‘New arrivals’ cloud Rohingya repat prospect

BREAKING NEWS: Sunday, January 13, 2019 | ePaper

‘New arrivals’ cloud Rohingya repat prospect

Sunday, January 13, 2019

 Rohingya Refugees-flee-Myanmar-violence – Mohammad Ponir Hossain /Reuters

 UNB, Dhaka :  Despite Bangladesh’s “serious efforts” to resume the halted repatriation process, the recent deteriorating condition in Rakhine State of Myanmar has brought “much worries” among all concerned, clouding the repatriation prospect, officials indicate.

More Rohingyas, not in a big number, entered Bangladesh territory in recent days amid the further deteriorating scenario in Myanmar, they said. In recent weeks, the intensification of violence between the “Arakan Army” and the Myanmar Army has led to increased humanitarian consequences for the civilian population and caused displacement of nearly five thousand people in Rakhine and Chin States.

“The situation is fragile there where Rohingyas were supposed to go back. We’ll certainly want to start the repatriation process,” Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam told UNB. At the same time, he said, it is right to say that it is a matter of worry to see the deteriorating scenario instead of significant improvement in the place of origin of Rohingyas. “So, there’s reason to be worried about.”

Responding to a question, RRRC Kalam said they have heard about few new entry but they are yet to verify it fully to determine the numbers. “It’s under verification process.” The national taskforce for Rohingya refugee response, chaired by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, reviewed the overall situation on Rohingya on Thursday and discussed how the international community can genuinely get engaged to resolve the crisis.

“Firstly, we evaluated the repatriation-related situation and got updated on the recent incidents (in Myanmar),” a senior government official who attended the meeting told UNB. He said they also discussed the proposed 2019 joint response plan for Rohingya humanitarian to determine the funding mechanism and priority areas. The plan will be finalised soon for formal launching.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has already said the government will continue to take effective steps to address the pending issues, including solution to the Rohingya crisis. The State Minister said they did not deliberately push the repatriation issue that much before the election as the repatriation could not take place as agreed by the two countries though the two countries were very close to starting the repatriation.

“Our efforts will be expedited in the coming days, I can say that with confidence,” Shahriar said keeping focus on the listed and verified Rohingyas. Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November last year but it was halted. 

Tag: New arrival of Rohinhgyas

Source: http://m.thedailynewnation.com/news/202654/new-arrivals-cloud-rohingya-repat-prospect 

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Myanmar’s latest ploy to push out Rohingyas

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12:00 AM, January 13, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:15 PM, January 13, 2019

Myanmar’s latest ploy to push out Rohingyas

Will the international community do nothing?

FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/DAMIR SAGOLJ

 After forcing almost a million Rohingyas to flee from their homes and take shelter in Bangladesh, Myanmar is now taking steps to construct a concrete structure in the no-man’s land on its border with Bangladesh in Bandarban’s Ghumdhum area.

The structure, when completed, will cause flooding and displace the 6,000 or so Rohingyas who have been living there since August 2017. They will be forced to cross into Bangladesh. Conversely, the structure could also serve as an advance post for the Myanmar army to patrol the area and one that will have security ramifications for Bangladesh. The fact that the construction of any structure in a no-man’s land is a direct violation of international law appears to have no bearing on the Myanmar authorities.

It is not so much what Bangladesh will do, but what the global champions of human rights and the international community will do in response—that is the question. The law is black and white on the issue. It states that no construction can be done within 150 yards on either side of the border unless a bilateral agreement to that effect exists between the two nations. To the best of our knowledge, Bangladesh has made no such deal with Myanmar.

Now that the Myanmar government is actively taking steps to build a structure that is in contravention of international law, and one which will be used to physically evict the few thousand Rohingyas stranded in no-man’s land, the international community cannot sit by and do nothing. Because if no pressure is brought upon Myanmar to stop this construction, it will mean giving the regime carte blanche to act as it pleases in the future when it comes to Rohingyas or any other ethnic minority in that country.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/editorial/news/myanmars-latest-ploy-push-out-rohingyas-1686634

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Fleeing a 21st Century Genocide

Fleeing a 21st Century Genocide

POSTED JANUARY 11, 2019 ELIZABETH MEHREN

Sankar Raman / The Immigrant Story                                                                                                                

It was such an idyllic childhood for Mohammed Husson Ali.

Nearly all the 1300 families in the Burmese village of Myo Thu Gyi were farmers. There in the northwest state of Rakhine, they owned their land and cultivated rice and other crops. Goats, cows, lambs and water buffaloes roamed freely. Palm trees provided shade, and sometimes, a soft breeze. Mangoes and coconuts hung heavily from their trees. Jackfruit and guava abounded. Bananas were everywhere.

At harvest time, neighbors pitched in to gather the rice in one another’s fields. Little boys worked alongside their fathers and uncles. Women delivered big baskets of vegetables for the hungry harvesters. Bowls of curry–goat and chicken were the favorites–were served to anyone who happened to come by. Sticky rice was all but inhaled, a delicious specialty that no one could resist.

Farmers saw no need to compete over crops. No one went hungry, and so no one had reason to steal. At the end of each day, after the harvesters had moved from field to field, they broke into song, “Alleyeela Shari,” or “Farmer’s Song.” The tune’s jaunty chorus echoed across the fields. “In my childhood, it was a very easy life,” Ali said. “A very happy time.”

But the idyll ended with the political transformation of the country now known as Myanmar. The people of Rakhine were an ethnic minority, Muslims known as the Rohingya who had settled in the province formerly known as Arakan centuries ago. Theirs was a variation of the Sunni Muslim faith, with a distinct language and culture. Legend holds that they descend from Arab traders. In the state of Rakhine, said Ali — known as Mohammed — Buddhists and Muslims had lived together in harmony. Each group had full citizenship and full voting rights.

“My father sold jute to the Buddhists,” Ali remembered, referring to a common vegetable fiber used to make thread. “At my wedding, a lot of my Buddhist friends came to the celebration. There was no judgment, just living together. We coexisted.”

He tells his story quietly, his soft voice betraying no trace of anger or bitterness. His wife, children and grandchildren — those who have survived — reside in Leda, the most recent Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. Oddly, the camp is just across the river that separates the two countries, not far from the family’s home for generations. The township of Maungdaw, where Myo Thu Gyi was among the villages, no longer exists. As part of its “clearance operation” to eliminate the Rohingya, the Myanmar army burned all the houses, mosques and other structures in the township and its villages to the ground. The army then bulldozed the entire region to make sure nothing — and no one — remained.

 Rohingya refugees arrive from Burma near Shah Porir Dwip after crossing the Naf River. They can carry few possessions–only those that will fit in a single suitcase—as the distinctive Bengali “moon boats” (seen in the background) are small, narrow, and unstable. Photo: Andrew Stanbridge

A New Life

Mohammed Husson Ali is a small man with a wispy white beard. Hardship has aged him beyond his 68 years. He wears a knitted skull cap and many layers of warm clothing over his traditional sarong. Coming from a tropical country, he has struggled in his seven years in the United States to adapt to the chilly winters of the Pacific Northwest. He keeps a sense of perspective, though, perhaps because bureaucratic error sent him initially not to Portland, Oregon, but to Portland, Maine. It was Feb. 28, 2011, when he arrived. In the 18 days before he was redirected to the other Portland — the one in Oregon — he said he could not imagine how any place could be so cold.

Only when he speaks of the conditions his family and other Rohingya refugees must endure in a camp bulging with nearly 1 million people does his voice turn hard. “This place should be called a 21st century concentration camp,” he said. “People cannot go outside. There is arrest. There is killing. It is no way to live.”

Young men are especially vulnerable. “All the young men, under 50, they need to hide,” Ali says. “In 2013, one of my sons was targeted.” Like his own father, Mohammed Arfat Mohammed Husson, now 25, managed to escape with the help of a broker. The younger Ali remains in Malaysia.

Decades of Repression

The trouble dates to 1962, when Gen. Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party seized power in Rangoon through a military coup. Rohingya were deemed “foreign invaders.” The new government required all citizens to carry national identity cards. But the discrimination persisted, preventing Rohingya — who had once held seats in the Burmese Parliament — from voting. For those Rohingya who could work their way through a rigorous citizenship test, limits were placed on how many Rohingya could enter certain professions, such as law or medicine.

 Mohammed Ali’s elder son Mohammed Reyard holds his grandson Mohammed Tawke (age 4) in the Leda Refugee camp. The papers in the foreground are the family identification he carried with him. Even though the government canceled their citizenship, they still hold on to these papers, often the only things they carried when they left their homeland. Photo: John Rudoff

In the more than four decades since crackdowns on the Rohingya in the Rakhine state forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, Malaysia or elsewhere, many Rohingya say they or their family members have been the victims of rape, torture, arson or murder at the hands of Myanmar security forces. The government in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) has steadily denied these charges, including in 2013, when Human Rights Watch said the government was conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, or in 2016, when a United Nations official made a similar accusation.

Indeed, Human Rights Watch contends that the Myanmar government has partially or completely destroyed more than 350 Rohingya villages. In turn, the government in Yangon  claims that Rohingya rebels killed nine members of the Myanmar border police in 2016, and that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya insurgent group, launched a raid on police outposts in Rakhine in the same year.

The crowded refugee camp of Balukali camp at Cox’s Bazar slowly awakens at dawn. More than 700,000 refugees live in harsh, primitive conditions in the sprawling camp commonly known as Kutupalong–Balukhali expansion site. Photo: John Rudoff

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, largely refuses to discuss the plight of the Rohingya. When Pope Francis visited Myanmar in 2017, the leader of the country’s army told the pontiff there was no discrimination in the country and praised the army for maintaining peace and stability.

None of which sits well with Mohammed, who taught high school physics, chemistry and math in the Rakhine state and worked as a senior food monitor for the U.N. World Food Programme in his native country.

No More Peace for the Rohingya

After a peaceful childhood that saw him huddle under palm trees when heavy rains struck during the two-mile walk to and from high school, Mohammed has lived through stiff restrictions in his township: no access to hospitals, for instance; and no facilities for Rohingya students to pursue higher education. Rohingya could not marry without government permission, a process that could take as long as a year. Rohingya couples were not allowed to have more than two children. They saw their land confiscated. They needed permits to travel from place to place. Even members of the United Nations staff, like Mohammed himself, could not move about without an authorization letter.

“Our lives were restricted entirely,” he said. “If one became separated from one’s family, one could not build a new house.” After Aung San Suu Kyi’s election in 2015, Mohammed said, even the temporary government registration cards that had been issued to Rohingya were canceled. Rohingya, he said, became known as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.”

Even in the arduous conditions of the Leda refugee camp, Mohammed’s wife Asha Katun maintains the Muslim tradition of female modesty, covering her head as she peers out from behind a curtain to hear the men’s conversations in the shelter’s main room. Katun, age 66, has been in the Leda refugee camp since 2017. Mohammed has not seen her or the sons who accompanied her to the camp in 10 years, and has never seen his grandchildren. Photo: John Rudoff

“No voting rights, no ownership rights, no cars, nothing,” he said. “Every right, canceled.”

Born in 1951, Mohammed had avoided certain curtailments by dint of hard work and some measure of good luck. As a youth he attended the local madrassa, or Muslim education center, for three hours each morning before heading to the township school. In high school he excelled at chemistry and math, but his family lacked the funds to send him to college. Instead he began working as an administrator in the education department. He also taught high school and made it a point to study for the country’s rigorous university exam while riding city buses. In 1978, he traveled to Rangoon and handily passed the exam, giving him the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in history.

That same year, Mohammed decided for the first time that he and his family would have to leave their country.“The situation was growing worse and worse,” he said.

Operation Dragon King

The government’s new constitution excluded Muslims from any form of citizenship, and the socialist government, rife with graft and corruption, continued to clamp down on the Rohingya through a military effort known as Operation Dragon King.

Officially, the purpose of Operation Dragon King was to register citizens in the northern part of the Arakan state, and oust “foreigners” — i.e., Rohingya — from the region. Rohingya refugees charged that immigration officials and military personnel used intimidation, rape and murder to expel residents from their communities. When between 200,000 and 250,000 Rohingya fled the region, government officials declared that the mass exodus had proved that the refugees were in fact illegal immigrants.

      At the Leda refugee camp, women wait in a line to receive food and non-food-items–NFIs, in camp parlance. Photo: John Rudoff

Mohammed and his family were among those who fled to Bangladesh. For six months, they lived in a refugee camp before the Bangladeshi and Myanmar governments reached a repatriation agreement that made it possible for them to return to their village.

Their goal was to start again, rebuilding the life they had left behind. Mohammed found work first with the World Food Organization, then the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency that works with refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. Later he returned to teaching. “We thought everything was settled,” Mohammed said. “But slowly the problems came back.”

By 1992, the Rohingya population once again found itself with all rights gone.

“We were told to go,” Mohammed said. “But where?”

Again, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh. Again, the two governments formed an agreement, and in 1994, the repatriation process began. Again, Mohammed found work with the World Food Programme and the UNHCR.

But tensions arose between Mohammed and some of his Buddhist colleagues. Mohammed suspected them of taking information from him and using it against him. His fears were confirmed when he left to attend an external workshop on school food programs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Upon arriving at the airport in Yangon, he learned that his passport had been confiscated. A month later, U.N. officials told him it was too dangerous for him to continue working there.

“I had no passport, no job and, at the time, no money,” Mohammed said.

By 2008, it became clear that he could not remain in Myanmar. He told his family he would try to find a safe place and then send for them. He had little choice but to trust the brokers who made a lucrative business of helping Rohingya and others escape from their country.

There are still occasional moments of merriment at the Leda refugee camp, such as when 4-year-old Mohammed Tawke, decorated his face with thanaka, a vegetable-based cosmetic that is common in Myanmar. The child’s festive face brought a smile to his father, Mohammed Reynard, a son of Mohammed Ali. Photo: John Rudoff Escape 

Mohammed began an arduous journey by rowboat, bus, foot and whatever means of transport he could summon. In his hand luggage, he carried two shirts, some documents and recommendation letters from assorted officials.

He landed in Bangladesh, aided by his ability to speak some of that country’s language. His familiarity with Bangladeshi customs also helped him to blend in. Soon enough, his broker delivered, and Mohammed had a Bangladeshi passport. He waited for nearly three months before the broker told him his Thai visa had been approved.

At the Bangkok airport, a contact arranged by the broker took him by train to a town on the Malaysian border. “Then the Thai person gave me some food and took me by motorbike to a small river crossing,” Mohammed said. Next he boarded a tiny boat, just the rower and Mohammed, and entered Malaysia under cover of darkness. The stress of the journey was taking its toll. Mohammed felt weak and feared that the pains in his chest signaled something serious. He was right.

From the border, a family took him to a bus station and bought him a ticket to Malaysia. At two in the morning, he arrived in that country’s second largest city, Penang, which hugs Malaysia’s northwest coast. A local madrassa sheltered Mohammed until he could make contact with someone from UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city. “Fifteen days later, alone, I went to Kuala Lumpur,” Mohammed said.

His youngest brother was living there, too, and Mohammed found his way to his home. He also made contact with some of his former students, also Rohingya refugees, who were living there as well, as was one of Mohammed’s brothers.

Mohammed told his brother he was seriously ill. After nearly a year-long odyssey, fraught with danger and uncertainty, he was weak and suffering from high fevers. Several months later, he realized he was having a full-scale heart attack. The only means of transport to a hospital, two hours away, was by motorbike. Mohammed clung to the driver while his heart was wracked with pain.

His convalescence, “back and forth to the hospital,” took two years. During that time he had applied to UNHCR to go to Australia. It was a safe enough destination. When the UNHCR came back with an offer to send him to America, “My brother told me, ‘Go,’” Mohammed says.

Life in Oregon, Family in Bangladesh

In Portland — the one in Oregon, not Maine — Mohammed shares a house owned by a fellow Rohingya with other refugees. He worships at a nearby mosque. He misses his family terribly and prays that they will join him in America one day. He mourns the devastation of his home community and the ongoing violence that continues to claim lives there. His own nephew, for example, was gunned down and killed on his way to the rice paddies in 2016 when Myanmar authorities retaliated against an insurgent attack on a military encampment at the border.

Seeking to ward off the chilly dawn, a young girl in Balukali Refugee Camp wraps herself in a blanket. Photo: Photo: John Rudoff 

“He was shot down in front of my house,” Mohammed said — a house that no longer stands now that the government has erased the existence of the village. “They killed 3 people in my village that evening.”

Minutes later, he said, the army struck another nearby village, killing seven young children on their way to sell produce in the village market. “No one could escape,” Mohammed said

Just to make sure the remaining Rohingya were kept in line, “the government removed all fences, even the walls around toilets,” Mohammed says “There was no privacy, none at all. House by house, village by village, they cut down all the trees so no one could hide.” The following year, “the military entered my village and burned all the houses, one by one. The whole village — nothing was left.”

Even the cemetery was later bulldozed, along with 14 mosques. Flattened.

Family portrait: Gathered in their shelter at the Leda camp, Mohammed’s family poses for a photo. Left to right: Eldest son Mohammed Reyard, 40; grandson Mohammed Tawke, 4; younger son Mohammed Anuwar Ibrahim, 25; grandson Mohammed Takuil, 3; youngest daughter Rustary Kalima, 22; daughter-in-law Rashidah, 28; Mohammed’s wife Asha Katun, 66; and elder daughter Fatima Kalac, 37. Photo: John Rudoff

In the aftermath, his wife, and his entire family managed to cross to Bangladesh, where they remain in the vast Rohingya refugee camp. Mohammed speaks to his family twice a day. All are healthy, he reports, despite the difficult conditions. But they are trapped in their refugee status, with no passports, no national identity and no funds for travel.

“Immediate intervention” is needed to solve this conundrum, Mohammed maintains. He sets his hopes on action by the U.S. government, but concedes that the predicament of the Rohingya is not a high priority. “Nobody even knows who the Rohingya are or where the Rohingya are from,” he laments. “The Rohingya genocide movement needs to be organized.”

For his part, Mohammed appreciates the good fortune that allowed him to escape the 21st century genocide that has claimed the lives of so many of his people. “I found this to be a nice place, America,” he said. “Since I am aged, old, I get all sorts of facilities — medical care, food, everything.”

In the United States, he said, he has found “no discrimination against religion, skin color, race. Here, the rule of law means everything. There is free education here!”He paused, then added: “I want my family and my community to have this kind of society.”

Special thanks to John Rudoff and Andrew Stanbridge for providing photographs used in this story. They were published with permission. Copyright by John Rudoff and Andrew Stanbridge 2017.

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One thought on “Fleeing a 21st Century Genocide”

  1. Hla Tin  says:

JANUARY 12, 2019 AT 1:19 PM

My grandfather Ashrof Ali was appointed as village head of Myothugyi village in 1918. He also was a honorary magistrate of Maung Daw township. All of his descendants become illegal immigrants now and their homes torched and bulldozed by the brutal Myanmar authorities.

 Source : https://theimmigrantstory.org/fleeing/ 

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THE ROHINGYA CRISIS: WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2019

THE ROHINGYA CRISIS: WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2019

Rohingya Refugees In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh On 01/12/2018 © Wadi Alias / Shutterstock

BY   DANIEL SULLIVAN  –  JANUARY 2, 2019

DANIEL SULLIVAN

Danil P. Sullivan is the Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International (RI). Dan joined RI in April 2016 as Senior Advocate focusing on

Bangladesh and the UN must continue to work together to improve the conditions for nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees.

The year 2018 was a dire and desperate year for the Rohingya minority from western Myanmar. Two-thirds of the population that had been living in western Rakhine State before the end of 2017 remain displaced in crowded camps in Bangladesh. The several hundred thousand who remain in Myanmar face serious restrictions, and what the chair of an independent, international fact-finding mission describes as an “ongoing genocide.”

What will the year 2019 have in store for the Rohingya? Here are key developments to keep an eye on and some thoughts on what must be done to improve the outlook.

ROHINGYA RETURNING HOME?

Repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar is both the most necessary solution to the Rohingya crisis and the most controversial. It is not a question of whether Rohingya should be able to return to their homes; it is a question of when and under what conditions. To be clear, those conditions do not currently exist. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. Rohingya in Myanmar continue to face restrictions and abuse. And there is little sign of accountability or a path to citizenship as demanded by Rohingya who have been forced to flee. In fact, more than 15,000 Rohingya have continued to flee conditions in Myanmar for Bangladesh in 2018.

More than 40 humanitarian organizations working on the ground in Bangladesh have warned that returning the Rohingya to their homes now would be dangerous and premature. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been clear that current conditions in Myanmar are not conducive “to the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees.”

Still, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have pushed for returns to move forward. A bilateral deal to start returns by November 15, 2018, fell apart only because Bangladesh was unable to find Rohingya willing to return voluntarily. Pressure for returns will continue through 2019, but the reality is that, more than likely, most Rohingya will not and should not return by the end of 2019. Whether returns can take place in line with international standards — that is safe, voluntary and dignified — will depend mostly on what the government of Myanmar does or does not do.

REFORMS IN MYANMAR? 

The government of Myanmar has it within its power to create the conditions conducive to safe returns of Rohingya to Myanmar. It also has a blueprint for how to do so. The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, released a final report in August 2017 that was endorsed by the government of Myanmar. The report included recommendations for freedom of movement, recognition of basic rights and a path to citizenship for Rohingya in Myanmar.

By taking these steps, opening access to humanitarians and independent media and human rights monitors, and working with UNHCR, it may be possible to begin thinking about returns in 2019. But the window for doing so is quickly closing as the next election in Myanmar draws near in 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, already reluctant to reform and address the Rohingya crisis, will be even more so as the military’s party seeks to capitalize on anti-Rohingya sentiment. As this dynamic plays out, it will be even more important that pressure for change comes from outside — the sooner the better.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR GENOCIDE?

The push for accountability for the crimes committed by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya gained momentum in the last month of 2018. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the law firm that carried out a US State Department survey of the Rohingya independently concluded that there was strong evidence that crimes against humanity and genocide were committed. The State Department has not yet made a determination, but the US House of Representatives voted 394 to 1 to declare the crimes as genocide.

In August 2018, an international fact-finding mission, authorized by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), concluded that Myanmar’s top military generals, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The UNHRC then mandated the creation of an independent mechanism to collect evidence of abuses for future prosecution. Now it is vital that this mechanism receive the funding necessary to carry out its mandate.

The International Criminal Court has also begun an investigation into the crimes committed against the Rohingya. And international human rights groups continue to push for a mechanism for carrying out prosecutions. What forms of accountability are ultimately achieved will remain to be seen, but efforts will not go away in 2019.

It is also possible that the US State Department will be pushed to finally make a determination that crimes against humanity, if not genocide, have taken place. This would prompt further targeted sanctions. The United States has already placed sanctions on a handful of Myanmar military and border guard officials and the two army battalions that led the attacks on Rohingya civilians. But these sanctions need to extend to the highest levels, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

MONSOON AND CYCLONES

One of the greatest fears faced by Rohingya in Bangladesh through much of 2018 was the risk of a direct cyclone hit on the Rohingya camps. The worst was avoided in 2018, but flooding and high winds destroyed shelters, injured dozens and displaced thousands. With hundreds of thousands of Rohingya remaining in fragile shelters in crowded camps, that fear will be renewed with the 2019 monsoon and cyclone seasons. Beyond a direct hit, heavy rains will threaten land slides and flooding, not to mention the risks of rapid spread of water-borne diseases.

The humanitarian community and government of Bangladesh made great efforts to move the most vulnerable Rohingya to new areas in 2018. But, as highlighted by Refugees International, coordination and preparedness were limited by restrictions on the side of the government of Bangladesh and inefficiencies on the side of UN agencies. The Bangladeshi government continues to restrict the types of materials available to build more durable shelters. It also continues to push plans to move at least 100,000 Rohingya to Bhashan Char, an island in the historic path of cyclones and prone to flooding through much of the year.

Due to government restrictions, UN agencies have also struggled with a complex, hybrid coordination structure, rather than the usual refugee response. Efforts are underway to assess the response and incorporate lessons learned for the UN response. The outcome of the recent general election in Bangladesh may create further space to address these issues. What is certain is that the 2019 monsoon and cyclone seasons will arrive and the extent to which space has opened and lessons been learned will be tested.

ANOTHER BOAT CRISIS? 

Finally, 2019 will likely see an increase in Rohingya fleeing conditions both in Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat for other countries like Malaysia and Thailand. With increased maritime monitoring and a break up of trafficking networks, we are unlikely to see something on the scale of the May 2015 crisis, in which thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees and migrants were abandoned at sea. But the same questions of whether countries in the region will accept any abandoned boats or push them back to sea as they did in 2015 will have to be tackled. Already several boats have taken the journey.

Beyond boats, trafficking networks will prey on women in the Rohingya camps. The longer they remain in the camps in Bangladesh, the more vulnerable they will be to such networks. This underscores the regional aspect of the Rohingya crisis. How well Myanmar’s neighbors in Southeast Asia work together to tackle trafficking and pressure Myanmar to improve conditions for Rohingya will greatly influence how the Rohingya crisis plays out in 2019.

The Rohingya will continue to face dire conditions in 2019. But there are ways that their plight can begin to be addressed. Above all, a positive path forward will depend on the ability of international actors to pressure and encourage Myanmar to create the conditions conducive to returns for the Rohingya.

In the meantime, the government of Bangladesh and UN agencies must continue to work together to improve the conditions for nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees living in the country. The year 2019 will not likely be the year that the Rohingya crisis is resolved, but with the right steps there is hope that, a year from now, we can say that the Rohingya have a better outlook for 2020.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Source: https://www.fairobserver.com/region/asia_pacific/rohingya-crisis-refugees-genocide-myanmar-bangladesh-asia-world-news-today-21390/ 

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US Senate says Myanmar crimes against Rohingya as genocide

US Senate says Myanmar crimes against Rohingya as genocide

   Mir Ahmed SiddiqueeFollow  22 hrs ·

US Senate says Myanmar crimes against Rohingya as genocide
The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday (13.12.18) declaring that the crimes committed by Myanmar’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims constitute genocide. The resolution passed with a vote of 394 to 1. It also calls for “the immediate pardon and release” of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have spent more than a year in prison for their work exposing the massacre of Myanmar’s Muslim minority.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/mirsdq/videos/783830718623964/

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US House: Myanmar crimes against Rohingya ‘genocide’

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US House: Myanmar crimes against Rohingya ‘genocide’

Resolution overwhelmingly clears chamber 394-1

Michael Hernandez,  Washington DC  On 14.12.2018 

 WASHINGTON
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday labeling as “genocide” Myanmar’s ongoing crimes against the country’s minority Muslim Rohingya population. 
The resolution cleared the chamber 394-1.

Steve Chabot, who introduced the legislation, said in a statement after its passage that he asked fellow lawmakers to “affirm that the Burmese military’s actions were genocide against the Rohingya people and that the Burmese government’s imprisonment of two Reuters journalists is patently unjust,” using the U.S.’s preferred name for Myanmar.

“I applaud my colleagues for standing with me and passing this important humanitarian legislation,” he said. In addition to formally considering the attacks to be genocide, it condemns attacks on civilians by Myanmar’s military and security forces.

It also calls on Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint to pardon a pair of Reuters journalists who have been imprisoned for their work in exposing the massacres against the Rohingya.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been imprisoned for over a year.  While Chabot’s resolution directly labels Myanmar’s acts “genocide,” the State Department continues to refrain from labeling the actions as such.

Spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters earlier this week that while the department currently considers the violence, which includes mass rapes, destruction and killing to be ethnic cleansing, it “in no way prejudices any potential further analysis on whether mass atrocities have taken place, including genocide or crimes against humanity.

“Our efforts have been and remain focused on steps that will improve the situation for Rohingya refugees and all people in Burma and as well as promoting accountability for those that were responsible for these atrocities,” he said.

A UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found the country’s military guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity including rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, forced nudity, mutilations, torture, persecution, and enslavement.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

Source: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-house-myanmar-crimes-against-rohingya-genocide-/1338310 

Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

Peaceful Rohingya repatriation seems too far-fetched

Analysis News

Peaceful Rohingya repatriation seems too far-fetched

Without ensuring safety, a fair trial of genocide and crimes against humanity, Rohingya Muslims will most probably face the same cycle of perils, because Myanmar authorities will be resettling them in internment camps run by the army
 home > worldanalysis newsasia – pacific 07.12.2018  Md. Kamruzzaman  Dhaka   

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A slow recitation of the Holy Quran with an unvarying and quavering voice was coming from a flimsy, makeshift tent at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh’s southern city, Cox’s Bazar, now a forced residence for more than a million Rohingya refugees since they fled the brutal “clearance operations” launched by Myanmar military in Rakhine state in August last year.

The voice was coming from the 60-year-old Fatima Begum, a Rohingya refugee who has been living in a squalid tent for the last one year. I approached Fatima’s tarpaulin tent standing with difficulty with the help of bamboo sticks, which make this rickety structure highly vulnerable to monsoon rain and landslides.

Fatima continued reciting from the scripture, paying little attention to the stranger. I took advantage of the first pause and asked her about the reason for their fleeing to Bangladesh from Rakhine. She said, “How could I live there? They (the Burmese army) burned down my house.”

A sudden silence gripped Fatima. But seconds later she started to cry like a baby. “They were chasing my husband, and he was running. He was caught and slaughtered like a cow in a slaughterhouse. My two sons met the same fate. All happened before my eyes in broad daylight.”

Silence again and a shocked Fatima started staring at me with a different look and replied louder, “Ar ar e kangur Jaium?” or “How do I go there?” Nobody has an answer for Fatima but what is before us is the clear picture of a deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe, with more than 750,000 Rohingya Muslims having fled to the neighboring Bangladesh within a short span of time.

While thousands of such dreadful stories from most Rohingya Muslims are unfolding in the media across the world, along with the news of shameful denial from Myanmar authorities, Bangladesh and Myanmar have planned to operate a forced repatriation. The attempt has, however, been foiled for the time being due to worldwide pressure and vehement protests by Rohingya refugees on the grounds of security and basic rights.

Issues to resolve for viable repatriation

Experts all over the world are repeatedly warning that without ensuring a credible trial of all the atrocious acts committed so far, citizenship rights for Rohingya, and guaranteed safety under an international watchdog, any sustainable repatriation cannot be done.

UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said in a statement on March 6 this year that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar was still going on while the country’s authorities were ridiculously claiming that they were ready to receive the ones who had fled. Gilmour condemned the dubious role of Myanmar.

At the 38th session of the Human Rights Council on July 4 this year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that as of mid-June, there had been 11,432 new arrivals in Bangladesh in 2018. He said: “All the newly arrived refugees who have been interviewed by the OHCHR (The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) described continuing violence, persecution and human rights violations, including killings and the burning of Rohingya homes.”

The United Nations (UN) FactFinding Mission published in August this year also found that the crimes in Rakhine state, and the manner in which they were perpetrated “are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts.”

The Guardian, on Aug. 27 this year, ran a story on the UN Fact-Finding Mission’s report, according to which an estimated 25,000 people have been killed and 700,000 have fled over the border to Bangladesh.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report published on Aug. 29, 2017, showed satellite images of widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, following the military crackdown, while in a report entitled “We Will Destroy Everything”, the Amnesty International (AI) said in June this year: “The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population was achieved by a relentless and systematic campaign in which the Myanmar security forces unlawfully killed thousands of Rohingya, including young children.”

The rights group accused the Myanmar military of sexual violence, torture, forced displacement and burning of markets and farmland to force communities into fleeing. Amnesty also named 13 high-ranking officers including the army’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing as being most culpable, and argued that they should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

But Myanmar is still denying those colossal offences perpetrated by its army (Tatmadaw), denying the citizenship right to Rohingya, giving no assurances to repatriating Rohingya regarding safety in their places of birth, and rejecting the presence of any international watchdog to monitor the issue of safety after repatriation. On the contrary, the farcical inquiry carried out by Myanmar’s military and government found the army innocent of any atrocious acts.

A Nobel Peace Laureate and Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, also failed to apply her power or moral responsibility to stop the violence. Rohingya are still branded as outsider “Bengalis” and “illegal residents” by Myanmar authorities.

Rohingya Muslims still living in the Rakhine still have to endure systematic inhuman oppression. While preparing to brief the UN Security Council on the situation in late October this year, Chair of the UN Fact-Finding Mission Marzuki Darusman told reporters that the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 Rohingya who remained in the Buddhist-majority country following last year’s crackdown “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression. “It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place.”

How can a peaceful and viable repatriation be possible without resolving these burning issues? Unfortunately, without resolving them, both countries have agreed to start the repatriation without the slightest consultation with the victims, the Rohingya. As the first phase of the plan, around 2,200 Rohingya were supposed to cross the Bangladeshi border on Nov. 15, 2018 with a huge risk of facing the same cycle of perils. Fortunately, the move was cancelled.

Why the rush in repatriation?

The Myanmar side is trying to speed up the repatriation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh, as this South Asian country wants to fix its tarnished image by showing the world that they are cordially willing to receive the returning Rohingya, even though this all seems very indecent on the part of the Suu Kyi administration, as they are still denying Rohingya the right to citizenship.

Why is Bangladesh also behaving so hastily? Firstly, Bangladesh is a poor country affected by socio-political unrest most of the time especially ahead of the upcoming national polls that will be held on Dec. 30, 2018 after 10 years of harsh governance by the Awami League (AL), including the last five years through a one-sided election in 2014 that was boycotted by most of the opposition parties including the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Now, on the eve of the polls, the ruling AL wants to show its efficiency in resolving the country’s most pressing issues, and the opposition, going through a critical period of difficulty keeping its main leader Begum Khaleda Zia behind bars, is trying to dig up the blemishes and weaknesses of the government. The plan for a speedy repatriation and resettlement of Rohingya is in fact the result of this political tussle.

The Rohingya crisis remains an issue of paramount importance for Bangladesh as the huge number of refugees — over 1,1 million now; living in the shaky makeshift camps located in Cox’s Bazar and Tekhnaf, two vital tourist zones of the country — are coming at an enormous cost to Bangladesh’s socio-economy and environment.

Tone of media reports changed

Moreover, the reporting format of the local media has also changed. At the preliminary stages of the Rohingya exodus in August last year, the local media were focusing mainly on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis. As a result, tens of thousands of people as well as political and humanitarian organizations and NGOs became involved, on a massive scale, to raise funds for Rohingya. Even the imams (spiritual leaders) at thousands of country’s mosques appealed to the worshipers for donation. Thousands of donation seekers countrywide collected funds in busy streets for the Rohingya refugees.

Now, the local media are highlighting stories such as environmental disasters in the hilly areas of Southern Bangladesh and crimes like drug selling and prostitution by Rohingya refugees, all of which contribute to the already heavy pressure on the government for solving the crisis.

Nowadays Bangladeshi journalists consciously or unconsciously feel comfortable reporting on environmental pollution in the wake of the rising popularity of the issue of environment or climate change. I have met so many journalists in Cox’s Bazar and noticed an excessive passion to focus on environmental disasters allegedly caused by Rohingya, and this aspect of the crisis is now overshadowing the humanitarian one.

Perils awaiting Rohingya in Rakhine

Myanmar’s snobbish authorities did not allow the UN Fact-Finding Mission to inspect the reports on the atrocities in Rakhine, let alone other bodies such as AI, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the HRW, and Doctors Without Borders (DWB).

So, in the absence of any international watchdog, how can we trust that the same Myanmar authorities would behave gently toward the repatriated Rohingya?

So it is almost sure that, without ensuring safety, a fair trial of genocide and crimes against humanity, Rohingya Muslims will most probably face the same cycle of perils, because as part of the present plan, Myanmar authorities will be resettling them in internment camps run by the army, until the burned down villages in Rakhine become — what Myanmar authorities call — “model villages”.

Unfortunately, two big players of the UN Security Council — China and Russia — have been supporting Myanmar and imposing obstacles that stand in the way of any meaningful move by the UN and other international bodies to force Myanmar to stand trial as well as resolve this crisis. In particular China remains the biggest supporter of Myanmar’s atrocities.

We also hear from various non-verified sources that the lands and properties left by the fleeing Rohingya in Rakhine have already been distributed among Buddhists and Hindus. Chinese-supported economic projects are aiming at utilizing the abandoned Rohingya lands in the region, a Rohingya activist and journalist, Mohammed Sheikh Anwar, wrote in The Washington Post on Nov. 13.

Moreover, a recently signed multi-billion-dollar port agreement between Myanmar and China at a strategic town along the coast of the Bay of Bengal will also affect a vast portion of the emptied Rohingya lands.

Not to mention also that the Muslim identity of Rohingya is clearly a great disadvantage in a world with an alarmingly rising trend of Islamophobia.

Nonetheless, the world community must ensure justice to Rohingya for by rehabilitating them with dignity and citizenship rights and a credible trial of the offenders. Otherwise, the possibility of militancy developing among the persecuted community in the future cannot be ruled out. A UN peacekeeping mission can also be sent to Rakhine state before repatriation. But frankly speaking, the painful reality is that a peaceful Rohingya repatriation is possibly impossible.

Since Fatima also strongly feels that this is the case, she has no dreams of returning to Rakhine. Her only dream is to meet her murdered husband and sons in the Hereafter. She wants to be resettled in paradise, and not in Rakhine. That is why she wants justice in Allah’s court and the Holy Quran is her sole comfort and company.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency. 

Source: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/analysis-news/peaceful-rohingya-repatriation-seems-too-far-fetched/1332090

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya
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