Latest Highlight

By Fatima Moosa
May 9, 2018

After last year’s condemnation around the violence which was being committed against the Rohingya Muslims, the world seems to have gone silent once more around the issue. A pair of activists are doing something to make sure their plight isn’t forgotten. Nay San Lwin is a activist and blogger who runs a blog site, Rohingya Blogger which narrates the on the ground experiences of the Rohingya Muslims who have been facing persecution in Myanmar. Shafiur Rahman is a journalist and documentary maker who has made a doccie about the Rohingya. The pair are currently in South Africa on a tour speaking about the genocide and international solidarity. The Daily Vox team spoke to them about the need for awareness of the plight of the Rohingya.

Lwin has been running the blog, which was started by his father, since 2012. He leads a local network of activists based in Rakhine state in Myanmar who report on what is happening. Some of them are now in Bangladesh.

Lwin was recently in Bangladesh: “I was there organising education projects because the students there don’t have any education. Even when they were in Myanmar they didn’t have the education aspects so I am trying to create something and in South Africa as well. With students and teachers to go and teach there.”

His blog has been widely recognised by the international community and diplomats who read the updates. Lwin says the local authority also respond whenever we post updates. On the blog there is an English and Burmese section because Lwin says they have to write everything in Burmese for the local people and authority.

On why he thinks it is important for people to know about the persecution, Lwin says people are not just facing normal persecution and it is a genocide.

“It is going on for the past 40 years. Since 1978, and the people at the time there was no internet, there was no telephone line. That’s why people didn’t know but nowaday we have the internet and the mobile phones and people have access to the social media so we came to know more about the Rohingya situation. It is very important that these people are facing the genocide and it has to be stopped. The people who are now more than a billion in Bangladesh, they have lost everything and have to rebuild their lives so the global citizen must support the end of their sufferings. They also want to live as a dignified person. So the awareness is very much important,” adds Lwin.

While the bloggers are doing very important work on the ground, Lwin says it is very dangerous because the media and the journalists are not allowed to report on the area so the people who are reporting on the violence are considered the enemy of the state. “They cannot reveal the identity, they cannot even say anything about the violence in public. They will be arrested. There are some people who got arrested because they were discovered they are sending the updated information to the media and to me. They are still some people who are in jail.”

Rahman made a documentary about the violence which was happening in the Rakhine state after visiting the place in 2016. He spoke to 20 victims of sexual violence.

“[They were] extremely eager to speak to me. [They] removed their veils saying they took away our dignity so when we’re confronting our violators and attackers, we’re not going to speak behind our veils.”

Rahman says those were difficult testimonies to hear but that documentary led him to follow these women for about six months.

“And that showed up the dangers they had to face. Within one month, one of the girls had been trafficked. Refugee camps are dangerous. People fall prey to malnutrition and trafficking and environmental issues like landslides. [It’s a] difficult place to be.” Rahman says.

With regards to the response to his work, Rahman says the documentary, Tula Toli, showed the pre-planning that took place from the testimonies of the villagers and one could see this was very much planned massacre.

“The response has been great. People were shocked at the brutality and horror of it all. That the military can commit such atrocities with impunity, throwing babies into fire. Mass killings and mass burnings of villages. People were shocked that this was going on and the international community not doing anything commensurately in response.”

He says as a journalist and a documentary-maker, he’d been in difficult situations and difficult places but this was so overwhelming and was truly emotionally impactful.

Regarding the South Africa tour, Lwin and Rahman are here to spread awareness on the plight of the Rohingya people. They also want the South African government and organisations to revoke two awards from Aung San Suu Kyi. The awards are the Gandhi Memorial Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg.

Lwin says she doesn’t deserve it because she is complicit with the genocide and taken side with the military and has helped cover up the crime.

With regards to South Africa’s role, Lwin says South Africa has abstained from voting on the issue in the United Nations and that needs to be changed in the future.

“South Africa as a country needs to pressure the UN to take strong action against military and government in Myanmar. The United Nations has been failing since 1992 and have never taken any action,” says Lwin. He also says the UN needs to start labelling the situation in the Rakhine state as a genocide.

In South Africa, Rahman wants to get through to people that there is a conspiracy of silence. He also wants to inform people that what is going on isn’t just a Muslim issue – it’s a genocide.

“What’s required is investigations on the ground which Myanmar will not allow. People need to be informed and take whatever action they can take. And concretely bring attention that SA has given two awards which need to be revoked… What is happening is genocide. [It’s] said never again but it’s happening all over again. People need to step up and act,” Rahman says about what South Africans and the international community needs to do.

To find out more about Lwin and Rahman’s tour, follow @ProtectRohingya on Twitter.

United Nations Security Council envoys pose for a photograph with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after their meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle Nichols

By Michelle Nichols
April 30, 2018

DHAKA -- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the U.N. Security Council on Monday to press Myanmar to take back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown to take refuge in her country.

Security Council envoys visited Hasina in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, before traveling to Myanmar for meetings with its government leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing later on Monday. 

“They should put more pressure on the Myanmar government so that they take their citizens back to their country. That’s what we want,” Hasina told reporters. 

The visit by the Security Council envoys, to see the aftermath of a military operation in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, puts a global spotlight on the crisis which the United Nations and others have denounced as ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. 

Myanmar denies the accusation, saying the military was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency operation. 

Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts in Rakhine State in August last year sparked the crackdown that, according to the U.N. and rights groups, sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to camps in neighboring Bangladesh. 

Hasina said the refugees should return “under U.N. supervision where security and safety should be ensured”. 

“They want to go back to their own country. So the Security Council can play a very pivotal role,” she added. 

When asked if U.N. supervision meant the deployment of peacekeepers, Hasina said: “Not exactly, well, that the U.N. will decide”. 

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye, who is leading rehabilitation efforts in Rakhine, declined to comment. 

Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi, one of the envoys, told Hasina the Security Council wanted to “send a clear strong message ... that we’re determined to end this humanitarian crisis”. 

The envoys visited camps on Sunday, where distraught refugees pleaded for help ahead of the coming monsoon season. Many live in bamboo-and-plastic structures perched on hills in the southeast Bangladesh district of Cox’s Bazar.


Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete the voluntary repatriation of the refugees within two years but differences between the two sides remain and implementation of the plan has been slow. 

“We know there are difficulties in the talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the return of the refugees but it is important ... to create the appropriate conditions for the refugees to go back freely and voluntarily to their home of origin,” said al-Otaibi. 

The envoys are due to travel to Rakhine State on Tuesday. 

The Security Council asked Myanmar in November to ensure no “further excessive use of military force” and to allow “freedom of movement, equal access to basic services, and equal access to full citizenship for all”. 

They will seek to push the Myanmar government to implement those requests, diplomats said. 

Hasina also called on Myanmar to implement the recommendations of a commission headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was appointed by Suu Kyi in 2016 to investigate how to solve Rakhine’s long-standing tensions.Among the commission’s recommendations was a review of a Myanmar law that links citizenship and ethnicity and leaves most Rohingya stateless. 

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has for years denied Rohingya citizenship, freedom of movement and access to basic services such as healthcare. Many in Myanmar regard Rohingya as illegal immigrants from mostly Muslim Bangladesh. 

Additional Reporting by Thu Thu Aung and Yimou Lee in YANGON; Editing by Darren Schuettler

Rohingya refugees holing placards, await the arrival of a UN Security Council team at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on Sunday. Source: AP

April 29, 2018

Representatives from the five permanent UN Security Council members are in Bangladesh to see the conditions endured by some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims.

Hundreds of Rohingya staged a demonstration Sunday as UN Security Council envoys visited refugee camps in Bangladesh where about 700,000 people who have fled Myanmar in the past year have sought sanctuary.

Some of the Muslim refugees broke down in tears as they told the ambassadors harrowing stories of murder and rape in Myanmar. The demonstrators waved placards demanding justice for atrocities against the refugees until they were dispersed by police.

Senior diplomats from the 15-member Security Council - including permanent members the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - arrived in Bangladesh on Saturday for a four-day visit to the camps. They will go on to Myanmar where they are to meet civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar has faced intense international pressure over the military clampdown against the Rohingya launched last August that the United Nations has called "ethnic cleansing".

The Security Council has called for the safe return of the Rohingya and an end to the discrimination against them.

Members of the UN Security Council, who promised Sunday to work hard to resolve a crisis. AP

However, deputy Russian ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, whose country has supported Myanmar, warned that the council did not have a "magic stick" to resolve what is now one of the world's worst refugee crises.

"We are not looking away from this crisis, we are not closing our eyes," the Russian diplomat told reporters.

Britain's UN ambassador Karen Pierce said the Rohingya "must be allowed to go home in conditions of safety".

"It may take some time but we'd like to hear from the government of Myanmar how they wish to work with the international community," she said.

Safety needed

The UN envoys first visited Konarpara camp, a no man's land between Bangladesh and Myanmar where some 6,000 Rohingya have been trapped on bleak scrubland since the bloodshed began last year.

The camp's Rohingya leader Dil Mohammad said council envoys spoke with some women victims of the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, as well as community elders.

"We told them that we're staying here to save our lives. We're very much eager to go back to our land, provided our security is ensured by the UN," Mohammad told AFP.

Wounded Rohingya refugees walk with the help of crutches at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp. AP

Later, the diplomats went to the giant Kutupalong camp where hundreds of Rohingya staged the protest that was dispersed by police before the envoys arrived. A second was later held in the camp.

"We want restoration of our citizenship under Rohingya ethnicity. We want security and return of our confiscated land and properties," said Rohingya leader Mohibullah.

The council members were "shocked" by the accounts of rapes, murders and torture endured by the Rohingya in Rakhine, according to Mohibullah.

Myanmar has said the military operation in Rakhine was to root out extremists and has rejected nearly all allegations that its security forces committed atrocities.

The Security Council delegation is to meet with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday before leaving for Myanmar.

They are to go on a helicopter flight over Rakhine to see the remains of villages torched during the violence.

Kuwait's Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the visit was not about "naming and shaming" Myanmar, but that "the message will be very clear for them: the international community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it."

On Friday, Human Rights Watch called for the Rohingya crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"The lack of a UN Security Council resolution has left the Myanmar government convinced that it has literally gotten away with mass murder," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth told reporters in Yangon.

Rohingya refugee children fly improvised kites at the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Dec. 10, 2017. (Photo: Damir Sagolj / Reuters)

April 26, 2018

The interviewers in the camps asked the refugees to recount their experiences during the wave of violence unleashed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

WASHINGTON/COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — The U.S. government is conducting an intensive examination of alleged atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, documenting accusations of murder, rape, beatings and other possible offenses in an investigation that could be used to prosecute Myanmar’s military for crimes against humanity, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The undertaking, led by the State Department, has involved more than a thousand interviews of Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled after a military crackdown last year in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine State, two U.S. officials said. The work is modeled on a U.S. forensic investigation of mass atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2004, which led to a U.S. declaration of genocide that culminated in economic sanctions against the Sudanese government.

The interviews were conducted in March and April by about 20 investigators with backgrounds in international law and criminal justice, including some who worked on tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the U.S. officials said.

The information will be analyzed in Washington and documented in a report to be sent to the State Department’s leadership in May or early June, the officials said. It’s unclear whether the Trump administration will publicly release the findings, or whether they will be used to justify new sanctions on the Myanmar government or a recommendation for international prosecution.

“The purpose of this investigation is to contribute to justice processes, including community awareness raising, international advocacy efforts, and community-based reconciliation efforts, as well as possible investigations, truth-seeking efforts, or other efforts for justice and accountability,” said a document used by the investigators in the sprawling refugee camps and reviewed by Reuters.

Three U.S. officials in Washington and several people involved in the investigation on the ground in Bangladesh disclosed details of the fact-finding operation to Reuters.

A State Department official, asked to confirm the specifics of the investigation conducted in the refugee camps as reported by Reuters, said “the program details are accurate.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government was using all available information and a wide range of tools, but added: “We cannot get ahead of the deliberative, policymaking process.”

As of publication, the Myanmar government and military had not responded to questions from Reuters. Myanmar has said its operations in Rakhine were a legitimate response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents.

The interviewers in the camps asked the refugees basic demographic questions, the date the person left Myanmar, and to recount their experiences during the wave of violence unleashed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State by the Myanmar military and local Buddhist residents.

The investigators also asked refugees to describe the battalions and weaponry used by the Myanmar military in Rakhine State during operations against the Rohingya, said one person involved with the investigation in the camps, which are located in the Cox’s Bazar district in southern Bangladesh. The investigators have received names of individual perpetrators and the identities of specific battalions allegedly involved, this person said.

A second person involved in the project on the ground said 1,025 refugees have been interviewed and the assignment may include a second phase focused on military units.

Zohra Khatun, 35, a Rohingya refugee in the camps, said she told investigators that soldiers waged a campaign of violence and harassment in her village in Rakhine State starting last August. They made arrests and shot several people, driving her and others to flee, she said.

“One military officer grabbed me by the throat and tried to take me,” she told Reuters, clutching her shirt collar to demonstrate. The military, she said, burned homes in the village, including hers.

The investigation coincides with a debate inside the U.S. government and on Capitol Hill over whether the Trump administration has done enough to hold Myanmar’s military to account for brutal violence against the largely stateless Rohingya.

The Rohingya are a small Muslim minority in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Though they have been present in what’s now Myanmar for generations, many Burmese consider them to be interlopers. Violence against them has increased in recent years as the country has made a partial shift to democratic governance.

In November, following the lead of the United Nations and the European Union, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the Rohingya crisis constituted “ethnic cleansing,” a designation that raised the possibility of additional sanctions against Myanmar’s military commanders and increased pressure on its civilian leader, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The Myanmar government has denied the accusations.

The United States responded in December by imposing targeted sanctions on one Myanmar general and threatening to penalize others. Washington has also scaled back already-limited military ties with Myanmar since the Rohingya crisis began. Human rights groups and Democratic lawmakers in Washington have urged the Republican White House to widen sanctions and designate the violence as “crimes against humanity,” a legal term that can set the stage for charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“No decisions have been made on that front, but it’s something being looked at very carefully,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters.

A Reuters investigation published in February provided the first independent confirmation of what had taken place in the village of Inn Din, where 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys were hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers or shot by security force members. The story was based on accounts not only from Rohingya refugees but also from soldiers, police officers and Buddhist locals who admitted to participating in the bloodshed.

Pictures obtained by Reuters showed the men and boys with their hands tied behind their backs and their bodies in a shallow grave. Two Reuters journalists were jailed while reporting the story and remain in prison in Yangon, where they face up to 14 years in jail on possible charges of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act.

So far, there has been resistance by lawyers in the White House and State Department to adopt the terms “crimes against humanity” or “genocide” in describing deaths of Rohingya in Myanmar, the U.S. officials said.

The State Department itself has been divided over how to characterize or interpret the violence against the Rohingya, the officials said.

The East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, staffed largely by career diplomats and representing the view of the embassy in Myanmar, has held at times “to a success narrative” on Myanmar since the lifting of sanctions was announced in October 2016 and the strong public role played by the U.S. government in the historic 2012 opening of the country after decades of military rule, one official said.

Diplomats in Yangon have also been reluctant to jeopardize Washington’s relationship with Suu Kyi, a democratic icon who has faced criticism for failing to do more to rein in the violence against the Rohingya. Some senior U.S. officials still believe Suu Kyi remains the best hope for a more democratic Myanmar, one official said. “They are reluctant to upset that relationship.”

That contrasts with the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, based in Washington, which has pushed for tougher sanctions, the officials said. Bridging that gap has been made more difficult because the State Department under President Donald Trump has yet to fill many important diplomatic positions, the officials said.

Officials described the process in the refugee camps of documenting the abuses as rigorous. Each interview was coded with key words according to the alleged crime, such as killing, rape, sexual violence and lynching. Different categories of alleged perpetrator also have codes — from civilians to insurgents, Myanmar military personnel and police.

“After the 1,000 interviews and statistical analysis, we can draw certain conclusions about the perpetrators of crime and patterns of crime,” one official said.

The official said one possible result from the documentation of abuses against the Rohingya could be a vote by the United Nations General Assembly to establish an international body to investigate the most serious crimes committed against the Rohingya, similar to what it’s done with Syria.

The State Department did not respond to questions about divisions within the administration over how to characterize the violence and criticism that the administration was too slow in acting to halt abuses.

Subiya Khatun, 29, who fled her Rakhine home in September and reported seeing three dead bodies in a canal on her way to the Bangladesh border, said she hoped for justice and a safe return to Myanmar.

“They said they have come from America. ‘This investigation will be used for your help,’” she said she was told by the people who interviewed her in the camps. “If Allah wishes, we will get justice and our demands will be fulfilled.”

Ethnic Rohingya women rest at a temporary shelter in Bireuen, Aceh province, Indonesia, April 20, 2018. Indonesian fishermen rescued dozens of Rohingya Muslims from a boat stranded off Aceh province on Friday, police said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea.

By Associated Press
April 21, 2018

BIREUEN, INDONESIA — A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia. 

The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.

An ethnic-Rohingya man, center, is assisted by a paramedic after a group of Rohingya Muslims was brought ashore in Bireuen, Aceh province, Indonesia, April 20, 2018.

Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August. 

The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, Fariq said. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels. 

'We could not stay'

“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance. 

Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm. 

Third attempt in April

In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died. 

Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore. 

Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs. 

“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Fanny Potkin 
April 17, 2018

LONDON -- Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday more international pressure was needed on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees, rejecting claims by the Myanmar government the repatriation process had already started.

“The international community needs to put more pressure on Myanmar so that they take back their own people and ensure their security,” she told an audience in London. 

“Myanmar says they are ready to take back the Rohingya, but they are not taking the initiative.” 

U.N. officials say nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape a military crackdown since August last year, amid reports of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes in actions which the United Nations has likened to “ethnic cleansing”. 

Myanmar has denied nearly all allegations, saying it has been waging a legitimate counter-insurgency operation. 

Hasina said Bangladesh had submitted the names of 8,000 Rohingya families for repatriation to Myanmar, but that Myanmar had so far refused to take them back.

She disputed a claim by Myanmar that it had repatriated five members of a Rohingya family from Bangladesh, describing them as having been living in the no man’s land between the two countries. 

“Maybe (Myanmar) wants to show the world they are taking them back. It’s a good sign. If they want, then why only one family? We have already submitted the names of 8,000 (Rohingya) families, but they’ve not taken them back,” she said. 

In a statement on Saturday, Myanmar said it had repatriated the first Rohingya family from among refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. It said a family of five had returned to one of its reception centers in Rakhine state. 

The Bangladeshi government and the U.N. refugee agency told Reuters neither had any involvement in the repatriation. 

Hasina also confirmed a plan to move 100,000 Rohingya refugees to a uninhabited low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal and dismissed fears this would be put them at risk of floods. 

“Bangladesh can always be flooding and it does. The camps are very unhealthy. We have prepared a better place for them to live, with houses and shelters where they can earn a living. Where they are living now, the monsoon season is coming up, there can be land erosions, accidents are taking place.” 

However, aid agencies are fearful of the relocation plan and believe it would expose Rohingya refugees to cyclones, floods and human traffickers. 

Reporting by Fanny Potkin; editing by Stephen Addison and Mark Heinrich

Razia Sultana, human rights activist and lawyer, addresses the Security Council's open debate on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

April 17, 2018

The United Nations Security Council has failed to prevent the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the 15-member body must refer sexual violence and other crimes against the ethnic group to the world’s top criminal court, a Rohingya lawyer said on Monday.

“Where I come from, women and girls have been gang-raped, tortured and killed by the Myanmar Army, for no other reason than for being Rohingya,” Razia Sultana said on behalf of non-governmental organizations during a Security Council open debate on preventing sexual violence in conflict.

The debate, addressed by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, was held as the Council prepares for a visit later this month to Myanmar and its neighbor Bangladesh, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Ms. Sultana urged the Council members to meet with women and girl survivors during the trip.

Since August last year, more than 670,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar. “This is the fastest refugee movement since the Rwanda genocide,” Ms. Sultana said.

“However, the international community, especially the Security Council, has failed us. This latest crisis should have been prevented if the warning signs since 2012 had not been ignored,” she added.

Ms. Sultana said that her own research and interviews provide evidence that Government troops raped well over 300 women and girls in 17 villages in Rakhine state. With over 350 villages attacked and burned since August 2017, this number is likely only a fraction of the actual total.

“Girls as young as six were gang-raped,” she said.

This year’s UN Secretary-General’s report on sexual violence in conflict lists the Myanmar military for the first time.

She said the Council must refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court without delay.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addresses the Security Council's open debate on women, peace and security. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the Council that: “This year, in Myanmar and many other conflict situations, the widespread threat and use of sexual violence has, once again, been used as a tactic to advance military, economic and ideological objectives.”

“And, once again, it has been a driver of massive forced displacement,” she added. “Let us intensify our efforts to end the horrific litany of sexual violence in conflict so that women, girls, men and boys have one less burden to bear as they work to rebuild shattered lives.”

A decade ago, the Council adopted the groundbreaking resolution 1820, which elevated the issue of conflict-related sexual violence onto its agenda, as a threat to security and impediment to peace.

It seeks to “debunk the myths that fuel sexual violence,” and rejects the notion of rape as an “inevitable byproduct of war” or mere “collateral damage.” Since then, the issue has been systematically included peacekeeping missions.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addresses the Security Council's open debate on women, peace and security. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

But “it is clear that words on paper are not yet matched by facts on the ground. We have not yet moved from resolutions to lasting solutions,” said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Stigma and victim-blame give the weapon of rape its uniquely destructive power, including the power to shred the social fabric, and turn victims into outcasts. It is also the reason that sexual violence remains one of the least-reported of all crimes.

“It is a travesty and an outrage that not a single member of ISIL or Boko Haram has yet been convicted for sexual violence as an international crime,” she said.

As recommendations, she called on the international community to establish a reparations fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, while stressing the need for a more operational response to stigma alleviation, as well as the need to marshal sustained funding for the gender-based response.

A concept note circulated in advance of this meeting asked delegates to share national experiences regarding specific measures taken to prevent conflict-related sexual violence, particularly long-term initiatives focused on women’s empowerment, advancing gender equality, and ensuring that perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to justice.

The note also posed several other discussion questions, including one about how the Council – when establishing and renewing the mandates of UN peacekeeping and political missions, as well as relevant sanctions regimes – can more effectively promote gender equality, the empowerment of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, and accountability for sexual violence crimes.

Aftar and his family members posing with the Verification Cards issued to them aftr they returned to Myanmar
- Collected

By Tarek Mahmud
April 16, 2018

On April 14, Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) on its official Facebook page claimed that a Muslim (Rohingya) family of five had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh

Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had been staying at the residence of a local public representative at Tambru village under Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari upazila.

After speaking with the locals and the Rohingyas staying at the no man’s land, the Dhaka Tribune learned that Aftar had rented a house of Tambru Union Parishad Member Fatema Begum, after entering Bangladesh. The family did not stay at the camps or the no man’s land after entering Bangladesh.

According to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Aftar was staying at the no man’s land in Tambru, which does not fall under Bangladesh’s jurisdiction, before going to Myanmar. However, BGB officials did not make any comment regarding the return of Aftar to Myanmar.

On April 14, Myanmar’s Information Portal (MOI) on its official Facebook page claimed that a Muslim (Rohingya) family of five had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

The post said the family was received at “Taungpyo Latwei” Entry (Receiving) Point and National Verification Cards (NVCs) were issued to them. The Facebook post also included 17 pictures.

The Rohingyas living in Tambru’s no man’s land claimed that Aftar, his wife Sajeda Begum, daughter Tahera, son Tarek Aziz and domestic help Shawkat Ara left Bangladesh on Saturday.

UP member Fatema Begum told the Dhaka Tribune: “I gave shelter to Aftar and his family on humanitarian grounds. He stayed here for about four months.

“Recently, his movements had become suspicious, so I asked him to leave the house.”

“Later, I heard that he took shelter in the no man’s land,” she said expressing her regret for giving shelter to the family.

The reported “repatriation” of Aftar and his family come a few days after Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye visited a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar.

During the visit, Win announced that Myanmar was ready for the repatriation of Rohingyas who had entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

‘Aftar worked for Myanmar govt’

Several Rohingya leaders, who have been living in no man’s land in Tambru and its surrounding areas, told the Dhaka Tribune that Aftar Alam, who recently went back to Myanmar with his family from Bangladesh, had worked for Myanmar government as an informant.

Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya leader who is living at Tambru’s no man’s land along with 5,000 other Rohingyas, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The Myanmar government had directed Aftar and his family to come to Bangladesh.”

“Here [Bangladesh], they stayed in a house which is located near the no man’s land between Myanmar and Bangladesh border. His stay in Bangladesh was hidden until his so-called repatriation to Myanmar.”

“He worked as a spy for the Myanmar government and tried to persuade thousands of Rohingya refugees to go back to Rakhine saying that the situation had gained normalcy,” Dil Mohammad said.

Another Rohingya leader, Mohammad Arif said: “When he failed to persuade the Rohingyas, he went back and then the Myanmar authorities portrayed it as the return of refugees from Bangladesh.

“This is a deception.”

Aftar Alam was the administrator of Taungpyo Latya village where he resided with his family.

“Almost all the Rohingya villages were burnt down in Taungpyo Latya but Aftar’s house was not because he is a government informant and sycophant,” wishing anonymity, a Rohingya refugee staying at the no man’s land told the Dhaka Tribune.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017. They joined about 400,000 others who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Many Rohingyas have expressed fear of returning to a country where they saw their relatives being murdered by soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes.

Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed many of the burned villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say Myanmar is erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya’s ties to the country.

The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told the Dhaka Tribune: “The family had been living in a camp at no man’s land between the two countries. They were not under our jurisdiction.

“They went back from the no man’s land, so this cannot be called repatriation.”

Germany-based Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin told the Dhaka Tribune: “Myanmar’s government did not mention in their report that the Rohingya man is currently the administrator of Taungpyo Letya village. He and his family did not flee to Bangladesh.”

Nay San Lwin said: “The Myanmar government’s informant Aftar went back after failing in his mission of persuading other Rohingyas to go back. He returned to his homeland where he was convinced to pose at the event of the so-called first repatriation of the Rohingyas.

“It is a fake repatriation. Rohingyas in Bangladesh will go back if their homeland is safe for them. We are demanding protected return of the Rohingyas,” the activist, also a contributor to the Rohingya community’s blog page Rohingya Blogger, said.

Quoting sources in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the blogger said: “We were shocked to hear that anybody would return amidst the volatile conditions here [Myanmar].

“Many people are still fleeing.”

‘It is a staged repartition’

The United Kingdom-based Burmese Rohingya Organization’s President Tun Khin said: “The Myanmar government has staged a fake event about the repatriation ahead of the visit of the UN Security Council members to northern Rakhine state.”

Officials from the United Nations Security Council are set to visit the northern Rakhine state later this month. This is the first visit of United Nations Security Council members to the state since the violence against the Rohingya began in 2012.

The Myanmar security forces in the recent times have repeatedly threatened and attempted to lure the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar and live in the (concentration) camps built for them in the country.

On November 23, 2017 Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees from January this year, but this process stalled over technical and ground-level complexities.

Myanmar's social welfare, relief and resettlement minister Win Myat Aye speaks with Rohingya refugees as he visits Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 11, 2018. Quality from source. REUTERS/Stringer

By Serajul Quadir, Stephanie Nebehay
April 12, 2018

DHAKA/GENEVA -- The United Nations refugee agency is set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh laying out a framework for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, an agency spokesman said on Wednesday.

The MoU is aimed at establishing cooperation between the UN agency and Bangladesh “on the safe, voluntary, and dignified returns of refugees in line with international standards, if and when the conditions are conducive to returns,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic. 

Mahecic and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque said the MoU will be signed on Friday in Geneva. 

Another Bangladeshi official involved in the discussions said the MoU is likely to lay out that the UNHCR will vet all refugees being repatriated to ensure that the process is 100 percent voluntary. 

“The whole return process will be operated as per the UNHCR, so there will be no force put on the refugee to go back,” said the source. 

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown and crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August. The refugees are living in cramped camps at Cox’s Bazar, and Bangladesh is keen to urge the refugees to return home soon, especially with the oncoming monsoons expected to cause major devastation at the camps.

The official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss matters with the media, said the UNHCR is expected to run a few transit sites along the border that will house refugees before they are transferred to temporary resettlement shelters in Rakhine State. 

The official added that the U.N. body is expected to arrange sufficient funds to run the repatriation programme and that both the parties would conduct promotional activities urging people to return to Myanmar. 

A Myanmar minister told Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday that their repatriation was a priority, in the first visit by a top Myanmar official since last year’s exodus. 

The bilateral MoU would be an early step in the process; work on a deal involving Bangladesh, Myanmar and the UNHCR is ongoing. That tripartite deal would aim to provide guarantees around the resettlement and safety of those that agree to be repatriated, along with assurances that officials of the UNHCR will be allowed to regularly inspect these sites. 

Htin Lynn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told Reuters later on Wednesday that he was confident that his country could reach a deal with UNHCR by the end of April covering safe and voluntary repatriation. 

Writing by Euan Rocha; editing by Mike Collett-White

Hasina Khatun, Marjan, Nurjan, Abdu Shakur, Shuna Khatu, Nurjan, Rahama Khatun, Amina Khatun, Settara, Hasina Khatun; relatives of ten Rohingya men killed by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist villagers on September 2, 2017, pose for a group photo in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

By Andrew R.C. Marshall
April 12, 2018

KUTUPALONG REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh -- Rehana Khatun dreamed her husband came home. He appeared without warning in their village in western Myanmar, outside their handsome wooden house shaded by mango trees. “He didn’t say anything,” she said. “He was only there for a few seconds, and then he was gone.” Then Rehana Khatun woke up.

She woke up in a shack of ragged tarpaulin on a dusty hillside in Bangladesh. Her husband, Nur Mohammed, is never coming home. He was one of 10 Rohingya Muslim men massacred last September by Myanmar soldiers and Rakhine Buddhists at the coastal village of Inn Din. 


Rehana Khatun’s handsome wooden house is gone, too. So is everything in it. The Rohingya homes in Inn Din were burned to the ground, and what was once a close-knit community, with generations of history in Myanmar, is now scattered across the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. 

A Reuters investigation in February revealed what happened to the 10 Rohingya men. On September 1, soldiers snatched them from a large group of Rohingya villagers detained by a beach near Inn Din. The next morning, according to eyewitnesses, the men were shot by the soldiers or hacked to death by their Rakhine Buddhist neighbors. Their bodies were dumped in a shallow grave. 

The relatives the 10 men left behind that afternoon wouldn’t learn of the killings for many months - in some cases, not until Reuters reporters tracked them down in the refugee camps and told them what had happened. The survivors waited by the beach with rising anxiety and dread as the sun set and the men didn’t return. 

This is their story. Three of them fled Inn Din while heavily pregnant. All trekked north in monsoon rain through forests and fields. Drenched and terrified, they dodged military patrols and saw villages abandoned or burning. Some saw dead bodies. They walked for days with little food or water. 

They were not alone. Inn Din’s families joined nearly 700,000 Rohingya escaping a crackdown by the Myanmar military, launched after attacks by Rohingya militants on August 25. The United Nations called it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” which Myanmar has denied. 

On Tuesday, the military said it had sentenced seven soldiers to long prison terms for their role in the Inn Din massacre. Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters the move was a “very positive step” that showed the military “won’t give impunity for those who have violated the rules of engagement.” Myanmar, he said, doesn’t allow systematic human rights abuses. 

Reuters was able to corroborate many but not all details of the personal accounts in this story. 

The Rohingya streamed north until they reached the banks of the Naf River. On its far shore lay Bangladesh, and safety. Many Inn Din women gave boatmen their jewelry to pay for the crossing; others begged and fought their way on board. They made the perilous crossing at night, vomiting with sickness and fear. 

Now in Bangladesh, they struggle to piece together their lives without husbands, fathers, brothers and sons. Seven months have passed since the massacre, but the grief of Inn Din’s survivors remains raw. One mother told Reuters her story, then fainted. 

Like Rehana Khatun, they all say they dream constantly about the dead. Some dreams are bittersweet - a husband coming home, a son praying in the mosque - and some are nightmares. One woman says she sees her husband clutching a stomach wound, blood oozing through his fingers. 

Daytime brings little relief. They all remember, with tormenting clarity, the day the soldiers took their men away. 


Abdul Amin still wonders why he was spared. 

Soldiers had arrived at Inn Din on August 27 and started torching the houses of Rohingya residents with the help of police and Rakhine villagers. Amin, 19, said he and his family sought refuge in a nearby forest with more than a hundred other Rohingya. 

Four days later, as Inn Din burned and the sound of gunfire crackled through the trees, they made a dash for the beach, where hundreds of villagers gathered in the hope of escaping the military crackdown. Then the soldiers appeared, said Amin, and ordered them to squat with their heads down. 

Amin crouched next to his mother, Nurasha, who threw her scarf over his head. The soldiers ignored Amin, perhaps mistaking him for a woman, but dragged away his brother Shaker Ahmed. “I don’t know why they chose him and not me,” Amin said. “Allah saved me.” 

The soldiers, according to Amin and other witnesses, said they were taking the men away for a “meeting.” Their distraught families waited by the beach in vain. As night fell, they returned to the forest where, in the coming days, they made the decision that haunts many of them still: to save themselves and their families by fleeing to Bangladesh - and leaving the captive men behind. 

Abdu Shakur waited five days for the soldiers to release his son Rashid Ahmed, 18. By then, most Rohingya had set out for Bangladesh and the forest felt lonely and exposed. Abdu Shakur said he wanted to leave, too, but his wife, Subiya Hatu, refused. 

“I won’t go without my son,” she said. 

“You must come with me,” he said. “If we stay here, they’ll kill us all.” They had three younger children to bring to safety, he told her. Rashid was their oldest, a bright boy who loved to study; he would surely be released soon and follow them. He didn’t. Rashid was one of the 10 killed in the Inn Din massacre. 

“We did the right thing,” says Abdu Shakur today, in a shack in the Kutupalong camp. “I feel terrible, but we had to leave that place.” As he spoke, his wife sat behind him and sobbed into her headscarf. 


By now, the northward exodus was gathering pace. The Rohingya walked in large groups, sometimes thousands strong, stretching in ragged columns along the wild Rakhine coastline. At night, the men stood guard while women and children rested beneath scraps of tarpaulin. Rain often made sleep impossible. 

Amid this desperate throng was Shaker Ahmed’s wife, Rahama Khatun, who was seven months pregnant, and their eight children, aged one to 18. Like many Rohingya, they had escaped Inn Din with little more than the clothes they wore. “We brought nothing from the house, not even a single plate,” she said. 

They survived the journey by drinking from streams and scrounging food from other refugees. Rahama said she heaved herself along slippery paths as quickly as she could. She was scared about the health of her unborn child, but terrified of getting left behind. 

Rahama’s legs swelled up so much that she couldn’t walk. “My children carried me on their shoulders. They said, ‘We’ve lost our father. We don’t want to lose you.’” Then they reached the beach at Na Khaung To, and a new ordeal began. 

Na Khaung To sits on the Myanmar side of the Naf River. Bangladesh is about 6 km (4 miles) away. For Rohingya from Inn Din and other coastal villages, Na Khaung To was the main crossing point. 

It was also a bottleneck. There were many Bangladeshi fishing boats to smuggle Rohingya across the river, but getting on board depended on the money or valuables the refugees could muster and the mercy of the boatmen. Some were stranded at Na Khaung To for weeks. 

The beach was teeming with sick, hungry and exhausted people, recalled Nurjan, whose son Nur Mohammed was one of the 10 men killed at Inn Din. “Everyone was desperate,” Nurjan said. “All you could see was heads in every direction. It was like the Day of Judgment.” 


Bangladesh was perhaps a two-hour ride across calm estuarine waters. But the boatmen wanted to avoid any Bangladesh navy or border guard vessels that might be patrolling the river. So they set off at night, taking a more circuitous route through open ocean. Most boats were overloaded. Some sank in the choppy water, drowning dozens of people.

The boatmen charged about 8,000 taka (about $100) per person. Some women paid with their earrings and nose-rings. Others, like Abdu Shakur, promised to reimburse the boatman upon reaching Bangladesh with money borrowed from relatives there. 

He and his wife, Subiya Hatu, who had argued over leaving their oldest son behind at Inn Din, set sail for Bangladesh. Another boat of refugees sailed along nearby. Both vessels were heaving with passengers, many of them children. 

In deeper water, Abdu Shakur watched with horror as the other boat began to capsize, spilling its passengers into the waves. “We could hear people crying for help,” he said. “It was impossible to rescue them. Our boat would have sunk, too.” 

Abdu Shakur and his family made it safely to Bangladesh. So did the other families bereaved by the Inn Din massacre. During the crossing, some realized they would never see their men again, or Myanmar. 

Shuna Khatu wept on the boat. She felt she already knew what the military had done to her husband, Habizu. She was pregnant with their third child. “They killed my husband. They burned my house. They destroyed our village,” she said. “I knew I’d never go back.” 


Two months later, in a city-sized refugee camp in Bangladesh, Shuna Khatu gave birth to a boy. She called him Mohammed Sadek. 

Rahama Khatun, who fled Myanmar on the shoulders of her older children while seven months pregnant, also had a son. His name is Sadikur Rahman. 

The two women were close neighbors in Inn Din. They now live about a mile apart in Kutupalong-Balukhali, a so-called “mega-camp” of about 600,000 souls. Both survive on twice-a-month rations of rice, lentils and cooking oil. They live in flimsy, mud-floored shacks of bamboo and plastic that the coming monsoon could blow or wash away. 

It was here, as the families struggled to rebuild their lives, that they learned their men were dead. Some heard the news from Reuters reporters who had tracked them down. Others saw the Reuters investigation of the Inn Din massacre or the photos that accompanied it. 

Two of those photos showed the men kneeling with their hands behind their backs or necks. A third showed the men’s bodies in a mass grave. The photos were obtained by Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December while investigating the Inn Din massacre. The two face charges, and potentially 14-year jail sentences, under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. 

Rahama Khatun cropped her husband’s image from one of the photos and laminated it. This image of him kneeling before his captors is the only one she has. Every other family photo was burned along with their home at Inn Din.

For the Rohingya crisis in graphics, click here

Rohingya Exodus