March 30, 2015
Some recent announcements by the Myanmar government should reassure all those who want to see democracy restored in this Southeast Asian country. Parliamentary elections planned for November this year promise to be much more transparent and inclusive than the one held in 2010. President Thein Sein has approved a law allowing a referendum on changes to the constitution. This has given hopes to supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), that a ban on her from the presidency may eventually be lifted.
If Suu Kyi, the most popular politician in Myanmar and a Nobel laureate, is barred from running for president because her late husband and two sons are foreign citizens, the tragedy of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims is that they are not citizens of a country where their ancestors have been living since the seventh century.
They can't participate in the election because they are noncitizens or the so-called white-card holders. Rohingyas can't vote in the constitutional referendum or the general election because of a presidential ruling in February stripping them of suffrage. Worse still, their white cards will expire tomorrow forcing them to face a future which is as bleak as one can imagine.
NLD has already expelled more than 20,000 temporary identification card holders from the party’s membership. The other registered political parties (nearly 70) may follow suit to comply with a legislative mandate barring noncitizens from democratic process.
From tomorrow onward, white card holders, who also include an unknown number of ethnic Chinese, Kokang and Wa minorities, may also find it difficult to travel around the country due to a lack of identity document.
There are an estimated 800,000 to 1.1 million Rohingyas. Of some eight million Muslims in Myanmar, about one in six is Rohingya. A people who live mostly in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, Rohingyas were forced to take white cards because a 1982 law disqualified them from any citizenship claims they might have had.
To make matters worse, the Myanmar government even does not want anyone to utter the term Rohingya because they are all “Bengalis”, a term used to legitimize denial of citizenship and rights to the group, though early Muslim settlements in Rakhine date from the seventh century. The term Rohingya was absent from last year's landmark census.
Myanmar officials even chastised UN Secretary General Ban KI-moon and US President Barack Obama for using the term Rohingya when they visited Myanmar last year to attend the ASEAN Summit held in Naypyidaw.
They visited Myanmar immediately after the country had gone through one of its periodic spasms of ethnic violence that in the past two and a half years have killed hundreds of Rohingyas. As many as 140,000 of them were forced to displacement camps.
Since then, their condition has only worsened as Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar points out in her latest report, says she saw "no improvement" for displaced Rohingyas since her previous visit in July 2014.
Such is the hatred of the majority Buddhists toward the Rohingyas that during her latest visit in January this year, Lee was publicly denounced as a "whore" and "bitch" by a prominent monk.
The fact is Rohinglyas are the victims not merely of official policies but of ethnic and religious tensions created by some radical monks. This is what makes them despair of political reforms in Myanmar. In general, democracy works to the advantage of minorities, giving the most disadvantaged people a voice in the decision-making process. But Rohingyas know that democracy can also be used to raise suspicions and create fears about minorities in the minds of the majority. While the government intensifies its campaign of hate, who would risk votes of the majority by supporting a despised minority?
This places an additional responsibility on the international community who have released a statement affirming their support for free and fair polls in Myanmar. Of course, they should keep a watch on the conduct of elections so the government machinery is not used to intimidate its opponents or help those who would side with them. They must take steps to prevent the electoral politics in Myanmar degenerating into a race to decide who can say the most bigoted things about a helpless minority. More important, they must ensure that the options before Rohingyas are not “to stay and die or to leave by boat," as Lee's report to the UN Human Rights Council put it starkly.
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
March 29, 2015
In a country that has been infested with the blight of unfathomable racism ad bigotry for decades, rumors are enough to trigger communal riots. And if the press, priests, public servants and people’s representatives are all working in cahoots as a party to a very sinister program – which I have been calling a ‘national eliminationist project’ – one does not have to be Einstein to understand the impact of such false rumors. And that is what happened to Mandalay in central Myanmar (formerly Burma) in July of last year when we witnessed anti-Muslim violence there. It was all part of a highly orchestrated criminal program with deep support at every level of the local and central government.
On July 3, 2014, U Soe Min, a Muslim man, was walking to morning prayers (Fajr) at a nearby mosque when a man with a machete struck him dead with a deep blow to his skull. The 51-year-old Mandalay resident, who ran a bicycle shop, was one of two innocent victims that day of communal violence sparked by reports – later proven to be false – that a Buddhist woman had been raped by two Muslim brothers.
Since May of 2012 starting with the gruesome lynching to death of ten Tablighi Muslims by a Rakhine mob, we have witnessed how the Buddhist mob and criminals have often been empowered by such false rumors to terrorize and exterminate Muslims, which sadly have been led by Buddhist monks and security forces.
The May (2012) ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims started under a similar pretext: a Rakhine woman - Ma Thida Htwe - was raped and murdered by 3 Rohingya (the so-called Bengali) Muslims. The dead body was found, rather conveniently, in a Rakhine village – not too far from a Rohingya locality. Interestingly, the lead accused - named Htet Htet - was not a 'Bengali' – and not even a Muslim. He was a married Buddhist Bama who in his childhood was adopted by a Rohingya Muslim family. As we have seen in many such incidents under police and NASAKA custody, Htet Htet was found dead in his prison cell. The police announced that he had killed himself.
Dr. Maung Zarni, a Burmese human rights activist, says that “the rape narrative of the Rakhine woman - the late Ma Thida Htwe - raped by 'Bengali men' was patently false, but spread by President Thein Sein's men the likes of Major Zaw Htay (Hmu Zaw), Colonel Ye Htut (now deputy information minister) as a trigger event to set the fire of genocidal hatred towards the Muslims. Ma Thida Htwe was NOT raped but was simply murdered - the doctor who examined her body told Ko Zaganar [a popular comedian], in no uncertain terms, that there was absolutely no evidence of rape on Ma Thida Htwe's dead body. The doctor was forced to sign the medical report which claims falsely she was raped. The rape story was spread by government agents on the social media and was used as a launching pad to start waves of mass killings against the Rohingya and the Muslims across Burma or Myanmar.”
“Within a month of his death - when [Maung Thura] Zaganar attempted to meet Htet Htet's wife,” writes Dr. Zarni in his blog, “she was found dead in a village well. How convenient!” It is believed amongst the independent analysts that NASAKA security forces killed Ma Thida Htwe and possibly Htet Htet’s wife.
For years I have been saying that if one is serious about finding the origin of race/ ethnic/ religious riots and pogroms inside military-controlled Myanmar that inquiry should start with the government itself. As subsequent inquiries have revealed I was not wrong: most of the anti-Muslim pogroms and genocidal activities inside Burma (or Myanmar) owe their origin to the government – central and local. These crimes are sometimes scripted and often times sanctioned by the government. True that we sometimes see the faces of angry Buddhist mob taking the lead in such heinous crimes, but these low-lives are often used as pawns in this chess game of ethnic cleansing of the targeted victims. And no one can deny the powerful influence of the Sangha in agitating and mobilizing Buddhists. The terrorist Buddhist monks have been employed by the regime to polarize public opinion against Muslims and aid in its sinister plan.
It is no accident that after his release from prison in 2010, Wirathu – the head abbot of the Masoyein monastery in Mandalay - with a large following has now become the face of Buddhist terrorism. His 969 (fascist) Movement provides the foot soldiers for Nazi-like blitzkrieg against unarmed Muslims. He led a rally of monks in Mandalay in September, 2012 to promote President Thein Sein's controversial plan to expel Rohingyas to a third country. A month later more violence was directed against Muslims in the Rakhine state resulting in displacement of some 140,000 Rohingyas. His fascist movement has been behind all the subsequent pogroms directed against Muslims (and not just limited to Rohingyas) all across Myanmar. His disciples have also been behind all state-managed protest rallies against the NGOs, UN and OIC reps, including the Doctors Without Borders, worsening the humanitarian crisis affecting the Muslims of Myanmar.
With the vast support Wirathu and other racist and bigoted Buddhist monks enjoy within the broader Buddhist community, they have been able to rally hateful Buddhists to attack and kill Muslims and burn their properties with impunity. Police and other security forces, if they did not participate in such heinous crimes themselves would often time stand unperturbed, as if nothing had gone wrong, or that they have no business to stop such horrendous crimes of fellow savage Buddhists.
According to multiple corroborated eyewitnesses, the Mandalay riots of July 2014 were carried out over two straight nights by a small group of Buddhist terrorists on motorcycles carrying clubs and swords who rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods destroying homes, businesses and mosques. This took place in plain view of fully armed riot police, who followed the rioters and watched the mayhem unfold without taking action. As hinted above, Mandalay – the second largest Myanmar city – is home of the terrorist monk Wirathu. The local Panthay (Chinese) Muslims were forced to hide or keep a very low profile.
Justice Trust - an international human rights organization that partners with lawyers and activists in Myanmar to strengthen local communities fighting for justice – investigated the matter. It found ‘hidden hands’ (read: government hand) in the attack. In its released report, “Hidden Hands Behind Communal Violence in Myanmar: Case Study of the Mandalay Riots,” it documented the use of organized gangs of armed men to commit anti-Muslim riots under the guise of spontaneous mob violence.
The NGO held a press conference in Bangkok on March 23, 2015 to release the report.
“This report shows what most Burmese have known for a long time – that religious hatred between Buddhists and Muslims is being stoked by hidden hands and manipulated as a pretext for maintaining their grip on power,” said U Thein Than Oo, a Mandalay lawyer who serves on Justice Trust’s steering committee. “We have seen this script many times before – the deployment of plainclothes forces [Swah Ah Shin] rather than uniformed soldiers to commit national-scale political violence, and the scapegoating of minorities to divert public attention away from the country’s real needs.”
Drawing on six months of research by a team of local and international lawyers, the report analyzes the riots that shook Mandalay in July 2014 and places these riots in the context of previous waves of communal conflict carried out under past military regimes.
The Mandalay riots closely followed every element of this pattern, starting with a false charge of rape spread on Facebook. But unlike in previous riots, where large mobs developed and the violence spun out of control, local people in Mandalay refused to participate despite the best efforts of outside agitators. In fact, local monks, activists and journalists arrived and tried to contain the situation. Without the protective cover of a sympathetic crowd, the outside agitators were exposed, the stage-managed nature of their violence was made visible to the public, and the overall damage was limited.
“The Mandalay riots were designed to appear as a spontaneous outbreak of mob violence, but in fact were perpetuated by an organised gang of armed men brought in from outside Mandalay to enact a pre-determined script written and stage-managed by hidden hands for political ends,” the report says.
The report states that: “The case of Mandalay therefore provides the clearest evidence yet of a deliberate political strategy to foment anti-Muslim violence, as well as the best example of countering this strategy through a local early warning system to mobilize an immediate on-the-ground response.”
The report says they follow a similar pattern of events, including rape allegations, speaking tours by Wirathu and visits by gangs of fomenting outsiders. “Lots of people recognise that the 969 movement has a history of inciting riots … and once Wirathu posted the [rape] allegation to Facebook, the local civil groups alerted others to the coming storm,” said Roger Normand, executive director of Justice Trust.
Mandalay is far from the only orchestrated incident inside Myanmar, which has a long history of military regimes employing the “dual threat of external intervention and internal disintegration” to ensure control, according to the report. Notable examples of such diversions include General Ne Win’s anti-Chinese riots in the 1960s to distract from a countrywide rice shortage, and Buddhist-Muslim tensions after democratic mass uprising in 1988.
Anti-Muslim pogroms in Myanmar are not new. They have surfaced periodically in recent decades. The fascist elements within the Buddhist country have exploited their deep-seated racism and bigotry against ethnic minorities and non-Buddhists to glue the fractured Buddhist majority. Their propaganda encourages a blind racist nationalism and an unparallel bigotry, full of references to ‘protecting the race and religion’, meaning that if the national race Burmans (Bama) do not oppress other nationalities then they will themselves be oppressed and if the Buddhist majority likewise does not expel the non-Buddhists (esp. the Muslims) then they will become a minority, ‘national reconsolidation’, meaning forced assimilation, and preventing ‘disintegration of the Union’, meaning that if the Army (Tadmadaw) falls then some kind of ethnic chaos would ensue. In this new Myanmarism, ethno-religio-fascist Buddhism (coined first by self-exiled researcher Dr. Shwe Lu Maung), monks have become the regime’s pit bulls that are aided from center to the local level politicians. Even Suu Kyi is a silent partner.
As noted by Human Rights Watch in its report “All You Can Do Is Pray”, immediately after the first wave of anti-Muslim genocidal activities in Arakan in June 2012, local Rakhine Buddhist monks circulated pamphlets calling for the isolation of Muslims. For instance, on June 29, monks in Sittwe (formerly Akyab) distributed an incendiary pamphlet telling all Arakanese Buddhists that they “Must not do business with Bengalis [Rohingya],” and “Must not associate with Bengalis [Rohingya].” It implored the Rakhine people to follow the demands to socially and economically isolate the Rohingya to prevent the “extinction of the Arakanese.”
On July 5, 2012 monks representing the Sangha in Rathedaung Township, 30 kilometers north of Sittwe, held a meeting and subsequently issued a 12-point statement. The preamble unabashedly presents a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya: ‘Arakan Ethnic Cleansing Program’. It called for the establishment of a “rule to control the birth rate of the Muslim Bengali community living in Arakan”; it advocated forced relocation by demanding the government “remove some Bengali villages located near Sittwe University and beside traffic communication roads throughout Arakan State”; and it expresses opposition to any reintegration plans that would “put Buddhist and Muslim people together.” Furthermore, the statement called for a “peoples’ militia in all ethnic villages along the border and [for the government] to supply sophisticated arms to the people’s militia.” The statement called for strict adherence to the 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively prevents Rohingya from obtaining Burmese citizenship. The Rathedaung statement was sent to President Thein Sein, leaders in parliament, and the presidential commission established to investigate the situation in Arakan State.
The statement also called on the Rakhine Buddhists in Rathedaung Township to avoid employing Rohingya in a range of jobs, including day laborers, carpenters, masons, and in farming. It also said that the Rohingya should not to be employed in government offices or by NGOs operating in the township, and that all NGOs providing aid to the Rohingya in the township must withdraw. On July 9, 2012 the monks' association in Mrauk-U (once the capital of Arakan) released a similar statement: “No Arakanese [Rakhine Buddhist] should sell any goods to Bengalis, hire Bengalis as workers, provide any food to Bengalis and have any dealings with them ...”
The ruling RNDP in the Rakhine state also played an instrumental role in stoking fear and encouraging isolation of and violence against the Rohingya. One of the racist provocateurs by the name of Aye Chan depicts Rohingya as ‘Influx Virus’ which needs extinction. Members of the Buddhist sangha and the RNDP have also called for changes to the demographic makeup of Arakan State and Burma, such as the expulsion of all Rohingya from the country, in interviews with the international media. The monk Sandarthiri likewise told BBC that Rohingya have no right to stay in Burma: “Around the world there are many Muslim countries. They should go there. The Muslim countries will take care of them. They should go to countries with the same religion.”
The RNDP leaders issued orders to the Rakhine people to deny food entering the Rohingya part of the villages. “If any food comes, take it, crush it, and destroy it” was a notice on the corner of the road in front of the food market with orders saying no one could allow any food to reach the Rohingya village. On that paper it said that any Buddhist taking money from the Rohingya for rice or other things would be killed.
The HRW report directly implicated "political and religious leaders in Arakan State" in the planning, organization, and incitement of attacks against the Rohingya and other Muslims in October of 2012.
Buddhist monks were again in the headlines in June 2013 when it was reported that participants at a monastic conference were preparing a draft law that would put severe restrictions on inter-faith marriage and penalize Muslim men who married Buddhist women without converting.
The fact-finding reports from multiple NGOs have confirmed what we suspected for a number of years about who these ‘hidden hands’ are that are responsible for genocidal crimes against Muslims and other vulnerable minorities inside Myanmar. It is high time for the world community, esp. the UNSC, to try these fascists in the ICC for their crimes against humanity for surely the strongest antidote to genocide is justice. And nothing will sober the culprits of Myanmarism except such punitive measures.
|The flag of the European Union flies outside of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photo: Patrick Seeger/EPA|
March 28, 2015
The government has criticised a European Union resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 27, saying it amounts to an infringement of Myanmar’s sovereignty and interference in its affairs.
“The resolution does not adequately and objectively reflect and apprise of the efforts and achievements in promoting and protecting of human rights of the people of Myanmar,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a news release issued in Nay Pyi Taw.
“In addition to this drawback, some facts amount to infringing on the sovereignty and interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar,” the ministry said in the release, published in the state-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar on March 28.
It said the resolution had criticised and prejudged the holding and the outcome of the general election due later this year and had ignored efforts to ensure the vote is free, fair and transparent.
The resolution was also criticised for containing “a terminology which is not accepted by the nation and its entire people”, though the news release did not make clear if it was referring to the use of the term “Rohingya”.
It also said references in the resolution to Myanmar’s cooperation with United Nations agencies and the international humanitarian community were “misleading”.
“At this critical juncture, only constructive contributions and advices (sic) should be made for further progress towards reaching the goal of the whole [reform] process rather than focusing on and criticising some incidents,” the news release said.
Myanmar would maintain its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of its people, the foreign ministry said.
“In so doing, cooperation with friendly nations and the international organisations which support Myanmar with constructive views will be continued,” it said.
|Armed Chinese policemen stand guard on the border of China and Myanmar in Nansan town, in Yunnan province, Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo: ImagineChina)|
March 28, 2015
An armed ethnic group battling government troops in Myanmar’s Shan state has denied reports it is recruiting Chinese nationals to serve as mercenaries in its fight to reclaim territory in the country’s remote Kokang border region.
Tun Myat Lin, spokesman for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) under aging leader Peng Jiasheng, refuted claims by an RFA source earlier this week that the group had been offering a sign-up package to former soldiers demobilized from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).
“Our Kokang Army MNDAA does not use mercenaries [obtained] from hiring Chinese people,” he said in a statement written in English.
“The Chinese government also would not allow this,” he said, adding that the high cost of recruiting meant that “we cannot afford to hire Chinese people as mercenaries.”
In an accompanying statement, written in Chinese, Tun Myat Lin said the MNDAA had “never recruited people from outside of Myanmar to join our army.”
“We have stressed time and again in our official blog that we do not accept volunteers from China, so why would we use money to hire ‘mercenaries’?"
Tun Myat Lin asserted that government-aligned Kokang region chairman Bai Suocheng—the former deputy commander of the MNDAA—was spreading rumors to undermine support for Peng faction across the border in southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
“Bai Suocheng and other human scum, in order to serve the interests and the plots of the Myanmar military, has fabricated false evidence, and used all kinds of tricks to deceive Chinese friends who sympathize with us, then lured them to areas controlled by Myanmar government troops to be interrogated while under detention,” he said.
“Then photos and recordings [of the interrogations] are used as evidence that China is providing mercenaries to our troops.”
Tun Myat Lin also bristled at the term “rebel group” used by some in the media to describe the MNDAA under Peng, instead referring to it as “an armed militia” carrying out a fight “for the right to survive and the dignity of our [Kokang] people.”
Claim of recruitment drive
On Tuesday, military recruiter Lu Wei told RFA’s Mandarin Service that Chinese mercenaries were being offered 30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,830) to sign up for periods of at least a month with the MNDAA and allied military groups.
Lu, who is based in Yunnan’s Nansan township, said the recruitment drive didn't seem to be working, as not many Chinese were taking up the offer to risk their lives in the conflict.
However, other sources cited strong sympathy for the Kokang cause among China’s military and armed police forces. The people of Kokang are ethnic Han Chinese and speak a dialect of Chinese similar to that spoken across the border in Yunnan province.
The MNDAA on Feb. 9 launched a bid to retake the rugged and mountainous Kokang region, which it had controlled until 2009, beginning in the Kokang regional capital Laukkai.
Tens of thousands of displaced civilians in Kokang and across the Chinese border face worsening conditions and uncertainty over whether cease-fire talks will take place, sources have said.
The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.
However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar’s military—a move the MNDAA resisted.
Bai, who was put in charge of the Kokang army after Peng was deposed following the 2009 Kokang fighting, left the region shortly after Peng's offensive began in February.
Since driving MNDAA forces back from Laukkai, sources say Bai’s son has run plainclothes security operations in the city and maintained police patrols on its streets.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar and Mandarin Services. Translated by Jennifer Chou and Paul Eckert. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
By Guy Dinmore and Lun Min Mang
March 28, 2015
A United Nations request to move more than 10,000 “highly vulnerable” displaced Muslims out of two camps in Rakhine State before the onset of the monsoon season has met with a tough response from the chief minister, who said they must first comply with the citizenship verification process.
|A girl holds an infant in an unofficial camp for displaced Muslims on the outskirts of the Rakhine State capital Sittwe in January. (Yu Yu/The Myanmar Times)|
U Maung Maung Ohn told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the authorities would support the provision of aid, education and health to the camps, but baulked at allowing them to move unless they went through the process of applying for Myanmar citizenship.
Most of the Muslims identify as Rohingya, but to apply for citizenship they must agree to register as Bengalis.
“If they do not cooperate with us in the process, the moving of the camps cannot be possible,” he said.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more than 6000 displaced people in low-lying Nget Chaung camp and more than 4,000 people in Ah Nauk Ywe – both close to the sea and east of the state capital Sittwe – were at a high risk from flooding, storm surges and winds.
They are among some 140,000 Rohingya living in what the UN has described as “abysmal” conditions in camps set up in the wake of communal violence that erupted between Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhist majority in June 2012.
Shelters at Nget Chaung camp, built on marshland, “are gradually sinking into the mud” while access to adequate clean water was a major concern in Ah Nauk Ywe, OCHA said in its latest Myanmar bulletin. Residents in both camps were scavenging materials from shelters, latrines, walkways and other camp infrastructure for fuel, it added.
International humanitarian organisations had asked the authorities to take urgent measures to improve living conditions and had requested the residents from both camps be moved to higher safer ground before the monsoon season arrived in May, the UN agency said.
The UN has previously rejected any linking by the authorities of political process with humanitarian issues, but U Maung Maung Ohn was clear that Muslims displaced by the conflict would first have to comply with government demands that they renounce their claim to Rohingya ethnicity in applying for citizenship.
“Only those who get citizenship can have the rights of citizens. We cannot place them on the same level,” the chief minister said.
“When I met the Muslim community, I asked them, ‘Do you want to be Rohingya or Myanmar citizens? If you want to be Myanmar citizens then we can talk. But if you want to be Rohingya, we needn’t be talking as the government has announced that the name Rohingya is not recognised’,” U Maung Maung Ohn said.
He said there might still be enough time for the IDPs to hand in their “white cards” – temporary IDs – and go through the verification process by the end of May, when the monsoon rains will arrive.
One aid worker, who asked not to be named, noted the minister’s tough remarks but said the government had begun allowing some displaced Rohingya to resettle while keeping the movements low-profile so as not to antagonise hardline Buddhist activists.
Many Rohingya refuse to renounce their claim to their ethnicity in return for some citizenship rights. UN officials note that the small numbers who did relent and were given citizenship status were still not allowed to leave their camp, with the Rakhine authorities saying their safety could not be guaranteed.
UN had high hopes some IDPs would be moved after a report that the president’s private fund had allocated K200 million (US$200,000) for building houses for IDPs in camps in Rakhine State. About 10,000 Buddhists also remain displaced because of the conflict.
Treatment of the Rohingya – estimated to number some 1.3 million – was among the five issues listed by US President Barack Obama when he was asked during his visit to Myanmar last November how he would measure progress in the country’s transition from military rule to democracy.
March 27, 2015
According to the mandate given by the "First European Rohingya Conference" held in Denmark last December, a delegation of 3 Rohingya representatives travelled to Brussels to lobby the European Commission, European Parliament and other related institutions. The delegation was comprised of Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Sazaat Ahammed from Netherlands, and Sayed Hussein, Chairman of Rohingya Organisation Norway.
On the first day of the event the delegation briefed the Swedish permanent representative to EU, Netherlands permanent representative to the EU, and the US mission delegation.
On the second day the European Rohingya delegates briefed Top Officials from South East Asia European External Action Service, Officials from Foreign Affairs External Policies European Parliament, Sub Committee on Human Rights and Director General from External Policies, Jean Lambert Member of European Parliament.
During the third day the delegation met MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Afzal Khan MEP David Martin, Director General from European Commission Humanitarian aid Office (ECHO).
The European Rohingya delegation strongly emphasized updates of the situation of the Rohingya people of Arakan. The delegates specifically highlighted in particular the revoking of white cards (resident IDs) and lost rights of the Rohingya. They urged the European Union to put pressure on the Burmese government to stop its plan to subject the Rohingya to the so-called national verification process which requires them to identify themselves as Bengalis. They also stressed the need to allow them continue their right of integration by granting them full citizenship with their ethnic identity as ‘Rohingya’.
The delegation pinpointed that the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State and impoverishment of the Rohingya is part of a long-term policy of repression of the ethnic Rohingya which has been stepped up since the reform process began in 2011. As a result of Burmese government policies, actions and inaction, almost one million ethnic Rohingya are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 160,000 of these are living in squalid camps in Rakhine State. The delegation stressed that as the EU is a major aid donor to also provide more aid to Rohingya IDPS and urged the European Union to support Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to personally take the lead in negotiating international humanitarian access. A similar effort in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis succeeded in increasing humanitarian access.
The delegation brought to the attention of the European Parliament members how the commission established by the Burmese government of Burma failed to address issues of accountability and justice. It is clear that the government of Burma is not willing to conduct a genuine investigation into the cause of the violence, to establish who was responsible for inciting and organizing the violence, and to hold those who organized and took part in the attacks to account. An independent international investigation will not only help establish the truth, but also help prevent further attacks by ensuring for the first time that those responsible will fear being held accountable. Recommendations can also be made to prevent further violence.
Moreover the delegation suggested that those inciting hatred and violence are well known in Burma, but no action has been taken against them. President Thein Sein has supported those individuals who are also inciting violence. The Delegation Urged the EU to put strong pressure to stop hate speech against Rohingyas and other minorities of Burma. The Delegation also spoke of how Rohingya community and political leaders, are subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, and harassment in Myanmar. Prisoners of conscience in Myanmar remain at risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The delegation urged the EU to put pressure on President Thein Sein and the Burmese government immediately and unconditionally to release a group of five Rohingya prisoners of conscience being held in Sittwe prison.
The Delegation stressed that Rohingya people are leaving Arakan in hundreds every day by taking extremely dangerous sea-journeys to escape persecution by Burmese authorities. Currently 10% of population have been driven out by the government of Burma and the crisis should stop by EU pressure immediately. Rohingyas are facing a slow burning genocide and international presence is immediately needed to protect the Rohingyas of Arakan, The delegation also urged European countries to resettle those Rohingyas refugees to their countries.
|Two Rohingya women walk down an alley in Nayapara camp, one of two camps around Cox's Bazar where officially registered refugees are permitted to live (Photo by Stephan Uttom)|
By Stephan Uttom & Rock Ronald Rozario
March 24, 2015
For Dil Mohammad and his family, a cramped refugee camp on the edge of southeastern Bangladesh has become a reluctant home for almost a quarter-century.
The 61-year-old Muslim Rohingya refugee brought his family here 23 years ago from neighboring Myanmar, fleeing persecution and discrimination at the hands of the majority Buddhist population of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Conditions in the two camps at Nayapara and Kutupalong, in Cox’s Bazar district, are often squalid, packed with more than 30,000 registered Rohingya. Their lives have become largely dependent on aid from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Bangladesh government.
Compared to the strife in his homeland, however, life has been relatively peaceful. Back in Myanmar, Mohammad says the government exploited members of the Rohingya community, forcing many like him to work in the fields or carry stones from quarrying sites without pay. He says he was physically beaten two or three times. When Rakhine mobs burned down homes in his village for a third time, he decided it was time to leave.
Now, Mohammad and other refugees are wondering if their lives will again be thrown into chaos. Fears have been spreading since November last year, when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that the government was planning to relocate Rohingya refugees to a “better place” — though details of any relocation plan have been scant.
“We have left everything in Rakhine and have gathered life here bit by bit over the years,” Mohammad told ucanews.com during a recent visit to the camp. “We fear that we might lose what we have if we are relocated and start everything all over again.”
With no official announcement of the relocation plans, refugees can only resort to rumors to predict their futures. One has it that the refugees will be relocated to separate districts in southern and central Bangladesh that are said to be prone to disasters.
Mohammad worries that life will become even more difficult for him and his family than it is now. However, he knows he is in no position to make demands.
“Being in a foreign land, we must accept what is in our fate,” he said.
Life is even more uncertain for non-registered Rohingya living in Bangladesh; they are, in the eyes of the government, illegal.
The UNHCR estimates that there are at least 10 times more unregistered Rohingya in Bangladesh — more than 300,000 people.
Some 15,000 of the undocumented Rohingya live in an informal settlement just beside Nayapara camp, including Harez Mohammad Tayub, who left Rakhine state eight years ago.
For Tayub, 32, it is the registered refugees who are the lucky ones.
“Registered refugees have good housing, food, security, and are able to fulfill basic human needs,” he said. “We have heard they will be moved to an even better place. They are lucky people. We are not.”
Bangladesh government officials declined to talk about the relocation plan when approached by ucanews.com. Farid Ahmed Bhuiyan, commissioner of the Rohingya Refugee Repatriation Committee under the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said the relocation plan includes registered refugees only and is still at a preliminary stage.
The country office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also declined to comment on the issue.
Often described by human rights groups as one of the most persecuted peoples in the world, Rohingya refugees have effectively been rendered stateless. Though many have lived for generations in Myanmar, they are commonly viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The government frequently refuses to recognize Rohingya citizenship or even use the term when referring to Rohingya.
Rohingya have felt the brunt of a recent uptick in clashes between Buddhist and Muslim civilians, which has sent a new wave of refugees fleeing, by boat to other countries in Southeast Asia, or across the border to Bangladesh.
In the past, Bangladesh has been relatively accommodating, but in recent years has taken a harder line.
In 2012, Bangladesh closed its borders to Rohingya refugees, and the ruling Awami League government has remained defiant in the face of heavy international criticism on the issue.
Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations Department said the government must do more to protect persecuted Rohingya — particularly given Bangladesh’s own history as a source country for refugees during its own war for independence in 1971.
“We have always been positive when it comes to sheltering persecuted people. So, it was a blunder by the government because our image really went down,” he said, calling the Rohingya situation a “humanitarian issue”.
In 2012, the government also ordered three international aid groups — Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Action Against Hunger and Muslim Aid UK — to halt operations in Cox’s Bazar and stop providing aid to undocumented Rohingyas. Authorities said the presence of NGOs in Bangladesh effectively encouraged refugees to pour in over the border. The NGOs have maintained a low profile since the government order, but still continue aiding refugees quietly.
Local media reported at the time that Bangladesh had begun drafting a plan to address the issue of undocumented Rohingya refugees. That scheme, which has not been made public, reportedly contained 25 proposals, including forming a dedicated taskforce to stop illegal entries and installing an embankment as a barrier along 50 kilometers of the Naf River, which divides Bangladesh from Myanmar.
It also reportedly proposed a specific law that would make it illegal to offer shelter to undocumented Rohingya refugees.
Recent events suggest Bangladesh authorities are continuing their tougher policies against Rohingya.
On February 4 this year, officials in Cox’s Bazar district forcibly evicted about 35,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees from makeshift refugee camps near Shamlapur, a fishing village about 50 kilometers from Cox’s Bazar town, leaving them homeless.
Officials said the eviction was an attempt to reclaim the area from illegal encroachers along Marine Drive Road, which runs through the country’s most popular tourist destination.
|A woman walks around inside Nayapara refugee camp, one of two official camps for registered Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar (Photo by Stephan Uttom)|
Rights groups say that any government relocation plan that excludes unregistered refugees will fail.
“Over the years, it’s become abundantly clear in Bangladesh’s interactions with this group that Dhaka wants to get rid of them but doesn’t know how to make that happen,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“Many of these unregistered Rohingya live in the so-called ‘makeshift’ camp right next door to the official camps that the Bangladesh government wants to move. So then what happens to that still unrecognized group? Without a solution also for the unrecognized group, none of this will work.”
Robertson stressed that any attempt to relocate Rohingya, registered or not, must be done voluntarily.
For Tayub, the 32-year-old living in the unregistered camp, any future in Bangladesh remains precarious, with or without a relocation. He says he’s thankful that Bangladesh has given him shelter, willingly or not. But all things being equal, he knows his home lies not in Bangladesh, but in Myanmar.
“We don’t want to remain as refugees here forever,” he said. “If the Myanmar government provides us with rights, security and citizenship, we would like to go back to our country.”
|Angry mourners follow the casket of Tun Tun, the Buddhist victim of the 2014 Mandalay riots. The group would later go and destroy the Muslim part of a cemetery near the city. (Photo: Steve Tickner/The Irrawaddy)|
March 24, 2015
RANGOON — A new report released on Monday said it found evidence to suggest that the 2014 outbreak of inter-communal violence in Mandalay was caused by a group of outside thugs who operated with tacit support from authorities.
Based on more than a dozen interviews with eye witnesses, Mandalay community leaders and family members of victims, the report by the Justice Trust paints a picture of the events in early July 2014 when clashes erupted between the city’s Buddhist residents and its Muslim minority.
At the time, a Buddhist man named Tun Tun was killed, as was a Muslim man named Soe Min Htwe. Tensions between the communities remained high for days and authorities responded with heavy police deployment. During a funeral for the Buddhist victim, the Muslim part of a cemetery on the outskirts of Mandalay was destroyed by angry mourners.
The Justice Trust, an international rights organization supporting local lawyers and activists, worked closely with the multi-faith alliance of the Mandalay Peace Committee to reconstruct the events through a six-month investigation. It concluded that the violence was orchestrated by elements from outside of Mandalay.
Several eye witnesses told the Justice Trust they noticed a group of around two dozen men on motorbikes enter Mandalay and make their way through the city while exhibiting rowdy behavior. “I saw a group of around 25 people, on motorbikes, yelling, singing the national anthem, throwing stones and damaging parked cars,” Mindin, Editor-in-Chief of the Mandalay Khit Journal, was quoted as telling investigators.
“By then there were 200 or so riot police within view down the street, they could not have been more than 10 meters away, doing nothing as these rioters went on a rampage,” he added. A youth community worker named Harry told investigators that he observed the group for a while and noticed they were trying to read road signs and maps to find their way.
“Almost everyone interviewed described the roving mob responsible for the death and destruction in Mandalay as comprised of men from outside Mandalay,” the report said. “Many witnesses reported that they actively tried to recruit monks and community members from Mandalay employing a variety of appeals and misinformation tactics.”
It remains unclear who killed the two victims, but the report suggests that both were killed in separate crimes by a group of several dozen men in the early hours of July 2.
A Mandalay District Court in October sentenced four men to 10 years’ imprisonment for being accomplices to the murder of the Muslim man. In December, it sentenced 11 Muslim men to 10 to 13 years in prison for aiding and abetting the killing of the Buddhist victim. The convicted men and their lawyers in both cases have insisted they were innocent.
No one has been charged with murder over the two deaths.
Mandalay Division Police Chief Col. Han Tun declined to comment when asked about the report’s findings, saying the violence occurred before he took the post. Mandalay Chief Minister Ye Myint said he was too busy to talk a reporter. Senior officials at the national police headquarters in Naypyidaw could not be reached. Attempts to contact Information Minister Ye Htut by email and phone on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
U Dama, a senior abbot at Moe Khaung, one of two Mandalay monasteries visited by the gang of supposed outsiders, told investigators that he turned them away when they tried to agitate and recruit his monks. “A crowd of about 30 men came to our monastery around 12:30 am on the first night of the riots,” he said. “I went down with 10-15 senior monks to meet with the mob. I noticed the men were quite drunk and out of control. I told them that they needed to leave as they were disrupting our peace.”
The report said the fact that Mandalay community leaders acted promptly to discourage residents from joining the outside agitators had helped prevent a larger outbreak of communal violence. It advised Burmese civil society groups to study the success of Mandalay community organizations in foiling attempts at inciting unrest.
Latent religious divisions have historically been present in Burmese society and attempts at fomenting inter-communal violence were long used during the former military regime to distract from calls for democratic reform, Justice Trust said. Now, the group alleged,the tactic is being used by former regime “hardliners” to control and slow down the pace of Burma’s democratic transition.
In 2012, inter-communal violence erupted between Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists in western Burma; 2013 saw eruptions of inter-communal unrest in more than a dozen towns in central Burma. The Mandalay violence is the most recent occurrence of such violence.
“This report shows what most Burmese have known for a long time—that religious hatred between Buddhists and Muslims is being stoked by hidden hands and manipulated as a pretext for maintaining their grip on power,” Thein Than Oo, a Mandalay lawyer who serves on Justice Trust’s steering committee, said in a press release. “We have seen this script many times before.”
Justice Trust stopped short of making specific accusations as to which actors with ties to the former regime would stand to benefit from organizing the unrest.
Senior Union Solidarity and Development Party lawmaker Aung Than, who has his power base in Mandalay Division’s Taung Tha Township, has been accused by some of involvement in the unrest and of supporting nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu’s 969 movement.
The Justice Trust said it identified a five-step pattern in attempts to orchestrate unrest: claims by nationalist groups on social media alleging that Muslim men raped Buddhist women, riots carried by outside violent gangs, failure of law enforcement to stem unrest in a timely manner, failure of the legal system to properly investigate perpetrators, and timing ofriots to divert attention away from calls for democratic reforms.
Justice Trust noted that the riots occurred days before opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was due to address a National League for Democracy rally in Mandalay calling for constitutional reform.
Since the violence occurred, Mandalay authorities have arrested at least two dozen men on accusations of participating in the violence and violating a curfew. Many of them were handed long prison terms in recent months.
The Justice Trust alleged that authorities were going after young men who had been incited by outsiders, while police failed to properly investigate who had tried to orchestrate the unrest.
“They acted on false, wrong information and they damaged the Muslim cemetery; they broke the law,” Thein Than Oo said of those detained following the violence. “But the authorities did not arrest the real perpetrators, those who incited the violence.”
Additional reporting from Mandalay by Zarni Mann.
By Stuart Alan Becker
March 24, 2015
On July 3, 2014, U Soe Min was walking to morning prayers at a nearby mosque when a man with a machete struck him dead with a deep blow to his skull. The 51-year-old Mandalay resident, who ran a bicycle shop, was one of two innocent victims that day of communal violence sparked by reports – later proven to be false – that a Buddhist woman had been raped by two Muslim brothers.
|Daw Phyu Win at her home in Mandalay. (Stuart Alan Becker/The Myanmar Times)|
Hours after U Soe Min’s killing, his mother Daw Phyu Win, widow Daw Tin Tin Kyaw and two young daughters spoke to The Myanmar Times at their home, grief etched into their faces along with disbelief that a man who had such friendly relations with all his neighbours, regardless of their religion, could have met such a fate.
In late February, eight months after the riots, Daw Phyu Win spoke again – about the family’s long history in Mandalay, how they were coping with the loss of her youngest son, and their fears for the future of the city’s Muslim community.
Speaking in excellent English – as a young woman she taught English at the city’s Catholic Don Bosco School – 79-year-old Daw Phyu Win described how she was born in Mandalay of a family that traces its history back 400 years to Amarapura, a former royal capital just south of where Mandalay sits today. Her ancestors had been servants to the last line of Burmese kings and accompanied the royal family when the court moved to Mandalay.
Reflecting on the communal violence last July – in which a Buddhist volunteer ambulance worker was also killed – she said it was the worst time of her whole life, even worse than the Japanese wartime occupation.
She thinks Muslim people in Myanmar are going to be safe and secure during the run-up to national elections in November, but she worries what will happen afterward.
“For the time being, there is no problem, but I think in the future they may do bad things again. After the election we don’t know what will happen to Muslim people – but right now because of the coming election we are staying nicely,” she said.
“I love the Myanmar land and the Myanmar people,” she said. “But political people change and there are very good Buddhists, but there are also cruel people who have power.
“Good Buddhists have no power; some bad ones have power. All Muslims are afraid of what may happen after the elections – that we may get trouble again.”
Daw Phyu Win said all of her Buddhist neighbours in Mandalay had treated her and her family with great kindness during her whole life – as an undergraduate at Mandalay University, running a middle school with her late husband until it was nationalised under the military rule of Ne Win, and sending her own children to the Don Bosco school even though it was Catholic.
She has vivid memories as a girl living under Japanese occupation, when her family evacuated with others to villages beyond Mandalay Hill, scared of the cruelty of the advancing army.
“When the Japanese came they were very rude and violent. [They] kicked the children. We hated them,” she said. She remembers at the age of seven smoking her first cigarette, offered to her by a black American soldier as allied forces retook Burma.
Above all she remembers that everyone took care of each other, regardless of their religion.
She now lives in a property bought by her grandfather in 1916 – an old brick Burmese-style structure that was destroyed in the war and rebuilt by U Soe Min. She has leased out the space her late son used for his bicycle shop, using the income to support herself and U Soe Min’s widow and daughters.
Contacted again yesterday by The Myanmar Times, Daw Phyu Win declined to comment on last week’s sentencing of the woman who filed the fake rape report and four others to 21 years in prison.
“What happened to my son is fate given by God,” she said. “We can’t change our fate.”
|Police stand guard on a street in Mandalay, July 2, 2014. (Photo: AFP)|
By Joshua Lipes
March 24, 2015
Hard-liners in Myanmar’s government are deliberately instigating communal violence in the country in a bid to derail democracy and maintain their grip on power, according to a report released Monday by a U.S.-based rights group.
In its report entitled “Hidden Hands Behind Communal Violence in Myanmar: Case Study of the Mandalay Riots,” Justice Trust documents what it said was the use of organized gangs of armed men to commit anti-Muslim riots under the guise of spontaneous mob violence.
“This report shows what most Burmese have known for a long time—that religious hatred between Buddhists and Muslims is being stoked by hidden hands and manipulated as a pretext for maintaining their grip on power,” Thein Than Oo, a Mandalay lawyer who serves on Justice Trust’s steering committee, said in a statement.
“We have seen this script many times before—the deployment of plainclothes forces … rather than uniformed soldiers to commit national-scale political violence, and the scapegoating of minorities to divert public attention away from the country’s real needs.”
Based on six months of research by local and international lawyers, Justice Trust’s report analyzes the July 2014 riots in Mandalay and compares them to previous waves of communal violence.
The anti-Muslim violence over two nights in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar’s second largest city left two people dead and about a dozen wounded, as well as motor vehicles and shops ablaze, following online rumors that a Muslim man had raped a Buddhist woman.
The riots followed a common pattern found in previous instances of communal violence, the report said, including allegations of honor crimes, violence incited by gangs believed to be outsiders, the failure of law enforcement to prevent violence and the legal system to punish perpetrators, and suspicious timing of the incident to divert attention from popular demands for justice and democracy.
But unlike previous riots, where large mobs developed and violence spun out of control, Justice Trust said residents in Mandalay refused to participate, while local monks, activists and journalists tried to contain the situation.
“Without the protective cover of a sympathetic crowd, the outside agitators were exposed, the stage-managed nature of their violence was made visible to the public, and the overall damage was limited,” the group said.
“The case of Mandalay therefore provides the clearest evidence yet of a deliberate political strategy to foment anti-Muslim violence, as well as the best example of countering this strategy through a local early warning system to mobilize an immediate on-the-ground response,” the report said.
Justice Trust cited eyewitnesses to the riots who said they were carried out by “a small group of men on motorcycles” who “rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods.” The violence took place “in plain view” of armed riot police who watched the mayhem unfold “without taking action.”
It said the failure of police to act against the rioters was mirrored by the government’s failure to address the hostile environment created by the ultra-nationalist Buddhist 969 movement, which claims Myanmar’s minority Muslims are threatening the Buddhist majority.
Deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims throughout Myanmar has left at least 280 dead and tens of thousands homeless since 2012, and rights groups say Muslims have borne the brunt of the violence—many of them ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine state.
Muslims account for about 4 percent of Myanmar's roughly 60 million people.
Justice Trust said 969 leader Wirathu played “a direct role” in inciting the violence by personally engaging in anti-Muslim preaching events or social media campaigns just prior to major outbreaks of rioting against Muslim communities in Rakhine, Meiktila, Lashio, and Mandalay.
“The close nexus between his speech and ensuing criminal violence in these specific events is prima facie evidence of incitement,” it said.
“Failure by the Government to conduct an impartial investigation and take appropriate legal action will further encourage extremists to break the law.”
But the group also cautioned against suggestions from the international community which places blame for the violence on Buddhist chauvinism.
“Latent religious divisions certainly exist and are being exploited and exacerbated by hate-mongering nationalists and opportunistic politicians,” it said.
“But to make the leap from hate speech to wanton murder and destruction requires an additional factor—armed groups funded and trained to commit criminal violence for political ends.”
Influence of hardliners
Those political ends involve undermining progress towards democratic reform and maintaining the behind-the-scenes influence of hardliners linked to the country’s former military junta, which handed power to President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2011, the report said.
So far, these “hidden hands” have been successful in widening communal divisions, fostering insecurity that threatens elections set for later this year, and shifting the narrative of Myanmar’s political opening from reform to reaction, it said.
“The incitement of religious violence, from Rakhine state in 2012 to Mandalay in 2014, has revealed the power of former junta hardliners to control the script of Myanmar’s political transition,” said Roger Normand, executive director of Justice Trust.
“The Government must fulfill its public promises to protect all people and hold accountable those forces who are instigating communal conflict for political ends.”
In its report, Justice Trust called on civil society to develop local responses to counter the strategy of instigating communal conflict, and for the government to fulfill its duties to uphold the rule of law and protect all people equally, regardless of race or religion.
March 23, 2015
UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Provides Compelling Report on Human Right Violations in Arakan State
|Arakan Rohingya Union Director General Dr. Wakar Uddin and OIC-Geneva Mission Head Amb Slimane Chick at the main session of the UN Human Rights Council|
Geneva, Switzerland -- The 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) was held in Geneva March 2-27, 2015, and the Rohingya Human Rights session was programmed for the afternoon session on March 16, 2015. At the main session, UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, provided an astounding report on the human right violations committed by the Government of Myanmar against Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan state in Myanmar. Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union, Dr. Wakar Uddin, along with the members of The European Rohingya Council and the ARU’s Global Rohingya Center attended the conference.
|ARU-DG Dr. Wakar Uddin with UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee at the 28th Session|
The UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, provided all the aspects of the plights of Rohingya people in Myanmar based on her personal experiences where she witnessed the daily suffering of the Rohingya people during her visits to Arakan state. Ms. Lee described the situation in Rohingya IDP camps as ‘abysmal ’. She provided the details of the violations of human rights committed by the Government officials and armed forces in Arakan state fueled by the policy of the Government of Myanmar. She also spoke about ‘White Card’ and voting rights of the Rohingya. The Special Rapporteur stressed the continuous instability in the country caused the hate speech by the radical Buddhist monks instigating the violence against Rohingya by Buddhist Rakhine. She has also highlighted the abusive and insulting language against international dignitaries used by the leader of the radical Buddhist ‘969’ movement. The Special Rapporteur has called on the international community and the Government of Myanmar to find a solution to the Rohingya issue in an expedient manner.
|ARU-DG with Ambassadors of Algeria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain at the 28th Session|
|ARU-DG with Head of the Political Section of European Union and Latvia Rep to EU at the 28th Session|
Over 40 countries and several NGOs made statements on the Rohingya issue where almost all of them shared the view of the UN Special Rapporteur. Amongst them, the Government of United States, several European countries, Saudi Arabia, OIC, and Human Rights Watch expressed the strongest support for the cause of Rohingya. The Myanmar representative refuted most of the testimony by the Special Rapportuer and often used ‘transition to democracy’ as a pre-text for all the violations by the Government of Myanmar. The Myanmar representative bluntly rejected the ethnic identity of Rohingya and disregarded the indigeneity of the Rohingya people in Arakan.
In the side event, Dr. Wakar Uddin, DG of ARU, and GRC Representative Dr. Mohammed Taher Siraj spoke on ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar. Their presentations covered the situation on the ground in Arakan, the Government’s hostile policy towards Rohingya that is triggering the violence by Buddhist Rakhine, verification process as a tool for second-class citizenship or internment in camps, and several other issues. Their speech vastly reflected the reports of the Special Rapporteur. The Arab League meeting at the session also discussed the Rohingya issue, and ARU-DG stressed the need for the Arab League and all the OIC member states to increase their efforts and speak out through all multi-lateral and bilateral relations with Myanmar. The resolution on Rohingya human rights at the 28th HRC is due to be released shortly.
|Myanmar's President Thein Sein speaks during the opening ceremony of the 5th Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit at a hotel in Bangkok December 20, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)|
March 22, 2015
Yangon -- Myanmar's military will maintain its role in politics in order to support a transition to democracy but will eventually submit to civilian rule, President Thein Sein said in an interview broadcast on Friday.
Myanmar was ruled by the military for 49 years before a semi-civilian government took power in 2011 and initiated widespread political and economic reforms.
But under a 2008 constitution drafted under military rule, a quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected serving officers, along with some key cabinet posts, giving the military an effective veto on any constitutional reform.
The opposition National League for Democracy party, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for the military to step away from politics.
Thein Sein, a former general, said the military initiated the reform process and still needed to play a political role in order to support the transition to democracy.
"In fact, the military is the one who is assisting in the flourishing of democracy in our country," he told the BBC.
"As the political parties mature in their political norms and practice, the role of the military gradually changes."
Thein Sein did not say when the military would transition out of politics, but said it would be done according to the "will of the people".
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for early November, and the parliament that emerges from the vote will choose the next president.
Suu Kyi's party swept a 1990 vote that the ruling generals ignored, and she remains hugely popular but the military-drafted constitution bars her from the presidency because she has two sons with British citizenship. Her late husband was a British academic.
Thein Sein denied that the clause was written in order to exclude Suu Kyi from the presidency, and said the requirement was actually drafted in 1947 when the country, also known as Burma, was preparing for independence from Britain.
Thien Sein said he was not opposed to changing the constitution, but said it would be up to parliament to support an amendment, which would then require a referendum.
Such an amendment would require more than 75 percent approval in a parliament dominated by military representatives and their allies in the ruling United Solidarity and Development Party, which is made up mainly of former officers.
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Myanmar – Rohingya and US Realpolitik
In this 9-minute radio interview with Malaysia's top Business FM station Dr Zarni dissects the state of Burma and Washington's real agenda in his native country.