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Civil Rights Movement

October, 2017

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Exclusive: Returning Rohingya may lose land, crops under Myanmar plans

SITTWE, Myanmar (Reuters) – Rohingya Muslims who return to Myanmar after fleeing to Bangladesh are unlikely to be able to reclaim their land, and may find their crops have been harvested and sold by the government, according to officials and plans seen by Reuters.

Nearly 600,000 Rohingya have crossed the border since Aug. 25, when coordinated Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts sparked a ferocious counteroffensive by the Myanmar army.

The United Nations says killings, arson and rape carried out by troops and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs since late August amount to a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has no control over the military, has pledged that anyone sheltering in Bangladesh who can prove they were Myanmar residents can return.

Reuters has interviewed six Myanmar officials involved with repatriation and resettlement plans. While the plans are not yet finalised, their comments reflect the government’s thinking on how Suu Kyi’s repatriation pledge will be implemented.

Jamil Ahmed, who spoke to Reuters at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, is one of many Rohingya who hope to go back.

Describing how he fled his home in northern Rakhine state in late August, Ahmed said one of the few things he grabbed was a stack of papers – land contracts and receipts – that might prove ownership of the fields and crops he was leaving behind.

“I didn’t carry any ornaments or jewels,” said the 35-year-old. “I’ve only got these documents. In Myanmar, you need to present documents to prove everything.”

The stack of papers, browning and torn at the edges, may not be enough, however, to regain the land in Kyauk Pan Du village, where he grew potatoes, chilli plants, almonds and rice.

“It depends on them. There is no land ownership for those who don’t have citizenship,” said Kyaw Lwin, agriculture minister in Rakhine state, when asked in an interview whether refugees who returned to Myanmar could reclaim land and crops.

Despite his land holdings, Myanmar does not recognize Ahmed as a citizen. Nearly all the more than 1 million Rohingya who lived in Myanmar before the recent exodus are stateless, despite many tracing their families in the country for generations.

Officials have made plans to harvest, and possibly sell, thousands of acres of crops left behind by the fleeing Rohingya, according to state government documents reviewed by Reuters.

Myanmar also intends to settle most refugees who return to Rakhine state in new “model villages”, rather than on the land they previously occupied, an approach criticized in the past by the United Nations as effectively creating permanent camps.

The government has not asked for help from any international agencies, who are calling for any repatriation to be voluntary and to the refugees’ place of origin.

“OWNERLESS” CROPS

The exodus of 589,000 Rohingya – and about 30,000 non-Muslims – from the conflict zone in northern Rakhine has left some 71,500 acres of planted rice paddy abandoned and in need of harvesting by January, according to plans drawn up by state officials.

Tables in the documents, reviewed by Reuters, divide the land into paddy sown by “national races” – meaning Myanmar citizens – or “Bengalis,” a term widely used in Myanmar to refer to the Rohingya, but which they reject as implying they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Kyaw Lwin, the state minister, confirmed the plans, and said there was a total of 45,000 acres of “ownerless Bengali land”.

Two dozen combine harvesters operated by officials from the agriculture ministry will begin cutting stalks this month in areas under military control.

The machines will be able to harvest about 14,400 acres according to official calculations contained in the plans. It is unclear what will become of the remaining crop, but officials told Reuters they would try to harvest all the paddy, recruiting additional labor to harvest manually if necessary.

An acre of paddy in Myanmar typically makes more than $300 at market, meaning the state will gain millions of dollars worth of rice.

The harvested rice will be transported to government stores, where it would either be donated to those displaced by the conflict or sold, Rakhine state secretary Tin Maung Swe told Reuters by phone.

“The land was abandoned. There is no one to reap that, so the government ordered to harvest it,” he said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson, said the government should at least guarantee that the rice would be used for humanitarian support and not for profit.

“You can’t call a rice crop ‘ownerless’ just because you used violence and arson to drive the owners out of the country,” he said.

‘MODEL VILLAGES’

Many refugees are fearful to return and are skeptical of Myanmar’s guarantees. Those who do decide to cross back into Myanmar will first be received at one of two centers, according to government plans reviewed by Reuters, before mostly being relocated to model villages.

International donors, who have fed and cared for more than 120,000 mostly Rohingya “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) in supposedly temporary camps in Rakhine since violence in 2012, have told Myanmar that they will not support more camps, according to aid workers and diplomats.

“The establishment of new temporary camps or camp-like settlements carries many risks, including that the returnees and IDPs could end up being confined to these camps for a long time,” said U.N. spokesman Stanislav Saling in an emailed response.

Satellite imagery shows 288 villages, mostly Rohingya settlements, have been fully or partially razed by fires since Aug. 25, according to HRW.

Refugees say the army and Buddhist mobs were responsible for most of the arson. The government says Rohingya militants and even residents themselves burned the homes for propaganda.

The hamlets where Rohingya farmers lived were “not systematic”, and so should be rebuilt in smaller settlements of 1,000 households set out in straight rows to enable development, said Soe Aung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

“In some villages there are three houses here, four houses over there. For example, there’s no road for fire engines when fire burns the villages,” Soe Aung said.

IDENTITY CHECKS

Those who decide to cross back into Myanmar will first be received at one of two centers, according to government plans reviewed by Reuters.

At the centers, officials said, the returnees will fill out a 16-point form that will be cross-checked with local authorities’ records. Immigration officials have for years visited Rohingya households at least annually for checks, photographing family members.

For refugees who lost all their documents, the government would compare their photos to those that immigration authorities have on file, said Myint Kyaing, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.

Officials will accept as evidence “national verification” cards handed out in an ongoing government effort to register Rohingya that falls short of offering them citizenship. The card has been widely rejected by Rohingya community leaders, who say they treat life-long residents like new immigrants.

“We are not going to go back like this,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, 57, a farmer from Myin Hlut village now living in the Tenkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh, where Jamil Ahmed is also staying.

“If I can go back to my house, and get my land back, only then I will go. We invested all our money into those paddy fields. They are killing so many of us with swords and bullets, and killing the rest of us like this.”

Source : https://www.reuters.com

UN chief Guterres, US President Trump commit to work together to address common challenges

21 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres met Friday with United States President Donald Trump and discussed, among others, tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the fight against terrorism.

According to a readout of the meeting, the Mr. Guterres and Mr. Trump discussed UN effectiveness and reform, as well as global issues of mutual concern, including Myanmar, the tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the situation in the wider Middle East, and the fight against global terrorism.

“The two committed to work together to address these and other common challenges in the coming months,” the readout added.

The meeting was held on Friday, 20 October at the White House, Washington, D.C.

Source : http://www.un.org

UN panel ready to hold Myanmar to account over Rohingya crisis

It would focus on Rakhine but also look at other ethnic conflicts in Myanmar where displaced communities have made similar allegations against the military

Myanmar is staring down the barrel of its first UN “accountability phase” triggering sanctions, security council action or referral to the International Criminal Court, reports The Australian.

A three-person UN panel begins its probe into human rights abuses next week.

Panel chairman Marzuki Darusman said its report to the UN Human Rights Council would be the “high point” in a series of UN investigations that have detailed allegations of arson, mass killings and rapes of Rohingya and concluded the Myanmar military is pursuing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the minority population.

The former Indonesia attorney-general, who has worked on UN inquiries into the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto and war crimes in Sri Lanka, said his team would establish facts and a “pattern of events” since 2012 when tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state led to deadly riots and the internment of 120,000 Rohingya.

It would focus on Rakhine but also look at other ethnic conflicts in Myanmar where displaced communities have made similar allegations against the military.

“The Human Rights Council will then reach a point where it may legitimately say we are now going into an accountability phase, which has never been the case for the last 20 years for Myanmar,” he told The Weekend Australian.

“That opens up a whole host of other actions that would engage the UN system as a whole. It could lead to the ICC, it could lead to the Security Council, it could lead to sanctions being taken. That would be the new base point for the council to move forward.”

The panel will travel to refugee camps in Bangladesh next week. They plan to gather testimony from Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and, ultimately, visit Myanmar. Darusman cautioned Myanmar authorities against blocking his investigators from violence-affected areas in Rakhine and other parts of the Buddhist-majority country.

Darusman praised the work of the special rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights whose most recent report last week alleged the Myanmar military was pursuing a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma” among the Rohingya population.

But Darusman said his team would be “led by the facts and not by prevailing opinions, however strong they are”. The reputation of Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has unravelled over her government’s handling of the crisis, which has included expelling all international media and aid agencies except the Red Cross.

Source : http://www.dhakatribune.com

Sen. Todd Young urges action to end Muslim genocide in Myanmar

Sen. Todd Young is calling for the end of an ongoing genocide against Muslims in Myanmar.

The Indiana Republican and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., sent a bipartisan letter to Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, calling for an end to the Burmese military’s brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The letter was signed by 21 senators.

Stories of mass killings, graphic rape, torture and other atrocities have drawn significant international criticism of Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a past Nobel Peace Prize winner who was recognized for her leadership of the Burmese pro-democracy movement.

Her government has denied visas to a United Nations team charged with investigating the crisis, and several international organizations have been prevented from delivering aid.

The letter calls for “tangible actions against the Burmese government to end the violence, help the Burmese people and make clear that there will be consequences for those who commit such atrocities against civilians.”

More: A new wave of Burmese find refuge in Indiana

More: From Burmese to American: Profiles in assimilation

The Rohingya are from the Rakhine state in Myanmar and have lived in the region for centuries, but they are considered a stateless ethnic group. They are not included in Myanmar’s official tally of ethnicities.

IndyStar detailed a report of one Rohingya refugee in Indianapolis. 

The senators call on the Burmese government to “immediately end its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya; permit safe access to Burma for journalists, humanitarians and United Nations fact-finding mission personnel; and work to address the root of this conflict by affirming support for the report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.”

“We also ask that you call for the removal and prosecution of individuals responsible for these atrocities.”

More than 1 million people have been stripped of their citizenship and denied freedom of movement in the Buddhist-majority country when the government refused to recognize the 1.3 million Rohingya as citizens after the 1962 coup by General Ne Win.

Since 2012, when 140,000 Rohingya were forced into refugee camps, their situation has become dire. In the words of the Simon-Skjodt Centre of America’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, which campaigns to prevent genocide, the Rohingya are “at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.”

The senators specifically want the U.S. to help keep shipments of weapons from reaching the Burmese military.

“Assuming that the Burmese government will not take these steps without significant international pressure, we would like to work with you to suspend all international military weapons transfers to the Burmese military and to impose strong multilateral sanctions against specific senior Burmese military officials associated with the gross human rights abuses,” the letter reads.

The largest group of Rohingya in the United States live in Fort Wayne, with more than 1,000 residents, many of whom began to arrive in 2013.

With 11,902 arriving in the United States between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 15, 2016, the group outpaced the 11,598 Syrian refugees who entered the country last year, according to the Refugee Processing Center operated by the U.S. State Department.

And because Indiana is home to the largest Burmese population in the United States, an increasing number of Rohingya refugees are arriving in the Hoosier state.

The senators urge President Donald Trump “to use existing authorities to appoint a special representative and policy coordinator, with the rank of ambassador, to coordinate U.S. policy in an expeditious manner and to persuade the United Nations Security Council and individual countries to support these steps we have outlined.”

Other senators signing the letter are Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California, Al Franken of Minnesota, Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Patty Murray of Washington, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Ron Wyden of Oregon; Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Marco Rubio of Florida and Thom Tillis of North Carolina; and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Last month, Young, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., filed an amendment to an annual defense bill that would ban the U.S. from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia until it begins to comply with the laws of war.

Source : https://www.indystar.com

Myanmar: End Attacks in Rakhine State, Protect Civilians

Massive refugee-influx expected in Bangladesh as Muslim villages burn

(KUTUPALONG, September 1, 2017)—Myanmar state security forces should immediately end attacks on civilians and ensure the protection of those fleeing violence, Fortify Rights said today. Myanmar state security forces and local armed-residents committed mass killings of Rohingya Muslim men, women, and children in Chut Pyin village, Rathedaung Township, on August 27.

State security forces and local armed-residents killed Rohingya and burned down numerous villages throughout northern Rakhine State during the last week, displacing tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Rohingya as well as ethnic Rakhine civilians in response to the killing of 12 officials by Rohingya militants on August 25.

“The situation is dire,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “Mass atrocity crimes are continuing. The civilian government and military need to do everything in their power to immediately prevent more attacks.”

This is the second major attack on Rohingya civilians in northern Rakhine State by Myanmar state security forces since October 2016, when the military attacked dozens of villages, killing an untold number, and displacing more than 80,000 people.

Fortify Rights interviewed 24 survivors and eyewitnesses of attacks in the last week from 17 villages in the three townships of northern Rakhine State—Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung. Survivors and eyewitnesses described mass killings and arson attacks by the Myanmar Army, Myanmar Police Force, Lon Tein (“security guards”) riot police, and local armed-civilians.

“Sultan Ahmed,” a 27-year-old survivor from Chut Pyin village, witnessed armed residents from a nearby village working in concert with the Myanmar Army, killing Rohingya civilians. He told Fortify Rights: “Some people were beheaded, and many were cut. We were in the house hiding when [armed residents from a neighboring village] were beheading people. When we saw that, we just ran out the back of the house.”

Myanmar Army soldiers and non-Rohingya armed-residents from a nearby village entered Chut Pyin village around 2 p.m. on August 27. Survivors described how soldiers shot and killed several residents, while people from a neighboring village armed with swords and knives hacked and, in some cases, beheaded Rohingya residents, including children. Soldiers reportedly arrested a large group of Rohingya men, marched them into a nearby bamboo hut, and set it on fire, burning them to death.

“Abdul Rahman,” a 41-year-old survivor of the attacks on Chut Pyin village told Fortify Rights:

“My brother was killed—[Myanmar Army soldiers] burned him with the group.  We found [my other family members] in the fields. They had marks on their bodies from bullets and some had cuts. My two nephews, their heads were off. One was six-years old and the other was nine-years old. My sister-in-law was shot with a gun.”

Survivors and eyewitnesses from Chut Pyin told Fortify Rights that soldiers and armed residents burned every house in the village. They explained that they had accounted for the whereabouts and well-being of 596 survivors from the village that had an estimated population of 1,400.

After the Myanmar authorities and local armed-residents left the village, Rohingya survivors returned to the village to assess damage, at great personal risk, and to count the dead. Survivors estimated the death toll to be more than 200.

The killing spree lasted for approximately five hours—from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Survivors from Kyet Yoe Pyin and Ba Da Kha Ywa Thit villages—both in Maungdaw Township—also described beheadings and throats being slit. Residents from many other villages described arson attacks and soldiers opening fire on fleeing civilians, including children.

The violence in northern Rakhine State is continuing daily and requires urgent international attention, Fortify Rights said.

The United Nations said more than 20,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh since August 25. Fortify Rights believes a “massive influx” of tens of thousands of other Rohingya are likely to arrive at the Bangladesh border in the next several days.

Soldiers with the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) have turned away thousands of Rohingya refugees in recent days, though most were subsequently allowed to enter the country the following day or, in some cases, hours after being initially denied entry.

New arrivals in Bangladesh are sheltering on roadsides and in makeshift shelters in formal and informal refugee camps, stretching already thin resources in the camps. Fortify Rights said international and local aid groups are poised and ready to work with the authorities to respond to this crisis.

“Bangladesh should open the border to refugees and coordinate with humanitarian organizations to prepare for a large influx,” said Matthew Smith. “It’s imperative that Bangladesh allows refugees across the border to avoid a further loss of life.”

Fortify Rights also documented how Rohingya militants with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) or Al Yaquin, as it is known locally, are also accused of killing civilians—suspected government “informants”—in recent days and months as well as preventing men and boys from fleeing Maungdaw Township.

“Some militants won’t let the men go, they only let the women pass,” a Rohingya man in central Maungdaw Township told Fortify Rights by telephone. “They threaten people and say that if they try to cross the border, they will kill them.”

Another Rohingya man from Kha Maung Seik village in northern Maungdaw Township told Fortify Rights that Rohingya militants stopped him and a large group of displaced civilians for two hours. He told Fortify Rights: “They didn’t beat us but they beat our guide who was showing us the way. They said we all had to go back and fight against the government.”

Survivors and refugees described the Rohingya militants as small groups of young men—local residents—wearing civilian clothing or all-black “uniforms”—black pants and black short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts—and armed with sticks, small knives, and, in some cases, swords and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They reportedly received sticks, knives, and small sums of money in exchange for joining the group.

Members of ARSA must respect the rights of the civilian population, including the right to freedom of movement, Fortify Rights said.

The Myanmar authorities have blocked access to affected areas in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships, including humanitarian deliveries.

“We can’t stress enough the urgency of the situation. The Myanmar authorities are failing to protect civilians and save lives,” said Matthew Smith. “International pressure is critically needed.”

Source : https://twitter.com

Lawmakers urge US to craft targeted sanctions on Myanmar military Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/lawmakers-urge-us-to-craft-targeted-sanctions-on-myanmar-military-9322894

More than 40 lawmakers urged the Trump administration on Wednesday to reimpose U.S. travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

WASHINGTON: More than 40 lawmakers urged the Trump administration on Wednesday to reimpose U.S. travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

In a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a group of Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives called for “meaningful steps” against Myanmar’s military and others who have committed human rights abuses in an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the Southeast Asian nation.

“Burma’s authorities appear to be in denial of what has happened,” stated the letter. “We urge you to do everything possible to ensure protection and security for those trapped inside Burma or willing to return, as well as oppose forcible returns from neighbouring countries.”

Source : http://www.channelnewsasia.com

 

U.S. says holds Myanmar military leaders accountable in Rohingya crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Tillerson, however, stopped short of saying whether the United States would take any action against Myanmar’s military leaders over an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country.

Washington has worked hard to establish close ties with Myanmar’s civilian-led government led by Nobel laureate and former dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in the face of competition from strategic rival China.

“The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area,” Tillerson told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

“We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening,” said Tillerson, who said the United States was “extraordinarily concerned” by the situation.

Forty-three U.S. lawmakers urged the Trump administration to reimpose U.S. travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.

The request, in a letter to Tillerson from Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives, said Myanmar authorities “appear to be in denial of what has happened” and called for Washington to take “meaningful steps” against those who have committed human rights abuses.

Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in large numbers since late August when Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.

Tillerson said Washington understood Myanmar had a militancy problem, but the military had to be disciplined and restrained in the way it dealt with this and to allow access to the region “so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances.”

“Someone, if these reports are true, is going to be held to account for that,” Tillerson said. “And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide, ‘What direction do they want to play in the future of Burma?’”

Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government.

He said the United States would remain engaged, including ultimately at the United Nations “with the direction this takes.”

The European Union and the United States have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership.

 Punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals are among a range of options that have been discussed, but they are wary of action that could hurt the wider economy or destabilize already tense ties between Suu Kyi and the army.

Tillerson also said he would visit New Delhi next week as the Trump administration sought to dramatically deepen cooperation with India in response to China’s challenges to “international law and norms” in Asia.

Tillerson said the administration had began a “quiet conversation” with some emerging East Asian democracies about creating alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing.

Source : https://www.reuters.com

Government Minister calls Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim killings a ‘textbook example’ of ethnic cleansing

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field said he agreed with the UN High Commissioner that the situation now amounts to ‘ethnic cleansing”

Claims of ethnic cleansing in Burma by a senior United Nations official appear to be “increasingly an accurate description”, the UK Government has said.

Foreign Office minister Mark Field acknowledged Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that violence against the Rohingya people in Burma by the military and militia seemed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

More than half a million people – most of whom are Muslim ethnic minority Rohingya people – have fled the country to Bangladesh amid atrocities and fatalities in Rakhine state.

Mr Field stopped short of declaring the UK believes ethnic cleansing has occurred, explaining it was reluctant to do so for two reasons.

Mr Field told MPs in the Commons: “The broader reason is we’re trying diplomatically as far as possible to see movement from the Burmese government and in fact there has been some, quite significantly, from Aung San Suu Kyi.

“There’s another slightly more personal reason… my own mother was ethnically cleansed as a German national in the early months of 1945.

“She moved from a part of Germany that my forefathers had lived in since the 1720s. She was able to return to, briefly, as a visitor in her 50s – I have never seen that part of the world.

“It is a phrase, because it is loaded I think with great emotion and a sense of a finality about ethnic cleansing, that I have hitherto been relatively reluctant to use – not in any way in disrespect to the Rohingya but we still maintain a hope that many Rohingya will be allowed to return safely to Burma.

“It may be a forlorn hope.

“However, I do also accept the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having said it seemed to him like a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.

“And I conclude this appears I’m afraid to be increasingly an accurate description of what has happened.”

Mr Field’s remarks came after MPs heard that evidence of ethnic cleansing in Burma is overwhelming and the country’s military must be held to account.

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/news

U.S. Ambassador To UN Raises Rohingya Issue With Myanmar Security Advisor

NEW YORK, Oct 14 (Bernama) — Amid the growing concern being voiced worldwide over the Rohingya refugee crisis, with their more than half a million refugees having fled from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, held discussions on Thursday with U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor of Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis.

Haley stressed the need for all sides to end violence immediately. This was, apparently, aimed at both the Myanmar security forces and also the Rohingyas militants who, according to international sources, unleashed the crisis by launching an attack on Myanmar’s security forces.

According to a statement issued by Hailey’s office, the U.S. permanent representative appealed to Myanmar to facilitate ‘the safe, dignified return of all those displaced as quickly as possible and called for humanitarian access to all affected by the violence’.

She also urged Myanmar to hold security officials and others found responsible for offenses against all affected communities accountable for their actions.

U Thaung, who has been in New York for some time, has been holding talks with UN officials and U.S. diplomats, trying to ?explain? the genesis of the crisis and Myanmar’s efforts to try to defuse it.

But his efforts have not been convincing, as far as the U.N. and other NGOs and, particularly, human rights groups are concerned; indeed, human rights groups have documented that an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority was underway.

U Thaung has been telling American interlocutors that the Rohingya refugees who have fled the country may not want to return to their homes anyway, adding that “we can’t take just everybody – they must want to come back.”

He has been avoiding facing the U.S. media which has been trying hard to interview him.

Meanwhile, UN sources told Bernama that UN relief agencies are working overtime to grapple with the refugee outflow into Bangladesh which faces a humanitarian emergency with hundreds of thousands of refugees now depending on humanitarian assistance for shelter, food, water and other life-saving needs, says the United Nations migration agency.

“The seriousness of the situation cannot be over-emphasized,” said the chief of mission (Bangladesh) at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Sarat Dash, in a statement.

While aid agencies said an estimated 536,000 people have fled Myanmar and arrived in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh over the past 47 days, the arrival numbers have spiked again with an additional 15,000 crossing into Bangladesh between October 9 to 11.

“These people are malnourished and there is insufficient access to clean water and sanitation in many of the spontaneous sites. They are highly vulnerable. They have fled conflict, experienced severe trauma and are now living in extremely difficult conditions,” Dash said.

Besides urgently needing additional funds, many experts are worried over the outbreak of diseases.

“The risk of an outbreak of communicable disease is very high given the crowded living conditions and the lack of adequate clean water and sanitation,” said IOM Senior Regional Health Officer Patrick Duigan, pointing out that maternal, newborn and child health care are also in desperately short supply.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York after a closed-door meeting with the Security Council, which included non-Council members from Myanmar and Bangladesh, as well as representatives of civil society, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who now chairs the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state, said he had held ‘good discussion’ focusing mainly on the report produced by the Commission which was welcomed by the UN in August.

“It was clear that everyone agrees on what needs to be done in the short-term: stopping the violence; getting humanitarian aid to those in need, and helping with the dignified and voluntary return for those [refugees] in Bangladesh,” he explained.

This particular point ‘is not going to be easy,’ he continued, stressing that the refugees would only go back if they had a sense of security and confidence that their lives would be better.

Annan recalled that his report had stated that the refugees not be put in camps and that they must be allowed to go back to their villages and helped to rebuild and reconstruct their lives.

He went on to say that key question of citizenship and verification was ‘a real problem for the Muslim community.’

Annan pointed out that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had accepted the recommendations in his report and had agreed to set up an implementation committee.

Source : http://www.bernama.com

UK PM: Myanmar must stop violence

Theresa May says the Rohingya exodus is a major humanitarian crisis

The international community has delivered a clear message to Myanmar that it must stop the violence, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said during a Q&A session in Parliament.

She was replying to Will Quince, the Conservative MP for Colchester, on Wednesday. Quince, who recently visited Bangladesh, asked May what pressure the UK could put on Myanmar to end the persecution, so that the Rohingya can go back home.

Prime Minister May said the UK remained “deeply concerned” by what was happening to the Rohingya.

“We now know that there are over 500,000 refugees in Bangladesh,” she said. “It’s a major humanitarian crisis.”


Also Read- UN: Army in systematic bid to drive Rohingya from Myanmar


Myanmar said it launched a “security operation” after insurgents attacked police posts and an army base on August 25. However, a UN investigation found that the military operations had begun earlier, possibly in early August.

The crackdown targeting the Rohingya forced more than half a million members of the mainly-Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh since August 25.

May said: “We have raised this [Rohingya issue] three times at the UN Security Council. There’s been a clear message delivered from the international community that the Burmese (Myanmar) authorities must stop the violence, allow safe return of refugees and allow full humanitarian access.”

The Rohingya are the largest stateless community and often described as the most persecuted minority in the world. Naypyitaw denies them citizenship and claims they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

But the latest chapter in violence is unprecedented, which the UN described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and said the military campaign aimed at permanently driving away the Rohingya from Rakhine state.

British Prime Minister May said her country had suspended “any practical defence engagement that we had with Burma because of our concerns”.

In the last UN General Assembly, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed creating a “safe zone” in Myanmar for the Rohingya under UN supervision.


Also Read- Bangladesh PM: If necessary, we will eat one meal a day to feed the Rohingya


Will Quince told parliament that what he had seen during his visit to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh “was truly harrowing”. “It can only be described as a humanitarian disaster,” he said.

Bangladesh already had been hosting an estimated 400,000 Rohingya before the latest influx. Hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced persons are believed to be waiting along the Myanmar border, waiting for a chance to sneak into Bangladesh.

May said the UK had been providing support through its international development and aid. “We provided money to the Red Cross in Burma and have been providing bilateral donations to deal with the refugees, to support the refugees who have crossed into Bangladesh,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina has said that her government would continue to provide support to the Rohingya until they returned to their homeland.

If necessary, we will eat one meal a day and share another meal with these distressed people,” she said. “After all, we are human beings and we stand for mankind.”

Source : http://www.dhakatribune.com