Thursday 22 November 2018

'Defending the indefensible': Malaysia's Mahathir slams Aung San Suu Kyi over Rohingya crisis

Source Channelnewsasia, 13 Nov

SINGAPORE: Aung San Suu Kyi's response to the alleged atrocities against Myanmar's minority Rohingya community is "indefensible", said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (Nov 13) in a withering criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 

Mahathir, 93, said he was "very disappointed" by Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to defend the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority driven from Myanmar in their hundreds of thousands last year by an army campaign that UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

"Someone who has been detained before should know the sufferings and should not inflict it on the hapless," said Mahathir, in a reference to Aung San Suu Kyi's long years of house arrest under Myanmar's military rule.

"But it would seem that Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to defend what is indefensible," he told reporters. "They are actually oppressing these people to the point of killing them, mass killing."

Mahathir was asked on the sidelines of a speech he delivered in Singapore to comment on how Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi had been dealing with the Rohingya issue. 

A UN report in August detailed a military crackdown with genocidal intent that began in 2017 and drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh.


Source NHK, 15 Sept

By Noriko Okada | Published by NHK on November 15, 2018

"Ask yourself, if you saw your wife raped and your father shot dead in front of your eyes, if your little 6-month old boy was burned alive in front of your eyes…would you like to be told that you need to go back?"

Those are the words of Maung Zarni, leader of a global network of activists supporting the Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo last month, he accused Myanmar and Bangladesh of making a premature plan to repatriate the refugees without their consent. A few days later, the 2 countries agreed to start the repatriation in November, although the United Nations has expressed concern about their safety back in Myanmar. Many of the refugees also fear continued persecution and are refusing to return.


More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to the border with neighboring Bangladesh since Myanmar security forces launched a violent crackdown against them in the western state of Rakhine in August last year.

Zarni has visited the refugee camps in Bangladesh and heard the refugees' stories of gang rapes, mass killings and other atrocities. He studied fascism and genocide at university in the United States and has seen the sites of such crimes at Auschwitz and in Cambodia. He compares Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya Muslims to the Nazis' persecution of the Jews.

"We would not ask Jews of the Holocaust to return to Auschwitz," he said, accusing his country of genocide against the Rohingya. UN investigators have also concluded that Myanmar's military carried out "genocide," and that it is guilty of "crimes against humanity," a charge the government continues to deny. Zarni says violence against the Rohingya is still going on.

Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh. A views of worlds largest Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh on August 3, 2018. More than one million Rohingya refugee are living in this camp. (Photo by Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Rejected as citizens of Myanmar

Zarni says the rejection of the Rohingya as citizens began in the 1960s as a propaganda campaign by the military government. It claimed that the minority Muslim population could be a threat to national security in a Buddhist majority state.

"We have constructed this popular myth, framing the Rohingya as illegal migrants, land thieves, Islamist invaders, a phony ethnic group, a virus that is a threat to national security and an enemy of Buddhists," he said.

Zarni argues for the legitimacy of the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar, referring to volume 9 of the Myanmar Encyclopedia, published by the government in 1964. He says that in it, the Rohingya are a recognized ethnic minority, integral to the Union of Burma, representing "75 percent of inhabitants" in the country.

Zarni says the historical evidence is ignored by racists in his country. He said the Rohingya are not included in the British colonizer's population census data because they are treated separately as a "Muslim" group. He said that has given anti-Rohingya racists in Myanmar an excuse to say they never existed.

Zarni argues for the legitimacy of the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar, referring to volume 9 of the Myanmar Encyclopedia.

Born and raised in a Burmese military family

Zarni says even he did not know of the existence of the Rohingya, even though he was raised in a highly-educated family and lived in the country under military rule for 25 years. He is currently based in the UK, where he is known as an academic and advocate for the rights of minorities in Myanmar. He is neither a Rohingya nor a Muslim, but a Buddhist, like the majority in Myanmar.

He was born into a family that has served in the Burmese military for 3 generations, since the military's inception in 1941. He said his late great uncle was a classmate and roommate of the father of Myanmar's current de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He said they studied together at Rangoon University, and both opposed British colonial rule.

"I grew up thinking that to love Burma is not simply to be Buddhist but to join the military service. That is the ultimate expression of patriotism," he said.

But seeing the atrocities at home, he said he came to realize that his country is "committing genocide," and that people in Myanmar are lying to themselves and to the world about their crimes.

Maung Zarni, leader of a global network of activists supporting the Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh.

He said he supported Aung San Suu Kyi for 15 years, just as he respected her father. He said he no longer supports her.

"We call ourselves pro-democracy and pro-human rights. But the Rohingya have no voice," he said. "We don't respect human rights…lies after lies."

Zarni is now at the forefront of critics holding Aung San Suu Kyi responsible for the abuses against the Rohingya minority. "She has incomparably a greater voice and influence… but does not use it," he said.

Message for Japan

Three weeks before Zarni's visit to Tokyo, Aung San Suu Kyi visited Japan and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Japanese government, unlike the European Union and the United States, is not considering economic sanctions against Myanmar or its military officials. Japan is instead offering support for any effort the Myanmar government can make to tackle the Rohingya issue.

Japan has offered Myanmar a contribution of about 800 billion yen, or US$7 billion, from its public and private sectors over 5 years to help modernize the country's infrastructure. It is including US$34 million in humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya refugees, pledging to help improve their living conditions and facilitate their eventual return to Myanmar.

"We highly value State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi's efforts over the past 2-and-a-half years," said Prime Minister Abe.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Oct 9th.

But international human rights organizations and others are critical of this stance, saying Japan is tolerating the abuse of human rights.

Japan abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution in December last year that urges Myanmar to take all possible measures to protect the rights of the Rohingya, and to cooperate in the investigation of abuses. Japan now stands apart from other countries on this issue, arguing that dialogue with the Myanmar government should be the first priority.

Zarni says he appreciates the vast amount of Japanese humanitarian assistance for the refugees. However, he said, "You can only save lives when they have safety, when they are protected by the law and security forces." He said the only way to ensure the safety of the Rohingya people is to give them international protection.

He has warned Japan not to collaborate with what he calls the "Suu Kyi-military hybrid regime," and has called for a critical internal review of Japanese policy toward Myanmar.

"More than money, people want to see Japan as a leader that provides political, intellectual and moral leadership, to help end these grave crimes," said Zarni.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Call to Halt Deportation of Rohingya into the Reign of Genocide

ARNA press release,

We, ARNA in serious concern with deportation of Rohingya into the reign of genocide, would like to express our sincere gratitude towards the government of Bangladesh, authorities and the people for providing shelter, food and assistance for a million of Rohingya refugees.

As you aware from June 2012, the Rohingya people have been completely destroyed by various organized attacks sponsored directly by the government that have killed over 60,000 innocent Rohingyas, about 20,000 women involving girls as young as aged 12 were brutally raped in front of their family members, forcibly pushed out about 90% of total Rohingya population and burnt down more than 400 villages across 13 different townships of Arakan (Rakhine) state. The remaining Rohingyas and Kamans numbering about 400,000 have been systematically confined where about 150,000 of displaced people have been trapped into ghetto types of camps and still facing frequent attacks, deadly starvation across Arakan state from June 2012.

Signing of the Repatriation Deal with Bangladesh, MoU with UNHCR and UNDP and collecting huge amount of foreign funds in the name of Rohingya by military led Suu Kyi government of Myanmar, are just to topple international pressures and to avoid international criminal prosecution.

Yet, Suu Kyi government has taken no progress for improvement of condition on the ground, nor safe return of Rohingya refugees with guarantee of relocation at origin villages, citizenship rights and lifting all forms of restrictions and oppressions.  

Looking into the number of taking back 300 Rohingyas per day that will make about 10 years lengthy for repatriation of a million Rohingya, location into designated camp and issuing foreigner identity (NVC) on the return, are just another trick ensuring they never return to home land and ever languish in Bangladesh refugee camps.


Moreover, the military led Suu Kyi government's authoritarian judiciary, defiance, brutalities, blockages and segregation against Rohingya and other muslims remain widely active across Arakan state and extending across central Burma.

Suu Kyi government will also never let to ensure capable of leading to criminal prosecution of all of those responsible and/or address the root causes to end ongoing violence and attacks against Rohingya and minorities because the main perpetrator are top military generals, the government and authorities from top to bottom themselves.


We acknowledge the difficulties face by the government of Bangladesh and failure of United Nations. However, the Rohingya people should not be abandoned, their criteria, identity and rights should not be dismissed.

The UN has repeatedly stated that conditions in Myanmar are not conducive to return as the remaining Rohingyas  continuously fleeing, facing attacks and under systematic restriction. It is therefore as assurances made by the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the both government must stand by with their commitments and the repatriation must only happen when it is safe, voluntary and dignified. In this regard, we strongly believe that the government of Bangladesh will uphold the principles of non-refoulment and engage concrete ways to ensure safety and dignity to facilitate Rohingya's return and the rebuilding of their lives on their return. It must also attach with access to closely monitoring the situation to make sure the Rohiongya people are safe, protected, treated fairly and equally.

Like the current situation in Arakan where about 150,000 Rohingyas and Kamans have been confined into ghetto camps with complete blockages and segregations for over six years. We are fearful that the repatriated Rohingyas from Bangladesh will also be locked into same condition and permanently.

Since the government has able to achieve the rejection of Rohingya as a common politic jointly with public, the authorities, monks and the government authorities. It is unrealistic for repatriation of a million of forcibly displaced vulnerable Rohingya refugees, recognition of their identities and normalization of the situation on the ground.

As Myanmar doesn't change its genocidal course and current divided political nature, the prosecution of the Myanmar criminal military generals and rulers remain a core pillar to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis as the Myanmar military generals and rulers have never been prosecuted for their heinous crimes and brutalities past and present.


It is therefore as a last resort for  over five decades of systematic genocidal attacks against Rohingya, we would like to call the government of Bangladesh:

To unset repatriation of Rohingya when condition on the ground is primitive;

To reopen resettlement door for those wanted to resettle in a third country;

To encourage the UNSC to urgently response with decisive manner with the responsibility to protect (R2P), and pave way to a right for Rohingya population to offer militarily organized resistance to protect Rohingyan themselves from ongoing genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes.


Tuesday 13 November 2018

Amnesty strips Aung San Suu Kyi of 'Ambassador of Conscience' award

Source AI, 12 Nov,

Amnesty revokes honour awarded when she languished under house arrest in 2009
Rohingya in Myanmar killed and tortured in campaign of ethnic cleansing

'We are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope' - Kumi Naidoo

Amnesty International announced today that it has withdrawn its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader's shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.

Yesterday, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty's Secretary General, wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the organisation is revoking the 2009 award. Half way through her term in office, and eight years after her release from house arrest, Naidoo expressed Amnesty's grievous disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

Kumi Naidoo wrote:

"As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself.

"Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights. Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you."

Perpetuating human rights violations

Since Aung San Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar's civilian-led government in April 2016, her administration has been actively involved in the commission or perpetuation of multiple human rights violations.

Amnesty has repeatedly criticised the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to speak out about military atrocities against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State. During the campaign of violence unleashed against the Rohingya last year, the Myanmar security forces killed thousands of people, raped women and girls, detained and tortured men and boys, and burned hundreds of homes to the ground. Fleeing the violence, more than 720,000 Rohingya escaped to neighbouring Bangladesh. A UN report has called for senior military officials to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide.

Although the Myanmar civilian government does not have control over the military, Aung San Suu Kyi and her office have repeatedly shielded the security forces from accountability by dismissing, downplaying or denying allegations of human rights violations and by obstructing international investigations into abuses. Her administration has actively stirred up hostility against the Rohingya, labelling them "terrorists" and accusing them of burning their own homes and "faking rape". Meanwhile, state media have published inflammatory and dehumanising articles referring to the Rohingya as "detestable human fleas" and "thorns" which must be removed.

Kumi Naidoo said:

"Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to speak out for the Rohingya is one reason why we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience.

"Her denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities means there is little prospect of the situation improving for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in limbo in Bangladesh or for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in Rakhine. Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities."

Amnesty has also highlighted the situation in Kachin and northern Shan States, where Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to use her influence to condemn military abuses, to push for accountability for war crimes or to speak up for ethnic minority civilians who bear the brunt of the conflicts. To make matters worse, her civilian-led administration has imposed harsh restrictions on humanitarian access, exacerbating the suffering of more than 100,000 people displaced by the violence.

Attacks on freedom of speech

Despite the power wielded by the Myanmar military, there are areas where the civilian-led government has considerable authority to enact reforms to better protect human rights, especially those relating to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. But in the two-and-a-half years since Aung San Suu Kyi's administration assumed power, human rights defenders, peaceful activists and journalists have been arrested and imprisoned, while others face threats, harassment and intimidation for their work.

Aung San Suu Kyi's administration has failed to repeal repressive laws – including some of the same laws which were used to detain her and others campaigning for democracy and human rights. Instead, she has actively defended the use of such laws, in particular the decision to prosecute and imprison two Reuters journalists for their work documenting a military massacre.

Aung San Suu Kyi was named as Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience in 2009, in recognition of her peaceful and non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. At the time she was held under house arrest, which she was eventually released from exactly eight years ago today. When she was finally able to accept the award in 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi asked Amnesty to "not take either your eyes or your mind off us and help us to be the country where hope and history merges".

Kumi Naidoo said:

"Amnesty International took Aung San Suu Kyi's request that day very seriously, which is why we will never look away from human rights violations in Myanmar.

"We will continue to fight for justice and human rights in Myanmar - with or without her support."

Friday 9 November 2018

Lawyers bid to free seven Rohingya children from extended detention in Kedah

Source Malaymail, 8 Nov

Children from the Rohingya community peer out a window from the top floor of a shoplot in Selayang August 22, 2018. Seven children have been detained on arrival and transferred to the Belantik Immigration Depot in Kedah where they have remained since.— Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 ― Lawyers are seeking the release of seven Rohingya children from ongoing detention by immigration authorities in Kedah that has stretched to seven months now since they arrived in Malaysia.

The children, five boys and two girls, reached Langkawi on a boat with 56 people on April 3. The boys are aged 10 to 14 while one girl is aged 14 and the other, five.

According to a news report then, the 56 people included 19 men, 17 women, 12 girls and eight boys.

According to the lawyers, these seven children detained on arrival and transferred to the Belantik Immigration Depot in Kedah where they have remained since.

"These minors who are as young as 5 years old have been in detention for more than 7 months now and attempts to access these minors by UNHCR, lawyers and family members were not successful at the time when the application was filed.

"Most of them are unaccompanied minors," the legal team said in a statement today, referring to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Lawyers for the seven children had on September 10 filed a habeas corpus application at the Alor Setar High Court in Kedah to challenge their allegedly unlawful detention and secure their release.

The application is by the seven children against the Belantik Immigration depot's commandant, the Kedah Immigration department's director, the Immigration director-general, and the Home Ministry.

In the habeas corpus application sighted by Malay Mail, the lawyers are seeking for courts to order that the seven children be brought before the judiciary and subsequently released.

The lawyers are also seeking recognition that children's continued detention to be illegal and against their rights under the Federal Constitution, the Child Act 2001 read together with Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Among other things, Article 22 states that countries who signed the convention should take appropriate measures to ensure a child seeking refugee status receives protection and humanitarian assistance. Malaysia has ratified this convention.

The lawyers also want the High Court to safeguard the seven children against rearrest or further detention due to their immigration status when they are released.

Alternatively, the lawyers are seeking that the seven Rohingya children be released from immigration detention and be placed at a children's shelter until they are reunited with their family or based on terms decided by the court.

The reasons given in the application are that the children's rights under Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution to consult and be defended by a lawyer upon their arrest was allegedly violated, as the refusal to allow them to meet their lawyers or family allegedly amounted to an oppression of their rights to know why they were being detained and also denies their rights to challenge the detention.

The other grounds for the application include the children's detention allegedly being unlawful, irrational, arbitrary and unreasonable.

The lawyer also highlighted that the Rohingya children's indefinite detention to be invalid as they may not be deported due to their statelessness.

The habeas corpus application will be heard by High Court judge Datuk Ghazali Cha at the High Court in Alor Setar on November 11.

The lawyers for the Rohingya children are Collin Andrew, Chan Yen Hui and Lee Shee Pin, who have been working together on this case with UNHCR for free.

According to the lawyers, the Bar Council and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) are also holding a watching brief on this case.

Thursday 1 November 2018

The EU is considering sanctioning garment workers but has rejected sanctions against Min Aung Hlaing

Source BurmaCampaignUK, 29 Oct

When the United Nations Fact Finding Mission published its report into human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, it was quite clear who bore primary responsibility for violations of international law, including genocide – the Burmese military. In particular, their report called for action against the leadership of the military, including Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

To date the EU has not accepted either the findings or the recommendations of the UN investigation, which they themselves helped set up. Instead they have decided to look into sanctioning people who played no role in human rights violations against the Rohingya, Shan or Kachin. They have decided to look into sanctioning ordinary workers, mainly garment workers.

This week an EU delegation is visiting Burma as part of a review ordered by Cecilia Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner. They are considering withdrawing 'Everything But Arms' trade privileges awarded to Burma, which reduces tariffs and makes Burma's exports more competitive than those from more developed countries. This is a sanction which will have virtually no impact on the Burmese military or on the government. Instead it risks putting tens of thousands of ordinary workers out of work.

The decision is even more extraordinary because the EU has made a specific and deliberate decision not to sanction Min Aung Hlaing. He is not one of the seven people the EU have banned from holidaying in the EU because of their role in the genocide of the Rohingya.

Here is a list of 15 things the EU has been asked to do, and which it has failed to do, all of which would be far more effective at applying pressure on the Burmese military and government than the withdrawal of trade privileges:

  1. The EU decided not to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court.
  2. The EU does not support the creation of an alternative Ad Hoc Tribunal if support for an ICC referral cannot be secured.
  3. The EU decided not to ban EU members from training the Burmese military.
  4. The EU refuses to reveal which (if any) EU members are still training the military. (The EU ambassador to Burma, Kristian Schmidt, told Burma Campaign UK he would do so, then broke his word and now refuses to release the information.)
  5. EU officials in Burma still back down to the demands of racists and largely avoid using the word Rohingya in public statements and meetings with the government.
  6. The EU refuses to stop funding and training the military-controlled police force, which still uses torture and was responsible for arresting and framing the jailed Reuters journalists.
  7. The EU refuses to stop European companies from supplying equipment to the military (apart from arms).
  8. The EU does not ensure that the EAS/Commission and EU member states do not source goods and services from military owned and controlled companies.
  9. The EU and member states have not imposed policies to ensure no EU aid goes to military owned and controlled companies for the supply of goods and services.
  10. The EU refuses to impose sanctions limiting military owned and controlled companies' access to European financial markets and the use of the euro.
  11. The EU has not supported the findings of the UN Fact Finding Mission.
  12. The EU has not supported the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission.
  13. The EU refuses to review and consider ending direct and indirect financial and technical support to the Burmese government.
  14. The EU does not support the imposition of a UN mandated global arms embargo.
  15. The EU has not stopped channelling aid and development assistance to and through the Burmese government.

It makes absolutely no sense that the European Union is considering sanctions that will mainly impact ordinary people while at the same time rejecting sanctions that target Min Aung Hlaing and his military.

At present the only sanctions from the EU in response to genocide of the Rohingya, war crimes and crimes against humanity against other ethnic groups, and a huge range of other human rights violations by both the military and the government, has been to stop seven people, not including Min Aung Hlaing or senior military officers, from going on holiday in the EU. It is, therefore, not surprising that EU sanctions have not been effective in influencing the Burmese military or government.

The bizarre decision by the EU Trade Commissioner is just the latest in its long history of catastrophically bad decision making over its Burma policy.

Through its actions and inaction from 2012, the European Union contributed to the enabling environment whereby Min Aung Hlaing believed (so far correctly) he could get away with genocide of the Rohingya.

Burma Campaign UK submitted details of British government and EU complicity in this crisis to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament when it held an inquiry into what had taken place.

To date the European Union has done little to disabuse Min Aung Hlaing of the impression they'll keep letting him get away with violating international law, especially when they deliberately avoid sanctioning him. Does the EU seriously think that having given him a personal free pass, Min Aung Hlaing will be so concerned by the EU sanctioning garment workers that he'll change his behaviour?

As members of the European Burma Network pointed out in a joint statement: "Withdrawing these trade privileges will have a disproportionate impact on ordinary people who have played no role in human rights violations against the Rohingya and others, and in fact themselves suffer from a lack of human rights and genuine democracy in Burma."

Further, the impact of these particular sanctions on the military and government is likely to be limited compared to many other options available. It appears contradictory to impose sanctions which may predominantly impact garment workers, whilst at the same time still funding and otherwise supporting both the government and the military controlled police force.

There is a danger such sanctions could be blamed on the Rohingya, further hardening public sentiment against them. There is also a danger that these kind of untargeted sanctions and their impact on ordinary people will discredit all sanctions in the public mind and in the media, making it harder to secure support for sanctions that actually will have an impact.

Any sanctions imposed by the EU must predominantly target the military and its interests, and minimise as far as possible any impact on ordinary people in Burma.

No-one has been calling for the kind of sanctions Cecilia Malmström is now considering. Burma Campaign UK is also not aware of any EU member state supporting the withdrawal of these trade privileges. So far it appears none have been willing to publicly say so. This has to change. Cecilia Malmström may have the technical power to go ahead with these sanctions without the support of member states, but it is not a power she should use.

This review should be stopped immediately, and instead EU member states need to look again at targeted sanctions on the military, including supporting ICC referral or an alternative ad hoc tribunal. Punishing garment workers for the actions of the military is completely unacceptable, and EU member states must say so.

Perhaps the one thing we can be grateful to Cecilia Malmström for is exposing just how hopeless, contradictory and illogical the EU approach to Burma is.


Mark Farmaner is Director of Burma Campaign UK