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October 31, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan – The Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) and the Myanmar Army have raided many villages in Maungdaw Township of Arakan State over the past month. They have arrested many innocent Rohingyas on the false accusation that they connected with rebel group which isn't in existence in Myanmar nor Bangladesh. 

At at 2pm on October 27, 17 innocent Rohingya arrestees appeared at the Maungdaw Township court. They were arbitrarily sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour. The court had accused them of violating Immigration act no. 13/1. An innocent Rohingya, Mufizurahman (a.k.a) Kyaw Myint s/o Basa Miah (Age 42) from Bandoola village argued to the court that he has never been to Bangladesh and that he had never seen that country. The judge dismissed his rebuttal and responded to him that they were arrested and sentenced for living in a border area. 

None of the innocent arrestees were allowed to hire a lawyer to defend themselves. Their family members were not allowed to appear at the court. The so-called plaintiffs, the BGP, couldn’t prove that their accusation was true. The arrestees were unjustly sentenced by the courts.

According to locals, another six innocent Rohingyas have been prosecuted with the same act. Their family members are worried as they will be sentenced the same as the previous 17 innocent Rohingyas. 

The authorities are keeping all of the arrestees away from their family members. None of them are able to meet with their love ones or allowed to hire a lawyer.

Rohingya Eye contributed in reporting.

File photo of US President Barack Obama (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

By Binny Mary Paul
October 30, 2014

As Burma prepares to welcome US President Barack Obama to Naypyidaw in November, human rights groups and activists have been urging Obama to press Burma’s government to improve the country’s socio-political environment.

US-based activist organization United to End Genocide (UEG), for example, is making extensive efforts to lobby the president to address the plight of the Rohingyas during his visit to Burma.

As part of its lobbying efforts, UEG has launched a campaign called #justsaytheirname, which is designed to encourage President Obama to address the Rohingya issue and thereby reaffirm their right to self-determination and self-identification.

The NGOs campaign is inspired by UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee’s recent decision to use the word “Rohingya” in her report on Burma’s human rights situation—defying pressure from the Burmese government, which prefers to use the term “Bengalis.”

Ms. Lee presented her report on Burma’s human rights situation in a speech to the UN General Assembly on 28 October. During the speech, she said: “I am acutely aware of the sensitivity around the use of the term ‘Rohingya’ that is not recognised by the [Burmese] government.”

Lee also pointed out that being forced to identify as “Bengali” was a violation of their basic rights: “I am concerned about the Rohingyas being required to identify themselves as ‘Bengali’ and if they do not they are excluded from the citizenship verification process that is being rolled out in Arakan state,” she said.

EUG President Tom Andrews said, “As President Obama prepares to make his second trip to Burma in November, he should follow the Special Rapporteur’s lead, speak out against the systematic abuse of the Rohingya and just say their name when he does so.”

Mr. Andrews then added, “It is more than just a name. It is 1.3 million people being persecuted and a culture in danger of being erased in Burma.”

Among the many rights denied to Rohingyas in Burma is the right to self-identification and self-determination, both of which are fundamental human rights enshrined in international law.

Ever since March 2014, when the Burmese government back-tracked on an earlier policy andstruck the term “Rohingya” out of census list—insisting that the group be referred to as “Bengali” instead—the political conundrum surrounding this issue has escalated.

Subsequently, Presidential Spokesperson Ye Htut said, “It will be acceptable if they write ‘Bengali’—we won’t accept them as ‘Rohingya’.”

Ms. Lee also pointed out that it was the responsibility of the Burmese government to preserve the Rohingya community’s rights. “I note that the right of minorities to self identify is related to the obligation of the state to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups,” she said.

UEG is also accusing foreign governments of succumbing to pressure from Naypyidaw on the Rohingya issue, noting that many countries have avoided using the term “Rohingya” in order to maintain favorable diplomatic ties with Thein Sein’s government.

UEG’s Tom Andrews said, “Incredibly, governments of the world are bending to pressure by the Thein Sein government of Burma to no longer use the term ‘Rohingya’ when referring to the Rohingya ethnic minority.”

“Even Secretary of State John Kerry obliged the government by not mentioning the Rohingya by their name when he last visited Burma,” he said.

Myanmar: UN Human Rights Expert Commends Reforms to Date, But Warns of Risks of Backtracking

NEW YORK / GENEVA (29 October 2014) – The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, commended the process of reform that has improved the political, economic social and human rights landscape over the past three years, but said that “more is required if gains are to be genuine, sustainable and win the support of the people of Myanmar”.

In her first address* to the UN General Assembly, Ms. Lee warned against of possible signs of backtracking on the country’s reform process which must be addressed to avoid undermining gains made to date.

“Several conflicts continue to cause significant suffering to local communities, with currently an estimated 613,000 internally displaced persons in the country,” she noted. “Serious human rights violations are being committed on both sides, and I am particularly concerned by continued reports of arbitrary detention, torture and impunity on the side of the military.”

The expert stressed that sustainable peace must address the root causes of the conflict which lie in the denial of fundamental human rights, and urged the authorities to ensure that accountability for human rights violations is included in ceasefire and peace agreements.

“In the Rakine State, the situation remains profoundly disturbing,” she said. In July I visited two camps for internally displaced persons in Sittwe and saw that conditions in both Buddhist camps and Rohingya Muslim camps require urgent attention. Restrictions on freedom of movement severely affect basic rights such as access to health services, livelihoods, water, food and sanitation. However, the long history of discrimination against the community that identifies themselves as Rohingya further compounds human rights violations.”

Ms. Lee welcomed steps by the Government to develop a comprehensive Action Plan to address the situation in the Rakhine State, while calling for the adoption of genuine steps to reduce tensions and promote reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities, and avoid their permanent segregation.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the recent release of two political prisoners but called for the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners and those arbitrarily detained, as a matter of urgency.

“Despite advances in media reforms, laws are still being used to criminalize and impede the activities of civil society and the media. These should be urgently amended or repealed,” she said, expressing concern at the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act and other laws which have increased the number of political prisoners.

“On my visit to Myanmar I saw first-hand that large-scale development projects are threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and have led to land-grabbing, land confiscation and forced eviction,” the expert noted. “I urge the Government and the international community to proactively manage development to ensure a rights-based and people-centred form of sustainable development.”

“As we move towards the 2015 election, I urge greater commitment to ensure that the right to vote and the freedoms of expression, assembly and association are fully protected,” Ms. Lee said while calling for the review and amendment of all restrictive rules to ensure a campaign environment free from bias and ensure freely available information to all.

In closing, the Special Rapporteur noted the recent appointment of new members to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commissions and encouraged them to establish a credible, effective and independent national human rights institution which has the confidence of all including civil society.

By United to End Genocide
October 30, 2014

The Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority in Burma have been called “the most oppressed people on Earth”.

They are suffering vicious attacks and systematic abuse by Burma’s government. Fleeing violence, over 140,000 Rohingya live in what many describe as “concentration camps.”

Attempting to quell international criticism the government says that it is now offering a way for the Rohingya to become citizens through the “Rakhine Action Plan”. But a closer look shows what this really means.

Follow the journey of the Rohingya to become a citizen of Burma.

Most of the residents of the camp have been there for two years, since their villages were sacked during intercommunal violence with the ethnic Rakhine majority in the state. The Buddhist Rakhines make up 60% of the state population, the Rohingya about 30%.

By Tim Hume
October 29, 2014

Nget Chaung, a camp for displaced people on a marginal smudge of low-lying coastland in western Myanmar, is not a place anyone would want to call home.

"No-one should have to live in the conditions that we see in Nget Chaung," said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Myanmar.

Those conditions, said a humanitarian worker familiar with the camp, "are really the worst."

"The location is flooded much of the time. You have to go through the dirty water to reach your own shelter," said the aid worker, who asked not to be named due to local sensitivities around humanitarian teams operating in the state.

The shelters, many of which were built to last six months but have now been occupied for two years, are "in very bad condition," she said. "There's no livelihood, no opportunity at all."

Nonetheless, this desperate patch of coastal plain is home to some 6,000 Rohingya Muslims, thousands of them children. Most have been in the camp, subsisting in wretched conditions, since their villages were destroyed in a frenzy of mob violence two years ago.

Trapped in 'internment camps'

Across Rakhine state, an impoverished region of some 3.2 million in Myanmar's remote west, more than 130,000 other displaced people are trapped in 67 similar camps, the majority of them de facto stateless Muslims, living under apartheid-like conditions. Most have been there since October 2012, following waves of intercommunal violence that left hundreds dead.

With the camps under guard, and inhabitants forbidden to leave of their own volition -- Minister of Information Ye Htut told CNN they were only allowed to leave under police escort, "to prevent further clashes and (ensure) their safety" -- the settlements "have essentially become internment camps" for about 140,000 people, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group.

Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya Muslim activist, has no hesitation in labeling them concentration camps. "The people there are stripped of their human rights, left with no physical, mental or food security," she said. "They are depressed, in pain, hopeless."

The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has noted "disturbing reports of deaths in camps owing to lack of access to emergency medical assistance and owing to preventable, chronic or pregnancy-related conditions."

When those outside the camps, but confined to their isolated villages by security forces, are counted, the number of Muslims in the state subject to restrictions on movement totals in the hundreds of thousands. It's a situation which "severely compromises their basic rights to food, health, education and livelihoods," said Peron.

"Without freedom of movement, people simply cannot rebuild their lives, and continue to rely on international humanitarian aid."

'Suffering I have never seen before'

After the U.N.'s Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, visited Rakhine's camps, including Nget Chaung, in June, she described witnessing "a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never seen before."

The situation in Nget Chaung has scarcely improved since Kang's visit, said the humanitarian worker familiar with the camp.

While residents confined to other camps can often find limited ways to access surrounding markets to eke out a livelihood, Nget Chaung was rare in that its inhabitants were totally isolated, she said. The camp was only accessible by boat, taking between 1.5 to four hours to reach depending on tides, and particularly exposed to severe storms, which occasionally forced the residents to be evacuated.

It was difficult to get contractors in to improve conditions in the camp, she said, as they had been warned off working there by local communities opposed to the Rohingya presence.

Flooding meant medical clinics could only operate at the entrance to Nget Chaung, putting treatment beyond the reach of those too ill to scramble up the camp's muddy embankments. Skin diseases and gastrointestinal complaints were commonplace. Amidst all this, residents were tormented by the sight of their old villages, within view of their new, prison-like home.

"People have been here two years and they have nothing. Nothing," said the humanitarian worker. "The desperation is extremely high and it's increasing."

How did it come to this?

The crisis in Rakhine state began in May 2012, when the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men ignited long-standing tensions between the Rakhine majority, a Buddhist ethnic group that accounts for about 60% of the state's population, and the sizable and disenfranchised Muslim minority of about one million, many of whom identify as Rohingya.

The waves of violence that followed -- pogroms in June, followed by more organized violence in October -- amounted to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by the Rakhines, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The report alleged the collusion of officials, community leaders, Buddhist monks and state security forces, to terrorize and "forcibly relocate" the Rohingya.

In the aftermath of the violence, Myanmar President Thein Sein reportedly told a visiting United Nations delegation that the government did not recognize the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar, and was planning to install them in refugee camps until another country could be found to take them.

Despite most having lived in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya are widely viewed as illegal interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, and are not listed among the 135 officially recognized indigenous ethnicities of Myanmar. A citizenship law introduced in 1982 led many Muslims to be essentially stripped of citizenship retroactively.

In the years since the Rohingya were driven into the camps, their situation has only become more desperate.

In February, the largest provider of humanitarian medical aid in the state, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) was driven out by authorities amid allegations from ethnic Rakhine groups of bias towards the Rohingya.

A month later, a Rakhine mob attacked international aid agencies in the state capital, Sittwe, causing 300 humanitarian workers to flee, $1 million in losses and halting aid for a month. Services have not been restored to capacity, according to the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar -- a memorandum of understanding paving the way for MSF to resume operations was not even signed until September, due to opposition from the Rakhine community.

Yanghee Lee noted in a report table overnight before the U.N. General Assembly that the Rohingya face "systematic discrimination" and have reportedly been subject to human rights violations including "summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture, forced labor and forced displacements, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence." She called on the allegations to be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.

Recent moves at a national level -- such as a push by monk-led extremist Buddhist groups for a ban on interfaith marriages -- have helped further push Muslims to the social margins.

State-sanctioned marginalization

Under pressure from the international community to curb abuses against the Rohingya, the government is now preparing to announce its solution to the crisis in Rakhine. But a draft of the plan, obtained by CNN, is causing alarm among humanitarian groups.

They fear it only consolidates the state-sanctioned marginalization that has been occurring, and lays the framework for a push to drive the Rohingya out of the country, or leave them permanently interned in camps.

"They're trying to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the Rohingya so they have no choice but to leave," said Chris Lewa, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arakan Project, which has been advocating on behalf of the Rohingya for more than a decade.

She describes the government's "action plan" for the Rohingya as part of a "concerted campaign to demoralize, disenfranchise and entice them to leave the country."

David Mathieson, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, agrees. He said that while the plan would legitimately allow the government to remove genuine illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, it appeared designed "to force the Rohingya to get out of there," he said.

"The Rakhine extremists just want the Rohingya pushed out."

More than a million people, he said, are "caught between a hammer and an anvil."

If the goal is to drive the Rohingya out, then it appears to be working, said Lewa. Her organization records the exodus of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar illegally by boat, through networks of people smugglers, through Thailand to destinations like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Her teams of monitors at a dozen departure points along the coast have counted about 10,000 fleeing over the past fortnight -- a significant spike amid mounting pressure. She estimates the total numbers who have fled since the violence now number over 100,000.

Those who flee face a treacherous future. Boats sink, drowning scores at a time; Human Rights Watch has documented how those who fall into the traffickers' hands are vulnerable to exploitation, sexual and otherwise.

The fact that so many choose to leave regardless shows how desperate their situation has become, said Wai Wai. By marginalizing the Rohingya, Myanmar authorities had sparked an exodus and created a growing humanitarian crisis, she said.

What's in the action plan?

A draft of the action plan, which was passed to the U.S. Embassy and other members of the diplomatic community for comment, has been obtained by CNN.

But humanitarian groups who have seen the draft say while it has the potential to deliver citizenship to a proportion of the Rohingya, it is likely in its current state to define hundreds of thousands as illegal aliens, to be eventually deported.

The plan states that those who are deemed ineligible for citizenship will be housed in temporary camps, with authorities to "work with UNHCR to resettle the illegal aliens elsewhere."

Medea Savary, an associate public information officer for UNHCR Myanmar, dismissed the suggestion, saying international resettlement under the auspices of the organization was "only for refugees that have crossed international borders."

Myanmar's Minister of Information and presidential spokesman Ye Htut told CNN via email that the planned "citizenship verification" process was "long... but open and transparent."

It would require applicants to submit evidence which proved their ancestors were settled in the country before it gained independence in 1948.

Their application would then be considered by a 7-person "township processing committee" consisting of four representatives from government agencies, two representatives from the Rakhine community and one from the Muslim community, he wrote. The latter three would be selected by their respective communities, and could seek opinions from the public.

If all seven members agreed, he wrote, the applicant would be recommended to regional and federal-level committees that could then consider the application.

But critics see major problems with the proposed process, which would appear to give ethnic Rakhines veto power over applications.

"There's no way people would have the sort of documentation required, especially not in poor rural areas," said Mathieson. Lewa said she believed the process was "likely to exclude the vast majority of the Rohingya."

Htut said the government could not predict what proportion of Muslims would be found to be eligible for citizenship under the process.

What's in a name?

Also problematic was the requirement for those submitting to the process to be categorized as "Bengali," rather than Rohingya.

Htut told CNN that the government refused to use the term Rohingya "because even under British rule, their censuses and official data never mention" the term.

Earlier this year, large numbers of Rohingya were excluded from the country's first national census in three decades because they refused to register as Bengalis, a label they believe implicitly undermines their claim to be recognized as legitimately belonging to Myanmar.

The name issue was significant, said Wai Wai, not least because the class of citizenship being dangled at those opting to identify as Bengali was "naturalized" citizenship -- a "second-class" form of citizenship which carried less rights and could be stripped at any time.

"Using this name means they are going to make these people foreigners first," she said. "That's why people are worried -- because they were citizens of Burma in the past, they enjoyed a dignified existence.

"They will be downgrading their citizenship retrospectively to a second-class citizenship that can be taken away."

The draft plan states that those who do not comply with being registered as Bengalis will meet the same fate as those who fail the citizenship test.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told CNN it had urged Myanmar to eliminate the "Bengali" requirement from the process, and had expressed concern over other elements, including the proposal to place those who do not receive citizenship in camps.

It encouraged the government to incorporate feedback from the international community into future revisions of the plan.

But whether the government will heed their advice remains to be seen. In Lewa's eyes, the international community has been "too quiet" on the issue.

But as Myanmar transitions from decades of military ruled isolation towards democracy, its leaders appear more receptive to international opinion.

Next month, the country will play host to the leaders of countries including the United States, China, India, Australia and Japan at the East Asia Summit.

For Wai Wai, international pressure, including through such channels, remains the best, perhaps only hope for a dispossessed group virtually powerless to change their circumstances themselves.

"Who knows what will happen? It depends on the international community. It depends on the government," she said

"If the government imposes this forcefully then we will see another big injustice in the world. We're concerned it will lead to a bad outcome... Young people who have no hope, we cannot imagine where it will lead."

The Harvard Global Equity Initiative is convening a half-day conference on the worsening situation of Burma’s Rohingya minority community on November 4, 2014. 

The Harvard Global Equity Initiative is convening a half-day conference on the worsening situation of Burma’s Rohingya minority community on November 4, 2014. Professor Amartya Sen, Chair of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative’s Steering Committee, will be leading the proceedings in collaboration with Felicia Knaul, Director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative. The conference serves as a follow-up to the seminar “The Future of Burma: A Panel Discussion” which was held last November and also organized by HGEI. The video of last year’s event is available here:

Two myths or false narratives dictate the discussion about the Rohingya plight: 1) the conflict is horizontal, sectarian and is due to lack of development in Rakhine state and 2) that communal conflicts are an unfortunate but ‘natural’ part of any multiethnic society in transitional period. The conference is timely and can be used strategically to rectify the grossly inaccurate media and policy framing of Burma’s state-sponsored persecution of Rohingya. Four panels exploring the following areas will be held: 1) historical, human rights and political perspectives, 2) Rohingya voices, 3) the right to health and essential services, and 4) developing a policy-oriented research agenda.

End Genocide Calls for US Action Following UN Report of Abuse of Rohingya Ethnic Minority in Burma

Praises the Use of the Term ‘Rohingya’ By Top UN Human Rights Official Despite Government Pressure

Urges President Obama to #JustSayTheirName in November trip to Burma

(Washington, D.C.) United to End Genocide, an advocacy group dedicated to ending genocide and mass atrocities, today urged the Obama administration to take action in light of a report by the top UN Human Rights official of deplorable and worsening conditions facing the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma. They called on President Obama to issue a strong response to the report and act to stop the “march genocide in Burma” that has cost untold numbers of lives and threatens hundreds of thousands.

The group also praised Yanghee Lee for saying the name of the Rohingya, in defiance of pressure from the government of Burma, in her first report to the UN General Assembly. “Incredibly, governments of the world are bending to pressure by the Thein Sein government of Burma to no longer use the term “Rohingya” when referring to the Rohingya ethnic minority,” said United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews, "Even Secretary of State John Kerry obliged the government by not mentioning the Rohingya by name when he last visited Burma."

“As President Obama prepares to make his second trip to Burma in November, he should follow the Special Rapporteur’s lead, speak out against the systematic abuse of the Rohingya and just say their name when he does so. It is more than just a name. It is 1.3 million people being persecuted and a culture in danger of being erased in Burma.”

“The Rohingya are the most oppressed people in the world. It is outrageous that they are restricted not only in their basic rights to marry, have children, or seek education, but even in the most basic right to self-identify. I applaud the Special Rapporteur for calling the Rohingya by the name by which they choose to identify and for shining a light on this travesty. Now it is time for President Obama to stand up for the Rohingya by speaking truth to power when he travels to Burma and say publicly the name Rohingya when he does so.”

United to End Genocide recently launched a public campaign urging President Obama to “Just Say Their Name – Rohingya”. The #JustSayTheirName campaign features a petition and Instagram images urging President Obama to “Say Rohingya” during his November visit to Burma. For more information please go to:


An estimated 1.3 million Rohingya live in Burma including some 140,000 living in displacement camps following violence since 2012. The Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority has faced decades of persecution including ongoing restrictions in their ability to marry, have children, travel, and seek education. The Government of Burma denies that Rohingya exist calling them illegal “Bengali” immigrants and has urged foreign officials not to use the name Rohingya. The right to self-identification is a central principle of international human rights law.

Yanghee Lee was appointed UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar (Burma) in June 2014 and made her first official visit to Burma in July 2014 when she described condition in the camps for Rohingya as “deplorable”. According to recent estimates, over 100,000 Rohingya have fled Burma by boat and hundreds are believed to have drowned.


(Photo: Anurup Kanti Das) 

By M. Mizanur Rahman and Tasfi Sal-sabil
October 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migrants thought to be from Myanmar's Muslim-minority Rohingya are pictured at a detention centre after they were rounded up in raids on hidden camps in the Thai south, in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat on Jan 16, 2013. (Photo: AFP)

October 27, 2014

Yangon -- A climate of fear in Myanmar's Rakhine state is pushing stateless Rohingya Muslims to flee in "unprecedented" numbers, with almost 10,000 people taking to boats in the region in just two weeks, activists said Monday.

A surge in boats leaving from northern Rakhine, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in isolated communities, has seen around 900 people a day making the perilous journey by sea, according to the Arakan Project, a Rohingya rights group. 

"This is very unprecedented, it’s such a massive number," director Chris Lewa told AFP.

The end of the rainy season usually sees a spike in departures, but arrests and beatings in northern Rakhine combined with worries that authorities were planning to exclude Rohingya from citizenship had lead to this huge rise, Lewa said.

"It seems now that many have decided that there is nothing left for them in Rakhine," she said.

Lewa said some 100,000 people have now fled by sea from western Myanmar since June 2012, when conflict between local Buddhist and Muslim communities spiralled into widespread bloodshed across Rakhine that left 200 dead and 140,000 in displacement camps, mainly Rohingya. 

The boats, many barely seaworthy, head to Thailand, Malaysia and beyond in an increasingly organised smuggling network. 

Myanmar views the Rohingya as immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and denies most of them citizenship, as well as imposing restrictions on travel, livelihood and even marriage.

Lewa said local people have reported arbitrary detentions and spreading fears over citizenship, after a leaked draft "action plan" for the impoverished state suggested those that refused to be identified as "Bengali" could be forced into camps. 

The Rakhine government denied the claims.

"They are spreading misinformation themselves," state spokesman Win Myaing told AFP. "There was no arrest or torture."

The Arakan project is virtually the only organisation monitoring boat departures from Maungdaw in northwestern Rakhine and Bangladesh.

Lewa said the 9,900 people who have left in the last two weeks, mostly from Rakhine, compares to 6,300 in October and 9,100 in November last year. 

Lewa raised concerns that nothing has yet been heard from the wave of boats that left two weeks ago.

Thai officials in mid October said people-smugglers had kidnapped dozens of people -- among them Rohingya refugees -- in Bangladesh and trafficked them to a rubber plantation in southern Thailand.

Rights groups have previously accused Thai authorities of pushing boats back out to sea and holding migrants in overcrowded facilities.

Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu is greeted with respect at a monks’ conference in Rangoon in June 2013. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

By Zarni Mann
October 27, 2014

RANGOON — Radical monk Ashin Wirathu, known by many for his incendiary online activity, has been something of a digital hermit in the months following deadly inter-communal violence in Burma’s second largest city, Mandalay.

The outspoken Buddhist nationalist and widely revered religious leader claims that his social media accounts are being tampered with; some of his content has disappeared and he has had difficulty accessing his personal accounts.

“I think my Facebook account is being hacked or attacked by someone,” Wirathu told The Irrawaddy last week. “I can’t sign in but I can still see my Facebook page. However, everything I posted in 2014 is gone.”

Facebook has yet to respond to questions regarding whether his account has been suspended or terminated for violating their terms of agreement, but the social media network’s terms—which are publicly available—explicitly state that users will be notified via email should their account be terminated.

The company has also stated that they do not monitor or censor content, but their policy does allow for review and removal of content when appropriate.

Wirathu said that he does not know if Facebook tried to notify him of any changes to his user privileges because he has not checked his email.

In late June, Wirathu shared several Facebook posts with his more than 30,000 friends and followers spreading unsubstantiated accusations against two Muslim teashop owners, claiming that they had raped a Buddhist maid.

A post created on July 1 stated that he had attempted to contact the two men, who are brothers, and demanded that they be held publicly accountable for their alleged crime. Wirathu then shared another entry containing the names, phone numbers and addresses of the accused, which was widely shared by other users.

Several hours later, a quarrel broke out between the two brothers and their Muslim customers when they closed their shop early. Hordes of angry Buddhists joined security forces at the site and violence later ensued between the Buddhist and Muslim residents. Riots continued the following evening, leaving two men dead. A curfew was put in place and access to Facebook was temporarily suspended.

Calm and services later returned to the town, but Wirathu claims that he still cannot access all of the content and features that he could in the past. He suspects that his account is being stalked by “flaggers,” who report inappropriate content to be removed by Facebook. He also believes that hackers have tampered with his account.

The monk claims that he can sign in to his Facebook account, but that he cannot create posts and he is automatically logged out after a few minutes of use. He also said that every post he has created since October 2013 has been removed from his page.

“I wonder why I’m not allowed to write on Facebook,” said Wirathu, “and why people tried to report me. I can post on my new account, but I had to start a blog because I can no longer rely on Facebook.”

Wirathu said he has created a new Facebook account under the name Wirathu Masoeyein, written in Burmese, and he has been able to post content freely. His blog, also under the title Wirathu Masoeyein, now has more than 100,000 followers, the monk claims.

While he and other members of the Buddhist community often use social media to inform their followers of religious ceremonies and news about the monastery, he has also been known to share unverified accusations against Muslims, and has been accused of using “hate speech” that could incite violence.

Attempts to contact Facebook to confirm whether Wirathu’s privileges are being stemmed by the company were unsucessful, but individual users told The Irrawaddy that they have flagged some of his content for removal.

“Since the riots happened, when I see something brutal or hateful on Facebook, I immediately report it because I don’t want to see any more violence,” said Kyaw Kyaw Maung, a Mandalay resident who lives in the riot-hit Chan Aye Tharzan Township. “I have reported some accounts, including U Wirathu and several other extremists.

“I think this is the responsibility of every citizen, to prevent hate speech and promote peaceful living,” he said.

Nay Phone Latt, a well-known blogger who heads a campaign for the elimination of hate speech, agreed that reporting inflammatory content is necessary to prevent the spread of hatred, but urged all citizens to be both responsible and discerning while sharing and reading Internet content.

“Although reporting someone’s post is effective in stopping the spread of hate speech, perpetrators can create new accounts or repost things. If everyone can act responsibly online, there will be peace on Facebook,” said Nay Phone Latt.

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

By Nic Dunlop
October 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malnutrition and disease are rife in the camps and many say their "protection" is, in fact, a crime against humanity. (Photo: Nic Dunlop)
Before the reforms, Burma’s ­dictatorship had near total control and crushed any dissent. In March this year, ­Buddhist mobs went on a rampage in Sittwe, attacking the offices of international aid organisations whom they accuse of favouring the Rohingya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hla Hla May, a Rohingya Muslim woman displaced by violence, holds her one-year-old daughter Roshan at a former rubber factory that now serves as their shelter, near Sittwe, Myanmar. (Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

RB News
October 27, 2014

Burmese Rohingya Organisation in UK (BROUK) president Tun Khin told to Al Jazeera that Myanmar government has proper plan to eliminate the Rohingyas. As the government is arresting the Rohingyas in the name of connecting with rebel group. Tun Khin said the rebel group is not existing in the Burma and Bangladesh border. The Rohingyas are fleeing from the country to escape from the persecution of Myanmar government.

Recently many human rights organizations reported that at least 900 to 1200 Rohingyas are fleeing from Arakan State. 

Rohingya women sit in front of their relief tent at the Mansi Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of Sittwe. (Photo: Soe Than Win/AFP)

RB News 
October 25, 2014 

Maungdaw, Arakan – Myanmar border guard police (BGP) have been arresting Rohingyas since last month, accusing them of communicating with a rebel group. Many Rohingya were arrested and tortured to death by Myanmar border guard police. In some reports by local activists, private parts of men were cut off and other organs were removed. 

On October 23, 2014 at 11pm, Myanmar border guard police and about 30 Rakhine men came into Kyaut Pyin Seik village (Nari Bil) and raided the houses there. The BGP was put into place after the NaSaKa forces were disbanded after international pressure and outcry over their human rights abuses. The BGP have, however, carried on the same human rights abuses as their predecessors in the NaSaKa, and they have arrested and tortured many Rohingya men in the villages, which has caused many of the men to flee from these villages for their own safety. 

Molvi Hussein Ahmed s/o Zahir Ahmed (Age 42), was a religious cleric whom was also running to escape from the torture of BGP police. He was not a villager of Kyaut Pyin Seik village. He resided, rather, in West hamlet of Kyi Gan Pyin village tract. He was visiting his sister’s house at Kyauk Seik Pyin village. 

According to his close family in Kyi Gan Pyin village, he was caught by BGP police and Rakhine men. He was tortured to death and thrown into a stream nearby Amina bazaar. His body was found by the villagers in the stream at 6:30 am on the following day. 

Myanmar BGP police have been committing crimes against humanity since the time they have received authorization from the central government as to replace the NaSaKa. According to the local residents many innocents have been arrested in the name of communicating with the rebel group, Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). Although the organization has been disbanded and there are no credible reports of armed activities for last two decades the Myanmar government is using the organization’s name to persecute the Rohingyas.

Additional reporting by MYARF and Rohingya Eye. (Photo Courtesy: MYARF)

In this June 25 2014 file photo, Rohingya refugees gather to receive medicine at Dar Paing village clinic, north of Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. A growing sense of desperation is fueling a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar, with at least 8,000 members of the long-persecuted minority fleeing by boat in the last two weeks, according to residents and a leading expert. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

By Robin McDowell
October 25, 2014

YANGON, Myanmar — A growing sense of desperation is fueling a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar, with the number fleeing by boat since communal violence broke out two years ago now topping 100,000, a leading expert said Saturday.

Chris Lewa, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arakan Project, said there has been a huge surge since Oct. 15, with an average of 900 people per day piling into cargo ships parked off Rakhine state.

That's nearly 10,000 in less than two weeks, one of the biggest upticks yet.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 50 million that only recently emerged from half a century of military rule, has an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya. Though many of their families arrived from neighboring Bangladesh generations ago, almost all have been denied citizenship. In the last two years, attacks by Buddhist mobs have left hundreds dead and 140,000 trapped in camps, where they live without access to adequate health care, education or jobs.

Lewa said some Rohingya families have been told new ships have started arriving in neighboring Thailand, where passengers often are brought to jungle camps, facing extortion and beatings until relatives come up with enough money to win their release.

From there they usually travel to Malaysia or other countries, but, still stateless, their futures remain bleak.

In Myanmar, the vast majority live in the northern tip of Rakhine state, where an aggressive campaign by authorities in recent months to register family members and officially categorize them as "Bengalis" — implying they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh — has aggravated their situation.

According to villagers contacted by The Associated Press, some were confined to their villages for weeks at a time for refusing to take part in the "verification" process, while others were beaten or arrested.

More recently, dozens of men were detained for having alleged ties to the militant Rohingya Solidarity Organization, or RSO, said Khin Maung Win, a resident from Maungdaw township, adding that several reportedly were beaten or tortured during their arrests or while in detention.

Lewa said three of the men died.

"Our team is becoming more and more convinced that this campaign of arbitrary arrests is aimed at triggering departures," she said.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing denied any knowledge of arrests or abuse.

"There's nothing happening up there," he said. "There are no arrests of suspects of RSO. I haven't heard anything like that."

Every year, the festival of Eid al-Adha, which was celebrated by Muslims worldwide early this month, marks the beginning of a large exodus of Rohingya, in part due to calmer seas but also because it is a chance to spend time with family and friends.

But there seems to be a growing sense of desperation this year, with numbers nearly double from the same period in 2013.

Lewa said a number of Rohingya also were moving overland to Bangladesh and on to India and Nepal.

The United Nations, which has labeled the Rohingya one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the world, earlier this year confirmed figures provided by Lewa about a massive exodus that began after communal violence broke out in June 2012, targeting mainly Rohingya.

With the latest departures, Lewa estimates the number of fleeing Rohingya to be more than 100,000.

It was not immediately clear where the newest arrivals were landing.
Associated Press writer Esther Htusan contributed to this report.

Rohingya Exodus