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Rohingya refugee children fly improvised kites at the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Dec. 10, 2017. (Photo: Damir Sagolj / Reuters)

April 26, 2018

The interviewers in the camps asked the refugees to recount their experiences during the wave of violence unleashed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

WASHINGTON/COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — The U.S. government is conducting an intensive examination of alleged atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, documenting accusations of murder, rape, beatings and other possible offenses in an investigation that could be used to prosecute Myanmar’s military for crimes against humanity, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The undertaking, led by the State Department, has involved more than a thousand interviews of Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled after a military crackdown last year in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine State, two U.S. officials said. The work is modeled on a U.S. forensic investigation of mass atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2004, which led to a U.S. declaration of genocide that culminated in economic sanctions against the Sudanese government.

The interviews were conducted in March and April by about 20 investigators with backgrounds in international law and criminal justice, including some who worked on tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the U.S. officials said.

The information will be analyzed in Washington and documented in a report to be sent to the State Department’s leadership in May or early June, the officials said. It’s unclear whether the Trump administration will publicly release the findings, or whether they will be used to justify new sanctions on the Myanmar government or a recommendation for international prosecution.

“The purpose of this investigation is to contribute to justice processes, including community awareness raising, international advocacy efforts, and community-based reconciliation efforts, as well as possible investigations, truth-seeking efforts, or other efforts for justice and accountability,” said a document used by the investigators in the sprawling refugee camps and reviewed by Reuters.

Three U.S. officials in Washington and several people involved in the investigation on the ground in Bangladesh disclosed details of the fact-finding operation to Reuters.

A State Department official, asked to confirm the specifics of the investigation conducted in the refugee camps as reported by Reuters, said “the program details are accurate.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government was using all available information and a wide range of tools, but added: “We cannot get ahead of the deliberative, policymaking process.”

As of publication, the Myanmar government and military had not responded to questions from Reuters. Myanmar has said its operations in Rakhine were a legitimate response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents.

The interviewers in the camps asked the refugees basic demographic questions, the date the person left Myanmar, and to recount their experiences during the wave of violence unleashed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State by the Myanmar military and local Buddhist residents.

The investigators also asked refugees to describe the battalions and weaponry used by the Myanmar military in Rakhine State during operations against the Rohingya, said one person involved with the investigation in the camps, which are located in the Cox’s Bazar district in southern Bangladesh. The investigators have received names of individual perpetrators and the identities of specific battalions allegedly involved, this person said.

A second person involved in the project on the ground said 1,025 refugees have been interviewed and the assignment may include a second phase focused on military units.

Zohra Khatun, 35, a Rohingya refugee in the camps, said she told investigators that soldiers waged a campaign of violence and harassment in her village in Rakhine State starting last August. They made arrests and shot several people, driving her and others to flee, she said.

“One military officer grabbed me by the throat and tried to take me,” she told Reuters, clutching her shirt collar to demonstrate. The military, she said, burned homes in the village, including hers.

The investigation coincides with a debate inside the U.S. government and on Capitol Hill over whether the Trump administration has done enough to hold Myanmar’s military to account for brutal violence against the largely stateless Rohingya.

The Rohingya are a small Muslim minority in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Though they have been present in what’s now Myanmar for generations, many Burmese consider them to be interlopers. Violence against them has increased in recent years as the country has made a partial shift to democratic governance.

In November, following the lead of the United Nations and the European Union, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the Rohingya crisis constituted “ethnic cleansing,” a designation that raised the possibility of additional sanctions against Myanmar’s military commanders and increased pressure on its civilian leader, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The Myanmar government has denied the accusations.

The United States responded in December by imposing targeted sanctions on one Myanmar general and threatening to penalize others. Washington has also scaled back already-limited military ties with Myanmar since the Rohingya crisis began. Human rights groups and Democratic lawmakers in Washington have urged the Republican White House to widen sanctions and designate the violence as “crimes against humanity,” a legal term that can set the stage for charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“No decisions have been made on that front, but it’s something being looked at very carefully,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters.

A Reuters investigation published in February provided the first independent confirmation of what had taken place in the village of Inn Din, where 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys were hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers or shot by security force members. The story was based on accounts not only from Rohingya refugees but also from soldiers, police officers and Buddhist locals who admitted to participating in the bloodshed.

Pictures obtained by Reuters showed the men and boys with their hands tied behind their backs and their bodies in a shallow grave. Two Reuters journalists were jailed while reporting the story and remain in prison in Yangon, where they face up to 14 years in jail on possible charges of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act.

So far, there has been resistance by lawyers in the White House and State Department to adopt the terms “crimes against humanity” or “genocide” in describing deaths of Rohingya in Myanmar, the U.S. officials said.

The State Department itself has been divided over how to characterize or interpret the violence against the Rohingya, the officials said.

The East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, staffed largely by career diplomats and representing the view of the embassy in Myanmar, has held at times “to a success narrative” on Myanmar since the lifting of sanctions was announced in October 2016 and the strong public role played by the U.S. government in the historic 2012 opening of the country after decades of military rule, one official said.

Diplomats in Yangon have also been reluctant to jeopardize Washington’s relationship with Suu Kyi, a democratic icon who has faced criticism for failing to do more to rein in the violence against the Rohingya. Some senior U.S. officials still believe Suu Kyi remains the best hope for a more democratic Myanmar, one official said. “They are reluctant to upset that relationship.”

That contrasts with the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, based in Washington, which has pushed for tougher sanctions, the officials said. Bridging that gap has been made more difficult because the State Department under President Donald Trump has yet to fill many important diplomatic positions, the officials said.

Officials described the process in the refugee camps of documenting the abuses as rigorous. Each interview was coded with key words according to the alleged crime, such as killing, rape, sexual violence and lynching. Different categories of alleged perpetrator also have codes — from civilians to insurgents, Myanmar military personnel and police.

“After the 1,000 interviews and statistical analysis, we can draw certain conclusions about the perpetrators of crime and patterns of crime,” one official said.

The official said one possible result from the documentation of abuses against the Rohingya could be a vote by the United Nations General Assembly to establish an international body to investigate the most serious crimes committed against the Rohingya, similar to what it’s done with Syria.

The State Department did not respond to questions about divisions within the administration over how to characterize the violence and criticism that the administration was too slow in acting to halt abuses.

Subiya Khatun, 29, who fled her Rakhine home in September and reported seeing three dead bodies in a canal on her way to the Bangladesh border, said she hoped for justice and a safe return to Myanmar.

“They said they have come from America. ‘This investigation will be used for your help,’” she said she was told by the people who interviewed her in the camps. “If Allah wishes, we will get justice and our demands will be fulfilled.”

Ethnic Rohingya women rest at a temporary shelter in Bireuen, Aceh province, Indonesia, April 20, 2018. Indonesian fishermen rescued dozens of Rohingya Muslims from a boat stranded off Aceh province on Friday, police said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea.

By Associated Press
April 21, 2018

BIREUEN, INDONESIA — A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia. 

The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.

An ethnic-Rohingya man, center, is assisted by a paramedic after a group of Rohingya Muslims was brought ashore in Bireuen, Aceh province, Indonesia, April 20, 2018.

Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August. 

The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, Fariq said. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels. 

'We could not stay'

“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance. 

Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm. 

Third attempt in April

In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died. 

Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore. 

Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs. 

“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”

RB News
April 19, 2018

Banda Aceh/ Sittwe-- 10 Rohingya people are feared dead as they have been missing since they jumped off the boat, near the coast of southern Myanmar, which later reached to Aceh province of Indonesia on April 6.

A small boat with 15 people on board left from 'Ohn Taw Gyi (Barizaa Fara) in Sittwe (Akyab) beach between 26th and 27th March. After travelling for 3 days, they got near the coast of ‘Kau Thaung’ Township in Southern Myanmar, where they were stopped and detained by the Myanmar navy.

As the Myanmar navy began to torture them, 10 people jumped off the boat and have been missing since then.

"We were total 15 people on the boat. Since Myanmar navy began torturing us, 10 people couldn't suffer anymore and jumped off the boat. Since then, we have no information about their whereabouts," said a Rohingya boat man survived after rescued by Indonesian fishermen off the coast of Aceh.

“After torturing us for a few days, the Myanmar navy set us adrift to the sea from where we arrived here,” the man added.

When contacted, the relatives of the missing people said that they didn't information about their whereabouts either.

Another boat that left from Akyab (Sittwe) between 11th and 12th April should get to Malaysia anytime soon.

The Rohingya people have been fleeing from Myanmar to escape from Genocidal violence -- that have been carried out by the country’s military and security forces for decades and reached to their peaks in years of 2012, 2016 and 2017 -- to Bangladesh, Malaysia and India among others.

[Reported by Myo Naing and Saeed Arakani; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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RB News
April 18, 2018

Yangon, Myanmar -- Myanmar's Presidential Spokesperson, Zaw Htay, has denied 'the report of the release of 7 military personnel jailed for Inn Din [Aan Daang] Rohingya massacre' to AFP News, while many political and human rights observers are skeptical about his denial.

MNTV, a Myanmar News TV Channel owned by Sky Net Media Group, broadcasted about the release of 97 Prisoners including the 7 jailed soldiers from Sittwe (Akyab) Prison under Presidential Amnesty.

Minutes after that, the news has gone viral on social media and Zaw Htay in a prompt interview with AFP claimed that the release of the 7 soldiers is false. Further on Facebook, he rubbished the MNTV Report as 'Fake News.'

The MNTV, on its part, has quickly removed the video from its Facebook page and later claimed that the news is untrue.

CNB (Central News Bureau) in a statement later said "in the report '97 Prisoners Released from Sittwe Prison under Amnesty' we produced based our ground report sent by Sittwe Bureau, it has mentioned that the released prisoners include the 7 soldiers jailed regarding Inn Din case, MyaTanSaung Abbot and Political Prisoner Khaing Ni Min.

"However, according to our latest reports, we have learnt that the 7 soldiers jailed under Inn Din case were not released. Therefore, we respectfully state that we have wrongfully mentioned the said fact in the report."

However, political observers and human rights activists are highly skeptical about Zaw Htay's denial of the report of the release of the 7 jailed military men.

"MNTV has also claimed that there were total 97 prisoners released. We have the list of 87 people. Where are other 10?

"Besides, Zaw Htay has a strong history of lying. Therefore, we are highly skeptical about his denial of the release of the soldiers. He could be lying again considering the seriousness of the charges against the soldiers," a political and human rights observer based in Yangon requesting not to be named.

Some activists also demand a proper investigation by the concerned international bodies into the incident.

U Maung Khin, an activist also based in Yangon, said "CNB did a live recording of the event. They have verified the report. And only after that, MNTV has broadcasted it perhaps it didn't know seriousness of the case. Later, when it has gone viral and created uproar on Social Media, Zaw Htay took his action, which is blanket denial of everything as usual.

"The home ministry and police are under the military control. So are the media. Whether they keep someone inside or outside the prison, nobody knows. They can manipulate anything. So, it demands a high level international investigation."

The 7 military personnel along with Rakhine Buddhist militia massacred 10 Rohingya villagers and buried them in a mass-grave in Inn Din in Southern Maungdaw on September 2 last year in one of many such brutal massacres of Rohingya in Arakan state in the year. When Reuters exposed the gruesome massacre of the people, Myanmar came under international pressure, which has forced the government to sentence the 7 military men to 10 years in jail.

[Report by Aung Ko Ko; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Fanny Potkin 
April 17, 2018

LONDON -- Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday more international pressure was needed on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees, rejecting claims by the Myanmar government the repatriation process had already started.

“The international community needs to put more pressure on Myanmar so that they take back their own people and ensure their security,” she told an audience in London. 

“Myanmar says they are ready to take back the Rohingya, but they are not taking the initiative.” 

U.N. officials say nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape a military crackdown since August last year, amid reports of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes in actions which the United Nations has likened to “ethnic cleansing”. 

Myanmar has denied nearly all allegations, saying it has been waging a legitimate counter-insurgency operation. 

Hasina said Bangladesh had submitted the names of 8,000 Rohingya families for repatriation to Myanmar, but that Myanmar had so far refused to take them back.

She disputed a claim by Myanmar that it had repatriated five members of a Rohingya family from Bangladesh, describing them as having been living in the no man’s land between the two countries. 

“Maybe (Myanmar) wants to show the world they are taking them back. It’s a good sign. If they want, then why only one family? We have already submitted the names of 8,000 (Rohingya) families, but they’ve not taken them back,” she said. 

In a statement on Saturday, Myanmar said it had repatriated the first Rohingya family from among refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. It said a family of five had returned to one of its reception centers in Rakhine state. 

The Bangladeshi government and the U.N. refugee agency told Reuters neither had any involvement in the repatriation. 

Hasina also confirmed a plan to move 100,000 Rohingya refugees to a uninhabited low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal and dismissed fears this would be put them at risk of floods. 

“Bangladesh can always be flooding and it does. The camps are very unhealthy. We have prepared a better place for them to live, with houses and shelters where they can earn a living. Where they are living now, the monsoon season is coming up, there can be land erosions, accidents are taking place.” 

However, aid agencies are fearful of the relocation plan and believe it would expose Rohingya refugees to cyclones, floods and human traffickers. 

Reporting by Fanny Potkin; editing by Stephen Addison and Mark Heinrich

Razia Sultana, human rights activist and lawyer, addresses the Security Council's open debate on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

April 17, 2018

The United Nations Security Council has failed to prevent the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the 15-member body must refer sexual violence and other crimes against the ethnic group to the world’s top criminal court, a Rohingya lawyer said on Monday.

“Where I come from, women and girls have been gang-raped, tortured and killed by the Myanmar Army, for no other reason than for being Rohingya,” Razia Sultana said on behalf of non-governmental organizations during a Security Council open debate on preventing sexual violence in conflict.

The debate, addressed by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, was held as the Council prepares for a visit later this month to Myanmar and its neighbor Bangladesh, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Ms. Sultana urged the Council members to meet with women and girl survivors during the trip.

Since August last year, more than 670,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar. “This is the fastest refugee movement since the Rwanda genocide,” Ms. Sultana said.

“However, the international community, especially the Security Council, has failed us. This latest crisis should have been prevented if the warning signs since 2012 had not been ignored,” she added.

Ms. Sultana said that her own research and interviews provide evidence that Government troops raped well over 300 women and girls in 17 villages in Rakhine state. With over 350 villages attacked and burned since August 2017, this number is likely only a fraction of the actual total.

“Girls as young as six were gang-raped,” she said.

This year’s UN Secretary-General’s report on sexual violence in conflict lists the Myanmar military for the first time.

She said the Council must refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court without delay.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addresses the Security Council's open debate on women, peace and security. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the Council that: “This year, in Myanmar and many other conflict situations, the widespread threat and use of sexual violence has, once again, been used as a tactic to advance military, economic and ideological objectives.”

“And, once again, it has been a driver of massive forced displacement,” she added. “Let us intensify our efforts to end the horrific litany of sexual violence in conflict so that women, girls, men and boys have one less burden to bear as they work to rebuild shattered lives.”

A decade ago, the Council adopted the groundbreaking resolution 1820, which elevated the issue of conflict-related sexual violence onto its agenda, as a threat to security and impediment to peace.

It seeks to “debunk the myths that fuel sexual violence,” and rejects the notion of rape as an “inevitable byproduct of war” or mere “collateral damage.” Since then, the issue has been systematically included peacekeeping missions.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addresses the Security Council's open debate on women, peace and security. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

But “it is clear that words on paper are not yet matched by facts on the ground. We have not yet moved from resolutions to lasting solutions,” said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Stigma and victim-blame give the weapon of rape its uniquely destructive power, including the power to shred the social fabric, and turn victims into outcasts. It is also the reason that sexual violence remains one of the least-reported of all crimes.

“It is a travesty and an outrage that not a single member of ISIL or Boko Haram has yet been convicted for sexual violence as an international crime,” she said.

As recommendations, she called on the international community to establish a reparations fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, while stressing the need for a more operational response to stigma alleviation, as well as the need to marshal sustained funding for the gender-based response.

A concept note circulated in advance of this meeting asked delegates to share national experiences regarding specific measures taken to prevent conflict-related sexual violence, particularly long-term initiatives focused on women’s empowerment, advancing gender equality, and ensuring that perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to justice.

The note also posed several other discussion questions, including one about how the Council – when establishing and renewing the mandates of UN peacekeeping and political missions, as well as relevant sanctions regimes – can more effectively promote gender equality, the empowerment of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, and accountability for sexual violence crimes.

Aftar and his family members posing with the Verification Cards issued to them aftr they returned to Myanmar
- Collected

By Tarek Mahmud
April 16, 2018

On April 14, Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) on its official Facebook page claimed that a Muslim (Rohingya) family of five had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh

Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had been staying at the residence of a local public representative at Tambru village under Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari upazila.

After speaking with the locals and the Rohingyas staying at the no man’s land, the Dhaka Tribune learned that Aftar had rented a house of Tambru Union Parishad Member Fatema Begum, after entering Bangladesh. The family did not stay at the camps or the no man’s land after entering Bangladesh.

According to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Aftar was staying at the no man’s land in Tambru, which does not fall under Bangladesh’s jurisdiction, before going to Myanmar. However, BGB officials did not make any comment regarding the return of Aftar to Myanmar.

On April 14, Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) on its official Facebook page claimed that a Muslim (Rohingya) family of five had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

The post said the family was received at “Taungpyo Latwei” Entry (Receiving) Point and National Verification Cards (NVCs) were issued to them. The Facebook post also included 17 pictures.

The Rohingyas living in Tambru’s no man’s land claimed that Aftar, his wife Sajeda Begum, daughter Tahera, son Tarek Aziz and domestic help Shawkat Ara left Bangladesh on Saturday.

UP member Fatema Begum told the Dhaka Tribune: “I gave shelter to Aftar and his family on humanitarian grounds. He stayed here for about four months.

“Recently, his movements had become suspicious, so I asked him to leave the house.”

“Later, I heard that he took shelter in the no man’s land,” she said expressing her regret for giving shelter to the family.

The reported “repatriation” of Aftar and his family come a few days after Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye visited a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar.

During the visit, Win announced that Myanmar was ready for the repatriation of Rohingyas who had entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

‘Aftar worked for Myanmar govt’

Several Rohingya leaders, who have been living in no man’s land in Tambru and its surrounding areas, told the Dhaka Tribune that Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had worked for Myanmar government as an informant.

Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya leader who is living at Tambru’s no man’s land along with 5,000 other Rohingyas, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The Myanmar government had directed Aftar and his family to come to Bangladesh.”

“Here [Bangladesh], they stayed in a house which is located near the no man’s land between Myanmar and Bangladesh border. His stay in Bangladesh was hidden until his so-called repatriation to Myanmar.”

“He worked as a spy for the Myanmar government and tried to persuade thousands of Rohingya refugees to go back to Rakhine saying that the situation had gained normalcy,” Dil Mohammad said.

Another Rohingya leader, Mohammad Arif said: “When he failed to persuade the Rohingyas, he went back and then the Myanmar authorities portrayed it as the return of refugees from Bangladesh.

“This is a deception.”

Aftar Alam was the administrator of Taungpyo Latya village where he resided with his family.

“Almost all the Rohingya villages were burnt down in Taungpyo Latya but Aftar’s house was not because he is a government informant and sycophant,” wishing anonymity, a Rohingya refugee staying at the no man’s land told the Dhaka Tribune.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017. They joined about 400,000 others who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Many Rohingyas have expressed fear of returning to a country where they saw their relatives being murdered by soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes.

Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed many of the burned villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say Myanmar is erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya’s ties to the country.

The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told the Dhaka Tribune: “The family had been living in a camp at no man’s land between the two countries. They were not under our jurisdiction.

“They went back from the no man’s land, so this cannot be called repatriation.”

Germany-based Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin told the Dhaka Tribune: “Myanmar’s government did not mention in their report that the Rohingya man is currently the administrator of Taungpyo Letya village. He and his family did not flee to Bangladesh.”

Nay San Lwin said: “The Myanmar government’s informant Aftar went back after failing in his mission of persuading other Rohingyas to go back. He returned to his homeland where he was convinced to pose at the event of the so-called first repatriation of the Rohingyas.

“It is a fake repatriation. Rohingyas in Bangladesh will go back if their homeland is safe for them. We are demanding protected return of the Rohingyas,” the activist, also a contributor to the Rohingya community’s blog page Rohingya Blogger, said.

Quoting sources in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the blogger said: “We were shocked to hear that anybody would return amidst the volatile conditions here [Myanmar].

“Many people are still fleeing.”

‘It is a staged repartition’

The United Kingdom-based Burmese Rohingya Organization’s President Tun Khin said: “The Myanmar government has staged a fake event about the repatriation ahead of the visit of the UN Security Council members to northern Rakhine state.”

Officials from the United Nations Security Council are set to visit the northern Rakhine state later this month. This is the first visit of United Nations Security Council members to the state since the violence against the Rohingya began in 2012.

The Myanmar security forces in the recent times have repeatedly threatened and attempted to lure the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar and live in the (concentration) camps built for them in the country.

On November 23, 2017 Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees from January this year, but this process stalled over technical and ground-level complexities.

Rohingya Refugee Camps in New Dehli burnt down to ashes displacing 226 refugees [Photo: Maung A. Khan]

RB News
April 16, 208

New Dehli, India -- A leader of the youth-wing of the India’s ruling far-right Hindu party, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), has claimed that they have set fire on the Rohingya refugee camps in New Dehli on Sunday (Apr 15) early morning.

The fire broke out in the Rohingya refugee camps at ‘Kalindi Kunj’ at around 3:30am and destroyed all the 56 camps in the area where around 226 refugees used to live.

"The fire started at 3:15am and it quickly spread all over the camps within an hour just like somebody had thrown petrol on the camps beforehand. Fire brigades arrived and kept extinguishing fire till 7am. We couldn't save any of our belongings and everything was burnt down.

“Now, the Police have given us protections and relocated us to a nearby area. And NGOs are helping us with the basic stuffs,” said a refugee displaced by the fire.

Amidst the Police investigations to find out the cause behind the fire, Manish Chandela, leader of the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth-wing of the ruling party BJP, has PROUDLY claimed on twitter that he and his group have set the fire on the Rohingya refugee camps on fire.

After the calls made by the social and human rights activists to the Police to arrest and investigate him, he later deleted the tweet. However, one more tweet claiming ‘Yes, we did. We do again’ with the hash-tag #ROHINGYAQUITINDIA can still be found on his twitter timeline.

The rise of BJP and Narendra Modi coming into power have emboldened Hindu extremist increasing violence all over the country and the Rohingya refugees have become targeted by the extremist groups across various states including Jammu and Delhi.

[Reported by S. Chandra; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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The family [of the village administrator] that Myanmar claimed to have returned from Bangladesh. [Photo: Facebook MOI]

RB News
April 15, 2018

Maungdaw, Arakan State – The Myanmar Government has staged a fake event in relation to the Rohingya repatriation from Bangladesh ahead of the visit by the UN Security Council members to northern Arakan state, Myanmar, where Genocide has been taking place.

On Saturday (Apr 14), the Facebook page of Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) claimed that a (Rohingya) Muslim family of five that had fled to Bangladesh returned to Myanmar. And they were received at ‘Taung Pyo Latwei’ Entry (Receiving) Point and *NV Cards were issued to them.

Later, our investigation has found that this family of five was NOT a Rohingya refugee family returning from Bangladesh but were the administrator of ‘Taung Pyo Latya’ village, Aftar Alam s/o Mv Rashid, and his family.

“We were shocked to hear anybody would return here amidst volatile condition here. Many people are still fleeing. So, we investigated who the exactly returnees were and found out that they are the family of the administrator of ‘Taung Pyo Latya’ village. Almost all the Rohingya villages were burnt down in Taung Pyo but his house wasn’t because he’s a government’s informant and sycophant,” said a source close to his relatives.

The source further added “upon the direction by the government, he along with a few family members of his has left for Bangladesh and stayed at a Bangladeshi house which is just a small creek across to ‘No Man’s Land’ [between Myanmar and Bangladesh Border]. His main purpose was to work as an informant for the Myanmar Gov’t and persuade thousands of Rohingya refugees are taking shelter there. When failed to persuade anyone to return, they themselves came back as returnees. And the authorities portrayed them to be (refugee) returnees from Bangladesh. This is a DECEPTION.”

The move by the Myanmar authorities to stage the fake event came in the backdrop of the recent visit by the Myanmar Social Welfare Minister, Win Myat Aye, and is apparently aimed to lure the Rohingya Genocide Survivors in Bangladesh who are not returning because of the high risks to their lives and the fear that they will be forced to live in Auschwitz-style concentration camps, which Myanmar calls temporary rehabilitation camps, permanently. The Myanmar Security Forces have several times threatened and attempted to lure the Rohingya survivors to return to Myanmar in the recent months and live in the (concentration) camps built for them in the country.

The Officials from the United Nations Security Council are also set to visit the later this month for the first time after years of violence against Rohingya since 2012.

Auschwitz-style concentration camps in northern Maungdaw, which Myanmar calls temporary rehabilitation camps [Photo: Thein Zaw/AP] 

*NV Card = National Verification Card is issued to a foreigner for verification while he/she is applying for citizenship in Myanmar. Rohingya rejects this because they are not foreigners that need to go through this process but their citizenship needs to be restored stripped off by the 1982 Citizenship Law of Burma coined by the late dictator Ne Win violating existing international norms to specifically the Rohingya ethnic minority.

[Reported by Sabit Hamid; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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Rohingya refugees walk across the Balukhali settlement in Bangladesh's Cox Bazar district. Since August 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh, joining over 200,000 already displaced over the past decades.

April 14, 2018

The United Nations refugee agency and the Government of Bangladesh on Friday signed a cooperation agreement on the safe, dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar, “once conditions there are conducive.”

Noting that such conditions are not present at the moment, the UN refugee agency urged Myanmar authorities to create them as well as to take concrete measures to address the root causes of displacement.

The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements,” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stressed.

The agency also noted that in the absence of a UNHCR-Myanmar-Bangladesh agreement, it has continued to engage with both Governments in negotiations on two separate memoranda of understanding (MOUs), meant to ensure that any future returns are conducted in line with the international standards.

More than 670,000 members of the Muslim minority Rohingya community fled violence in Myanmar since August 2017, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.

UNHCR/Susan Hopper
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Filippo Grandi (centre right) and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque (centre left) sign a MoU relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees.

According to UNHCR, the refugees have said that before considering return to Myanmar, they would need to see concrete progress in relation to their legal status and citizenship, security, and their ability to enjoy basic rights at home in Rakhine state.

UNHCR also urged the Myanmar Government to immediately provide full and unhindered access to refugees’ places of origin in Rakhine, which would enable it to assess the situation and provide information to refugees about conditions in the places of origin, as well as to monitor any possible future return and reintegration of refugees.

“Another practical measure would be to ease restrictions on movement for the internally displaced persons encamped in the central townships of Rakhine state, which would also help to build confidence among refugees in Bangladesh,” it added.

“Such concrete measures would help demonstrate to refugees that the Government of Myanmar is committed to a sustainable solution.”

António Guterres, right, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting, Friday, April 13, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. (Julie Jacobson/Associated Press)

By Edith M. Lederer 
April 14, 2018

UNITED NATIONS — A new U.N. report puts Myanmar’s armed forces on a U.N. blacklist of government and rebel groups “credibly suspected” of carrying out rapes and other acts of sexual violence in conflict for the first time.

An advance copy of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report to the Security Council, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, says international medical staff and others in Bangladesh have documented that many of the almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar “bear the physical and psychological scars of brutal sexual assault.”

The U.N. chief said the assaults were allegedly perpetrated by the Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, “at times acting in concert with local militias, in the course of military ‘clearance’ operations in October 2016 and August 2017.”

“The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorize and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return,” Guterres said.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar doesn’t recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country. It has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless.

The recent spasm of violence began when Rohingya insurgents launched a series of attacks last Aug. 25 on about 30 security outposts and other targets. Myanmar security forces then began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages that the U.N. and human rights groups have called a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

“Violence was visited upon women, including pregnant women, who are seen as custodians and propagators of ethnic identity, as well as on young children, who represent the future of the group,” Guterres said. “This can be linked to an inflammatory narrative alleging that high fertility rates among the Rohingya represent an existential threat to the majority population.”

The report, which will be a focus of a U.N. Security Council meeting Monday on preventing sexual violence in conflict, puts 51 government, rebel and extremist groups on the list.

They include 17 from Congo including the armed forces and national police, seven from Syria including the armed forces and intelligence services, six each from Central African Republic and South Sudan, five from Mali, four from Somalia, three from Sudan, one each from Iraq and Myanmar, and Boko Haram which operates in several countries.

“As a general trend,” Guterres said, “the rise or resurgence of conflict and violent extremism, with its ensuing proliferation of arms, mass displacement, and collapsed rule of law, triggers patterns of sexual violence.”

This was evident in many places in 2017 as insecurity spread to new regions in Central African Republic, violence surged in eastern and central Congo, conflict engulfed South Sudan, violence wracked Syria and Yemen, and “’ethnic cleansing’ in the guise of clearance operations unfolded in Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar,” he said.

Guterres said most victims are “politically and economically marginalized women and girls” concentrated in remote, rural areas with the least access to services that can help them, and in refugee camps and areas for the displaced.

The year 2017 “also saw sexual violence continue to be employed as a tactic of war, terrorism, torture and repression,” he said, citing conflicts in CAR, Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan as examples of “this alarming trend.”

Guterres said sexual violence continues to serve as a “push factor” for forced displacement in places such as Colombia, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Syria. And he said it remained “a heightened risk in transit, refugee and displacement settings.”

The secretary-general said the effects of sexual violence can impact generations as a result of trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy.

In South Sudan, for instance, Guterres said sexual violence is so prevalent that a Commission of Inquiry described women and girls as “collectively traumatized.” He said children born of this violence have been labeled “bad blood” or “children of the enemy” and warned that this vulnerability “may leave them susceptible to recruitment, radicalization and trafficking.”

Guterres said many women, including Rohingya refugees, are reluctant to return to locations they fled where forces including alleged perpetrators remain in control.

“Colombia is the only country in which children conceived through wartime rape are legally recognized as victims, though it has been difficult for them to access redress without being stigmatized,” he said.

The secretary-general lamented that “most incidents of mass rape continue to be met with mass impunity.”

For example, Guterres said, not a single member of the Islamic State extremist group or Boko Haram “has been prosecuted for sexual violence offenses to date.”

April 13, 2018

YANGON -- The government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi expressed “serious concern” on Friday over a move by the International Criminal Court prosecutor seeking jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh. 

Since August, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar, the United Nations and aid agencies have said. 

The refugees have reported killings, rape and arson on a large scale. The United States and the United Nations have described the situation as ethnic cleansing. 

Myanmar has denied nearly all allegations, saying it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation. The government has said the army crackdown was provoked by the attacks of Rohingya militants on more than two dozen police posts and an army base last August. 

In a filing made public on Monday, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court to rule whether it has jurisdiction over the alleged deportations. 

An affirmative decision could pave the way for her to investigate the alleged deportations as a possible crime against humanity. One reason for the question over jurisdiction is that, while Bangladesh is a member of the court, Myanmar is not. 

“The Government of Myanmar expresses serious concern on the news regarding the application by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor to claim jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Muslims from Rakhine to Bangladesh,” the administration said in a statement. 

In her application, Bensouda argued that, given the cross-border nature of the crime of deportation, a ruling in favour of ICC jurisdiction would be in line with established legal principles. 

“Nowhere in the ICC charter does it say the court has jurisdiction over states which have not accepted that jurisdiction. Furthermore, the 1969 UN Vienna Convention on International Treaties states that no treaty can be imposed on a country that has not ratified it,” the Myanmar government said in its statement. 

Bensouda was trying “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, in contrary to the principle enshrined in the UN charter and recalled in the ICC charter’s preamble,” it said. 

The ICC prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request on Friday seeking comment on the Myanmar government’s statement. 

The government also said in its statement it was working on repatriation of the Rohingya with Bangladesh and its minister had just visited refugee camps in Bangladesh. 

Bensouda’s request is the first of its kind filed at the court. She asked the ICC to call a hearing to hear her arguments, as well as those of other interested parties. 

The magistrate assigned to consider the request, Congolese judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, will determine how to proceed. 

Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Myanmar's social welfare, relief and resettlement minister Win Myat Aye speaks with Rohingya refugees as he visits Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 11, 2018. Quality from source. REUTERS/Stringer

By Serajul Quadir, Stephanie Nebehay
April 12, 2018

DHAKA/GENEVA -- The United Nations refugee agency is set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh laying out a framework for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, an agency spokesman said on Wednesday.

The MoU is aimed at establishing cooperation between the UN agency and Bangladesh “on the safe, voluntary, and dignified returns of refugees in line with international standards, if and when the conditions are conducive to returns,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic. 

Mahecic and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque said the MoU will be signed on Friday in Geneva. 

Another Bangladeshi official involved in the discussions said the MoU is likely to lay out that the UNHCR will vet all refugees being repatriated to ensure that the process is 100 percent voluntary. 

“The whole return process will be operated as per the UNHCR, so there will be no force put on the refugee to go back,” said the source. 

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown and crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August. The refugees are living in cramped camps at Cox’s Bazar, and Bangladesh is keen to urge the refugees to return home soon, especially with the oncoming monsoons expected to cause major devastation at the camps.

The official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss matters with the media, said the UNHCR is expected to run a few transit sites along the border that will house refugees before they are transferred to temporary resettlement shelters in Rakhine State. 

The official added that the U.N. body is expected to arrange sufficient funds to run the repatriation programme and that both the parties would conduct promotional activities urging people to return to Myanmar. 

A Myanmar minister told Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday that their repatriation was a priority, in the first visit by a top Myanmar official since last year’s exodus. 

The bilateral MoU would be an early step in the process; work on a deal involving Bangladesh, Myanmar and the UNHCR is ongoing. That tripartite deal would aim to provide guarantees around the resettlement and safety of those that agree to be repatriated, along with assurances that officials of the UNHCR will be allowed to regularly inspect these sites. 

Htin Lynn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told Reuters later on Wednesday that he was confident that his country could reach a deal with UNHCR by the end of April covering safe and voluntary repatriation. 

Writing by Euan Rocha; editing by Mike Collett-White

Rohingya Exodus