Wednesday 25 February 2015

Myanmar: "Rohingya subjected to a slow genocide"

Source amnestypress, 2 Feb

Maung Zarni comes from a military family and left Burma to make a career. It was only in exile, he became a dissident and activist, and an advocate for the country's most vulnerable minority - the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group. Amnesty Press met Maung Zarni when he visited Stockholm.

REPORTAGE | 2015-02-22 

Flyktinglägret Taung Paw i Myebon i Rakhine i december 2012. Foto: UN Photo/David Ohana

The concept of slow genocide is not Maung Zarnis own. Parallel to that, he published studies and reports he was looking for a suitable terminology to explain the situation in Rakhine, the state in western Burma, which represent ethnic group Rohingya traditional home. During a conference at Harvard in the US came from Nobel laureate Amartya Sen with a proposal.

- He said we should call it slow genocide, says Maung Zarni. Legally, it would have been enough to call it genocide but there is a misconception that the definition of genocide is that many have been killed during a short time. Genocide is basically about to destroy the conditions for a people to be able to think of themselves as just a people.

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines five intentional acts which - together or in combination - constitute genocide if carried out in order to "wholly or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group". They do both dead and physically harming people from the group, but also to attack the group's cultural identity.

- That's a little more complicated to define, says Maung Zarni. But imagine that you are walking down the street here in Stockholm and a police officer stops you and asks where you are from. When you reply that you are Swedish, he hits you and says "no you are norwegian, go home", and continue beating until you provide with you. So, the Burmese government acted for 40 years, it says "you are not Rohingya, you are Bengali and do not belong here."

Maung Zarni visited Stockholm in February. Photo: Ivar Andersen

People Group Rohingya's fate has long been an invisible tragedy. According to Amnesty International, the human rights continuously violated by Burma's central power since 1978, but few news has leaked from it for a long time closed country and the Rohingya have been largely voiceless. In addition to the Muslim Rohingya Rakhine is also home to the Buddhist community the state takes its name from. People Group rakhines is, unlike Rohingya, recognized as one of Burma's 135 national minorities and represent approximately 75 percent of the state's four million inhabitants.

Tensions between rakhines and Rohingya have long existed, but exploded in the summer of 2012 in large-scale violence. The origin is disputed, but the Rohingya were the clear losers. Hundreds were killed when villages were set on fire, tens of thousands were displaced. At least 100,000 Rohingya live today interned in camps in dire humanitarian conditions.

Maung Zarni mean that what outwardly described as an ethnic conflict is in fact the result of an active approach from the Burmese regime.

- Both rakhines and Rohingya victims of Burmese colonization. When Burma became a sovereign state in 1948 was shot groups off against each other. Rakhines demanded independence, but the Rohingya of Burma helped to put down their rebellion. As a thank you became Rohingya recognized as citizens, but rakhines has never forgiven them. Now, the regime has revived the old antagonisms.

Military Handlebar end of 2011, the rakhines opportunity for local political representation, and greater opportunity to make demands on the central government.

- Rakhines demanded autonomy and to take part of the revenues from natural gas development in the state, said Maung Zarni. The claims were directed against the Burmese military, so the military decided to direct their anger against Rohingya instead.

Data on military involvement in the violence that erupted in 2012 quickly spread. Human Rights Watch , who argue that what is happening in Rakhine constitute ethnic cleansing, has in a report gathered dozens of testimonies of the armed forces actively participated in the expulsion of the Rohingya.

Rohingya's modern history is in many ways a case study in how Burma's military regime worked. After initially favored and used it as a buffer against other minorities requirements Rohingya lost his favor with the junta. 1982 was deprived of his Burmese Rohingya citizenship and considered since then officially as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Maung Zarni argues that what he calls "national security paranoia" has hit extra hard against the Rohingya, the only Muslim group along the 275 km long border with the populous neighbor to the west.

- 1978 regime launched a plan to clean up the country's border areas. It was not specifically directed against, but was particularly deadly for, Rohingya. Many fled to Bangladesh, and the reason that they were deprived of their citizenship was to Bangladesh in 1982 threatened to arm the refugees unless Burma took them back.

In the autumn of 2015 planned general elections in Burma. The government has announced that Rohingya will be allowed to vote. A step on the road to restoring the long-suffering minority status as Burmese citizens in democratic reforms wake? Not at all, says Maung Zarni.

- What you must understand is that this is still a military government and that they see everything as a military operation. The Constitution was an operation that automatically gave them 25 percent of the seats in Parliament. And when they give Rohingya right to vote, they buy themselves automatically 500,000 votes with one stroke of the pen. Rohingya do not support the government and know that it is complicit in atrocities against them, but they know that the government is the only force that has the ability to improve their situation. Many Rohingya supported the former National Leauge for Democracy , but after the democratic party turned its back on them. No one will forget it.

Maung Zarni is disappointed with Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the main opposition party NLD: "It's hard for me she does not say anything about the Rohingya". Photo: Ivar Andersen

During the junta's rule supported Aung Saan Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, NLD, the Rohingya's struggle for civil rights. But since the democratic process started, the support turned into eloquent silence. Maung Zarni believe that tactical considerations underlie and his sentence is harsh:

- Aung Saan Suu Kyi feels she can not win anything on standing up for the Rohingya. The army will be upset, the party supports her. And she has relativiserat abuse by attempting to describe it as a conflict between two complicit parties. It's hard for me she does not say anything about the Rohingya. Amnesty International was fighting for her freedom for decades and she goes out into CNN and says that she is not an activist for human rights without a political leader. But you can be both. What values ​​drive one if you do not fight for human rights?

Personally, Maung Zarni an easy unlikely champion of what the UNHCR called "one of the world's most vulnerable minorities". He comes from a military family and considered himself a career in the armed forces, but ambition and adventurousness wanted different. He took employment as a guide for getting to know tourists, and to get their help to arrange employment abroad. A requirement for obtaining an exit permit.

- When I was 24, in 1988, so I left the country to study in the US. There were no political reasons, I was not part of the student movement. My goal was to go back and marry my girlfriend, not to become a political dissident.

Activist for Rohingya rights became Maung Zarni not until he met the British woman who later became his wife: 
- My wife is a researcher, it was she who taught me about the Rohingya. I had lived in Burma for 24 years but never even heard of them. My English wife had to educate myself about my own country! Eventually I began to feel ashamed. We call ourselves Burmese Buddhists and face the world with a friendly smile but we treat these people as the Nazis treated the Jews.

Ivar Andersen

Facts / Maung Zarni
• Is scholars and human rights activist. 
• Teach at Harvard Medical School faculty for global health. Has previously conducted research at Oxford,London School of Economics and Malay University of Malaya . 
• Said in 2013 up from a managerial position at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam then the employer urged him to stop advocating democracy in the Sultanate of Brunei. 
• Blogs about Rohingya situation, Buddhist nationalism and Burmese Policy on

Friday 20 February 2015

Britain spends £140k on Myanmar army

Source Presstv, 16 Feb
Child soldiers in Myanmar (file photo)

Child soldiers in Myanmar (file photo)

The UK spends around £140,000 of taxpayers' money on training the Myanmar army, which is accused of the recruitment of child soldiers, journalist intimidation, and using rape as a weapon.

According to the recent revelation by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), 60 Myanmar military officers took part in training course led by the British government in 2014, The Telegraph reported.  

The funding has sparked criticism over what one British MP refers to as "war crimes" which are carried out by Myanmar's military.

According to the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, in 2013 and 2014, 126 children were allegedly recruited in to the country's army.

There are also reports of over 100 cases of rape being used by some Burmese officers as a weapon of war.

The army also faces accusations of threatening journalists inquiring into the country's human rights records.

The Myanmar government has also been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingya Muslims.

The MoD's full scale of involvement with the Myanmar's military surfaced this week following questions asked of Labor party MP Valerie Vaz.

"The Burmease Army is perpetrating what I would say is a war crime by using rape as a weapon. They should be protecting their own citizens not raping and murdering them," Mrs Vaz said.

"It is a grave matter of concern that UK Government money could possibly being going into an organization that is perpetrating these terrible crimes."

Child Soldiers  

Recently, the charity organization Child Soldiers International referred to Myanmar's use of child soldiers in its report, titled Under the radar: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army.   

The NGO acts as an information center for related child advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

"Since the Myanmar government has committed to ending child soldiering and taken measures to address it in collaboration with the UN, we do not oppose training on international standards being delivered to the Myanmar military provided the UK includes in its training a direct dialogue on ending child recruitment and use," said the charity's Asia program manager Charu Hogg.

"They should explicitly raise the issue of reform in the Myanmar military's recruitment practices including through monitoring and oversight."

The government's defense  

Friday 6 February 2015

Thousands of Rohingya refugees evicted in Bangladesh

Source UCA news, 5 Feb

Groups cleared from informal settlements without warning or assistance in order to make way for tourism

<p>Unregistered Rohingya refugees in the Shamlapur informal settlement in Cox's Bazar district in June of last year (Photo by Will Baxter)</p>
Unregistered Rohingya refugees in the Shamlapur informal settlement in Cox's Bazar district in June of last year (Photo by
 Will Baxter)
  • Rock Ronald Rozario and Stephan Uttom, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • February 5, 2015

Authorities in Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district forced out thousands of undocumented Rohingya refugees from their makeshift refugee camps on Wednesday, leaving them homeless.

Rohingya Muslims living in about 2,500 homes were driven out of the pine forests of Shamlapur, a fishing village about 50 kilometers from Cox's Bazar town. Officials estimated no more than 7,000 were evicted, but Prothom Alo, the country's most popular Bengali daily reported the figure to be 35,000.

The refugees had lived in the area since the 1990s, occupying dilapidated houses and relying on fishing for their livelihood. All had fled sectarian violence in their native Rakhine state, in Myanmar just across the border.

Officials said the eviction is a part of a policy to reclaim the area from illegal encroachers along Marine Drive Road that runs through the country's most popular tourist destination.

"We have followed instructions from the Prime Minister's Office to clear government land close to Marine Drive Road. We have received many complaints that Rohingyas have been involved in various criminal activities in the area," said magistrate Jahid Iqbal, assistant commissioner of land in Teknaf sub-district who led the eviction assisted by police and border guards.

"We didn't force them out of their settlements. We asked them to move out and they left their places," he said.

Iqbal said the evicted refugees won't be sent across the border and that he was waiting for further instructions from higher authorities as to what aid would be provided to them.

"We have written to the government for a rehabilitation package and aid. We will have its response soon," he added.

The evicted Rohingyas meanwhile disputed Iqbals claim that they were not forced out, saying their homes were torn down by authorities.

"At around 10am police came and told us to leave our home, but we didn't move because we had nowhere to go. Then they smashed our home and now we are living rough," said Hasina Begum, 45, a widowed mother of three.

"We have no roof over our heads. My children are hungry and I have nothing to feed them," she added.

Though Rohingyas have lived in Myanmar for generations, the government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and has resisted offering them citizenship. Those who have fled across the border to escape persecution are equally unwelcome in Bangladesh.

Since 1978, thousands have fled, many to the Cox's Bazar district where around 30,000 Rohingyas reside in two official camps, relying on government and NGO aid for survival. As many as 300,000 reside in unofficial makeshift camps, where they face strict restrictions on movements and are frequently exploited for cheap labor.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in November said the government was planning to relocate Rohingya refugees to a "better place" from their camps in Cox's Bazar district. Details as to where that "better place" is have yet to be released.

How did Myanmar President Thein Sein con the world?

Source maungzarni, 30 Jan

It was a textbook example of an effective propaganda campaign - "manufacturing a reformist" out of Mr NOTHING.

First, Myanmar President Thein Sein succeeded in conning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi first.

On her part, having fallen to the regime's psych-war.charm offensive, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was compelled to help Thein Sein, well, con the whole world.

Thein Sein also has a team of western educated spin-masters including U Thant's grandson Thant Myint-U, Ben Anderson's student Kyaw Yin Hlaing, the whole EGRESS team and their networks of western diplomats, investors, brokers, foreign foundations, NGOs, UN staff, journalists, academics, broadcasters, etc.

Here is Zaganar's strategic insights into the world of Burmese politics worth studying.

That Thein Sein was a Con-Man with no real substance, much less reformer, has been my contention from the day Thein Sein assumed nominally highest office in the land - Presidency.

Earlier this week the country's famed political comedian and dissident Zaganar reinforced my view when he shared his first hand knowledge of Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2-part interview with the Voice Weekly.

Within hours, the Voice took down the interviews.

Here is the relevant gist of what Zarganar has to say about 2015 elections, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,

1). On Thein Sein

I interviewed and/or filmed President Thein Sein 3 times. I got a chance to do a close-up examination of the man, the make-up of his team, their quality. President is NOTHING (meaning has no substance). (Zarni's remark: ex-General San Yu, Ne Win's deputy made "President" in the 1980's, was also known to be a substance-less man; precisely because these men had no backbones or substance did these despots pick them to play Yo-Yo). Ah, the world's media, leaders, etc. - out of their own respective logic and interests -keep on portraying this President NOTHING as "reformer"! LOL!)

2). Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

There is nobody like her among us whom the world would listen to. There is no replacement.

3). On ASSK's (misplaced) trust in Thein Sein

"Aunty told me to just trust President Thein Sein. So, I asked what percentage should I trust him. She replied, "100%". I was taken aback because her trust was based on a single meeting."

4). On 88 Generation Leaders

Well, there are really a total of 7 of them. Long years of imprisonment have taken a huge toll on them. Min Ko Naung, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Choe, etc. have exhausted their potential. They can do no more. They know it.

5). On 2015 elections

I have never been excited about 2015 elections, to be blunt. Everyone talks about. But political parties and opposition have no capable 'min-laungs' or prospective leaders to lead. So our goal ought to be 2020. We need to get about 450 capable candidates between 
the ages of 30 and 40 and get them ready for (later election cycles).

Here is a sample of a marketing spin making "Mr Nothing", as the country's famed dissident comedian Zarganar put it, a Nobel-nominee and ICG's "In Pursuit of Peace" awardee:

The Listener-In-Chief 
On the road with Burma's reformist president.

By Gwen Robinson (Originally published on Foreign Policy)

RAKHINE STATE, Burma — There are no bullet-proof limousines, sophisticated communications systems, or media gaggles when you travel with Burma's president. Instead of the lavishly-equipped jets used by western leaders, a humble European-made ATR-42 propeller plane and some aging Russian helicopters recently carried President Thein Sein and his team of about 40 top ministers, officials, and military brass around the country's troubled western region. 

The three-day trip, by air and road through sprawling Rakhine state was unusual for the low-key president — not only because of its high-powered composition (including five cabinet ministers and a few generals) and geographic scope (from remote settlements to ancient pagodas and refugee camps). It also provided a rare close-up of the diminutive former general who has, improbably, initiated one of the boldest reform programs that Burma — and indeed, the developing world — has ever seen. In the process, it yielded glimpses into the inner workings of Burma's reformist administration as well as the dense, dark forces behind the sectarian violence that has caused hundreds, or possibly many more, deaths and displaced more than 140,000 people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, since mid-2012. 

Rakhine (sometimes known by its ancient name, Arakan) is one of Burma's poorest regions; about half its 3.8 million people live below the poverty line of about $1.20 a day, double the national average of 26 percent. At least one third of the population is Muslim; most — but not all — are stateless Rohingya Muslims, widely seen by the majority Burman population as illegal interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, although many have resided in Burma for generations. 

It is a toxic mix, fuelled by poverty and seething religious and racial resentments. The human toll can be seen in the tin-roofed refugee camps near the state capital, Sittwe, and damaged mosques and villages scattered around the state. The economic costs of religious violence and decades of official neglect are glaringly evident. Many destinations on our trip lacked even basic cell phone coverage. The bumpy roads were often unpaved, and water and electricity supply was patchy. 

The days, starting at dawn and stretching into the night, were packed with meetings and site visits to villages, pagodas, refugee areas, and army bases. At every stop, officials in cars of varying ages, security men on small motorbikes, and even antiquated fire trucks received the presidential team. The meeting halls, where we sat on plastic chairs on concrete floors, were inevitably stifling. Yet every event, from talks with civic leaders and meals at military bases to sessions with local business, happened with clockwork precision. So too did the "power tea breaks," in which the president and his team conferred several times a day. 

In one such huddle, over coconut drinks and sticky rice cakes near the seaside town of Thandwe, the president and his team debated emergency responses to the latest wave of sectarian violence. Just two days earlier, Buddhist mobs had attacked Muslim communities in villages some 10 to 20 miles away, killing at least seven people, torching homes, and displacing 500. 

It was the latest in a series of vicious attacks on Muslim communities that have blighted Rakhine state and other parts of Burma since mid-2012. Human rights groups, citing repeated failures to halt the violence, have accused the government and security forces of complicity in — or even orchestrating — systematic ethnic cleansing. Local groups have in turn accused international organizations and western governments of pro-Muslim bias. 

Thein Sein has rejected such charges, insisting that security forces were inadequately equipped for spontaneous outbreaks of mob violence, while admitting shortfalls in government responses. He has also publicly blamed "extremists and political opportunists" for exploiting tensions, giving weight to media reports that political and business elements are financing Buddhist extremist groups. 

Citing "dark forces," one advisor told me that the Thandwe attacks, while focused on just one area, were "even more sinister" than last year's widespread violence, as they were directed at local Kaman Muslims who, unlike the Rohingya, are recognized as Burmese citizens. In Thandwe, the Kaman live alongside and trade with their Buddhist neighbors, unlike the often voluntary segregation of Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists elsewhere in the state. 

One presidential advisor, who, like his colleagues, insisted on anonymity, called it "the work of an unholy alliance," spanning ultra-nationalists, rightwing religious extremists, local businesses, and even, he said, elements of the "hard left" who oppose moderate progressives such as the Generation 88 group of former political prisoners. Lowering his voice, the official confided: "You can also include some powerful forces in parliament who have aligned with disaffected business people threatened by the president's reforms. These people don't want the president to succeed." 

Thein Sein is well aware of "enemies within," one of his ministers told me. When travelling with the president, you quickly learn that the outward appearance of this small, bespectacled man in his longyi sarong is deceptive. He has an almost academic air about him, and shuns displays of wealth and power. When his monthly salary of $5,000 recently became an issue in parliament, he offered to take a pay cut to $3,000 — though government records indicate he has accepted just $1,500 a month since taking office in early 2011. 

The president is 68 and wears a pacemaker. Yet members of his inner team describe him as formidably determined and "indefatigable" in a slow, deliberate way — characteristics that propelled him from a childhood in a poor rural village through a military career encompassing areas of intense conflict in ethnic regions to the top echelons of a harsh military junta. Throughout endless meetings, he speaks tirelessly in a low, steady voice, without notes or prompts. He is typically unruffled and, his aides say, almost never loses his temper. 

"Initially, when he became president, people close to the former regime thought they could control him because he is quiet, he listens, he seems pliable," a deputy minister said, adding emphatically: "They were wrong." 

At a civic gathering in the Muslim-dominated northern town of Maungdaw, scene of some of the worst religious violence last year, Thein Sein ignored the ceremonial desk on the podium and walked into the crowd of 60 or so Muslim and Buddhist leaders. He then conducted a one-hour meeting standing in their midst. 

"The violence [here] affected the country in almost every way," he said. "It should never have happened. To rebuild, to achieve growth and provide jobs, it is crucial for both communities to co-exist peacefully." In what became a mantra of his three-day trip, he asked: "Can you, both communities, promise to work together and consult each other?" 

"Yes, we can," came a chorus. 

What Thein Sein lacks in quick wit and visible dynamism he makes up for with considered strategizing and quiet determination. But his fondness for frequent consultations with trusted advisors sometimes frustrates those around him, who privately wish for quicker decision-making. 

As a consensus-seeker, Thein Sein often turns to the six so-called "super ministers" of his inner cabinet, the Office of the President, particularly his key confidantes U Soe Thane, a former navy chief who is the administration's ebullient economic tsar, and U Aung Min, a former army general who heads peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups. 

He also consults a broad range of interest groups, from civic l
eaders to academics, in a constant effort to balance different elements. His urge to build bridges is an essential trait for a leader presiding over such a radical shift from military dictatorship to unruly democracy. But it has also riled powerful entrenched interests, generating resistance in circles spanning business, politics, and the military. 

Perhaps in recognition of political fragilities, the general-cum-president errs on the side of caution, some insiders say. "He is always striving to achieve consensus, but that can really take time," says one advisor. In a country as polarized as Burma, it might seem a futile quest. For Thein Sein, it is a vital part of the balancing act. For outside observers, it raises the question of how much this president is in the driving seat. 

Under previous military regimes, the "senior general," Burma's highest military rank, was an absolute dictator. Now, amid an increasingly vibrant democracy, the president must deal with a ferociously active parliament, which often rejects his suggested changes to legislation and has criticized his senior ministers for overstepping their authority. 

Now classified as a civilian, Thein Sein must also accommodate an institutionalized role for military representatives in his cabinet. They are entitled under the 2008 constitution (drafted under the previous military regime) to three key posts of a current total of about 37: the powerful home affairs, border affairs, and defense portfolios. The military ministers are chosen by the commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who also appoints active officers to 25 percent of seats in national and regional legislatures. 

Again, many wonder to what extent Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government is in thrall to the same military that brought him to power. Like so much in Burma, the answers lie between the extremes. According to seasoned Yangon diplomats, the military's grip is diminishing (despite a widespread view that the generals still pull the strings). 

The institution's grasp on local government structures — controlled through the home affairs ministry — is still strong. But that once pervasive grip of the military is under pressure, not least from Thein Sein's ambitious government decentralization program and his gradual "civilianization" of government. In the past 18 months, more than 800 mid-level military personnel have been moved out of the bureaucracy — many transferred back to the military or police, according to advisors. 

Military-backed businesses meanwhile have seen their cozy monopolies broken up; the institution's vast holding companies have been required for the first time to pay taxes; and many officers in the upper echelons of government have been replaced by technocrats, academics, and even business representatives. 

While more than half the total 93 or so in the expanded cabinet, which includes deputy ministers, have military backgrounds, they are nearly all long-retired officers. In cabinet meetings, say insiders, military ministers increasingly stick to security, their traditional area of expertise. The real challenge for Thein Sein is in the field, where he is still trying to curb the military conduct of campaigns in ethnic areas, primarily in northern Kachin state where fighting goes on despite the government's strenuous efforts to agree to a ceasefire with rebel leaders. 

On the recent Rakhine trip, the generals participated in town hall meetings but also held their own huddles, usually in the military bases that hosted the presidential team for meals and accommodation. (In the photo above, Thein Sein speaks at one such meeting in a military guest house in Thandwe.) In team meetings, though, the interplay between the president, the generals, civilian ministers, and retired military officers was broadly consultative. Active generals from both cabinet and armed forces behaved like ministers deferring to the president. 

In terms of international image, the Rakhine situation has been one of Thein Sein's most difficult challenges and his biggest vulnerability. Today the UN General Assembly passed resolution on Burma's human rights record, despite intensive lobbying by the government. This year, the overall message, wording, and criticisms are not as harsh as in previous years. 

The document highlights "serious concerns" about the plight of Rohingya communities and urges more action from the government. It also praises "positive developments," including the continuing release of political prisoners. In step with Thein Sein's pledge to release all political detainees by year-end, a further 69 were released last week, leaving less than 60 from earlier times. Despite its earlier opposition to the resolution, Burma — along with key sponsors the United States and the European Union — accepted the final draft text, reflecting Thein Sein's pragmatic approach to diplomacy. Even some important Organization of Islamic Conference countries approved it. 

In a bid last year to resolve tensions, Thein Sein appointed a special commission to investigate the Rakhine violence. The resulting report blamed both Muslim and Buddhist Rakhine communities and included recommendations to help both sides — in a clear effort to calm tensions. Significantly it urged better conditions in refugee camps and more controversially, relaxation of citizenship criteria for stateless Rohingya. Some measures are underway, but stubborn historic prejudices and paranoia about "Muslim encroachment" mean that the process is painfully slow. Diplomats hope the UN resolution will hasten that process. That clearly depends on how much Thein Sein is willing to take on the "dark forces." 

In Rakhine, bitter divisions merely compound the state's increasingly dire economic situation — a plight that clearly prompted Thein Sein to prioritize the region in his new drive to deliver reforms to the grassroots. 

Undoubtedly, the timing of the Rakhine visit also reflected concerns about Burma's image just before taking over the 2014 leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and ahead of the country's December debut as host of the Southeast Asian Games. Debate over the Myanmar resolution at UNGA was clearly another factor. Such events — so crucial to Burma's acceptance on the world stage — are also driving Thein Sein's push to accelerate reforms. 

Judging from the animated discussion in Thein Sein's Thandwe huddle, the "dark forces" hit a political nerve. At one point, Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Ko Ko briefed the team on his visit to the damaged villages and suggested ways to increase local security and shelter the displaced. Earlier this year, the general expressed doubts that Muslim communities were being systematically targeted. Now, he indicated, there was little question in his mind. 

Thein Sein listened intently, asking questions or interjecting as other team members explained the impact of local tensions on their sectors. A deputy minister compared Thein Sein's approach with the authoritarian ways of his predecessors: "This president listens. You don't feel nervous saying what you think. Of course he has his own ide
as, but he listens. This never happened before." 

Quick government responses are also a new development. Within days of the Thandwe attacks, police had detained nearly 80 people including prominent local figures. A month later, 61 — mostly Buddhists — had been charged with offenses including murder. 

Presidential "meet-and-greet" missions and regular radio broadcasts are another hallmark of Thein Sein's administration. As president, he has been more visible than his predecessors, starting from his time as prime minister under Than Shwe from 2007 to 2011. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the country in 2008 and killed a staggering 140,000-plus people, he oversaw relief efforts and bore the brunt of international criticism over Than Shwe's initial moves to block foreign efforts. 

Less known is Thein Sein's earlier interest in Rakhine state as prime minister, and his warnings to fellow junta members of festering religious tensions and deepening poverty there. He visited all 17 townships of Rakhine back then, and proposed economic programs including the construction of factories and roads. His ideas were ultimately rejected by Than Shwe. Whether Than Shwe realized the full extent of the changes envisaged by his mild-mannered prime minister is not clear. But he chose Thein Sein as his successor to run in the 2010 elections. The polls were widely condemned as flawed but swept Thein Sein to power. 

On this trip, Thein Sein revived his ideas, announcing initiatives to build power plants, airports, and to improve electricity and water supply. "Things have changed, we have shifted to a bottom-up and people-centered approach — but you must all work together for economic development," he repeatedly told community leaders. 

Thein Sein is unlikely to seek another term in the 2015 elections, a matter he discussed with the ambitious parliamentary speaker, Shwe Mann, who announced it publicly in October — angering the president's supporters. Widely seen in 2010 as Than Shwe's top choice as successor, the speaker has always felt keen rivalry with Thein Sein, say people who know both men. 

Thein Sein's decision to bow out of politics at the end of 2015 is not final, say some advisors, expressing more hope than conviction. But it has fed further speculation about likely presidential contenders. Much depends on the push from some quarters for constitutional change. It will determine the future of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency by constitutional provisions against Burmese who marry or have children with foreigners. She had two children with her late husband British academic Michael Aris. Like Shwe Mann, she has declared her ambitions, and has turned from supporter to harsh critic of the president. In what many see as early electioneering, she has been telling the world that "almost nothing has changed" under his leadership. 

For Thein Sein, a devout Buddhist, "preserving stability" (a frequent exhortation) means trying to satisfy all sides — a near-impossible task in the sectarian battleground of Rakhine state. In Mrauk-U, the former state capital, and Kyauktaw, a short helicopter ride away, the president visited sacred Buddhist sites including an ancient temple and one of Burma's most revered Buddha statues, the Maha Muni, where he bowed to the floor. 

Unlike western leaders, he pays little attention to PR strategy. Local journalists — let alone foreign media — are rarely briefed and almost never invited on presidential trips. On this trip, nobody briefed the lone foreign journalist. 

His relative indifference to spin has its minuses. He was reportedly shaken earlier this year, when harshly lampooned by the Washington Post for his convoluted responses to questions about the 2008 constitution. 

In a brief interview during his trip, by contrast, his answers were measured. The emphasis was on economic development, reform, and the need for foreign investment. "The turbulence has been largely confined to this area [Thandwe] this time, although the most important thing is to achieve peace and tranquility throughout the state," he told me. "I will make renewed efforts, but for proper development, it's so important not to discriminate between race and religion." 

The two key priorities, he said, were economic development and the "proper protection of human rights" — a phrase no predecessor ever uttered. "But these two need to be balanced, we need investment, growth, jobs," he added. 

While Thein Sein's belief in consensus-building is often misinterpreted as indecision, his ambitions to accelerate reforms, court local communities, and pursue fraught ceasefire negotiations sit at odds with the priorities of an aging, one-term president. 

What, then, is the president's rationale if he does not intend to run for another term? "Simple. We have to deliver on what we promised," said U Soe Thane, the economics tsar (and ex-Navy chief) who is also driving the government's radical decentralization plan . "We don't have much time. It is beyond politics. It is important — it's our country's future." 

Thein Sein is "a true believer," Ye Htut, presidential spokesman and deputy minister for information, told me. "He says you can't kick out all the Muslims, even though Buddhist extremists in Rakhine think you can. He tells them why we must deal with the Muslim issue." 

All this reinforces what skeptics are only just acknowledging: that Burma's traditional power centers are breaking up. The juggernaut may be a "bottom up" effort. But the driver is clearly at the top.
- See more at:

Sunday 1 February 2015

Why Myanmar is committing a slow genocide against nearly 2 million Rohingya Muslim

Source Maungzarni, 18 Jan

Myanmar's slow Rohingya genocide is a brilliant strategy that kills several birds with a single stone - as far as the country's ruling military Bama regimes.

Myanmar's great commercial opening, talked up as "reforms", triggered Rakhine nationalists and democrats' loud demands and agitations for 3 things - up until the state's manufacturing of the Rohingya-raped-Rakhine woman story (the body of the victim Ma Thida Htwe had absolutely no trace of having been assaulted sexually - according to the medical doctor who performed the medical examination of her body - ask Mr Maung Thura (a.k.a Zargana. He is not telling the country or world, the real truth he knows for a fact because he interviewed the medical examiner on video camera)

1) more equitable revenue sharing (or greater control over Rakhine's economic life)

2) greater political and administrative autonomy of the Rakhine people (the Bama king named Ba Dun or popularly King Grandfather, invaded, destroyed their kingdom, annexed the Rakhine territory into the present day Burma in 1785. The colonialist Bama feudal rulers used Rakhines as Prisoners of War and slaves in temple building and irrigation projects). Rakhines feel and remain a colonized people in their own land, truth be told).

3) resurgence of ethno-nationalism not allowed to express itself peacefully until after the opening up began

Myanmar regime has dealt with all 3 objectives of the Rakhine rather brilliantly - by diverting the Rakhines nationalist anger towards the Rohingya - most vulnerable, without any revolutionary or radical movement or organization to defend their own people or territory.

To date, Rakhines are perceived around the world as Nazi-like genocidal lot: the new perception serves the military leaders' interests in multiple ways.

First, it helps erase their finger-prints on the 37-years of systematic genocide of the Rohingya.

Second, Rakhines are no longer in a position to demand anything successfully from the central colonizer - Bama ruling class EXCEPT the greater repression of their down-trodden and more oppressed Rohingya co-habitants of Rakhine land and denial of the Rohingya rights (such as identity recognition, which early military leaders including Ne Win and his deputies accorded the Rohingya - that the Rohingya would be known, recorded and referred to by their self-chosen identity Rohingya because they were borderland people like Wa, Karen, Chin, Mon, Shan, etc. whose presence in their ancestral land predates the creation of new nation-states such as Burma, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, China, etc.)

Rohingya continue to be subject to the central military's genocidal policies albeit this time through Naypyidaw's strategy of OUTSOURCING DIRECT VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION.

Rakhine nationalists, who wanted to full independence and/or greater autonomy from Rangoon/Bama rule, had never forgiven the Rohingyas for always siding with the Burmese rulers in Rangoon against the wishes of the Rakhines.

Bama rulers neither welcome the Rohingya presence nor like the Rakhine (for their ethno-nationalism, which is the result of their colonial status as a people).

Third, the military rulers and their spin-masters like Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who is involved in formulating, articulating and selling the Rakhine Action Plan (Myanmar's equivalent of Final Solution) are telling international visitors and others in Burma policy circle to provide more development aid to addess the lack of development and resultant POVERTY needs to be tackled as a long term strategy!

and the Development Industry loves this b/s.

It even serves the Pentagon as it is placed in a position to discuss beefing up security capacity of the Burmese armed forces - both the Navy and the Army in Rakhine coastal region - where China has twin gas and oil pipeline and wants to have access to the port! (The American 'strategic communitications adviers' - then based in Naypyidaw, on and off, were known to have helped Kyaw Yin Hlaing and the government Rakhine Inquiry Commission in formulating the right spin. Read the recommendations - it reads like a blue print for the defence cooperation between the Pentagon and Burmese Ministry of Defence!)

Boy, genocide pays!

So, the current strategy of the military is paying off handsomely. Rakhine are used as local proxies to pursue the central regime's long-term genocidal policies towards the Rohingya and will take the fall for the crimes of the Bama rulers. Rohingya, whom the regime has long come to view, rather out of its national security paranoia, as a security threat to Burma (because it is the only Muslim population concentrated in the 171 mile-long Burmese-Bangladesh border with linguistic and ethnic ties to the populous Bangladesh.

The Rakhine nationalist leaders, as in effect, finished as far as their demands for autonomy and economic control of Rakhine. Rohingyas continue to be destroyed as a community.

This is not simply a conflict between two religious and ethnic communities settling scores as the result of "the great transition" as morons and dishonest Myanmar experts and researchers have made it out to be.

There are those who those who think the United States Government is going to help rescue the Rohingyas from the slow genocide they need to think and look harder at the below-the-radar politics.

Twice Obama went to Burma and defended publicly Rohingya's right to dignity, identity, etc.

His UN Rep Samantha Power makes mentions of Rohingya in her pronouncements.

At the same time, the Pentagon and its men and women plays a different game - vis-a-vis China.

The American 'Strategic Communications advisers/specialists' - in plain language 'propaganda specialists - - then based in Naypyidaw, on and off, were known to have helped Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing and the government Rakhine Inquiry Commission in formulating the right spin. Read the recommendations in the Inquiry Commission Report (released in Spring of 2013): the list of recommendations reads like a blue print for the defence cooperation between the Pentagon and Burmese Ministry of Defence!

Rakhine Group Attacks Rohingya Fishermen In Pauktaw Township

Source RBnews, 31 Jan

Pauktaw, Arakan – A group of Rohingya fishermen from Sin Tat Maw (Sandama) village of Pauktaw Township of Arakan State were attacked by a Rakhine group on January 28, 2015. 

Sin Tat Maw or Sandama is an ancient historical Rohingya village in Pauktaw Township of Arakan State. Most of the villagers are fishermen and only a few are surviving as farmers. There are about 40 fishing boats, those belonging to the villagers of Sandama. On January 25th, 2015, seven fishing boats carrying eight fishermen on each boat left for fishing from Sandama. 

On January 28th, 2015 at 8 PM the Rohingya fishermen met three Rakhine fishing boats carrying full instruments such as weapons, swords, arrows, etc, in the river. On the three Rakhine fishing boats about 30 Rakhine extremists were standing and reportedly they are from Pha Du (Rakhine) village in Pauktaw Township. 

A Rakhine fisherman started chatting with the Rohingya fishermen and asked about what they are doing. A Rohingya fisherman replied to him that they are fishing. Suddenly the Rakhine fishermen grabbed about 50 fishing nets which are valued about 2 million Kyat, from the fishing boat belongs to Anjeer s/o Abdul Majeed (Aged 50). When the Rohingya fishermen asked them not to grab their fishing nets, the Rakhine fishermen shot at them three times with the weapons they have. Then they started throwing stones into the boats of Rohingya fishermen. 

The shots fired with the weapons didn't hit any Rohingya men but the stones hit them. The Four Rohingya fishermen wounded by the stones were Eshaq s/o Abdul Hannan (wounded in back), Abdul Goffar s/o Buddu (Aged 36, wounded on head), Abdul Khair s/o Abul Qasim (Aged 29, wounded on left hand) and Hamidullah s/o Nozir Ahmed (Aged 37, wounded on left hand and head). Additionally four more Rohingya fishermen were also wounded inside their bodies but in has no visible sign of injuries. They were Abul Hashin s/o Abul Qasim (Aged 37), Mohammed s/o Abdul Majid (Aged 32), Zohur Muluk s/o Tomin Gulal (Aged 56) and Karimuddin s/o Belal (Aged 24).

As the attacks continued the Rohingya fishermen fled from there to Sandama village and complained about the incident to police battalion no. (31), Sandama village Chairman and administration office. The police chief of battalion no. (31) Soe Myint Aung said that the case doesn't concern them and Sandama village chairman Ba Tun (a Rakhine) is responsible to investigate and solve. 

So the Rohingya fishermen complained again to the chairman of Sandama village. The chairman said he has to attend a meeting at Pauktaw Township Administrator Office along with all other villages' administrators and he will discuss about the case at the meeting. The case hasn't been investigated by any authority at this time.

As the attacks were carried by Rakhines, action won't be taken. Rohingyas need to bribe huge amounts to get permission for fishing in the river. Yet they were looted and attacked in the river by the Rakhine extremists. Reportedly there are a few Rakhine groups which were formed by the government just to attack Rohingya fishermen in the river and sea. Rohingyas have less and less opportunity to survive as it is the government's policy to wipe out all Rohingyas from Arakan State of Myanmar.

Saed Arkani contributed in reporting.

Left to right Abul Khair, Abdul Goffar and Hamidullah (Photo: Saed Arkani/Rohingya Blogger)
Eshaq s/o Abdul Hannan wounded in back (Photo: Saed Arkani/Rohingya Blogger)
The fishing boat attacked by Rakhine group (Photo: Saed Arkani/Rohingya Blogger)
The fishing boat attacked by Rakhine group (Photo: Saed Arkani/Rohingya Blogger)

Rohingya refugees say traffickers in Malaysia abuse and kill

Source Reuters, 29 Jan

BUKIT MERTAJAM, Malaysia (Reuters) - Abul Kassim, a Rohingya asylum seeker, was snatched from his home in the northern Malaysian state of Penang on Jan. 12. The next morning, his beaten and bloodied body was found.

That day, police moved on the 40-year-old's alleged killers. Raiding a house in the neighbouring state of Kedah, they rescued 17 Rohingya migrants being held against their will, according to a statement by Penang police.

Eight alleged traffickers from Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh were arrested.

The murder of Abul Kassim casts rare light on what Rohingya activists say is widespread abuse by human traffickers in Malaysia, who are willing to use extreme methods to protect their lucrative but illegal business.

Abul Kassim regularly supplied police with information on the activities of traffickers, said Abdul Hamid, president of the Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya Society in Malaysia.

Since 2012, more than 100,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled violence and poverty in Myanmar. Most travel in traffickers' boats to Thailand, where they are held by traffickers in squalid jungle camps before a ransom is paid.

Relatively wealthy Malaysia to the south is the destination for most Rohingya who flee. For some, it is far from safe.

Relatives and witnesses told Reuters of three abductions in Penang in 2013 and 2014, from a home, a coffee shop and the street. In addition, a Rohingya man was confined and tortured after being brought by traffickers through Thailand.

Three of the four cases ended in murder, they said.

Fortify Rights, a Southeast Asia-based rights group, documented another three suspected killings of Rohingya by traffickers last year.

Banned from legally working and fearful of police harassment, few victims bring their case to authorities. Those who do say police have taken little action.

Confirming cases is difficult. Local media give the issue little coverage and Penang state police did not respond to further questions about Abul Kassim's killing. National police spokeswoman Asmawati Ahmad did not reply to Reuters' questions on that case or other suspected Rohingya murders.

Interviewed by Reuters in late 2014, Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi denied traffickers had killed any Rohingya in the state that year.


Police quoted in the local media said Abul Kassim's killing was likely to be connected to a money dispute.

A Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya leader, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said quantifying crimes was difficult due to the power and reach of traffickers in northern Malaysia.

"If we try to get information about the traffickers, they will simply target the person who tries to get information. We are not safe," he said.

Such cases include the alleged abduction and murder of Rohingya cousins Harun and Sayed Noor in 2013 and 2014, according to witnesses interviewed by Reuters.

Harun, 35, had his first run-in with traffickers in early 2013, when he was kidnapped from a Penang shop and held for a week for a ransom of 7,000 ringgit ($1,942), recalled his uncle, Mohammad Salim, 50.

After his release, Harun lodged a complaint with police and fled into hiding, Salim said.

In retaliation, traffickers took his cousin Sayed Noor, aged about 30, and held him as barter for Harun and 50,000 ringgit, Salim said. Several months later, Sayed turned up dead, his body showing signs of torture and mutilation.

In early 2014, the traffickers caught up with Harun.

Months later, his uncle, Salim, received a call from a Thai mobile number, telling him to leave town.

"The trafficker told me himself he had killed Harun."

A similarly chilling message was sent with the alleged murder last March of Sadek Akbar, 17, who had travelled from Myanmar with the help of traffickers.

After passing through a Thai camp and being ransomed for release, Sadek was imprisoned in a safehouse in Penang. Traffickers then demanded 2,000 ringgit for Sadek's release, his uncle, Altaf Hussain, told Reuters.

"We couldn't afford it, so they beat him to death and dropped him by the side of the road," Altaf, 48, told Reuters.

Altaf's account of retrieving the body from hospital was verified by another Rohingya witness and a Malaysian journalist, who both declined to be named.


Hampering a full account of the problem is Malaysia's patchy record of protecting millions of migrants, including nearly 150,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers living there.

Relatives of victims are reluctant to report crimes to police, fearing months of detention for migration violations and shakedowns for bribes, according to Fortify Rights executive director Matthew Smith.

"There are millions of dollars being made through the trafficking of Rohingya. It's unsurprising that illicit profits of that magnitude would bring out violent behaviour," he said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) declined to comment on specific criminal cases, but has received "regular reports of abuse, intimidation and exploitation of Rohingya refugees," said spokeswoman Yante Ismail.

"Under Malaysian law, all refugees are treated as undocumented and illegal migrants, and there is no national system in place to provide them with protection."

(Additional reporting by Trinna Leong in George Town, Malaysia; Editing by Mike Collett-White)


British government defends Burma reforms: Burma Campaign UK responds

Source Burmacampaignuk, 27 Jan

Burma Briefing No. 37

This briefing paper responds in detail to the British government's misleading claims and the selective use of information that it uses to defend Burma's reform process and its own trade-led policy.

In November 2014, Aung San Suu Kyi said that for the past two years, Burma's reform process had stalled. President Obama said that there had been backtracking of reforms. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma has also said there has been backsliding. However, when asked in Parliament, British Ministers refused to accept that Burma's reform process was stalled.

In response, Burma Campaign UK asked supporters to email the British Prime Minister David Cameron, calling on him to admit reforms have stalled, to drop trade promotion as the British government's top priority, and return to putting human rights first. The action is on our website is here.

On 8th January 2015 Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire MP published a letter responding to the emails to the Prime Minister. This briefing paper contains a line by line response to that letter and exposes how, in this letter, the British government talks up positives, plays down or ignores negatives, and deliberately attempts to mislead the reader in order to cover up their lack of action on key issues.

Download this briefing

Myanmar activist in Malaysia, beaten, blacklisted and deported

Source Freemalaysiatoday, 29 Jan

Aung Naing Win was allegedly slapped and punched in front of 100 other detainees.

KUALA LUMPUR: The ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People's Forum (APF), the 2015 Malaysian National Organising Committee and SUARAM have taken issue, in a statement, with the arrest, detention, violence against and deportation of Myanmar-based human rights activist Aung Naing Win better known as Shine on January 23, two days after he landed in Malaysia.

He has also been banned from entering Malaysia.

The ACSC/APF 2015 Malaysian National Organising Committee and SUARAM called on the government to investigate and explain publicly the blacklisting, arrest and detention of Shine.

Shine, has been campaigning for democracy and interfaith relationships/marriages in his country. Shine, a Muslim, works as a Country Coordinator for Malaysian Relief Agency (MRA) in Myanmar as well as being a Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Coalition on Aid in Myanmar.

According to the statement, Shine arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the night of January 21 at around 8.15pm and was stopped and detained by the immigration department. The immigration officer did not inform Shine why he was denied entry to Malaysia. Shine was on his way to participate in the third regional consultation meeting for ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People's Forum (APF) 2015 in Selangor on January 23 and 24.

"When first asked by Shine's friend, the immigration officer explained that it was a case of mistaken identity because he shares the same name as another person on the blacklisted name list. The immigration department said that they would investigate the case and release him the next day," said the statement.

"Nonetheless, when contacted again the next morning, the immigration officer said that Shine was blacklisted and will be deported back to Myanmar."

This came as a shock as Shine has been travelling abroad with legitimate documents and was a frequent traveler to Malaysia for meetings with MRA and for ASEAN People's Forum regional consultation meetings without any issues from immigration, added the statement.

Shine alleged, the statement continued, that he was not given any food and water by the officer for more than 12 hours. Shine further said that when he asked for food and water from the immigration officer, the officer named "Fiqri" allegedly slapped and punched him in front of 100 other detainees. Shine attempted to plead with the officer who ignored him and continued to beat and punch him.

After the first phone call to Shine on January 23 morning, the immigration officer had prohibited lawyers and friends from speaking to Shine for "security" reasons.

"We strongly object to such ill-treatment and abuse of power by the immigration department. The immigration officers have no right to abuse Shine and deny him his rights," said the statement. "Such blatant abuse of power is unacceptable, unwarranted and unjustifiable. There are absolutely no legitimate grounds for blacklisting Shine or detaining him. It is ludicrous to hold a human rights activist as a threat to 'security' and subject him to ill-treatment by enforcement officers."

The ACSC/APF is an annual forum of civil society organisations in ASEAN member states, which is held as a parallel meeting to the ASEAN Summit of Heads of State. And this year, a coalition of Malaysian civil society organisations coordinated by SUARAM and Pusat KOMAS are hosting the forum in Malaysia.