Monday 31 December 2012

Letter from America: The Rohingya Question – Part 6

Source Asiantribune, 31 Dec
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

As we have noted elsewhere there are other records, including British, which mention the name

Rohingya. Consider, for instance, the account of the English surgeon to Embassy of Ava, Dr. Francis Buchanan (1762-1829 CE), who visited Burma decades before the British occupied the territory.

He published his major work "A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire" in 1799, in the fifth volume of Asiatic Researches, which provides one of the first major Western surveys of the languages of Burma. What is more important is that his article provides important data on the ethno-cultural identities and identifications of the various population groups in the first half of Bodawpaya's reign (1782-1819).

He wrote, "I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. The second dialect is that spoken by the Hindus of Arakan. I procured it from a Brahmen [Brahmin] and his attendants, who had been brought to Amarapura by the king's eldest son, on his return from the conquest of Arakan. They call themselves Rossawn, and, for what reason I do not know, wanted to persuade me that theirs was the common language of Arakan.

Both these tribes, by the real natives of Arakan, are called Kulaw Yakain, or stranger Arakan. The last dialect of the Hindustanee which I shall mention is that of a people called, by the Burmas, Aykobat, many of them are slaves at Amarapura. By one of them I was informed, that they had called themselves Banga; that formerly they had kings of their own; but that, in his father's time, their kingdom had been overturned by the king of Munnypura [Manipur], who carried away a great part of the inhabitants to his residence. When that was taken last by the Burmas, which was about fifteen years ago, this man was one of the many captives who were brought to Ava. He said also, that Banga was seven days' journey south-west from Munnypura: it must, therefore, be on the frontiers of Bengal, and may, perhaps, be the country called in our maps Cashar [Cachar]."

[Notes: 1. In the above account, the word Rohingya is spelled as Rooinga.. 2. Cachar district, part of the state of Assam in India, is located north-east of Sylhet in Bangladesh; it is located between the Indian state of Manipur and Bangladesh.]

Dr. Buchanan's above statement is very revealing in that it shows that before the British occupied Arakan and the rest of Burma there were already Muslims living there who had identified themselves as the Rohingya, and that it was not an invented term. This observation squarely contradicts the current campaign by ultra-nationalist Rakhines and Burman racists that the Rohingyas settled in the Arakan only after the British occupation.

In his massive work - A Geographical, Statistical, and Historical Description of Hindostan and the Adjacent Countries in Two Volumes, published in London in 1820, Walter Hamilton wrote about Arakan (the Rakhine state), "The Moguls know this country by the name of Rakhang, and the Mahommedans, who have been long settled in the country, call themselves Rooinga, or the natives of Arracan."

Thus, we can draw the conclusion that before the British even entered Arakan, the Muslim inhabitants called themselves by that name and were known as such by others.

These revelations about the Rohingya people from Buchanan and Hamilton should not come as a surprise to any genuine researcher of Arakanese and Burmese history. Numerous research works have demonstrated that a substantial portion of Arakan's Muslim population was made up of descendants of Muslims who had lived in Arakan for centuries.

In his first hand account of the Arakanese Muslims, Charles Paton, wrote, "The Musselman Sirdars generally speak good Hindustani, but the lower orders of that class, who speak a broken sort of Hindustani, are quite unintelligible to those who are not thoroughly acquainted with the jargon of the southern parts of the Chittagong district." It is not difficult to understand why the elites (Sirdars or Sardars) within the Arakanese Muslim society - the descendants of those attached to royalty and those in high offices - were more familiar with Hindustani, which is closer to Farsi, than the less educated cultivator class. Many of the forefathers of those elites came as the soldiers of generals Wali Khan and Sandi Khan who came to restore the kingdom of Nara-meik-hla in the early 15th century, and courtiers, ministers and administrators – as we shall see below - that later attached themselves with the Arakanese royalty in Mrohaung.

In his travelogue, the Augustine monk Friar Sebastian Manrique mentioned Arakanese king's coronation ceremony in the early 17th century in which the parade was opened by Muslim cavalry unit of Rajputres from India, which was led by its cavalry leader.

Michael Charney in his doctoral dissertation (under the supervision of Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan) mentions about the emergence of Muslim 'cultivator' class in Arakan from at least the 17th century when large number of Bengalis were kidnapped by Maghs and Portuguese slave traders to work in the Kaladan valley. Quoting Manrique, he says that from 1622 to 1634, some 42,000 Bengali captives were brought in by the Portuguese pirates. By 1630, there were probably 11,000 Bengali families living in rural areas of Danra-waddy. The actual number is, however, significantly higher since there were also royal-sponsored campaigns to bring Bengalis as captives. Charney estimates that between 1617 and 1666, the total number of those Bengali captives could be 147,000. He also mentions about Bengali captives brought from Chittagong to Arakan as late as 1723 during the reign of Sanda-wizaya-raza. Those captives were called Kala-douns in the Arakanese chronicles, "who were then donated as pagoda-slaves in the ordination halls and monasteries, including the Maha-muni shrine complex."

As noted by Professor Moshe Yegar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the capture and enslavement of prisoners was one of the most lucrative types of plunder of Bengal by joint Magh and Portuguese pirates. In his article, "The Crescent in the Arakan", Yegar wrote, "Half the prisoners taken by the Portuguese and all the artisans among them were given to the king; the rest were sold on market or forced to settle in the villages near Mrohaung. A considerable number of these captives were Muslims." It is not difficult to surmise that those abducted slaves and their descendants would identify themselves as the Rohingya.

Charney writes, "It is not surprising that in the late 1770s, as observers based in Chittagong explained, 'Almost three-fourths of the inhabitants of Rekheng [Danra-waddy] are said to be natives of Bengal, or descendants of such… In short, despite the lack of complete data, it is still apparent that the demographic contribution of Bengali captives to Danra-waddy's population is considerable."

Charles Paton, similarly, mentioned the reason why the Rohingya Muslims were traditionally employed in farming: "The Mugs being particularly fond of hunting and fishing, do not make such good farmers as the Musselmans; however, as Banias and shop-keepers, they surpass the Bengalis in cunning, and, on all occasions try, and very often successfully, to overreach their customers: stealing is a predominant evil amongst them …" The Arakanese (Rohingya) Muslims and Hindus, as children of the indigenous people of the soil, were mostly involved in wet farming since time immemorial, a tradition which they retained before and after the British moved into Arakan.

Charney also mentions about the existence of a small group of Muslims dating as far back as the 9th century. He also cites Arakan traditions which hold that ship-wrecked Muslims had settled in Arakan as early as the 8th century. The Muslim population grew significantly with the Mrauk-U dynasty. Even Muslim mercenaries were brought in to fight in special campaign or to solve special problems within Arakan. He writes, "It is unlikely that these mercenaries had no influence in terms of advertising Islam to the Arakanese. After all, the Muslim mercenaries who helped restore Nara-meik-hla to his throne seem to have built the Santikan mosque in Mrauk-U in about 1430. There was also certainly a small Muslim presence among the intermediary service elites in the royal city during the early Mrauk-U period… At the beginning of the seventeenth century, there were many Muslims in the Arakanese court, including a Turkish courtier … who seems to have become a kind of royal adviser."

There was also a small, but wealthy and influential community of Muslim traders in Arakan. "Even higher status Muslims arrived as political refugees from Bengal with Shah Shuja in the mid-seventeenth century. Together, Muslims in the royal city formed a special social group with a privileged and unique socio-political role than their rural counterparts enjoyed, with different connections to the Muslim world," notes Charney. Suffice it to say that before Bodawpaya's invasion of Arakan, Arakanese Muslims (also known as the Rohingya) were employed in various professions: from high ranking courtiers in the capital city to non-elites and agriculturalists into the countryside.

Quoting British census, Charney says that in 1891 there were 126,586 Muslims in Arakan (most of whom were concentrated in Danra-Waddy, wherein sat the capital), comprising roughly 19% of the total population. This figure should not come as a surprise given the fact that in the 1830s, at least 30% of Arakan's general population was Muslim. For the original number to increase to the 1891 number, only a growth rate of 2.24% was necessary. This annual growth rate is below what was prevalent in those days amongst the Muslim population in Bengal and Arakan suggesting rather strongly that to grow to that size it did not require an influx from outside.

As I have pointed out in an earlier work on demography in Arakan, a rational basis for understanding the size of the Rohingya population in Burma during the British period lies in Charles Paton's data when the East India Company colonized Arakan. As the Sub-commissioner in Aracan (Arakan), he was able to estimate the population soon after Arakan came under British rule. He said, "The population of Aracan and its dependencies, Ramree, Cheduba, and Sandoway, does not, at present, exceed a hundred thousand souls, and may be classed as follows: Mugs, six-tenths; Musselmans, three-tenths; Burmese, one-tenth; total, 100,000 souls."

The questions that an unbiased researcher, therefore, has to ask are: what happened to those 30,000 Arakanese Muslims whom Paton called Musselmans? During the British period in 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931 and 1941 or thereafter what was the size of their population?

Ignoring such obvious signs and records of presence, many Rohingya-deniers continue to say that the Rohingyas are not an ethnic group in Myanmar. And in recent months we have witnessed quite a few state-managed demonstrations, which even included highly politicized pro-government, ultra-racist monks carrying placards that demanded that the 1982 constitution – responsible for making the Rohingya people stateless - should be strictly followed by the government so that they can be removed from Myanmar. Claims and demands of this kind are symptomatic of the depth of racism and bigotry that has penetrated the Buddhist society inside Myanmar. Consequently, the latest genocidal campaign to ethnically cleanse the Rohingya which began in June of 2012 has already succeeded in uprooting more than a hundred thousand Rohingya people who are now forced to live in concentration camps, unless they choose to settle for a life of uncertainty elsewhere. They cannot go out to fetch livelihood. As al-Jazeera's documentary film 'The Hidden Genocide' revealed, they are starving to death. It is a slow death camp for them!

====? To be continued.

For part 1:

For part 2: ;

For part 3:

For part 4:

For part 5:

- Asian Tribune -

452 Rohingya refugees detained in Lankawi of Malaysia

Pl read by clicking the link-
2) 128 Rohingyas languish in India's Andamans
Source bdnews, 30 Dec
Kolkata, Dec 30 (— The 128 Rohingyas, whose boat drifted into India's Andaman islands earlier this month, say they don't want to go back to Myanmar.

Authorities in the Andaman archipelago say the Rohingyas were trying to reach Malaysia from Myanmar's Rakhine state, but their boat drifted towards the Andamans.

The boat came ashore at Narcoddum islands on Dec 9. Indian coast guards who intercepted the boat were told by the Rohingyas that they were trying to reach Malaysia.

"They said their condition in Myanmar is desperate and so they want to reach Malaysia. But now they are stuck here in the Andamans," said an Indian official.

The Indians are in a fix. The Rohingyas are determined not to return to Myanmar because they anticipate trouble if they are handed back. Malaysia, or any other country, will not take them for obvious reasons. India can only keep them for some time.

Hundreds of Muslim Rohingyas are trying to flee from Myanmar's Rakhine state ever since the riots between them and Buddhist Rakhines erupted in summer and then again in autumn. Close to 80,000 of them have been rendered homeless and herded into makeshift camps by Myanmar authorities. Many have died at sea when their boats capsized.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Breaking News: Authority Carrying Out Mass Arbitrary Arrests in Maung Daw

Source Rohingyablogger, 29 Dec

Maung Daw, Arakan - Since 5AM this morning, the village of Khadir Bil (Nyaung Chaung), Maung Daw has been under the besiege and blockage of a joint department of Police, Hluntin (Security Forces), NaSaKa (Border Security Froces) and Military. The joint department is carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of innocent Rohingyas in the village.

"At 5AM, a joint department of Police, Hluntin (Security Forces), NaSaKa (Border Security Froces) and Military besieged the village Khadir Bil (Nyaung Chaung).They have put blockades around the village since then so that no Rohingya from the village can escape. Now the joint department is raiding every house in the village and arbitrarily arresting innocent Rohingyas. Besides, they have been harassing Rohingya women in the village. Meanwhile, some innocent Rohingyas are being released after extorting money.

U Khin Maung Shwe [sic], the Judge of the Court of Maung Daw Tsp, has been issuing arbitrary arrest warrants of Rohingyas in Maung Daw with the baseless accusations of their involvements in the violence. In the village of Baggona alone, there is an arrest warrant issued for 42 Rohingya people in addition to the previously arrested 54 innocent Rohingyas who are in the detention cells (the hells on earth) in Buthidaung. He, U Khin Maung Shwe, is a Rakhine extremist who has been, since June, in the forefront of arresting and killing of Rohingyas and exaggerating the violence against them.

He has issued an arrest warrant for 14 people in Nyaung Chaung village. Since none of them is in the village now, they have been arresting innocent Rohingyas from the village. We fear that we might the face the similar situation sooner or later" a Rohingya Elder from Maung Daw.

He added "most of the time, the authority and administration of Arakan, mainly composed of Rakhine extremists, carry out violence, arbitrary arrests and tortures against Rohingyas and Kamans without the permission and acknowledgement from NayPyiTaw (or Central Government). Sometimes, they don't even follow the direction given by NayPyiTaw."

Besides, as it has been known, the authority in Arakan is forcing Rohingyas to register themselves as Bengali, an identity they don't belong to. Registration process includes taking digital fingerprints and photographs that will permanently make their Rohingya identity disappear. Now, the NaSaKa in Nagpura (NgaKhuRa) village of Maung Daw started to force Rohingya villagers to sign themselves "Bengali."

"On 22nd December 2012, the commander Win Hlaing and Chief Staff (U-Si-Hmuu) Tun Tun Naing of NaSaKa Region (NayMayay) 5 started to force Rohingyas to sign themselves as Bengali. According to them, it is the order from higher authority Myanmar. If Rohingyas don't follow the order, they will be arrested and prosecuted. The following Rohingyas were arrested as they hesitated to accept the term "Bengali."
(1) Nazir Ahmed S/o Zakir Ahmed (30 years old)
(2) Abul Alam S/o Ataullah (27 years old)
(3) Noor Alam S/o Mohammed Shafi (46 years old)
(4) Hussien Ahmed S/o Noor Alam (19 years old)
(5) Zakir S/o Nurur Zallal (31 years old)
(6) Sayed Noor S/o Sayed (25 years old)
(7) Amnullah S/o Mohammed Ullah (31 years old)

The following two Rohingyas were forced to sign themselves as "Bengali."
(1) Shakat Ali S/o Ashu Ali 35 years old
(2) Shah Alam S/o Mohammed Alam 36 years old" reported by the correspondent of ERC (European Rohingya Council) Media.

The pogroms and all kinds of atrocities against Rohingyas and Kamans have been being carried out in Arakan for months. As a result, they are now on the verge of extinction. Yet, International government bodies and communities are not taking effective actions to stop the genocides and man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Arakan.

Non-binding UN resolutions cannot help Rohingyas: Iran MP


pirhayati20121228141038233An Iranian lawmaker says non-binding resolutions adopted by the UN will not help improve the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, urging the UN to take practical measures.

Mehrdad Baouj-Lahouti on Friday dismissed non-binding resolutions as ineffective in resolving the problems of Rohingyas, saying that the UN must deal with human rights violations across the globe without double-standard behaviors.

On December 24, the UN General Assembly expressed serious concern over violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar and called upon its government to address human rights abuses.

The General Assembly also approved by consensus a non-binding resolution.

The unanimously adopted UN resolution expresses "particular concern about the situation of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state, urges the (Myanmar) government to take action to bring about an improvement in their situation and to protect all their human rights, including their right to a nationality."

The resolution was identical to one approved last month by the General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights.

Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect and repression in Myanmar since it achieved independence in 1948. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced in attacks by Buddhist extremists.

Buddhist extremists frequently attack Rohingyas and set fire to their homes in several villages in the troubled region. Myanmar's government has been blamed for failing to protect the Muslim minority.

Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.

Myanmar: Is a warning by the Election Commission enough for offense against Islam by the RNDP?

Source m-mediagrop, 27 Dec

The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) was sent in and warned by the Union Election Commission on 25 December in Nay Pyi Taw about three matters. Among the three matters is the writing offending Islam and Muslims of Myanmar featured in the Toe-Tat-Yay Newsletter (Volume 2, Issue 12), a political publication of the RNDP.

The author with the pseudonym "Marga Thitsar" of the article, titled "If Rakhine State Disintegrates" and featured in the Toe-Tat-Yay, hatefully insults Islam and Muslims of Myanmar.
By violating (i) the Constitution, (ii) existing laws, and (iii) the Political Parties Registration Law, the official political publication of the

RNDP leader Dr. Aye Maung

RNDP leader Dr. Aye Maung

who himself chairs the Citizens' Fundamental Rights, Democracy and Human Rights Committee at the Amyotha Hluttaw (the Upper House) has committed the following-

(a) Offense against Islam adhered by millions of people around the world;

(b) Offense against Muslim festivals;

(c) Offense against mosques;

(d) Comparison of the Islamic call to prayer, the Adhān or Azan, with the sound of the animal, the cow;

(e) Misinterpretation of and offense against the Feast of the Sacrifice by Muslims;

(f) Use of rude and offensive words in describing all the indigenous and citizen Muslims of Myanmar;

(g) Hateful incitement against all the indigenous and citizen Muslims of Myanmar who are involved in businesses and professions within legal bounds by mentioning the numeral symbol (786) of bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm, which means "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful";

(h) Wrongful misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims in spite of Islam's clear prohibition against marriage to those of different faiths and against forced conversion of anyone to Islam;

(i) Wilful disturbance of multi-faith peace, and incitement to hatred among the indigenous peoples and citizens and to national disintegration;

(j) Incitement by abusing religion for political gains;

(k) Rude and offensive comparison of all the Muslims across the world with animals.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) only gave a warning to the RNDP for its insult to a world religion, i.e. Islam, as mentioned below. It is stated in the notice by the UEC to the RNDP that the party is liable to face action up to disbandment by referring to Sub-Section (d) [A political party must abstain from writing, delivering speech or organizing and instigating that can cause conflict or that can affect dignity and morals relating to nationality, religion, individual or public.] and Sub-Section (e) [A political party must abstain from abuse of religion for political ends.] of Section 6 of the Political Parties Registration Law. However, the UEC only gave a warning regards blatant breach of these regulations by the RNDP. Therefore, we strongly encourage that the government of the Union of Myanmar and the Union Election Commission immediately take decisive action according to law in order to prevent conflict between citizens of diverse races and groups and religious affiliations who have resided in peace in the Union of Myanmar for thousands of years.


The author with the pseudonym "Marga Thitsar" of the article, titled "If Rakhine State Disintegrates" and featured in the Toe-Tat-Yay, hatefully insults Islam and Muslims of Myanmar.


The author with the pseudonym "Marga Thitsar" of the article, titled "If Rakhine State Disintegrates" and featured in the Toe-Tat-Yay, hatefully insults Islam and Muslims of Myanmar.

Friday 28 December 2012

Rohingya Trucked North: Checkpoint Exposes 127 in Minivan Convoy

Source Phuketwan, 27 Dec
Rohingya arrested in southern Thailand await return to the Burma border
PHUKET: A total of 127 Rohingya have been arrested in southern Thailand and trucked back to the Thailand-Burma border.

Those held were in five minivans in a convoy bound for the Malaysian border crossing at Padang Besar in Songkhla province.

On December 24 a police-Army checkpoint in Satun province pulled over two of the vans, which each contained 22 men and boys.

The drivers of another three minivans fled after dropping off their passengers, who totalled 83.

The youngest of those arrested was a boy aged 10. Most of the captured Rohingya were teenagers or young men.

Hundreds are fleeing the Burmese state of Rakhine where thousands of homes have been torched since June in a simmering racial conflict between local residents and the Muslim Rohingya.

About 170 are reported to have been killed in the conflict, which has left thousands of Rohingya confined in displaced persons camps.

Many prefer to take their chances by paying people smugglers and fleeing by sea, with Malaysia as the target for most.

How the Rohingya arrested on December 24 got to Songkhla province in southern Thailand is not known. Part of their journey was probably made by sea.

Brokers on the Thai-Malaysia border are known to systematically transfer Rohingya south from camps hidden in plantations in Thailand with the connivance of officials in both countries.

The arrest of the 127 may have come because the officers at the checkpoint are not part of the system or rival brokers have perhaps fallen out.

The arrests were made by officers from Khuankalong police station in Satun, where Lieutenant Sompong Meechoo said local police were not part of any smuggling group.

''The Rohingya will be trucked straight back to Ranong,'' he said, referring to the Thai-Burma border port hundreds of kilometres to the north where the arrested men and boys could possibly have stopped off on their journey.

Because the arrested Rohingya are inevitably all men and boys, some reports speculate that they could be heading to join the insurgency in Thailand's south.

Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command has checked out these reports over several years but never found evidence to justify them.

Isoc tallies 2817 Rohingya arrested or ''helped on'' in Thailand in October and November.

Other experts in the deep south conflict say there has never been an instance where a single Rohingya has been killed or injured in incriminating circumstances in eight years of conflict.

Chris Lewa, director of the advocacy group Arakan Project, said: ''Rohingya only transit through Thailand on their way to Malaysia, helped on by Thai authorities.

''There has never been any evidence of Rohingya involvement in the deep South insurgency.

''Why should countries in the region repeatedly make these kinds of assumptions just because they are Muslims?''

The Rohingya are protective of their womenfolk, who seldom venture far from home. However, having a boy of 10 among the latest batch of arrests indicates some are becoming more desperate to flee Burma.

Hundreds of Rohingya are believed to be voyaging past the Andaman coast and the holiday island of Phuket this relatively tranquil October-April ''sailing season.''

Those apprehended on land north of Phuket are usually trucked quickly back to Ranong, often described as Burmese to reduce complications.

As stateless non-citizens, the Rohingya are not wanted back in Burma so they are usually delivered to people smugglers.

The smugglers demand extra payments and those who cannot meet the terms are usually put to work in fish factories or indentured to trawlers.

Earlier this month, Singapore refused to allow a Vietnamese cargo ship to dock with 40 Rohingya who survived a sinking in which 200 are thought to have drowned.

All of Burma's Asean neighbors continue to turn a blind eye to the tacit ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya now underway in Burma.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Humanitarian crisis for Burma's eternal outsiders

Source theage, 26 Dec
They scavenge for grass and plants to eat and live in makeshift camps and town slums surrounded by barbed-wire checkpoints, refugee prisoners in their own country.

Sitting among filth and garbage in a bamboo hut Ali Hassan, a 24-year-old former brick worker, pleads for the lives of his newborn twins.
''My babies are starving in front of my eyes. I cannot buy anything now I have no money,'' he says.
Haleema Ahmed, mother of seven, scavenges for plants amongst the weeds and grass to supplement her family's food intake in the slums of Sittwe, Rahkine state. Limited supplies have made their way into the quarters, which has grown from 7000 to 10000 inhabitants.
Dire … Haleema Ahmed, above, scavenges for plants among the weeds and grass to supplement her family's food intake. Photo: Steve Sandford
There is an abundance of fish in the sea and rivers of Burma's western Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh.
There are also coconuts in the trees and rice in the fields.
But the United Nations's most senior humanitarian official, Valerie Amos, describes conditions in camps where more than 115,000 people displaced by ethnic violence are struggling to survive as ''dire''.

Displaced Rohingya children at the edge of Camp Coconut.Displaced Rohingya children at the edge of Camp Coconut. Photo: Steve Sandford
''I have seen many camps during my time but the conditions in these camps rank among the worst,'' she says.
The camp occupants are Rohingyas, members of a Muslim minority who are denied Burmese citizenship even though their families have lived in the country for centuries. The UN says they are among the world's most persecuted people.

Following an outbreak of ethnic violence in June and again in October and a subsequent clampdown by Burma's security forces, tens of thousands of Rohingya are prohibited by soldiers from leaving designated areas to work, forage for food or seek medical treatment.
Heartbreaking images emerging from Rakhine, also known as Arakan, point to ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Rohingya, who are seen by the Burmese government and many of the country's Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Video taken for Fairfax Media in a slum Muslim area of the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, shows a mother of seven, Haleema Ahmed, scavenging for grass and plants to help feed her family, reviving memories of images of starving villagers eating grass in North Korea.
''The food that is being donated to us is not enough to eat. We have to help ourselves to find our own food,'' she says. ''I have to collect grass and plants to sell and eat to fill my empty stomach.''
Zaleena Hatwa, 33, a mother of two boys and three girls, is living in a one-room hut at ''Camp Coconut'', where beachside coconut trees mark a boundary the Rohingya may not cross. ''I fled my house only with the clothes I was wearing … they beat and killed many of us,'' she says.
Zaleena Hatwa says before the violence she had a house and money. ''Now I am forced to live like a crazy street person,'' she says.

There are few Rohingya leaders to speak up internationally for their people, who are referred to by the Burmese Buddhist majority as ''Bengalis'' or the pejorative term for foreigner, ''kalar''.
Abdul Hakim, a cleric at a small Muslim mosque in the Aung Min Glar district of Sittwe, called for the United Nations to intervene to save his people.
''The Rohingya have been living here for 800 years but now the Buddhist want to drive the Rohingya all out of Arakan … they don't want to live together with the Muslim,'' he said. ''We want equal rights and we want the rule of law. We want peace and justice. The UN has the power, if they want to do something, they can.''
Baroness Amos, who visited eight refugee camps recently, called on the Burmese government to promote reconciliation in Rakhine, where she said tensions ''between communities is running very high''.
Her remarks underscored concerns about Burma's stability as it emerges from 50 years of repressive military rule under the reformist government of the President, Thein Sein.
The government and Rakhine community groups have placed extreme restrictions on humanitarian agencies working in Rohingya camps and Muslim areas.
People seen to be working with the Rohingya are often threatened.
Aid workers report seeing starving babies and toddlers so weakened by hunger they sit limply in their parents' arms.

The UN estimates there are 2900 babies and toddlers with acute malnutrition in the camps who may already be beyond help.
Satellite imagery shows extensive destruction of homes and property in Muslim areas following a rapid escalation of violence since June that led to at least 170 deaths.

One 14-hectare coastal area shows almost 1000 razed buildings, houseboats and floating barges. Reports have emerged of mass graves, and human rights organisations cite executions, torture, rapes, beatings, mass arrests and burnings by security forces, mainly against Rohingya.

The violence erupted after reports circulated that on May 28 a Rakhine Buddhist woman had been raped and killed. Retaliation was swift after details were circulated in an incendiary pamphlet.
On June 3, a large group of Rakhine Buddhists stopped a bus and killed 10 Muslims on board. Violence between Rohingya and Rakhine then swept through Sittwe and surrounding areas.
Since October more than 4000 Rohingya have paid smugglers to get on typically leaking and unsafe boats to make the perilous voyage to Muslim-majority Malaysia, where their presence is mostly tolerated. Several hundred have drowned in at least four boat sinkings.

At least one boat a day now leaves the region, its passengers mostly Rohingya men and teenage boys seeking a new life. Many others have fled to Bangladesh, where 400,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps. Bangladesh also considers them illegal immigrants.

In Rakhine state, authorities have begun a process of verifying the nationality of all Muslims, but there are widespread calls for those deemed ''illegal'' to be deported. The goal of the survey is unclear.
A 1982 law enshrines the citizenship of Burma's officially-recognised ethnic groups but the Rohingya were excluded despite their claims to have met the criteria of having ancestors in the country before 1823, the date of the first Anglo-Burmese war. Rohingyas say they can trace their ancestry back to an eighth-century shipwreck on an Arakan island.
Observers say widespread hostility towards the Rohingya throughout Burma is likely to inhibit their naturalisation.
''We have no plan to accept as an ethnic group those who are stateless, or any new tribes who are not officially recognised, like the Rohingya,'' said Zaw Htay, a high-ranking government official.
The opposition leader and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed international supporters by failing to speak up strongly for the Rohingya, prompting speculation she has her eye on 2015 elections.
In a squalid camp near Sittwe, Rashid Ahmad, 63, tells how security forces watched as a Rakhine mob attacked Rohingya residents in his village.
''They started beating and killing people, so my family and my niece's family ran away from the village to the seashore to take a boat,'' Rashid Ahmad said.
''My niece had already got on a boat but a mob of Rakhine people pulled her off the boat with her two children.
''One was a boy and the other a girl. They killed the boy with a long knife and spears … my niece was raped and then killed by the Rakhine mob.''
Rashid Ahmad said his people had lived in Burma for a long time and have a proud history as Muslims ''but have never felt law and justice from the government''.
''We are helpless unless we get help from another country,'' he said.

Read more:

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Lawmakers- Arresting Rohingyas Alive, Retuning dead!

Source Rohingyablogger, 25 Dec

Maung Than Soe (aka) Mohammed Khan
RB News
December 25, 2012

(Translated into English by M.S. Anwar)

A Letter from a Bleeding Heart to RB News

I, Daw Kyaut Khin at my 41, daughter of U Hla Kyaw, a widow and mother of three children, was born and brought up at the quarter of MyoThuGyi in Sittwe (Akyab), a place where we have been living for generations. On 10th June 2012, when Rakhine terrorists were killing and annihilating Muslims in our quarter, I was struggling to escape the horrific scenes with my two children (my eldest son was away from home on his trip) to save our lives. Meanwhile, my second son, Maung Than Soe @ Mohammed Khan (Son of U Maung Oo Shwe), was arrested and abducted by the two Police officers, Win Tun Oo and Than Shwe, from Police Station No.1.

My Son was trying to escape from the hands of the two Police officers and run away as he was too frightened, he was hacked with sword by the waiting Rakhine (Buddhist) terrorists and consequently got severe injuries on his head and right arm. I could not help and do anything as Police dragged away my son with such injuries. As I was attempting to run for life with my four-year-old child with a broken and bleeding heart, we were beaten and hacked by the Rakhine terrorists. As a result, I had to get my head stitched nine times and my four-year-old daughter also got injuries on her hand.

As I was getting treatment in hospital for the severe injuries I was given, I got a chance to see my son, Maung Than Soe, from a distance, ailing from the critical injuries.

The lawmakers and authority of this country, feel it being in my shoes what and how I would be feeling going through such pains! I can't explain!

On 19th December 2012, to make my heart bleed more, only the dead of my son, Maung Than Soe, was delivered to me from the above mentioned Police Station No.1. His dead body was full of injuries resulted from the tortures by the inhumane police.

My son was arrested 6-7 months ago and I was never given a chance to see him in the prison. I was never given a chance to provide him with foods and medicines. Which country on earth will have such lawmakers who arrest innocent people alive and return their mere dead bodies!!!

Feel it, how much pain we, weak and vulnerable people, are going through! My father is also a pure Rakhine and my mother is Kaman.

What fault have we done?

Is our fault that we are Muslims?

Concerning the arrest of my son, Police had never given me any notice or any other documents.

Is it that anybody here can be killed, hacked or chopped on mere reason that he/she is Muslim??

Daw Kyaut Khin

Monday 24 December 2012

Myanmar-Kachin war escalates

Source Bangkok Post, 23 Dec
(Note: we are sorry for the Bangkok Post wrongfully mentioned as rebel.)

YANGON _ Fighting between ethnic Kachin rebels and the Myanmar army has intensified, causing increased hardship and fear at camps set up to shelter civilians fleeing the fighting, reports said Sunday.

The Myanmar Times quoted rebel sources saying that clashes occurred south of the Kachin Independence Army's stronghold at Laiza, and near the town of Pangwa in the northern Kachin state near the China-Burma border.

"Day by day the fighting is continuing," said U Myint Thane, joint general secretary of the National Council of the Union of Burma, based in Thailand. "It has disappointed all of us."

Fighting in the Kachin state has frustrated efforts by the reform government of President Thein Sein to end the ethnic strife that has plagued the country since independence from Britain in 1948.

Kachin rebel leaders have blamed hardline officers of the army for mounting new offensives in the state.

"We've had reports that there are over 400 (Myanmar army) troops near Laiza and more than 500 near Pangwa," Myin Thane said.

Fighting has occurred every day since Dec 13, with the military deploying helicopter gunships and heavy artillery against the Kachin rebels, according to rebel sources.

The paper quoted an official of the aid group Kachin Baptist Convention as saying he was concerned that refugees in camps near Pangwa would have to leave if the fighting got any closer.

"The people are afraid because the fighting is happening near their camps," he said.

More stories:

Related search: Myanmar, Kachin, rebels

Sunday 23 December 2012

Letter from America: The Rohingya Question – Part 5

Source Asian Tribune, 23 Dec
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

No discussion on anti-Indian riots is, however, complete without a mention of the Japanese invasion of


Japanese Occupation of Burma

In January 1942, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Burma from Thailand with the help of the Burma Independence Army (BIA), a military force made-up of 4,000 Burman nationalists led by 30 officers (the so-called Thirty Comrades) who had been trained and equipped in Japan since 1940. As the British forces quickly retreated to India, nearly 400 Karen villages were torched and destroyed while 1,800 Karen civilians were reportedly murdered by the BIA troops in the first two months of the invasion (January-March, 1942).

As they started their massacre of the Indian population, more than half a million Indians, Anglo-Burman and other ethnic groups, who were considered pro-British, fled on foot, heading towards India between March and April. Their dramatic exodus through western Burma's dense jungles left tens of thousands of victims dead. More than a hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims were massacred by Arakanese Buddhists that were allied with the BIA and the fascist Japanese occupation forces during the pogroms of 1942; another 80,000 Arakanese Muslims fled to Bengal. The Muslim population was depopulated in the south and pushed north, close to today's Bangladesh-Burma border. The pogrom of 1942 against the Arakanese Muslims (Rohingya) almost permanently destroyed any possibility of reconciliation with the Arakanese Buddhists (Rakhine).

In April 1942, the British had built up a guerrilla force – the V Force – which operated along the whole front line between the British and the Japanese armies. The Arakanese Muslims (Rohingyas) were heavily recruited into this force and played an important role in gaining information, guiding troops, and rescuing pilots when they were shot down by the Japanese forces. In January 1944, the British took Maungdaw, with V Force playing an important supporting role. It was not until December 1944, however, that the British forces finally took Buthidaung. Once this stronghold had been captured the Japanese position rapidly collapsed, and by early January 1945 most of the Arakan was in British hands.

According to Kurt Jonassohn and Karin Solveig Björnson, "During World War II the Rohingyas remained loyal to the British, even when they retreated to India. They paid dearly for this choice: advancing Japanese and Burmese armies tortured, raped, and massacred thousands of Rohingyas ... After reconquering the region in 1945, the British rewarded the Rohingyas for their loyalty by setting up a civilian administration for the Rohingyas in Arakan." The dream of Rohingya autonomy was rather short-lived as Arakan was incorporated into Burma which gained independence in January 4, 1948.

With General Aung-San and his entire cabinet killed on July 19, 1947 (by the Buddhist extremists that were affiliated with his political opponent U Saw) before Burma gained independence and the Burman-Rohingya relationship rather jittery from the past experience, the Rohingyas faced severe discrimination in the new state. They were barred and removed from the Military, Police and civil services and their leaders were placed under arrest. Rohingya refugees who had fled to India (British Bengal) during the pogroms of 1942 were not permitted to return to their ancestral homes. Considered illegal immigrants by the highly racist and xenophobic Burmese government, their properties were seized and resettled by Burman and Rakhine Buddhists.

The Rohingya Identity

It has been sometimes argued, especially amongst the anti-Rohingya demagogues, and the numerous suppositions which some biased scholars have made, that since the designation "Rohingya" did not appear in the Baxter Report and some of the papers associated with it in the National Archives and the British Library in the UK, it was an invented term used by the Arakanese Muslims to claim ethnic status in Burma. In so doing, as if suffering from selective amnesia, they forget to state that the term 'Rakhine' was not used for the Arakanese Buddhists in many such reports either. Instead, we find the use of the words like 'Mugs' (see, e.g., Charles Paton's work) and 'Magh' to refer to the Rakhine Buddhists. The Rohingya Muslims of Arakan were similarly referred as Arakanese Musselmans and Mohamedans.

British reports have often mentioned Muslims in various parts of India as Mohamedans, Mahommedans and Musselmans. In some reports, all those terms were used interchangeably. Similar kinds of names were also used by the colonial administration for other communities, which served either their policies or whims.

There are numerous examples in our world where even the same place is called by different names by different communities. For example, Bangladesh is commonly known as Manjala (Mangala) in Chinese. In ancient times, Bangladesh was known as Banga, which later came to be known as Bangala by Arab and Persian geographers.

In the ancient times the land of Arakan was known as Arakan Desh, which in the pre-Burman annexation period, in the writings of writers and poets of Arakan and Chittagong, like Quazi Daulat, Mardan, Shamser Ali, Quraishi Magan, Alaol, Ainuddin, Abdul Ghani and others, came to be referred to as 'Roshang', 'Roshanga', 'Roshango Shar', and 'Roshango Desh'. However, in the local tongue Arakan was called Rohang by its Muslim population and as Rakkhapura or Rakhinepray or Rakhine Pye by its local Buddhists. In the Rennell's map (1771 CE), Arakan is shown as 'Roshawn'. The Tripura Chronicle Rajmala mentions it as 'Roshang'. The Chakmas and Saks of the 18th century called the country 'Roang'. [Note that words which sound like 'sha' are often changed to 'ha' by many people living in adjacent areas north and south of the Naaf River demarcating today's Rakhine state from southern part of Chittagong in Bangladesh. That is, Roshang and Rohang mean the same thing.]

To most Bengali speaking people America and Britain are known as Markin and Bilat in Bangla. The British colonizers also anglicized many of the local names of towns and cities. Chatga, for instance, came to be known as Chittagong in British records. Sri Lanka, which was known by ancient Greek geographers as Taprobane and as Serendib (or Saran Dip) by Arab geographers, came to be known as Ceilão by the Portuguese when they arrived on the island in 1505, which was transliterated into English as Ceylon.

Can such use of altered forms of the name of a country, place or people by outsiders obliterate their original names? Surely, not! What is important here is to realize that such changes or uses of nomenclature do not and cannot alter how the people identify or feel about themselves and their places.

Calling a people based on the region or district that they come from is a common practice in many parts of south Asia. For example, a person from Sylhet is commonly known as a Sylheti (speaking a dialect which is not quite understood by most Bangalis); a person who is from Faridpur is called Faridpuri and a person from Dhaka is called Dhakaiya. And yet, the British records did not make that distinction between these peoples. They were all lumped as Bengalis in spite of their colloquial differences.

It is worth noting from the Baxter report that the British census records originally mentioned only religion, and that only much later they tried to classify people by any of the 40 races or ethnic groups for the entire Indian population. As to the classification by races in 1921 and 1931, the report says, "For these years the Indian constituent of the population is taken to be the number of persons who then returned themselves as belonging to one of the forty specified Indian races, or who were tabulated as "Indians of unspecified race" where their records though indefinite showed they belonged to an Indian race."

It is, thus, understandable why the British authority would rather classify the Rohingya Muslims under Bengali or Chittagonian race because of their cultural similarity with people living on the other side of the Naaf River. It is also obvious from the report that many of the inhabitants were concerned about the 'hidden' agenda of such census reporting, and did not feel comfortable in sharing such information about their race or origin.

So, the mere debate around why the Arakanese Muslims were not called Rohingya people in the Baxter report sounds like raising tempest over teapots.

====? To be continued

For part 1:

For part 2: ;

For part 3:

For part 4:

- Asian Tribune -

Saturday 22 December 2012

Humanitarian gesture

Source thestar, 22 Dec

LAST month, I had written in this newspaper ("Displaced and stateless Rohingyas fleeing hell and facing limbo, The Star, Nov 10) that Malaysia would be challenged on the congruence of its position on the Rohingyas.

I questioned if the humanitarian aid provided to Rohingyas fleeing their burning homes in Myanmar would be forthcoming to the same people if they land on our shores where there is the absence of protection for them?

That day did come. On Tuesday, a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency vessel picked up 40 Rohingya refugees from a cargo ship in Johor. The refugees were on a boat that sank in the Bay of Bengal in early December while carrying about 250 people who were fleeing the ethnic violence in Myanmar. These 40 survivors had been turned away by Singapore earlier.

Health Equity Initiatives lauds the Malaysian government on this humanitarian gesture.

The situation of the Rohingyas remains precarious. Ongoing sectarian attacks on the minority Muslim Rohingyas and aid blockade in Myanmar have been forcing them out of their homes, with several families being separated as they flee the violence.

Currently, thousands, including women and children, are stranded at sea with no safe place to hide. Many are believed to be missing. Eyewitness accounts of fishermen in the Bay of Bengal describe dead bodies being dropped from boats carrying the Rohingyas, and children on these boats looking tired and exhausted.

Malaysia's gesture in offering refuge to the 40 survivors of the ship-wreck, fleeing such violent persecution, is the required empathetic humanitarian response from civilised nations.

Thousands of refugees like the Rohingyas in this case, have drowned at sea because of the absence of legitimate mechanisms for them to apply for international protection.

Malaysia's humanitarian gesture is a step in the right direction that should be emulated by other countries. It is also smart strategy to prevent human trafficking. It thwarts the efforts of international smugglers and human traffickers who exploit the vulnerability of those in dire need of international protection, and who have no option but to undertake these perilous journeys that often cost them their lives, in order to live a life, free from oppression and persecution.

For a sustainable solution to this problem, Malaysia needs to build on this gesture of humanitarian leadership by developing a coherent protection framework for refugees and asylum seekers at home, engaging Myanmar's fledgling democracy more robustly on the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities which is contributing to the widespread displacement of people in the region, initiating a regional burden sharing mechanism, and promoting efforts of peace building in the region.

SHARUNA VERGHIS Health Equity Initiatives Kuala Lumpur


Wednesday 19 December 2012

Malaysia takes in 40 Myanmar shipwreck survivors

Source Asiaone, 18 Dec
Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012
The captain of the Nosco Victory told The Straits Times that Malaysia's maritime agency had sent a boat to the vessel on Tuesday to pick up the 40 people.   

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's maritime agency on Tuesday said it "rescued" 40 Myanmar shipwreck survivors, who are thought to be Muslim Rohingya fleeing ethnic violence who had been denied entry to Singapore.

The agency told AFP the survivors of a wreck off the Myanmar coast on December 4, in which 160 others were reportedly drowned, were in good health and being transported to southern Johor state on one of its vessels.

"I confirm 40 Myanmar nationals were rescued from the Vietnam-flagged cargo ship Nosco Victory," Hamid Mohamad Amin, the agency's director for command and control, told AFP, declining to elaborate.

Singapore had turned away the ship carrying the 40 survivors amid media reports they could be stateless Muslim Rohingya.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it denied entry to the Vietnamese-registered bulk carrier Nosco Victory because of a lack of information about its passengers.

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported the 40 were believed to be Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, who had been fleeing ethnic violence there.

Clashes between Buddhists and the Rohingya have left scores of people dead and displaced more than 115,000 people since June.

According to the Herald, the 40 were believed to have been in the water for 30 hours before they were rescued on December 5.

It said they were survivors from a Bangladesh-flagged ship that sank on its way to Malaysia, a largely Muslim country that has a big Rohingya population.

Monday 17 December 2012

Rejecting Shipwreck Survivors Shows Singapore Lacks a Heart

Source Phuketwan, 16 Dec
Top of the tree in so many ways, Singapore just lacks a heart

PHUKET: Where did Singapore lose its heart? We visited the go-ahead city-state a while back and admired the stunning new developments, the efficiency of its taxis, the cleanliness of its streets.

Then came this week's sad account of the Vietnamese cargo vessel whose captain took a courageous decision to rescue 40 survivors from a shipwreck.

A second vessel plucked nine more from the Andaman Sea. Another 210 probably drowned when the ill-fated Nagu sank.

Both rescue vessels are now reported to be at anchor off Singapore as a UN agency tries to negotiate with Malaysia to take the 49 survivors, who may possibly even be Rohingya, the stateless Muslims from Burma.

Why Malaysia? Why not Singapore?

Earlier in the week, Singapore, the first-world country where prosperity is evident at every corner, turned away the shipwreck survivors.

According to Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority, it was all the fault of the courageous captain. He should have gone to the nearest port - which would have meant turning around - rather than continuing on to Singapore.

We can't speak for the captain of the Nosco Victory but perhaps he foolishly thought that Bandgladesh already had enough refugees, and that Singapore might be a better option.

Little did he know about Singapore's black soul. Prosperous Singapore was the destination for many refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

In 1975, Singapore was the first country to stop the boatpeople from coming. Other countries, including Thailand and Malaysia, followed.

Although 5000 eventually reached Singapore via commercial ships, which picked them up at sea, thousands of others died.

One reader of an online site publishing details of this fascinating piece of Singapore history wrote:

''I was in the spore navy at that time and those refugees that were intercepted before they reached our coast were provided with food and water and towed out and left to the mercy of the sea. looking back i think it was a shameful thing to do, the boats were definately not seaworthly and most of them perished at sea, the lucky ones made it to australia. how many died after we pushed them back into the ocean, nobody will ever know. it was like a death sentense with a very slim chance of clemency. could we have been more humane and given these people shelter until a third country decides to take them? how would you have felt if you were one of them being treated as if your life is almost worthless?

''and by the way, some of the boats which were in better condition were seized by the navy and painted in the navy colours and became part of the fleet. what a joke. anyway this sad part of our history, of how we were so cruel to our fellow human beings will never be taught in schools or mentioned in public.''

Indeed. Singapore has progressed in remarkable ways in the 21st century. Its people now rank as among the most prosperous in Asia.

But lost at sea 40 years ago, along with those thousands of Vietnamese boatpeople, was Singapore's heart.

Myanmar Reforms: the Devastating Consequences for the Rohingya and the Kachin. Maung Zarni, The Nation TV/SkyNet, 2 Dec 2012

Source Maungzarni, 16 Dec

Myanmar Reforms: the Devastating Consequences for the Rohingya and the Kachin.
Maung Zarni, The Nation TV/SkyNet, 2 Dec 2012

In this first leg of the interview with Thailand's NBC anchor and editor Ms Veenara Laohapakakul, I discuss the devastating consequences of President Thein Sein and his reforms (designed for regime security - rather than for the betterment of the common men and women of Burma).

The English language interview begins at 1:40 into the program.

The entire interview was broadcast in Thailand on 2 Dec 2012.

Thursday 13 December 2012

A history of ‘complete repression’ in Arakan state

Source DVB, 13 Dec
2012People displaced by recent violence in Kyukphyu township sit together after arriving to Thaechaung refugee camp
People displaced by the recent violence in the Kyukphyu township sit together after arriving to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe on 28 October 2012. (Reuters)

Ethnic cleansing does not have to, by definition, emanate from a government.

However after nearly 50 years of military rule, the apparatus of the state is entrenched in the fabric of Burmese society and as the pogrom continues in Arakan state, the back story provides unnerving evidence that systematic official behavior has lead to the current crisis.

What has occurred in western Burma has been described as a sectarian conflict between two communities who simply hate each other. This prognosis is demonstrably false and a look at the situation in Arakan provides ample evidence that there is a systematic pattern, which in most cases would amount to crimes against humanity.

One element of this picture is the improbability of a 'sectarian conflict'. Arakan state has a population of almost 4 million, making the Muslim or Rohingya population only about or less than quarter of the inhabitants, thus making a two-sided conflict highly illogical.

Further, the minority population has been controlled by the state to the extent that they are unable to travel between towns, renovate a mosque or even have a child or marry without a permit from the military.

The control of this population has long been perpetuated not just by uniformed military or Nasaka (border guard) personnel but also by quasi-civilian militias, as has been the case in much of the country. Indeed in Burma the ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) grew out of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

This organisation had perhaps its most notorious hour in 2003, when it attacked Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy in central Burma. The authorities naturally tried to portray it as a clash between two rival political groups. However, only one side, the National League for Democracy (NLD), suffered 70 deaths and only one side's supporters were arrested – also the NLD.

In the wake of the Depayin massacre, the US embassy dispatched a cable back to Washington entitled: "MOSQUE RAZED, PARAMILITARIES TRAINED."

In the cable, one of the militia's discussed was, "the USDA-affiliated 'Power Ranger' militia" that was receiving "rudimentary riot-control and military training." One of its other jobs was to hold up the Americans in case of an invasion, while the government was "training a paramilitary 'Peoples Militia' in Arakan state to assist in putting down any general uprising."

"Rohingya Muslims specifically, suffer from an aggravated, systematic, institutionalised form of persecution"

According to the cable, "Local officials on July 22 (2003) reportedly tore down a mosque in Sittwe, 70 miles SE of the Bangladeshi border, and arrested seven Muslims, one of whom subsequently died in custody."

The dispatch goes on to explain that the mosque was demolished because the worshippers "made unauthorized improvements to the structure, resulting in the decision by local authorities to tear down the whole building."

The embassy concludes that, "We frequently hear stories of pro-SPDC 'fake monks' allegedly inciting violence against Muslims to deflect anti-regime ire."

Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who is now on the commission to investigate June's violence in Arakan state, also notes this type of tactic being used. In 2008, he wrote in a US legal journal that:

"Before former intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt was dismissed and his intelligence agency disbanded, the junta could almost always uncover opposition groups that were planning to organise protests. In 1997, for instance, the junta became aware of monks' plans to protest a regional commander's improper renovation of a famous Buddha statue in Mandalay. Before the monks could launch the protest, a rumour emerged that a Buddhist woman had been raped by a Muslim businessman. The government diverted their attention from the regional commander to the Muslim businessman, eventually causing an anti-Muslim riot."

He concludes that: "intelligence agents have often instigated anti-Muslim riots in order to prevent angry monks from engaging in anti-government activities."

Given the uncanny resemblance of this case and the details surrounding late May's 'spark incident', one must ask questions about the current government and the legitimacy of the reform process.

Khin Nyunt was not only adept at preventing anti-government actions, he was also good at neutralising ethnic insurgent groups and casually referred to the entire nation of India as "kalars" – a pejorative term used in Burma to describe Muslims and individuals of South Asian descent.

Government policy then was described as "pervasive and sometimes aggressive religious discrimination that favours Burma's Buddhist majority."

While the US embassy noted in a cable in 2005 that the UNHCR head at the time Jean-François Durieux described "the situation in northern Arakan as 'shocking,' with the GOB [government of Burma] in constant denial of the true situation. Although Muslims have some religious freedom in Rangoon, the GOB has a policy of 'complete repression' of Rohingyas in northern Arakan. He noted that Buddhist temples are 'springing up everywhere,' although he estimates the Buddhist population as only one percent of the population [in northern Arakan]."

If there is any doubt that there is systematic repression against the population, the US embassy noted that, "The military has effectively sealed the Rohingyas off from the world and keeps them at the bare subsistence level – it is an internment camp." They further correctly forecasted that, "We should not assume that any future democratic government will accord these people their basic human rights."

Needless to say however despite this and the accumulated evidence, the US government has lifted punitive measures against the government.

The lack of civil rights is overshadowed moreover by the basic human indicators that have been thrust on the population by the government, as the US embassy noted: "Infant mortality is four times the national average (71 per 1000 births); 64% of children under five are chronically malnourished and stunted growth is common." Infant mortality then is roughly equivalent to that of Ethiopia, which is chronically affected by drought, and 80% of the population is illiterate with one teacher for every 79 students.

If this were not systematic, the discrepancies with other regions of the country would not be so severe. The government has been more than able to prevent freedom of movement for the roughly 850,000 Rohingya still in existence in the area, it would then seem that with one of the largest armed forces in Asia controlling the movement of mobs would be easy.

According to jurist Guy Horton writing in 2005, "the Rohingya Muslims specifically, suffer from an aggravated, systematic, institutionalised form of persecution designed to destroy them through exclusion, rather than assimilation."

Whilst according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

"…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Given that Thein Sein has attempted to off load the entire population onto the UNHCR, it is evident that he too is in favour of removing the population. With the well-documented government abuses against the population, there is not much of a case to suggest that what is occurring now in Arakan state is anything less than genocide.

-The opinions and views expressed in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect DVB's editorial policy.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Singapore turns away rescued boat people

Source smh, 12 Dec

BANGKOK: Singapore has denied entry to a Vietnamese-registered cargo ship carrying 40 Burmese asylum seekers who were plucked from the sea after their boat sank in the Bay of Bengal.

In an incident similar to the 2001 Tampa affair, where Australia refused entry to Afghan asylum seekers, Singapore said it had blocked the ship because ''those aboard do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore''.

The asylum seekers are believed to have been in the water for 30 hours before the ship Nosco Victory rescued them on December 5, meaning they would have been in a distressed state.

They are believed to be still aboard the ship anchored off Singapore. Their condition is unknown.

Singapore authorities said the Nosco Victory's captain ignored advice by Indian rescue authorities to take the asylum seekers to the ''nearest port of safety'', which probably would have been a Bangladeshi port.

The ship was due to dock in Singapore on Sunday.

''As information provided by the vessel's master concerning the rescued persons is sketchy and there is no other official documentation to assist at this point, they do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore,'' the spokesperson said.

''Under these circumstances, MV Nosco Victory was denied entry to the Port of Singapore.''

The ship's agent could not be reached for comment.

The asylum seekers are believed to Rohingyas, a Muslim minority who were fleeing western Burma, where ethnic violence erupted in June.

They were plucked from the sea after the overcrowded Bangladesh-flagged ship Nayou sank at about midday on December 4. Up to 160 other Rohingya aboard the ship are believed to have drowned. The Nayou was en route to Muslim-majority Malaysia, where there is a large Rohingya population.

The sinking is one of at least four in the area since October that has resulted in drowning of several hundred Rohingya - stateless people described by the United Nations as among the world's most persecuted groups.

More than 4000 Rohingya have attempted the perilous journey to Malaysia in the past eight weeks as the UN describes the situation in Rohingya camps in Burma's western Rahkine state as ''dire'', with widespread starvation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees last month called on regional countries to keep their borders open to people seeking asylum and international protection from Burma.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore spokesperson said the advice given to the captain of the Nosco Victory by Indian rescue authorities was made in consultation with the authority ''taking into consideration the safety and security of the ship''.

Read more:

Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Hidden Genocide

Source Aljazeera, 9 Dec
Pl watch the video of  "The Hidden Genocide"

This is the story of a people fleeing the land where they were born - the Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar.

Earlier this year a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered in western Myanmar. The authorities charged three Muslim men.

A week later, 10 Muslims were murdered in a revenge attack. What happened next was hidden from the outside world.

Bloodshed pitted Buddhists against minority Rohingya Muslims. Many Rohingya fled their homes, which were burned down in what they said was a deliberate attempt by the predominantly Buddhist government to drive them out of the country.

"They were shooting and we were also fighting. The fields were filled with bodies and soaked with blood," says Mohammed Islam, who fled with his family to Bangladesh.

There are 400,000 Rohingya languishing in Bangladesh. For more than three decades, waves of refugees have fled Myanmar. But the government of Bangladesh considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants, as does the government of Myanmar. They have no legal rights and nowhere to go.

This is a story of a people fleeing the land where they were born, of a people deprived of citizenship in their homeland. It is the story of the Rohingya of western Myanmar, whose very existence as a people is denied.

Professor William Schabas, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, says: "When you see measures preventing births, trying to deny the identity of the people, hoping to see that they really are eventually, that they no longer exist; denying their history, denying the legitimacy of their right to live where they live, these are all warning signs that mean it's not frivolous to envisage the use of the term genocide."

Trapped by Traffickers: Fleeing Rohingya Held Captive on the Thai Border

Source Phuketwan, 9 Dec
PHUKET: Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing and starvation in Burma are driving a surge in business for people traffickers on the Thai border with Malaysia.

The would-be refugees, who arrive by boat, are imprisoned in primitive conditions until someone pays for their passage across the border into Malaysia.

Recently, the people smugglers' fees have risen to the equivalent of 50,000 baht or even 60,000 baht per person. Brokers have been chasing ''investors'' in a widening circle, even on Phuket or in Bangkok.

If the fee is not met, Rohingya are usually indentured to work on fishing trawlers for up to 12 months to pay off their broker bond the hard way.

Virtually all authorities on both sides of the Thailand-Malaysia border take a cut from the fee. The broker usually only pockets 10,000 baht per person as profit.

A rapidly increasing number of Muslim-minority Rohingya are fleeing Rakhine state, where so-called community violence since June has led to at least 170 deaths and the torching of thousands of houses.

Dispossessed Rohingya are being penned in rough camps, where conditions have shocked United Nations visitors and where many young children are reported to be on the verge of starvation.

At least one boat a day now leaves the region, its passengers consisting of men and teenage boys hoping for sanctuary and a fresh start in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The tacitly-sanctioned ethnic cleansing has brought a dramatic increase in the number of departures. But the penning of the Rohinya in tens of thousands in Burma means they have been unable to make even an impoverished living for months.

So when the telephone call inevitably comes from a trafficker asking for the fee to facilitate the final step of an illegal passage to Malaysia, more families are these days unable to raise the money.

Hundreds of Rohingya are reported to spend time in captivity in the Thai province of Satun, awaiting the chance to make a crossing to Malaysia once the broker's fee is delivered.

However, with fewer people able to pay up, more Rohingya are believed to be forced to work on trawlers in conditions that amount to slavery at sea.

Survivors have told of being kept at work on the Andaman Ocean for as long as 12 months without a break, with supply tenders replenishing food and taking off loads of fish.

''People who arrive in Satun expecting to have to pay a fee are usually only kept under armed guard for a night or two,'' an informed contact told Phuketwan.

''They then cross the border, either by boat or simply walking through jungle trails, depending on where they are being kept prisoner. Most of the traffickers operate from plantations.

''Once in Malaysia, the Rohingya will usually be picked up by car and deposited at the door of relatives, whether in Kuala Lumpur or some other place.

''But those who can't raise the entrance money have a problem.''

With increasing numbers taking to boats and with cash short among Rakhine Rohingya, more teenagers and young men are thought to now be forced into slavery at sea. Others become guards or act as agents for the traffickers.

As a result of the boom in supply and the lack of money, brokers have been hastening to clear the bottleneck.

''We have been contacted,'' a Rohingya source on Phuket told Phuketwan last week. ''We don't have any relatives involved.

''But the traffickers are determined to find the money any way they can to make room for the next boatload.''

In the past, non-Rohingya Muslim groups on Phuket have raised money to free young men who otherwise would have been sent to sea.

Although the system is iniquitous, Rohingya and NGOs accept it as better than the alternative: a hopeless future for many in Rakhine state, where the message of race-hate against the despised Rohingya is now openly reinforced by officials at every level.

All the Asean countries bordering the Andaman Sea along with India are part of a conspiracy to keep their sordid part in the Rohingya tragedy low-key.

Burma's neighbors no longer openly report the arrival of Rohingya.

At least seven boatloads are said to have arrived on the Malaysian holiday island of Langkawi in recent weeks, with others likely to have landed north and south of the Thai holiday island of Phuket.

Those who land far enough south of Phuket are reported to be transported to Satun and delivered to people smugglers.

Those who are captured north of Phuket are returned to Ranong, a port on the border with Burma, where they too are transferred to traffickers.

As stateless people without citizenship and unwanted in Burma, the Rohingya are seldom transported back to Rakhine.

Most often, those apprehended in Thailand north of Phuket are recorded as ''Burmese'' to prevent alarming NGOs or the media.

The surge of Rohingya in the border bottleneck is expected to grow between now and April when the monsoon season makes the perilous voyage - which can be deadly at any time - too dangerous even for desperate people.

Sunday 9 December 2012

International Buddhist leaders urge Burmese to show compassion for Rohingyas

Source Mizzimma news, 8 Dec
Seventeen Buddhist leaders from around the world—plus His Excellency the Dalai Lama in absentia—have issued a statement urging Buddhists in Burma to show mutual respect and compassion to Muslims in Rakhine State.

Burmese Buddhist monks rally on the streets of Mandalay on Sunday, September 2, 2012 as they support the country's president, Thein Sein, who has called for the deportation of members of the Muslim minority Rohingyas, who live in Rakhine State. Photo:  AFP
Burmese Buddhist monks rally on the streets of Mandalay on Sunday, September 2, 2012 as they support the country's president, Thein Sein, who has called for the deportation of members of the Muslim minority Rohingyas, who live in Rakhine State. Photo: AFP
The statement comes after many Buddhist monks and abbots led demonstrations and advocated the removal of the Muslim Rohingya community from Burmese soil.

"We are concerned about the growing ethnic violence and the targeting of Muslims in Rakhine State and the violence against Muslims and others across the country," the statement said. "The Burmese are a noble people, and Burmese Buddhists carry a long and profound history of upholding the Dharma.

"We wish to reaffirm to the world and to support you in practicing the most fundamental Buddhist principles of non-harming, mutual respect and compassion."

The letter was signed by the following:
Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
President Buddhist Global Relief
(world's foremost translator of the Pali Canon)
Sri Lanka/USA

Dr. AT Ariyaratne
Founder Nationwide Sarvodaya Movement
Ghandi Peace Prize Laureate
Sri Lanka

Ven. Chao Khun Raja Sumedhajahn
Elder, Ajahn Chah Monasteries
Wat Ratanavan, Thailand

Ven. Phra Paisal Visalo
Chair Buddhika Network Buddhism and Society

Ven. Arjia Rinpoche VIII
Abbot Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Center

Ven. Shodo Harada Roshi
Abbot Sogenji Rinzai Zen Monastery

Achariya Professor J Simmer Brown
Chairperson Buddhist Studies
Naropa Buddhist University

Ven. Ajahn Amaro Mahathera
Abbot Amaravati Vihara

Ven. Hozan A Senauke
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Younge Khachab Rinpoche VIII
Abbot Younge Drodul Ling

Ven. Sr. Thich Nu Chan Kong
President Plum Village Zen temples

Dr. Jack Kornfield Vipassana Achariya
Convener Western Buddhist Teachers Council

Lama Surya Das
Dzogchen Foundation International
Vajrayana Tibet/USA

Ven. Zoketsu N. Fischer Soto Roshi
Fmr. Abbot largest Zen community in the West

Tulku Sherdor Rinpoche
Director BI. Wisdom Institute

Professor Robert Tenzin C. Thurman
Center for Buddhist Studies
Columbia University

HH the XIV Dalai Lama
Nobel Laureate

Though not able to be reached in time to sign this letter, HH the Dalai Lama has publicly and repeatedly stated his concern about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He urges everyone to continue to practice non-violence and retain the religious harmony that is central to our ancient and revered culture.