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Monday, 30 December 2013
Saturday, 28 December 2013
THE Rohingya people, who mostly live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, are the most persecuted people in our time. The Rohingyas are denied every right in this Buddhist-majority country simply because of their
Although the ancestors of the Rohingyas have been the bhumiputras or first settlers to the silver crescent of the Arakan (now named Rakhine state to obliterate its Islamic connection), bordering Bangladesh, from time immemorial, they were declared stateless in their own country by President Ne Win. Dr Aye Kyaw (now deceased), a Rakhine Buddhist academic, who lived in New York, was behind this xenophobic law to uproot the Rohingya, the second largest ethnic community in the Rakhine state. They are wrongly portrayed as 'Bengalis' or 'Chittagonians'. The denial of has led to all kinds of persecution of the Rohingya people known to mankind. They are unable to obtain passports or visas, own land or hold government jobs. They cannot get access to . Even to move from one part of the locality to another, they require special permission. Myanmar law prohibits them from having more than two children per family. They are also taxed for everything, even for owning chicken and goats.
In my study of ethnic and religious minorities around the world, I have not found a single community that has been suffering more than this unfortunate people — the Rohingyas of Burma. Their condition inside Myanmar has simply worsened since May 28 of last year. As a , many of the Rohingyas would say that they were able to survive those earlier (i.e. pre-2012) practices of unfathomed inhumanity displayed by the Buddhist majority people against them. But now they have lost almost everything. They live in cages. Their homes, businesses, schools, madrassahs, orphanages, and mosques have all been systematically demolished in a planned way, all with the blessing of the government — local and central.
The United Nations and other organisations have reported atrocities against the Rohingya. An April report by the non-profit Human Rights Watch detailed what it called 'a campaign of against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State since June 2012.' The report described an ongoing and the role of the Burmese government, local authorities and Buddhist monks in the terror and forced relocation of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims (that number has now grown to more than 140,000). It said that tens of thousands of displaced Muslims had been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home. They are forced to live in cages with little freedom to move around and fetch for their survival. In a 2012 report to the UN Human Rights Council, a UN-appointed independent observer said he had received 'consistent and credible allegations of a wide range of human rights violations...including "sweeps" against Muslim villages, arbitrary detentions, sexual assault and torture.'
I wish with all the media attention the situation had improved for the suffering Rohingyas. But it has not. Even the Organisation of Islamic Conferences was denied access to visit Muslim camps last year. Just as it happened during cyclone Nargis that hit the Rakhine state in 2008, relief items donated by Muslim countries and aid agencies continue to be distributed amply within the Rakhine Buddhists while the same are denied to the Rohingya Muslims by the state authorities. They are starving to death. Many of them are fed tainted food and spoiled grains. Many are risking their lives to find refuge elsewhere.
President Thein Sein has openly said he does not want the Rohingyas living in his Buddhist country. And what is so disheartening is that even when these Rohingyas are killed in genocidal campaigns inside Myanmar, their neighbours to the west and east won't accept them as refugees. Most of the Rohingyas have now settled for a life of insecurity as unwanted refugees in many parts of our world.
Who would have thought that we would witness such serious violations against a people some 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly?
Of particular concern is the unfettered role played by Wirathu, the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 anti-Muslim movements, which sanctifies eliminitionist policies against the Muslims. Despite Wirathu's outspoken propagation of violent aggression toward Muslims in Burma, government leaders have publicly called him peaceful and good. Demanding the expulsion of all Muslims from Burma, these monks urge the local population to sever all relations with not only the Muslims, but also with what are described as their 'sympathisers'. Labelled as national traitors, those Buddhists who associate with Muslims also face intimidation and violence. The hateful rhetoric of the radical monks and the '969' campaign is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathisers in the lead-up to and during the Rwandan genocide, let alone the Nazi-led holocaust more than half a century earlier.
Equally problematic is the fact that national and local security forces have been allowed to perpetuate severe human rights abuses and brutal persecution against Muslims with impunity.
In my detailed analysis of the events since last year, drawing upon field reports and eyewitness accounts from inside Myanmar, I have concluded that the Rohingyas of Myanmar are facing genocide, and nothing short of it. The elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities there has sadly become a national project enjoying widespread support within the Buddhist community — home and abroad. Deplorably, even Aung Saan Suu Kyi appears to be a party to this crime! It is high time for the world community to stop this process before it is too late.
On December 14, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, hosted the first international conference in the United States on the plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar — 'Stop Genocide and Restore Rohingyas' Citizenship Rights in Myanmar'. It was jointly hosted by the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association and the Rohingya Concern International in collaboration with the ethnic studies programme at the university. Amongst others I was invited to speak at the conference.
The conference opened with a welcome speech from BRAFA's chairman Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (MSK Jilani) and Dr Chia Vang of the ethnic studies programme at the university. The programme was conducted by Mohiuddin Yosuf, president of the RCI and chief coordinator of the conference organising committee. Amongst others, the speakers included Professor Greg Stanton of the Genocide Watch (George Mason University), Nurul Islam of ARNO (UK), Sheikh Ziad Hamdan of Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Professor Abid Bahar from Montreal (Canada), and Dr Nora Rowley of the Vulnerable Population Health and Well-Being.
In his speech, Professor Stanton discussed the obvious similarities faced by the Rohingyas of Myanmar with those of Tutsis in Rwanda. They are victims of eight stages of genocide — classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation, preparation, extermination and denial. 'The first stage of genocide is classification, where you classify a whole group of people as somehow outside the citizenship of the country,' said Stanton. 'One of the things we've learned about genocide is it's a process, not an event... And these early warning signs are ones to take very seriously.'
In her speech, Dr Rowley shared eyewitness accounts of suffering of the Rohingya people in which the government continues to play its evil role towards elimination of this persecuted people. Professor Bahar discussed history of the Rohingya people and shared his encounter with them as a field researcher in the late 1970s.
The conference participants called upon the government of Myanmar to (1) restore full citizenship rights of all the stateless Rohingya minorities living inside Burma and to all those who were forced to seek a life of unwanted refugee outside as a result of government-orchestrated violence against them; (2) stop persecution, discrimination and dehumanising of Muslims, including repealing laws and policies that enact or contribute to the persecution of Muslims and other targeted groups within Myanmar; (3) crack down on anti-Muslim violence against Rohingya and other Muslims; (4) allow an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence; (5) stop the criminal activities of Buddhist monk Wirathu and his 969 movement, and punish them for causing suffering of the Muslim victims; (6) guarantee safety and security of the Rohingya people and other minority Muslims and Christians living inside Myanmar; (7) compensate for the loss of lives and properties of all those affected by the cleansing pogroms since May 28, 2012; (8) allow for relocation of the victims to their original places; (9) allow unfettered access of the international UN agencies, non-government organisations, including the OIC, to closely monitor the violence prone Rakhine state and allow them to aid the Muslim victims.
The conference participants called upon UN Security Council to authorise armed
They also called upon the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute Wirathu and other instigators of crimes against humanity. They also urged the Veto powers to enforce harsh measures against the political and military leaders of Myanmar for lack of progress in matters of human rights and restoration of citizenship rights of the Rohingya people.
Dr Habib Siddiqui, a peace and rights activist, writes from Pennsylvania.
Thursday, 12 December 2013
By Dr. Wakar UddinAs we celebrate the 20th anniversary of United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner's Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, the U.S. House of Representatives continues to take on an issue that shows our increasing need to stand against the human rights violations that continue to plague many despite signs of progress.
The Rohingya Muslims, a small Burmese minority community, currently facing what many human rights authorities have called an "ethnic cleansing" look toward the U.S. House with a glimmer of hope this week as the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific holds a markup session on House Resolution 418 entitled "Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and respect internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma."The story of the persecuted Muslim Rohingya has gone largely untold. Comprising less than 10 percent of the population of Burma, the Rohingya are an Islamic ethnic group in the majority Buddhist Burma. In mid-2012, longstanding prejudices exploded into full-blown sectarian violence and massacre. Various instances of violent crimes committed by Buddhist individuals, including the destruction of Muslim homes and businesses, have caused more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee. The targeted violence has become so grave that the Rohingya have been recognized by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. After more than a year's worth of persecution, there has at last been an initiative to recognize and call to accountability the powers that can prevent further harm through House Resolution 418.
Currently, the Rohingya minority is not recognized as a legitimate ethnic community and has had to endure the complete disregard of the government. Institutionalized marginalization such as this persistent non-recognition has led to increased sectarian violence against the Rohingya people in Burma.
The most prominent world powers should always be committed to upholding the principles of basic human rights, but the practicality of this ideal has presented problems for international leaders who must consider the political consequences of such a commitment. Burma has gained much international praise for abandoning an autocratic military junta and transitioning into a democracy. The world has reacted by lifting sanctions and preparing for normalized diplomatic relations with a country that has been isolated for decades. The human rights abuses occurring in Burma have meanwhile been lost in the shuffle, seemingly given a pass by the international community simply because the nation has promised democratic reform. We must bring new light to the fundamental abuses of human rights on this historical day.
Today, the international community can increase public awareness to bring further scrutiny to the atrocities that have occurred in Burma and hold them accountable. A government that calls itself a democracy remains disingenuous to this cause if the voices of an entire community are systematically shut out.
The Rohingya have been the victims of violence and institutionalized discrimination that has gone unmitigated and unpunished by a government that seems content to allow such acts to be carried out. While Buddhist mobs rampantly destroy the lives of the Rohingya and untold numbers are forced to flee or face death, security forces have been observed standing idle or even encouraging aggression. The motivation and willingness of the Burmese government to protect its own people will be of paramount importance if widespread change regarding minority populations is to take hold. Unfortunately, there has been little indication that such perceptions exist within the transitional government. Together the international community can change the perception of the Burmese government and save the Rohingya people from a volatile and life threatening environment.
Should the situation continue to be ignored, the hostile environment surrounding the Rohingya will continue to worsen and the possibility of full scale ethnic cleansing will rise. The world has already suffered the consequences of complacency when dealing with previous instances of ethnic conflict. The time to act is long overdue.
On the 20th anniversary of human rights day, I call on the international community to apply consistent political pressure on the Burmese government to end the persecution of the Rohingya and extend them full citizenship rights. Furthermore, coming a day before the markup session on Resolution 418, Human Rights Day is a prime opportunity for the US Government, through the continued development of Resolution 418, to insist that Burma recognize the suffering its own people and take measures in enforcing security for them. Together we can fight for the fundamental human rights of the Rohingya people and fight for the true institution of democracy in Burma.
Uddin is director general of the Arakan Rohingya Union.
Monday, 9 December 2013
Authorities will investigate how 27 asylum seekers evaded detection to land on Christmas Island, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says.
The group is believed to have reached the island late on Monday or early on Tuesday. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service was informed of their presence about 2.40pm on Thursday.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Tamara Dean.
They told authorities their boat sank, and are believed to have spent three days camped out on a beach unnoticed, eating crabs and coconuts to survive.
All 27 people on the boat had been accounted for after a search by Australian Federal Police, Mr Morrison told reporters at his weekly Operation Sovereign Borders press briefing on Friday.
One man was in hospital with minor injuries.
Dolly Beach: where the asylum seekers had been camping. Photo: Supplied
''This has been an unusual incident that raises a number of questions that will be the subject of a standard post-incident operational assessment to ensure that any lessons learnt from this incident are incorporated into future practice,'' Mr Morrison said.
''We should never forget that this is a very big ocean in that vicinity. These are very small vessels.''
Asked how the vessel managed to reach the island undetected, Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell also mentioned the size of the ocean and the "very small wooden craft".
"We do have radar capability on both our vessels and at Christmas Island. But depending on the nature of the general weather conditions and the sea swell, the size of the craft, it is possible but rare to see these sorts of incidents arise," General Campbell said.
He has directed the commander of Border Protection Command "to undertake an assessment of our procedures, disposition and capabilities to mitigate where possible such surprises".
Australian federal police had searched heavy jungle on Christmas Island on Friday for a group of 8 missing asylum seekers after initially finding the remainder of the group.
The asylum seekers are believed to have camped undetected on the beach after their boat sank off Christmas Island.
The asylum seeker boat is believed to be one of four boats to have arrived at the island in the past five days.
Christmas Island councillor Gordon Thomson said two vessels arrived in the past 24 hours, while another carrying about 30 passengers was intercepted off Christmas Island on Sunday.
The 27 Rohingya asylum seekers are believed to have spent three days camped out on a Christmas Island beach unnoticed, eating crabs and coconuts to survive.
A spokesman for Immigration minister Scott Morrison said no passengers on the boat "are believed to have been lost at sea".
Of the group, 19 were initially accounted for by the Immigration Minister's spokesman in a rare press release issued about midnight on Thursday.
Eight people including two crew are housed at the Phosphate Hill facility in the care of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the spokesman said. One person is in the Christmas Island Hospital in a stable condition "after sustaining minor injuries" and five "are currently being escorted by AFP officers for transfer to the Phosphate Hill facility".
"A further nine other persons are believed to be in heavy jungle approximately 50 minutes' walk away from the nearest road," the Immigration Minister's spokesman had said.
Christmas Island councillor Mr Thomson said the asylum seekers had been camping on Dolly Beach for three days.
"They walked [out] along a very steep track for about six kilometres. They found themselves on one of our main roads where they were seen and police and custom officers scrambled to pick them up."
Thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar, have fled persecution and oppression since last year.
Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government was failing to uphold its promise to bring the "discipline and focus of a targeted military operation" to the asylum seeker issue.
"The question today is with all of that focus and discipline how is it possible that a boat arrived on Christmas Island without detection?" Mr Marles said.
"How is it possible that asylum seekers could be on Christmas Island since Monday without the government knowing about it?
"What is clear is the government is not in control."
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/missing-rohingya-asylum-seekers-found-on-christmas-island-20131205-2ytr5.html#ixzz2mvk5rkBN
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Talking to TOI, advocate Ajay Virmani said he took up the issue with during a conference on human rights in New Delhi. Chin is also a cabinet minister in Myanmar. "These people have no future in India. What will be their status after their one-year visa expires? We have to fight for their rights," said Virmani.
On November 15, Rohingya Muslim Noor Hussain along with wife and seven children were freed from Amritsar jail but had no where to go as Mayanmar had refused to recognize them as their citizens. They were later adopted by the family of Milkha Singh of Mujjpur village in Tarn Taran district on humanitarian grounds.
According to reports, Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted communities there. Myanmar government maintains that Rohingyas had migrated from the Indian sub-continent and denies them citizenship and other basic rights. "Besides Myanmar government, I will also take up the case of Rohingya Muslims at international level," Virmani stated.
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Burmese politician and international celebrity Aung San Suu Kyi flew into Sydney yesterday to begin a brief tour of Australia, during which time she will meet the prime minister and other members of the government.
If her recent visits to Europe are anything to go by, the Nobel laureate's arrival will be a triumphal affair involving inevitable cheering crowds, mutual congratulation and much rhetoric about shared values on display. Politicians will no doubt wish to associate themselves with her image and bask in her fading effulgence, while ordinary Australians will very probably receive the heroine of Burma's democracy movement with open arms.
Yet for all the deserved plaudits she will receive from her hosts, the sheer spectacle of her visit may amount to an unhelpful distraction from extremely serious abuses taking place in her homeland; indeed it may even seem unwarranted, given that the smiling icon has betrayed some of her country's most vulnerable people.
The Rohingya of west Burma are the most needy, despised and endangered ethnic group in the country. The Muslim minority is stateless (unwanted by both Burma and Bangladesh), impoverished and has been subjected to at least three brutal pogroms over the past 40 years, two of them directly at the hands of Burmese government forces. The latest bout of extreme anti-Rohingya persecution in the country's restive Rakhine state, where the group is remains subjected to ethnic cleansing, endures to this day.
When asked about the plight of Muslims during her recent visit to the UK, Suu Kyi told BBC journalist Mishal Husain that there was "no ethnic cleansing" and equivocated about the suffering of both Buddhists and Muslims in a manner that at least one other writer found "chilling" to watch.
For the record, there is no parity. Muslims in general, and the Rohingya in particular, have suffered far more from inter-religious clashes over the past two years, during which time children in Meiktila, Central Burma, were burnt alive and well over 100,000 Rohingya have been confined to squalid camps where they are systematically denied aid and where disease is rife. There have been organised attacks on the minority that amounted to crimes against humanity committed by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, whom Suu Kyi is keen to remind us are suffering too – from fear, not mass slaughter.
I have visited the Rohingya IDP camps twice this year, and been informed about a variety of abuses perpetrated against the inmates by police and government forces since June last year, including rape and murder. Human rights reports confirm these allegations. Conditions in parts of the camps, as well as the emotional torment endured by its inhabitants, were wrenching to witness.
The Rohingya are edging closer to a final disaster that could amount, in the eyes of several authoritative analysts, to genocide. Yet "mother Suu" remains virtually silent, no doubt in part because the recognition of this people's plight would amount to political suicide in a country where racial prejudices run deep. The Rakhines have demonstrated their position on the Rohingya with total clarity: through mob attacks and arson; their hatred of the Rohingya has been evident for decades.
If her failure on the Rohingya issue isn't bad enough, Suu Kyi has also neglected to defend poor Burmese farmers in Sagaing Division in the wake of a violent, government-backed crackdown on protests at the Letpadaung Copper mine there last year, in which campaigning monks were allegedly burnt in their sleep by police. Having headed an official panel which produced a report recommending that the project should go ahead, she lectured protesters on the folly of their resistance against the multi-billion-dollar, Chinese-backed project which will result in a loss of livelihood, displacement and serious water pollution for local people. The panel also effectively endorsed police impunity, despite the use of white phosphorous against peaceful protesters.
By contrast, Suu Kyi has been outspoken on the need to change the national constitution, which was authored by the old military elite, and widely-regarded as having been designed to prevent her from occupying the office of president. She will be sure to ask for Australia's support in pressuring Burma to change the charter.
It seems impossible to resist the impression that "the Lady" is a paragon no more – and certainly no human rights defender, as she herself reminded journalists recently. Rather, she has begun to act like any other politician: single-mindedly pursuing an agenda, making expedient decisions with one eye on electoral politics, the other on kingmakers in Naypyidaw and the domestic political economy.
Australians welcoming her today would do well to remember this, even as media celebration reigns and the lonely, deserted Rohingya stumble toward their collective grave.