Monday 29 July 2019

Rohingyas should be citizens or be given their own state, says Dr M

Source NST, 27 July

The Rohingyas should be treated as Myanmar nationals or be given a chance to form their own state, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. -- fotoBERNAMA (2019) HAK CIPTA TERPELIHARA

KUALA LUMPUR: The Rohingyas should be treated as Myanmar nationals or be given a chance to form their own state, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said even though Malaysia generally does not wish to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries, it does so in this case due to the massacre or genocide that is happening in Myanmar.

"Myanmar, of course, at one time was made up of many different states. But the British decided to rule Myanmar as one state - and because of that, many of the tribes (were) included in the state of Burma.

"But now, of course, they should either be treated as nationals, or they should be given their territory to form their own state," he said in an interview with Turkey's Anadolu Agency in Ankara during his four-day visit to the country.

In 2017, more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingyas were driven from Rakhine State following a military-led crackdown that a United Nations' report has said included mass killings and gang-rapes.

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, told the Human Rights Council that the episode was a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing", according to the UN website.

Meanwhile, asked to comment on the plight of the Uyghurs in China, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has always advocated for the settlement of conflicts through negotiation, arbitration or court of law.

"We should tell China (to) please treat these people as citizens. The fact that they have a different religion should not influence the treatment towards them. When you resort to violence, then it's very difficult to find a good conclusion because there has been no case where violence has achieved the objective," he said.

Meanwhile, on Turkey's fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) both inside and outside the country, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia does not support insurrection in any country.

"It is our policy not to be used as a base for action taken against other countries. It is for that reason that when we find that there are some attempts to make use of Malaysia as a base for dissent against the Turkish government, we have taken actions to close these (FETO-linked) schools" he said. – Bernama

Aid Worker Voices: Refugee/humanitarian, Shahida

Source Bloelon, 19 July

Shahida is a volunteer and is paid by IOM through the Cash for Food program.  She is featured here in a segment about the recent talks between Myanmas officials and Rohingya refugee leaders produced by Al Jazzera.

"I want to send messages to my people and to the world through my poems."


Refugee/humanitarian, Shahida
In recent posts it has been my honor to present, with comment, poems written by several young Rohingya men, all refugees who have found temporary contract work within the humanitarian sector in Bangladesh.

Long overdue, I now introduce a woman, Shahida.  She describes her command of English "not very good", but I have been able to learn a great deal about her through our text conversations and by reading her poems.

Below I present some of her writing and report what I have learned from her.

Here is how she introduced herself to me.

"My name is Shahida. I was born in Irrawaday Division from Rohingya parents. I am 23years old. In 2000, my family was deported to Rakhine state where most of the Rohingya live. In 2012, I graduated from high school but I couldn't continue my studies and I have to work to support my family. I worked as interpreter at MSF until 2017. In 2017, we had to flee to Bangladesh. I am now living in Bangladesh, in a refugee camp."


Some context
The situation of the Rohingya is complex and has a long history.  The UN and many human rights watch groups has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world.  Their plight has no end in sight as the government of Myanmar seems unable or unwilling to respond to international pressures for meaningful, positive actions that would repatriate the many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya IDPs and refugees.  Never intended to be permanent homes, the refugee camps in places like Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh have become long term settlements that some have called open-air prisons.

Life as a refugee can be hard, but as a female Shahdia has grown up in a culture where gender differentiation may be better characterized as gender stratification.  As she describes in her poems, the opportunities afforded women and girls are less than those of the males in the culture. Her life is doubly challenging as both a refugee and a female.  That said, she is a remarkably capable and forward looking young woman, and defies some of the barriers she faces.

Her poems
Translated into English, these poems are necessarily stripped of some of their beauty and subtlety. With that in mind, below are her poems, each with a short explanation.

Shahdia writes,

"My first poem is about daughter. In our society, girls are discriminated, they have to face domestic violence, they need dowry to get married, they don't have equal chances to learn education. Working at a NGO, I found women and girls discriminated against and ill treated. They always share their feelings with me. So I wrote my first poem."


Being proud of your great daughter

In this world,
Giving birth to a baby daughter should bring more pride
than having the gift of treasures
Because she is more precious than them.

A mother who gave birth to baby daughter 
should not be treated as like as she has committed a crime. 
And daughters should not be thought as burdens. 
They should be regarded as the blessing of God.


"Some people in our society (I don't mean all), if a woman gave birth to a female child, her father-in-law, mother-in-law and relatives including her husband treat her badly. She is thrashed by her husband and constantly harassed for it."


Not a burden but a blessing

Female child is seen as burden 
because they have to give dowries for them, 
and also girls can't work.

But in the view of Islam, having a daughter is the blessings of God.

At the age of attending school in childhood, 
Please send her to school regularly  
Education that is very important.

Please don't restrict her and don't criticize it. 
Please don't say girl needs not education. 
Please let her learn and be educated.

"Some of our religious elders have the view that girls do not need education though Islam teaches us that every one must be taught education, it is one of the responsibilities of parents for their children. But in our society, they always try to restrict the girls from going to school, criticize them, and discourage them."


In marriage there should be fairness

When she is grown up,
please don't arrange her marriage without her consent. 
And please don't force her. 
And please let her choose her life partner, 
her husband and allow her to reveal her desire 
and her own will and let her choose herself.

After her marriage, please don't treat her like a guest or stranger 
at her own home where she was born and grew up 
because it hurts her feelings too much 
This house is the place where she happily lived and played with parents at her childhood. 
The groom who asks for her hand with bridal gifts is the one who follows the religion heartedly. 
But, please don't trade or sell the life of manhood as like as slaves 
and don't degrade yourself.

Like dark ages, please don't treat your wife like a slave 
and stop the domestic violence. 
She is also a human being like you. 
Be kind to her. 
And respect her love. 
To build a happy and peaceful world, let us not segregate between male and female 
and let us not discriminate between son and daughter. 
Let's treat them equally with love.

She says,

"I want to send messages to my people and to the world through my poems. My poems are the real voice of Rohingya women that need to be heard. They too deserve equality." 


A humanitarian worker
Like many refugees, Shahida has found temporary work within the humanitarian sector. She is currently working as a volunteer for the Site Maintenance Engineering Project (SMEP), a joint earthworks and site preparation project of the UNHRC, IOM, and WFP. She is tasked with helping to supervise the workers and submitting the daily reports; she is paid by IOM through the Cash for Work (CFW) program.

When she is not working, she and some of her friends tend
a garden in the refugee camp. In the evenings she and her friends spend their time cooking, and on recreational activities.

She says,

"We listen to the music and sometimes sing songs and watch movies on smartphones. But, when we were in Burma, women and girls would gather in the moonlight. We would recite Rohingya traditional classical poetry called Holla in Rohingya. But here we can't gather like that anymore." 

Indeed, in many ways life is very different in the refugee camps than it was back in Burma. Shahida describes,

"In Rohingya marriage, we sing songs, dance, recite poems and Holla. Here we cannot afford big gatherings and celebration. Births and funerals are the same like back in Burma. But, with funerals, all relatives can't participate like Burma because we are living in different camps. Travel between camps is restricted.

If we need to have medical treatment, we must get permission of camp in charge. He will give a recommendation letter and we have to show it to the authorities. Birth control and other medications are available in the MSF maternity clinics.

There are many hospitals and dispensaries around the camps but people don't get proper treatment, so who can afford have to go to private hospital but those can't afford remain untreated."

I asked her why there seemed to be more men writing poetry than women and she pointed out that,

"In my community, the rate of illiteracy among women is much more higher than men. So there are more male writers than females".

She went on to say,

"In the camps, most of the men are jobless and they are uneducated as well. So they marry two or three wives and no one controls them. Most women are facing domestic violence, and there are many divorce cases and health issues in camps. Rohingya children have no future here. There is no formal education system for them. They could be easy preys of traffickers and other self interest groups. I am really worried about their future. They have no hopes."

This prompted me to ask the #MeToo #AidToo question about sexual exploitation or harassment from the nationals or internationals in the organizations she has worked for.  I was heartened when she said,

"No, there is no sexual harassment by DRC towards women. I have worked at DRC for one and half year. I didn't find such things. Their international staff are really good."

Ending our latest conversation she asked,

"Why did the world fail to protect Rohingya people and bring them justice? What should Rohingya do to get justice? What would be the women's role?"

All good questions, those, and to which I have no easy answers. I do know that human rights are demonstratively and inexorably women's rights, and that to be a humanitarian is also to be a feminist.


Shahida, poet and hero.

My thoughts on Shahida
I opened this post by saying that it was my honor to present the words and thoughts of these Rohingya refugee/humanitarians.  I am touched by Shahida's words and sensed very clearly an urgency in our conversations, a deep desire to be heard. 

In the short term I will continue to listen to these voices and share as per the requests made by these women and men.  In the meantime, if you have any feedback or questions, you can contact me via email here.


2 Votes

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He is currently working on a second book tentatively titled 'Local Aid Worker Voices.'

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:


Revealing: "more foreign investments and projects on the lands of Rohingya behind/after wipping out off Rohingya"

Revealing: "more foreign investments and projects on the lands of Rohingya behind/after wipping out off Rohingya"

A foreign developer Gold Coast KTMG (Malaysia based a foreign firm) Proposes US$ 38 billion Project in Sittwe (on 7000 acres of lands included the largest lands seized from Rohingya along Sakro Keya creek of Nazi village after June 2012 violences.


See the report below

Foreign Developer Proposes 7,000-Acre Project in Sittwe

  • 3.5k

By MOE MYINT 27 June 2019

YANGON—Foreign developer Gold Coast KTMG Myanmar has proposed a US$38 billion "new city" project in the suburbs of Sittwe, Rakhine State's capital.

Sittwe is near eight townships in northern Rakhine currently affected by armed clashes.

A KTMG delegation met with U San Kyaw Hla, the speaker of the Rakhine State parliament, and a group of Arakanese lawmakers and military representatives on Tuesday.

According to the speaker, the KTMG representatives laid out their proposal for a development project on 7,000 acres of land.

He said KTMG initially selected a project location near Kyae Taw and Shwe Min Gan villages across the Sakro Keya creek from Sittwe. U San Kyaw Hla said the officials they were told the company expects the project to cost about $38 billion. He said the project still needed to be cleared by the Union government, in line with foreign investment procedures.

U Htoo Min Thein, director of Rakhine State's Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that a delegation led by KTMG official Yeap Poh Hooi mentioned the estimated budget size at $38 billion. The company is officially registered with DICA as a Malaysia-based foreign firm, but it remains unclear which foreign conglomerate is behind them, he said.

U San Kyaw Hla said the biggest obstacle facing the company could be obtaining the right to use the land, as thousands of land plots and farms in the area belong to villagers. He explained that the price of real estate including farmland in the area is skyrocketing, both for prime locations in the city and on the outskirts of Sittwe. Company officials told lawmakers they planned to purchase the land from local residents at current market prices.

U San Kyaw Hla said, "To find 7,000 acres of land for the project seems impossible, especially in Sittwe."

According to a Rakhine parliament online news page, the project is to be called Sittwe Myanmar City 2030. According to KTMG, U San Kyaw Hla said the company will act as a real estate agent to facilitate the land utilization process and invite interested developers from all over the world to participate.

U Kyaw Aye Thein, Rakhine State's minister for revenue, planning and economy, confirmed that KTMG representatives traveled to Rakhine to meet with state cabinet members. He described the project as "very big", comprising light and heavy industries, housing, factories, a hotel zone, theme park and an oil and gas jetty.

Some observers pointed to the risk of doing business in the conflict-affected town and in northern Rakhine. Last week, two soldiers were killed when Arakan Army (AA) rebels attacked a Myanmar Navy tugboat docked in Sittwe's Sakro Keya creek with rockets.

Since December 2018, the military and AA rebels have been fighting in eight townships in Rakhine. The clashes have so far displaced 40,000 locals, and rights groups accuse the military of committing abuses against civilians.

This foreign infrastructure investment project is the second proposed for Sittwe in recent years. In 2017, South Korean firm BXT Internal and the Rakhine State government jointly implemented a $10 million land reclamation project, adding 90 acres of seaside land next to the Sittwe jetty.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the company's name as Gold Coast KPMG when, in fact, the correct name is Gold Coast KTMG.

This story updates one published on Wednesday with a quote and information from the director of the Rakhine State DICA office.

You may also like these stories:

World Bank Puts Myanmar's Power Investment Needs at $2B a Year

New Chinese Ambassador Vows to Seek 'Practical Cooperation' with Myanmar on BRI Projects

Even as Trade Sanctions Loom, EU Envoy Upbeat on Investment in Myanmar

Toyota to Open Yangon Auto Plant


Monday 15 July 2019


Source ISI, 11 July

(thanking the Dutch parliament for requesting the Dutch Government to explore legal proceedings against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice)

ISI commends the parliament of the Netherlands for requesting the government to explore possible legal proceedings against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for acting in contravention of its obligations under the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Motion passed on 4 July with the support of a cross-party parliamentary majority, requests the government to investigate whether there is a realistic possibility that such a case could be brought before the ICJ by a sufficient and diverse number of likeminded countries.

Many Rohingya activists, who represent the victims of the genocide and other gross and systematic violations of human rights, also applaud this development. Rohingya delegates at the recently concluded World Conference on Statelessness as well as a number of other members of the Rohingya community - Abdul Hamid (United Stateless); Anwar Arkani (Rohingya Association Canada); Habib (Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation); Hafsar Tameesuddin; Khin Maung (Free Rohingya Coalition – based in Bangladesh); Muhammed Saifullah (Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative); Nay San Lwin (Free Rohingya Coalition – Based in Germany); Nurul Islam (Arakan Rohingya National Organisation); Raiss Tinmaung, Yasmin Ullah and Zainab Arkhani (Rohingya Human Rights Network Canada); Razia Sultana (Rohingya Women Welfare Society); Sujauddin Karimuddin (Elom Empowerment); and Tun Khin (Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK) – shared the following message in this regard:

As members of the Rohingya community who have over many decades suffered persecution, displacement, statelessness and genocide; we thank the Dutch parliament for requesting the Dutch Government to explore legal proceedings against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice. As the victims of these crimes, our demand is for justice and accountability, and the right to return to our country to live in security and dignity, as equal citizens. The international community must hear our voices and do everything in its power to uphold international law and bring the perpetrators to justice. Please include us in these processes, which are ultimately about us. We are available to be consulted and to share our perspectives, experiences and solutions with you.

Myanmar's genocide of the Rohingya and the crimes against humanity inflicted on the community, have been well documented by UN and non-governmental actors. The scale, degree and severity of atrocities committed against members of the Rohingya community since August 2017, as well as the systemic violence and atrocities committed against them in the decades prior to this, are a blight on our collective human conscience.

The Genocide Convention, ratified in the wake of the holocaust, recognises in its preamble that "in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required". The Convention further articulates the commitment of all contracting parties to prevent and punish genocide, which is a crime under international law (Article 1); and stipulates that disputes between contracting parties "relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment" of the Convention, including those relating to the "responsibility of a State for genocide", shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice (Article 9).

It is evident, therefore, that State Parties to the Genocide Convention have a legal and moral duty to hold Myanmar to account for the genocide perpetrated against the Rohingya, along with other associated violations of the Convention, and to bring the matter to the ICJ.

As victims of persecution and genocide, the responsibility to protect the Rohingya, secure justice on their behalf and uphold the rules-based international order lies with the international community. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the global Rohingya community have repeatedly asserted their demand for justice and accountability, the right to return with dignity and the right to nationality of Myanmar. All these demands are interconnected; one cannot be achieved without the other. Holding Myanmar to account before the ICJ is integral to the demand for justice and accountability. This is also a necessary precursor to asserting their right to return with dignity. Further, unless their right to Myanmar nationality is asserted, the Rohingya will remain vulnerable to further exclusion and persecution in future as well.

The statelessness of the Rohingya has been a key element in their decades-long persecution in Myanmar, in their lack of protection as refugees outside Myanmar, and, ultimately, in the Rohingya genocide. Research and evidence collected over decades, indicates that the imposed statelessness on the Rohingya, and consequent serious restrictions on a range of fundamental human rights including their freedom of movement, right to work, access to education, right to marry and have children, was part of a wider strategy aimed at "

The Institute is encouraged by these developments in the Netherlands as well as parallel initiatives in Canada, the Gambia and elsewhere. The perpetration of the crime of genocide demands strong, unified and decisive action by responsible members of the international community. However, it is of paramount importance that such initiatives are followed through with. We urge the Dutch government to respond positively and decisively to the parliamentary motion, recognising that to fail to act is to fail to protect the most vulnerable people in the world. In this regard, we urge the Netherlands and other States to also continue to explore other ways in which pressure can be brought upon Myanmar, in the pursuit of justice, accountability and a durable solution. This includes further scrutiny of the business dealings of companies controlled by the Myanmar military and steps to ensure that these companies do not in any way benefit from the investment or partnership of the global business community.

You can download the full statement here

Slave labour trafficking to Malaysia on the rise

Source Bankokpost, 8 July

Crackdown nets 8 Myanmar illegals, 2 Thai smugglers 

Police question a Thai suspect when they stop her vehicle carrying illegal migrants in Rattanaphum district of Songkhla province on Monday. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)Police question a Thai suspect when they stop her vehicle carrying illegal migrants in Rattanaphum district of Songkhla province on Monday. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)

Eight Myanmar and two Thai nationals were arrested on Monday in a crackdown on a human-trafficking gang transporting illegal Myanmar migrant workers from Myanmar to Malaysia, police said.

The Myanmar workers were hidden in the back of multipurpose van driven by a Thai woman. The other Thai is a suspected female trafficker. 

They were all detained after a team of officials ordered the car to stop on a highway in Rattanaphum district of Songkhla province.

According to police, the driver told them she was hired to pick up the illegal workers from Takua Pa in Phangnga province and drop them off in Singha Nakhon district of Songkhla, getting paid 1,100 baht per head. The migrants were from Koh Song in Myanmar and entered Thailand illegally in Rayong province, police added.

The two Thais admitted to having smuggled in migrants on around 10 previous occasions, police said.

Despite a crackdown on human trafficking previously, the illegal trade has picked up over the past six months because of growing demand for migrant workers in neighbouring Malaysia's agricultural and fishing sectors, according to a security official who asked not to be named.

Human trafficking mostly involves Myanmar workers and sometimes ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar though smugglers can earn much more smuggling Rohingya to Malaysia, the official said.

"Smuggling a Myanmar worker costs about 20,000 baht while smuggling a Rohingya one costs up to 60,000 baht," added the official.