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Oskar Butcher
RB Article
October 6, 2018

Every night in an unassuming shop space located in Mandalay’s 39thStreet, Lu Maw and Lu Zaw – the remaining members of the Burma’s most famous comedy trio, the Moustache Brothers – present their show: a curious combination of comedy, political satire, and traditional Burmese dance. Par Par Lay, the group’s leader, passed away in 2013.

The Brothers’ history of human rights activism is no less than inspirational. For decades, they have unrelentingly critiqued their country’s despotic military regime through their comedy. The third generation of comedians in their family, they have suffered terribly as a result. 

Following a performance at the home where Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in 1996, Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw were dragged from their beds in the dead of night and thrown into the city jail. The men were locked up for five years, with Lay sent to a distant facility and punished through hard labour, breaking rocks. Six years prior, Lay’s humorous take on the regime’s refusal to honour the National League for Democracy’s landslide election victory had already seen him serve six months behind bars. At no point did Brothers’ cutting satire of the regime relent.

Since Aung San Suu Kyi’s ascent to de facto national leader, the Brothers’ show appears somewhat out of step with the values of human rights and democracy that they have for decades espoused*. Their enduring praise for Aung San Suu Kyi – who is deeply complicit in the atrocities being carried out by the Myanmar state against its Rohingya minority - leaves their shows with an uncomfortable void. The performance seems indicative of the profound tragedy of Burma’s failed democratic transition. 

Today, Myanmar’s military – who remain the butt of most of the show’s jokes – retain control over the country’s most significant levers of power. Their relationship with Suu Kyi, formerly the most prominent thorn in their side, has become increasingly cosy. Nonetheless, it is unsurprising given the extent of the suffering endured by the Moustache Brothers, that they view their country’s failed democratic reforms as something of a triumph. The walls of their modest theatre are covered in photos of Suu Kyi. In many of these, she is pictured alongside the comedians. 



Speaking of Suu Kyi, Lu Maw tells of the Brothers’ great pride in seeing her in a position of power. He speaks of their shared struggle for freedom and democracy, how the Moustache Brothers were right there with her, and emphasising that “she is one of us”. When Lu Maw speaks, there is an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. It seems to say: ‘we made it’. 

The state of the country, including basic civil and political rights, has improved significantly in the last few years for the vast majority of the population – Moustache Brothers included. This, however, can never be the measure of human rights or democracy. 

The atrocities against the Rohingya have killed well over 10,000 people - with up to 43,000 missing, presumed dead. In total, approximately 700,000 have been driven from the country. Neither Suu Kyi’s shocking denials of these atrocities, nor the crimes themselves, are mentioned during the Moustache Brothers’ show. Given the group’s courageous history, it is clearly not fear that has induced their silence. Rather, it is likely something far more human: a need to believe in the purity of the democratic movement of which they have long been a part, and a loyalty to its leader - Aung San Suu Kyi. 

In February 2018, the United Nations recognised Suu Kyi’s complicityin the crimes against the Rohingya; crimes that they six months later have determined amount to genocide. Better late than never, these conclusions echo the findings of research conducted by the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University, three years prior in 2015. As any position that Aung San Suu Kyi once held as a moral or democratic authority has been rendered entirely untenable, many of her international honours have been revoked. Her popularity across Myanmar, however, remains largely intact- as does the country’s rampant islamophobia.

In recent years, the virulent Islamophobic rhetoric of extremist, monk-led hate groups such as the 969 Movement has sparked deadly anti-Muslim riots across the country. According toAmnesty International, their hate speech has become increasingly normalised by the country’s political and military elite, who have encouraged society at large to “hate, scapegoat, and fear” Muslim minorities.

And whilst today much of the population believes the Rohingya to be ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, this myth has no basis in fact. As Professor of Asian and Military History at SOAS, Michael Charney explained, there has been extensive movement amongst both the Rohingya and the Rakhine peoples throughout the state historically, and in actuality, “the [Muslim] Rohingya are no more illegal migrants than the Buddhist Rakhine”. Yet the consequences of vicious anti-Rohingya sentiments could not be more severe. 

Whilst military bases are erected on the ruins of towns and villages where Rohingya lived and prayed only months ago, the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo languish in jail for exposingmilitary massacres of Rohingya civilians. Reportedly “furious” upon being asked about the journalists’ ongoing incarceration, the Aung San Suu Kyi who said in 2014 that whilst moving towards democracy “we all need to work to point out our country’s faults” is nowhere to be found. 

Nonetheless, a number of international Burmese and Rohingya voices have been active in condemning Burma’s crimes, and bearing witness to their country’s genocidal ‘faults’. Local movements opposing the persecution of Muslims, however, are few and far between. Those who do so publicly belong to a small, brave and dedicated group of human rights activists. 

One grassroots campaign, Panzagar, brings together campaigners in opposition to hate speech, and in particular online and anti-Muslim discourse. With over 200,000 Facebook likes - no mean feat in a country with estimated 2.5% internet access – it would appear that there is greater support for such a movement than first appearances might otherwise suggest. The group has even benefitted from the support of Zarganar, another celebrated Burmese comedian and former political prisoner who is one of the few prominent Burmese figures to have spoken publicly about the plight of the Rohingya. His efforts, however, which have at times been channelled through official governmental commissions, have produced mixed results. 

When the economic, social, and political status of a majority population improves significantly – as has been the case in Burma since 2011 – it surely becomes more challenging than ever for members of that majority to protest the treatment of a small, marginalised, and scapegoated minority. As the past year of genocidal violence against the Rohingya demonstrates, however, it has become far more urgent. 

The Moustache Brothers are an inspiring illustration of Myanmar’s proud tradition of the finest kind of human rights activism. From a human perspective, their dedication to Aung San Suu Kyi is understandable. However, the Suu Kyi of their movement – the democratic icon who insisted on pointing out her country’s faults – is no more. As painful as it may be to renounce their one-time leader, highlighting her hypocrisy and indifference towards the suffering Rohingya would demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the principles for which Burmese human rights activists have long taken a brave stand.

As the gears of the international community slowly grind into action - with the UN now recognising the gravity of the crimes perpetrated and the International Criminal Court launching a preliminary investigation - Myanmar’s military maintains its brazen denials, and Aung San Suu Kyi remains enveloped in a deafening silence. Lasting change in Myanmar will not be achieved through international efforts alone, however, and long-term change will require an internal shift in the country’s attitude towards Islam and the Rohingya. Easier said than done, no doubt, but if the country is ever to overcome its tortured past and genocidal present, the rights of all people must be guaranteed regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. 


*Author visited a Moustache Brothers’ show in October 2017. 

Oskar Butcher is a human rights activist interested in Myanmar and the politics of conflict, justice, and forced migration. He works at the Death Penalty Project and volunteers as a Speaker with Amnesty International. He was awarded an MSc from SOAS, University of London, in 2017. 

Twitter: @Oskar_Butcher



By Dr. Maung Zarni
October 5, 2018

- The writer is coordinator for strategic affairs at the Free Rohingya Coalition and adviser to the European Center for the Study of Extremism, Cambridge, UK

Five steps can be taken towards achieving justice, repatriation and the rebuilding of Rohingya communities in Myanmar

LONDON -- Rohingya campaigners and human rights organizations welcomed the UN Human Rights Council’s vote on Sept. 27 to set up a body to conduct a further investigation and future indictment of Myanmar for atrocity crimes, including genocide. The resolution, co-sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union, was passed by a vote of 35-3 with seven abstentions, with only China, the Philippines and Burundi opposing it.

The current calls for justice and accountability for the victims of the Myanmar genocide -- ongoing still -- must go beyond conceiving justice in a narrow technical judicial sense and consider the tangible and pressing need of the Rohingya, including the sitting duck Rohingya inside Myanmar, those in camps in Bangladesh and those on the verge of deportation in India.

While the International Criminal Court and/or other ad hoc international tribunals in the style of the tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda would be a welcome step in the right direction, none of the international judicial processes will likely alter the genocidal conditions in which Rohingya have been forced to exist for several decades.

Here is a very grim picture: A Harvard Medical School study published in the Lancet (2016) found the doctor-patient ratio for Rohingya in the two predominantly Rohingya towns of Buthidaung and Maungdaw is 1:180,000 while the national average is 1:1,000. According to the World Food Program survey of July 2017 -- which was shelved a week after its release under pressure from the Aung San Suu Kyi government -- of 80,000 Rohingya children under the age of 5 surveyed in a select Rohingya region of Western Myanmar, severe malnutrition and acute severe malnutrition or semi-famine like characteristics are prevalent. A Physicians for Human Rights study in October 2016 uncovered the severe deprivation of access to even rudimentary health services: a Rohingya person is made to go through, on average, three to four security checkpoints from home to the nearest village clinic, typically without a doctor or emergency medical care.

Genocide against the Rohingya is more than a series of acts of genocide, but it is still an ongoing process, and its instigators remain with impunity at the highest levels of authority in Myanmar. As the 440-page Independent International Fact-Finding Mission report (Sept. 18) noted, the structures, institutions and policies designed to destroy the Rohingya community from its very foundations remain in place.

These conditions and the decades-old policies that have induced them remain in place. The World Court or other judicial processes, domestically or globally, are not going to alter them.

And there is something that is even harder to change that serves as the obstacle to ending Myanmar’s ongoing genocide: the utter impotence and non-functioning of the UN Security Council when it comes to large-scale, policy-induced human suffering, from Yemen and Syria to Palestine and Uighur East Turkestan, or Xinjiang, in China. The veto-wielders -- not just the usual illiberal suspects such as Russia and China but also the U.S. and UK -- have proven incapable of upholding the UN Charter.

Outrageously, one year after the now-well-documented genocidal acts committed by Myanmar, the Security Council has not been able to reach a consensus about what to call the crime, objectively, let alone ending it decisively.

In light of this realpolitik, the UN system, particularly the Security Council, is the last place where the Rohingya will find any meaningful support for either realizing their long-term needs for justice and closure (such as criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of genocide) or the immediate need for safety and protection of the remaining Rohingya populations inside Myanmar and in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The UN officials and ostensibly pro-human rights members have been urging the creation of “safe conditions” so that 1 million Rohingya in Bangladesh who fled Myanmar’s periodic waves of genocidal terror could return and rebuild their communities. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheik Hasina, has consistently called for safety -- and even “a safe zone” or international protection, “if necessary” -- for the Rohingya population inside Myanmar. She has made this sensible call at the UN General Assembly for the past two years since the genocidal killings hit world news headlines in August 2017.

No one has heeded these essential calls while promising to throw more aid money at the symptom, namely “the Rohingya humanitarian crisis”.

Meanwhile, echoing U.S. President Donald Trump, Aung San Suu Kyi’s man of the hour at the UN, Minister Kyaw Tint Swe of the Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office, rejected the World Court’s jurisdiction and dismissed the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and its 440-page genocide report as having “no hard evidence”. The Burmese rejection of evidence is beyond belief in the face of the satellite images of nearly 400 destroyed Rohingya villages, consistently accurate and credible oral testimonies of thousands of genocide survivors and numerous legal and academic studies as well as journalistic investigations that reach a single conclusion: it is genocide, no less, that Myanmar is committing.

So what then needs to be done?

There are five concrete steps that can be undertaken with the view towards justice, repatriation and rebuilding of Rohingya communities inside Myanmar.

First, there is emerging a network of state actors -- governments, that is, -- which can establish something along the lines of “an international coalition of governments for ending Myanmar’s genocide”. Conceivably, Canada, Sweden, Ireland, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, the UK, certain Rohingya-concerned OIC member states (such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Kuwait etc.) and those from Latin and Central America with experience in atrocity crimes at home can form the core of this coalition.

This coalition can, in a more focused manner, explore concrete ways, with the requisite condition of safety, to facilitate Rohingya's return and the rebuilding of their lives once they are in their places of origin inside Western Myanmar adjacent to Bangladesh’s borders.

The word “international protection” conjures up images of UN peacekeepers. But the Blue Helmets have an extremely poor track record: consider the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica whom the ICC ruled to be complicit in the genocide or Canadian troops shooting dogs that came to eat the corpses of Rwandan genocide victims because UN peacekeepers in the capital, Kigali, were ordered to stand down as the genocidal slaughter raged on.

For instance, the coalition can push for the idea of attaching significant numbers of civilian human rights monitors and experienced military veterans to UN agencies based in Myanmar, as well as to the humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Medicine San Frontiers. They would need to be based in Rakhine State in Western Myanmar, where these atrocity crimes occurred. The presence of these civilian human rights monitors ought to be made a non-negotiable condition for any interactions and agreements between Myanmar and the coalition’s partners as well as the UN agencies.

The job of providing for the returning Rohingya or those who remain inside Myanmar cannot be left in the exclusive hands of UN agencies. Besides being toothless even to secure their own unhindered access to the crime sites of Rakhine from where 725,000 fled in a span of a few months, the “UN as a whole” has been called out by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar for its categorical failures to implement the organization’s “Rights First” policies adopted in the wake of Sri Lanka’s war crimes in 2008.

Second, the coalition needs to start inter-state conversation about de-militarization of northern Rakhine state, where the persecution has been institutionalized by Myanmar’s military for several decades. Concretely, there needs to be established a de-militarized zone where Myanmar will be forced to engage in community policing designed to minimize and prevent petty criminality in the communities within its border region of Western Myanmar. In this respect, UN member states -- 35 in total -- who voted in favor of the UN Human Rights Council resolution last week to establish an international body tasked with collecting evidence for a future international tribunal on Myanmar may likely join this international coalition.

Third, as part of the neighboring state, Bangladeshi troops across the border need to step up their security functions to ease Myanmar’s (un-warranted) fear of Islamist “penetration” into the Rohingya communities. That should not be a problem for Dhaka, which has come under heavy international criticism for its heavy-handed if effective handling of radicalization and violence among Bangladeshi communities.

Fourth, individual nations that are prepared to be a part of this coalition can take unilateral actions designed to signal to Myanmar -- and the world -- that genocide is the red line that no fellow UN member will be allowed to cross.

As a matter of fact, Canada took an exemplary action when its parliament unanimously declared Myanmar a genocidal state while its executive stripped, in an unprecedented move, Aung San Suu Kyi of Canada’s highest honor -- honorary Canadian citizenship.

More concretely, other nations in the coalition can review their ties -- commercial, military, intelligence, educational, etc. -- with the view towards using them as leverage or simply suspending them as a signal of condemnation of Myanmar’s heinous Rohingya policies. These nations of conscience need to, at the bare minimum, suspend, downgrade or outright cut diplomatic relations if Myanmar doesn’t change its genocidal course. Specifically, the coalition members need to send Myanmar ambassadors, counsel generals and military attaches packing.

These measures have been proven effective in the past: when worldwide ostracism of South Africa and its apartheid regime took place, the racists in power were eventually forced to dismantle their savage political system.

Worldwide, governments and societal actors (universities, football clubs, theatrical groups, etc.) ought to be persuaded to shun Myanmar in various aspects of its foreign interactions and revive the “Pinochet Precedent”. Australia’s lawyers and rights campaigners are using the Commonwealth Law to hold Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi accountable for her vital role in Myanmar’s crimes against humanity regarding Rohingya people.

Fifth and finally, on the economic front, the governments within the coalition should advise their national investors to either divest from the Myanmar market or not to invest in the country. To be sure, a commercial boycott of Myanmar may not bring about the needed behavioral change on the part of the country’s leaders if only because investments from Myanmar’s neighbors such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan make up the country’s largest foreign direct investment.

But Western and Middle Eastern investors and markets still have sufficient global influence that the medium and long-term impact of such collective action by the coalition partners will affect foreign economic actors from the genocide-bystanding or collaborating states such as India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and China.

China may be too big and too thick-skinned for, say, the reputational damage incurred from such a critical stance and boycotts from the coalition. Already being in a trade war with the United States (and its Western allies), and under close watch from human rights campaigners for its Uighur “re-education camps”, Beijing may be more vulnerable to global negative opinion that is assumed. But less important actors such as Singapore or South Korea will certainly be forced to review their ‘business-as-usual’ ties with Myanmar.

And the EU and Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, which co-sponsored a human rights resolution on Myanmar on the grounds of a fact-finding mission’s genocidal allegations, will need to reconsider their contradictory behavior on Myanmar: 300+ EU investors and some of the leading investors from the OIC remain very active in Myanmar. Neither bloc can slam Myanmar for committing the gravest of crimes while their money is propping up the genocidal perpetrators in Naypyidaw.

There are 200 UN member states, and about 140 of them are signers of the Genocide Convention. That is a lot to work with to effect positive change for the Rohingya, and for Myanmar’s violent and regressive politics.

Since the closure of the last Nazi death camp in August 1945, one hears of “Never again!” ritualistically. It’s the 11th hour of Myanmar’s genocide. Nations of conscience must band together, punish Myanmar’s perpetrating regime and provide effective protection to the genocide victims.

RB News
September 29, 2018

Buthidaung — An arbitrarily jailed Rohingya inmate has died in Buthidaung jail after being denied of proper medical treatments.

The victim, identified as 'U Abu Shama, 50, s/o U Basu Meah' from Thayet Oak village in northern Maungdaw, was sentenced to 12-year imprisonment along with his son, Mohammed Zubair, 25, under a false charge of instigating violence in 2012.

The jail authorities have paid no heed to the repeated requests of his family members for medical treatments outside the jail after he had been infected by Jaundice some four months ago. And the lack of proper medical treatments inside the jail has ultimately led to his untimely demise around 6 am on Friday (Sept 28), according to one of the relatives of the deceased.

The authorities neither handed over his dead body to his family for funeral nor informed them (his family members) where he was buried. They did not allow the family members (of the deceased) to see him while he was severely suffering from jaundice and other diseases in the jail.

Thousands of innocent Rohingya villagers were arrested and jailed under arbitrary charges of instigating violence and setting (Rakhine) homes on fire in and after 2012; and having links with Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) after 2016.

[Reported by Rohingya Eye; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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



RB News
September 29, 2018

Maungdaw — Two girls were killed and a few other people arrested when the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) opened fire at a Rohingya boat off the coast of 'Feran Furu (Mingalar Gyi)' village in northern Maungdaw at around 8 pm on Thursday (Sept 27).

The two girls got drown and died as they along with others were trying to escape for life after the BGP opened fire while boarding on the Rowboat to flee to Bangladesh. They have been identified as 'Athisa, 9, daughter of Noor Kalam' from 'Shiddar Fara (Myoma Kayindan)' village and 'Senuwara, 17, daughter of Fayaz Ahmed' from 'Shujah (Shwe Zar)' village.

After they died, the BGP sent their bodies to the Maungdaw General Hospital for examination and post-mortem. The hospital discharged the bodies at around 4 pm on Friday and handed over to the villagers of 'Shiddar Fara' for funeral and burial.

The other Rohingyas arrested while trying to flee by the boat were charged by the authorities and produced before the Maungdaw Township Court on Friday.

As the Myanmar government has imposed severe restrictions on the movement of the Rohingya people and confined them within some designated regions, they are unable to travel to Akyab (Sittwe) or the Capital Rangoon even in the cases of medical emergencies. Therefore, they have no other way left but to seek to sneak out to Bangladesh (illegally) for medical treatments, according to a local resident of Maungdaw.

"The people that usually use this route to go to Bangladesh include the families whose breadwinners have been arbitrarily arrested and jailed by the Myanmar authorities; the Rohingya families whose houses have been burnt down and have to seek shelter in neighbouring villages in displaced condition for a long time; and those who have to seek emergency medical treatments in Bangladesh. They have no other way left but to choose to secretly sneak out to Bangladesh through this route," said villager of Feran Furu.

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

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





Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
For Immediate Release 27th September 2018

Creation of UN mechanism a vital step towards justice for the Rohingya genocide

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) vote today to create an international and independent mechanism to collect evidence of atrocities against Rohingya is a vital step towards justice for genocide and crimes against humanity, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today.

“Today’s brave vote at the HRC marks an encouraging move towards accountability for some of the worst crimes imaginable. Finally, the international community has shown that it is willing to back up statements with action to end Myanmar’s ongoing genocide against Rohingya people,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.

Members of the HRC today voted overwhelmingly to create an impartial and international mechanism to gather evidence of atrocity crimes against Rohingya, which can be used in future criminal prosecutions.

The resolution was passed by the Council by 35 votes in favour, seven abstentions and three votes against (Burundi, China and the Philippines).

The vote followed the devastating report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar, which was released in full last week and called for the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military command for genocide and crimes against humanity.

BROUK have consistently called for the international community to take action and hold the Myanmar authorities to account for their genocidal policies against Rohingya people. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 700,000 Rohingya driven to flee into Bangladesh since Myanmar launched its murderous “clearance operation” in August last year.

This is just the latest manifestation of a decades-long attempt by the Myanmar authorities to wipe the Rohingya out as a people. This has included vicious state-sponsored discrimination that has confined Rohingya in Rakhine State to an open air-prison, and similarly brutal and violent operations against Rohingya by security forces.

The HRC resolution does not create an international court or tribunal to try Myanmar military leaders who are responsible for atrocities. BROUK has long urged members of the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to ensure a comprehensive investigation into the range of crimes by the Myanmar military across the whole of the country.

“The international community must now build on today’s HRC vote and ensure that the evidence gathered by the new mechanism can serve its purpose – to hold those responsible for genocide to account,” said Tun Khin. 

“Members of the UN Security Council must stop hiding behind politics and refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. If Myanmar is allowed to get away with genocide against Rohingya, it will be a dark stain on the world’s conscience forever.”

“We now urge members of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee to take the next step and push the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC.”

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

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar wait to carry food items from Bangladesh's border toward a no man's land where they set up refugee camps in Tombru, Bangladesh, Sept. 15, 2017.

By William Gallo
September 25, 2018

Activists are criticizing a long-awaited U.S. State Department investigation into the Myanmar military campaign against Rohingya Muslims, saying the United States should to take a firmer stance on what the activists see as genocide. 

The State Department report, released late Monday, blames Myanmar's military for an "extreme, large-scale, widespread" campaign of violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority group over the past two years.

The report, based on interviews with more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh, documented graphic descriptions of torture, rape and mass killing in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.

In some cases, Myanmar soldiers threw infants and small children into open fires and burning huts, witnesses told State Department investigators. Others said they saw soldiers ripping fetuses out of the bellies of pregnant mothers.

The State Department concedes the campaign was "well-planned and coordinated." But, notably, the report makes no determination that any of the violence amounts to genocide or crimes against humanity, and it recommends no specific action.

"This is extremely disappointing for those of us who have no other country to look to but the United States to do something humane and compassionate and principled," said Maung Zarni, a British-Burmese academic and author of The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya.

"This is not like Rwanda or other places where post facto people realized that genocide happened. This is still ongoing," Zarni said.

The press office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, weighed in as well:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) chided the State Department for being "silent on action" and said the U.S. government should follow up the report by imposing new sanctions against those responsible. 

"The State Department's report, confirming the systematic brutality of the Burmese military operations, should jolt the U.S. into action," Sarah Margon, Washington director at HRW, said.

In August, the U.S. sanctioned four Myanmar military and police commanders for their involvement in what the State Department then referred to as "ethnic cleansing" in Rakhine state. 

The latest report, however, did not use the phrase "ethnic cleansing." But the State Department, in an nonattributed statement, said the investigation's findings "fully support that conclusion" and insisted it would be used to inform future U.S. policy.

"U.S. efforts have been and remain focused on addressing the underlying conduct, encouraging steps that will improve the situation for all people in Burma and those displaced in Burma, and promoting accountability for those responsible for these crimes," the statement said.

Effect of terminology

The term ethnic cleansing carries less weight in international law than do the terms genocide or crimes against humanity. The Trump administration is reportedly divided about whether to apply those labels, in part because some fear it could compel the U.S. to intervene.

Rohingya refugee women hold placards as they take part in a protest at the Kutupalong refugee camp to mark the one-year anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug. 25, 2018.

British author Zarni stressed that intervention does not have to take the form of bombs or even U.N. peacekeepers. It could instead mean the deployment of temporary human rights observers or civilian advisers to Myanmar's government, he added. 

"No one is calling for military intervention. But people want some sort of international mechanism to provide safety for those inside the country and for those who may return," he said. "These are things that need to be discussed — not simply being scared of needing to bomb."

A U.N.-mandated fact-finding mission in August recommended that Myanmar generals be investigated for genocide and crimes against humanity. It said that estimates of 10,000 deaths were "conservative." More than 725,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh over the past year.

Myanmar's military-dominated government denies oppressing the Rohingya. It claims it is responding to a series of attacks by Rohingya militants on police stations.

The Rohingya have long complained of discrimination in Myanmar, including being refused citizenship.

VOA's Cindy Saine contributed to this report.

RB News
September 25, 2018

Buthidaung — A body of a Rohingya teenage boy with slit throat was found close to a small river nearby 'Kyauk Phyu Taung' village Buthidaung Township on Monday (Sept 24) early morning.

The dead boy has been identified as 18-year-old Mohammed Hussain from the said village. He was believed to have been killed by two Rakhine Buddhist extremists with whom he had gone along to a mechnical workshop earlier at night.

"Around 9:15 pm on September 23, two Rakhines were on frog and crab hunting in the village of Kyauk Phyu Taung. Then, they came to the small grocery shop of 'Mohammed Hussain, 18, s/o Abdur Rahman alias Naagu' where they usually buy things from. As they were leaving the shop after buying cigarettes and chewing betels, their motorcycle broke down and sought help from the shop-owner, Mohammed Hussain, in order to help them find a mechanical workshop in the village (to repair the motorcycle). And so, Mohammed Hussain handed the shop over to his father and younger brother and went along with the two Rakhine men. When it was late night, thinking he would come back soon, his father and brother left for home for sleep.

"In the morning, at around 5 am on Sept 24, the same two Rakhine men reported to the village administration that they found a dead body lying nearby a creek. When the village administrator and some villagers went to see it, they found it was the dead body of Mohammed Hussain who had earlier at night gone with them (the Rakhine men)" explained a villager of 'Kyauk Phyu Taung' to RB News.

After the dead body was found, the village administrator reported to the nearest military battalion 378, who in turn reported to the BGP (Border Guard Police) Station based in 'Taung Bazaar', northern Buthidaung. The BGP sent the body to hospital for post mortem and the hospital discharged body in the afternoon. The body subsequently given funeral at around 4:30 pm.

The Rakhine men are said to be currently detained in the BGP Camp of No. 3 Commandment Area for investigations.

"The Rakhine residents from Quarter (4) and Quarter (5) in the downtown of Buthidaung often encroach into the house premises of local Rohingyas in the downtown and surrounding villages late at night under the pretext of frog gigging; and steal properties and belongings from the houses. 

"They carry lethal weapons such as Daggers Swords and Spears with them and encroach into the premises of the Rohingya residences in the Curfew hours at night. Though the authorities are well aware of it, they don't take any action," said a local Rohingya resident of the downtown of Buthidaung.

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

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







Joint Statement
September 25, 2018

Rohingya Communities reject Arakan Rohingya Union and its head Dr. Wakar Uddin

We are deeply dismayed by the openly anti-International Criminal Court (ICC) view expressed by Dr. Wakar Uddin, the Director-General of the Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU), in his Burmese language interview with the Voice of America, on 23 September.

In his words, “the ICC is not the solution to solve the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingya people and refugees have no intention to bring Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders to ICC for perpetrating genocide and crimes against humanity as detailed in the recent UN Fact-finding report.”

These words add insult to our community’s collective injury.

Our fellow Rohingyas who survived Myanmar’s genocidal killings, mass rape and communal destruction at the hands of Myanmar security troops and armed Rakhine militia groups last year have consistently and overwhelming expressed their desire for justice and accountability at every opportunity.

We find it unconscionable that Wakar Uddin publicly opposed the strident calls for holding to account Myanmar perpetrators of “gravest crimes” in international criminal and humanitarian laws not only against our Rohingya people, but also against other ethnic communities in Kachin and Shan states.

To our community’s palpable outrage, Wakar Uddin has instead echoed the perpetrators’ offer of “domestic inquiry”, while such national inquiry commissions have been used to exonerate Myanmar killers, rapists, arsonists and baby-murderers.

In addition, international actors including UN human rights officials and Independent Fact-Finding Mission members, western government and OIC officials, political leaders, international jurists and journalists have dismissed Myanmar’s domestic accountability mechanisms as having “zero credibility”.

On 24 September, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister the Honorable Sheikh Hasina reportedly presented (international) accountability and safety – including a ‘safe zone’, if necessary – for the Rohingya people as part of her three point-proposal at the ‘High-level Event on the Global Compact on Refugees: A Model for Greater Solidarity and Cooperation’ sponsored by the UNHCR at the UN Headquarters in New York.

We are gravely concerned that the Rohingya leader holding the position of the Director-General of the organization, which is treated by the OIC as the representative body of our Rohingya people, has undermined, opposed and invalidated our collective, express wish for international accountability.

We therefore state that Wakar Uddin’s view in no way reflect the need and wish of Rohingya victims and survivors of Myanmar’s systematic persecution. For us the genocide did not begin with mass killings and mass-rape on 25 August 2017: our community has for decades been subjected to 4 out of 5 acts of genocide with the verifiable genocidal intent, as clearly stated by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on 18 September 2018.

This is not the first time the leader of the Arakan Rohingya Union has undermined the collective wish and stance of our community. Be that as it may, we hereby call on the international bodies, including the OIC, with genuine concerns for the plight of Rohingya people, not to accept Wakar Uddin’s un-representative views on justice, accountability and repatriation.

At the moment, we Rohingya people lack a broad-based representative organization worldwide which can legitimately speak for our community: our community rests on the 3 pillars, namely the genocide survivors in Bangladesh, those who are trapped inside IDP camps, ghettos and “open prisons” inside our homeland of Western Myanmar, and, last but not least, those of us in the diaspora.

We are striving towards the establishment of a democratic process and organization through which Rohingya people’s needs, views and wishes may be deliberated upon.

Meanwhile, we will not – and we do not - accept Wakar Uddin as our representative voice. He does not speak for our Rohingya people.

Signatories:

1. Arakan National Congress (ANC) Party, KSA

2. Arakan Rohingya Development Association – Australia (ARDA)

3. Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)

4. British Rohingya Community in UK

5. Arakan Rohingya Youth Association (ARYA) – Bangladesh

6. Burmese Muslims Welfare Association (Pakistan)

7. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)

8. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)

9. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia (BRCA)

10. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark

11. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)

12. Burmese Rohingya Community of Wisconsin (BRCW)

13. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation

14. Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

15. Los Angeles Rohingya Society

16. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia (MERHROM)

17. Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan

18. Rohingya American Society

19. Rohingya Action Ireland

20. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee

21. Rohingya Association of Canada

22. Rohingya Community in Finland

23. Rohingya Community in Germany

24. Rohingya Community in Norway (RCN)

25. Rohingya Community in Sweden

26. Rohingya Community in Switzerland

27. Rohingya Culture Center of Chicago (RCC)

28. Rohingya Organisation Norway

29. Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM)

30. Rohingya Society Netherlands

31. Rohingya Women Development Network (RDWN)

32. Swedish Rohingya Association (SRA)

For more information, please contact: 

Tun Khin (Mobile): +44 78 887 14866 
Nay San Lwin (Mobile): +49 176 6213 9138 
Zaw Min Htut (Mobile): +81 80 3083 5327





A Myanmar soldier guards an area at the Sittwe airport as British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt arrives in Sittwe, Rakhine state, on September 20, 2018. (Ye Aung Thu / AFP/Getty Images)

By Irwin Cotler and Brandon Silver | Published by MACLEANS on September 21, 2018

In the wake of a UN report detailing atrocities against the Rohingya by Myanmar’s authorities, here are the ways Canada can step up in their defence

Irwin Cotler is a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, professor emeritus of international law at McGill University, and the founding chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Brandon Silver is the centre’s director of policy and projects.

What we solemnly swore would occur “never again,” has happened yet again. And on Wednesday, Canada formally recognized the nature of it: Genocide, in Myanmar.

The UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar just released its full 440-page report which documents, in great and graphic detail, the genocide of the Rohingya people. It bears witness to brutalities too terrible to be believed, but not too terrible to have happened.

Testimony from those who escaped describe gruesome scenes that shock the conscience and shake the soul. Babies being burned alive in bonfires, children chopped to pieces with swords, the elderly battered and beheaded, women and girls gang-raped—all state-sanctioned and under military command.

What is so unspeakable is not only the horror of the genocide itself, but that this genocide was preventable. No one can say that we did not know; we knew, but we did not act.

Indeed, for close to three decades the UN has been describing and denouncing—though not engaging in any meaningful measures around—the persecution of the Rohingya muslims. As the situation reached a tipping point six years ago, Canadian parliamentarians sought to sound the alarm, holding public hearings, publishing a comprehensive report, participating in press conferences, and petitioning for urgent action.

And what was the response? Silence. An appalling indifference and inaction in the face of such horror and human suffering.

We are now in the midst of an ongoing genocide, and the urgent need for action persists. Taking such action is not only a right, but a requirement.

Indeed, as we mark the historic 70th anniversary year of the UN Convention on Genocide—to which Myanmar and Canada are both signatories—we must recall its legal obligations. In its first article, the Genocide Convention states that “the Contracting Parties confirm that genocide is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”

Likewise, the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P)—adopted unanimously in the UN 2005 World Summit Outcome Document—mandates international action to “protect a state’s population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.”

While members of the international community did not fulfill their obligations in either regard—leaving innocents to be murdered and maimed, tortured and tormented—it is not too late for the thousands of Rohingya remaining in northern Rakhine State and the other minorities in Kachin and Shan States who are now similarly being targeted with impunity.

Canada is well-placed to help spearhead international action. It has already exercised leadership with the appointment of Bob Rae as special envoy and his important recommendations in that regard, while Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and has raised the Rohingya crisis at every opportunity, including at the G7, Asean, Commonwealth, OIC, and the UN Human Rights Council. Importantly, Canada has implemented a comprehensive strategy that includes humanitarian aid and targeted sanctions.

Yet there is still more to be done.

In 2007, Canada instituted hard-hitting sanctions on Myanmar, which contributed at the time to the military junta’s move toward greater openness and democratic reform. That led to the repeal of most of these sanctions in 2012. In light of a backsliding in every one of these measures—and in particular the perpetration of genocide itself—Canada should reintroduce these sanctions, and encourage its allies to do the same.

Any easing of sanctions would need to be tied to clear steps and measurable progress regarding the situation of Rohingya in northern Rakhine and creating the conditions for a safe, dignified, and secure return for those forced into Bangladesh, including an end to violence, the restoration of full citizenship, and the halting of the National Verification Card Process, as well as restoration of property and reparations for damages. In short: there must be a guarantee of a protected return to a protected homeland.

As well, we reiterate our call—and that of the Rohingya community and Canadian civil society—to revoke Canada’s highest honour that was bestowed upon Myanmar’s State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar’s civilian government has aided and abetted the military’s genocide, with Suu Kyi participating in the hateful incitement against Rohingya, and providing protective cover and support for the continued commission of crimes. She’s denied the atrocities, restricted access to international monitors and investigators, weaponized the denial of humanitarian aid and, when two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the killings of Rohingya were unjustly imprisoned last week, she defended it as being part of a proper process.

That process was a sham. Her actions bring shame.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship is a standing affront to the raison d’etre of conferring this privilege, and an embarrassment to the pantheon of heroes that comprise it. In contrast to actual citizenship—which has attendant rights and privileges—this was solely an honorific bestowed by a motion in Parliament, and so parliamentarians should be allowed to vote their conscience on a motion to revoke it.

Canada must also work to deter the Myanmar authorities and send clear signals that they cannot act with impunity, and will be held accountable for their crimes. While it is encouraging that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has just announced a preliminary examination into the situation—a process that many Canadians and Canadian institutions had significantly contributed to, and one that Canada should support through financial and investigative resources—it is ultimately highly limited in its jurisdiction, focusing primarily on the forced deportations of Rohingya to Bangladesh.

Accordingly, Canada may wish to mobilize its allies in pushing for a referral of the situation by the UN Security Council to the ICC; a veto from China is not a given, and such a resolution would be a worthwhile endeavour nonetheless. If it’s successful, it would give the ICC broader jurisdiction over the genocide and crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated by individuals in Myanmar. However, with the Court’s woefully inadequate resources—further spread thin over the examination, investigation, or prosecution of a number of different alleged crimes around the world—such a mandate may not prove practical given the urgency of deterrence and accountability around the ongoing crimes.

A more compelling alternative, as put forth by the UN fact-finding mission, would be the establishment of an ad-hoc international tribunal—as was done in the cases of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda—that would exclusively and expeditiously undertake the task of investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide.

Regardless of the individual accountability mechanism, Canada should act on its earlier commitment in response to Rae’s recommendation to spearhead a resolution at the UN General Assembly or Human Rights Council that would establish an international, impartial, and independent mechanism that immediately begins compiling evidence toward the investigation and prosecution of those individuals responsible, signalling to perpetrators in Myanmar that they are being watched, and that they will face punishment for their actions.

However, the most important chance for change from the status quo—of imperilled victims, and impunity for oppressors—is contained in the UN Convention on Genocide. Specifically, it allows for Canada to refer the case of Myanmar’s responsibility for the genocide of the Rohingya to the International Court of Justice. Given that the genocide was prepared and perpetrated by Myanmar as a matter of state principle and policy, state responsibility under the Convention—as distinct from the accountability of individuals offered by other mechanisms—is a most apparent and appropriate path.

Some in the international community may respond that such bold measures will get in the way of effective engagement with Myanmar’s authorities. But if inaction—or ineffective action—is the cost of engagement, then the consequence of that engagement is tantamount to appeasement. In the face of genocide, appeasement should never be an option.

We look to the Canadian government to further intensify and internationalize its commendable leadership, and that its response to the UN Report be commensurate with the gravity of the crimes.

As the members of the UN mission put it: “The international community has failed. Let us now resolve not to fail the people of Myanmar again.”

Rohingya Exodus