Latest Highlight

Joint Statement

Rohingya Organisations condemn the 'cowardly' murder of 23 young cadets members of the Kachin Independence Army and call for inter-ethnic solidarity

November 23, 2014

We endorse the United Nationalities Federal Council's condemnation of Burma's military and its ruling party in the un-provoked and 'cowardly' murder of young Kachin officer cadets by the Burma Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion 389, based at Khaya Bum in Kachin State, by the intentional firing of 105 mm artilleries at the military academy of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) situated at Woi Chyai Bum on November 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM.

This is the same military and the same ruling political group that has engaged in the 'institutionalized killing' of more than 1 million Rohingya people in Western Burma.

As the most vulnerable and oppressed people of our shared birthplace, Burma, we are most acutely sensitive to the wanton killings and community destruction at the hands of our common oppressor.

Although we have been stripped off our once-officially recognized -not just self-referential - nationality as Rohingya Muslims of Burma under representative governments in the 1950's and 1960's we hold our country's minority communities as our national kin. 

Accordingly, we offer our heart-felt condolences to the bereaved families of the fallen Kachins in this most recent incident and those who were killed while defending their Kachinland.

Although we the Rohingya community are un-armed and peaceful - Infact, the only ethnic minority without a standing armed resistance movement - we wish to register our solidarity and empathy to the valiant Kachin freedom fighters and extend our wishes to work together, whenever possible, with other ethnic minority brothers and sisters who are commonly oppressed, exploited and destroyed by the successive racist Bama military regimes.

We believe that inter-ethnic and inter-faith solidarity is crucial for building a progressive political and social force in our diverse attempts to achieve the common goal of a peaceful, democratic and federate Union of Burma where everyone is equal before the law and everyone is entitled to human and civil rights.

Signatories of this joint statement 
  • Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark 
  • Burmese Rohingya Community in Netherlands 
  • Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK 
  • Rohingya Community in Germany 
  • Rohingya Community in Switzerland 
  • Rohingya Community in Norway 

For more information please contact;

Tun Khin + 44 788 871 4866
Nay San Lwin +49 179 653 5213

November 22, 2014

Press Release: Hugo Swire welcomes the resolution on the human rights situation in Burma which was again agreed by consensus at the UN General Assembly.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on human rights in Burma on 21 November 2014. Welcoming the resolution, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said:

"I very much welcome the resolution on the human rights situation in Burma which was again agreed by consensus at the UN General Assembly. The international community has again demonstrated its shared commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of the Burmese people. I also welcome the constructive engagement of the Burmese Government in the negotiation process. The year ahead promises to be a pivotal one in Burma’s transition. The resolution rightly identifies the progress made by the Burmese government, but clearly sets out those areas where improvements to human rights and freedoms are needed if that transition is ultimately to be judged successful. In particular, in this critical year, the Burmese government must ensure credible and inclusive elections, release all remaining political prisoners and take action to address the situation in Rakhine State." 
Rohingya Muslim women look out from their home at Aung Mingalar quarter in Sittwe August 13, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

November 22, 2014

Yangon -- Myanmar rejected on Thursday a U.N. resolution urging it to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group, and accused the United Nations of impinging on its sovereignty.

The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee resolution, which passed on Tuesday, also called on Buddhist-majority Myanmar to curb an increase in violence against Muslims since military rule ended in March 2011.

"Citizenship will not be granted to those who are not entitled to it under this law no matter whoever applies pressure on us," government spokesman Ye Htut said in a statement. "It is our sovereign right."

After emerging from 49 years of military rule in 2011, Myanmar has faced repeated spasms of sectarian violence that have marred its transition to democracy and threatened to undermine its nascent political and economic reforms.

Clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists exploded in June and October last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya. Myanmar's government says 192 people were killed in the unrest; Rohingya put the toll at 748.

Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Myanmar by boat, hoping to get to Malaysia, a majority Muslim country.

Violence against Muslims spread further this year, most recently in Thandwe, a township on the Rakhine coast where ethnic Rakhine mobs killed five Muslims in a series of attacks between September 29 and Oct 2.

Myanmar's government says the Rohingya are migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. A 1982 Citizenship Act excluded Rohingya from Myanmar's official list of 135 ethnic groups, effectively rendering them stateless. Bangladesh also disowns them and has refused to grant them refugee status since 1992.

Many of the 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar's western Rakhine State, however, trace their roots back generations.

The United Nations calls them "virtually friendless" and says they are subject to many forms of "persecution, discrimination and exploitation".

The United States embassy in Yangon said on Wednesday it was "deeply concerned" about reports of violence against Muslims in Rakhine state, including the burning of a mosque and threats against internally displaced people.

It urged the national and state authorities to do more to "ensure progress in security, rule of law, justice, humanitarian access, and reconciliation".

(Reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Jason Szep and Robert Birsel)

By Cara Anna
November 22, 2014

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee on Friday approved a resolution urging Myanmar to allow its persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority "access to full citizenship on an equal basis."

The committee adopted the resolution by consensus, though Myanmar's ambassador objected to the U.N.'s use of the term "Rohingya," saying it "will only pose a barrier on the road to solving this important issue."

Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya have been denied citizenship and have almost no rights. Authorities want to officially categorize them as "Bengalis," implying they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. People who refuse that identity become candidates for detainment and possible deportation.

The government's "action plan" soon will be released, Myanmar Ambassador Tin Kyaw told the committee.

The European Union-drafted, non-binding resolution is one piece of international pressure on the predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian country to change its approach. The resolution now goes to the General Assembly, where a strong vote in its support would send a message that international opinion is not on Myanmar's side.

The U.S. government pressed Myanmar to change its approach to the Rohingya before President Barack Obama's visit to the country for a regional summit earlier this month, without apparent success.

Attacks by Buddhist mobs have left hundreds dead and 140,000 trapped in camps, and other Rohingya are fleeing the country.

But this week, President Thein Sein called reports that the Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture a "media fabrication" during an interview with Voice of America.

Myanmar's ambassador on Friday said that language in the resolution referring to "attacks against Muslims and other religious minorities" are misleading and can only contribute to inciting hatred.

The Rohingya have emerged as a sensitive issue as Myanmar tries to move away from decades of repressive military rule toward democracy.

The resolution approved Friday also addresses international concerns over next year's presidential election, saying Myanmar should allow "all candidates to fairly contest" the vote.

There has been uncertainty over whether opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could hold the presidency. A clause in the constitution bars anyone whose spouse or children are loyal to foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Suu Kyi's two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband.

President Obama shook hands with Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein. (Photo: Getty Image)

By Alan Berger
Boston Globe
November 21, 2014

In the silences as well as the speeches made during President Obama’s recent visit to Myanmar, attentive observers could glimpse a dramatic illustration of the tension between morality and amoral realism in the execution of US foreign policy.

Reading from one script, Obama assured the people of Myanmar that he understood “the process of reform is in no way complete or irreversible.’’ This was his tactful way of saying America has not been duped by Myanmar’s generals and their cronies who have disguised the perpetuation of their power under a patina of democratic pretenses. Obama was hinting to the many victims of Myanmar’s brass that Washington could still halt its pursuit of diplomatic, economic, and military engagement with the resource-rich nation along China’s southern border.

But no sooner had the US president issued his carefully calibrated message than a caucus of military members of Myanmar’s parliament voted to retain articles of a Constitution that guarantees the army a blocking quarter of the seats in that body and prohibits Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president in 2015 because her children hold foreign (British) citizenship. In essence, the military MPs were calling Obama’s bluff.

They know that America’s foreign policy elites are eager to horn in on China’s backyard, that US corporations hanker to extract Myanmar’s bounteous natural resources and peddle their fried chicken and gluten-free lattes to the consumers of Myanmar. Accordingly, Obama made no mention of a study by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic describing war crimes attributed to three serving generals. Nor did he invoke a call from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to stop an unfolding genocide in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims.

To his credit, Obama did denounce in public the vicious persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. He properly called for humanitarian assistance to be provided to Rohingya families that have been herded into barren concentration camps, and for the Rohingya to be granted full citizenship rights. Not only did Obama’s defense of basic human rights amount to an implicit denunciation of the ruling generals and of a racist campaign against the Rohingya incited by demagogic Buddhist monks; the president’s appeal for tolerance also made for a desolating contrast with Suu Kyi’s politic silence on the plight of the Rohingya.

But Obama’s forthright allusion to the crimes against humanity committed in the campaign against Myanmar’s Muslims amounts to words substituting for action.

Obama is certainly not alone among American political leaders suddenly going soft on Myanmar’s military bosses. Senate majority leader Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the outgoing Democratic Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein, both longtime supporters of sanctions on the generals, have fallen silent, in apparent fealty to US companies eager to do business in Myanmar. Nevertheless, the continuing crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar’s military in its wars against the Karen, Shan, Kachin, and other minorities cry out not only for condemnation but also for sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

In the case of Myanmar today, a policy grounded in the protection of human rights also promises to suit the long-term, international interests of the US and its citizens.

Alan Berger is a retired Globe editorial writer.

By Harun ur Rashid
November 21, 2014

RAKHINE state (formerly Arakan) in Myanmar has a diverse ethnic population. Official figures give the state's population as 40 lakhs (4 million) as of 2010. Rakhine state has a large Muslim minority, known as Rohingyas, of about 523,000, according to a 2009 UN estimate. According to the UN, they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

In 1982, the military rulers in Myanmar passed the Citizenship Act, in which there is a provision which states that people whose ancestors came to settle in Myanmar before 1823 would be considered as citizens. The Myanmar leaders asserted that Rohingyas came to the Rakhine state after 1823 and were, thus, foreigners. Contrary to such assertions, historians claim that the Rohingya's earliest ancestors in Arakan date back to the 8th century. 

An estimated 90,000 people have been displaced by the violence in 2012. About 2,528 houses were burned, of which 1,336 belonged to the Rohingyas and 1,192 to the Rakhines. The army and police were accused of playing a leading role in targeting Rohingyas through mass arrests and arbitrary violence. Amnesty International and other human rights groups were critical, stating that the Rohingyas were fleeing due to arbitrary arrests by the government and that they had faced discrimination by the government for decades.

When hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas in the Rakhine state were driven from their homes, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi did not speak up for them or against the gross violation of human rights. While Suu Kyi met thousands of Myanmar refugees in May 2012 at a Thai border camp and promised to try as much as she could to help them return home, she has yet to visit the Rakhine state to see for herself the condition of the Rohingyas.

Most of her admirers abroad were astonished that she abdicated her moral responsibility to denounce such grave abuses on an ethnic minority in her country. It is reported that the Asia Advocacy director for Human Rights, John Sifton, said: “It is her authority as an iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner that she has failed to wield.”

There could be several reasons for her silence. Some of them are as follows:

First, according to observers, with the withdrawal of the Japanese from Myanmar after the Second World War, the undisputed leader of Myanmar's independence U Aung San (Suu Kyi is the only daughter of Aung San) convened the Panglong Conference in 1947. The Conference was held to discuss the constitutional future of Myanmar. Aung San invited only the Buddhist representatives of the Rakhine state and reached an Agreement with them. The Muslims (Rohingyas) found themselves excluded from the Panglong conference and had no voice in it.

The Agreement following the Panglong Conference set the stage for the Myanmar Constitution of 1947. The legal status of more than half a million Rohingyas in Myanmar has been suspect in the eyes of Myanmar leadership since those days and from the early census. Many believe that since her father, the founder of Myanmar, had excluded the Rohingyas, Suu Kyi is probably hesitant to support their cause.

Second, she has expressed her desire to become president of the country and the current president Thein Sein reportedly said that he would accept her as president if people voted for her in the 2015 election. It is argued she does not wish to alienate the Buddhist voters by supporting the Rohingyas.

Third, it is reported that Suu Kyi's chief of staff Dr. Tin Mary Aung, a medical doctor who belongs to an ethnic group which is fighting against the Rohingyas, influenced Suu Kyi's decision to keep a low profile on the Rohingyas.

Fourth, under the present constitution of Myanmar, she is not eligible to run for the presidency because her two sons are British citizens by birth. There is speculation that she could be made the Speaker of the parliament, which is also a powerful position. With this being the case she does not wish annoy the government, especially the powerful military establishment.

Suu Kyi needs to speak out her stance boldly on gross violation of human rights and tensions in ethnic minority areas, including the fate of Rohingyas. Analysts say she remains a national heroine and may be able to change her country's image by taking a stance on the fate of the Rohingyas that is fair, just and humane.

The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Rohingya Muslim refugees from Burma on a street near the UN high commissioner for refugees office in Delhi. Photograph: AFP/Getty

By Kate Hodal
November 21, 2014

UN officials describing themselves as ‘thieves’ claim money from illegal trade goes to ‘some top guys in the UN’

Burmese refugees and asylum seekers are paying up to $1,000 (£650) for UNHCR cards granting them official refugee status in Malaysia, an undercover al-Jazeera investigation has found.

Officials from the UN’s refugee agency have been recorded openly describing themselves as “thieves” for brokering the illegal trade of registration documents.

“All the money from this activity goes into the pockets of some top guys in the UN,” a UN translator claimed in al-Jazeera’s current affairs programme 101 East. “We have been doing this … for a long time. We are thieves, and we look for thieves above us.”

The programme’s presenter, Steve Chao, posed as a priest in order to visit squalid detention centres in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, where he interviewed dozens of refugees and asylum seekers, some of them Rohingya Muslims from Burma, for Malaysia’s Unwanted, which was aired this week. Interviewees said they faced police harassment and exploitation, were forbidden to work or send their children to school, and lived in abysmal conditions: some refugees were beaten, chained or handcuffed, and many had not had any food for days.

About 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers are living in Malaysia – nearly all of them hailing from Burma – but because Malaysia is not party to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 protocol recognising refugees, they are extremely vulnerable to abuse and maltreatment by authorities, rights groups say. All UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) services should normally be provided for free.

Malaysia was downgraded this year to the lowest rung on the US State Department’s human trafficking index, which highlighted the country’s poor human rights record and officials’ complicity in trafficking those held in detention camps.

Malaysia’s UNHCR mission – which sees more than 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers every day – is reportedly overwhelmed by the sheer number of those in need, with the leader of the mission, Richard Towle, comparing it to “an accident and emergency hospital”.

“You make tough decisions all the time about triaging and prioritising who is the neediest of the people in an already needy group of people,” he said.

A spokesperson for UNHCR Malaysia said the agency was aware of the claims and had a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding corruption. Resettlement operations were reportedly suspended earlier this year to investigate the claims.

“UNHCR is aware of some allegations of fraud arising from its operation in Malaysia,” said a UN spokeswoman, Yante Ismail. “These are beginning to be treated with the seriousness they require under the organisation’s rules and procedures.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was joined by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today in introducing a resolution condemning all forms of persecution and discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group in Burma, and calling on the regional governments to protect the rights of Rohingya refugees.

The bipartisan resolution addresses the plight of the Rohingya in Burma as they confront a dire humanitarian situation, targeted ethnic violence, and government policies that render them stateless and vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. 

“With this resolution, members of the United States Senate express their grave concern about the humanitarian and human rights crisis facing the Rohingya in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia,” said Senator Menendez. “The Burmese government must account for its total failure to provide the most basic protections to the Rohingya who have been subjected to a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Today, we call on all of the governments of the region -- many of whom are tacitly allowing the inhumane treatment of the Rohingya -- to take necessary measures to end the discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the Rohingya and to respect their fundamental human rights.”

"Rohingya Muslims in Burma have suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of the Burmese government for too long, and the international community cannot continue to over look these blatant human rights violations," Senator Kirk said. "The United States needs to reaffirm its commitment to real reform in Burma by speaking out against these atrocities."

A copy of the resolution is available here and it resolves that the Senate:
  • Calls on the Government of Burma to end all forms of persecution and discrimination, including freedom of movement restrictions, of the Rohingya and ensure respect for internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma; 
  • Calls on the Government of Burma to allow unrestricted humanitarian access by international organizations to all in need, without discrimination based on ethnicity religious belief, or political opinion;
  • Calls on the governments of the region to develop a comprehensive solution to protect the rights of Rohingya asylees and refugees

By Zahin Hasan
November 21, 2014

It looks as if Bangladesh may be about to receive another wave of Rohingya refugees.

It is estimated that Bangladesh hosts over 300,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. These refugees deserve our sympathy; they fled ethnic violence which was perpetrated by the Buddhist majority of Myanmar with the support of the government of Myanmar.

Rohingya who remain in Myanmar live in an apartheid state. More than 130,000 who were displaced by ethnic violence in 2012 are still confined to camps for internally displaced people. They cannot enter the fields they used to cultivate, or the towns where they used to work; they are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship, in spite of the fact that the community has lived in Myanmar for over a century. Recently, the government of Myanmar has made a plan to allow Rohingya to apply for citizenship if they can prove that they have lived in Myanmar since before independence (in 1948); however, it is likely that the vast number of Rohingya who live in rural areas will not have the documents to prove this.

Rohingya have been asked to register as “Bengali” in Myanmar’s census, implying that they are recent illegal immigrants; many Rohingya have refused to register, fearing that if they do they will be confined to camps as illegal immigrants.

It has been estimated that 100,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar by boat over the last two years. In recent weeks, the media has reported that over a hundred Rohingya have been arrested on (apparently) trumped-up charges, and some have been beaten or tortured to death by security forces. Human rights groups have voiced the opinion that the recent violence appears to be part of a campaign to terrorise them so that they leave.

It looks as if Bangladesh may be about to receive another wave of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Our government should not be silent while this is happening. We should warn Myanmar that we expect it to guarantee full citizenship to the Rohingya, and create a situation in which the Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh can return to Myanmar. If Myanmar does not do this, we should place an embargo on trade with Myanmar and lobby for sanctions against Myanmar at the UN General Assembly.

Recently, US President Obama put pressure on Myanmar when he said: “Discrimination against the Rohingya or any other religious minority does not express the kind of country that Burma over the long term wants to be.” We should keep the pressure on Myanmar until it ends its system of apartheid. 

Zahin Hasan is a businessman, and a member of the board of directors of Dhaka Tribune.

By Bill O’Toole
November 21, 2014

The national parliament has approved a massive increase in funding for security on the border between Rakhine State and Bangladesh, amid growing concerns about insurgent and possibly terrorist activity in the area.

Late last month, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw approved a K37 billion, or US$35 million, increase in spending for border security, MPs said, as part of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ supplementary budget request. The increase more than doubled spending on security in the area, from the K37 billion approved in the original 2014-15 budget.

In a sign of the perceived importance of the issue, MPs approved the ministry’s supplementary request, despite it being 12.75 percent of its original budget – above the 10pc limit that parliament normally sets for supplementary budgets.

RNP Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Pe Than said that while he welcomed the extra money, he did not think it would be enough to properly secure the “porous” border, while party leader U Aye Maung said last week the RNP would request additional funds in the 2015-16 budget.

According to lawmakers, the new funds will mostly be used to build a fence along the 271-kilometre border and increase the strength of Border Guard Police in northern Rakhine State.

State and national parliamentarians from the Rakhine National Party told The Myanmar Times that they had been seeking more funding for security for several months because of growing concerns about insurgent activity, including attacks on border police.

Tension on the border has increased markedly this year. Border Guard Police patrols in northern Maungdaw township were attacked in February and May, with four officers killed on May 17. Shortly afterward, fighting broke out between Myanmar and Bangladesh border forces and one Bangladeshi soldier was killed. The Myanmar government has blamed the attacks on the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), an insurgent group formed in the early 1980s.

Tensions escalated further in the first week of September when the head of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the launch of a new branch in South Asia to “wage Jihad against its enemies” in India, Myanmar and Bangladesh and “revive the caliphate”.

As a result of the security concerns, authorities began restricting humanitarian access to parts of northern Rakhine State in mid-July, according to a recent International Crisis Group report.

The report, Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State, said that the RSO was considered “defunct” by most regional security experts and there is “no evidence to support Myanmar’s claims that the RSO is responsible for the attacks on its security forces in northern Rakhine State”.

While “there appear to be efforts underway in the wake of the 2012 violence to rehabilitate the group as an armed organisation” there “are serious obstacles to its success”, the ICG said, particularly because most Rohingya do not see violence as a solution to their problems.

Insurgency is not the only concern for RNP politicians, however. They say the increased security is needed to also prevent inward illegal migration from Bangladesh.

Rohingya politicians and advocates say the real migration issue in Rakhine State is Muslims fleeing from the strife-torn state. Since the end of the monsoon season in October, several international and Southeast Asian media outlets have ran reports of a “mass exodus” of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Rakhine State in unsafe boats, often bound for further exploitation and trafficking in other countries.

Chris Lewa, executive director of the advocacy group The Arakan Project, said her organisation had received reports that Border Guard Police are driving the Rohingyas to flee the area.

She said trusted sources and researchers had described a “huge campaign” of arbitrary arrests by the BGP. While arbitrary arrests have regularly occurred in the past, she said, they were “not in the numbers that we have now”.

“It seems to us that this is no coincidence that this is just happening during the sailing season, just to encourage people [to leave] and create fear,” she said

Tight controls over access to and communication with northern Rakhine State make the reports difficult to verify and the Ministry of Home Affairs did not respond to repeated requests for comment last week.

For several decades, security was handled by Na Sa Ka, a border guard force that was routinely accused of abuses against Rohingya communities. It was abruptly disbanded in July 2013, with most of the security duties falling to the BGP.

U Shwe Maung, a member of the Pyithu Hluttaw from Buthidaung and a self-described Rohingya, said that his constituents have told him that the BGP has a worse reputation than Na Sa Ka.

“People are still reporting that they apply more pressure than Na Sa Ka, especial in Maungdaw,” said U Shwe Maung, who is based in Yangon for most of the year.

He said he had no issue with efforts to promote security on the border but was worried about how it would be implemented.

More security forces could be positive the state if it was accompanied by proper oversight.

“I’m concerned about increased troops may lead to more problems,” he said. “The government should make sure that these troops really safeguard the country.” 

Additional reporting by Lun Min Mang and Htoo Thant

Vice Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, Commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, has vowed to provide aid to refugees at sea. Photo: Chutharat Plerin

By Chutharat Plerin
November 21, 2014

PHUKET: Though their has been a change of top brass at the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, based in Phuket, the official policy for managing the overwhelming flow of refugees and illegals escaping violence in their home countries remains unchanged.

The recently transferred Vice Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, now Commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, told the Phuket Gazette in an exclusive interview yesterday that the exodus of refugees, including Rohingya – and their subsequent expulsion from Thailand – is a vicious cycle that will continue unless a change is made in Myanmar.

“I am well aware that this issue goes around in a circle. We are doing the best we can at our end. We can do only what is permitted under Thai law, the rest is beyond my authority,” said V/Adm Sayan.

“Thai government leaders are discussing with the Myanmar government and the United Nations ways to help the refugees and treat them like other Myanmar nationals. 

“However, Thailand cannot solve this problem. International leaders must gather and find a solution, otherwise this will continue on endlessly.” 

V/Adm Sayan vowed to continue in the footsteps of his predecessor by assisting refugees to the best of his abilities, even if they are arrested for illegally landing on Thai soil.

“If naval officers spot refugee boats at sea, we will assist them the best we can by helping them continue their journey and by providing food, oil and other necessary provisions,” he said.

“However, if they land on our shores we have no choice but to arrest them, as they are breaking the law by illegally entering the country.

“We must also take good care of those that are arrested. Medical services will be provided as they have made a very long sea journey with little food. We will provide them with food while they await deportation.”

V/Adm Sayan also assured the Gazette that he would pursue cases against anyone suspected of smuggling refugees from Myanmar into Thailand.

“Human trafficking is a huge problem that affects Thailand’s reputation. We do not take this issue lightly. If we have evidence against anyone – civilian or official – we will not let them get away,” he said. 

Myanmar's President Thein Sein waits for delegates to arrive for the 17th ASEAN-China Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw November 13, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Yangon, Myanmar -- Myanmar President Thein Sein has denied that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing "torture" in western Rakhine state, telling the Voice of America Burmese Service such media reports were fabrication.

According to the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal, about 100,000 Rohingya have left Rakhine since 2012. Violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists that year killed hundreds and left 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya.

Some Rohingya, as Reuters reported last year, are held for ransom by trafficking gangs at jungle camps in Thailand until relatives pay to secure their release.

International concern was overblown, Thein Sein told the VOA on Thursday at his presidential residence in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar.

"It is just a media story that boat people are fleeing torture," he said.

The president said that there were more people who wanted to live in Myanmar "because it is spacious, (with) many places to live in and work", he continued.

"Some people are writing negative things with malice," he said. "International organizations are also helping them well."

The comments by Thein Sein, a general who left the military to lead the reformist government, reflect the government line regarding the 1.1 million Rohingya, but they fly in the face of reports by domestic and international media as well as leading international NGOs. Prejudice against the Muslim minority is widespread in Myanmar, which says many have no right to citizenship, despite having lived in the area for generations.

In recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya, a mostly stateless people, have sailed across the Bay of Bengal to the west coast of Thailand, from where human-smugglers deliver them to neighboring Malaysia. Many thousands more have escaped across Myanmar’s borders to neighboring countries.

Thai authorities largely pin the exodus on the Myanmar government, arguing that Rohingya are fleeing persecution and violence. "The problem starts with Myanmar. The reason they're coming over is because Myanmar does not want them (the Rohingya) and they are being persecuted and forced to flee because of violence over there," Sanya Prakobphol, chief of police for Kapoe district in southern Thailand, told Reuters. Last Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama, on a visit to Myanmar, called on the government to grant the Rohingya equal rights.

Myanmar began its emergence from international pariah status in 2011 when military leaders launched reforms after nearly half a century in power and installed a quasi-civilian government.

But substantial power is still held by the military.

(Writing by Paul Mooney; Additional reporting by Amy Lefevre in Bangkok; Editing by Nick Macfie)

RB News 
November 20, 2014

Maungdaw, Arakan – Myanmar Army’s Major Tun Hlaing Zaw based in Northern Maungdaw Township in Arakan State, an in-charge of military outpost no. 12 based in Ywat Nyo Taung village and an officer of Battalion 551, said he is enjoying the salary increment after killing three Rohingyas recently.

On November 7, 2014 60 years old Shamshu s/o Sayed Alam was arrested by Major Tun Hlaing Zaw without any reason. He was killed and reportedly another two Rohingyas were killed by Major Tun Hlaing Zaw. Shamshu was reportedly an innocent old man who had been serving as chef for 15 years at the previous Na-Sa-Ka and current Border Guard Police (BGP) outpost based in Ywat Nyo Taung village. 

After killing three Rohingyas, Major Tun Hlaing Zaw is openly threatening the local Rohingyas by saying “If I arrest someone, he can be alive for a week only. Now I’m getting 50,000 Kyat salary increment in my monthly salary. I have a plan to kill hundred more.” according local Rohingya residents. 

The alcoholic Major has been roaming surrounding villages with his unruly behaviors. On November 17, 2014 at 5 pm, his six soldiers went to Kyar Gaung Taung village and scrutinized passers-by without any reason. While doing so a 19 year old, Nur Mamed s/o Nurul Islam from Yay Khal Gyaung Kwa Sone village was going back to his home on a motor-bike. The soldiers stopped him and pulled him down and beat inhumanely. They said that going by motor-bike in front of them is disrespecting them. Nur Mamed was severely injured and couldn’t go back home driving his motor-bike. He had to go back home with the help of a villager and until now he is under medical treatment. 

The soldiers have been reported to have brought three dogs. The dogs have bitten two goats owned by a Rohingya while the soldiers were going to Yay Khal Gyaung Kwa Soe village. The owner of the goats wasn’t informed although the goats had injuries. The soldiers took the goats to the village administrator’s house and cooked both goats and "ate like ogres", according to an eyewitness. 

As Major Tun Hlaing Zaw has been committing many crimes against humanity. Every night raiding houses. Most of the men are unable to sleep in their houses. They flee to the jungle at night.

MYARF contributed in reporting. 

Maung Zarni's comment: 

The use of Rohingyas as porters in the war will kill 2 birds with one stone:

1) Kachin troops will inevitably shoot and kill the Rohingyas who will be marching as mine sweepers in front of Burma Army columns. The Kachins will then be labeled as killers of civilians.

2) It helps the Burmese military to reduce the number of able body Rohingya males (who were kept in jail as part of mass arrests since 2012) - which is an integral part of Burma's slow genocide.

For more information, contact

Gum San NSang
Kachin Alliance, President
Carlisle, PA 17013

A Thai fishing boat plies the invisible maritime border between Thailand and Burma, with the hills of Burma visible in the background, on Nov. 1, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre
November 20, 2014

Ranong, Thailand -- The smuggling of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar is so lucrative that Thai fishermen are converting their boats to carry humans, police and officials in southern Thailand said.

In recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya, a mostly stateless people, have sailed across the Bay of Bengal to the west coast of Thailand, from where human-smugglers deliver them to neighboring Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country where they can find jobs.

Some boat operators in Ranong province, which has a large fishing industry, were adapting to profit from the exodus, said Sanya Prakobphol, chief of police in Kapoe district. 

"The fishing business isn't so good so the fishermen make their boats people-carrying boats," Sanya told Reuters. "Some converted Ranong boats can carry up to 1,000 people."

Boat operators can earn up to 10,000 baht ($300) per person by ferrying illegal migrants from Myanmar to Thailand, he added.

The Royal Thai Navy told Reuters last month that most smuggling and trafficking ships plying the Bay of Bengal were from Thailand. The navy also said it had increased patrols.

According to the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal, about 100,000 Rohingya have left Rakhine State since 2012. Violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists that year killed hundreds and left 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya.

Ranong's provincial capital, which goes by the same name, is a port city just 40 minutes by boat from Myanmar. Migrants have historically formed the backbone of its seafood industry. 

Hanif, who uses only one name, said he had helped a fellow Ranong fisherman strip the interior of a boat to hold people.

"He is getting very rich," said Hanif as he sorted shimmering piles of ribbon fish and mackerel. "He wanted to make as much room as possible to carry more in one trip."

Many locals saw nothing wrong with transporting boat people, said Manit Pianthong, chief of Takua Pa district in neighboring Phang Nga province.

"Villagers and fisherman have been living with migrants coming in and out of Thailand for more than 30 years because of our proximity to Myanmar," he said.

"That's why we need to educate them slowly and show them that this is wrong."

Thailand is the world's third-largest exporter of seafood. It is also one of the worst centers for human-trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department, which in June downgraded Thailand to its lowest ranking for "not making significant efforts" to tackle the crime.

In this file photo from 2013, Kachin IDPs flee Namlim Pa. (PHOTO: Lee Yu Kyung/DVB)

By Guy Horton
November 19, 2014

Last year, when I was in Ma Ja Yang in Northern Kachin State, Burmese fighter bombers, at the height of the peace process, had just flown low over the nearby IDP camp. Two terrified children dug themselves into an earth bank for refuge. In heavy rains the bank collapsed and they suffocated to death: two unrecorded deaths in a sixty year old war involving, arguably, the deaths of millions. But this year these two children may have surfaced, along with millions of others, in the most unlikeliest of places: the government’s 2014 census. Burma’s population, it turns out, is about nine million below what was expected. These two children, and nine million others, are not there. No one is commenting on this. No one is asking why. The most significant and extraordinary information to have come out of the country for decades, identifying 20 percent of Burma’s expected population is “Missing,” is disregarded.

This figure cannot be explained away by the flawed methodology of the census, which, albeit inadvertently, exacerbated the intimidation, persecution and dehumanisation by the Rohingya. It is the result itself which needs to be examined. The census may in fact have come up with an inconvenient Truth: millions of people may be missing in Myanmar who were expected to be alive based on the perfectly modest realistic estimates of the 1983 census which predicted an annual 2 percent growth rate.

Exculpatory explanations for some of the missing millions can, admittedly, be made. Many people were simply not counted, including the Rohingya and some Kachin; so called economic migrants, in reality often refugees escaping persecution, were, by their very nature, out of the country; others were inaccessible; AIDS and drug addiction have probably substantially contributed to many premature deaths; one hundred and thirty thousand perished during Cyclone Nargis and its aftermath; cultural practices, such as celibacy and monasticism, may have lowered birthrates; the1983 census may itself have been flawed. Finally, the global media’s failure to expose decades long destruction may have contributed to the disregard of the result: people slowly dying over decades do not fit the media’s 24 news cycle, especially when most victims have disappeared in remote jungle mountainous terrain far from journalists and diplomats. These factors, amongst others, may help explain away some of the missing millions and the disregard of the result: they do not, however, fully account for millions of missing people.

The elephant in the room is government policy. Widespread, systematic human rights violations, i.e. crimes against humanity, have been identified and condemned by successive UN Special Rapporteurs and General Assembly Resolutions since 1992. The country was specifically placed on the UN Genocide Watch list back in 2005 and, I understand, still remains so. The outgoing UN Special Rapporteur, Tomas Ojea-Quintana, affirmed “Elements of genocide” apply as recently as June 2014. Genocide, we should remind ourselves, involves the physical “Destruction of ethnic, racial, religious or national groups in whole or,” significantly, “In part.” If even a small fraction of these millions of missing people have disappeared due to government policies, the Genocide Convention would apply.

The decades long systematic violations targeting mostly ethnic civilians with destruction need to be seen in their historical context. UN condemnations have been explicit and specific. Special Rapporteur, Rajsoomer Lallah QC in 1998, condemned widespread, systematic violations, including “The killing of women and children,” as:

“The result of policy taken at the highest level entailing legal and political responsibility.” (Situation of Human Rights Myanmar, para. 59, Report to the UN Economic and Social Council, July, 1998.)

Systematic and widespread violations, inflicted for decades have inevitably caused the deaths of many people; the two aforementioned children died as a consequence of the Burma army’s military attack.

We need to reflect on nine million missing people: the number is about the same as the population of Sweden. It is about one and a half times the number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. It is nearly twice the number who died as a result of Stalin’s inflicted famine in the Ukraine. In Burma nearly one in five people is not alive who was expected to be alive based upon a modest estimate of the two per cent population growth rate. Despite its significance, the news does not chime with the media’s brave new world: “Burma Unbound”, “Burma booming”, the “Mandela-like transition.” The figure is met instead with silence.

A connection between systematic, widespread human rights violations and possible missing millions exists, however. Martin Smith, generally regarded as a leading authority on Burma’s ethnic peoples, identified a dramatic “Slump in birth rates” back in 1990, opining:

“The birth rates of most minority races (and not just the Mons and the Karens) have inexplicably slumped.” (“Burma, Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity,” page 38, Zed Books, 1991)

We should note his use of the word “Slump,” i.e. a sudden and dramatic fall.

This “slump” in birth rates, moreover, has been accompanied by some outright “Collapses in population” as identified by Amnesty International:

“In some areas complete collapse in ethnic populations has occurred, such as in Kunhing Township in Shan State where a 70 percent drop in population was recorded.” (“Atrocities in Shan State”, Amnesty International, 1998.)

Smith estimated 10,000 dying a year for four decades back in 1990 which would make 400,000. Extrapolated forward to 2014 the figure would approach 550,000, a figure which would be unlikely to include the hundreds of thousands who have died indirectly from denial of shelter, food and medicines, nor would it include the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya forced to flee, and often die, in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The Transnational Institute cited a figure of 600,000 casualties in 2005.

“The true death toll,” Smith wrote, quoting former SLORC Chairman General Saw Maung vack in the 1980′s, “Would reach as high as millions”. (“Burma”, Zed Books, 1990 ed. p.101)

Specific evidence of widespread destruction has been documented, often graphically, in Karen, Karenni, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Mon, Delta, Karen, Rohingya areas over the decades. Mass forced location of the Bamar population, we should remember, was also inflicted in lowland Burma during the 1990′s.

These “slumps in birth rates”, and local “collapses in population,” contrast with earlier “Prolific high birth rates of ethnic peoples” identified in the unique, in depth, detailed bench mark study carried out just before Burma’s civil war began by W.D. Hackett. He explains

“The minorities . . . are more prolific than the Burman population and increasing at a very rapid rate.” (The Pao People of Shan State, p. 3, W.D. Hackett, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cornell, 1953.)

Although Smith does state the slump in birth rates as being “Inexplicable,” observation of what has been inflicted in conflict areas; analyses of infant and maternal mortality rates documented by, amongst others, the Mae Tao Clinic; detailed mapping of widespread, systematic destruction in eastern, western, northern regions and the Delta, including satellite imagery, and numerous reports, demonstrate the destruction must have inevitably resulted in the deaths of large numbers of people.

Moreover, these “collapses in population” and “slumps in birth rates” is certain to be greatest in so called ethnic areas. If the full regional breakdown of the results of the 2014 census is ever revealed, it will probably confirm this. Latest reports, however, indicae this information is not being released indicative of a cover up.

We need to ask, however, what government strategies have contributed to the slump in birth rates and much lower than expected population figure. The central strategy outlined by Smith is known as the Four Cuts strategy which is explicitly intended to destroy the civilian base of resistance. Ethnic civilians are thus the target.

The first circle: killing

Successive military juntas, and the current hybrid civilian/military successor, have been killing and causing deaths for decades.

In January 2013 I was in Kachin State. A young boy, sitting on a wall, described to me how soldiers had come to his mother’s kitchen and shot her while he looked on from the edge of a sugar cane field. An old man sobbed hysterically next to him: he had just described his daughter bayoneted to death through the left breast. Nearby two small boys had dug themselves into a mud wall to hide from fighter bombers. It collapsed and suffocated them to death. These small boys, the old man’s daughter and the boy’s mother are part of Myanmar’s missing millions. In this case they died as a result of a systematic onslaught- not “Ethnic conflict”- by the Burma army. This attack occurred just after President Thein Sein had formally announced a ceasefire on prime time television, supported by a vote of the whole lower house, and dutifully echoed by the global media and Ban Ki Moon.

Along “The ceasefire line” human wave attacks were carried out on Kachin positions involving tens of thousands of troops, helicopter gun ships and fighter bombers. Jane’s Intelligence reportedly estimated five thousand Burmese troops and one thousand Kachin were killed. (That’s double the number estimated killed in the 1988 student uprising.) These deaths predictably remain disregarded, downplayed, understated or denied. They don’t fit the narrative of democratic transition, or the assumptions of top down, urban, Burman centred journalists, politicians and diplomats whose views have been co-opted by the rhetoric of “Transition”. (Needless to say young Burmese conscripts, forced to fight and die are also victims and just as deserving of our compassion, as ethnic victims.)

Let’s rewind to the autumn of 2000 when I was in the mountainous areas of Karen State. Four women were brought into our encampment who had just been forced to watch their husbands being beheaded in front of them. Nearby in a burning village two toddlers had been thrown into the flames. Their dying screams were heard in the surrounding hills for minutes. An old lady, unable to move, burnt to death silently. In a nearby village a Baptist pastor was beaten for three days, his Bible shredded and then beheaded. I could go on.

These people were murdered by the Burmese army. This has been going on for decades, and is still going on. These dead are part of the missing nine million.

These killings include not just individuals, but massacres such as in the Delta in September 2001 and Dooplaya district. Karen State in May 2002 (“Dying Alive,” Images Asia, 2005)

The second circle : cyclone Nargis 

About 130,000 people, more than the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, died in the Delta as a result of Cyclone Nargis. Many of these deaths resulted from the Junta’s criminal negligence failing to warn the population and impeding relief efforts. We can infer that the population of the Delta would now be higher if the government had carried out its responsibilities effectively.

The third circle: sexual violence

If systematic killing is the first circle, denial of aid the second circle, widespread, systematic rape and sexual violence represents the third. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Rajsoomer Lallah QC, condemned it as being a “Regular, routine feature” and “The result of policy” as far back as 1998. It has been condemned in most UN reports. This form of targeted violence of women undermines birth rates because, amongst other things, it often destroys women’s desire and ability to marry and have children.

The fourth circle : indirect destruction 

This encompasses those subjected to slow, indirect violence, defined in the Rome Statute as: “The deliberate deprivation of resources indispensable for survival, such as food, medical services, or systematic expulsion from homes.”(Rome Statute, Genocide, Article 6c).

Burning people out of their homes, like the 3,600 villages documented by the Thai Burma Border Consortium in eastern Burma, or what has been inflicted in Rohingya and Kachin areas recently, leads, indirectly, to death because people lack shelter or basic services. I remember the gloves of a back pack medic being destroyed in order, presumably, so that babies could not be born hygienically and die as result. I recall a report of a man shot through the leg for carrying antibiotics in 2005.The denial and destruction of medical services and supplies, deprivation of clean water and food, often inevitably results in death. (The Rohingya are particularly victimised by this slow motion, low intensity form of genocide.) Very many people have died prematurely and unnecessarily over the decades as a result of these deliberately inflicted conditions. Maternal and infant mortality rates in particular, documented by the Mae Tao Clinic and others, resulting from these conditions have been some of the highest in the world. We should note that two hundred and fifty thousand people, a quarter of a million, have been terrorised out of their homes since “the democratic transition” began and “Peace” broke out.

The fifth circle : persecution

In the fifth circle there are the millions who over the decades have been forced to flee persecution, i.e. the denial of their fundamental rights Many of those in the refugee camps, or those fleeing into the Indian Ocean, or into China, India, Malaysia etc., are not economic migrants, but victims of systematic Persecution. In the case of the Rohingya, as the former Special UN Rapporteur asserted, the conditions they are escaping include “Elements of genocide.”

The sixth circle : enforced migration

In the sixth circle we do admittedly find very many economic migrants working in foreign countries. Many of these have, however, not really made free choices but have had to escape the extreme poverty resulting from government policies which have failed to provide people with, amongst other things, adequate medical and educational services.

The seventh circle : general poverty

Here are the great majority of the Burmese people who are mired in the poverty resulting from governmental negligence. Such conditions can lead people to put off, or not marry, or have smaller families than they otherwise would have had, which leads, in turn, to a probable reduction in birth rates.

In conclusion, decades long State inflicted violence and deliberate deprivation of the necessities for life must have resulted in at least hundreds of thousands, and if former SLORC Chairman General Saw Maung was right “Millions”, of premature deaths. The numerical qualifying criteria of what comprises the attempted destruction of a part of a people to justify a charge of genocide is: “substantial”.

Those two young children should not have died, nor should hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, be allowed to disappear into a vortex of complicit silence. A Truth Commission should be set up to find out what has really happened. Perpetrators should be held to account.

Guy Horton has worked on Burma and its border areas since 1998. His 2005 report, “Dying Alive” and supporting video footage, received worldwide coverage and contributed to the submission of Burma to the UN Security Council in January 2007. As a result of the report, the UN Committee on the Prevention of Genocide carried out an investigation and placed Burma/Myanmar on the Genocide Watch list.

Since 2005 Guy Horton has focussed on establishing a coalition of governments, funders, institutions and leading international lawyers with the aim of getting the violations investigated and analysed so that impunity can be addressed. He is currently a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

He was short-listed for the post of UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar 2014. He can be contacted at:

International Community Silent on New Rohingya Crackdown

November 19, 2014

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK today called on the international community to end its silence over a new wave of repression against the Rohingya which began in September.

The crackdown in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships started on September 25th. The crackdown is a continuation of the policy of making life so unbearable for Rohingya people that they flee their homeland. This plan is working and between ten and twelve thousand Rohingya have fled Burma since this new crackdown began. 

The crackdown may also be designed to try to intimidate Rohingya into accepting the Rakhine State Action Plan, the first draft of which sets many conditions which are unacceptable to the Rohingya, including being forced to pretend that we are Bengali, only receiving third class citizenship which is easy to revoke, and those who refuse or cannot provide documentation being placed into camps.

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK has received multiple reports about human rights violations, including:

· Between 150-175 arbitrary arrests, particularly targeting community leaders and prominent members of the Rohingya community. 

· Families not being told what have happened to their relatives who have been arrested, what they have been charged with, and not being allowed to visit them.

· The dead bodies of four of those who were arrested being returned to families with evidence of torture on their bodies. The families believe they were tortured to death. 

· Whole villages being raided.

· Widespread extortion by Border Guard Police.

The government of Burma claims that the new wave of repression is an anti-terrorist crackdown targeting the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO). This is a false claim. The people being arrested are not associated with the RSO. The Burmese government has a long track record of describing people it doesn’t like, be they from an ethnic group or political organisation, as terrorists. 

“Since September we have seen mass arrests, repression, torture, killings and more than ten thousand Rohingya driven from Burma, and there has been silence about this new crackdown from the international community,” said Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. “Things are getting steadily worse for the Rohingya, and the response of the international community is getting steadily weaker. The Rakhine State Action Plan is part of the problem, not the solution. The focus must now be on international action on the multiple violations of international law taking place against the Rohingya.”

For more information contact Tun Khin on +44 788 871 4866

(Photo: Reuters)

By David Burrowes MP
November 19, 2014

With reforms ground to a halt and the continuation of appalling human rights abuses, David Burrowes MP calls for the UK to join in the chorus of disapproval.

Ten years ago a few months before the general election a constituent told me about the appalling human rights abuse in Burma. I pledged that if elected, I would speak out. After nine years in Parliament I have done so, and last month I had the privilege of visiting Burma for the first time, courtesy of the human rights advocacy organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

During our visit, everyone – without exception – expressed concerns that the reforms, which began three years ago and have been widely heralded in the international community, have ground to a halt. In some respects, there have been steps backwards, particularly with recent arrests of activists and protestors, a rise in religious intolerance and continuing ethnic conflict.

Two weeks ago, Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi echoed these concerns, claiming reforms have stalled. President Obama, in Burma last week, said the same. Britain needs to join the chorus of disapproval.

It is, of course, right to remind ourselves how far Burma has come. Many political prisoners have been released, ceasefires have been agreed with almost all the ethnic nationalities, and space for civil society and media has relaxed. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party is now in Parliament and not in prison. On my visit, I delivered three public lectures about parliamentary democracy, human rights and civil society which would have been inconceivable three years ago.

Yet we should view such positive changes as merely a beginning, not a conclusion. We need to be careful they are not a false dawn.

In tonight’s debate, I will highlight the plight of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim people, among the most persecuted in the world. A new Rakhine State Action Plan, which according to leaked drafts involves forcing Rohingyas into temporary camps while their claims to citizenship are assessed, has been described by Human Rights Watch as “a blueprint for permanent segregation and statelessness”. Britain must make it clear that such a plan is unacceptable.

Wider religious intolerance against Muslims in Burma is also a continuing serious concern, in particular proposed legislation that will restrict inter-religious marriage and religious conversion.

Torture and rape continue. I met the wives of Kachin men who have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. Justice has been delayed and denied. I met Brang Shawng, who after reporting the rape and murder of his own daughter Ja Seng Ing by Burma Army soldiers found he was the one on trial, charged with defamation.

Burma’s peace process with ethnic nationalities has been hindered by continuing attacks by the Burma Army. I visited a camp for internally displaced Kachin people, surviving in very basic conditions in a church compound in Myitkyina having fled their villages following attacks by the Burma Army. “We want to go back to our villages,” one man told me. “But the army are still there and we do not feel secure. Our request is for genuine peace.”

The litmus test of Burma’s reforms will, of course, be the elections in 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi’s clear message to me when we met was that those elections must be “free, fair and on time”. Without amendments to the Constitution to enable her to be eligible for the presidency; without international monitors some months ahead of election day to assess the conditions and climate in which the election campaign is held; and without further legislative reform to bring an end to the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of activists and protesters, and the release of all remaining political prisoners, it is difficult to see the elections being free and fair.

Rohingya Exodus