Sexual Assaults by Burmese Military Continue in Northern Maungdaw
By Anwar M.S.December 15, 2016 02:37
By Rohingya Mirror | December 15, 2016
Maungdaw — Sexual assaults on the Rohingya women by the Burmese military continue amidst the reports of an on-going Genocide emerging from northern Maungdaw.
Two teenage sisters were gang-raped by a group of Burmese soldiers during a raid at the village of ‘KyunPaukPyuZu’ in TaungPyo sub-township of northern Maungdaw on December 13 morning (Tuesday).
Sources reported that soon after the raid began on Tuesday early morning, the military continuously chased the village men to arrest and forced them to flee the village. Then, the military gathered all the women at one place and started molesting dozens of women in the group.
“The troops body-searched the women and looted their ornaments. And then, the military stripped off them naked and began touching their body parts. It’s humiliating and intolerable to say the least”, said a villager of KyunPaukPyuZu, speaking to RVision Correspondent on the condition of anonymity.
The two teenage girls, identified as daughters of Mr. NU (not real name), were of age 17 and age 19 respectively. They were singled out of the group and dragged into a house and gang-raped for hours.
The military freed the women from siege and left the village towards the forest to the east of the village of KyunPaukPyuZu at about 7:00 pm on Tuesday.
The same group of Burmese soldiers gang-raped eight Rohingya women during a raid on Songkla hamlet of ZeePinChaung (ZeeYaungHali) on Monday (Dec 12).
Our correspondent in northern Maungdaw also reported that the Burmese soldiers dragged three girls from YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone into the nearby forest after the commission had left the village on around noon on December 12 and raped them until the evening of the day.
The Burmese military are increasingly using RAPE as a weapon of war to demoralize and dehumanize the Rohingya community defying international calls to stop the violence. Meanwhile, the Investigation Commission — set up by the Burmese President to reduce international pressure to send an international investigation team to Maungdaw– has ended its visit in northern Maungdaw and set to publish an investigation report whitewashing the atrocities committed by the Burmese military.
This handout photograph was released by the Myanmar Armed Forces on November 13, 2016, with information stating that Myanmar soldiers are putting out a fire in Wapeik village located in Maungdaw in Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border on November 13, after attackers allegedly set fire to 80 houses. AFP
Myanmar’s more than one million Rohingya are loathed by many from the Buddhist majority
Myanmar’s religious affairs ministry plans to write a book to prove the Rohingya are not indigenous to the country, as tensions grow over a brutal military crackdown on the Muslim minority.
Almost 27,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since the beginning of November, the UN said Tuesday, fleeing a bloody military campaign in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.
Their stories of mass rape and murder at the hands of security forces have shocked the international community and cast a pall over the young government of Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar has angrily rejected the criticism and called an emergency Asean meeting next week to discuss the crisis, which has sparked protests in Muslim nations in the region.
Late Monday, the country’s Ministry of Religion and Cultural Affairs announced plans to write a thesis to refute foreigners who “stir things up by insisting the Rohingya exist and (who) aim to tarnish Myanmar’s political image”.
“We hereby announce that we are going to publish a book of true Myanmar history,” the ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook late Monday.
“The real truth is that the word Rohingya was never used or existed as an ethnicity or race in Myanmar’s history.”
Myanmar’s more than one million Rohingya are loathed by many from the Buddhist majority, who say they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refer to them as “Bengali” even though many have lived in the country for generations.
Even the term Rohingya has become so divisive that Suu Kyi has asked government officials to avoid using it.
According to the ministry, the term was first used in 1948 by a “Bengali” MP.
Rights activists say the Rohingya are among the most persecuted people in the world.
They were removed as one of the country’s recognised ethnicities by the former military government under a 1982 law stipulating minorities must have lived in Myanmar before the first Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-26.
But Rohingya and Muslim historians reject the idea that they were slaves brought by the British, arguing their roots in Rakhine can be traced back hundreds of years.
More than 120,000 Rohingya were driven into displacement camps by sectarian clashes in 2012, where they live in conditions that rights groups have compared to apartheid South Africa.
HRW says Myanmar military burned Rohingya villages
December 14, 2016
NEW YORK – Human Rights Watch says evidence shows Myanmar’s military is behind the torching of villages belonging to persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, and urged the government to allow aid agencies and media into the restive region.
On Tuesday, the New York-based rights body released Satellite imagery and interviews with witnesses, saying at least 1,500 buildings have been destroyed since October 2015 in Rakhine, home to a large number of Rohingya Muslims.
“The new findings refute the Burmese ( Myanmarese) military and government’s claims that Rohingya militants were responsible for burning down their own villages,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. “The satellite imagery and eyewitness interviews clearly point the finger at the military for setting these buildings ablaze.”
The news release further said that the exact number of burnt houses could be higher as dense jungles in the region might have concealed some destroyed buildings, adding that the pattern of burnings suggests a “systematic building destruction” had been on Naypyidaw’s agenda.
“It’s difficult to believe that militants burned down over 300 buildings in Wa Peik over a one-month period while Burmese security forces stood there and watched,” Adams said. “Burmese (Myanmarese) government officials have been caught out by this satellite imagery, and it’s time they recognize their continued denials lack credibility.”
Last week the United Nations’ special adviser on Myanmar criticized Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her handling of the crisis, which had “caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally.” Rakhine has also been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from homes and live in squalid camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The minority has been particularly under a military lockdown since an alleged attack on the country’s border guards on October 9, which left nine police officers dead. The government accused the Rohingya of being behind the assault. There have been reports of rape, murder, and arson against the Muslim population in the state.
Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, many believe the Rohingya are a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.
On Thursday, the UN called on Suu Kyi to take action to end the brutal military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine, urging her to reassure civilians they will be protected by the government amid allegations that soldiers have raped Rohingya Muslim women, burnt houses and killed civilians.
Rohingya Villagers Tortured by Burmese Troops in Northern Maungdaw
By Anwar M.S.December 15, 2016 00:23
By Rohingya Eye and Rohingya Mirror | December 14, 2016
Maungdaw — Many Rohingya villagers were arrested and tortured by the Burmese troops in Northern Maungdaw on Monday (Dec 12) for speaking to the (Burmese) Investigation Commission after it had left the region, it has been reported.
Amidst the visit by the Investigation Commission formed by the Burmese (Myanmar) President Htin Kyaw to the region, the Burmese troops indulged in crimes against the Rohingya villagers such as arbitrary arrests, tortures and rapes in several places.
At around 10:00 am on Monday, the investigation commission visited the village of ‘YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone’ locally known as ‘BorGoziBil’ and spoke the villagers coming out in crowd. The villagers told the commission how their homes were burnt down; they were subjected to arbitrary arrests, tortures, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance; and the village women/girls were raped by the Burmese soldiers. The commission members duly listened to them and left at around 12:00 noon.
Later, reports emerged that the Burmese soldiers shot videos while the Rohingya villagers speaking to the commission members at YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone and arrested six villagers — who appeared in the video working as interpreters — immediately after the commission had left.
The villagers arrested are identified as:
(1) Zafar Hussein (72), s/o Abdu Sattor
(2) Mohammed Salam (50), s/o Nazir Hussein
(3) Abu Siddik (15), s/o Abul Hair
(4) Bashir Ahmad (70), s/o Hakim Ali
(5) Saddam (17), s/o Abul Hair
(6) Abul Hashim (53), s/o Nazir Hussein
A woman at the village of ‘YeKhae Chaung KhwaSone’ told the commission how her fellow village women were raped by the soldiers on November 12 and 13. She was summoned by the soldiers later using the six arrestees as pawns and forced to say before camera that the statement she gave to the commission was false.
They were severely tortured and released at around 4:00 pm on December 12.
Of them, 71-year-old Jafar Hussein and 50-year-old Mohammed Salam tortured by the soldiers are in critical condition as they are denied from access to any medical treatments.
“I wonder why the soldiers are still staging these fake video dramas when the Investigation Commission itself is widely viewed as a commission formed by the President U Htin Kyaw to whitewash their crimes. And the commission is led by the Vice President 1 General Myint Swe, too. Perhaps the military didn’t even wish the civilian members of the commission to know how badly inhumanely they (the military) treated the Rohingya villagers” said U Aye Myint, a human rights observer based in Maungdaw.
At around 12:30 pm on Monday after the visit to YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone, the commission visited the village of ‘DarGyiZar’ locally known as ‘ShudoGoziBil,’ where the village administrator, U Tun Maung (who is known as an extremist Rakhine), interfered and prevented the villagers from fully disclosing details of the military atrocities. So, in the brief meeting, the villagers got time to submit the details of only 25 people of the many villagers shot dead or slaughtered by the soldiers. It’s a village which was almost entirely burnt down by the soldiers on November 13 as 362 out of 407 houses were razed.
The commission did ask the villagers about their needs and the villagers replied ‘we need to rebuild our homes at our original places and want to live peacefully.’ The commission promised the government would rebuild their homes and compensate for the lost properties.
Ironically enough, while the commission members were giving hopes to the villagers for their future, the military, the Border Guard Police (BGP) and Rakhine extremists were simultaneously plundering the neighboring Rohingya villages such as KyaGaungTaung (Rabailla) and YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone — where the commission had paid a visit to earlier in the morning — and committing rapes against the village women.
Our correspondent in the region reported that the Burmese soldiers dragged three girls from YeKhaeChaungKhwaSone into the nearby forest after the commission had left the village on around noon on December 12 and freed them only in the evening.
Post the visit to the DarGyiZar, the commission paid a visit to the village of KyetYoePyin locally known as Kiyari Ferang.
As the Investigation Commission has now left Maungdaw, the human rights activists around the globe expect them to publish a report successfully whitewashing and concealing the serious crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese soldiers.
Ever since 2012 and 2013, when a wave of attacks by their ethnically Rakhine neighbors in the north-eastern state of Arakan/Rakhine of the Union of Mynamar killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes—driving them into refugee camps abroad or internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps within the country—numerous NGOs and U.N. agencies have warned that they were the population most at risk of genocide.
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Now it looks like the genocide has begun in earnest.
Ever since an attack against a few government border outposts back in October allegedly carried out by a group of militant Rohingyas, the entire community has been taken to be collectively responsible and has suffered from an unrelenting assault by various organs of the state, including border agencies, the police and the army. Troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses.”
A Rohingya Muslim woman and her son cry after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh while illegally crossing at a border check point in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21. Azeem Ibrahim writes that the Rohingya are facing constant harassment and can expect to be raped and murdered whenever an army patrol goes by. And there is nobody who seems willing to protect them. Not the country’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN/REUTERS
There are somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million Rohingya people in the world—most born in Myanmar, and most rendered stateless by the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law. Of those, more than half have already been displaced abroad over the past few decades by repeated waves of aggression from either the state or their ethnic Rakhine neighbors.
Most notably, in 2015, the exodus culminated in what the world media dubbed “Southeast Asia’s Migrant Crisis.” Of the fewer than 800,000 left in the country, over 110,000 were already in IDP camps in extremely precarious conditions before this latest crisis started.
The fundamental problem is that even though more Rohingya are trying to flee the country as we speak, most of those who could have left have done so already. Left behind are those who do not have the resources to pay border officials and people-traffickers to smuggle them across the border, or are not able to withstand the perils of the journey: children, elderly people, women, especially the poorest.
We are still at the stage where the ultra-nationalist elements within Myanmar are mostly trying to intimidate the Rohingya to flee the country. Yet even when some of the Rohingya succeed, they often face being sent back, as per the official stanceof Bangladesh, the closest neighbor to Arakhan/Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya refugees go first.
But amid the increasingly hostile attitude toward the refugee flow in almost all the neighboring destination countries, the simple fact is that most of those still within Myanmar simply cannot leave or they would have done so a long time ago. It is only a matter of time before the aggressors move to the next logical step.
The situation will be hugely exacerbated if the Rohingya start fighting back. At that point, Myanmar will bring all its defense forces to bear on the conflict, and they will have the support of the Buddhist population in the region.
But at this point what is left for them to do? They are facing constant harassment, have been almost entirely expropriated so they have nothing left to lose and they can expect to be raped and murdered for no reason whenever an army patrol goes by.
And there is nobody who seems willing or able to intervene to protect them. Not the country’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has so far completely avoided engaging with the crisis, nor the international community who are waiting for Ms Suu Kyi to solve everything, even as they know she will likely do nothing.
For all practical intents and purposes, the genocide has started. It is only a matter of time before the truth hits home, when the dead bodies start piling up. And then it will be too late for soul searching and asking whether we could have done more.
Around 21,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh over the past two months, as Burmese forces launched what one U.N official says is “getting very close to what we would all agree are crimes against humanity.” TIME reports from the Bangladesh border, where the full horror is only just emerging
If the Naf River could talk, which horror story would it tell first?
The narrow waterway marks the border between Burma and Bangladesh. On its western bank is the Bangladeshi province of Chittagong. To the east, Burma’s Arakan state, also known as Rakhine, home to the Buddhist-majority country’s Rohingya people, a Muslim minority described over the years as stateless, friendless and forgotten.
But if the river could remember their stories, it might speak, for example, of the night in late November when Arafa, a 25-year-old Rohingya woman, entered its waters with her five children.
She used to have six. As she talks, sitting on the threshold of a hut in a makeshift refugee camp on the Bangladeshi side of the Naf, she is surrounded by her son and four young daughters. They are a lively bunch, noisy, restless, yet shy, hiding behind their mother’s back or running in and out of the hut, as she recounts what happened to her second son.
He was 8 years old. Sometime around Nov. 22, Arafa says her village was attacked by Burmese security forces. Viewed as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship rights by the Burmese state, the Rohingya have long faced intimidation, oppression and violence at the hands of both Buddhist extremists and the country’s security forces. The last major sectarian spasm was in 2012, when clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims displaced some 125,000 people. Rights activists accused security forces of either standing aside as the violence spread, or actively participating in it.
This time, Arafa says, the army’s assault felt different. The security men seemed more determined, more driven, to punish the Rohingya. Their weapon of choice was fire.
Arafa says that the military torched her village. As the flames engulfed her home, she just about managed to escape with her six children. That was when the family was confronted by a Burmese soldier. He snatched the fleeing 8-year-old, separating him from his brother and sisters, and flung him into the blaze.
In the chaos, Arafa lost sight of her husband. But she could not turn back; she had to leave him behind, leave her son’s charred body behind, and mourn on the move.
“I had to save my other children. We had to escape [from Burma],” she tells TIME. “They burned everything.”
For two days, Arafa and her children hid in the forests that skirt the riverbank on the Burmese side, laying low to avoid detection by troops, before boarding a rickety boat that took them to safety across the Naf.
They are not alone. Arafa’s family are among the estimated 21,000Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh over the past two months, as Burmese forces launched what testimony from refugees, satellite imagery compiled by rights groups and leaked photos and videos from inside Arakan indicate is a horrifyingly bloody crackdown against the million-strong Muslim minority.
Burma Is Pursuing ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims, U.N. Official Says
Burmese authorities are carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country’s western Arakan state, a senior U.N. official said.
The latest troubles began in early October, when police said three border guard posts were attacked by Islamist militants. Nine policemen were killed, with the government saying the attackers belonged to an extremist group called Aqa Mul Mujahidin. A statement from the Burmese President’s office linked them to the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, a militant group long thought to be defunct. The only proof for these claims was the government’s word.
What followed has been described by Burmese authorities as “clearance operations.” Amnesty International, the rights group, calls it “collective punishment”: a ferocious campaign of violent reprisals against an entire people. In addition to arson attacks on Rohingya villages, the military has been accused of raping Rohingya women and conducting extrajudicial killings of Muslims. Helicopter gunships have been used to fire on Rohingya villages.
Satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch show that more than 800 buildings were destroyed in five different Rohingya villages between Nov. 10 and 18. An earlier set of high-resolution images showed the destruction of more than 400 homes in three villages between Oct. 22 and Nov. 10. The actual number of destroyed buildings could be higher, given the dense tree cover in the area, the rights group says.
Verifying the picture on the ground is impossible, as Burma has sealed off the affected areas. But the news that is coming out suggests that the situation is “getting very close to what we would all agree are crimes against humanity,” says Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, as the country is officially known.
“I am getting reports from inside the country and from neighboring places too that things are not as they are being portrayed by the government. We are seeing a lot of very graphic and very disturbing photos and video clips,” she tells TIME. Although unable to independently verify the footage, she says: “We do hear about rape and sexual violence, and even bodies of little kids being uncovered.”
“We can’t verify the numbers of how many have been killed. Many have gone into hiding,” Lee adds, expressing her dissatisfaction with a government-supervised trip to some of the affected areas by a group of foreign diplomats and a U.N. official in early November.
“No one should be satisfied with the trip,” she says. “This was a guided tour. Even though there was a heavy security presence there, people started to come out and try to speak to this delegation. And of course, afterwards, we’ve also heard that there were reprisals. These people were hunted down.”
On Dec. 9, 14 diplomatic missions, including the embassies of the U.S. and France, called on Burma to give humanitarian agencies “full and unfettered access” to northern Arakan, “noting that tens of thousands of people who need humanitarian aid, including children with acute malnutrition, have been without it now for nearly two months.”
THE PLIGHT OF THE ROHINGYA BY JAMES NACHTWEY
James Nachtwey for TIME
Children rest at a refugee camp in Bayeun, outside of Langsa, Indonesia, May 20. They were among the 25,000-plus Rohingya Muslim migrants who have fled reported persecution in Burma and Bangladesh this year by crossing the Indian Ocean in search of refugee status in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The official Burmese response to the allegations of rights abuses has been denial and, reflecting the low opinion many Burmese have of the Rohingya, callous dismissal. When asked by the BBC about claims of rape by the Burmese military, Aung Win, a local politician and chairman of a state investigation into the October border posts attack, couldn’t even keep a straight face. Giggling into the camera, he said soldiers would not rape Rohingya women because “they are very dirty … [They] have a very low standard of living and poor hygiene,” Aung Win said. “They are not attractive. So neither the local Buddhist men or the soldiers are interested in them.”
Meanwhile, the country’s top military man, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, blames the Rohingya for their woes. Referring to them as “Bengali,” a term which implies that they belong across the Naf in Bangladesh, a Dec. 6 post on his Facebook page said: “The Bengali problems in the northern Rakhine State occurred because of the Bengalis’ failure to abide by the existing laws of Myanmar.” And even as Burmese officials promise to investigate claims of rights abuses, the post seemed to pre-judge the outcome: “Myanmar security forces have never committed any human rights violations such as illegal killing, rape and arson attack.”
“It seems like the same old story [from the Burmese authorities], that these people torched their own houses,” says Lee, the U.N. rights investigator.
A Human Rights Watch researcher who recently visited the Bangladeshi side of the border, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to risk losing access to the area, says testimony from recent Rohingya escapees is uniform on this question: “We haven’t spoken to anybody who has told us that the burnings have been done by anyone other than the military.”
Amid the unfolding crisis, one voice has been largely absent — Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in elections in November 2015.
The polls marked Burma’s transition from military dictatorship to its first civilian-led administration in more than half a century. A new military-drafted constitution prohibited Suu Kyi from becoming President, and the generals retained control over Burma’s security apparatus. But she is the nation’s de facto leader, occupying a Prime Minister–like position as Burma’s State Counselor.
Under dictatorship, Suu Kyi’s single-minded determination to challenge the military, the personal sacrifices she made and the years of political detention she endured to bring democracy to her country transformed her into an international human-rights icon. But as northern Arakan burns, she has been proffering bromides about the need for the outside world to be less critical. What’s needed, she says, is a better understanding of the region’s ethnic divisions.
“I would appreciate it so much if the international community would help us to maintain peace and stability and to make progress in building better relations between the two communities [there] instead of always drumming up calls for, well, for bigger fires of resentment, if you like,” she told Singapore’s state-owned Channel News Asia in a rare interview earlier this month. “I’m not saying there are no difficulties, but it helps if people recognize the difficulty and are more focused on resolving these difficulties rather than exaggerating them so that everything seems worse than it really is.”
THE ROHINGYA, BURMA’S FORGOTTEN MUSLIMS BY JAMES NACHTWEY
James Nachtwey for TIME
More than 140,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have been forced to live in camps, where disease and despair have taken root.
Abdul Kadir, 65, who has a severe stomach ailment and malnutrition, is cared for…MORE
“She is obviously very reluctant to criticize the military, because she fears that any sort of antagonism towards it could prompt it to assert itself more forcefully,” says Francis Wade, a sometime TIME contributor who has worked in the country, and the author of an upcoming book on anti-Muslim violence and the democratic transition there. “If the military felt that it was losing power to the civilian government, because that government is criticizing it and trying to reign it in, then it might try and reassert its supremacy.”
That dynamic — between a civilian government still consolidating its power and a military machine bent on preserving its influence — has tempered international criticism of Suu Kyi’s stance. “I think the international community is seeing [Burma] in relative terms,” says the U.N.’s Lee. “This is a civilian elected government, it’s been less than a year [since they came to power], let’s give them a little time and space. That’s been the narrative.”
But that view becomes less and less credible as time passes. “Suu Kyi may need more time to maneuver. But she only has five years [the term of the elected government], and already a year is going by,” says Lee.
Adds Wade: “You do have a very difficult relationship between the civilian government and the military, but at the moment, the civilian government is playing into the hands of the military.”
Suu Kyi’s stance is only the latest in a long series of disappointments for Burma’s Muslims. “She’s not doing anything to protect us,” says Yunus, a 30-year-old Rohingya refugee who fled to Bangladesh in November. “We thought there would be a change. But she is the same as everyone else.”
The consequences could be far reaching. “There has traditionally been very little broad support among the Rohingya for armed conflict,” says Wade. “Even when there were several insurgent groups operating there from the mid-1970s to the early to mid-1990s, there was still quite scant support for them, hence they died out quite quickly.” The Rohingya, he explains, have been wary of provoking the Burmese state: “It was recognized quite early on that any sort of armed movement would be collective suicide.”
But the worsening situation in northern Arakan raises troubling red flags, with Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, issuing a stark warning about the potential fallout. “If mishandled, Rakhine state could be infected and infested by jihadism which already plagues neighboring Bangladesh and other countries,” he told the Associated Press on Dec. 3.
For the Rohingya, the crisis doesn’t end on the Burmese side. Yusuf, Arafa and their families managed to escape and reach land in Bangladesh by avoiding detection from both Burmese and Bangladeshi forces. But in the days since, Bangladesh has stepped up patrols along its border with Burma, putting an additional squeeze on the persecuted population. Many refugees have gone missing, after their boasts capsized in the river’s choppy waters.
It is not the first time that the Rohingya have sought shelter across the river. Over the decades, as they fled violence at home, as many as half a million undocumented Rohingya refugees have made their lives in Bangladesh. More than 30,000 registered refugees live in camps near the border. Now Bangladesh says: We can’t accommodate any more people.
“My country is a house. If all the people try to get inside my house, what will happen? I cannot allow all of them,” says Colonel M.M. Anisur Rahman, the deputy director general of Border Guard Bangladesh, the force charged with patrolling the border area.
Bangladesh’s policy, he says, is to push back fleeing refugees. “Of course we are concerned, and if they ask any help regarding food, water and other things, we will provide it. But we cannot provide shelter,” he insists. Those who have slipped in, avoiding detection, will be caught and sent back.”
To this, Du Du Mian, a Rohingya refugee who arrived in Bangladesh more than a decade ago, answers: “The world needs to realize that we have nowhere to go.” His people, he says, have no country. With Burmese soldiers trying to stop them from fleeing and Bangladeshi forces pushing them back, all they have is the Naf, and the Naf, so far, is silent.
— With reporting by A.K.M. Moinuddin / Teknaf and Feliz Solomon / Hong Kong
Solution to Rohinghya crisis simple – it’s called citizenship
December 14, 2016 01:00 By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of opportunism for lashing out at Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi over her treatment of the Muslim Rohingya, which he has branded “genocide”.
But Najib’s maverick behaviour threatens to undermine Asean leaders and the entire organisation unless they take a stand on the issue. No member can afford to stand idly by while an ethnic group faces deadly persecution within Asean, which claims to be a people-centred community. Worse still would be employing the Asean doctrine of non-interference to justify such negligence. What is the point in integrating as a community if members cannot address an issue which affects the whole region?
No Asean member-country can justify turning its back on the Rohingya crisis, since this is a longstanding regional problem with deep-rooted causes.
Myanmar is home to more than one million Rohingya, which the country’s Buddhist-majority populace shun as “Bengali”. Myanmar’s government regard them neither as national citizens nor as among its 135 officially recognised ethnic minorities and claim they are interlopers from neighbouring Bangladesh. This is despite the fact that the stateless Rohingya have lived in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state for generations and faced persecution in Bangladesh, which also rejects them as citizens.
Myanmar is no stranger to ethnic conflict, with groups such as the Shan, Mon, Karen, Wa, Kokang, Kachin among those who have been fighting for self-rule for decades.
However religious tension is a relatively fresh development, with Buddhist extremism on the rise and focused on Rakhine, where communal rioting in 2012 left hundreds dead and more than 140,000 mainly Muslim Rohingya displaced from their homes. The exodus of Rohingya in the face of periodic outbreaks of violence since has made this localised sectarian conflict a regional issue.
Every year once the monsoon season is over, thousands of Rohingya take the dangerous boat journey from coastal Rakhine or Bangladesh in search of better lives elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are the main destinations but none is welcoming and the conditions – illegal work and no legal status – are usually no better than at home.
Asean countries treats the ethnic group poorly despite realising the refugee crisis is a major problem for the region. Rather than tackle the root causes, countries have focused their efforts on tackling the symptom – “human trafficking”. The regional crackdown on human trafficking over the past few years is aimed at improving their ranking in the US Trafficking in Persons report rather than solving the problem for the Rohingya.
Asean leaders, officials and diplomats respond quickly every time news surfaces of another Rohingya crisis. This time again, regional diplomats will gather in Myanmar next week at the invitation of the government to discuss the issue, though it remains unclear what they can do for the Rohingya.
To make a much-needed breakthrough on the issue, Asean must suspend its diplomatic feet-shuffling and address the issue frankly with the government in Nay Pyi Taw. The Myanmar military and political leadership headed by Aung San Suu Kyi know very well the root cause of the Rohingya crisis.
The burning question is whether they will now face the reality – that Rohingya are fellow humans who were born and have lived in the country for decades and as such deserve the status and protection that comes with citizenship.
Rohingya minority may be written out of Myanmar history books
As a military crackdown continues in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the country’s cultural affairs ministry has said via a Facebook post it will publish a book refuting the Rohingya people’s claims to ethnic minority status.
The Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs in Myanmar has announced that it plans to publish a book detailing the “true Myanmar history” – which will not include the Rohingya Muslim minority.
According to a statement posted by the ministry on Facebook, the text would be published as a response to foreigners who “aim to tarnish Myanmar’s political image” and “stir things up by insisting the Rohingya exist.”
“The real truth is that the word Rohingya was never used or existed as an ethnicity or race in Myanmar’s history,” the statement added.
Ethnic minority status
There are an estimated one million Rohingya living in Myanmar. They claim that their descendants have populated the country’s western Rakhine state for generations.
Members of a Rohingya family sit in the charred remains of their home in Rakhine state in 2012
However, since Myanmar’s independence from British colonial rule in 1948, successive governments have classified the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, denying the group citizenship and voting rights.
The former military government introduced a law in 1982 ruling that any recognized ethnic minorities must have lived in Myanmar before the first Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-26.
In 2012, clashes between the Rohingya and Buddhist nationalists led to scores of deaths. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have now fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in the face of escalating sectarian violence.
Multiple boats packed with Rohingya refugees have been turned back by Bangladesh border guards
Tensions flared again in October this year when Rohingya militants were blamed for the murder of nine border guards.
The government claimed its response to the incident targeted only Rohingya “attackers”, but observers reported that unarmed civilians were among the casualties. Human Rights Watch released satellite images showing that homes in Rohingya villages had been burnt to the ground.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have described acts of gang-rape, torture and murder, allegedly at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces.
Under mounting international pressure, Myanmar has called an emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in order to discuss the growing crisis.
Malaysia has accused Myanmar of committing “genocide” against Rohingya Muslims. The bloody crackdown is quickly gaining a regional dimension. (04.12.2016)
‘No easy solution’ to the Rohingya problem in Myanmar
Former UN chief Kofi Annan is travelling in Myanmar to assess the human rights situation of the Rohingya ethnic minority. DW spoke to analyst Jacques Leider about the aggravating communal hostility in the country. (01.12.2016)
Myanmar government kills dozens of Rohingya ‘attackers’ over weekend
Violence hit Myanmar’s Rakhine state again over the weekend. State media claims soldiers have killed about 30 “attackers” from the Muslim minority, but observers say civilians were among the casualties. (14.11.2016)
Myanmar unrest puts pressure on Suu Kyi
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has promised investigations into unrest in Rakhine State, where human rights workers have said Muslims are being persecuted. Suu Kyi made the remarks during an official visit to Japan. (04.11.2016)
Recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has led to an increase in the persecution of the Rohingya people, but the international community continues to turn a blind eye, Nancy Hudson-Rodd writes.
In 1992, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights assigned a Special Rapporteur to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. This intervention by the United Nations (UN) was motivated by the need to respond to grave and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by the country’s military regime against civilians, especially the persecution of the Rohingya. More than a decade later, at the 2005 World UN Summit, all member states endorsed the Responsibility to Protect, a global norm “aimed at preventing and halting Genocide, War Crimes, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes against Humanity.” Still, genocide of the Rohingya continues.
Following a recent outbreak of violence on 9 October in which nine police officers were killed, the Myanmar military has declared the Maungdaw area an ‘operational zone’ and reportedly conducted lethal ‘clearance operations’ to hunt down Rohingya ‘militants’ accused of the attacks on three border posts, despite the assailants’ identities being unknown. Local ethnic Buddhist Rakhines have been recruited to supplement other forces, and are armed to protect Buddhist residents from Muslim militants “who never follow the laws and are trying to seize our land and extend their territory”, according to Colonel Sein Lwin, Rakhine State Police Officer. The new recruits will serve 18 months with border police then be deployed to police stations in their hometowns. Rohingya have little chance of escape.
Top officials, like State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, refused to use the word Rohingya in their responses to the 9 October attacks, while the UNDP Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar urged that the rule of law be fully respected and that civilians be protected.
The Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar praised the authorities’ “good organization and discipline in averting any major outbreak of violence between the communities in Rakhine. At this delicate juncture, the local communities must refuse to be provoked by these incidents and their leaders must work actively to prevent incitement of animosity or mutual hatred between Buddhist and Muslim communities.”
But this is not a religious or ethnic struggle between equal “communities”. The Rohingya are not equal parties in the conflict. What is unfolding in Rakhine state is a well-executed military assault to remove the Rohingya from Myanmar.
Credible reports of arbitrary arrests, rape, torture, and extrajudicial killings of Rohingya followed these “clearance” operations. Human Rights Watch said satellite images reveal the vast extent of burnt homes, villages, crops, animals, mosques and religious property. Whole villages have been cleared and more than 10,000 Rohingya forcibly removed from their homes. Villagers reported that their empty properties were looted by state security forces and Buddhist residents.
On 16 November, the Office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi denied all allegations of damage inflicted on Rohingya but accused the “armed attackers” of burning their own villages, in order to get media attention and to receive aid from international organisations.
Adama Dieng, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide called for conditions to be put in place that would support peaceful coexistence among the different communities in Rakhine State.
If peaceful coexistence is, in fact, the goal, the terms of peace become nearly irrelevant. Such an approach ensures that governments move far away from justice.
In its 15 November bulletin (page 9), the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect reported that “Mass atrocity crimes are occurring and urgent action is needed” in Myanmar, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan. The report states that “Stateless Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar face systematic persecution that poses an existential threat to their community.”
Recent violence and ongoing human rights violations against Rohingya amount to possible crimes against humanity.
“Genocide is taking place in Myanmar” and there is a “serious and present danger of annihilation of the Rohingya population,” concluded International State Crime Initiative Director, Professor Penny Green, in the organisation’s 2015 reportCountdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar.
The international community has a responsibility to protect the Rohingya, to respond to crimes of genocide, and to ensure human rights violations do not continue. As the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect says: “If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”
Any global assessment of recent developments reveals a disturbing pattern of disingenuousness, an expedient reaching for the lowest common denominator for international agreement and a profound moral failure to value Rohingya lives. The State is responsible for decades of deadly indiscriminate attacks on civilian Rohingya conducted by the military, forcing Rohingya to abandon their homes and villages, while denying them food, water, shelter, and medical care, or locking them in camps secured by armed guards. The perpetrators’ racially motivated statements are used to increase hate and resentment of Rohingya, as is a media campaign to establish ethnic solidarity on the basis of an enemy ‘other’ which is to be both feared and hated.
Decades of urgent appeals have been made to the Myanmar government to halt the violence, but few foreign governments want to take action forcing Myanmar to deal with the issue. The focus has been on the humanitarian crisis, rather than on the political, legal or military action needed to address the violence. The gesture politics, hesitation, compromises, and wishful thinking about Myanmar’s ‘transition to democracy’ upon which Western policy is based, are having real consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.
Relentlessly dark news continues to emerge from Rakhine State. Are there no circumstances that will compel an international intervention that is adequate to protect the vulnerable Rohingya and bring the perpetrators to justice?
Justice for Rohingya and the prevention of genocide means devoting major diplomatic attention and likely military forces to intervene in Myanmar to protect this persecuted people.
Dr Nancy Hudson-Rodd, a human geographer, is a research Associate with the Asia Institute and the School of Land and Food, at the University of Tasmania. She has conducted research for over a decade on military confiscation of land, human rights abuses and the Rohingya in Burma.
Iranian, Indonesian Presidents Discuss Myanmar Crisis
News ID: 1267973 Service: Politics
December, 14, 2016 – 15:50
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo discussed a range of issues at a meeting in Tehran, including the need for peaceful settlement of a conflict in Myanmar that has killed and displaced a large number of Rohingya Muslims since 2012.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Widodo, President Rouhani said Iran and Indonesia, as two members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with close bonds, have agreed to boost cooperation to address the challenges the Islamic world is facing, such as the conflict in Myanmar, or the situation in West Asia, as in Syria and Yemen.
“Resolution of these problems can deepen regional stability and security” in the West and East Asia, the Iranian president added.
He noted that his talks with the visiting Indonesia president covered economic, academic and cultural collaborations as well.
Highlighting the “strategic relations” between Tehran and Jakarta in the energy industry, President Rouhani said Iran can meet Indonesia’s demands for crude oil, liquefied gas and petrochemical products, and voiced Tehran’s readiness to implement engineering projects in the Southeast Asian country for construction of power plants, dams or water facilities.
For his part, the Indonesian president unveiled plans for Iranian investment in the construction of oil refineries and power plants in Indonesia.
Widodo also underlined the need for peaceful approaches to settling the crises in Myanmar, Yemen and Syria, highlighting Indonesia’s peace-loving role and support for dialogue with peaceful purposes as the only way out of conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In Myanmar, there has been a harsh crackdown against Myanmar Muslims in the Rakhine state, who have suffered ethnic violence since 2012
The Rohingya are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Some 125,000 remain displaced and face severe travel restrictions in squalid camps since Buddhists in Rakhine launched a campaign of violence against Muslims in 2012.