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Tuesday 14 August 2012Exclusive: As members of Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority are forced into camps after violent clashes, the government bans international observers - but Channel 4 News gains access.

There is a part of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in Burma, that people still refer to as Narzi. But if you travel there, as Channel 4 News did recently, you will not find much to look at. In fact this substantial section of town, until recently the bustling home of 10,000, no longer exists.

Instead, you will find a post-apocalyptic world of rubble and burnt-out tree trunks. Personal effects are left scattered on the ground. It seems an incongruous scene in a country that claims to be remaking itself as modern, democratic state. Spend five minutes in Narzi, however, and you start to wonder whether Burma has really changed at all.

Until a month ago, Sittwe was home, in almost even proportions, to two different ethnic groups – the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

It seems an incongruous scene in a country that claims to be remaking itself as modern, democratic state.

There have long been tensions between the two, and the recent violence started with an allegation that three Rohingya men had raped and killed a young Buddhist woman. After the distribution of inflammatory pamphlets, ten Muslim pilgrims were pulled out of a bus and beaten to death. The immediate consequence was chaos. Hate-filled mobs from both communities went on the rampage, burning homes and settling scores.


Narzi and many other communities were lost in the storm. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) estimate that some 100,000 people were displaced in the fighting. The government puts the death toll at 78, a figure human rights groups call "a gross underestimate".

In an effort to regain control, Burma's government sent in nine military regiments to Rakhine and implemented a policy of strict separation. In Sittwe, this meant moving 60,000 Rohingya out of the city, and "resettling" them in a series of camps located some distance from the city.

We were told by humanitarian agencies that conditions in these camps were "desperate", but access is strictly controlled, even to aid workers. Through our contacts however, we managed to reach several of these sites.

The camps were located on soggy pastures, squeezed between paddy fields. When our vehicle stopped, we were surrounded by residents desperate to communicate. The adults looked thin and many of the children were clearly malnourished. I asked a woman with three children how much food she was getting. "We’re living on rice and beans," she said. "It's not enough. We haven't got blankets. When we were in town, we could buy food for the kids, but now we can't."


Young men in the camp told me they were dreaming of escape. One young man told me: "I am from Sittwe, but I don't want to stay (in the camp). I want to go to Bangladesh. We are really suffering here."

In truth, he has few options. The Bangladeshis do not want the Rohingya - and they have long been treated with indifference and hostility in Burma. The United Nations has for some time called them "one of the most persecuted groups in the world". They are subjected to restrictions on marriage, employment and education, and they were denied in citizenship in 1982.
We're living on rice and beans. It's not enough. We haven't got blankets. When we were in town, we could buy food for the kids, but now we can't.Rohingya camp resident

Now they are in the camps, another weighty constraint has been added – they can't leave. Sittwe is now off-limits, and it seems unlikely its former residents will be able to return.

It is the cause of great anxiety here, for few people here can support themselves. One woman told us: "We have no jobs and our kids can't work. I use to run a shop in Sittwe, but I came here in the rain with nothing but my bare hands. No money, nothing."

International NGOs and the United Nations are struggling to provide assistance to the camps, with their efforts hindered by a determined campaign of obstruction by local Buddhists. Aid workers have been threatened and some shipments have been blocked. Local doctors have refused to treat Rohingya and businessmen have declined to provide humanitarian organisations with services like warehouse space – crucial for the storage of food, for example.


When we sought the views of local Buddhists, they told us that the UN and International NGOs engage in favouritism. Much sought after jobs with the agencies "always" go to the Rohingya, we were told. When I put these complaints to one NGO official, he was unapologetic however. "We go to where the need is greatest," he said.

Burma's government has been accused by international human rights organisations of doing little to stop the violence after the first clashes took place - and of siding with the local population when troops and military policemen were moved in. The UN Special Rapporteur for Burma, Tomas Quintana, told Channel 4 News that he had received allegations of mass arrests, torture and killings and the hands of the security forces on a recent visit there.

There is much justified excitement with the reforms currently being undertaken by Burma's new government. But the president, Thein Sein, has offered little on the issue, other than to suggest that a third country may be persuaded to take in the Rohingya. The opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has also said, and done, little. When asked about the situation by one Muslim during the initial period of violence, she replied: "Yes, I understand, but I am not the government. I can't do anything. Only the government [can] do something."

There are many Rohingya Muslims – like the former residents of Narzi - who would beg to differ with that.

Source here 

Refugees fleeing for their lives from persecution and violence in Burma will continue to be turned away from Bangladesh to protect diplomatic relations, a Bangladeshi diplomat tells Channel 4 News.

Dr Mohammad Sayeedur Rahman Khan, Bangladesh's high commissioner to the UK, said that although he sympathised with the plight of the Rohingya refugees fleeing weeks of ethnic violence in north west Burma, they would continue to be sent back regardless.

On Monday, Channel 4 News revealed dramatic footage of dozens of refugees wailing uncontrollably as they were being sent back after reaching Bangladeshi shores.

One man being dragged back onto a boat after reaching the shore was heard saying "they'll kill me". The coastguard sending him back replied: "Allah will save you. Now go back."

Others who had managed to get inside the country described how their children and relatives had been burned alive in the violence sweeping through the Rakhine state.

"It's an unfortunate incident that's taken place in Bangladesh and the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma)," Mr Khan said. "Bangladesh expresses all its sympathy to those people being displaced from their own country."

But he added: "It's not possible on the part of the government of Bangladesh to accept further Rohingyas. Bangladesh is trying to improve its relationship with Myanmar. Myanmar is moving towards democracy, and we appreciate that.

"We want to improve our relationship with them further. We are in the process of repatriating 30,000 registered Rohingya. We believe we have done the right thing, because at the end, it's going to solve the problem instead of keeping it alive."Watch the Channel 4 

News report on Rohingya refugees fleeting ethnic violence in Burma

The United Nations estimates that around 90,000 people have been displaced by the recent violence in the Rakhine state. Ethnic Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingya blame each other for it.

The refugees fleeing Burma, who have not been identified for their protection, told Channel 4 News that helicopters, believed to be Burmese, had fired on boats carrying refugees which were behind theirs, causing them to burst into flames. The claims were denied by the Burmese authorities.

Mr Khan conceded that the Rakhine state is facing a crisis, but denied that many were refugees fleeing persecution, saying many were also economic migrants.

He added: "Bangladesh has its own problems. So we have to look at the greater interest of the country as well.

"We already have 400,000 to 500,000 Rohingyas. The government of Bangladesh has given law-enforcing authorities [orders] to check if there are elderly people or children or sick people, or those who need treatment, and these things have been provided by the government of Bangladesh."

Mr Khan also claimed that "many, many Rohingyas are creating many problems. Social, environmental." He said: "They have been linked with militant activities, terrorist activities. They're cutting down the forest and settling down there. There are many cases of crimes, and most of these are committed by Rohingyas."

source here

The photo exhibition- "Stateless Rohingya…Running on Empty" would be launched at Foreign Corespondents Club of Thailand-FCCT from 7pm of Friday May 18, 2012.

"Stateless Rohingya…Running on Empty" is an exhibition by award-winning photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin. It features images captured over three years throughout the region.
This presentation is an in-depth portrayal of the plight of the Rohingyas, an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar – one of the world's most persecuted – and the international diaspora of their community from Australia to Malaysia.

Powerful images chronicle the story of a people estranged in their own homeland; denied citizenship, education and jobs in Burma – and their perilous journeys by boat in search of a land where they may claim as home.

Suthep, who is known for his pictures of the Mekong River, has also produced a short (12-minute) documentary that reveals the political and social challenges of this stateless community from northern Arakan/Rakhine state, acknowledged by human rights activists as one of the region's most unknown neglected people.

The documentary will be shown at a panel on May 23 to coincide with his exhibition.

The panel will address questions about the identity of the Rohingyas and why have fled their land, the historical source of the Myanmar government's denial of statehood and their struggle for humanitarian recognition.

Human Rights Watch representative Phil Robertson will attend to talk about the plight of the Rohingya, along with a top Thai academic, a Rohingya leader Maung Kyaw Nu (a Former Political Prisoner of Conscience and currently Chairman of Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand -BRAT) and Intl award winner photo-journalist Suthep.

FCCT invites you to join in the launch of the photo show (May 18) and the panel (May 23) to discuss the situation of the Rohingya.


Panel Speakers-

img 5638-Maung Kyaw Nu ,a Rohingya leader(A Former Political Prisoner of Conscience and currently Chairman of Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand -BRAT)

IMG 5608- Phil Rbertson-A Human Rights Watch HRW Representative.

img ; 56o6 .Dr.Siriprapha Phetmesri, Thailand Represenative for ASEAN Intergovernmetal Commision of Human Rights-AICHR.(PLS delete Shophi's photo from group .)

Suthep img -5703.Suthep Krtsanavarin,A award-winnig photographer. (pls paste Suthep's photo from the groups.)


please put the photos of panel speakers ,enclosed the following writting and post it.

“Stateless Rohingya…Running on Empty” is an exhibition by award-winning photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin. It features images captured over three years throughout the region.

This presentation is an in-depth portrayal of the plight of the Rohingyas, an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar – one of the world’s most persecuted – and the international diaspora of their community from Australia to Malaysia.

Powerful images chronicle the story of a people estranged in their own homeland; denied citizenship, education and jobs in Burma – and their perilous journeys by boat in search of a land where they may claim as home.

Suthep, who is known for his pictures of the Mekong River, has also produced a short (12-minute) documentary that reveals the political and social challenges of this stateless community from northern Arakan/Rakhine state, acknowledged by human rights activists as one of the region’s most unknown neglected people.

The documentary will be shown at a panel on May 23 to coincide with his exhibition.

The panel will address questions about the identity of the Rohingyas and why have fled their land, the historical source of the Myanmar government’s denial of statehood and their struggle for humanitarian recognition.

Human Rights Watch representative Phil Robertson will attend to talk about the plight of the Rohingya, along with a top Thai academic, a Rohingya leader and Suthep.

Please join us for a panel discussion on May 23 to discuss the situation of the Rohingya.
Mr. Nurul Islam, the president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) based in London who had given an interview on recent situation of Rohingya after Thein Sein’s new government’s reform process towards the democracy.

Mr. Nurul Islam, the president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO)

KPN: The Thein Sein’s new government held meetings with ethnic groups such as - Karen, Mon. Rakhine, Shan, Chin and Kachin--etc, but the government excludes the Rohingya community. Regarding this, what is your opinion?

ARNO: The exclusion of Rohingyas asserts that U Thein Sein government has no change of attitude towards them. It is still pursuing policies of exclusion, discrimination and persecution against Rohingyas. We remind the government that Rohingyas are an integral part of the Burma’s society regardless of their appearance, ethnicity and religion.

KPN: The Rakhine community has been campaigning against the Rohingya community inside Burma and abroad. Do you think that there will be any solution between the two communities, why?

ARNO: Rakhines are our immediate compatriots and they are our brothers. We had lived in Arakan peacefully in share and share alike. Still we are living in the same place drinking the same water and breathing the same air; not only so but we have to live together until the end of the world. Arakan is our own whereas Burma is for all of us. Together we can achieve much. We should take lesson from the history. It is futile exercise to preach and promote hostility against Rohingyas. Extremism, xenophobia and confrontation will not be of assistance to Rakhine people. It is time not to dispute but to work in unison with full understanding which will lead our children to a state of extreme happiness. Based on ‘Arakan reality’ peaceful coexistence between our two sister communities is the only solution. It is very much possible. They only thing we all need is ‘will to do’.

KPN: There are some changes in Burma after the new government, but no policy is changed over the Rohingya people and the persecutions against the Rohingya community is going on bad to worst day by day. Regarding this, what is your comment?

ARNO: Yes, there are some positive changes in Burma. But so far no wind of change has touched the Rohingya people. It means that good sense does not prevail yet in the minds of the authorities. Nowadays the Rohingyas have to experience series of racist and xenophobic activities of the government and non-state extremists. They are not treated as citizens and the persecution against them callous. End to persecution and discrimination against Rohingya is a yardstick for judging how far U Thein Sein government is sincere towards restoration of democracy and promotion of human rights in Burma. The government must genuinely accommodate ethnic Rohingya in country’s democratic and political process as one of the members of the family of the Union of Burma. A peaceful negotiated settlement of the Rohingya issue and problem is most urgent in the interest of peace and democracy in Burma.

KPN: Regarding all the above situations, especially for the Rohingya community, what are your future plans and programs and what do you want to say to the present government, NLD and the international community?

ARNO: The primary factor that has led the Rohingyas to suffer grave human rights violations or crimes against humanity in Burma is their religion and ethnicity. Arbitrary deprivation of Rohingyas’ citizenship, rendering them stateless in their own homeland, is an international crime. We will continue our just struggle for freedom from servitude and oppression. We will work in solidarity with country’s democratic forces. We will explore all available national and international avenues for the restitution of our inalienable rights and freedom.

We wish to be responsible citizens of the country and urge upon the government to treat Rohingyas justly and reasonably well. It requires to genuinely accommodating Rohingyas as one of the many ethnic nationalities of the Union of Burma and treating them equals in Arakan. It is urgent that the repressive 1982 Burma citizenship Law in particular, which violates several fundamental principles of customary international law standards, must be amended in conformity with the generally accepted citizenship practices and provisions of international law. Rohingya should be legitimately allowed to be a part of the on-going political and democratic process, and their citizenship rights and ethnic rights have to be guaranteed on par with other ethnic groups of the country.

We have high expectation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But she has been, so far, surprisingly silent on the Rohingya issue, a problem of serious human rights violations in the country. As a democratic icon we urge upon her to speak out for the voiceless Rohingyas on democratic principle and universalism of human rights.

Meanwhile, we call on the International community, UN, OIC, EU, ASEAN, UK, and Burma’s neighbours to put pressure on the ruling Burmese government to stop forthwith persecution against Rohingya and to grant their citizenship and ethnic rights. We also urge upon them to provide them with ‘international protection’ in the absence of ‘national protection’.

KPN: What is your opinion about the participation of NLD parliament members in recently held parliament in Naypidaw, in Burma?

ARNO: It is a development in Burma politics that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD MPs are participating in Parliament Naypyidaw, although they are likely to face a difficult future to being about a complete change towards democratic reform.
Washington. D.C. Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU) and Chairman of the Burmese Rohingya Association of North America (BRANA), accompanied by Nay San Oo, the Information Secretary of BRANA, met with U.S. State Department’s Policy Coordinator for Burma, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, on Friday, May 11, 2012. The meeting was part of the ongoing coordination of ARU and BRANA with U.S. State Department for seeking a peaceful solution for Rohingya political and human right issues in Burma. No details of the meeting are available at this point. BRANA, a signatory of ARU, is dedicated to resolution of Rohingya issues on the principle of engagement with various sectors and entities in Burma through building mutual understanding and trust following a process with transparency. 

Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin meets with Ambassador Derek Mitchell at the State Department.

Ambassador Derek Mitchell, Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin, and BRANA Information Secretary Nay San Oo at the State Department.

Despite the recent steps towards democracy in Burma activists claim little has changed for many ethnic minorities in the country. In New Delhi large number of Rohingya refugees are finding it hard to find support and help because they have no ties with the India.
Richard Lindell

India's tragic Rohingyas - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) 
MP3 download here

Full Trancript

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Aung San Suu Kyi will take her seat in Burma's parliament for the first time on Monday.

The first steps towards democratic reform has seen a number of countries, including the US and Australia, ease sanctions.

But conditions for ethnic minorities have improved little and activists say closer ties with the military junta should be conditional on an improvement in their human rights.

Our India correspondent Richard Lindell reports from a refugee camp in New Delhi.

RICHARD LINDELL: I'm here in the middle of a makeshift refugee camp in one of the capital's most exclusive suburbs.

Vasant Vihar is home to some of Delhi's richest people, as well as diplomats and embassies.

But over the past two weeks, a growing number of Burmese Muslim asylum seekers, known as Rohingyas, have also moved in.

The headquarters of the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), is also here right in front of me and 700 people are crammed into this alley to protest against their treatment.

Conditions are miserable.

Flies outnumber people by a big margin and there's no water or sanitation.

Many people here are sick and as I step in and around the mass of people, I hear the raking coughs of tuberculosis.

(Child coughing)

As I walk I meet Jamila sobbing and distressed. Her husband and two of her three children have TB.

(Jamila speaking)

"My husband is vomiting blood" she says. "I have been begging around for help, even for 1 rupee, because my husband is suffering."

As she tells me about her escape from Burma a year ago, I see tears well up in the men and women around me.

For this is her story, but the tales of rape, torture and abuse are also theirs.

(Jamila speaking)

"There is a lot of persecution against us" she says. "Mothers and sisters have to endure atrocities from the military junta. We women are not safe there. When our kids walk to school, as young as 8-years-old, the military simply pick them off the streets to work as forced labour."

The Rohingyas were stripped of their citizenship by Burma's military junta 30 years ago.

Their land was seized and those that remain live in fear.

Faiz Ahmed and his wife fled Burma a year ago to the largely Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir in India's north.

They say they've been denied access to healthcare and education; basic rights afforded to all refugees in India.

Like everyone else here, Faiz blames the UN's peak refugee agency, the UNHCR.

(Faiz Ahmed speaking)

"I want to ask UNHCR why refugees from other countries get facilities but why we, the Burmese refugees, do not?"

Naina Bose from the UNHCR says camping and protesting here is not helping their cause.

NAINA BOSE: We just would like the people outside to go back to where they came from. I don't want them to put themselves through what they're going through. We have extreme weather conditions here, there are women and children in that group. And we will continue to dialoguing with them; but it's not possible with a crowd of 700 people outside.

RICHARD LINDELL: The UNHCR has classified the Rohingya as asylum seekers not refugees.

Naina Bose rejects the core allegation of discrimination made by the Rohingyas.

NAINA BOSE: This is a country where we do not have a national legal framework and India has not signed the convention. It is commonplace to treat different refugee groups differently.

For us the core issue remains protection; how best can we protect these people? So by registering them as asylum seekers we believe that we are fulfilling our core mandate of protection. By giving them asylum seeker cards they will not be arbitrarily deported or sent back.

RICHARD LINDELL: The issue for these people is not one of classification but of access.

Unlike the Afghan refugees of the north or the Sri Lankan Tamils of the south, Rohingyas have no cultural or historical ties to India.

So while the national government mandates healthcare and education to all, the Rohingyas are often turned away by providers because they have no one to champion their cause.

Kamal Mitra Chenoy, from the school of international studies at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).

KAMAL MITRA CHENOY: It's basically a question of connections. If there are connections with the Progressive Schools Association, then they'll get schooling. If there are government schools, good government schools then there's a lot of pressure from Indian applicants to take their children.

Then it really depends on what leverage the Rohingyas have. And it's something that the UNHCR on its own is not equipped to do.

RICHARD LINDELL: The UNHCR has registered 1,800 Rohingyas as asylum seekers in India.

Hundreds of thousands more have fled to Bangladesh over the past three decades.

Conditions there are miserable and malnutrition is rife.

Kamal Mitra Chenoy again.

KAMAL MITRA CHENOY: They're almost a forgotten people. There is no public support for them because people don't know about them; the press doesn't write about them. So unless there is substantial international pressure, the liberalisation that has taken place because of Aung San Suu Kyi is because of her following and her reputation.

But the Rohingyas have no charismatic leader like that. So I don't expect there to be any substantial or significant improvement in their case until countries like the United States or the European Union and all take it up.

RICHARD LINDELL: The US, Australia and others are now relaxing sanctions on Burma; a reward for progress towards democratic reform.

The international community says it will continue to raise human rights issues, including the plight of minorities.

Back at the camp in New Delhi, the Rohingyas say that sanctions relief should be tied to human rights and citizenship in Burma for their people.

Otherwise they fear being condemned to a future as stateless people without rights and any hope of returning home.

This is Richard Lindell in New Delhi for Correspondents Report.
Source: Correspondents Report | Duration: 6min

Making pavements as their homes, over 500 hundred Myanmar nationals, among them women and children, have camped for the past 12 days near the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here, demanding a refugee status.

"Life is not easy for refugees like us, who fled our country... at the age of 18... I have faced torture, extortion, trauma and starvation," Dilwana Begum, who works as a maid in Jammu, told IANS. "We are at least happy that unlike in our own country or Bangladesh, in India we feel safe and are not harassed for being Muslims. But the UNHCR is not paying heed to our plight."

Since April 9, Begum and over 500 people like her belonging to Burmese Rohingya community, a Muslim community hounded out from Myanmar (formerly Burma), have made temporary sheds of polythene sheets by the rear compound wall of the UNHCR office in B-2 Block of Vasant Vihar in south Delhi, demanding refugee cards.

"We were issued a asylum seeker card in August 2011 by the UNHCR, but it deprives us from lot of facilities that a refugee would get. We want a refugee card. Our children need education, better living conditions like water to drink and toilets. But we are deprived of this as we don't have a refugee card," said Zia-ul-Rahman, a refugee who left Myanmar two years ago and now lives in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.

The refugees say that for the past 12 days, most of them did menial jobs to get food and water.

"We are at their doorsteps seeking help, but the UNHCR has not even reached us to see how we are managing here with small children and old people, hope they know the real meaning of human rights," lamented Abdul Hafeez, who stays at the camp.

Hafeez speaks very little Hindi, and through an interpreter told IANS: "I lost my parents four years ago as the Burmese Junta shot them saying that they did not support the military regime. I had to discontinue my education. Like other refugees from Burma and countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, we need a refugee status so that I can continue my studies."

Another refugee, Mamoon Rafeeq who works as teacher in Jammu said that the Rohingyas have been sidelined in Myanmar as they are a Muslim community.

"Unlike other Myanmarese refugees, Rohingya has been sidelined because we are Muslims. Other Myanmar refugees who are Christians and Buddhists are given refugee card," Rafeeq claimed.

However, the UNHCR officials say that they discussed the issue with the refugees four to five times, but were not persuaded by their arguments.

The officials said they will now meet 10 representatives of the community on May 20.

"We don't use the term Rohingya - we refer to this group as Muslims from northern Rakhine state. In India, there is no national legal framework for refugees, and because of this there are different approaches to different groups of people," Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer UNHCR, told IANS.

"We have already registered them as asylum seekers and issued identity cards. The card is similar to the refugee card as it helps prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and expulsion," Bose said.

"Moreover, we are having an on-going dialogue with this group, and for their own safety and well-being, we have asked them to go back to their residential places in India. We have offered to meet their representatives in a more structured manner, to see how best we can assist them, as we do with all groups of refugees and asylum seekers," Bose added.

Source  here

By Jared Bissinger
An international court settles a maritime dispute, allowing both Bangladesh and Burma to pursue lucrative oil and gas exploration.

Image: Paul Aitchison

‘Bay is Ours,’ read the headline of Bangladesh’s Daily Star the day after the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) released its verdict on a maritime boundary dispute – the court’s first case of the kind – between Bangladesh and Burma. The Bangladeshi press had a rather optimistic interpretation of the ruling, which pertains to some 283,500 square kilometres of the Bay of Bengal. In reality the verdict was a split decision: the tribunal sided with Burma on some issues and with Bangladesh on others. But the verdict gives both countries the green light to pursue their top priority – accessing offshore oil and gas resources in the Bay of Bengal.

Burma and Bangladesh first opened negotiations over their maritime boundary in 1974. They continued talking on and off for almost 35 years, including a two decade break that only ended in 2007. The resumption of talks in the late 2000s came because both countries were anxious to settle the dispute so that each could start offshore exploration for natural gas. Tensions flared in late 2008 when an exploration ship operating under a concession granted by the Burmese government sailed into disputed waters. Bangladesh sent warships to the area, and the exploration ship returned to Burmese waters.

The incident pushed the maritime boundary to the top of the bilateral agenda. The two countries talked frequently through most of 2009, but with little progress. In late 2009 Bangladesh submitted a letter to Burma asking to take the maritime boundary dispute to binding arbitration. Burma responded by asking to petition an unusual decision-making body – the ITLOS. In such disputes, countries most commonly apply to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but Burma seemed reluctant to go before ICJ for any reason, even a boundary dispute. Bangladesh agreed, and the dispute became the first to be heard by the comparatively less overburdened ITLOS.

Bangladesh feared that the deeply concave shape of the Bay of Bengal would limit its maritime claims to a small wedge-shaped portion of the bay. Burma was fearful that this same concavity would mean a boundary line that unfairly disadvantaged its maritime claims. Both sides worked on their legal arguments and submitted a series of briefs throughout 2010 and 2011, and oral arguments were made in September 2011. After about six months of deliberation, the ITLOS issued a decision that created, after some manoeuvring around coastal features, a line heading southwest (at 215 degrees) away from the coasts of Bangladesh and Burma. Bangladesh was awarded 111,600 square kilometres, or just under 40% of the total relevant area as defined by the ITLOS; Burma was awarded 171,800 square kilometres, just over 60% of the total. While Burma was awarded a larger area, the proportion of awards is largely in line with the length of each country’s relevant coastline, in keeping with one of the ITLOS’s key criteria for determining if a ruling is fair.

Drills at the ready
The tribunal’s ruling can be seen as a partial victory for both sides. The court adopted Burmese arguments on the major principle for drawing the boundary line, drawing a line equidistant from the points nearest to it on both the Burmese and Bangladeshi coastlines, and then adjusting that line for relevant circumstances. The court also agreed that the location of St Martins Island, a Bangladeshi possession further south than any point on the Bangladeshi mainland, should not significantly impact the position of the dividing line. Bangladesh also won several legal battles; most importantly, the court ruled that interpreting international law as Burma advocated would produce what it called a ‘cut-off’ effect, or a line that would unfairly cut Bangladesh off from its natural seaward projection. The ITLOS considered this a special circumstance, and consequently adjusted the equidistant line in Bangladesh’s favour.

The ruling also created a grey zone – an area in which, by the peculiarities of international law, both states were awarded partial jurisdiction. The area lies on the Bangladeshi side of the final dividing line, but is closer to the Burmese coast, which means that Bangladesh cannot claim the same rights in this area as Burma. As a result, the court left the sovereignty of the area undecided, giving Bangladesh rights to seabed resources such as oil and gas, and Burma fishing rights and all other privileges associated with exclusive economic zones (which normally stretch up to 200 nautical miles from a country’s coast).

Bangladesh wasted little time in taking advantage of its new maritime territory. ConocoPhillips, the American multinational energy corporation which received exploration rights to two partially disputed blocks of the area in 2009, was notified the day after the ruling that it could begin exploration. The company, apparently bullish on its prospects for oil and gas finds, subsequently asked the Bangladeshi government to grant it exploration rights in six additional blocks it had bid on in 2009. The Bangladeshi government was also keen on a symbolic show of sovereignty over its new possession – within a week of the ruling, the Bangladesh Navy sailed a vessel just along the inside of the new boundary line.

Burma’s government is also auctioning off new offshore oil and gas blocks, and should complete the process this year. But unlike past natural gas finds, Burma’s new discoveries may no longer be destined for the export market. According to Burma’s Minister of Energy, once the two offshore gas projects – the Shwe and Zawtika – currently under development come online, future discoveries will be used to supply the domestic market.

India, the other claimant of large parts of the Bay of Bengal, was paying close attention to the boundary dispute. India also has a boundary dispute with Bangladesh pending arbitration. The boundary drawn by the ITLOS between Bangladesh and Burma has created a new legal precedent by extending jurisdiction past the customary limit of 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline and onto the continental shelf. Though the ruling does not directly affect India as the line is only valid “until it reaches the area where the rights of third States may be affected”, the new legal precedent could be cause for concern in future rulings and disputes. Shortly after the ITLOS ruling, India asked Bangladesh to forego the ongoing arbitration and pursue a bilateral settlement, but Bangladesh rebuffed the offer.

The orderly, peaceful and relatively equitable resolution of the maritime boundary marks a decidedly more positive note in the Burma-Bangladesh relationship, and removes a key obstacle that could have stalled greater economic engagement. While several difficult issues – the status of the Rohingya people, for instance – remain unresolved, the maritime boundary case proves that the two countries can cooperate and find mutually agreeable solutions on issues of common interest. In this case, the newly established maritime boundary opens up much of the Bay of Bengal to offshore energy exploration, which should greatly benefit both nations.

~ Jared Bissinger is currently completing a doctoral degree focusing on the Burmese economy at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
Credit Here:

Teknaf, Bangladesh: A High level delegation of UNHCR and Bangladesh concerned authorities for refugee repatriation jointly held a meeting with official refugees in the Nayapara camp on April 9, regarding the repatriation, said a schoolteacher from Nayapara camp.

Hunt Chess, the Country Representative of Burma of UNHCR explained the refugee about the situation of Burma

Hunt Chess, the Country Representative of Burma of UNHCR who recently came from Burma said that “the political situation of Burma is changing and the economic development is also progressing than before. Besides, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi including other political prisoners was released by the Burmese authority.”

“I come here to inform the refugees about the situation of Burma and the progressiveness which has been made recently in Burma. If the refugees want to go back, we will facilitate the refugees return.”

Feroz Salah Uddin, the Refugee Relief and Repatriation commissioners (RRRC) said, “We don’t want to force the refugees for repatriation, we want voluntarily repatriation. Refugees can go back to Burma and we want to take decision by themselves.”

The country representative of UNHCR, Dhaka, RRRC, Kamorul Zaman, the Camp-in-Charge, office staff and others were participated in the meeting, sources said.

The delegation of UNHCR and Bangladesh authorities with refugee in the meeting

Noor Mohamed (27), a refugee from the camp submitted an application to the delegates, and it has the following points: 1) to recognize as citizens of Burma with Rohingya ethnicity by the UN-recognized democratic government of Burma, 2) to have equal rights like other ethnic groups in Burma, 3) to provide compensations and to return of confiscated lands and other properties, 4) to stop human rights violations and racial discrimination, especially against the Rohingya community.

“We will go back to our motherland, if our demands are accepted and fulfilled by the Burmese authority. We don’t want to stay in the small sheds with bad condition anymore. How long are we living in Bangladesh in such condition?” Noor Mohamed said.

According to refugees, they also urged to the Burmese authority through the delegates to immediately fulfill the said conditions.

“Another refugee woman said, “We have been living in Bangladesh over 20 years. How long we have to stay here. We want our citizenship rights, equal rights and want to stay peacefully in our country.

The meeting was started at around 1:00 pm and ended 2:00 pm.

Similarly, the high level delegates also visited the Kutupalong official camp and held meeting with the official refugees, said a schoolteacher from Kutupalong camp.

Source: KPN

BANGKOK: Thai immigration police investigations have indicated that a 14-year-old Malaysian girl and her five Rohingya friends had taken a lift from a stranger in Malaysia near the Malaysia-Thai border before entering Thailand illegally.

The six have since been rescued by the Thai police.

Deputy Commander of Immigration Bureau Investigation Centre Pol Col Chartchai Lamsaeng said Wednesday, the six took the ride on a Malaysian-registered van offered by a Malaysian man near the border on March 8.

The five Rohingyas comprised four boys and a girl, aged between 14 and 16. The six were friends and know each other.

"They were given drinks by the man and fell asleep shortly," Chartchai, who led the investigation into the case, told Bernama here.

He said, they could only remember passing through Hat Yai, Petchaburi or Nakhon Phatom and ended up at Hua Lamphong in the capital.

"We are surprised how they could pass through the border checkpoint without any travel document," he said, adding it was unclear whether the teenagers intended to enter Thailand when they took the van ride.

"The man even took them to a mosque in Hua Lamphong. However, it was not clear what happened to the man after that as the teenagers made their way to the Hua Lamphong Train Station."

Chartchai said, some vendors near the railway station gave them money to buy train tickets to return to Malaysia.

They were caught by the police at the station as they failed to produce valid travel documents and were sent to an immigration police office here, he added.

The immigration police later contacted the Malaysian Embassy here.

"Our investigations showed that all six were safe and not harmed or abused by the man," said Chartchai, adding that the immigration police would investigate the case under human trafficking law, which carried a penalty of between five and 10 years imprisonment.

"We managed to get a sketch of the suspect based on information given by the teenagers. Thai and Malaysian police are working on this case," he said.

He said the Thai authorities were trying to determine if an international crime syndicate was involved in this case.

An initial news report from Malaysia stated the girl had told her mother during a telephone conversation on March 12, that she and the rest were abducted and taken into Thailand before they were rescued by the Thai authorities at the railway station on March 11. - Bernama
Credit Here:

Rohingya seen working on the Bangladesh-Burma border fence. Forced labour is commonly implemented across Burma. (photo via The Arakan Project)
Villagers in Naypyidaw’s Lewe township who protested a relocation order have been sentenced to hard labour.

Residents in Lewe township’s Meethwaybogon village were given notice by Naypyidaw’s Development Committee to relocate because the community was located within a government project zone.

Attorney San San Myint said six Meethwaybogon villagers last week were sentenced to three months hard labour for trespassing, while eight villagers will stand trial soon.

“Four were sentenced on 14 March and then two more on 16 [March]. Eight people are facing the same charge,” said San San Myint

Daw Aye Mu, a widow and mother of two, was among the group of villagers that was sentenced.

“Her neighbours have to feed [her] children,” said San San Myint. “They don’t have their houses anymore too – they are living in these small makeshift huts under trees on the side of the road since they’re houses have been brought down.”

Municipal authorities promised the community land and 200,000 Kyat to assist in relocation. However, only 50 residents were provided with compensation, which resulted in the community rejecting the order.

After being threatened with lawsuit, a majority of the residents vacated the land, while about 20 households stood their ground. The Naypyidaw Development Committee then filed suit against the remaining residents on February 10.

San San Myint said the villagers were receiving legal consul from Khin Maung Gyi, who is hoping to file an appeal on behalf of his imprisoned clients.

“Since the sentence is only three month, their [sentence may expire], while the appeal is being processed,” said San San Myint. “However, we want to make clear who’s on the right side in this case and also want concerned senior authorities to learn about this.”

Forced evictions are common in Burma, especially when the land at stake is home to resources.
Credit Here:
It gives 20m euro to develop Aila-affected areas

The European Union (EU) will provide Euro 20 million as humanitarian aid to Bangladesh to develop Aila-affected areas and reduce waterlogging in the country's southern region, reports UNB.

The assurance came when a seven-member EU delegation led by chief of EU Humanitarian Aid Unit Esko Kentrschynskyj met Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque at his office on Tuesday.

The delegation includes EU head of delegation in Dhaka William Hanna, Fabrizir Senesi, David Hill, Oliver Brouant, Abdul Awal and Cristopher Gadrey. During the meeting, the delegation informed the minister that EU is currently providing a support of Euro 17 million for the second phase of Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) of Bangladesh.

About resolving the Rohingya refugee problem, the delegation members said the EU has been working with the government of Myanmar and it has taken a Euro 100 million project there. They expected that the Rohingya refugee problem will be resolved through the project.
The EU also assured that its assistance for Myanmar's Rohingya refugees living in two camps in Cox's Bazar and said it will give both financial and logistic supports for their return. 
After the meeting, Dr Abdur Razzaque told media that the EU delegation chief has assured him that they will help return to and rehabilitee thousands of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, while continue to assist Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees so that they can stay here until their return to their homeland. 
Dr Razzaque said Entrschynskyz informed him that they will provide US $ 100 million to Myanmar for the Rohingya refugees' return from Bangladesh and their rehabilitation in their homeland. 
Besides, the EU support for disaster management-related development and rehabilitation projects will continue through government and non-government channels. 
Food Minister Abdur Razzaque told the journalists that issues relating to Rohingya refugees, natural calamity and other matters came up for discussion at the meeting but Rohingya issue dominated the talks. 
Razzaque said he mentioned various problems Bangladesh is facing due to the stay of Maynmar refugees and their continuous infiltration into this country. 

Acknowledging the problems, the EU team said they are aware of the fact that Rohingyas are still coming to Bangladesh from Myanmar though border and different routes. The influx of Myanmar's Rohingyas to Bangladesh needs to be stopped, the delegates agreed. 
"For this the EU will invest USD 100m in Myanmar to facilitate the return and rehabilitation of the Rohingyas refugees which will also stop their infiltration into Bangladesh in the future," Entrschynskyz said.

Dr Razzaque stated that he informed the EU delegation that though official figures of Rohingyas living in two refugee camps in Bangladesh are 24,000, but the actual number of Myanmar's refugees living in different parts and regions of Bangladesh is 3-4 lakh.
The minister said he informed the EU team that the stay of such huge Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has been creating various problems, including economic stress. Besides, Rohingyas are getting involved in various crimes here and creating different social problems in different parts of the country, including Chittagong and Dhaka cities. "More worrying is that the Rohingyas are illegally obtaining Bangladesh passports and going to various countries, including Saudi Arabia, using that and committing various crimes there, tarnishing Bangladesh's image," Dr Razzaque told the EU delegates.

source here

Staff Correspondent 

The food minister, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, on Tuesday called on 
the European Union to support the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. 
He said that about 24,000 registered Rohingya refugees were living in two camps in Cox’s Bazar while three to four lakh undocumented Rohingyas from the neighbouring Myanmar were staying illegally along the coastal belt and other parts of the country, causing serious social problems to the nation.

‘The Rohingyas are not only causing social problems but also posing a threat to our economy. We cannot afford them for long with their number increasing as they can come to our land easily by spending only $2 each,’ the minister told reporters after a meeting with a delegation of the European Union at the secretariat.

Abdur Razzaque said that many of the refugees had become involved in criminal activities and the issue had become a burden for the country as this moment. 

Esko Kentrschynshyj, head of unit at the European Commission Humanitarian Aid, led the seven-member team to the meeting with the food and disaster management minister. 
The EU delegation informed the minister that the European Union was also taking a 100 million Euro project for the rehabilitation of the Muslim ethnic minority group in their homeland Myanmar on return from Bangladesh.

The EU inquired about the Rohingya refugee situation in Bangladesh and expressed their eagerness to help the agencies working with the refugees who had fled the Arakan state of Myanmar in the face of persecution by the Myanmar government in the early 1990s. 
‘The permanent solution to the problem is to rehabilitate the Rohingya refugees in their homeland. 
We have sought cooperation and support from other international agencies 
also for their repatriation to resolve the two-decade problem,’ Abdur Razzaque said. 
He said that the government’s policy was to encourage their repatriation and for that reason it had restricted activities of non-governmental organisations in the Rohingya refugee camp areas.

The NGOs now required approvals of the local administration before taking up any projects in the particular area, the minister said in reply to a question, adding that the government was doing its best for the welfare of the registered refugees.
The EU delegation also discussed rehabilitation of the victims of cyclones Sidr and Aila and reconstruction of coastal areas, especially Aila-hit Khulna and Satkhira. The European Union would provide 20 million Euro for the rehabilitation of Aila victims and reconstruction of the areas worst hit by the cyclone, the minister added.

Source here

Nine months have passed since clashes broke out between the Myanmar Army and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Thousands of people have fled to refugee camps in other areas in Kachin State, and in villages near China's border.

At least 66 refugees camps have been set-up in government-controlled areas, while others are in Kachin Independence controlled areas and on the China side of the border.

Based in Yangon, Burmese blogger Nang Nyi and her friends visited one of those refugee camps near the China border in mid-February, and she wrote about her experience there. In part one of her blog entry, she started her story by saying:

As everyone know, I am just a normal girl. I do not get involve in politics, nor do I understand it, and I don't hold onto or participate in any parties or organizations or any ideology. I only believe in freedom, justice, and humanitarianism. So I would like to share back my experience in the way I've seen it and I've felt it.

There were four other friends who went along on the trip with her. They travelled from Yangon to Mandalay and then to Muse, in Shan State. They then crossed over to Chinese's border town of Shwe Li to buy the necessary things for the refugees. The next day, they went to the refugee camp:

Map of the Trip Made by Nang Nyi and her Friends

When war broke in Kachin State, refugees ran away to the nearest border to escape. Loizer Refugee Camp is a well-known camp. But the refugee camps we went to were at the borders near Lwe Je. The camps are in the Chinese area of Lai Yin, next to Lwe Je. The refugee camps near Lai Yin were managed by a Kachin group called Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN). “Wunpaung” in Kachin means “All Kachins”, and “Ninghtoi” means “Light”. So you can say that this group is the “Light of Kachins”.

When she entered the refugee camp, she saw many kids, but the kids seemed afraid of her:

A Kachin Kid (Photo by Nang Nyi)

I have volunteered at orphanages and monastic education centres, so I was used to being delighted at seeing the kids and greeting them enthusiastically. But here, we can not get near these kids. We were sad to see that kids ran away from us because we were unfamiliar faces and our looks showed that we were Burmese.

She also commented about the conditions of the refugee camp:

Tents at the Refugee Camp (Photo by Nang Nyi)

One thing we faced when we got there was (not having enough) toilets. In a refugee camp that had over 1000 people, they only had 11 toilets. The water for the toilet has to be retrieved from an almost-dry stream over a mile away. In the whole camp, there was one well. They use that water for drinking. The camp was built on an old dump site between the sugarcane fields at the outskirts of a Chinese village.There were no big trees around the area, so during day time, it was dusty and hot air blew. At night, the cold winter wind passed through the waterproof canvases and gets very chilly.

In part two of her blog entry, she wrote about visiting old mills, or coal factories to find out about their needs. She wrote more about that in her post:

Kids Playing at the Refugee Camp (Photo by Nang Nyi)

Some of the camps that they lived in are very near to the places where the fightings were going on. We also got to a place where they said over a field of corn and a field of sugarcanes, they'll be back to their old village. At such camps, they go back to their old villages to get drinking water. They had to watch out for the situation, and avoid the gunfights. On the morning that we were leaving, a man who went to harvest sugarcanes in a sugarcane field died of a bomb explosion. Also, many people have died in those camps because of diarrhea.

On the second day of her trip, they and the responsible people from the camp held a small meeting to discuss about what the refugees needed, and what they can give back in return:

This Woman Sells Brooms and Sell them at Chinese Markets (Photo by Nang Nyi)

The main things that they need are drinking water, water for cooking, and toilets. After that, medicines, and then foodstuff. Clothes, kitchen items, blankets and pillows are sufficient due to donations from the Chinese villages. But what they gave us were sweaters and pants, so they still need longyis for the women. So we immediately donated the left-over money so that they can dig a well there.

In part three of her entry, Nang Nyi wrote about the terrible ordeals that the Kachin villagers faced:

One evening, the (Burmese) army came to the place where the villagers were hiding, and started shooting at them. The villagers grabbed their children who were playing near the village and stream, and tried to run away, but a woman who had just given birth, her new seven-days-old child, a 4-year-old kid, and her mother were left at the village.

The villagers who were hiding in th forests heard the children crying all night, but they dared not go back into the village. So they didn't run very far away, and waited all night. Only after the soldiers left in early morning, the father of the 7-day-old-child, and the grandfather of the 4-year-old kid went back to look. The two kids couldn't make a sound anymore due to crying all night. The corpse of the mother of 7-day-old child, who had an bayonet wound from left rib to right rib, was found under a rock. The villagers were not able to take her with them, nor bury her, so they just carried the kids, and left. The mother of the 4-year-old kid was abducted by the soldiers, and haven't heard since.

She also wrote about what a Kachin villager had told them during the meeting:

A note written by a Kachin refugee, which says: "We all love you. When you go back to Yangon, will you give us your phone number? When you get back to Yangon, will you send us our photos? We all love you"

“I am so happy that the Burmese kids are visiting us. We do love the Burmese people. After all, we are all human, so we ‘re happy and thankful that you came and helped us in anyway you can. This is because of how much you donated us, but because of your kind hearts. We are happy that you will be helping us with the things we need, but what we really need are not those. We want peace. We want to go home. We want to live peaceful in our own farm, in our own land, and in our own home with our families. So please help us for that.” - the villager told us with tears in his eyes.

When Nang Nyi and her friends left the camp, the villagers came along with them to their car. She wrote about their farewell message:

A Group Photo of the Villagers at the Refugee Camp (Photo by Nang Nyi)

We told them, “We will see you again, but not here. In Kachin State.” They cried when they heard that. They replied, “Yes, we also want to see you again, but not here. We will meet you in our own villages”.

The fulfillment of the wishes of the Kachin refugees may not be too far away. Delegates of the KIO Army and representatives of the Burmese government will be meeting in Ruili for the third round of talks for ceasefire negotiation this week. Before departing for Ruili, Sumlut Gam, Head of the Kachin delegates, said:

I'm optimistic. Everything will be better.”

Written by tan
Source here

By Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian

The likelihood is that these men and boys, even though they number about 100, will simply vanish one day. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a couple of weeks or months. 

PHUKET: As Phuketwan predicted, the 90 Rohingya boatpeople who were forced to put ashore yesterday on a Phuket beach are no longer on Phuket. 

From their predawn arrival at southern Phuket's Nai Harn beach on a flimsy timber craft that was not capable of carrying them onwards, all the men and boys have now disappeared within the space of 24 hours. 

Some reports say that there may still be 12 Rohingya unaccounted for on Phuket. That may be true, or it may just be that there has been a miscount of the number of passengers. 

What we can say with certainty is that the 90 men and boys who surrendered to Phuket police yesterday have all gone. Officials are not saying what happened. 

The men and boys - 10 of them were teenagers, some just 13 years old - were probably carted off in a truck to Ranong, a port on the border between Thailand and Burma. 

While briefly on Phuket they were allowed no contact with NGOs, no chance to press their case for refugees status, just carried off Phuket sometime in the dark last night. 

In secrecy and contrary to international standards, Thailand is once again pressing the boundaries of how nations should deal with unexpected immigrants who arrive by sea. 

This is a cause for considerable alarm because, although the details of the group were recorded at Chalong Police Station and again at the Immigration HQ in Phuket City, we were unable today to obtain a list of the names of the men and boys on the boat that landed on Phuket. 

Aid agencies are perhaps even more alarmed by the lack of transparency in the process. But so far, there is no indication that the boatloads of Rohingya arriving along the Andaman coast, on Phuket and north and south of Phuket, are being mistreated.

The Royal Thai Navy has given an assurance that it is aware of the need for UN human rights standards to be maintained. Whether this is possible under a policy where there is no transparency is a moot point. 

We cannot forget 2009 when the then Thai government secretly repelled unwanted boatpeople with the ''pushbacks'' policy, leading to the deaths of hundreds at sea. 

The last known boatload of Rohingya to land on Phuket - about this time last year - were held in detention for several weeks before they also disappeared. 

There is no suggestion of misdeeds. But it is believed the unwanted Rohingya, with no Burmese citizenship and therefore no hope of being returned to their homeland, are being tacitly handed back to people-smugglers. 

Despite the Rohingya being among the most downtrodden people on the planet, the nations now engaging in conciliatory talks with Burma appear to be prepared to led concern for Burma's worst act of repression and subjugation slide for the time being.

We hope this attitude does not cost any lives. 

We also are reminded of a less-than-prophetic paragraph that appeared in a local tabloid on January 28, 2009, soon afterPhuketwan and the South China Morning Post revealed the reprehensible ''pushbacks'': 

''Despite some rather dramatic 'reports' and opinions offered in local blogs and chat rooms, most resort managers and tourism officials contacted say they are not expecting the arrival of the Rohingyas on Phuket's beaches any time soon.''

Do not expect an upsurge of concern about the missing boatpeople

source here

Rohingya refugees at Chalong Police Station in Phuket this afternoon. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo.

A 13-year-old boy, one of the youngest members of the group of 102 Rohingya that came ashore at Nai Harn Beach in Phuket this morning. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo.

PHUKET: Chalong Police have rounded up 90 starving Rohingya boat people who came ashore in the south of Phuket this morning, but 12 more remain unaccounted for.

The Rohingya, all males, were on their way to Malaysia when they ran out of food and their wooden boat began to fall apart at sea, forcing them to come ashore at Nai Harn Beach at about 5am.

Their arrival was quickly reported to patrol police, who rounded up the men in separate groups of about 30 each in different parts of Nai Harn in Rawai this morning.

Penniless, disoriented and unable to speak Thai, most of the men could do little but wait for their inevitable capture by police.

However, 12 Rohingya remain unaccounted for.

Those captured were sent to Chalong Police Station, where they gulped down drinking water and devoured fried chicken, bananas and sticky rice provided by officers there.

Communication with the men was a problem. One of their number, the only one who could speak Burmese, told police through an interpreter that they set off 12 days ago in hope of reaching Malaysia.

They set out from their homeland “between Burma and Bangladesh,” the man said.

The man said there were 102 people in the open boat, meaning that 12 remain unaccounted for.

The group ran out of food and water three days ago, the man said. Thirst, hunger and the problems with the wooden vessel forced them ashore short of their goal. The landing was sadly reminiscent of a similar beaching a year ago, when 70 Rohingya were rounded up and eventually deported.

The youngest members of the group today were four boys just 13 years of age.

The next stop for the group will be the detention center at the Phuket Immigration Office, police said.

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group originally from the Rakhine State of Burma.

Persecution by the Burmese junta beginning in 1978 led to their mass migration, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh and others taking to the sea in hopes of reaching Muslim countries like Malaysia in search of a better life.

Chalong Police continue to search for the 12 remaining members of the group this afternoon.

– Atchaa Khamlo

Source here

By Ammar Shahbazi

Rohingya People protest in USA 
There are some three to four hundred thousands of them in the city, but, according to the law, they simply do not exist. The Burmese Muslims - known as Rohingyas –make up a sizable portion of illegal immigrants living in Karachi, and, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are considered to be one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world.

Although they are often misconstrued as Bengalis, the Rohingyas, both culturally and linguistically, are very much different from the people of Bangladesh. “For the layman, they are all Bangladeshis, but the Burmese people are poles apart in every way, even in terms of facial features,” said Muhammad Khan Lodhi, an assistant director at the National Alien Registration Authority (Nara).


“The Rohingyas are a stateless people,” says Daniyal Rizvi of the Futuristic Foundation, a social research institute that works extensively on issues of illegal immigration and human trafficking in South Asia.

Rizvi said that a majority of the Burmese people living in Pakistan belong to the Arkan province of Myanmar. The Rohingyas are not considered Burmese by the government of Myanmar because they are not of a ‘pure Buddhist bloodline’.

In the late 70s, and again in early 90s, two major Rohingya exoduses took place. Their people were, for all intents and purposes, forced to leave their home country due to the imposition of laws that restricted their intermarriage and religious freedom. They took refuge in Bangladesh.

“There is not a single mosque in the whole of the Arkan province – a state where 70 percent of the population is Muslim, even after multiple resettlement programmes by the state to bring down the Muslim population,” added Rizvi, who has visited Myanmar nine times for research on these issues.

The Bangladeshi government does not consider them refugees. The Rohigyas live on the roads from Teknaf (the Bangladesh-Myanmar border) to Chittagong and are hounded by the police. They have no land of their own.

Life in the city

“My parents came to Pakistan because it is a Muslim country,” said Shabbir Hussain, a taxi driver and a madrassa graduate.

According to reports, there are 65 shantytowns populated by Rohingyas and Bengalis in which members of both communities live side by side. At least two such colonies are named after the Burmese lineage in Karachi: Arkanabad (named after the Arkan province in Burma) in Korangi Dai Number and a Burmese colony situated near Landi.

The Burmese population, like that of the Bengalis, is mainly employed by the city’s textile and fishing sector, where they have to work for ten to twelve hours a day. “They are the lumpen proletariat of Karachi,” says Salman Mukhtar, a senior social activist who works on poverty-related issues in Karachi.

“These people are basically migrant labourers. They have no legal status, no job security; they are virtually slaves to the whims of contractors who take work orders from textile and fishing companies to, for example, get an export assignment done,” he told The News.

“They work for the minimum possible wages; the Bengali and Burmese population, because of their low pay-rate, played a pivotal role in making Pakistani textiles competitive in the international market during the mid-80s and the 90s.”

Despite living in run-down shanty homes, where there is no access to electricity or clean water, the Rohingyas have managed to outstrip their Bengali counterparts in terms of being accepted by the mainstream Pakistani, a fact that does not bode well with the Bengali community leaders.

Political ambitions

The Bengalis claim that the Burmese, who started coming to Pakistan in the late 70s, call themselves Bengalis because they want an excuse to get naturalised citizenship; however, the Rohingya leadership denies having any link whatsoever to Myanmar.

“They have nothing to do with Pakistan. We are Pakistanis, we have been living here since before the fall of Dhaka, we gave sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan, we have a stake in this country,” said Masud-ur-Rehman, the general secretary of the Pak-Bangla Ittehad, a community-based Bengali organisation.

This turf war between the two groups has resulted in much political activism in recent times. Playing on the Bengali card, the Rohingyas have managed to form a party called the Action Committee which is backed by the largest political party of Karachi.

Mehsud’s claims were refuted outright by Abul Hussain Sonar, who is a member of the supreme council of the Action Committee. “We are Bengalis. We have no connection with Myanmar whatsoever. I am a second generation Pakistani. My parents migrated from Bangladesh in the 1960s.” Sonar claims that there are no Rohingyas living in Karachi, and that even if there are, there is a minimal number of them. The Bengalis, on the other hand, think that their political mandate is being exploited. Masud says the Burmese have money and are relatively better educated, which has allowed them to claim representation of the ethnic Bengalis in the city, who are at least four times more than the Rohingyas in number.

“If you actually make a comparison, you can see that there are a number of differences between our communities. For example, the Burmese have a tendency to send their children to madrassas; they are well-read and are a very close-knit community, which has given them an edge.”

Whatever the truth may be, one thing is for sure: the Rohingyas have successfully buried their violent past and have begun a new life with a new identity in the city of Karachi.

Credit Here:
An MSF doctor examines a baby at the MSF project in Kutupalong makeshift camp. Bangladesh 2010 © Giulio Di Sturco/VII Mento 

By Bill Davis, MA, MPH 

Last week, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar called on the Burmese government to officially engage ethnic minority groups in serious dialogue and grant them fundamental rights. He specifically referenced the rights of the Rohingya in this call to action.

The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in Burma. Forced labor, extortion, restrictions on movement, forced deportation, and rape (pdf) by Burmese authorities have all been documented by human rights groups.

Many Rohingya have fled the atrocities in Burma for neighboring Bangladesh. However, the situation there is nearly as bad. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, only 28,000 out of some 400,000 Rohingyas are officially recognized by the Bangladeshi authorities as refugees.
The undocumented Rohingya live in squalor, are regularly harassed by the local police, and are not able to access international humanitarian aid. PHR’s March 2010 emergency report, Stateless and Starving: Persecuted Rohingya Flee Burma and Starve in Bangladesh, found atrocious water and sanitation conditions, severe food insecurity, and multiple human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and forced expulsion by Bangladeshi authorities.

Little progress has been made on a political solution to this problem. In a December 2011 meeting between Burmese President Thein Sein and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Thein Sein said Burma would allow documented Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh safely back into Burma. But since the vast majority of Rohingya in Bangladesh are not documented, it is unlikely that they will be allowed to return. Agreements like this serve to improve Burma’s image in the international community, but in fact do nothing to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

If the Burmese government is truly serious about building lasting peace, it should immediately change the way it treats Rohingya. PHR strongly urges the Burmese government to end forced expulsions of Rohingya individuals, and to recognize the rights of all Rohingya, documented and otherwise.

PHR calls on the Bangladeshi government to cease arbitrary arrests of Rohingya and to allow aid organizations to help all Rohingya refugees. The human rights violations that have happened for decades against Rohingya are far too serious to be ignored by Burma’s reforms.

Bill Davis is the Director of the Burma Project at PHR.

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Rohingya Exodus