Monday 30 April 2018

Latter From America - Do the Rohingyas qualify as victims of genocide?

Source Asiantribune
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

The Genocide Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 and entered into force in 1951. It declares that genocide is a crime under international law.

The Genocide Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 and entered into force in 1951. It declares that genocide is a crime under international law.

Article II of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

- Killing members of the group;

- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Genocide is a serious crime that cannot be used lightly. It is the ultimate denial of the right to existence of an entire group of human beings. As such, it is the quintessential human rights crime because it denies its victims' very humanity.

In the last eight months, since August 2017, some 700,000 natives of Arakan (or the Rakhine state) – the Rohingya Muslims and Hindus – have been forced to leave their ancestral homes to settle in Bangladesh as refugees. They left behind everything that was once important to them and even family members – as their properties were looted before being burned down with living family members inside. The International Rescue Committee estimated that there were 75,000 victims of gender-based violence (meaning rape), and that 45% of the Rohingya women attending safe spaces in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh had reported such attacks. Thousands of men and women were killed as part of a very sinister national campaign that was planned and executed by the Myanmar (formerly Burma) government and its partners-in-crime amongst the Buddhist people, esp. within the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state.

Human rights activists and genocide experts have been calling the Rohingyas the victims of Genocide. For instance, Dr. Maung Zarni and Alice Cowley in their seminal work "The slow-burning genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya", noted that both the State in Myanmar and the local community have committed four out of five acts of genocide as spelled out by the 1948 Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.

Do the Rohingyas qualify as victims of genocide?

Genocide experts tell us that genocide is a process that usually goes through several stages. The first four of the five stages are the early warnings:

1. Classification and Symbolization
2. Dehumanization and Discrimination
3. Organization and Polarization
4. Preparation
5. Execution

1. Classification is a primary method of dividing a society or polity into heterogeneous groups and symbolization is often used to cement divisive identities between groups, which is then used to justify crimes against the targeted group.

i. Rakhine Buddhists vs. Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a clear case where the Muslim minority is distinguished based on its ethnicity, race and religion. They are derogatorily called the Kala or Kalar people (synonymous to the English word 'nigger').

ii. In spite of their long history of existence in Arakan, the Rohingyas of Myanmar are accused of being "Bengalis" or "Chittagonians" (even 'terrorists' who had intruded illegally into Myanmar who want to "Islamize" the "Buddhist" Myanmar.

iii. As a high-profile refugee case highlighted the plight of the Rohingya, Ye Myint Aung, the Burmese Consulate-General in Hong Kong, wrote to foreign missions in Hong Kong in Feb. 2009 insisting that the Rohingyas should not be described as being from Burma, the South China Morning Post reported. He said that the Rohingyas are of 'dark brown' complexion and 'ugly as ogres' compared to 'fair and soft skin' people of Burma.

2. The dominant group uses either political power or muscle, laws and regulations to deny rights of the targeted group to further discriminate and persecute it. Then it robs the victim's humanity by comparing it with animals, parasites, insects, diseases or 'virus'. When a group of people is thought of as "less than human" it is easier for the dominant group to murder them. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to make the victims seem like villains. Dehumanization of the targeted group is used as the sufficient rationale to justify discriminatory laws and practices.

i. Rohingyas were declared non-citizens via the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, effectively making them stateless. The legal experts contend that the Burmese Citizenship Law violates several fundamental principles of international customary law standards, offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and leaves Rohingyas exposed to no legal protection of their rights

ii. Rohingyas are denied all and everyone of the 30 basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They are denied access to public schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and medical centers, government jobs, etc.; even their movement inside the country and the Rakhine state is restricted.

iii. Rakhine extremists and intellectuals (like Dr. Aye Chan) depicted the Rohingya people as 'influx viruses' – the 'illegal Muslims of Arakan' that needed to be eliminated. [Influx Viruses: The Illegal Muslims in Arakan By U Shw zan and Dr. Aye Chan]

iv. Another Buddhist extremist, Khin Maung Saw depicts Rohingyas as the camel in a Burmese fable that dislodged its owner from his tent, waring fellow Arakanese Buddhists against the Rohingyas whom he calls as "Chittagonian Bengalis" - "the guest who want to kick out the Host from his own house".

3. Genocide is a group crime. Thus, it always needs organized efforts, usually by the state and sometimes by the non-state actors. Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for 'final solution' or genocidal killings. Extremist hate groups drive the groups apart; they are tolerated and encouraged to polarize and terrorize the targeted victims. Laws are formulated to forbid social and economic interactions with the targeted victims. Public demonstrations are held against the targeted group.

i. The Rohingyas have been depicted as a demographic "bomb" for Myanmar.

ii. The elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslims has been a national project, since at least General Ne Win's time (1962-88).

iii. Genocidal crimes against the Rohingya people have been planned and executed by the Burmese governments since Ne Win's time, enjoying extensive support and active participation from the Buddhist community – politicians, academics, monks and the public alike, let alone the members of the state apparatus at both central (Myanmar) and local (Rakhine state) levels, esp. the police and security forces. At least 18 military operations (excluding the NaSaKa operations between 1992-2012) were carried out against the Rohingya people since Burma had won its independence from the Great Britain in 1948 in which more than a million Rohingyas were forced to become refugees in many parts of the world, esp. Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Gulf States.

iv. Scores of government-sponsored public demonstrations (including those organized by Buddhist monks) were held since the transfer of power from military regimes to Thein Sein's quasi-civilian/military regime and the current Suu Kyi's government demanding strong actions – including deportation and/or elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.

4. Preparation is made to eliminate or exterminate the targeted group. It often uses euphemisms to cloak their sinister intentions, such as referring to their goals as "isolation," 'surgical operations,' "ethnic cleansing," "purification," or "counter-terrorism." They indoctrinate the populace with fear of the victim group. Leaders often claim, "If we don't kill them, they will kill us." Attacks are often staged and blamed on targeted groups. Victims' properties are destroyed or confiscated. They are forced to leave their homes and/or encamped in concentration camps.

i. The genocidal pogroms of 2012, depicted as 'race riots' by the regime, were prompted by the false rumor – planted by the security forces - that two 'Rohingya' youths had killed a Rakhine woman – Thida Htwe - after raping her.

ii. In the so-called race riots of 2012, some 140,000 Rohingyas were displaced from their homes, which were burned down by joint operations of the security-cum-Buddhist mon-cum-Rakhine mobs in the Rakhine state. Internally displaced Rohingyas were forced to live in 'concentration-like' camps with little or no medical assistance.

iii. Thousands of Rohingyas are feared dead trying to flee Myanmar since 2012.

iv. More than two-thirds of the Rohingya (i.e., estimated at 2 million) were pushed out of Myanmar before the latest genocidal crimes of 2017.

v. Muslim owned homes, businesses and offices (including madrasa and mosques) were destroyed.

vi. The rape of Rohingya females, a crime that was to continue until now, was used as a weapon of war to terrorize the community.

5. Execution of the plan begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing or elimination of the targeted group, which is legally called "genocide." It is "extermination" to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human (see dehumanization). When it is sponsored by the government, the armed forces often work with private armies or militia to do the killing. It is always followed by denial of the crimes by the perpetrators – both during and after genocide. International press and investigative teams are barred from visiting the affected area and talk to the victims. Eye-witnesses or whistle-blowers are killed or 'disappear'. Evidences of genocide are destroyed.

i. Despite credible mounting evidences, which were termed either as 'ethnic cleansing' or 'genocidal', Suu Kyi's government denied such accusations. "I don't think there is ethnic cleaning going on," Suu Kyi told the BBC, April 2017.

ii. "It's Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think that they are collaborating with authorities … It's a matter of people on different sides of a divide." – Suu Kyi said, ibid.

iii. "No one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do". – Suu Kyi said

iv. Suu Kyi said the army was "not free to rape, pillage and torture".

v. Myanmar's army released a report that found "no deaths of innocent people" (11/2017)

As the short analysis shows above, there is no doubt that Rohingyas are victims of genocide. The findings from dozens of respectable institutions around our globe also concur.

I often question what is the basis for a nation's claim to independence or self-determination? Must a people wander in the wilderness for two millennia and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify? Until now, history's answer to the question has been pragmatic and brutal – a nation is a people tough enough to grab the land it wants and hangs onto it. Period!

How about the rights of a minority community to survive with their culture and traditions intact? Do they need to be 'children' of a 'higher' God or follow Judeo-Christian morality to qualify? What makes the children of a 'lesser' God to be forgotten and denied the same treatment and privilege that was granted hitherto to the people of East Timor and South Sudan? Could not a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite determine the fate of the Rohingyas of our time to decide for themselves what is best for them – whether they need a protected homeland of theirs or they want to remain part of Myanmar with all their alienable rights granted under the UDHR?

How will our generation be judged by our posterity for letting the genocide of the Rohingya to continue for this long? Shame on us if we fail to stop Rohingya genocide!

-Asian Tribune -

‘Show humanity, Leeds’: Rohingya Football Club official urges English club to cancel their tour of Myanmar

Source Scmp, 30 April

Club secretary Mohammed Faruk wants the English club to instead play his own team of refugees in Kuala Lumpur  

A Rohingya football official has called on English club Leeds United to cancel their controversial postseason tour of Myanmar and play against his team instead

Mohammed Faruk, secretary of the Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya Football Club, urged the former English champions to "show humanity" by withdrawing from their two-match tour of the Southeast Asian country, which the United Nations has accused of ethnically cleansing the Rohingya people from Rakhine state.

"As secretary of Rohingya Football Club, we urge Leeds to have a friendly match with us instead of playing with Myanmar teams and show some humanity," said Faruk. "Otherwise, cancel the tour. By cancelling the tour, [Myanmar] will learn a lesson.

Asked if he was upset when the tour was announced last week, Faruk said: "Yes, of course. Because [Leeds] will be dealing with people who don't know how to respect humanity."

Leeds managing director Angus Kinnear announced in Yangon on April 24 that the Championship side would play a Myanmar League All Stars team on May 9 and the country's national team on May 11.

Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, who last year became Leeds' full owner, has defended the tour, even saying the visit would help raise awareness of the situation in Myanmar.

"I have spent over 10 years living in Asia and Myanmar is a country I have visited on many occasions," Radrizzani was quoted as saying. "I am aware of the serious issues within the country but I also know that it is a beautiful place filled with incredibly warm and welcoming people.

"This was a carefully considered decision and we knew it would be controversial, but this is about people not governments. It has never been my intention, nor that of the club, to get involved in a political debate in Myanmar. 

"However, if because of the tour we further highlight the ongoing serious issues in certain areas of the country, then maybe that is a positive thing."

Championing Rohingya Rights in Myanmar Cost Me 12 Years in Prison. It’s a Price Worth Paying

Source Time, 24 April

By U Kyaw Hla Aung
24 April 2018 6:27 AM EDT

Kyaw Hla Aung is a 78-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, who has been  jailed repeatedly for his peaceful political work seeking justice for the millions of Rohingya Muslims subject to persecution in Myanmar. He is one of three humanitarians nominated this year for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which is awarded annually in Yerevan, Armenia, on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors.

The world has only recently woken up to the persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim community. But I, and countless others, have been subjected to harassment and discrimination since as far back as the early 1980s.

Following the adoption of the citizenship law in 1982 that excluded Rohingya as an ethnic group, the persecution of my people became unbearable. I realized I had to act. Blessed with a good education and some knowledge of the law, I committed myself to a lifetime of championing Rohingya rights and battling inequality within Myanmar.

It was a choice that came with severe consequences. I spent 12 years in prison between 1986 and 2014, always for peaceful and non-violent protests. In fact, my first prison sentence came about for simply drafting a legal petition.

My family suffered financially and emotionally. My children did not have enough food on the table, clothes on their backs or books for school. Most devastatingly, I was even prevented from attending my eldest daughter's funeral.

Since August 2017, close to 650,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Driven out by conflict on a scale we seldom see in our lifetimes, this struggle for basic rights is a conflict that remains highly volatile. Many of us who insist on remaining in Myanmar live in squalid camps for internally displaced people in Sittwe, the Rakhine State of Myanmar, where desperate conditions put even more lives at risk.

Most worrying to me is that our people are denied access to education. I believe that education is key to breaking the cycle of abuse. Without education, the discrimination against the Rohingya will only get worse. A lack of education makes us poorer and more vulnerable, and unless it is addressed, I believe it will eventually lead to the break-up of our community.

We need more teachers just like we need facilities to improve the health care sector. Thousands of people could die every year without access to basic care, but the whole community will die out within a few years without the ability to get a good education.

Today, the Rohingya are mostly stateless, our very identity denied. Despite the fact we have lived in Myanmar's Rakhine region for generations. To ensure our very existence, we must provide our young with the knowledge and skills to forge a future.

I refuse to give up hope. I will continue to do all I can to fight for my people's human rights and for their right to an education. I will continue to speak truth to power. I will continue to carry our message to the global community. If that means I risk further imprisonment, harassment and everyday hardship, then that is a price I must pay.

Rohingya in “Last Stages of Genocide”

Source Tricycle, 25 April

Refugees face grave danger as monsoon season threatens camps and Myanmar rewrites history, independent observers warn.

By Matthew Gindin
Rohingya in
Rohingya people at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Photo by Ashique Rushdi / USAID | 

Today, most of the world's Rohingya live in makeshift shanties built of thin bamboo and plastic sheets on the hills around Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh. The shanties are not built to withstand extreme weather. Last Thursday, the first major downpour of Bangladesh's monsoon season fell. With hope for repatriation to Myanmar fading and the monsoon season threatening hundreds of thousands of lives, the need for humanitarian assistance in the refugee camps is reaching critical levels.

According to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM), a staggering 898,000 Rohingya currently live in Cox's Bazar, 686,000 of whom have arrived since August of 2017, when the government of Myanmar launched a coordinated, military-led campaign of arson, murder, and sexual violence against their communities in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

On April 14, Myanmar announced that it had repatriated a family of five Rohingya refugees, a claim that was promptly denied by both the UN and Bangladesh. The move came amid a series of gestures from the Burmese government aimed at demonstrating goodwill, all of which have been met with skepticism from many members of the international community.

In late March, Myanmar, which has denied systemic wrongdoing toward the Rohingya, surprised observers by arresting and incarcerating seven soldiers who the government admitted murdered 10 Rohingya men, disfigured them with acid, and then buried them in a mass grave. On Wednesday Myanmar National Television reported that the seven soldiers had been granted amnesty, only to backtrack after the government denied the report. The murder of 10 Rohingya was being investigated by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, whom the government arrested under the Official Secrets Act for exposing the crime. The arrest has drawn international condemnation, and prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has recently joined their defense team.

Related: Who Is the Real Aung San Suu Kyi?

The family of five Rohingya who returned to Myanmar, according to Bangladesh, did not come from Rohingya refugee camps, but rather came from the "no man's land" between Myanmar and Bangladesh where thousands of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar are currently said to linger. Both the UN and the government of Bangladesh have stated that they do not believe conditions are safe enough in Myanmar to allow for Rohingya repatriation.

According to Penny Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at London's Queen Mary University, the Rohingya man may have been repatriated along with his family as repayment for favors. "He was a village administrator who our sources in the camps say was an informant working for the government of Myanmar," Green told Tricycle.

The alleged repatriation came on the heels of a visit from the Burmese Minister of Social Welfare to a refugee camp in Dhaka, where he met with 40 Rohingya and sparked anger by declaring that, in order to return to Myanmar, they would have to carry cards identifying them as migrants from Bangladesh. The Burmese government has denied that the Rohingya are a historical people of Myanmar, claiming that they are migrant Bengali workers who never left, despite well-established evidence showing the Rohingya as a distinct people in the region going back centuries.

Inside Myanmar, there is evidence of a concerted attempt on the part of the government to erase the Rohingya. "The last couple of months the government has been bulldozing the remains of the Rohingya villages they burnt, and removing other geographical and environmental features that distinguish Rohingya land areas," Green said. "They are being reduced to a state in which even the Rohingya may not recognize their land. The state has been appropriating crops, livestock, and property."

Related: Where Are the Righteous Burmese? All Over the World. 

On April 18, Green and the ISCI released a report finding the Myanmar government guilty of genocidal intent toward the Rohingya, a finding which echoed a chillingly prescient report they issued in 2015. The 2015 report claimed the Rohingya had already been subjected to four of the six stages of genocide: "stigmatisation, harassment, isolation, and systematic weakening." It warned that in Myanmar, just two stages remained for the Rohingya: "extermination, and 'symbolic enactment,'" the removal of their existence from official State history.

At the Berlin Conference on Myanmar Genocide in February, Rainer Schulze, professor of modern European history at the University of Essex in the UK and founding editor of the journal The Holocaust in History and Memory, defined genocide as the "intention to destroy in whole or in part" a distinct community. The 1948 UN Convention On The Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, Schulze explained, "binds all signatories . . . that they must respond when genocide has been identified. The Genocide Convention gives us a very clear definition, and with regards to the Rohingya it is appropriate and must be used."

However, international efforts to apply pressure to Myanmar have thus far been weak. The 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)  summit did not address the plight of the Rohingya, and this year's summit of Southeast Asian leaders appears primed to once again ignore the crisis. Canada has put the crisis on the agenda at the upcoming G7 meeting, but Canadian efforts have been criticized as largely cosmetic, consisting so far in sanctioning one member of the military and calling for more humanitarian aid while stopping short of the use of the word "genocide."

Related: Voices from Inside the Rohingya Refugee Camps

Meanwhile, the situation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh remains dire.  Myanmar's panel of international advisers on issues concerning the Rohingya reportedly warned recently that the monsoon season, which runs from June to October, could bring "enormous deaths" from a mix of mudslides and diseases brought on by the rains. As many as 200,000 people may lose their shelters, the report said. In one camp, Kutupalong, the population is five times the recommended standard for refugee camps. As result, shelters for refugees have been built on landslide-prone areas and flood zones.

While the international community's efforts have been underwhelming, there are still ways for people to help. Buddhist Global Relief is collecting donations, as well as recommending people give to the Buddhist Humanitarian Project, which was recently formed with the express purpose of giving aid to the Rohingya. The Rohingya refugees are a traumatized community lacking sufficient access to the most basic resources for life, and every bit of aid given can relieve some aspect of the suffering and help families and individuals defend themselves against the coming rains. 

Burma: Police officer admits Reuters reporters were ‘set-up’

Source Asian, 20 April

Prosecution witness police captain Moe Yan Naing walks outside the court room during a hearing of detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Yangon, Burma April 20, 2018 . Source: Reuters/Ann Wang

POLICE in Burma (Myanmar) deliberately "set-up" two Reuters journalists by handing them confidential government papers before arresting them, a witness for the prosecution testified on Friday.

Less than 24 hours after his shock revelation, the family of Police Captain Moe Naing was evicted from police housing in the capital Naypyidaw.

Moe Yan Naing gave the details of the hours leading up to the Dec 12 arrest of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. He told the court that Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko, who led the internal probe, ordered the police to arrange a "set-up" to ensnare the journalists. The two are facing trial for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, a charge that carries a 14-year prison sentence.

SEE ALSO: Burma: UN, Britain call for immediate release of Reuters journalists

At the time of their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Burma's Rakhine state. The killings happened during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say has sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

According to Moe Yan Naing's testimony, the General instructed Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin to arrange a meeting with Wa Lone that night and to hand over "secret documents" from paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion, of which Moe Yan Naing was a member. Police were then ordered to arrest Wa Lone as he departed the restaurant where the meeting took place.

Reuters journalist Wa Lone arrives at the court in Yangon, Myanmar January 10, 2018. Source: Reuters

"Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko told the police members, 'if you don't get Wa Lone, you will go to jail'," said Moe Yan Naing. He told the court he witnessed the exchange.

Moe Yan Naing said the police chief violated police ethics and "disgraced the union government and made the union government misunderstood by the international community."

Moe Yan Naing said he had been under arrest since the night of Dec 12 and had been told to testify on Friday as a prosecution witness.

SEE ALSO: Amal Clooney steps in to defend Burmese journalists on trial

On Saturday, the family of Moe Yan Naing were evicted from their home and forced to take shelter in an apartment belonging to the policeman's brother, the brother said.

"I got a phone call at 7 am. A police second lieutenant who I'm familiar with said, 'sister you need to move out from the quarters,'" Moe Yan Naing's unemployed wife Tu Tu, 42, told local media group the Irrawaddy.

"He said 'you need to move out immediately.' I said 'is that so?' and I become speechless. I didn't know what to say," she said in a video clip carried on the Irrawaddy's Facebook page.

"We are staff family. We don't have a house yet. Where am I supposed to move with all these items?"

Burma journalists take part in a demonstration demanding the release of detained Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, in Yangon, Burma February 16, 2018. Source: Reuters

Tu Tu said in the video clip she had not had any contact with her husband since he was arrested and appealed to Burma's President Win Myint for help.

Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, a local free speech group, issued an appeal to gather funds for Moe Yan Naing's family and gathered about 1.5 million Myanmar kyat (US$1,127), while Naypyidaw-based journalists gathered another 900,000 kyat – altogether about $1,800 – journalists involved told Reuters.

The journalists said the family has rejected the funds because it wanted to "protect the dignity" of Moe Yan Naing and not accept charity.

Additional reporting by Reuters.