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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.

Myanmar's military has forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of Rakhine state and across the border to Bangladesh since August 2017

By AFP
June 25, 2018

Canada on Monday announced sanctions in coordination with the European Union against seven senior Myanmar officials over the Rohingya crisis, accusing them of human rights violations including killings and sexual violence.

"Today, the European Union and Canada have announced sanctions against some of the key military leaders who were involved in atrocities and human rights violations in Rakhine State, including sexual and gender-based violence," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

"Canada and the international community cannot be silent. This is ethnic cleansing. These are crimes against humanity," she said.

The Myanmar officials -- five army generals, a border guard commander and a police commander -- face travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the crisis.

Myanmar's military has forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of Rakhine and across the border to Bangladesh since August 2017, in a brutal crackdown which UN officials say amounts to ethnic cleansing of the minority.

The Buddhist-majority country has branded the Rohingya as illegal immigrants.

After a period of thawing relations with Myanmar after the country's military junta ceded power in 2011, the Rohingya crisis has seen the EU and Canada take a harder line -- with blacklisting the officials the toughest step taken so far by Brussels and Ottawa.

A Rohingya refugee is seen in Balukhali refugee camp at dawn near Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

By Robin Emmott, Antoni Slodkowski
June 25, 2018

LUXEMBOURG/YANGON -- The European Union imposed sanctions on seven senior military officials from Myanmar on Monday, including the general in charge of an operation accused of driving more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.

Within hours of the EU announcement, the Myanmar military announced that one of the sanctioned generals had been fired on Monday and another had left the army last month after being removed from his post. 

The seven face asset freezes and are banned from travelling to the EU, after the bloc extended an arms embargo and prohibited any training of, or cooperation with, Myanmar’s armed forces. 

The sanctions, first reported by Reuters in April, also mark a shift in diplomacy by the EU, which suspended its restrictive measures on Myanmar in 2012 to support its partial shift to democratic governance in recent years. 

The crackdown on the Rohingya in northwestern Rakhine State, which the United Nations denounced as “ethnic cleansing” by the military, has soured relations. 

Myanmar rejects almost all accusations of wrongdoing and says it launched a legitimate counter-insurgency operation after coming under attack by Rohingya militants last August. 

One of the officers sanctioned by the EU, Major General Maung Maung Soe, had already been sanctioned by the United States last December. He was transferred late last year from his post as the head of Western Command in Rakhine, where Myanmar’s military launched its ferocious counter-offensive. 

“He is responsible for the atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against (the) Rohingya population in Rakhine State by the Western Command during that period,” the EU said in a statement.

Hours later, the Myanmar army said in a statement that Muang Maung Soe had been fired on Monday from the military for underperformance when responding to Rohingya militant attacks. 

It also said that another sanctioned commander — Deputy Major General Aung Kyaw Zaw, whose Bureau of Special Operations No. 3 oversaw the Western Command — was “given permission to resign” in May. He had also been earlier moved from his original post. The army said it found “some flaws” in his performance. 

It did not refer to the EU sanctions in its statement. 

Thant Zin Oo, the commander of the Eighth Security Police Battalion, was also sanctioned. The EU accused him of “serious human rights violations (that) include unlawful killings and systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings.” Four other senior military staff were named, all generals. 

Canada also sanctioned senior military officials in February, when Reuters reported on events in the village of Inn Din where 10 Rohingya men were killed by Rakhine Buddhists and security force members. Reuters named and detailed Thant Zin Oo’s role in Rakhine in that story for the first time. 

Two Reuters journalists were jailed while reporting the story and remain in prison in Yangon, where they face up to 14 years behind bars for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. 

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by John Stonestreet, David Stamp and Peter Graff



Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

For Immediate Release 25th June 2018

EU sanctions on Myanmar too limited to ensure justice for Rohingya atrocities

The European Union’s move to impose sanctions on Myanmar security officials is a small, positive step towards ensure justice for the ongoing genocide against the Rohingya people, but they do not go nearly far enough, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today.

The sanctions, announced today after a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg, include asset freezes and travel bans targeting seven officials in the Myanmar military and Border Guard Police.

“These sanctions are a limited step in the right direction by the EU and at least show that the international community is willing to back up condemnation with concrete action. It is, however, deeply disappointing that many of those Myanmar officials most responsible for orchestrating the genocide against Rohingya have been let off the hook, most notably the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.

“The EU and other international actors must also realise that they cannot limit themselves to sanctions in order to push Myanmar to end its genocidal policies. Only by ensuring that Myanmar’s authorities are brought to justice for their crimes can we ensure that these will not be repeated again in the future.”

The EU said the sanctions were due to atrocities and serious human rights violations committed by the Myanmar security forces against Rohingya in Rakhine State since August 2017. The seven individuals targeted include Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw and Major General Maung Maung Soe. The sanctions announced today add to an EU arms embargo already in effect against the Myanmar military forces.

Other international actors have taken limited actions against individual Myanmar officials. In December 2017, the USA imposed sanctions on Maung Maung Soe for his role in “widespread human rights abuse against Rohingya civilians”.

The need for accountability

In August 2017, the Myanmar security forces launched a vicious “clearance operation” in Rakhine State in which thousands of Rohingya men, women and children were killed, whole villages were torched to the ground and almost 700,000 people were forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Rohingya people have suffered violence and systemic discrimination in Myanmar for decades, where they are denied citizenship and face severe restrictions on their human rights.

Despite these well-documented atrocities at the hands of the security forces, hardly anyone has been held to account. BROUK urges the international community to play a role in ensuring justice for the Rohingya people, and in particular calls on members of the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

“Individual sanctions are important and send a message that atrocities against the Rohingya people will have consequences. But they will ultimately not be enough to push Myanmar to end its blatant efforts to wipe the Rohingya out as a people,” said Tun Khin.

“To end the cycle of violence against Rohingya, those responsible for horrific crimes must be held to account. The international community must play a role in this, as Myanmar is both unwilling and unable to investigate itself. The hope of the Rohingya for justice now lies with the International Criminal Court, and UN Security Council members must refer the situation to the Hague immediately.”

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

RB News
June 25, 2018

Maungdaw -- Fears among Rohingya grow as sources within the Myanmar authorities and the Rakhine Buddhist community are circulating rumors that there will be attacks and explosions in (the downtown of) Maungdaw soon.

Suspicious activities and unusual patrollings by the Myanmar troops in Maungdaw are turning the rumors into beliefs, locals say.

"On June 22 evening, locals heard gun-shots from the BGP (Border Guard Police) camp at the Bridge between the downtown of Maungdaw and Myothu Gyi village. On June 24 early morning, the deputy commander and other 30 troops from Battalion 551 patrolled at 'Quarter 5' and the village of 'Myoma Kayintan'. Later, they replaced the BGP at the camp nearby the Bridge between 'Myoma Kayintan' and 'Pantaw Pyin' villages.

Furthermore, BGP personnel from camps in Maungdaw are being transferred and replaced by new ones. Some other BGP are being replaced by the military and the military are increasingly being deployed in the region.

Meanwhile, the locals of 'Sein Nyein Pyar' village in Buthidaung also said that they heard sounds of explosions and gunshots from the forests to its West. However, they were unable to further verify the details.

"We are hearing reports of possible attacks and explosions in the downtown of Maungdaw from the authorities and the Rakhines. They (the authorities) are saying that they have got all the information about what's likely going to happen. At the same time, we are seeing some strangers roaming here in Maungdaw.

"Security forces have also been heavily deployed in Maungdaw. Amidst all these, if any violence takes place, we should say it will happen only because the authorities are allowing it happen" said a human rights activist based in Maungdaw.

ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army), a Rohingya rebel group formed and appeared as a direct consequence of the State-led violence against Rohingya in 2012, launched attacks on several Myanmar police posts on August 25, 2017. Using that as pretext and under the banner of counter-insurgency operation, the Myanmar military launched a brutal campaign against the Rohingya population at large mass killing or summarily executing several thousands of civilians, burning down hundreds of villages and raping or gang-raping thousands of women and girls leading to a massive exodus of more 700,000 refugees into neighboring Bangladesh.

The situation in Maungdaw and Buthidaung has started calming down to a certain extent after two third of the Rohingya have been expelled to Bangladesh since last year. Now, reports of a possible violence is increasing panic among the Rohingyas in the region.

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

Please email to: editor@rohingyablogger.com to send your reports and feedback.



[This is a longer version of the article with the same title published on Dhaka Tribune on June 19.]


Irresponsible reports do nothing to help the cause of human rights © MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

By MS Anwar | June 22, 2018

An Amnesty report that points fingers at ARSA could do more harm than good

Amnesty International, a reputed international human rights watchdog group, published a report claiming ‘Rohingya armed group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) had massacred scores of Hindu civilians in Rakhine state’ on May 22 -- a report which ARSA categorically denied later.

The report was shocking to many, and drew immediate criticism and condemnation from leading Rohingya activists as well as non-Rohingya activists, not because they were angry with the Amnesty exposé of the alleged crimes by the Rohingya armed group, but because the report was so shoddy and irresponsible.

The massacre indeed took place. No one questions that. But some important questions still remain: Who were the massacred civilians - all Hindus or a mixed group of Hindus and Muslims. And who were those masked-men dressed in black that allegedly perpetrated the crimes? The Amnesty report does not provide definitive answers to either of these damning questions. [Also read: Does Amnesty’s ARSA report prove anything?]

Initial Reports Implicate Myanmar Military for the Massacre

One Hindu eyewitness, in Bangladesh last year, testified that "this black-squad killed both Hindus and Muslims or anyone who refused to follow their orders." Although one cannot rule out the possibility that ARSA could be behind it, there is no indication of a motive for ARSA killing either fellow Muslims or Hindus. Furthermore, more Hindu victims have claimed that they were targeted by the Myanmar armed forces in August, 2017 along with Muslim people as both Muslims and Hindus look alike. These were the account given in Bangladesh refugee camps before some of them returned to Myanmar and after getting in touch with one of their community leaders named U Ni Maw who is reported to have been closely working with the Myanmar authorities. [Read: Outsourcing Myanmar Military’s Lethal Propaganda] Some of the Hindus who have remained in Bangladesh refugee camps continue to claim they were targeted by the Myanmar military along with Muslims.




Citing forensic anthropological experts’ examination of the photos of the dead bodies, Amnesty claimed that the massacre took place on August 25, 2017. Yet this provides no evidence as to who was behind the massacre. Shockingly enough, most of the dead bodies were found with their genitals cut off in the photos that were released by the Myanmar government last year. Many Rohingya and international activists demanded the Myanmar government allow international forensic experts examine the dead bodies of the people massacred. Shortly afterwards, it was he Myanmar government burnt the corpses, leaving no traces behind.

Under such circumstances, one couldn’t help but wonder if members of the Myanmar Security or Military themselves staged a false-flag attack in order to avoid international scrutiny over international crimes including genocide?

How Reliable are Witness Accounts Given in Myanmar?

Amnesty claimed that it conducted ‘dozens of interviews’ in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh. So far, it has been proven that all the Hindu witness accounts in Bangladesh implicated the Myanmar military of the massacre.   Amnesty claims these to be unreliable because it ‘BELIEVES’ these testimonies were given under pressure. Yet Amnesty does not apply the same logic or scrutiny as to why Hindus who have returned, or remain in Myanmar under very tense circumstances, may provide unreliable testimony. Understandably, those returnees and other Hindus have different stories to tell when they came to Amnesty’s interviews in Sittwe (the capital of Rakhine state).

(Rohingya) Hindus, like their (Rohingya) Muslim counterparts, are not allowed to travel freely and require travel permission from the Immigration Department called ‘Form 4’. Rakhine Women’s Union’ is said to have arranged their travel to Sittwe for interviews with Amnesty’s interviews in order for them to obtain travel permission. Therefore, arrangements for the interviews had to happen with the complete KNOWLEDGE of the Myanmar Government. It is an established fact that sections of the Rakhine community have assisted the Myanmar armed forces in carrying out Genocide against the Rohingya since 2012. This casts doubt as to whether the interviewees would be free to express themselves and provide reliable testimony. Therefore, it is not clear why Amnesty assume that accounts provided in Bangladesh deemed less reliable than the accounts provided in Myanmar under the watchful eyes of the Myanmar intelligence and authorities.

One can assume that if Hindu victims had provided statements that the perpetrators were the Burmese military - or that they didn't recognize the killers at all, that they would not be safe in Myanmar. The same Myanmar government also has been repeatedly exposed coaxing and forcing the members of this Hindu community to dress up as Muslims to stage fake events. One such staged incident of Muslims supposedly torching their own homes (below), was widely promoted/circulated by the Myanmar Presidential Spokesperson, Zaw Htay (also responsible for the incitement of violence against Rohingya in June 2012). Later, it was exposed as a fake – a source of deep embarrassment for Zaw Htay.



 


Amnesty responded to criticism by stating that no one except for the Rakhine state authorities knew about their travel to Sittwe and interviews with the Hindu victims. However, isn’t it the Rakhine state NLD government one and same as the NLD government – a government which is controlled by the Myanmar military? The same Myanmar military that is responsible for the Genocide against Rohingya?

Amnesty Team’s Mysterious Travel to Sittwe

According to the report, these interviews with the Hindu victims were conducted between April 25 and May 18. It is not feasible that researcher, Laura Haigh, and her team would have been able to travel to and conduct research in Sittwe for three weeks (or even a few days as Amnesty Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan later claimed) without Myanmar’s intelligence being fully aware. For foreigners to travel to Rakhine state plagued by the state-led violence (against Rohingya) since 2012, they must go through strict procedures and rules set by the government – making it unlikely that  they could escape the radar of the Myanmar intelligence services while in Rakhine state.

It appears that the preparation and execution for the report on ARSA’s alleged massacre was done in haste. Hence, it contains factual errors and poorly evidenced conclusions – despite Amnesty claims that the methodology was thorough and rigorous.



Besides, Laura Haigh also attempted to travel to Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships while she was in Sittwe. But the authorities barred her and her team from travelling to Maungdaw where the massacre actually happened. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that there is serious information that the authorities were trying to hide from the world or the Amnesty team in this case. Under such circumstance, is it possible to ascertain irrefutable evidence relating to a serious incident that transpired nine months earlier?

Consequences of Amnesty’s Stand-Alone Report

Amnesty International is a reputed International Human Rights Watchdog with years and years of experiences of reporting human rights. They must have assessed the risks involved with publishing a STAND-ALONE report which also has provocative religious overtones written over it.

Amnesty International failed to brief about the background of historical genocidal persecutions of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military and the emergence of ARSA as a direct consequence of the State-led violence in 2012. Amnesty International also failed to clarify the readers how the ordinary Rohingya civilians are not concerned with ARSA’s actions, even if it’s been proven to have massacred the Hindus or killed any other civilians.

As expected, the report has been being championed by the anti-Rohingya adversaries and taken out of context by some international media carrying Islamophobic headlines. The result is fuelling Islamophobia, the deepening of anti-Rohingya hatred, and the demonizing the Rohingya community as a whole as extremists.  It even overshadows decades-long genocidal-killings of Rohingya in Myanmar. As a result, it has left the remaining Rohingya population in Arakan State vulnerable to further attacks by the Myanmar armed forces and put the lives of the Rohingya refugees outside Myanmar, especially in today’s anti-Muslim/anti-Minority India, in an unprecedented danger.

Myanmar Military Get a Cover-Up

In the face of an unfolding Genocide (by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya), Amnesty’s stand-alone report -- on one ARSA’s alleged crimes instead of including it in a chapter in a larger assessment report on the overall crimes and atrocities taken place in the Arakan state --has seriously damaged years of hard-works of the right activists worldwide. It has given the Myanmar military officials many reasons to cheer and they have welcomed the report. The report has thrust big and bold headlines almost in all newspapers in the country and the government officials have been using the report to roll out bitter anti-Muslim propaganda in the country.


 

During a recent TV debate on TRT Channel, Amnesty's Tirana has tried to imply that this 'report' strengthens calls for international accountability as though the government would be more likely to allow in investigators if it is for all crimes rather than crimes of Myanmar military and government. However, this clearly sounds empty rhetoric.

With decades of experiences in conflicts and violence against the ethnic minorities in the country, the Myanmar military has certainly mastered the art of trickery to avoid international scrutiny and accountability for the countless crimes they have committed. Therefore, even after considering Amnesty's report to be true, it is highly unlikely that the Myanmar government (controlled by its military) would allow anyone to investigate into the crimes committed by the military, unless they are forced to do so by the international authoritative bodies.

As expected, the Myanmar military seems doubling down their game of distraction and cover-up of crimes. It has formed yet another investigation commission of its own comprising one undisclosed international expert and two local experts to investigate ARSA's alleged crimes seemingly in line with Amnesty's report. Since the violence against Rohingya began in June 2012, the Myanmar government has already formed a total of six investigation commissions of its own to investigate into the crimes committed by its own military. And all the commissions have come out covering up and white-washing the crimes of the Myanmar armed forces.

However, this time, it's expected from the three-person commission to come out with a report finding ARSA guilty of committing gross crimes against humanity, an effective distraction from the crimes against humanity and crimes of Genocide against Rohingya. Not just that, Amnesty's report has also given the Myanmar genocidaires to allege neighboring Bangladesh of being complicit with ARSA.

Therefore, it undermines not only the roles of UN and Human Rights Groups but also Amnesty’s own stated advocacy goal of getting the Myanmar-military government open up in Rakhine State. They will continue to use this report to play down the demands for UN-led investigations and other independent international investigation. And Amnesty has just given them an effective tool to cover-up their crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity in Rakhine state with inconclusive and irresponsible reporting.

Lives of Rohingya Refugees in India are at Risk

Hatred for Rohingya refugees in India has been surging since the right-wing Hindu nationalist party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) got into power in 2014. The refugees have been killed, targeted and their camps burnt down. The Indian media has now taken the Amnesty’s report grossly out of context. They have carried headlines such as 'Rohingya Terrorists Killed Hindus’ and twitter hash-tags like ‘#Rohingya Killed Hindus.'




A massive fire broke out in the Rohingya refugee camps in the ‘Nuh’ district in Haryana state of India completely destroying 70 huts. There is a strong possibility that Hindu extremists set the camp on fire, in the wave of extremism triggered by the latest Amnesty report. Amnesty's report has just added fuel to the fire of already seething anti-Rohingya hatred and just given the Hindu extremists legitimacy to target more (Rohingya) refugees in India in times to come. Below is the latest example how the right-wing Hindus are demonstrating their hatred towards to the Rohingya refugees in India after Amnesty’s report.

 


Co-incidence or Collusion?

Of late, there has been mounting pressure on the Myanmar government and military as calls to prosecute the Myanmar military at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the Crimes against the Humanity against Rohingya have been amplified, with over 100 British MPs calling on the UK to support this process. The ICC has been seeking Bangladesh’s cooperation to initiate a prosecution. Amidst all of this, the Burmese Government and military have been exploring ways to avoid the prosecution including lobbying Bangladesh not to cooperate with the ICC through China and Japan.

On May 21, Priyanka Chopra, a famous Indian actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, visited the Rohingya refugee camps highlighting the plight of the refugee children and overall plight of Rohingya internationally. This and other celebrity visits has also helped spread news about the Rohingya genocide survivors in Bangladesh to many corners of the world, where people had earlier been unaware of the situation. Back in her home India, her followers and millions of Indians, have reassessed their thinking about Rohingya and begun thinking positively.

All these positive changes and the hard-work of many Rohingya and non-Rohingya activists to bring the Genocide perpetrators i.e. the Myanmar military into justice have almost been derailed and overshadowed by one Amnesty’s shoddy and callous report published on May 22. It’s also shocking that Amnesty’s report on ARSA’s alleged crimes came just week after Myanmar’s permanent UN representative, U Hau Do San, urged the UN Security Council to investigate the “atrocities” of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) against civilians (on May 15). For past few weeks, the notorious Myanmar’s Presidential Spokesperson Zaw Htay has also been calling the UN and others to focus on ARSA’s crimes (which the Myanmar government claims they have committed).





So, the timing of the report could potentially derail efforts of the Rohingya and non-Rohingya activists and provide the Burmese military with more breathing space? Some activists question whether there was a back-door deal (of some-kind) between the Amnesty research and the Burmese government (brokered by a third party) or suggest that there was a certain degree of collusion between the Amnesty team and the Myanmar government in the preparation of THIS shoddy and callous report with provocative religious overtone.

Has the Report Achieved Anything?

Amnesty's report hasn't CONCLUSIVELY proven that the ARSA were behind the massacres of the Hindu people. But it has

1) Undermined the actions taken towards ending the Genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar
2) Derailed years of efforts of many Rohingya and non-Rohingya activists to bring the Genocidal Myanmar military to justice
3) Fuelled Islamophobia, i.e. Rohingya community at large are seen as Muslim extremists
4) Left the Rohingya people in Myanmar prone to further attacks in Myanmar and put the lives of the Rohingya refugees in India and places alike into unprecedented danger
5) Helped the Myanmar military, who label the Rohingya community at large “terrorists”, to push the issue into the global context of ‘War on Terror.’

Similarly, one shouldn't also dismiss the fact that ARSA, like any other rebel groups, could also be guilty of crimes, even if not in this one.  And all those who commit crimes must be brought to justice. Therefore, it is essential that we force the Burmese government and military -- who have refused all calls to let international bodies investigate the crimes in Rakhine State – to provide unfettered access to those with a  UN Mandate such as IFFM or similar to independently investigate the crimes committed by all parties. Only then, we will know the actual crimes committed by the responsible parties and can bring the perpetrators of Genocide and all other sorts of criminals to justice.

As of now, it is essential for the readers of Amnesty’s report on ARSA to be skeptical of the report. Taking this report, that is filled with sensationalism, at face value could further endanger a people facing Genocide. The report concerning the Myanmar military should be approached with caution, taking consideration of the past records. The whole process of the report, methodologies and findings requires analysis to ascertain its merits.

MS Anwar is an activist and journalist with years of experience of reporting on the Rohingya and other related issues. He is currently a news editor at rohingyablogger.com. He was born and brought up in Myanmar. He can be followed on Twitter @YoursRohingya.

Rohingya Exodus