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Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar, has been a guest at the Capitol, including in Sept. 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By Niels Lesniewski | Published by Roll Call on July 31, 2018

Signs point to McConnell not allowing language targeting country also known as Burma

A legislative effort to punish officials responsible for atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar appears to have stalled thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbingave a speech ahead of floor consideration of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization conference report in which he decried, “the irresponsible removal of provisions related to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.”

“The House bill contained five provisions restricting security engagement with Burma, imposing sanctions on Burmese officials responsible for human rights abuses and requiring the State Department to make a determination on whether the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people, a minority, constituted ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity or genocide,” the Illinois Democrat said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced similar legislation, authored by Armed Services Chairman John McCainof Arizona and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.

“It looked like these provisions were destined to be in the final work product,” Durbin said.

Under normal circumstances, language backed by McCain would not be dropped from a defense policy bill, especially one that now bears his name. But, when it comes to Myanmar, perhaps there should be no surprise.

Durbin attributed the rejection of the House language to a Senate leader, which was more than likely McConnell. The Kentucky Republican has had a long interest in Myanmar, and he has longsupported and defendedState Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, even as she has come under a barrage of criticism in recent years.

“The Senate Majority Leader insisted that there be no Burma sanctions in the NDAA,” a House aide confirmed to Roll Call after the Durbin speech.

McConnell’s office did not offer an immediate reaction.

Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor included a direct message to Suu Kyi, who was long viewed as a champion of democracy, earning a Congressional Gold Medalback in 2012.

“In Burma, the government authorities to continue to deny that any of this took place,” Durbin said. “I’m particularly disappointed in Aung San Suu Kyi. Her silence on these problems is hard to explain.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the defense conference report on Thursday, according to Sen. James M. Inhofe. The Oklahoma Republican has been filling the duties of McCain while the Armed Services chairman has been battling cancer at home in Arizona.

Patrick Kelley contributed to this report.

By Tapan Bose | Published by CounterCurrents.Org on August 1, 2018

Rohingya refugees are back in the news again. On Tuesday (July 30) Mr. Rijiju, the Minister of State for Home said some of the Rohingya living in India do not have the status of “refugee” but are “illegal migrants” who would be deported once their details have been prepared. Reiterating his earlier position, Rijiju said since they are illegal migrants, they are not entitled to any government facility.

Responding to a series of supplementary questions in the Parliament, Rijiju said the government has reports that some of the Rohingyas have been involved in illegal activities but he would refrain from getting into details, and maintained that security forces have been deployed to stop their infiltration into the country.

Earlier, the government of India had claimed that the Rohingya were a “potential” threat to India’s national security, as they were vulnerable to manipulations by Islamic terrorists organisations and Pakistan’s ISI. The government is yet to produce evidence of Rohingya refugees indulging in terrorist activities in India. The latest statement of Rijiju is not substantiated with facts. He refused to disclose any details of the criminal activities of the Rohingya refugees. An unsubstantiated statement of this nature, which is capable of inciting violence against the hapless refugee community is unworthy of a responsible minister.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the members of the Parliament that the Border Security Force and the Assam Rifles guarding international borders have been asked to ensure that Rohingya asylum seekers do not enter the country. Six months ago, in February this year, Mr. Singh, the Home Minister of India had said, that states asking them to confine Rohingyas in one place and keep them under watch. He said state governments have been asked to carry out enumeration of all Rohingya people living in their respective jurisdictions, collect their biometric data and share it with the Home Ministry. The objective of this exercise was to take up their deportation with Myanmar. This move completely disregards the fact that Myanmar does want Rohingya people in their territory. Myanmar army has been raping Rohingya women, torturing them, killing them, burning down their villages and forcibly evicting them. It exposes the hollowness of Indian governments “humanitarian concern” for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Different reports have given varying figures of Rohingya immigrants in India. According to one estimate, there are around 40,000 Rohingyas residing in India. The UNHRC data, on the other hand, shows that 16,500 Rohingya Muslims have settled in India as refugees. Of these, 5,700 are settled in Jammu and rest in New Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad. Whereas, according to the Jammu and Kashmir government, there 5,700 Rohingyas in Jammu and 7,664 in Ladakh.

Rohingya Muslims have settled in Doda and Samba sectors of Jammu region and in Ladakh. These areas which border Pakistan and China. These areas are considered “sensitive” from security perspective by Indian intelligence agencies. The agencies claim that Rohingya terror group, known as Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM), was in touch with terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and men belonging to AMM got trained in Pakistan. It is also claimed that Zakir Musa, the Head of Al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Kashmir, Ansar Gazawat-ul-Hind, has expressed solidarity with Rohingyas living in Jammu. In early September, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulma (MMU), headed by separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other religious organisations also observed a Solidarity Day in the Valley for Rohingya settlers. Apparently, this is a good enough reason for the government to deport the Rohingya refugees in national interest.

At the same time, India is witnessing a growing intellectual debate which is trying to create a pro-Rohingya perception and the Hindu right wing ruling party, the BJP is pushing for deportation of Rohingyas just because they are Muslims, India Today, a leading Indian news magazine reported that Rohingya Muslims had forcefully converted Rohingya Hindu women to Islam in Bangladesh, insinuating that some of the Rohingya Muslims harbour anti-Hindu feelings. In a fragile state like Jammu and Kashmir which is divided on religious lines, such news can potentially flare up — invoking fear in the minds of Hindus in Jammu and Buddhists in Ladakh. It would further motivate the “ultra-right wing” ruling party to deport the foreign Muslims settlers who might damage the demography of the country.

As the Indian government announced that it would deport the Rohingya asylum seekers back to Myanmar, some Twitter accounts have been sharing fake images taken from different sources, each from a different event claiming the Rohingyas persecuted Hindus in Rakhine. Using photographs pilfered from different unrelated sources and “photoshopping” them to fit the false narrative, rightwing Hindu organisations in India are generating fake news to show the Rohingya Muslims as terrorists and killers. Unfortunately, Indian government is also using these fake news from the social media to project the Rohingya as a “potential threat” to India’s national security. In the absence of evidence, the government is trying to build a public opinion against the Rohingya refugees and also to deter the support they are getting because of the genocide in progress in Myanmar. The news items such as “Rohingya Killing Hindus” and “Rohingya forcibly converting Hindu women to Islam” have added fuel to the hate campaign, which is being spread through its troll and photoshop by Hindu right wing organisations. Several corporate owned media houses have published news articles about Rohingyas killing Hindus in newspapers and online portals, without bothering to check its authenticity.

Such views serve the communal agenda and make short-term political gains, but the political class has so far failed to take into account the larger threat this poses not just to the Rohingyas, but to the country’s political and social stability. Rohingyas are the most persecuted people in the world. Let us not add to their misfortune. It is possible that a few individual Rohingya refugees might have committed some crime. But that should not be the reason to classify the entire community as “criminals”. It is important for the saner people of India to stand up for the protection of the Rohingya and ask the government to support the global call for an independent investigation into the allegations of “crimes against humanity” committed by Myanmar army. India had earned the international community’s respect for standing up for the oppressed people and against the oppressors, no matter how powerful they were. We must stand by the Rohingya in their hour of need.

Tapan Bose is an independent documentary filmmaker, human rights and peace activist, author and regular contributor leading journals and news magazines in India, Nepal and Pakistan. His award winning documentaries on human rights and democratic issues include An Indian Story (1982) on the blinding of under trial prisoners in Bhagalpur and the nexus between landlord, police and politicians and Beyond Genocide: Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1986). His film ‘Behind the Barricades; Punjab’ (1993) on the state repression in Punjab, as with the earlier cited films, was banned and after a long legal struggle was shown. His latest film is The Expendable People’, (2016) a passionate appeal for justice for the tribal peoples of India, cheated, dispossessed, pauperised and criminalized in their forest homes, made to pay the price for extractive development.

By Safvan Allahverdi
July 31, 2018

'We keep saying 'never again', but it keeps happening,' says US representative to UN Economic and Social Council

WASHINGTON -- The world has failed to end the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, where hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes by fire, rape and murder, a U.S. envoy said Monday. 

Ambassador Kelley Currie, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said the world has said "never again" many times over the past 70 years in places like Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, calling it a "sad irony."

She was speaking at a panel hosted by Washington-based think tank the Heritage Foundation.

"These places haunt us for our collective failure," said Currie. 

Currie, who also specializes in humanitarian assistance and human rights, emphatically highlighted the world's failure to stop the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

"We all watched in August 2017, September 2017, week by week in horror," she said, referring to two major attacks against Rohingya Muslims conducted by Myanmar’s military.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The U.S. envoy urged Myanmar’s government to provide Rohingya Muslims safe return to their homes and grant them citizenship, access to school, places of worship and medical care.

She added the refugees and those who are still hiding in Myanmar must know that their return will be safe and voluntary.

She noted that Rohingya Muslims must be confident that they will not face the same abuses that drove them from their homes.

Currie also called on the Myanmar government not to confine the returnees to camps or ghettos as second-class citizens and to respect their freedom of movement and basic human rights along with their rights of citizenship.

On whether she believes the efforts of the U.S. and other major countries are enough to stop the persecution of Rohingya, she said the U.S. was the "single largest donor" helping Rohingya through financial assistance and is working with both Bangladesh and Myanmar to stop “shockingly vicious” military operations of the Burmese military.

The U.S. also imposed a visa ban, restrictions on members of the military and held Burmese military generals who took part in the violence responsible, she said.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Richard Potter and U Maung Kyaw Nu

Richard Potter
RB Article
July 20, 2018

Early in the morning on May 31st U Maung Kyaw Nu passed away. Maung was known by most as a political activist and president of the Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand. He was a political prisoner in Burma for his role in protests in 1974. He was a proud rebel, and spoke fondly and often of his time in the jungle with various insurgencies, and his ability to coordinate between many religious, political and ethnic groups. Maung’s last years were spent in exile in Thailand, where his work continued in various forms. He helped organize student uprisings in Burma from his living room. He worked himself to exhaustion cooking and delivering food for Rohingyas locked away in Bangkok’s immigration detention center. He met with journalists, political leaders and human rights organizations every week. He sheltered Burmese dissidents, including monks, in his home. He stood up to and undermined human traffickers, even to their face. U Maung Kyaw Nu was my friend, and I saw him do all of these things. 

I met Maung Kyaw Nu for the first time, five years ago outside a cafe in Bangkok. We smoked and had coffee for some time, a habit he hid from cameras but one that would ultimately take his life. He was as passionate then as he was in his last days to make sure anyone who would listen would hear about the plight of his people. In the same week he took me to Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCT). At the FCCT it was clear Maung had a fondness for speaking and making sure he would be heard. Any time there was an event regarding the Rohingya he positioned himself to ask questions to the panel and before the cameras. There were audible groans from some western journalists, researchers and pundits as Maung’s questions typically turned into speeches, and many would try to cut him off so they could return to demonstrating their expertise on all the things which Maung Kyaw Nu himself had lived through. He was never phased or insulted by this, but understood it as a game he’d have to play to try and make sure his and his people’s concerns were a part of these outsiders’ discussions about them. 

Maung Kyaw Nu was a man who existed in layers, but each of them was sincere. To those who spent enough time to get close with him, he would reward them with incredible stories from his life and work. His journey from political prisoner, to freedom fighter, to exiled political leader is complicated, to say the least, but consistently his goal was a free Burma where none would be oppressed. Maung Kyaw Nu was unique not only because he held concern for various ethnic and religious groups in Burma that often were at odds with each other, but that he was able to mediate and break bread between them. 

The small insurgencies in Rakhine State are a subject often omitted by activists, squeamish of the optics and implications, but Maung Kyaw Nu never let this deter him from speaking openly. Maung had a saying for the public, a call to unity among the Burmese civilians downtrodden by the state and the ethnic minorities who faced even worse oppression, “We fight, we win.” It was simple, hopeful, and direct, like Maung himself. In private he was even more blunt, “Fuck the Bamar army,” he said to me many times with a smile and a seriousness of work undone and ongoing. 

Insurgency in Burma is as old as the country itself, and to Maung this was simply a matter of fact and political reality which was useless to pretend didn’t exist. And while vast speculation still persists about the Rohingya insurgency in previous decades, there is a rarely noted militia called the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) where Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine belonged together, fighting the same battle. No group has managed to reconcile these two ethnicities so closely before or since, and Maung Kyaw Nu was their Vice President. As an achievement this can’t be overstated, but in the collected histories composed by foreign writers it is seldomly even a footnote. 

In his work in exile, Maung utilized every connection he had to further a future he hoped would come. In an instance that resulted in controversy, Maung managed to arrange a meeting with members of the Kachin Independence Army(KIA), one of Burma’s largest militias which is composed of the largely Christian Kachin ethnic minority. A video of the meeting was posted online and clips of Maung suggesting that the KIA train and cooperate with Rohingya caused rage and panic inside of Burma. Maung played this controversy two ways simultaneously, downplaying the meeting as an informal get together through a mutual western intermediary, which was true, but also as something worth aspiring for. He understood the public, especially the Burmese public, wasn’t ready to be inclusive to his Muslim minority as a political ally, but also that work with those who believed it was possible could be done behind closed doors. It was a line few but Maung could manage to walk, and one perhaps tragically left lingering with his passing. 

Maung’s final years saw him in deteriorating health, facing economic hardship and troubled deeply by the uncertainty of the Rohingyas’ future. He worked himself to exhaustion frequently and had difficulty sleeping. His situation, like that of the Rohingyas, worsened as time passed, but he was relentless in his aspirations. He suffered a stroke, then saw his health further decline. His black hair peppered as he was less able to keep it dyed before finally going white. He avoided the hospital for lack of funds, until he finally had no other option. Finally, cancer took him on the last day of May, 2018. He left behind a world of friends and family who loved him dearly, and now scramble to fill the gaps left in his absence. 

From his youth to his final days, Maung was a fighter, living through extraordinary events I’ve sworn to keep secret even in his passing. He loved his country and hated the corrupt Military regime which controlled it. He loved every ethnic and religious group of his countrymen, even when they rejected him for his own religion and ethnicity. He understood what many still are long to realize; that there would be no freedom for anyone until there was freedom for all. And there wasn’t a day i talked to Maung that he wasn’t striving with these believes deep in his heart to ensure a future where that freedom was a reality.

RB News
July 19, 2018

Buthidaung, Arakan State -- Rakhine officials in the local admininstrations are profiteering on the assistances provided by the Myanmar central government for the violence-hit local (Rohingya) Muslims in Buthidaung Township and also barring INGOs from helping them, according to reliable sources.

Officers from Rakhine Buddhist community have occupied about ninety percent of positions in the Buthidaung Township General Administration and sixty percent in the village administrations all over the Township and therefore, making it easier for them to steal the assistances given for the Rohingyas or profiteer on them. 

According the reports, the Myanmar central government has approved health-care assistances of Kyat 30,000 to Kyat 45,000 ot Kyat 75,000 to Kyat 90,000 each for 2 months for 200 pregnant Rohingya women in Buthidaung based on the seriousness of their health. However, the Rakhine officials in the administrations have cut down not only the numbers of the beneficiaries by distributing assistances to only 100 women instead of 200 but also the amounts of the aid money by half.

Out of agricultural subsidies allotted by the central government for 85 Rohingya villages, the township administration have only distributed agricultural subsidies to 15 villages. It has also been learnt that the township administration have been barring INGOs from assisting the local Rohingya villagers.

"It appears that the Rakhine Buddhist authorities simply want us to leave this country from the way they are making every aspect of our lives difficult," said a Rohingya farmer in Buthidaung.

[Reported by RB Correspondent; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

Please email to: to send your reports and feedback.

Rohingya refugees are resorting to increaingly desperate measures such as makeshift rafts to cross the Naf River to Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Joint Statement
July 19, 2018 

Rohingya organizations worldwide call for accountability for genocide and crimes against humanity in Myanmar

We, the undersigned Rohingya organizations worldwide, call for accountability for genocide and crimes against humanity in Myanmar and for the international community to take action. The international community has failed us and needs to urgently reverse course. We believe it is imperative that the international community urgently address the human rights situation in Myanmar.

The new 160-page report by human rights group Fortify Rights, “They Gave Them Long Swords,” documents how the Myanmar military and authorities made systematic preparations to commit mass atrocity crimes against Rohingya communities during the weeks and months before Rohingya-militant attacks on August 25, 2017. 

Our organizations have documented how Myanmar authorities are responsible for human rights violations in Rakhine State including killings, rape, destruction of property and burning of villages, and avoidable deprivations in aid. The government denies Rohingya citizenship and denies the very existence of our ethnicity.

The Government of Myanmar also denies allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State and refuses to cooperate with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee as well as the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission. The government also continues to restrict access for aid groups. 

Myanmar military and police officials are responsible for the atrocities in northern Rakhine State and should be brought to justice for genocide and crimes against humanity, including Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. 

We believe Aung San Suu Kyi is also complicit in genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

In 2016, the international community failed to act to stop the atrocities against the Rohingya, and in 2017, massive attacks ensued. The failures of the international community to date have created an environment for genocide. 

We support the call of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Fortify Rights, and others for the U.N. Security Council to urgently refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for atrocity crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity, against the Rohingya and other ethnic groups, including the Kachin and Shan people. U.N. Security Council member states should apply appropriate pressure—collectively and bilaterally—on any states who do not support a referral to the ICC in order to ensure a referral can take place.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to grant unfettered access to journalists, human rights monitors, and aid groups, and to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law without delay. 

We also call on the Government of Bangladesh to continue to provide protection and humanitarian access to Rohingya refugees, and to cooperate with international efforts to ensure justice and accountability in Myanmar. 


1. Arakan Rohingya Development Association – Australia (ARDA)
2. Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
3. British Rohingya Community in UK
4. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
5. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)
6. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia (BRCA)
7. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
8. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
9. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
10. Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
11. European Rohingya Council (ERC)
12. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia (MERHROM)
13. Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan
14. Rohingya American Society
15. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
16. Rohingya Association of Canada
17. Rohingya Community in Finland
18. Rohingya Community in Germany
19. Rohingya Community in Norway (RCN)
20. Rohingya Community in Sweden
21. Rohingya Community in Switzerland
22. Rohingya Community Ireland (RCI)
23. Rohingya Organisation Norway
24. Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM)
25. Rohingya Society Netherlands
26. Swedish Rohingya Association (SRA)

For more information, please contact: 

Tun Khin (Mobile): +44 7888714866 
Nay San Lwin (Mobile): +49 69 26022349 
Zaw Min Htut (Mobile): +8180 30835327

Secretary-General António Guterres (center) meets with Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. (Photo: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Published by UN News on July 11, 2018

Painting a grim picture of villages being burned to the ground and other “bone-chilling” accounts he heard from Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar, the UN chief has called on the world to answer their calls for help with real action. 

“Small children butchered in front of their parents. Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding: “Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts.”

The continuing plight of nearly one million Rohingya refugees driven from their homes in Myanmar was the focus of Mr. Guterres’ trip along with Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, during a visit last week to Bangladesh – the country where they have found safe-haven.

Since late August 2017, widespread and systematic violence against Myanmar’s mainly-Muslim minority Rohingya, has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in Rakhine state for Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area, just across the border.

Prior to that, well over 200,000 Rohingya refugees were sheltering in vast, makeshift camps in Bangladesh as a result of earlier displacements.

In his Washington Post opinion piece, the UN chief recalled one Muslim man he met who broke down in tears, describing how his eldest son was shot dead in front of him.

The man’s mother was brutally murdered and his house was torched to ashes. He then took refuge in a mosque but was discovered by soldiers who abused him and burned the Koran.

“These victims of what has been rightly called ethnic cleansing are suffering an anguish that can only stir a visitor’s heartbreak and anger,” continued Mr. Guterres.

“Their horrific experiences defy comprehension, yet they are the reality for nearly one million Rohingya refugees.”

The Rohingya have suffered a pattern of persecution — lacking even the most basic human rights, starting with citizenship — in their native Myanmar.

The Secretary-General explained that systematic human rights abuses by Myanmar’s security forces over the past year were “designed to instill terror in the Rohingya population, leaving them with a dreadful choice: stay on in fear of death or leave everything simply to survive.”

While Bangladesh’s resources are stretched to the limits, wealthier countries are closing their doors to outsiders.

“The Government and people of Bangladesh have opened their borders and hearts to the Rohingya,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that such compassion and generosity “show the best of humanity and has saved many thousands of lives.”

A Rohingya boy walks up steps in a rain-damaged section of the Chakmarkul refugee settlement. (Photo: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck)

A global response needed

A Global Compact on Refugees is being finalized by UN Member States, seeking to ensure that, among other things, front-line countries, like Bangladesh, are not alone in responding fleeing waves of humanity.

Meanwhile, the UN and humanitarian agencies are working flat-out alongside the refugees themselves and host communities to improve conditions.

“But far more resources are desperately needed to avert disaster and to give fuller expression to the principle that a refugee crisis calls for a global sharing of responsibility,” stressed the UN chief, pointing that only 26 per cent of an $1 billion international humanitarian appeal has been funded.

This shortfall means that malnutrition prevails in the camp, access to water and sanitation is iffy, refugee children are missing basic education and inadequate measures are left to alleviate the monsoon risk.

“Makeshift homes hastily built by the refugees on arrival are now threatened by mudslides, requiring urgent action to find alternative sites and build stronger shelters,” he detailed.

Mr. Guterres spoke of his visit to Bangladesh, saying “the Rohingya people need genuine assistance.”

The crisis will not be solved overnight, yet the situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

Unless the root causes of the violence in Rakhine state are addressed comprehensively, hatred will continue to fuel conflict.

“The Rohingya people cannot become forgotten victims. We must answer their clear appeals for help with action,” concluded the UN chief.
Rohingya girls carry firewood on their heads as they make their way through Kutupalong refugee camp, June 28, 2018, in Bangladesh.

By Lisa Schlein | Published by Voice of America on July 4, 2018

GENEVA — U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein reports thousands of Rohingya refugees continue to flee violence and persecution in Myanmar. Speaking Wednesday before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, he presented a grim assessment of the situation of the Muslim minority in the country’s Rakhine state.

In his presentation, Zeid accused the authorities in majority-Buddhist Myanmar of trying to whitewash their treatment of the Rohingya people. In recent months, he says Myanmar has challenged allegations its security forces have engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign that has sent more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.

He said Myanmar authorities also are trying to convince the world they are willing to allow the refugees to return to their homes and that it is safe for them to do so. Zeid disputes these assertions. He says he has evidence that the few people who have returned to Rakhine of their own accord have been imprisoned and ill-treated.

Since the start of this year, Zeid said more than 11,400 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar and more continue to flee. He said dozens of others have departed by boat for Malaysia and Indonesia, and some reportedly having died en route.

“All the newly arrived refugees who have been interviewed by OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] described continuing violence, persecution and human rights violations, including killings and the burning of Rohingya homes.... No amount of rhetoric can whitewash these facts. People are still fleeing persecution in Rakhine - and are even willing to risk dying at sea to escape,” he said. 

Zeid urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court to investigate all allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated against the Rohingya.

Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, Kyaw Moe Tun, tore into Zeid’s statement, calling it flawed, full of incomplete and misleading information. He blamed the deteriorating security situation in northern Rakhine on attacks against the government by ARSA, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which he calls a terrorist group. He said his government was setting up a Commission of Inquiry to look into allegations of abuse against the Rohingya.

High Commissioner Zeid said Myanmar indulges in what he called a “pattern of investigative whitewash."

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Published by UN News on July 4, 2018

Myanmar should “have some shame” after attempting to convince the world that it is willing to take back hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled an “ethnic cleansing campaign” last year, given that “not a single” one has returned officially, the United Nations human rights chief warned on Wednesday.

Addressing the Human Rights Council after giving an update on the refugee crisis that has seen more than 700,000 Rohingya people flee to Bangladesh to escape a security clampdown in Myanmar, Zeid urged the UN Security Council to refer the Member State to the International Criminal Court (ICC) immediately.

“We are not fools,” he said.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights also responded to the Myanmar Government representative’s comments that it was a “body committed to the defence of human rights”.

This, Mr. Zeid said, “almost creates a new category of absurdity” – a first during his mandate as the UN’s top human rights official.

“In the four years that I have been High Commissioner I have heard many preposterous claims,” he said. “This claim, that I have just stated now, almost creates a new category of absurdity. Have some shame sir. Have some shame. We are not fools.”

Earlier at the Human Rights Council, Mr. Zeid said that Myanmar had “expended considerable energy” challenging allegations that its security forces carried out ethnic cleansing against the mainly Muslim Rohingya.

In January, he continued, the Government of Myanmar had signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh, which continues to host the communities who fled their homes last August.

Despite this agreement, “not a single Rohingya refugee has returned under the formal framework agreed with Bangladesh”, he said, while “many – if not all – of those who have returned … have been detained”.

Citing one example, the High Commissioner said that between January and April this year, 58 Rohingya who returned were arrested and convicted on unspecified charges.

“They then received a Presidential pardon, but have simply been transferred from Buthidaung prison (in northern Rakhine province) to a so-called ‘reception centre’,” he explained.

All the while more Rohingya continue to seek shelter in Bangladesh, he continued, noting that as of mid-June, there have been 11,432 new arrivals there.

On the issue of ICC involvement in the issue, as he had urged, Mr. Zeid noted that the results of its fact-finding mission to Myanmar were due to be submitted “in a matter of weeks”.

UN rights chief calls for access to northern Rakhine

The UN official also repeated a call for access to northern Rakhine state on behalf of the Human Rights Council and his own office, OHCHR.

Myanmar should do this “instead of coming out with one bogus national commission after another”, the High Commissioner said – a reference to the country’s recent announcement that it intended to set up an “Independent Commission of Enquiry” to investigate alleged rights violations by Rohingya militants known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) last year.

While the Government claimed these attacks the cause of the current crisis, the UN rights chief explained that this was not possible since “cycles of violence” against the Rohingya “long pre-date ARSA, which was reportedly established in 2013”.

Barring any special meetings called by the Council after this 38th scheduled session, Mr. Zeid’s address was his last in his official capacity as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights before he steps down.

Noting this, he cautioned that “if a Member State of this organization can force out 700,000 people in almost three weeks, with practically minimal response by the International Community, then how many others in this Chamber are beginning to entertain something similar?”

Myanmar, speaking as a concerned country, said that many of the allegations in the address by the High Commissioner were flawed, incorrect and misleading. ARSA had committed heinous and shocking atrocities, its delegatation said, adding that the root cause of the tragedy was terrorism. On the subject of repatriation, Myanmar was doing its utmost to repatriate the displaced persons as soon as possible, the delegation insisted.

In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018, photo, “A,” a 13-year old Rohingya Muslim girl who agreed to be identified by her first initial, peers from behind a partition in her family’s shelter in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. Two months earlier, soldiers had broken into her home back in Myanmar and raped her, an attack that drove her and her terrified family over the border to Bangladesh. Ever since, she had waited for her period to arrive. Gradually, she came to realize that it would not. The pregnancy was a prison she was desperate to escape. The rape itself had destroyed her innocence. But carrying the baby of a Buddhist soldier could destroy her life. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

By Kristen Gelineau
Associated Press
July 5, 2018

UKHIYA, Bangladesh — Tucked away in the shadows of her family’s bamboo shelter, the girl hid from the world.

She was 13, and she was petrified. Two months earlier, soldiers had broken into her home back in Myanmar and raped her, an attack that drove her and her terrified family over the border to Bangladesh. Ever since, she had waited for her period to arrive. Gradually, she came to realize that it would not.

For the girl, a Rohingya Muslim who agreed to be identified by her first initial, A, the pregnancy was a prison she was desperate to escape. The rape itself had destroyed her innocence. But carrying the baby of a Buddhist soldier could destroy her life.

More than 10 months have passed since Myanmar’s security forces launched a sweeping campaign of rape and other brutalities against the Rohingya, and the babies conceived during those assaults have been born. For many of their mothers, the births have been tinged with fear — not only because the infants are reminders of the horrors they survived, but because their community often views rape as shameful, and bearing a baby conceived by Buddhists as sacrilege.

More than 10 months have passed since Myanmar’s security forces launched a sweeping campaign of rape and other brutalities against the Rohingya, and the babies conceived during those assaults have been born. (July 5)

Theirs is a misery spoken of only in murmurs. Some ended their pregnancies early by taking cheap abortion pills available throughout the camps. Others gave birth to unloved babies; some agonized over whether to give them away. One woman was so worried about her neighbors discovering her pregnancy that she suffered silently through labor in her shelter, stuffing a scarf in her mouth to swallow her screams.

In Bangladesh’s overcrowded refugee camps where shelter walls are made of hole-pocked plastic and sounds travel easily across the tree-stripped hills, A knew that hiding her pregnancy would be difficult and hiding a wailing newborn impossible.

She worried that giving birth to this child would leave her so tainted that no man would ever want her as his wife. In a panic, she told her mother, who swiftly took her to a clinic for an abortion. But A was so frightened by the doctor’s description of possible side effects that she thought she would die.

And so she retreated to her shelter, where she tried to flatten her growing belly by wrapping it in tight layers of scarves. She hid there for months, emerging only to use the latrine a few meters away.

There was nothing to do but wait with dread for the baby who symbolized the pain of an entire people to arrive.


For the women who became pregnant during last year’s wave of attacks in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, to speak the truth is to risk losing everything. Because of that, no one knows how many rape survivors have given birth. But given the vastness of the sexual violence, relief groups had braced for the worst: a spike in deliveries from traumatized women, and scores of babies left abandoned in the camps that are home to around 900,000 Rohingya refugees.

By June, though, the birth rate in medical clinics had remained relatively steady, and only a handful of babies have been found left behind. Aid workers began to suspect that many women had quietly dealt with their pregnancies themselves.

“They will not come forward for antenatal checkups — they will try to hide their pregnancy,” says Medecins Sans Frontieres midwife Daniela Cassio, a sexual violence specialist. “I’m sure many have also died during the pregnancy or during the delivery.”

Yet sprinkled throughout the sprawling camps, you will find women who have grown weary of the silence. Ten such women and girls agreed to interviews with The Associated Press. They consented to be identified in this story by their first initials only, citing fear of retaliation from Myanmar’s military.

The monsoon rains thundering down on the roof of A’s shelter threaten to drown out her words. Her voice still has a childlike softness, and when she speaks of the soldiers who raped her, it fades to a whisper.

Already, several men who had shown interest in marrying her have walked away when they’ve learned about the attack. Her parents worry no man will ever want her. And yet, with their blessing, she leans in close to share her story.

“I want justice,” she says, anxiously turning a plastic cup over and over in her hands. “That’s why I’m talking to you.”


To understand the fear that drove some of these women underground, enter the stifling shelter where M lives.

She sits on a mat, sweating and scratching at the angry scar on her breast left by the soldier who bit her. The baby who was the product of that attack wails in his 8-year-old sister’s arms. The little girl tries to hand the infant off to her mother, but M dismisses them both with a wave of her hand.

“I don’t want to carry him anymore,” M says. “I don’t love him.” And so the girl gently places the screaming infant into a hammock crafted out of a rice sack and twine.

M’s husband is not home to help. He rarely is, she says. Ever since she told him of her rape and pregnancy, he has wanted little to do with her.

Her nightmare began the way it did for so many Rohingya women: With scores of soldiers swarming her village in August, shortly after Rohingya insurgents attacked several police posts. The details of her assault follow a pattern documented last year in an investigation by the AP. That investigation, based on interviews with 29 rape survivors, an examination of medical records and testimony from doctors, concluded the rapes of Rohingya women were sweeping and methodical.

From inside her house, M heard a rattle of gunfire and a chorus of screams. She looked outside and saw soldiers setting fire to homes. Her two daughters fled, but by the time M made it out the door with her 2-year-old son, six soldiers were waiting. One snatched the wailing boy from her arms, strangled him, and threw his lifeless body to the ground.

The soldiers forced her back into the house. When she saw them undoing their pants, she pressed her hands over her eyes. They stomped on her stomach and feet, and one after another they raped her. She felt like she was dying.

Two days passed before her husband found her and carried her to the mountains, and then across the border to Bangladesh. He asked her if the soldiers had raped her. Too ashamed to tell him the truth, she said they had only beaten her.

After two months, her period still hadn’t arrived. She felt dizzy and nauseous, and craved sour foods like tamarind, just as she had with her other pregnancies.

Terrified of how her husband would react, she said nothing. Another two months passed and she began to feel movements deep inside her. She knew she couldn’t hide the pregnancy much longer.

One night, she was too sick to make him rice for dinner. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked.

The truth spilled out: “I was raped by six soldiers. And I’m pregnant.”

Her husband offered no comfort, only blame. He demanded to know why she hadn’t run away from the soldiers. He told her he could never have sex with her again. And then he asked if he could marry another woman.

“You are useless to me,” he said.

M pleaded with him not to leave her, told him she needed help with their girls. And so he stayed, though he treated her like she was invisible. At night, she curled up in the corner of their shelter with her daughters; he slept along an adjacent wall.

“M” who says that her life is meaningless, sits in her shelter. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

With her other pregnancies, she excitedly counted the days until delivery. With this baby, she paid no attention to her due date. She felt detached from the life growing inside her.

Her contractions began late one night. She labored quietly for hours, until her screams awakened her husband. She told him to find a local birthing assistant to help her. He did, and then left.

When the infant finally arrived, he looked nothing like her other children. In his eyes, she saw her rapists. To look at him was to relive her attack, over and over again.

Her husband returned hours after the birth. He said nothing to her, and ignored the baby. He wouldn’t help her clean up the mat she’d given birth on, and she was in too much pain to clean it herself. She lay on it for days, until one of her daughters came to her aid.

The baby’s cries just made her angry. She found herself crying all the time, too.

Before the rape, her husband was loving and kind. Now, he leaves their shelter early in the morning and doesn’t return until midnight. He is often irritable and impatient with her. He has never kissed the boy, or cuddled him.

“M” sits in her shelter, uninterested in her baby boy who had awoken from his sleep. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) 

She didn’t bother to name the child until a community leader told her to. She chose the first name that popped into her mind. It means nothing to her, she says. And neither does the boy.

She doesn’t want to give him to a foster family. Her only other son was killed in the attack. So she takes care of this new boy in the hopes that one day, he will take care of her.

For now, she pretends to love him. After all, she says, he is just a baby. This is not his fault.

Nor is it hers, though she still berates herself for the rape. She questions her decision not to run from the house sooner, though running faster probably would not have saved her.

She spends much of her days lying on a mat, praying for Allah to end her life.

“I don’t have any money to buy anything. I am always depressed. My husband doesn’t love me. I want to die as soon as possible,” she says, weeping.

“My life is meaningless.”

“M” lays on the floor of her shelter, uninterested in her baby boy who had awoken from his sleep. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)


For some rape survivors, the idea of giving birth to a child conceived by someone other than a Muslim felt like a fate worse than death. So they turned to clinics and makeshift pharmacies set up in the camps for abortion drugs they hoped could end their agony.

The pain of D’s rape was so severe that she had to wrap a supportive scarf around her battered pelvis to endure the dayslong walk to Bangladesh. Yet through it all, she survived. When she discovered she was pregnant, she wished she had not.

She was a widow, and to give birth to a child without a husband was to invite admonishment. She quickly sought out a pharmacy to find the drugs that would induce an abortion.

As she swallowed the first tablet, she cried and prayed to Allah. But nothing happened. So she bought more medicine, taking pill after pill until, at last, her stomach twisted with intense cramps and heavy blood began to flow. Her relief was instant.

“I felt that I had found a new world,” she says. “I would have taken poison if I had to give birth to that baby because it is a big shame for me. People would criticize me.”

Others, though, found surprising support. So certain was T that her husband would divorce her, that she waited a month to tell him about her pregnancy. Her heart hammered the day she revealed the truth. When she did, her husband began to cry, and so did she.

“It’s not your fault,” he reassured her. “Maybe it was your fate that this happened to you. You didn’t want this.”

She had no idea she could go to a hospital for an abortion. But one day, she met an aid worker who was walking through the camps looking for pregnant women in distress. The aid worker provided her with abortion drugs. T took the pills, then visited a religious leader who performed a ceremony that he said would remove the baby. When she began to bleed, she felt as if a dirtiness inside her had been washed clean.

Slowly, a few women have forgiven themselves, though there was never anything to forgive. H, who also had an abortion, was once so ashamed of her pregnancy that she told no one. Now, though, she has begun to share her story with others, and has focused her fury on the men who brutalized her. She did nothing to invite their violence, she says. So why should she feel ashamed?

In Myanmar, where the Rohingya people have few rights and Rohingya women even less, she had no voice. Here, she says, she feels she can finally speak.

“I don’t want to hide anymore,” she says.


“A,” a 13-year old Rohingya Muslim girl adjusts her headscarf in her family’s shelter. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The moment that A had long feared arrived one day in May. After months of isolation, her contractions had finally begun.

She was still a child herself, overwhelmed with uncertainty over what to expect. And she cringed at the thought of what others would say.

For hours, she labored on the floor of her shelter, her mother and grandmother by her side, until at last, she pushed out a baby girl.

She looked down at the infant and began to shake. She felt like she was going into shock.

The baby was fat and strong, with a round face and small eyes. As A gazed at her child, she saw beauty. But she also saw pain.

She knew she could not keep the girl.

Her father hurried to a clinic run by a relief group and asked them to take the baby away. An hour after A gave birth, an aid worker arrived to retrieve the infant.

She held her daughter in her arms and began to cry. She kissed her head and her tiny hands. And then she handed the baby over.

She doesn’t know who is caring for her baby now, but groups like Save the Children and UNICEF have found Rohingya families within the camps who are willing to take in such children. The organizations have placed around ten babies with new families, says Krissie Hayes, a child protection in emergencies specialist with UNICEF.

For now, A tries to imagine what her future will be like. She hopes someone will marry her one day, and give her more babies. She hopes for a sewing machine, so she can earn money mending clothes.

Sometimes, she says, an aid worker stops by the shelter to show her photos of her daughter, so she can see that she is safe and well.

“Even though I got this baby from the Buddhists, I love her,” she says. “Because I carried her for nine months.”

For her, giving the baby away was the right decision. It was the only decision.

But she aches for her still.

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

Published by UN News on June 27, 2018

The United Nations rights expert on Myanmar is “strongly” recommending that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for “decades of crimes” in the form a grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law inside the country.

In an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee underscored that accountability for crimes committed in Myanmar “is the only way” to end the long-term cycle of violence.

“I strongly recommend the persons allegedly responsible for the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC or a credible mechanism,” she said.

Since late August 2017, widespread and systematic violence against Myanmar’s mainly-Muslim minority Rohinyas, has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in Rakhine state and seek refuge across the country’s border, in Bangladesh.

Even though the number of new arrivals has tapered off and an agreement reached on establishing conditions in Myanmar to allow the refugees to return voluntarily and in safety, UN agencies on the ground have reported that such conditions are yet not present.

In her briefing, Ms. Lee also drew attention to the possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by security forces in other regions of Myanmar, including in Kachin and Shan states, where other minorities have endured protracted conflicts since shortly after the country gained independence in 1948, she said.

“Far too many crimes have been committed, and have been documented and reported with scant consequences faced by those who perpetrated them,” said the Special Rapporteur.

The UN human rights expert also voiced “deep concern” over the “apparent inability” of the UN Security Council to unite to refer the situation to the ICC, and urged the Human Rights Council, “as a matter of urgency”, to back her proposal to establish an international accountability mechanism.

She explained that the mechanism should have three components: first, to interview victims, investigate and document alleged violations and abuses, and consolidate investigations already undertaken; second, the mechanism should have legal and judicial experts to examine patterns and trends of violations; and third, the development of a framework for victim support in their pursuit of “justice, reconciliation and reintegration”.

“To prepare for credible investigation and prosecution, and in order to finally put an end to decades of such crimes and to take effective measures to bring justice, I recommend that the [Human Rights] Council establishes an accountability mechanism under the auspices of the UN without delay,” she said.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was first established in 1992. Since then, it has been extended annually, and broadened on two occasions –in 2014, in relation to the electoral process and in 2016, concerning priority areas for technical assistance.

In December last year, the Government of Myanmar denied all access to Ms. Lee and withdrew cooperation for the duration of her tenure.

Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

For Immediate Release 27th June 2018

Special Rapporteur’s call for accountability for Rohingya atrocities must be backed with action

The Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) welcomes the calls for an international accountability mechanism made today by Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

In an oral update to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today, Yanghee Lee urged the creation of a body under the auspices of the United Nations to investigate human rights violations against the Rohingya. Ms. Lee said the body was needed to end “the cycles of violence faced by the people of Myanmar”.

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely correct that only justice can ensure that Myanmar does not feel emboldened to continue its genocidal policies against the Rohingya. The international community must act of Yanghee Lee’s important speech today and as soon as possible ensure that an international accountability mechanism is established,” said Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.

“We also welcome the Special Rapportuer’s mention of the need for the International Criminal Court to play a prominent role in ensuring justice for crimes against the Rohingya. It is unconscionable that members of the Un Security Council are spending their time playing politics instead of doing the right thing, which is referring the situation in Myanmar to the Hague.”

BROUK further urges the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the international community in order to ensure justice. The Myanmar government has a deplorable track record of blocking international efforts to scrutinise its rights record, including by refusing access to the Special Rapporteur and the UN Fact-Finding Mission, which was established by the Human Rights Council in 2017.

“Myanmar keeps insisting it has nothing to hide, but still refuses to allow independent and credible international monitors inside its borders. If the Myanmar government is as serious about tackling human rights abuses as it claims to be, it needs to immediately extend full cooperation to the international community,” said Tun Khin.

For more information, please contact Tun Khin +44 7888714866.

Rohingya Exodus