Thursday 31 May 2018

What Is Behind Amnesty’s Burmese Military-Friendly Report?

source freerohingyacoalition, 25 May

By Shafiur Rahman | Published by The Quint on May 25, 2018

Amnesty International's latest briefing report on the Rohingya crisis has managed to create a stir in an already riotous social media scene around Myanmar. The report has attracted widespread condemnation, including a comment by the Bangladesh foreign minister, branding it "illogical."

The report focuses on a particular massacre of Hindus in Northern Rakhine state.

Eight months ago, over the course of two days, the Myanmar authorities dug up the remains of 45 people, purportedly of Hindus, and instantly laid the blame on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Myanmar authorities dated the killings to 25 August, the very day it launched its clearance operations in Rakhine state in response to alleged ARSA attacks throughout the state.

Rohingya activists have been outraged and have taken to social media to question Amnesty's motives in releasing such a report.

Others have weighed in saying that whatever the shortcomings, in the context of an information black hole, the report adds to the case for a full International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of the Rakhine crisis.

Watch : ' Black Squad' Behind Killing of Rohingya Hindus in Myanmar? I Th... - YouTube

Amnesty claims to have reviewed the evidence and are able to categorically conclude that "ARSA fighters are responsible for the massacre."

This has stung the various Rohingya advocacy groups, not because ARSA has been blamed, but because Rohingya, who have been at the receiving end of human rights violations for decades, are now associated with violations themselves.

Their immediate fear is that the incendiary report further endangers the already extremely vulnerable Rohingya who still remain in Rakhine state. They feel particularly aggrieved because Amnesty's methodology and review of evidence appear to flout all semblance of independence and rigour.

Amnesty International Has Many Questions to Answer

The Quint had previously reported the other difficulty with Amnesty's six arguments of ARSA culpability. Hindu refugees in Bangladesh stated that the "black forces" had killed both Hindus and Muslims.

A Hindu man who lost his own family members to the black forces stated this on film. Moreover, he was unable to identify them as Muslim. Another respondent told this reporter how Muslims and Hindus left together to escape from the village. Yet there is no mention of indiscriminate killing in the report.

Maung Zarni, a Buddhist and a leading advocate of the Rohingya cause, was concerned about how the interviews were conducted and which authorities acted as gatekeeper.

Who selected the victims in Sittwe, Rakhine for their researchers? Who arranged the interviews (bringing Hindu victims from the highly restricted Northern Rakhine to Sittwe, central Rakhine)? Who gave Amnesty International travel permission to visit Rakhine?

In Maung Zarni's view, Amnesty International was assisted by the Ministry of Defence. He said, "This ministry centrally coordinates with Myanmar Ministries of Information, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Rakhine State administration.

Without their express say so, no foreign teams can travel to Rakhine state. The Hindu witnesses and survivors from the reported massacre were brought to Sittwe by Myanmar authorities where they were in turn interviewed by Amnesty researchers."

Zarni's concerns go to the heart of one of the six points of inquiry/evidence published by Amnesty, which addressed the shifting accounts given by Hindu witnesses in the camps of Bangladesh. Initially, the Hindu refugees blamed the military and Rakhine people for the killings. Then they blamed the Rohingya.

Amnesty's "Conclusions": Mere Speculation With Little Substantive Evidence?

Amnesty's explanation is that pressures and threats in the camps of Bangladesh yielded the inconsistent and shifting witness stories. Yet how do we know that similar pressures were not exerted by the gatekeepers identified by Zarni? "Amnesty's assertion is clearly more speculation than evidence," Zarni claims.

Others have stated that the five other categorical conclusions made by Amnesty are similarly untenable. Jacob Goldberg, Journalist and Managing Editor of Coconuts Yangon, a journal produced in Myanmar, said:

Let's look at Amnesty's 2nd evidence where descriptions of the attackers match other descriptions of ARSA fighters. Wouldn't this be true if this was a false flag attack planned by the Myanmar military? They would be in disguise, surely?

Goldberg expressed concerns at the obvious inconclusiveness of the evidence Amnesty presented: "Amnesty's 6th piece of evidence tells us that one attacker has been identified and confirmed as a Rohingya villager. But how does this rule out a false flag attack? Do we know if this Rohingya individual was involved by choice? Indeed have any of the men-in-black attackers been confirmed as Rohingya?"

Moreover, the black forces occupied a village only two miles from the site of the massacre from the 25 to 31 August (Chikonchori). Amnesty states a Myanmar military helicopter arrived in a targeted village on 27 August in order to make the point that the arrival of the helicopter signals that the military were not there beforehand.

Again, how would this arrival rule out a false flag attack before the 27th? And if the arrival was genuinely for the first time, why would these murderous forces continue to remain in the neighbouring village for several additional days?

On social media, Amnesty's claimed "careful review of the evidence" was mocked and widely criticised. Nay San Lwin, a well-known Rohingya blogger and activist, expressed exasperation: "I welcome all investigations into human rights abuses in Rakhine state but this was done so inexpertly, it defies explanation."

Amnesty have ignored recent history. They have failed to see how the Hindu population have become a political football for the Myanmar government and how they are manipulated. This report is a travesty. It could have been written by the Tatmadaw given all its weaknesses. It should be retracted immediately."

The Quint wrote to Amnesty International with the questions raised in this report. Below is Amnesty International's response.

Amnesty International's Response To The Quint

1. Given the numerous documented war crimes against Rohingyas in Rakhine, carried out by the Myanmar government security forces, and the Myanmar government's apparent proclivity, or rather amenability, with using the Hindu community in the state as a political tool against the Rohingya, can Amnesty International conclusively rule out a possibility that the attack was a false flag attack?

Based on all of the evidence we obtained, Amnesty International was able to conclude that ARSA fighters were responsible for the unlawful killings and abductions of the Hindu community in Kha Maung Seik. When examining the full evidence, we do not believe it is possible that it was a "false flag" attack.

The Myanmar authorities have long played politics with ethnic minorities, in Rakhine State and elsewhere. They continue to do so. We are aware of and carefully considered the way the authorities have used this particular incident since last year.

We have also documented in great detail the Myanmar military's crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, as well as its war crimes in Kachin and northern Shan States.

However, with regards to this specific massacre of Hindu men, women, and children in Kha Maung Seik, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that ARSA fighters are responsible. Ultimately, they should be brought to account, just as there must be justice for those within the Myanmar military who are responsible for crimes against the Rohingya.

2. Additionally, was it the Myanmar Ministry of Defence that enabled access to the witnesses for Amnesty's report? Given this detail, can Amnesty rule out the possibility, with absolute certainty, that the Hindu survivors interviewed by Amnesty were not specifically chosen to provide the answers that best suited the interests of the Myanmar government?

Amnesty International first interviewed four of the eight adult Hindu survivors from Kha Maung Seik in September 2017, while they were still in Bangladesh. Their accounts at that time were highly consistent with what seven of the Hindu survivors, three of whom we re-interviewed, said in Myanmar in April and May 2018. In Bangladesh, Hindu survivors from Kha Maung Seik told us that the people who killed their family members and abducted them spoke Rohingya; forced them to "convert" in order to have their lives spared; and included men they recognized as Rohingya from the same village. In Bangladesh, we also interviewed Hindu men and women from other villages near Kha Maung Seik, who gave similar descriptions of seeing a combination of men in black with some Rohingya in plainclothes whom they recognized as from their village. All of this came through interviews in Bangladesh with people found at the Hindu-only camp and interviewed with a Bangladeshi translator fluent in both English and the dialect spoken by the Hindu community.

During our research in Rakhine State in April 2018, Amnesty International did not liaise with the Ministry of Defense. We had authorization from Rakhine State officials to be in central Rakhine State, but that was the extent of our engagement with the authorities. To interview Hindu survivors, family members of those who were killed, and leaders of the local Hindu community, Amnesty International worked with a trusted individual who has no affiliation with the Myanmar government, military, or authorities more generally. We also interviewed individuals from other ethnic communities as part of our wider research on the crisis. As is our practice for research on Myanmar and elsewhere around the world, interviews were conducted in private, with only the interviewee, Amnesty delegates, and interpreters present.

Ultimately, we interviewed all eight Hindu adult survivors. There was no selection of specific survivors, as we were able to interview each one separately and privately, either in Bangladesh, in Myanmar, or both. Given the consistency of what the Hindu survivors told Amnesty International both in Bangladesh and in Myanmar; the consistency of their accounts with the accounts of witnesses who saw ARSA fighters in different villages across northern Rakhine State, particularly on the morning of25 August, as the attacks were launched; and the corroboration from other pieces of evidence, including the forensic review of the photographs, the evidence overwhelmingly points to ARSA fighters as responsible for the massacre in Kha Maung Seik.

3. Amnesty's report mentions that the testimony of the survivors, who were interviewed multiple times, were inconsistent, often contradicting their own previous accounts. The report chalks this up to being "largely explained by the pressures and threats to personal safety that they faced while in Bangladesh." The testimonies, however, became more uniform after they returned to Myanmar. Does Amnesty believe with absolute certainty that the Myanmar government could not have briefed survivors during the process of their repatriation to Myanmar, perhaps providing an account that all of them could provide with consistency?

As answered above, Amnesty International first interviewed Hindu survivors from Kha Maung Seik in Bangladesh in mid-September 2017, three weeks before they were repatriated to Myanmar. From the beginning, they said to us that the people responsible for the massacre spoke the Rohingya dialect; forced the women to "convert" to in order to have their lives spared; and included specific individuals whom the survivors were able to recognize as Rohingya who lived in the village tract. The survivors provided names and other biographical data of those individual perpetrators, one of whom we have been able to separately confirm is a Rohingya resident of Kha Maung Seik.

As a result, it is inaccurate to say that the Hindu survivors only identified ARSA or Rohingya militants as the perpetrators after being repatriated to Myanmar and having interaction with the Myanmar authorities. As our report details, the Hindu survivors identified another perpetrator group—namely, ethnic Rakhine—primarily in the first days after being abducted and taken to Bangladesh, while they were still being forced to live with their abductors. After a video surfaced of the women in Kutupalong camp, the Hindu community on both sides of the border mobilized to move them from that area to a Hindu-only camp. While still in Bangladesh, they began to then identify the perpetrators as ARSA or as Rohingya militants both in interviews with Amnesty International and with the media.

Our conclusion that ARSA was responsible came from dozens of interviews on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, combined with other, corroborating evidence. It is not possible that the Myanmar government could have been behind the totality of the evidence—obtained across time, in both countries, and with a wide cross-section of interviewees—that allowed Amnesty International to come to its conclusion.

4. Amnesty uses testimony of multiple witnesses who claimed, "seeing a core group of fighters in black, often with their faces covered except for their eyes," akin to ARSA fighters, as the basis for conclusively stating that ARSA was behind the attack. If the massacre, was indeed a false flag attack, couldn't the attackers be dressed in the colours of the ARSA? Is Amnesty stating that it would be impossible for others to wear black masks to appear like ARSA forces, in line with the false flag attack theory?

Other villagers in and around Kha Maung Seik described to Amnesty International seeing an attack earlier that same morning of 25 August on a Myanmar border police post in the village tract—one of the coordinated attacks on security force posts that ARSA launched across northern Rakhine State that day. The attackers of the police post were described as men in black who had their faces covered, brandishing swords.

Only hours later, in the same village tract, attackers fitting the same description participated in rounding up and massacring Hindu men, women, and children. Those attackers in black were also consistently described as being joined by people in normal dress, their faces visible, who were recognized as Rohingya men from Kha Maung Seik village. They were described as speaking the Rohingya dialect. They were described as forcing the Hindu survivors to "convert" to Islam in order to have their lives spared. And, several days later, the same people who attacked the Hindu in Kha Maung Seik took the abducted women with them to Bangladesh. When taken together, that evidence collectively leads to one logical conclusion: that the perpetrators of the Kha Maung Seik massacre, including the men in black, were ARSA fighters.

5. The fourth piece of evidence presented by Amnesty, based on its own forensic analyses, states conclusively that the bodies of victims discovered in mass graves were killed and buried in that area around 25 August 2017, the date of the reported attack. Again, does this prove that ARSA was behind the attack?

During the accusations and counteraccusations made around this incident, there have been claims made that the bodies that were uncovered were not from 25 August 2017. Amnesty International sought the analysis of a forensic expert to determine whether the level of decomposition was or was not consistent with having been killed and buried on that day. The expert determined that it was. The expert also identified things in the photographs—including blindfolds and specific wounds—that were consistent with the testimonies of the Hindu survivors, providing corroboration for those testimonies.

We came to our conclusion that ARSA fighters were behind the attack based on the totality of the evidence we have obtained. The forensic analysis was one part of that evidentiary base, as it allowed us to corroborate the date of the unlawful killings and aspects of the testimonies of the women who survived. We did not rely only on the photos and forensic analysis for our conclusion, just as we have not we have not relied only on photographs, videos, and forensic analysis when documenting and reporting on the Myanmar military's crimes against the Rohingya.

6. Additionally, Amnesty mentions the arrival of a reinforcements, a Myanmar military helicopter, in the area on 27 August as the basis for stating, beyond a doubt, that Myanmar military forces weren't in control of the area on the date of the attack. How does this prove that Myanmar security forces weren't in control of the area before this display of "arriving in the area"?

The Hindu survivors consistently described to Amnesty International that, after the massacre on 25 August, ARSA fighters who had perpetrated the massacre held the women together in an area of the village. The perpetrators continued to hold the women there until 27 August, when a military helicopter and other reinforcements arrived to Kha Maung Seik. At that point, the ARSA fighters who had abducted and were holding the women said that they all had to leave—that it was no longer safe to be in Kha Maung Seik. The perpetrators then took the women to Bangladesh.

People who Amnesty International interviewed separately, and who were present in another part Kha Maung Seik village tract during this same period, also told us about the helicopter's arrival on 27 August. They said that it was around that time that the military first came to Kha Maung Seik in the period after the 25 Augustattacks. Our research indicates a similar pattern in other parts of northern Rakhine State in the days immediately after the 25 August attacks. The local border police units were at times unable to control the situation; the military were then moved to the area as reinforcements, and soldiers responded with a campaign of violence against the Rohingya—including killings, rapes, and burning of homes—that we have documented extensively in previous reports.

When taken together, it's clear that the military's arrival in force on 27 August precipitated the perpetrators of the Kha Maung Seik to leave the area and to take the Hindu survivors with them to Bangladesh. Prior to that, the perpetrators felt safe remaining in the village area. The women were with some of the same perpetrators from when they were taken out of their houses the morning of 25 August, through when the massacre occurred, and then ultimately through being abducted and taken to Bangladesh. Combined with the other evidence we obtained, the conclusion is clear: ARSA fighters were responsible.

The millionaire couple saving Rohingya refugees in the sea

source France24, 28 May

Watch : The millionaire couple saving Rohingya refugees in the Andaman Sea -Video.France 24..

▶ 6:06

After spending three years saving thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, the millionaire couple Regina and Christopher Catrambone now want to help Rohingyas. Their boat, the Phoenix, is sailing off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia in order to rescue Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar by sea. Here, our correspondents report.

Monday 21 May 2018

Silently, Burma is now expelling Rohingyas from its detention camps

Source washintonexaminer, 20 May
Myanmar Kachins in TroubleOver 700,000 Rohingya have been forcibly expelled from their ancestral lands by a volatile mix of military aggression and religious persecution.(Min Kyi Thein/AP)

The realization is slowly dawning on the international community that a shocking crime against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar. 

Over 700,000 Rohingya have been forcibly expelled from their ancestral lands in that country by a volatile mix of military aggression and religious persecution, with the country's government largely turning a blind eye or worse.

State-sponsored violence has led to a massive exodus of the Rohingya from the country, a great human wave of refugees who have no choice but to flee for their lives before the onslaught. Many have fled to any country that offers some hope of asylum, however faint, while some have taken to the sea on rickety vessels, searching for refuge in more distant lands.

Malaysian authorities have given refuge to a boat carrying 56 Rohingya, just as Indonesian fishermen recently rescued five Rohingyas who were still alive in a engineless boat without food for more than two weeks. These latest boat people are from a government run camp called Thae Chaung, close to the capital city of Sittwe in Rakhine.

These camps have been called the concentration camps of the 21st century, because of the detention conditions faced by the imprisoned Rohingyas. The military marched Rohingyas out of the capital city of Sittwe to these camps in 2012 after a pogrom in which almost all Rohingyas lost their homes because of violent local reactions to vicious rumors.

Rohingyas cannot leave these barbed wired, heavily guarded camps, and no organization is allowed to serve them on the inside. About 125,000 Rohingyas have been forced to "live" in these camps for the past six years.

The important question is, how did these people leave these heavily guarded camps surrounded by barbed wire, where no one is allowed to enter or leave? Rohingya human rights activists are saying that the government is systematically forcing these detainees out of the camps, working with smugglers to take them to other countries or let them perish while trying to reach Malaysia.

On March 27 of this year, I met a few of these former prisoners of Sittwe camps. A man and woman whom I will call Alia and Yusuf had made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh. They were let go after six years of internment. They "earned" their freedom by agreeing to accept something called National Verification Cards, or NVCs. Among other things, these cards include a false, pre-printed "confession" claiming that the cardholder illegally entered Burma.

I have a photo of that card.

Rohingyas are indigenous people of Burma living in their ancestral lands. They were always citizens, and always voted and elected their representatives until 1982, when the military government stripped them of their citizenship.

As the Burmese government announced its intention of closing down the IDP camps, we were wondering if they will allow the Rohingyas of Sittwe to go back to their ancestral homes. Yusuf, who was severely tortured by the Burmese military, is still being treated by Doctors without Borders. He told me that they refused him entry into the city.

Alia was a professional seamstress with certificates. She was sewing when she was arrested from her home. She told me that young women from the detention center are regularly taken out by soldiers for days at length, raped and then returned back. After getting her NVC, she and her husband tried to enter Sittwe as well, but were chased away by the military, running for their lives. Unfortunately, she lost her husband during the treacherous journey to Bangladesh.

It is evident that the closing of these camps after six years does not herald the return of Rohingyas to their ancestral homes and properties in Sittwe. Instead of rehabilitation and resettlement, Rohingyas are forced to renounce their legal right to be in the country and made to flee.

Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not an option for the detained people of Sittwe. It is about a 100-mile walk northwest, through mountains. The route means going through military post after military post, without permits to travel — something required of Rohingyas even under normal situations. Many of the paths through jungles taken by Rohingyas in the last six months are also littered with landmines. And those Rohingya who are somehow able to reach the border face newly built barbed wire fences which make it impossible to cross.

So the sea is the only option left and the Burmese government is only too willing to encourage this passage. But these waters are not kind to the Rohingya.

In the 2015 exodus through the sea, the United States State Department estimated that about 12,000 Rohingyas were on those boats. Sadly, only 3,000 reached any shore. I met some of these boat people in 2015 in Indonesia. They told me horrible stories of oppression in Burma which forced them to flee. A large number of those boat people were unaccompanied children as young as nine years old.

A year later, Amnesty International issued a statement wondering what happened to the rest of the Rohingyas. We need to keep asking these questions. The world's most persecuted people are depending on us.

Imam Malik Mujahid chairs the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma. He is chair emeritus of the Parliament of the World's Religions. Follow him on Twitter at @MalikMujahi

'100,000 Rohingyas to be relocated to Bhashan Char in 2 months'

Rohingya crisis 2017
File Photo: Rohingya refugees gather to collect relief at the Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp as they are affected by Cyclone Mora in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh May 31, 2017 Reuters

The Rohingyas will be relocated there before August, Secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal says

100,000 Rohingyas, who have taken shelter in Bangladesh amid persecution in Myanmar, will be relocated to Bhashan Char of Hatiya upazila in Noakhaliwithin two months.

Disaster Management and Relief secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal came up with the information at a programme at Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar's Ukhiya upazila.

The secretary said that all the preparations have been completed and the Rohingyas will be relocated there before August.

Earlier on November 14, 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk2,312.15 crore project for giving temporary shelter to Rohingyas at Bhashan Char.

The Ecnec approved the project titled "Ashrayan-3" for construction of necessary infrastructure for the housing of 100,000 displaced Myanmar citizens, and construction of island infrastructure at Bhashan Char.

UN dithers over Rohingya genocide

Source mg, 18 May

Displaced: More than 700 000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh, but monsoon season is coming, and now severe weather threatens their makeshift shelters (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Displaced: More than 700 000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh, but monsoon season is coming, and now severe weather threatens their makeshift shelters (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

While the international community fences over whether to name the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide, the killing reportedly continues — and 700 000 refugees in Bangladesh batten down to face what could prove to be an equally deadly monsoon season.

The massacres, mass rapes, village-razing, forced famine and expulsions were recognised as bearing "the hallmarks of genocide" on March 12 by Yanghee Lee, the United Nation's human rights rapporteur on Myanmar. This came on the heels of a report by the Myanmar military that exonerated all but 10 security force members of any crimes against the Rohingya. Yanghee's statement is the strongest affirmation by the UN of the gravity of the crisis since its human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, warned days earlier that what he suspected were "acts of genocide" were ongoing in Rakhine State, albeit with lower intensity.

Most diplomats such as former United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson have referred to the crisis as "ethnic cleansing". But the term has no grounding in international law — unlike "genocide" and "crimes against humanity". An official UN Security Council designation such as genocide is critical to activate the 1948 Genocide Convention to which Myanmar is a signatory, but the UN has very rarely done so, as in Bosnia and Darfur — and as China is a significant supplier of arms to Myanmar, it would be hard to secure.

The desire of most Rohingya to return to their ancestral lands is thwarted by the influence in the military of Myanmar's ultra-right Buddhist monks, rendering Myanmar's Nelson Mandela figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, powerless. Some Myanmar experts, such as Politico magazine's Nahal Toosi, have argued that her inaction on the genocide, and flat refusal to use the word "Rohingya", and in so doing risk alienating her ethnic support base, reveals her to be a Burman nationalist.

Near the Myanmar border and close to the epicentre of the genocide, Kutupalong is a vast, ersatz camp of 150 000 Rohingya refugees, distinguishable from Bangladeshi Muslims by their dress, language and customs dating back to the mediaeval kingdom of Arakan, which straddled contemporary Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Perched on a hillside overlooking a Red Crescent compound, Abdul Rahim is barely 18, but he carries a laminated card around his neck indicating he is a majhi, a Rohingya community leader, recognised by the camp authorities. Most elders, too weak to escape, were slaughtered by Buddhist and Myanmar army deathsquads.

Rahim's 60-year-old father, Mohamed Ali, was among them: the man was "locked in his house by the army and a mob [acting] together, and the house was burned"; Rahim's 23-year-old brother Osil Haman was shot; his mother, six other brothers and two sisters managed to escape.

"At the time of the attack, I was visiting Kulsumar Akter, a beautiful girl of 16 who I was friends with in a neighbouring village. The army raped her and killed her in front of me. Ten or 12 very beautiful girls were gathered in a house, raped and killed by the army."

Another young majhi is Mohamed Islam (22) from Maungdaw in Rakhine State, a town that was 80% Rohingya before 120 000 Rohingyas were relocated between 2012 and 2016, supposedly for their protection from hostile neighbours, to de facto concentration camps. He tells of the assault on his community by a force of the Myanmar army acting alongside a local vigilante group.

"It was four o'clock in the afternoon on 25 August. Suddenly they attacked. The [vigilante militia] was wearing army uniforms. They were shooting everyone and burning the houses; these were the targets of the Myanmar government. I was running in the yard of my house from the army but an army sniper shot me in the foot and I fell down; the army thought that I had died so they left me. When I opened my eyes, I saw lots of dead bodies; my friend Shokil, who was 27 years old, was killed."

Moved during the night by two fellow survivors, who carried the wounded Islam on a wooden pole between them, he said they encountered village after village where corpses were strewn about. It took the trio two terrifying days to cover the 70km to the Naf River, which marks the border with Bangladesh, and cross to safety.

On arrival in the forest reserve on the outskirts of the southern Bangladeshi town of Ukhia, the tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees initially had to live under the stars, taking their chances with snakes and elephants that killed several. Of the 700 000 survivors who settled in three big refugee camps such as Kutupalong and 10 smaller ones, Unicef estimates that 60% are children.

The camp is dotted with "child-friendly spaces". I visit one, where perhaps 50 children squat on the floor in clusters. Among the scattered smiles there are hard eyes and faraway stares. Everyone here seems to have scarred hearts or bodies.

One of the few elders in the camp, Noor Bashir (56) had a narrow escape: he lifts his bazu shirt and longyi to show me the machete wounds on his legs and right hip.

An August 2017 documentary by Al Jazeera correspondent Salam Hindawi, who managed to get inside one of the concentration camps in Rakhine State, shows Rohingya women gang-rape survivors in tears as they recount witnessing their husbands being taken away by the military to an uncertain fate.

Days earlier and 330km north-northwest, I had been sitting in the modest office of Bangladesh's deputy director general of immigration. She plied me with tea and mishti sweetmeats as her minions processed my visa extension application. Stacked high on the desks of offices below were applications from hundreds of Chinese and Indians as well as Belarussians and many other nationalities, but no Rohingyas. Bangladesh has not granted them refugee status. Even the pre-genocide community of 400 000 who fled repression two decades ago is unassimilated, disallowed from travelling, schooling or marrying Bengalis.

Now the monsoon season threatens the lives of an estimated 100 000 survivors: though the aid organisations have built concrete stairs, water tanks and woven-bamboo, plastic and corrugated iron shelters for the Rohingya, these are unlikely to withstand cyclone-force winds and mudslides.

That my interviews take place on the 70th anniversary of the still unresolved dispossession of 700 000 other Muslims — those of Palestine in 1948 — make the Rohingyas' appeals for the full reinstatement of their citizenship and homes that much more poignant — and desperate.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Australia: Communities Meeting with Department of Home Affairs

Source ABRO, 16 May

A meeting for Humanitarian Program Consultation & Humanitarian Intl Protection Policy Section, has been successfully organized by Australian Department of Home Affairs on 15 May, between 12:00pm and 2.30pm.

The home affairs minister Peter Dutton MP has met friendly with all representatives from AMES, Red Cross, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, Islamic Council of Victoria, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, Foundation House, and many others.

Habib (founder and spokesperson for ABRO) has praised Australian government's 31.5 million dollar contribution in response to Rohingya crisis and raised briefly the following issues in the meeting: 

1) political interferences including visa bans on military generals and their family members, boycotting their investments.
2) sharing an equal number of Rohingya refugees intake.
3) identities verification process, delaying visa processing and rethink of TPVs and SHEVs.
4) barrier substances of integration and contribution into Australia, the needs of prior job traning and skills.
5) immigration values and Australia international obligations..

After the meeting, Habib passed a copy of his recent book- 'first they erased our name' and also said the Australia intake to include Rohingya has been strongly quoted by Parsuram Sharma-LuitalJP, Brotherhoof of St. laurence, Chin, Karen Kareni leaders.

Myanmar’s Killing Fields

Source SBS, 15 May

A special investigation into the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. We examine evidence that Myanmar's security forces used systematic rape and terror tactics to expel hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from the country.
 Evan Williams
 Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 21:30
Since security forces began a violent campaign in August 2017, up to 700,000 people have fled their homes to travel across the Myanmar border to nearby Bangladesh.
Thousands of civilians, including children, are thought to have been killed, in a story of systematic discrimination, state-sanctioned violence and, ultimately, mass murder.
In this special hour-long Dateline film, reporter Evan Williams hears first-hand about brutal killings and attacks on Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya Muslim population - and looks at whether Myanmar's leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, should be held accountable for these atrocities.
"She had gone from a human rights heroine, a beacon of democracy, to a politician catering to the military, wanting the military to support her," says former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson.
Aung San Suu Kyi rejects the criticism and says that the military is simply hunting terrorists, but a network of Rohingya activists were secretly filming what was really happening, risking their lives in the process.
Their ground breaking accounts of video evidence of several unknown massacres, provides Dateline with the first proper look at whether the killing of civilians could be genocide.
Watch the full story at the top of the page.
What is Aung San Suu Kyi's legacy?
These aid agencies are operating in Myanmar, to assist Rohingya refugees: