based Reuters news agency until 2015, when he took up the post of vice-chair of the Myanmar Press Council – a body that became independent from the Ministry of Information in 2013, ostensibly in order to advocate more effectively for journalistic freedom.

As vice-chair, Aung Hla Tun made it his mission to defend Myanmar’s government and military from accusations of abuses by foreign media outlets.

“The greatest responsibility of media today in Myanmar is safeguarding our national image, which has been badly tarnished by some unethical international media reports,” he said at the Forum on Myanmar’s Democratic Transition in August. “The international media often tends to sensationalize their reports and practice agenda-setting when covering sensitive issues for various reasons.”

His dogged protectiveness of the government’s reputation appears to have made him a fitting candidate for the second-highest position in a ministry that works to encourage local media to conform to the official government line.

However, Aung Hla Tun’s pro-government activism has strayed beyond just speaking up in support of government policies. On a few infamous occasions, he has failed to act as a friend to journalists.

In late November, he criticized AP reporter Esther Htusan for misquoting State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in an article titled “Suu Kyi blames world conflicts partly on illegal immigration.” After a transcript of the state counsellor’s speech was later released, Htusan corrected the article and changed the headline to reflect Suu Kyi’s actual statement.

Even after the correction, Aung Hla Tun said Htusan was guilty of a “purposeful ‘misinterpretation’ with an ulterior motive to hurt [Aung San Suu Kyi’s] image and that of our country among the international [community].”

Under Aung Hla Tun’s leadership, the Myanmar Press Council failed to release a statement in support of three journalists and their driver who were arrested for allegedly importing and flying drone near the parliament compound in Naypyidaw. One of the journalists – Aung Naing Soe – was known for his reporting on the plight of Muslims, including the Rohingya, during Myanmar’s political transition. The council also refused to help mediate Aung Naing Soe’s case with the government, though that is its primary mandate.

While the council did release a statement in support of the two Reuters reporters who were arrested last month for investigating a military massacre of Rohingya men in northern Rakhine State, its members were publicly criticized for taking a week to do so.

Aside from journalists, fears about Aung Hla Tun’s appointment are most acutely felt by those who advocate for the rights of the Rohingya, whose persecution at the hands of the Myanmar government and military the new deputy minister has sought to suppress.

Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin, told Coconuts Yangon: “Just before his appointment, [Aung Hla Tun] claimed that international news agencies don’t pay reporters who use the term ‘Bengali’ (a pejorative word used against the Rohingya). This is a good example of him misguiding journalists in Myanmar.”

He went on: “Using the term ‘Rohingya’ is a matter of respecting human rights. As he is seriously violating human rights [by suppressing the use of the term], the future of state media will be worse than before. He will promote racism officially for sure.”

Burma Human Rights Network director Kyaw Win said: “The appointment of Aung Hla Tun as deputy information minister proves that Burma’s skin-deep political reform is taking another U-turn. His [tacit] support for the arrest of the two Reuters journalists, despite having worked for Reuters himself, proves that this appointment is a serious threat to media freedom in Burma.

“The NLD government that appointed Aung Hla Tun is becoming more intolerant of freedom of speech and media freedom. It is sad to see that they are betraying the principle of democracy they once stood for.”

Rohingya Exodus