Saturday 30 May 2015

Refugee crisis meeting should learn from Indochinese solution

Source theconversation, 29 May



Atin Prabandari does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation is funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, ACU, ANU, ASB, Baker IDI, Canberra, CDU, Curtin, Deakin, ECU, Flinders, Griffith, the Harry Perkins Institute, JCU, La Trobe, Massey, Murdoch, Newcastle, UQ, QUT, SAHMRI, Swinburne, Sydney, UNDA, UNE, UniSA, UNSW, USC, USQ, UTAS, UWS, VU and Wollongong.




Governments and international organisations should find an effective solution for the Rohingya refugee crisis. EPA/STR

Representatives from 17 countries and three international organisations meeting in Bangkok to discuss South-East Asia's migrant crisis may learn from the previous refugee crisis that hit the region during the Indochina war.

Last week, after having played a game of human water polo at sea, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments agreed to temporarily shelter 3000 boat people who had been rescued – mostly by fishermen – and taken ashore. Around 4000 people are believed to still be languishing at sea, waiting to be rescued.

Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi people migrating for largely economic reasons.

Learning from the Indochinese refugee crisis

The two most pressing issues to discuss are the safety of the thousands of people at sea and refugee resettlement.

South-East Asia has faced such a crisis before. As a result of the Indochina war, 1,436,566 refugees fled Cambodia and Vietnam and arrived in South-East Asian countries looking for asylum between 1975 and 1995.

The United Nations sponsored two international conferences on the Indochinese refugee crisis in 1979 and 1989. The latter produced the "Comprehensive Plan of Action".

Under this agreement, South-East Asian countries agreed to provide temporary asylum. The US, Australia and several European countries provided resettlement for the refugees. The Vietnamese government also cracked down on fleeing boats, halting the exodus.

Up to 1995, 1,311,183 asylum seekers were resettled. The rest were repatriated.

Several countries have sent positive signals about resettling refugees. Representatives at Friday's meeting can model the solution for the current crisis on how the international community solved the Indochinese refugee crisis.

The US has declared its willingness to accept Rohingya refugees. The Philippines, one of two countries in South-East Asia that has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, is also willing to take some of the refugees.

Gambia, a not-so-wealthy country in West Africa, has offered permanent asylum to the Rohingya as "fellow Muslims". Gambia, however, still requests financial assistance from international organisations and developed nations to support its effort.

Yet Australia, a signatory to the Refugee Convention, has refused to accept any refugees from the current crisis. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government:

… will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat, that they can work with people smugglers to start a new life.

As party to the convention, Australia should grant asylum to some of the refugees, ensuring their rights are protected in accordance with legal and humanitarian standard.

Addressing 'root causes'

To provide a lasting solution, the meeting should address the root problems that compel the migrants to flee their countries and take the arduous and dangerous journey on boats.

For people from Bangladesh, extreme poverty and lack of jobs have motivated them to migrate. Rohingya people from the Burmese Rakhine state have been denied citizenship by the government, resulting in multiple human rights violations and discrimination by both the government and Myanmar's Buddhist fundamentalists.

The meeting should discuss how to ensure Myanmar's government stops its prolonged discrimination against Rohingya people. The government should acknowledge the Rohingya as their ethnic minority and grant them citizenship.

To this end, ASEAN should continue its "constructive engagement", the organisation's way of using political dialogue instead of coercive measures such as economic sanction or diplomatic isolation, with Myanmar.

Meanwhile, countries such as the United States and Australia should continue to pressure Myanmar to end its human rights violations. Governments may use trade or aid as an incentive to improve human rights in the country.

The meeting should also discuss other, related causes of the crisis. Human traffickers target stateless and devastated Rohingya people. Many have ended up being enslaved, such as those forced to work in the Thai fishing industry or held for ransom in jungle camps in Thailand and Malaysia.

In this regard, Australia's efforts in combating human trafficking and smuggling in South-East Asia – through the Bali Processon People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime – should be applied in this crisis too. Since 2002, Australia together with Indonesia has been co-chairing the voluntary forum, now joined by 45 members, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

The Rohingya people are caught between persecution at home and human traffickers. Members of the international community should do all they can to end their misery.

New Zealand offers to take in Rohingya migrants

Source thestar, 28 May

Rohingya migrantsThis boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants, including many young children was found drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe. Passengers said that several people had died over the last few days    Photograph: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

AUCKLAND: New Zealand could take in some of the Rohingya migrants under its resettlement programme, says Prime Minister John Key. 

The country has a quota of 750 refugees every year under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plan. 

"It's quite possible we can accomodate some of this refugees under the programme," he said to a group of South-East Asian journalists taking part in the 40th anniversary of the New Zealand-Asean programme. 

But he said the country would not increase the quota to accommodate more emigrants even though he was concerned about the situation.

"That's because we're trying to take a really comprehensive programme for the refugees," he added. 

New Zealand was among 17 countries that took part in a special meeting on irregular migration, Thursday. 

Key expressed his concern on the Rohingya migrants who are drifting into sea to neighbouring countries including Malaysia. 

"We understand that they have no where to go," he added. 

Separately, Key said he was increasingly confident that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) would be signed this year.


Jews in 1939, Rohingya in 2015: Will the world act to prevent a 21st century SS St. Louis?

Source Haaretz, 28 May

The international community's apathy toward the plight of the Muslim-Burmese refugees stranded at sea mimics the indifference that saw many Jews sent to their death. Will countries of conscience remain silent?

Rohingya refugees wait to be rescued by Acehnese fisherman off the coast of East Aceh, Indonesia
Rohingya refugees wait to be rescued by Acehnese fisherman off the coast of East Aceh, Indonesia, May 20, 2015. Photo by AP

related articles
U.S. urges Myanmar: Let Rohingya minorities become citizens  By Jared Ferrie | Nov. 13, 2014 | 9:32 AM

The persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma has been among the world's greatest human rights disasters over the past century. However, this tragedy has only recently emerged as a hot-button international issue after the Rohingya have opted for drastic means to escape the sordid conditions faced at home. 

Largely based out of Burma's Rakhine state and neighboring Bangladesh, the Rohingya have been persecuted for decades on the grounds that they are illegal immigrants, or the descendants of illegal immigrants. Since a 1982 citizenship law effectively rendered the Rohingya stateless, the Burmese government has barred freedom of movement while formally withholding access to education and subjecting adults and children alike into forced labor projects.

In 2012, the already apartheid-like conditions took a drastic turn for the worse. Deadly clashes between the Rohingya and the majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted, under the watch (and sometimes explicit participation) of Buddhist security forces. Roughly 140,000 Rohingya were displaced, forced and confined into sordid IDP camps

Since 2012, the grim situation has spiraled into an undeniable humanitarian catastrophe. Institutionalized prejudice remains, while indiscriminate violence and virile rhetoric has increased. The world has failed to address the systematic persecution, and conditions are ripe for an even greater humanitarian disaster. 

International indifference has fostered a reality where thousands of desperate Rohingya – 25,000 in 2015 alone – have turned to human traffickers to smuggle them over the Andaman Sea. However, the Rohingya are opting for a different sort of nightmare under the human traffickers.

Rohingya are packed by the thousands in rickety ships described as "floating coffins," largely devoid of food and water. If the Rohingya even survive the journey, they are often held captive in camps in neighboring countries until their families pay the traffickers a ransom. Mass graves of trafficked refugees have been discovered in Thailand and Malaysia  – two countries considered by Rohingya to be a preferable alternative.

Thousands of Rohingya are currently stranded at sea, unwilling participants in a game of "human ping-pong" due to neighboring countries' hesitancy to accept refugees. Following international pressure, Indonesia and Malaysia – the very country that has allowed human traffickers to run amok – announced they would provide temporary shelter to the refugees, conditional upon their repatriation in a third-party country within the year.

There is an alarming historical precedent for refugees fleeing genocide by sea, only to encounter international apathy.

In May 1939, the SS St. Louis, carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the ever-worsening conditions in Nazi Germany, set sail for Cuba. Upon arrival, Cuba refused the vessel permission to dock. The ship then headed to the U.S., where passengers were so close that they could see the Miami lights.  However, the Coast Guard refused to allow the ship to dock, despite the direct pleas of passengers and leading U.S. Jewish figures.
The ship returned to Europe, where passengers were repatriated by several states. More than a quarter of the ship's passengers eventually died in the Holocaust.

The similarities between the Rohingya flotilla and the SS St. Louis are quite disconcerting; even more worrisome are the parallels between the international indifference to the impending genocides.

When the SS St. Louis attempted to dock in Miami, the State Department sent a telegram to the ship's passengers telling them to "await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States."

One only needs to look at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's appalling lack of empathy to shed the false pretense that the world has learned its lesson. Abbott emphatically refused to bring in the stranded Rohingya, saying that "Australia will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat….to start a new life. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door."
On Friday, Thailand – yet another catastrophe-enabler – will host a regional summit aimed at resolving the crisis. Burma agreed to attend, on the condition that the word "Rohingya" is not used, instead referring to the refugees as "irregular migrants." 

The international community convened similar conferences preceding and during the Holocaust. In 1938, Franklin Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference to resolve the Jewish refugee problem. Of the 32 participating countries, only the Dominican Republic expressed willingness to accept a capped number of refugees. Five years later, the U.S. and the U.K. met in Bermuda to discuss the ever-worsening Jewish refugee problem. Again, both countries maintained their immigration quota policies.
An undeniable historical precedent exists for what happens when international indifference meets a humanitarian crisis so far gone. As the Bangkok conference approaches, the question must be asked: Until what point will the world allow the parallels to accumulate?

Ben Samuels is an editor at He tweets at @Bsamuels0.

Seven Nobel Peace laureates call the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide and demand action as two-day Oslo conference ends

Source maungzarni, 28 May


Seven Nobel Peace laureates call the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide and demand action as two-day Oslo conference ends

Oslo, Norway, May 28, 2015 - A two-day conference focusing on ending the persecution of Burma's Rohingyas concluded today, with a call from seven Nobel Peace Laureates to describe their plight as nothing less than a genocide. 

In his pre-recorded address to the conference, Desmond Tutu, leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, called for an end to the slow genocide of the Rohingya. 

Tutu's appeal was amplified by six other fellow Nobel Peace laureates: Mairead Maguire from Ireland, Jody Williams from the USA, Tawakkol Karman from Yeman, Shirin Ibadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina. They stated that, "what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government."

Philanthropist George Soros drew a parallel between his childhood memories of life in a Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation in Hungary and the plight of the Rohingya after visiting Rohingya neighborhood in Sittwe which he called a "ghetto". "In 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I, too was a Rohingya… The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming," he said, in a pre-recorded address to the Oslo conference. 

The meeting was held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway. It was attended by Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar. Also present were genocide experts, international diplomats, interfaith and human rights leaders. Attendees explored ways to end Myanmar's systematic persecution of the Rohingya, as well as foster and communal harmony in Burma.

Addressing the conference, Morten Høglund, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced his government's decision to give 10 million Norwegian Kroner ($1.2 million US) in humanitarian assistance to Burma. The participants were dismayed however, as the State Secretary choose not to even mention the word "Rohingya" in his entire speech in an apparent compliance to Myanmar's government stand.

The conference communiqué urged the Norwegian government to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar's genocide over its economic interests in Burma, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil. 

During the conference, former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik

conferred on three leading Myanmar monks who have saved Muslim lives in Burma and opposed Islamophobia the first-ever "World Harmony awards" on behalf of the Parliament of the World's Religions, a 120-year-old interfaith organization. Rev. Seindita, Rev. Withudda, and Rev. Zawtikka, were the three awardees who also chanted Buddhist prayers at the inauguration.

Presenting the awards, the Parliament's chair, Imam Malik Mujahid said, "These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas."

The participants from 16 different countries, including leading Rohingya activists and leaders, as well as genocide scholars, adopted the following statement:

--------------Full text of the communiqué adopted by the Oslo Conference----------

Today the Oslo Conference to End Myanmar's Persecution of the Rohingya ended. The conference was held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway on May 26 & 27, 2015.

After two days of deliberations the conference issue the following urgent appeal to the international community, based on the following conclusions:

1. The pattern of systematic human rights abuses against the ethnic Rohingya people entails crimes against humanity including the crime of genocide;

2. The Myanmar government's denial of the existence of the Rohingya as a people violates the right of the Rohingya to self-identify;

3. The international community is privileging economic interests in Myanmar and failing to prioritize the need to end its systematic persecution and destruction of the Rohingya as an ethnic group.

The call by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to end Myanmar's genocide of the Rohingya made during the Oslo conference is supported by six additional Nobel Peace Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ibadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

The United Nations and the international community have an urgent responsibility to stop Myanmar's systematic persecution of the Rohingya.

As the home country of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the conference urges the Government of Norway to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar's genocide over its economic interests in that country, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil. 

The conference calls upon the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United

Nations (UN) and other relevant international actors to take all possible measures to pressure the Government of Myanmar to do the following:

to immediately end its policies and practices of genocide; 
to restore full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya;
to institute the right of return for all displaced Rohingya; 
to effectively provide the Rohingya with all necessary protection; and
to actively promote and support reconciliation between communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar. 

Contact Persons:
USA: Imam Malik Mujahid
Chair Burma Task Force USA

UK: Dr. Maung Zarni:

Co-Author: Co-author (with Cowley) "The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya"

[Background information on the conference: The conference was co-organized and co-sponsored by the following organizations. However, the communiqué was adopted by the attendees of the conference without any approach to the respective organizations. 

Justice for All, Burma Task Force USA; Parliament of the World's Religions; Refugees International (USA); International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) Queen Mary University of London; Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI); Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

Dr. Maung Zarni and Imam Malik Mujahid serves as the co-chair of the conference] 


For conference photos contact

Links to transcripts and images

Link to their video recordings at 

Links to some of the news coverage:
- See more at:


▶ 5:24

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Malaysia finds 139 graves at 'cruel' jungle trafficking camps

Source Reuters, 25 May

139 graves found near Malay-Thai border

WANG KELIAN, Malaysia Malaysia has found 139 graves, and signs of torture, in more than two dozen squalid human trafficking camps suspected to have been used by gangs smuggling migrants across the border with Thailand, the country's police chief said on Monday.

The dense jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major route for smugglers bringing people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh.

"It's a very sad scene... To us even one is serious and we have found 139," Malaysia's Inspector General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, told reporters in the northern state of Perlis. "We are working closely with our counterparts in Thailand. We will find the people who did this."

The grisly find follows the discovery of similar shallow graves on the Thai side of the border earlier this month, which helped trigger a regional crisis. After a crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

"We were shocked by the cruelty," said Khalid, describing conditions at the 28 abandoned camps, scattered along a 50 km (30 mile) stretch of the Thai border, around which the graves were found in an operation that began on May 11.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are ferried by traffickers through southern Thailand each year, and in recent years it has been common for them to be held in remote camps along the rugged border with Malaysia until a ransom is paid for their freedom.

Past Reuters investigations have shown ransoms demands ranging from $1,200 to $1,800, a fortune for impoverished migrants used to living on a dollar or two a day.

Pictures of the camps shown to journalists by Malaysian police showed basic wooden huts built in forest clearings.

Khalid said bullet casings were found in the vicinity and added there were signs that torture had been used, without elaborating. Metal chains were found near some graves.

The first decomposed body was brought down to a police camp set up at the foot of the mountains where the camps were found on Monday evening, an operation that took nearly five hours due to the roughness of the terrain.

"The body was only bones and little bit of clothing on it," said Rizani Che Ismail, officer in charge of Padang Besar police department, adding that the cause of death was not immediately apparent.


Police chief Khalid said one of the grave sites was just 100 meters or so from the site where twenty-six bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand's Songkhla province in early May.

Thailand, under pressure from the United States to do more to combat people smuggling, launched a crackdown after finding that mass grave, since when more than 3,000 migrants have landed from boats in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thai police said on Monday there were no human trafficking camps left in southern Thailand after a month-long crackdown.

But the crisis at sea is not over.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimated on Friday that some 3,500 migrants were still stranded on overloaded vessels with dwindling supplies, and repeated its appeal for the region's governments to rescue them.

Malaysia and Indonesia have said they will allow the thousands still at sea to come ashore temporarily and ordered their navies to rescue people found adrift.

Thailand has said it will not allow migrant boats to land, but Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday the Thai navy would help those in medical need.

"I have ordered the navy to take our boats and set up a floating command center to help those who are hurt," he said.

Most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Rakhine state. Almost 140,000 were displaced in deadly clashes with majority Buddhists in Rakhine in 2012. They are denied citizenship and have long complained of state-sanctioned discrimination.

Myanmar denies discriminating against the group and has said it is not the source of the migrant problem.

The scale of the discoveries along the Thai-Malaysia border will raise questions about the extent of official complicity in the camps.

Malaysian police said in a statement that two police officers were among 10 people arrested so far this year in investigations into human trafficking, without giving details.

Thailand said earlier this month that more than 50 police officers had been transferred as a result of investigations into human trafficking networks in the south.

Malaysia's Najib said in a post on his official account that he was "deeply, deeply concerned with graves found on Malaysian soil purportedly connected to people smuggling.

"We will find those responsible," Najib posted in English.

(Writing by Alex Richardson; Additional reporting by Anuradha Raghu in Kuala Lumpur, Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Pracha Hariraksapitak in Bangkok and Randy Fabi in Jakarta; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

A Forensic policemen carry body bags with human remains found at the site of human trafficking camps in the jungle close the Thailand border after they brought them to a police camp near Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 25, 2015. Reuters/Damir Sagolj 1 of 3

A forensic policeman transports body bags with human remains found at the site of human trafficking camps in the jungle close the Thailand border after bringing them to a police camp near Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 25, 2015.Reuters/Damir Sagolj  2 of 3

A forensic policeman transports body bags with human remains found at the site of human trafficking camps in the jungle close the Thailand border after bringing them to a police camp near Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 25, 2015. Reuters/Damir Sagolj   3 of 3

Saturday 23 May 2015

Philippines making plans to accommodate 3,000 Rohingya migrants

Source channelnewsasia, 22 May

The Philippines has said it is ready to help in solving the issue of Rohingya refugees stranded on ships in the region, making plans with UNHCR to accommodate about 3,000 migrants. 

Rohingya men from Myanmar prepare for Friday prayers at a confinement area for migrants at Bayeun, Aceh province on May 22, 2015 after more than 400 Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued by Indonesian fishermen on May 20. (Photo: AFP/ROMEO GACAD)

MANILA: The Philippines government has held a series of high level meetings with UNHCR to formalise plans to temporarily house the Rohingya refugees. 

Earlier this week, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the government is open to sheltering up to 3,000 refugees. Some analysts say such preparation is key for the plan to be successful. 

"They are already scouting around for several venues, but the venue is the least of our concern," said Clarita Campos, political science professor, University of the Philippines. "It's more important to figure out the medical needs of the migrants, as well as other health and food requirements first.

"Then later on, we need to think about education and job requirements. All of this has to be planned out and planned well."

While it is unlikely the boats carrying the refugees will reach Philippine shores, the government has said they are looking forward to being part of the solution to this regional humanitarian crisis.

The Philippines will present its position at the May 29 meeting in Bangkok which will bring together more than a dozen governments from Southeast Asia and beyond.

The UNHCR's Philippines representative said the country has the necessary legislative framework to take in the refugees, such as the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.

"The Philippines has experience dealing with refugee status to determine and to undertake individual interviews with people to understand the conditions which have pushed them into this ordeal - and to determine whether they are in need of international protection or not," said Bernard Kerblat, Philippine Representative, UNHCR.

The Philippines has had a long history of helping refugees, including persecuted Jews during World War II, Vietnamese boat people during the Vietnam War and the Chinese during the rise of communism and their civil war period.

But officials say proper measures also have to be in place to help classify these Rohingya migrants.

"They have to be able to establish their status," said Banuar Falcon, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. "Some process has to be made available to them. There are reports that the migrants are a mix of members belonging to a persecuted community and other economic refugees seeking greener pastures."

A Philippine Refugee Processing Center was set up in Bataan in the Central Luzon area where previous refugees stayed before being re-settled elsewhere.  That has since fallen into disuse due to lack of funding.  But the government also said it was mindful of resource limitations while it is still implementing a rehabilitation and reconstruction program for areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

- CNA/rw

Turkish military ship joins efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims

Source world bulletin, 21 May

Turkish military ship joins efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims

The Turkish government has sent Turkish military ships to reach the Rohingya Muslims stranded off Thailand and Malaysia

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Turkish navy is carrying out efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims stranded in boats off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.

Addressing a group of young people at Çankaya Palace May 19, Davutoğlu said that Turkey was doing its best to reach Rohingya Muslims at sea with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the help of a ship from the Turkish Armed Forces already sailing in the region.

Some 7,000 to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are currently thought to be in the Malacca Straits, unable to disembark because of crackdowns on trafficking networks in Thailand and Malaysia, their primary destination.  

Boats carrying about 500 members of Myanmar's long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim community washed ashore in western Indonesia on May 10, with some people in need of medical attention, a migration official and a human rights advocate said.

The men, women and children arrived on two separate boats, holding 430 people and 70 people respectively, said Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission at the IOM in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.

Rohingya Muslims have suffered for decades from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar.

Attacks on the religious minority by Buddhist mobs in the last three years have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War, sending 100,000 people fleeing, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project. The project has monitored the movements of Rohingya for more than a decade.

Tightly confined and with limited access to food and clean water, Lewa said she worries that the migrants' health is steadily deteriorating. Dozens of deaths have been reported in the last few months.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Queen Mary University of London: Myanmar's Rohingya humanitarian crisis is the product of genocide

Circulated by Dr. Zarni,

Humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya Muslims is the product of genocide, according to researchers from Queen Mary University of London
"The Rohingya are faced with only two options: stay and face annihilation, or flee."
[For immediate release]
London, 16 May 2015: Persecution of the Rohingya minority by the Myanmar government amounts to genocide, according to field research from the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), based at Queen Mary University of London.
Experts from ISCI, led by Professor Penny Green, conducted four months of fieldwork in Myanmar between October 2014 and March 2015. The team was based primarily in Rakhine state, the home of the Muslim minority. There, they undertook detailed research which exposes the Myanmar state's crimes against the Rohingya.
The current crisis is, according to Professor Green, the direct result of government sponsored actions against the Rohingya, which together amount to genocide.
"The Myanmar government's ongoing persecution of the Rohingya minority has, in the last two years, reached a level so untenable that tens of thousands haven been forced to flee on boats. The current exodus of those seeking asylum is just one manifestation of persecution consistent with genocide," said Professor Green.
According to Professor Green, there is a general reluctance to define an event as genocide until after mass killing begins. However, ISCI research reveals that the historic and current conditions of persecution against the Rohingya minority have developed into genocidal practice.
"Our research is being conducted within a state crime framework in which genocide is understood as a process, building over a period of years, and involving an escalation in the dehumanisation and persecution of the target group. The Rohingya have been subject to stigmatisation, harassment, isolation, and systematic weakening. The Rohingya are faced with only two options: stay and face annihilation, or flee. Those who remain suffer destitution; malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood, land ownership; and the ever present threat of violence and corruption," said Professor Green.
Details and more information about ISCI's findings, concerning the stigmatisation; harassment; isolation; and systemic weakening of the Rohingya are set out in the notes below. These initial findings are drawn from a report to be published in September 2015. The research is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The research team includes Professor Penny Green, Dr Thomas MacManus, and Alicia de la Cour Venning.

Media enquiries:
Researchers are available for comment and interview. Please contact:
Mark Byrne
Public Relations Manager (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Queen Mary University of London
T: 020 7882 5378
M: 078 1590 2560

From ISCI's forthcoming research:
Emerging from decades of oppression and poverty, Rakhine state is ripe for economic exploitation, particularly in relation to natural resources. Demonising the Rohingya as 'illegal Bengali immigrants', the Myanmar state has manipulated genuine Rakhine grievances and Buddhist monks' insecurities to foster conditions for ongoing persecution and violence for social, political and economic gain. The Myanmar government has been central in stigmatising the Rohingya, allowing hate speech, Islamophobia, the publication of inflammatory newspaper reports, and nationalism to flourish. The entire Rohingya population has recently been further disenfranchised, ahead of elections scheduled for November this year. However, the granting of citizenship cards with voting rights will not be enough to end the genocidal process. Citizenship has, for example, afforded little protection for the Kaman Muslim ethnic minority in Rakhine state.

Physical violence resulted in some 200 deaths in Sittwe in 2012, and the threat of violence remains ever present for the Rohingya. Those responsible have enjoyed complete impunity for the violence. Our research reveals that the violence was planned and organised by local authorities supported by local civil society organisations, and political and Buddhist leaders. Continued harassment has contributed to the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

More than 100,000 Muslims, formerly living in mixed Rakhine and Rohingya communities, have been forced into squalid camps in an overcrowded and isolated detention complex on the outskirts of Sittwe. A further 4,250 Rohingya live a precarious existence in downtown Sittwe's militarised ghetto, Aung Mingalar. Dehumanised and destitute, Sittwe's Rohingya live what can only be described as a 'bare life'. The parallels with 1930s Germany are undeniable.
Systematic weakening

Systematic weakening is the genocidal stage prior to mass annihilation. Physically and mentally weakened, and living in broken communities devoid of social cohesion, the Rohingya have been stripped of agency and human dignity. The expulsion of Médecins Sans Frontières and the regulation of humanitarian aid are state actions designed to systematically weaken the Rohingya community. As the Rakhine National Party spokesperson declared in his interview with us (January 2015), "When the international community give them [Rohingya] a lot of food and a lot of donations, they will grow fat and become stronger, and they will become more violent."
Background and biographies:
More information about the International State Crime Initiative

·        Biography, Professor Penny Green

·        Biography, Dr Thomas MacManus

·        Biography, Alicia de la Cour Venning

Saturday 16 May 2015

Rohingyas, the Victims of Sustained Genocidal Persecution for Nearly 40 Years

Source ihhakademi, 14 May

Rohingyas, the Victims of Sustained Genocidal Persecution for Nearly 40 Years

Interview with Dr Maung Zarni

Grave atrocities Rohingya people are facing in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is alarming. The Rohingya people numbering 1,3 million is a Muslim minority living in the Arakan state in western Myanmar. Although they are living in the country for generations they are denied citizenship and basic necessities including basic healthcare, work and schooling. They are primary targets of hate crimes and discrimination amounting to genocide fueled by extremist nationalist Buddhist monks and Thein Sein government. Yet there are notable figures within the country who embrace Rohingya struggle and dares to speak about the condition of Rohingya. Buddhist scholar Dr Maung Zarni, member of the Permanent People's Tribunal on Sri Lanka and a co-author of The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya (2014) is an outspoken critic of racist nationalism and violence in his native country. As a prominent dissident of semi-military regime of Thein Sein, he has fled from Myanmar due to safety concerns and resides in London. We conducted an interview via email with Dr Zarni offering invaluable insights into the complex sociopolitical situation in Myanmar today.

Some Rakhine Buddhists argue that they are falsely accused and they are real victims who are under constant threat in their own land. Do you think this is true? Do you think that both Muslims and Buddhists have equal share in escalating violence?

Both Rohingyas and Rakhines are victims of Burmese oppression. The Rohingyas fare worst as they suffer from double-oppression: the legalized persecution by the Burmese central government since early 1978, and direct and state-organized terror campaigns to drive them out of Burma -on grounds that they pose a "threat to national security" because of their historical and anthropological link with former East Bengal (East Pakistan until 1973 and Bangladesh since Bangladesh's independence in 1973)- and the racist and majority Buddhist Rakhine who treat them like dirt.

The Rakhines are a colonized people by the Buddhist Burmese since 1785 when their kingdom was decimated by the invading Burmese. The Rakhines outnumber Rohingya by 3/1. Rakhines man local administrative and authority structure, in addition. So, when Rakhines say they are threatened by the Rohingyas, it is really a case of Rakhines scapegoating the Rohingyas for the real oppression, colonial control and economic exploitation by the Burmese and the Burmese military. Because the Burmese military is way too powerful for the Rakhines to rise up against the Rakhine take their rage and grievances out on the most vulnerable but widely disliked Rohingyas in their midst.

The Rohingya population was denied to self identify in the 2014 nationwide census. What consequences do you foresee?

Not only are they denied the right to self-identity -which is international legal/human rights norm- they are being forced to assume an identity as "Bengali" by their oppressor: both the Burmese regime and the Rakhine and other Buddhists, especially the majority Burmese. The consequences are of genocidal proportions: destruction of the entire ethnic community, both starting and ending with the identity erase.

Myanmar is to hold general elections in 2015. Do you think elections' result will reduce the role of military in politics? Is there a possibility of emerging of a new political cadre which will address the Rohingya issue?

Regardless of what happened in the elections, whoever wins, there is generally speaking no political class or circle among the pro-democracy, pro-human rights opposition movement or the ruling military regime. They all share common genocidal strain of racism against the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi is no better in this regard, except she is likely to respond more positively to the international pressure than the regime has been.

The military will find ways to control politics and economy -in spite of the elections- as long as the Constitution is not changed significantly, especially the 3 clauses: 1) which legalizes any future coup by the commander in chief; 2) bars any type of judicial persecution against the military oppressors and 3) guarantee 25% of the parliamentary seats.

The leader of the 969 Movement, Monk Ashin Wirathu stated several times that the movement is unfairly blamed for rising Islamophobia in the country. And President Thein Sein defended Wirathu saying his order was just striving peace and prosperity. How do you see these remarks?

Wirathu was on the record (tape-recorded and it is now on line) that he wanted to launch and lead a campaign to purge Burma of all Muslims -"starve them to death, make them homeless"- in a style of a CIA operation -all in his own words. His intention was made public to a gathering of hundreds of monks at a well-known Buddhist pavilion in Mandalay as early as 2004 before he was sentenced to jail and jailed, for his involvement in burning alive an entire Muslim family -a well-to-do grocer and a Haj returnee- in his birthplace called Kyauk Hse (about 45 minutes drive from Mandalay).

Burmese intelligence and the entire government of Thein Sein (and before him the now aging despot General Than Shwe) knew all this. But the problem is the military regime agrees with Wirathu's ideas. Myanmar generals have systematically "cleansed" the armed forces in Burma of all Muslim officers over the past 53 years -as a matter of unstated anti-Muslim policies. In fact, only Buddhists are promoted. Now the military has stopped recruiting any Muslims for any rank, however low in the armed forces. In addition,Reuters news agency documented that the highest level of military leadership has authorized and commissioned the Ministry of Religious Affairs to publish anti-Muslim writings over the past 27 years -starting with Than Shwe's boss named Senior General Saw Maung. So, when Thein Sein as President was defending Wirathu he is lying with a straight face. Nothing less.

Do you think the Arakan conflict is for the advantage of Burmese government since Arakanese Muslims are often treated as a scapegoat?

Yes, so far the horizontal aspect of the conflict in Rakhine between Rohingyas and the Rakhine has enabled the regime in central Burma to divert attention of the domestic constituency -mainly Buddhist monks and Burmese public- away from the real issue of continued control of economy and power in the country. But mind you the conflict has been exploited, expanded and blown out of proportions by the Burmese military -which is the original sponsor of a state-directed, legalized and policy-induced mass persecution- in a word, genocide -of the Rohingyas.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a prominent opposition figure having massive popularity inside the country and abroad. Yet she kept quiet on the rights of minorities in the country especially Rohingya. What are the reasons behind it? Do you think it may change in the near future if she prevails in the political struggle with Thein Sein and military?

She is a racist herself -who has justified Islamophobia of the Buddhists on Britain's Radio Four, in the fall of 2013- to a famous TV and radio interviewer Mishal Hussein. There is no factual basis or prospect that she will be less racist in the least likely event that the military will ever let her assume presidency.

Myanmar is an ethnically diverse county and Rohingya is not the only Muslim minority in the country. How is the relationship of Rohingya with other minorities? Are all minorities subject same kind of aggressive minority policies of the government?

No, only Rohingyas are the victims of sustained genocidal persecution for nearly 40 years. Other minorities, Buddhists and Christians (including Karens and Kachins and Chins, etc.) as well as even non-Rohingya Muslims are racist towards the Rohingyas -as the direct result of nearly 40 years of the media and the education system demonization and illegalization of the Rohingyas.

How did British colonial administration treat the Muslim community in the country? What are the legacies of British colonial administration regarding the Arakan issue?

British colonialism was not simply about economic exploitation and political control. It was a huge edifice of multiple-racisms. British colonial rulers were racist and genocidaires themselves. It is well-documented that the British exported their racism -then justified on pseudo-scientific anthropology of the late 1900 AD- to its colonies. Ethnic and racial divide and rule was a corner stone of British colonial administrations all over the world. But generally, Britain is an irresponsible colonial master; to date Britain refuses to help address the problems of racial and ethnic conflicts around the world many of which have roots in their policies 100-200 years ago, from Palestine and the Middle East to India and Pakistan to Burma.

Discriminative policies including restrictions on marriages and birthrates were in force before Thein Sein. What are additional discriminative policies introduced in his term of presidency?

Restriction on population growth on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion and nationality is considered an act of genocide -out of five acts, when pursued with the intent to gradually destroy or reduce the number of a particular people. So, this genocidal population policy has been expanded by Thein Sein himself, when he requested the Parliament to draft four new laws that will restrict interracial and religious marriages. In addition, it is Thein Sein who revoked the last Rohingya legal documentation -the temporary registration cards issued to the Rohingyas in exchange for the formerly/originally citizenship cards.

If you would suggest a roadmap to break the cycle of violence against Arakan Muslims what would the main points be?

The roadmap will start with the UN -and key powers in the Security Council- holding a serious International Conference on the Rohingya affairs. Burma is a signatory since Dec 1949 of the UN Genocide Convention -which came into effect on 9 Dec 1948. As such, it is in violation of the treat- the Convention is a binding treaty, not just a resolution. The conference will call for immediate lifting of all restrictions and disruptions on humanitarian aid including food, medicine, and medical treatment; calls for the guarantee for the physical safety of all Rohingyas from the attacks by local racist Rakhine groups; calls for the end of blanket impunity for those local troops and Rakhine racists alike who harm Rohingyas; calls for the restoration of basic human rights; calls for the restoration of citizenship of anyone who belongs to the Rohingya ethnic community; and recognize their right to self-identity -and end the official denial that they were ever an ethnic group, on the basis of the government's documentation that irrefutably established the Rohingyas as the officially recognized ethnic group of Burma starting in the 1950s and ending around 1965.

International community has welcomed democratic reforms of Thein Sein and removed international sanctions. Yet the Rohingya situation has improved little. Do you think that international pressure to the government would result in policy change regarding Arakan?

Thein Sein regime reformed not out of will but out of a very difficult political and strategic situation where it was forced to rely on China and Russia alone -and in the face of the collapse of dictatorships in the Arab world where the leaders ended up being killed or jailed.

The only way the regime will change its genocidal policy towards the Rohingya is by sustained, strategic and serious international pressure. Only when they understand there will be a heavy price for them to pay internationally -in terms of economic squeeze, threats of arrests and trial at the International Criminal Court or support for the radicals in the country will the regime come to their senses and behave. They are thugs and bullies, in essence, who dare to beat up and murder the weak and the weaponless. The only language they understand and appreciate is bigger force, more powerful bully.

What do you think about the role of international relief organizations in the region? What kind of projects would you suggest to improve conditions of Rohingya people?

Humanitarianism is all well and fine. It plays an ameliorative role. But the root cause is politically and racially driven genocide. In situations of genocide, humanitarianism is woefully inadequate. It is a band-aid, not a cure.