Tuesday, 26 July 2022

ICJ ruling raises hope for Rohingya justice

Source Asia News, 25 July

DHAKA – We welcome the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of the trial of the Rohingya genocide case. This gives us hope that the Myanmar military will not be let off the legal hook easily, even as it continues to dillydally in the repatriation bid with Bangladesh. The court's ruling paves the way for the case to be heard in full, which we hope will lead to justice sooner than later. The trial and finding a long-lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis are both key priorities, and both should be given due importance.

It's been several years since the Myanmar military committed what has been termed "ethnic cleansing" with genocidal intent, the kind of which the world hasn't witnessed in recent decades. Although the junta has been rejecting the "genocide" aspect of the crisis, the World Court on Friday invalidated its objections. The central argument of Myanmar was that Gambia, which brought the suit, had no standing to do so at the top UN court. But the president of ICJ, Judge Joan Donoghue, made it clear that Gambia, as a state party to the 1948 Genocide Convention, can act to prevent genocide, and that the court has jurisdiction in this case.

The Rohingyas have had to go through a series of calamitous episodes since they were brutally murdered, raped and ousted from their ancestral homes in Myanmar. The trauma still haunts them as they wait in squalid camps in Bangladesh to go home and begin a new life. But safety, dignity and integration are of essence while their fate is being decided, and care should be taken so that they do not fall from the frying pan into the fire. No doubt the question of international justice and accountability will be crucial in finding a durable solution to the crisis. We believe all parties involved should maintain their focus on the question of confidence-building among Rohingyas, first by ensuring swift justice in the ICJ case, and then by ensuring that their return home is accompanied with their rights as citizens restored.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate the importance of starting the repatriation process which has been dragging on for a couple of years. As well as getting justice for what happened to them in the past, the Rohingyas are equally concerned, and rightly so, about what will happen to them in the future. World leaders cannot champion the cause of justice on one front, and abandon its pursuit on another front.

Why Has the World Forgotten About Myanmar?

Source HIR, 27 June

The world was stunned when the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's military, deposed popular civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on January 21, 2021. As the opposition protests against the coup led to a violent retaliation by the military and the country dissolved into civil war, the international community watched with concern. Nations condemned the military junta's actions, piled sanctions onto top military officials, and crossed their fingers. But the situation has continued to worsen, and now more than two years later, the country is in an all out civil war with no end in sight.

Despite Myanmar's continuing humanitarian crisis and democratic disintegration, the conflict has lost the attention of the international community, particularly in the West. While this may at first seem like another tragic tale of affluent and powerful nations refusing to step in and help restore justice in less developed countries, the true picture is much more complicated. Substantial intervention by the US and other Western nations is highly unlikely, given the lack of economic potential in Myanmar and the loss of faith in the nation's democratic leadership. Moreover, intervention by Western powers may arguably be unwise due to Myanmar's deep-rooted national military culture as well as China and Russia's vested interests in Myanmar, both making the country a dangerous boat to rock.

A History of Economic Isolationism

Myanmar's military has securely held power since 1962. There was a brief period of republican government after Myanmar's—then called Burma's—independence in 1948, but that period abruptly ended with a military coup. For the following decades, the military tightly controlled Myanmar with an isolationist foreign policy and a tight grip on the economy. Because of this isolationist foreign policy, foreign firms were not incentivized to invest in Myanmar. The military junta instituted "the infamous 'Burmese Way to Socialism' – an ideology that resulted in unprecedented economic devastation and Myanmar's near-total isolation from the international community." Myanmar was isolated economically by the junta's increasing restrictions on foreign aid, nationalization of key industries, and tight control of foreign trade. Ideologically, the junta closed off Myanmar from the West by removing English education from primary schools, clamping down on visas to and from the West, and instituting harsh press censorship.

Myanmar's economic model changed after the Saffron Revolution protests, in which citizens protested the military junta government because of fuel price hikes. In response to the protests and international pressure, the Tatmadaw began to loosen its grip on power. This loosening of the reigns continued for the next few years, and in 2011, the military junta officially dissolved and a military-dominated citizen parliament was created. The parliament engaged in reforms such as decreasing media censorship and economic regulations, which encouraged international investment. Foreign countries started to invest in Myanmar as the country looked to be entering into a new, more modern stage of development. In 2019, Myanmar's GDP had grown to nearly double what it was in 2008, and the country's poverty rate declined from 48 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2017.

But since international investment in Myanmar only started to ramp up in 2011, and that investment was not substantial for most countries, few nations have deep economic ties with Myanmar. This lack of foreign investment is one reason many countries are not highly concerned with the instability in Myanmar, since their companies and profits are not on the line.

Myanmar's Democratic Transition

Also during this period of loosening, the call for democracy was strengthening in Myanmar. This movement was led by Aung San Suu Kyi, an activist whose fame entered the spotlight in the 1980s thanks to her democracy campaign in Myanmar. The campaign culminated in a 2015 election in which the citizens of Myanmar voted for Suu Kyi by wide margins to run the country. The international community was ecstatic about Myanmar's democratic transition, and hopes were high for the burgeoning democracy.

Countries around the world then had their hopes dashed when the military embarked on a genocide campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar—and Aung San Suu Kyi defended the killings. Many lost faith in her leadership, and this marked the beginning of the West's re-distancing from Myanmar. The moderate foreign investment that had just begun in 2011 was quickly reversed. The violence against the Rohingya population made foreign investors nervous, and many pulled out their already-meager investments. Along with the loss of faith in Suu Kyi, the divestment in Myanmar led many countries to distance themselves from Myanmar diplomatically.

The 2021 Coup

Despite the violence being carried out against citizens in Myanmar under Suu Kyi's presidency and her declining international popularity, Aung San Suu Kyi remained popular among the Buddhist majority in Myanmar. As a result, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the December 2020 elections by a landslide. The military had backed the opposition party, so they claimed that the election was fraudulent and demanded a rerun of the vote. When the election commissions proceeded to deny their claims of fraud, the military carried out a coup against Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders in February 2021, piling on accusations of corruption against Aung San Suu Kyi that could amount to 100 years in prison. But the citizens of Myanmar were not content to renounce their democratic progress without a fight. Opposition forces reacted to the coup with acts of civil disobedience, such as banging pots and boycotting military-supported companies, ultimately transitioning into mass protests.

The military has reacted violently to the protests with rubber bullets, water cannons, and fire directed at protesters. But the opposition movement did not acquiesce, so the civil war still rages on. The military's brutal tactics include shooting live ammunition into homes and protesters, razing entire villages, and arresting over 8,000 suspected opposition forces. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports that at least 1,500 people have been killed, but this is likely a grave underestimate.

Beyond the suffering caused by direct violence, Myanmar citizens are victims of a shrinking economy, a collapsed healthcare system, and skyrocketing poverty rates: millions of people in Myanmar have faced serious hunger crises, with poverty levels expected to double in 2022. CFR writer Joshua Kurlantzick explains that "because of the coup, Myanmar has become a failing state." While some of this damage has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil war has greatly exacerbated the deteriorating living conditions of these citizens.

A large protest following the 2021 military coup in Myanmar.

An Anti-Climactic International Response

The international community's response to the coup has been, on the whole, underwhelming. The Biden Administration has sanctioned military officials and companies, condemned human rights abuses, and pressured the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to put more pressure on the military junta. But the administration could strengthen their support by sanctioning Myanmar's oil and gas revenues, persuading other countries to stop supporting the junta, and increasing aid to the opposition movement. The UN has similarly come out with statements against the coup and the military's violent acts but has hesitated to directly intervene in Myanmar.

Some of the few countries that have remained highly involved in Myanmar are China and Russia, which are close allies of Myanmar's military junta. Due to China and Myanmar's close geographic proximity, China has been able to exert significant economic and diplomatic influence over Myanmar. In fact, China is the most supportive ally of Myanmar and its largest trading partner because of their extensive infrastructure and energy projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Therefore, China has a vested interest in preventing violence and instability in Myanmar by keeping the junta in power, both because of its geographic proximity and China's economic interests in the county. Some military leaders in Myanmar are wary of losing power to Chinese influence, but with the West's refusal to accept junta leadership, military leaders are forced to grow closer to China.

Russia is also an increasingly strong ally of the military junta. They did not support an arms embargo on Myanmar and have not condemned the coup. In fact, Russia has even continued arms sales to Myanmar during the coup period. In return, Myanmar has wholeheartedly backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia needs strong allies right now, given the backlash they face over the war, so they have a clear interest in keeping the military in power.

China and Russia's vested interest in keeping the junta in power in Myanmar make intervention on the side of the opposition a formidable task. What's more, although the international community was optimistic about Myanmar's democratic transition, the military never really lost its hold on power in Myanmar. Even when the parliamentary democracy was nominally in control, the Tatmadaw still maintained control over foreign relations, domestic security, and many other policies. The military also has significant holdings in major national companies, so their control extends far into both the economic and political spheres.

That being said, the strength of the military junta is currently being questioned given their struggle to crush the opposition movement and their lack of recognition internationally, as both the UN and ASEAN have refused to recognize the junta as the official government of Myanmar. But regardless, the military is so entrenched in Myanmar's systems and bent on holding power that replacing them with a democratic government is a task no nation wants to take on.

As such, the status quo of limited international intervention will likely remain. Western nations may continue to send hopes, prayers, and sanctions, but not much more. China and Russia will likely continue to support Myanmar's military but fall short of dedicating their forces to the fight. But not all is lost for democracy in Myanmar. The Tatmadaw has promised to eventually return to democratic elections, a promise that does look admittedly questionable now but could be acted upon in the future. The opposition movement has also managed to put up an impressive fight against the Tatmadaw, with the military regularly losing battles to opposition forces. At the present moment, then, the military's victory is not a foregone conclusion; but it does seem that Myanmar's future is in no one's hands, but those of its people.

Rohingya plight needs innovative solutions developed by themselves

Source Arab News, 24 June

The Rohingya have been oppressed for decades by their own country, Myanmar, where successive governments have violated their rights to identity, nationality, and security through systemic discrimination, violence, and repression.

Myanmar's military, which again seized power from a temporary civilian government in a February 2021 coup, continues to commit atrocities against the Rohingya as part of its systematic denial of their right to live in peace and dignity as full citizens.

When some of the Rohingya sought refuge in neighboring countries, the welcome they received also often fell well below international standards of human rights law. While the international community has rightly condemned the atrocities against the Rohingya in Myanmar— including the recent genocide determination by the US — and provided them with substantial humanitarian assistance, long-term sustainable remedies for the destroyed lives of so many individuals and communities remain elusive.

I have spent almost a decade researching the Rohingya crisis, and wrote the first book on the Rohingya genocide, and it seems to me that even though most of the Rohingya have finally escaped the genocidal terror of the Myanmar army, their situation and prospects are, if anything, worsening. The concrete problems of how they are to live safe and free from the looming threat of extermination seem to be becoming more intractable, and long-term solutions more elusive by the year.

As things stand, we may reasonably expect the Rohingya identity to disappear completely within one generation. Their language, culture, history, their way of life, will all have been diluted to extinction in the multitude of refugee camps that are now home to the majority of people who call themselves by the centuries-old name, Rohingya.

And if we continue to limit ourselves to the bare minimum of measures to which the international community so often defaults in refugee crises, this future may already be a foregone conclusion. It is for this reason that the old, staid measures and the old approaches will not suffice. Innovative policy thinking is now desperately needed.

That is why the New Lines Institute is launching the Global Rohingya Initiative, a coordinated international effort to address this crisis in a more universal and inventive way, crafted in cooperation with, and centered entirely on the needs and aspirations of, the Rohingya themselves. Rohingya community leaders are obviously much better placed to understand the myriad complex problems facing their own people in exile, and a partnership between such community leaders and the major stakeholders in the aid efforts is the only realistic way to effectively tackle at least some of the existential threats that these communities face.

The Rohingya must be empowered to speak for themselves, represent themselves and develop solutions to their own problems in the manner best suited to them.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Though this may depart from the current norms of providing basic material assistance to refugee camps on the limited assumption that their situation is temporary and easily reversible, the objective here is clear, and clearly necessary: to provide a platform for the Rohingya to address both the short-term material needs of individuals and communities in exile, but also, crucially, to help the Rohingya navigate through the continuing genocide as a common cultural group, and develop innovative policy ideas and solutions for the short, medium and long term.

The initiative will focus on three essential issues in the task of keeping the Rohingya together as a coherent cultural group: policy and politics, humanitarian issues, and accountability.

In policy and politics, we will aim to explore decades-old underlying political issues within the Myanmar civic and political structure, including identity, belonging, and security, which continue to support the marginalization and violent exclusion of Rohingya people from the body politic of the country of their birth. The initiative will help the Rohingya develop realistic solutions, and address the lack of meaningful policy and political mechanisms from the international community to support them.

The humanitarian focus will address the issues of resettlement, integration and the longer-term plans for the return of Rohingya refugees to their ancestral homeland in Myanmar. The initiative will explore the necessary conditions for a safe, voluntary, and durable return to their native Rakhine state in western Myanmar, and how the international community can support these efforts. This may not happen all at once, and it may not even start for some time. But the obstacles for the eventual return of the Rohingya have to be studied in detail, and solutions developed and implemented systematically.

Finally, the issue of accountability for the perpetrators of the crimes against the Rohingya will also be given due attention, because there can be no long lasting peace without justice. This initiative will discuss the role and responsibilities of nation states and international organizations in pursuing accountability for the Rohingya genocide and the intersection between accountability efforts and broader efforts to address impunity in Myanmar. It will examine ways in which current accountability mechanisms can be supported, and where necessary new mechanisms developed.

Overall the ambition of this project is to empower the Rohingya so they can take their destiny into their own hands. It is no longer acceptable for others to speak for them. The Rohingya must be empowered to speak for themselves, represent themselves and develop solutions to their own problems in the manner best suited to them. New Lines Institute simply aims to be the facilitator to these efforts, the ideas factory, the secretariat, and the platform by which the Rohingya address the international community in this endeavor.

Major stakeholders have already expressed their interest in supporting the initiative. So far, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the foreign ministry of Bangladesh, senior UN, US and UK officials and others have signaled their intent to do so.

Inevitably, however, addressing such complex historical problems always needs more innovative thinking and solution-building. We are therefore issuing a call for papers from innovative thinkers and experienced practitioners from around the world, to volunteer ideas and help us develop new lines of thinking for these complex problems.

  • Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is the director of special initiatives at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington D.C. and author of "The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Genocide" (Hurst, 2017). Twitter: @AzeemIbrahim
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

In six months, more than 600 Muslims were arrested across the country

Source RFA, 10 June


In six months, more than 600 Muslims were arrested across the country2022 On May 21st, I saw the survivors of a boat capsized near Shwe Saingyan Beach, Pathein Township, Irrawaddy Division
 Photo: HANDOUT / ANONYMOUS / AFP

From December 2021 to early June this year, more than 600 Muslims have been arrested throughout Myanmar, including Rakhine State.

According to data collected by RFA based on statements from the Rakhine State Military Council and reports from local media, last December 270 Muslims, 24 in January 135 in February 14 in March 35 in April In May, 124 people were arrested for a total of 602 people.

Muslims to Malaysia by waterways, Trying to travel illegally by land, Rakhine sea, Ann Township Checkpoint, Yangon, He was arrested in places like Irrawaddy.

A Muslim from Maungdaw Township, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said that he tried to sell everything he owned to send his daughter to Malaysia, but was arrested on the way and almost lost his life.

"Because our family can't afford it, we have agreed that I will marry a man who is in Malaysia. Will I take my daughter? Will I take it? Will you pay half of the travel expenses? I will send it. I don't have fifty hundred thousand. I will sell my farm. I will sell my house. I will sell what I have and let her go. I ran out of property and was arrested. I have died. Now I have reached the end of my life."

On November 29th, his daughter was stranded on a boat with 228 people in the sea 17 miles northwest of Mayu Island near Sittwe. They were arrested en masse.

109 of them were sentenced on December 14 by the Maungdaw District Court to the maximum penalty of five years in prison under Section-13(1) of the 1947 Immigration Recent Provisions Act. The rest of the minors were released.

Muslims are finding it difficult to live in the refugee camps and villages, so they sell what they have as mortgages and travel to Malaysia.

They also said that if a person goes from Maungdaw Township to Malaysia, it costs 90,000,000 and if it goes from Sittwe Township, it costs 70,000,000.

I don't have to pay that money all at once, but when I get from Maungdaw to Sittong, 20,000,000 kyats. 30,000,000 if you come to Yangon from the war. 10 lakhs from Yangon to Myawati 10,000,000 from Myawady to Thailand. When you arrive at the Malaysian border from Thailand, you have to pay 20,000,000 in one step. He also said that if he is arrested on the road, he will not get the money back.

A Muslim from Kyauk Phyu Township who did not want to be named said that there are few jobs for Muslims in Rakhine State and they do not have the right to move freely.

"It's easy for people to be trafficked because our livelihood is difficult. The problem in Rakhine is that there is no freedom of movement. Economically, there are few employment opportunities when looking for food. I live in the refugee camp, so I can't go outside. Because of that, they ended up sacrificing their lives. If you die, the earth If you live, they will leave as Shwe Hyo."

He said that there are people who have been arrested on the road while taking such a risk and have gone missing without any information or even died.

Last May 21, a boat capsized near Shwe Sainyan Beach in Pathein Township, Ayeyarwady Region, and many Muslims drowned as a result of heavy rain and wind while leaving Rakhine from Rakhine State. There were about 90 Muslims in the boat. Of these, 17 Muslim corpses and more than 20 survivors, including a broker, were found on May 22 at the Shwe Taingyan beach. May 24 On the 25th, eight Muslim bodies were found on the beach in Gu Township, Rakhine State. RFA has not been able to independently confirm the whereabouts of the 40 missing Muslims.

arrested-rohingya-thai.jpg2022 Seeing the Rohingya who were arrested in Khotaung Island, southern Thailand on June 4 (Photo: HANDOUT / ROYAL THAI NAVY / AFP)

In addition, 59 Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh were arrested on June 4 by Thai authorities on Khotaung Island in Sattun District, southern Thailand. The Thai authorities discovered that the Muslims had arrived in Malaysia after they were put off the boat. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the Thai government to help them as refugees.

U Tin Hlaing, a Muslim from Sakkyen Pyin village in Sittwe Township, who works to prevent human trafficking, told RFA that there are also victims of human trafficking who try to leave for other countries.

"I made a video of the traffickers beating the children to see how pitiful some of the children are. And that's their mother, I sent it to my father. If you want your son to live, the remaining money to pay is 30,000,000. 50 20 10 Send the money, There are such types of typos. The parents are also in the refugee camp. There is no money to pay. If there is no more, what do they do? I sold the food production book. Finally, they have no place to stay. There will be no more food. Because their children don't die. We have seen such situations."

In the midst of these conditions, young Muslims are fleeing and leaving abroad.

RFA tried to contact the Rakhine Military Council regarding the situation of Muslims in Rakhine State, but they did not answer the phone.

In addition to this, RFA contacted General Zaw Min Tun, who is allowed to speak on the Military Council, to ask about this by phone several times from June 8th to 10th, but he has not yet received an answer.

"In the entire country of Myanmar, all other people have the right to travel by road, water, etc., but the Rohingyas do not even have the right to use ordinary land or water. "

Ko Ne San Lwin, the co-founder of the Rohingya Liberation Coalition, pointed out that these events are the consequence of the violation of Rohingya's basic rights in the region.

"If you can work and eat freely in your area, If it was peaceful, no one would be moving. In the whole of Myanmar, all other people use land, road, They have the right to travel by waterways, but the Rohingyas have the right to travel by land. They don't even have access to waterways. The right to work and eat in Rakhine, the homeland of the Rohingya. The fact that basic rights such as the right to move around are being prevented is a major violation of human rights."

In Rakhine State, since 2012, the war, forest Due to ethnic conflicts in townships such as Kyauk Phyu, many Muslims have fled to refugee camps.

In 2017, Buthidaung, More than 700,000 Muslims had to flee to Bangladesh due to the army's clearing of Maungdaw townships.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Australia not appointing ambassador to Myanmar amid moves to downgrade diplomatic ties

Source ABC, 16 May

Australia is moving to downgrade diplomatic ties with Myanmar as it tries to avoid legitimising the military junta that has seized power and violently suppressed protests in the South-East Asian country.

Key points:

  • The new Australian representative in Myanmar will operate as the head of mission with the title of Charge d'Affaires
  • The decision has been applauded by human rights groups and the country's political opposition 
  • Australia is still trying to secure the release of detained Australian Sean Turnell

The ABC has been told that a senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) official has been selected to replace the former ambassador to Myanmar, Andrea Faulkner, who finished her term in April.

But the new Australian representative – who has not yet been given permission to travel to Myanmar — will not present her credentials to the head of the junta, and will instead operate as the head of mission with the title of chargé d'affaires.

Australian officials are walking a fine line with the strategy.

DFAT hopes it will allow them to deploy an experienced officer capable of championing Australia's interests in Myanmar without formally recognising the legitimacy of the military, which ousted the elected National League for Democracy government.

Several other Western countries are moving to downgrade ties with Myanmar in a similar way, but human rights groups – many of which have fiercely criticised Australia's decision not to hit the military junta with fresh sanctions – have still applauded the move.

Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson told the ABC that Australia's dealings with the junta had largely been ineffective because officials had been too quick to meet with military leaders, and too slow to ramp up economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime.

He said the decision to withhold full recognition was "an indication that Australia may finally be willing to show some teeth" in its diplomatic dealings with the military.

"This is an important step, it's a symbolic step but it's something that [will] generate anger and unhappiness [in] the Myanmar military junta because they want to be internationally recognised," he said.

"So this denial is an important step to say 'your coup is illegal, and the rights abuses you are committing are outrageous and unacceptable'."

Myanmar's exiled civilian-led National Unity Government (NUG) has also praised the decision.

Dr Tun-Aung Shwe – who represents the NUG in Australia – said it would "strengthen the Myanmar people's trust in Australia".

"We all know that the junta has always propagandised and exploited diplomatic occasions for its own cause to claim to be recognised by international governments and communities," he told the ABC.

"It is particularly welcome that the Australian Government understands this situation well and avoids conveying any sense of legitimacy to military rule in Myanmar."

However, the strategy still brings risks.

Australia wants to retain access to senior members of the junta — in part so it can press for the release of jailed Australian academic Sean Turnell – although human rights groups have repeatedly declared that such meetings are useless and risk elevating military leaders who seized power illegally.

A couple smiling for a photo.
Sean Turnell (right) was arrested in Yangon five days after Myanmar's military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.(Supplied)

Australian officials say they need to use every opportunity to press for Mr Turnell's release and urge the most influential members of the junta to implement the five-point consensus devised by ASEAN to tackle Myanmar's political crisis.

The former Australian ambassador, Andrea Faulkner, met with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing just before she departed the country in April.

DFAT deputy secretary Katrina Cooper told Senate Estimates hearings last month that Ms Faulkner "reiterated Australia's concerns about the situation in Myanmar" when meeting Min Aung Hlaing, as well as urging the Myanmar military to "cease violence, release arbitrary detainees, engage in dialogue and ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance".

Ms Cooper said the ambassador also "called on the regime to release those who had been arbitrarily detained in Myanmar, including Professor Sean Turnell".

It's not clear how much access or purchase Australia's new representative will have within the political system in Myanmar, given the decision to effectively downgrade diplomatic ties.

Other countries trying to navigate the process of replacing their top diplomatic representatives have been ensnared in complex disputes over protocol and procedure.

For example, the United Kingdom's new ambassador has been locked out of Myanmar after declining to present their credentials to the regime.

But Mr Robertson said Australia's diplomatic engagement with the junta had so far been "very predictable", prizing access above actual results.

A DFAT spokesperson said it would appoint a "senior career officer with ambassadorial experience in the region" as the chargé d'affaires to Myanmar.

U.N. Security Council: Impose Binding Arms Embargo On Myanmar

Source Scoop, 12 May

President Biden due to meet ASEAN leaders in Washington, D.C.

(BANGKOK, May 12, 2022)—The United Nations Security Council should urgently convene an open session on Myanmar and pass a binding resolution on the situation in the country, Fortify Rights said today. A Security Council resolution on Myanmar should impose a global arms embargo on the military, refer the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court, and impose targeted sanctions.

On May 12 and 13, nine high-level representatives from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are scheduled to meet U.S. President Joe Biden during a special summit in Washington D.C., where the regional bloc's response to the crisis in Myanmar will be discussed.

"ASEAN and its consensus have failed," said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights. "The Security Council has a responsibility to act. The flow of arms and money to the junta must be stopped, and the Security Council is the key international body with a mandate to make that happen."

In April 2021, ASEAN leaders reached a "Five-Point Consensus" with the Myanmar military, aimed at putting the nation back on a path to peace following the February 2021 military coup d'état led by Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The Myanmar junta has flouted the agreement while committing mass atrocity crimes.

The U.K. is the U.N. Security Council's "penholder" on Myanmar and should table a Chapter VII resolution mandating an arms embargo and referral to the ICC, and President Biden should use the occasion of the Special Summit to obtain ASEAN's support for such a move, Fortify Rights said.

Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter enables the Security Council to take coercive action with respect to threats to international peace and security; Chapter VII resolutions are binding on all U.N. member states.
 
The Myanmar military is responsible for genocidecrimes against humanity, and war crimes and has long posed a threat to international peace and security. Since launching a coup d'état on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar army and police have reportedly killed more than 1,800 people and detained more than 13,640.
 
In a 193-page report published in March, Fortify Rights and the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School documented acts by the Myanmar junta that amount to crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance, forced displacement, and persecution of civilians.
 
Since the coup, the Security Council has issued four press statements and one Presidential Statement expressing various levels of condemnation of violence and atrocities in Myanmar, while also backing an ASEAN-led response to the crisis, with no discernible effect. Continued violations by the junta provide a context for heightened action by the body, said Fortify Rights.
 
If a permanent member of the Security Council were to veto a resolution on Myanmar, then the U.N. General Assembly would be required to convene on the issue. On April 26, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution to hold the five permanent Security Council members accountable for their use of the veto. The resolution requires the General Assembly to convene within ten working days after a Security Council veto "to hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast."
 
While there has been no binding action on Myanmar from the Security Council or ASEAN, individual U.N. Member States have imposed arms embargoes and targeted sanctions on the Myanmar junta, including the U.K, U.S., Canada, Australia, as well as the European Union.
 
In his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in February 2022, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, identified U.N. Member States that continue to supply arms to the Myanmar military, including Security Council permanent members China and Russia. Fortify Rights and the Schell Center identified 61 senior members of the Myanmar junta who should be investigated for international crimes, only 20 of whom have been sanctioned by any government. The Japanese government also continues to provide training to the Myanmar military.
 
In June 2021, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution calling on "all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar." The resolution passed with the support of 119 countries, with one country–Belarus–opposing and 36—including Russia and China—abstaining.

President Biden should also encourage ASEAN member states to engage the National Unity Government of Myanmar, as recommended by Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah. Thailand should be urged to stop returning refugees to Myanmar and to authorize cross-border humanitarian aid. The U.S. Government and ASEAN should also ensure that humanitarian aid to Myanmar is not directed through the military junta, said Fortify Rights.

"The Myanmar junta is destabilizing the entire region, and ASEAN is at risk of losing all credibility for failing to take decisive action," said Matthew Smith. "All governments have a responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from mass atrocities and that includes members of the Security Council."

Monday, 25 April 2022

NST Leader: Rohingya refugees

Source NewStraitTimes, 25 April


It is not easy managing refugees. Malaysia, a small nation of limited resources, knows this only too well. But Malaysia can do better.

Like being more humane. The Wednesday escape by 528 Rohingya refugees from the Immigration detention depot in Sungai Bakap, Kedah, is itself very telling. No words need be spoken.

Their tale is that of tears of ones who have seen their days in the crowded detention depot grow into weeks, months and more.

Let's ask this, as Ab Jalil Backer of Angkatan Karyawan Nasional does in Sinar Ahad: Would someone who had left his life's possessions behind, escaping murder and massacre at home, stay cooped up in a crowded depot for who knows how long? Granted, we are a nation of limited resources. But being humane to the refugees doesn't mean we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. There is no zero-sum game here. Have a heart.

And here is how to do it. Firstly, alter our way of seeing. We must discard our old pair of spectacles. See, we are rushing to cancel the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards of the refugees. We shouldn't head that way. They are not criminals. Yes, they escaped, but who wouldn't? Besides, anything done in the heat of the moment is bound to be wrong. Think human beings.

The Rohingya are not flooding Malaysia because our country is better than Myanmar. No. However blessed Malaysia is — and it is very blessed — Myanmar is home. They are running away from genocide and a genocidal regime there. Who won't?

If things were as normal there as it is in Malaysia, they wouldn't come here. This is a fact we must learn to accept. And if Myanmar becomes hospitable to the Rohingya once again, they would surely rush home. As they say, home is where the heart is.

Secondly, the refugees are a bank of human capital waiting to be tapped. Do not waste them away. But firstly we must nurture the human capital by giving them learning opportunities. As it is, they are left to teach themselves. Successful autodidacts are few and far between.

The lucky ones are taught by non-governmental organisations, but these have limited resources to make learning last. And not all of them can teach living skills. Malaysia must learn how to be inclusive and allow them to attend schools as Malaysians do. This doesn't mean we are promising them a permanent stay here. No, this is a wrong way of seeing.

Instead, we are preparing them with learning and living skills for their future in their adopted homes. Or better still, for their journey home when things become normal. Skilled refugees have a better prospect of being resettled in third countries.

Thirdly, since we are always short of foreign workers, why not tap the resources of the refugees? According to the latest UNHCR data, there are 156,110 Myanmar refugees, including Rohingya, in the country. Minus some 50,000, who are children below 18, the labour force is still a good 100,000. With some training, they can be maids, plantation and factory workers.

Malaysia needn't trouble itself spending time and energy negotiating with governments for foreign workers when we have plenty in the country.

Finally, by being humane to refugees, Malaysia would send a strong message to Myanmar, a country with genocidal tendencies, on how to treat fellow human beings.