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Myanmar forces may be guilty of genocide against Rohingya, UN says

The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare under international law, but has been used in contexts including Bosnia, Sudan and an Islamic State campaign against the Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence to Bangladesh since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was robust monitoring on the ground.

Myanmar’s ambassador, Htin Lynn, said his government was working with Bangladesh to ensure returns of the displaced in about two months and “there will be no camps”.

Zeid, who has described the campaign in the past as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”, was addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council called by Bangladesh.

He described reports of “acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes, murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls, and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques”.

“Can anyone – can anyone – rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” he told the 47-member state forum.

Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior foreign affairs minister, told the session in Geneva that his country was hosting nearly one million “Myanmar nationals” following summary executions and rapes “as a weapon of persecution”.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar denies the Muslim Rohingya are its citizens and considers them foreigners.

These crimes had been “perpetrated by Myanmar security forces and extremist Buddhist vigilantes”, Alam said, calling for an end to what he called “xenophobic rhetoric..including from higher echelons of the government and the military”.

Criminal investigations

Zeid urged the Council to recommend that the UN General Assembly establish a new mechanism “to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible”.

Prosecutions for the violence and rapes against Rohingya by security forces and civilians “appear extremely rare”, he said.

Marzuki Darusman, head of an independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said by video from Malaysia: “We will go where the evidence leads us.”

His team has interviewed Rohingya refugees, including children in the Bangladeshi port city of Cox’s Bazar, who recounted “acts of extreme brutality” and “displayed signs of severe trauma”.

Myanmar has not granted the investigators access to Rakhine, the northern state from which the Rohingya have fled, Darusman said. “We maintain hope that it will be granted early in 2018.”

Pramila Patten, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, who interviewed survivors in Bangladesh in November, said: “I heard the most heart-breaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion”.

Crimes included “rape, gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity”, Patten said.

Myanmar denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya. Its envoy Htin, referring to the accounts, said: “People will say what they wanted to believe and sometimes they will say what they were told to say.”

Kelley Currie, US ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council, said the Rohingya’s lack of Myanmar citizenship was “the fundamental root cause of this crisis”, adding: “Stop denying the seriousness of the current situation.”

Source : https://bdnews24.com

Myanmar says working to ensure returns of Rohingya refugees

GENEVA (Reuters) – Myanmar told the United Nations on Tuesday that it was finalizing terms for a joint working group with Bangladesh that will launch the process of safe and voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees within about two months.

Htin Lynn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told a special session of the Human Rights Council that his government was ready to work with all international partners to ensure the “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation” and resettlement of the displaced – whom he did not refer to as Rohingya.

“There will be no camps,” he added.

Source : https://www.reuters.com

Rohingya crisis: 73 countries respond to Bangladesh’s call at UNHRC

China and India have refrained from taking a side, but Bangladesh is continuing diplomatic effort to get its powerful neighbours on board

The Bangladesh government has invoked the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to call a special session to discuss the human rights condition of Muslims and other minorities living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

A notice recently sent to the UNHRC in this regard by Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia received the support of 33 of the 47 member states, and was also backed by 40 other states which are not UNHRC members.

Although China and India refrained from taking a side, Bangladesh is continuing diplomatic efforts to bring its powerful neighbours on board even after signing a bilateral agreement with Myanmar on the Rohingya repatriations.

A Bangladesh government official said they were trying to adopt a unanimous resolution regarding the special UNHRC session.

“All the subjects mentioned at UN’s Third Committee Resolution are also in the latest resolution of UNHRC. Some new issues have also been appended with it,” another official said.

In the Third Committee Resolution, Myanmar was asked to reconsider its 1982 Citizenship Act to provide the Rohingyas with full-fledged citizenship. The resolution had also asked the Myanmar government to bring those involved in the Rohingya persecution to book.

Asked which elements were added to this resolution, the second official said: “We want the UNHRC to be more involved with the issue and that is why we have made the special recommendation.”

For and against Bangladesh’s call

Among the 47 UNHRC member states, China has always been on the side of Myanmar. They had asked Bangladesh to be more ductile and resolved the issue bilaterally.

Referring to this, the government official said: “Our effort to have China change their position is still on.”

Regarding India’s stance, the official said: “We are also maintaining contact with India. We want the resolution to be unanimously adopted. Even if any nation chooses to go against it, we still believe the resolution will be accepted nevertheless receiving majority vote.”

More than 620,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh in the face of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar military forces in Rakhine state since August 25.

Since then, the Bangladesh government has been making extensive diplomatic efforts to stop the atrocity and return the Rohingya refugees to their homeland.

Source : http://www.dhakatribune.com

Shadow minister moves Rohingya crisis in UK parliament

British shadow Minister for International Development Roberta Blackman-Woods, who recently visited Bangladesh and Rohingya camps, moved the motion with Ian Paisley in the chair.

Over 20 MPs took part in the discussion at the House of Commons on Tuesday, according to Hansard Online, which says it puts in a substantially verbatim report of what is said in parliament.

Roberta attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Dhaka as a member of the British delegation.

In her opening remarks, Roberta said, “Although stories about the crisis are similar, my visit brought home the vastness of the camps.”

“The UNHCR’s head of emergency planning told our group of parliamentarians that the camps needed to house the new refugees are the equivalent of a city larger than Manchester and these are being established almost overnight,” she told the MPs.

“And it was built with no infrastructure, housing, water, sanitation or any of the tools needed for self-subsistence,” she quoted the UNHCR emergency chief.

​The International Rescue Committee estimates that nearly 300,000 people need food security assistance and more than 400,000 people need healthcare, Roberta said.

Only a fraction of the 453,000 Rohingya children at camps receives education. The young people they met were desperate for education—particularly higher education, the shadow minister continued.

Another MP, Philip Hollobone, said, “It is ethnic cleansing, pure and simple, and must be 100% condemned through all diplomatic channels available to us.”

“I appreciate the sensitivities of the nascent democracy in Burma, but we must make it clear that the generals are responsible for this ethnic cleansing and that the international community will not put up with it.”

“When it comes to the potential return of Rohingya refugees, returning stateless people to remain stateless in their country of origin is not good enough. These people require their nationhood to be given to them.”

He also said Britain must stimulate further contributions from other countries, particularly Muslim countries, because ‘we are dealing with a Muslim population’, and “there are lots of rich Muslim countries in the world that, frankly, should be stepping up to the plate rather more”.

Taking the floor, Mark Field said, “It would be very dangerous for this to be seen as only a Muslim issue.

“It is a global humanitarian catastrophe, and while I accept what he says – that we want to see all nations contributing – to try to frame it in an ethnic way would be the wrong way forward.”​

Rushanara Ali, a Bangladesh-origin Labour MP, asked the minister whether they will be pursuing an independent security presence to protect the Rohingyas.

“Because otherwise, we are expecting the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing to be the ones managing this process?”

“Absolutely,” Mark Field said in reply. “We will. I am also wary of the idea of having a long-term presence there, rather like what has happened in the Middle East where one has an unsustainable position for the longer term.”

“But in the short term, we need to have an independent international presence to police this matter.”

He also said the UK government concluded that the inexcusable violence perpetrated on the Rohingya by the Burmese military and ethnic Rakhine militia appears to be ethnic cleansing – or is ethnic cleansing.

The UK has been leading the international response diplomatically, politically and regarding humanitarian support.​

Rushanara expressed concern over the supposed agreement between the Bangladeshis and the Burmese as what she terms ‘is deeply problematic”, given the state of camps in Rakhine and the way the Rohingya are being treated.

“I visited Burma twice. Our Government needs to ensure that security arrangements are in place and that the Rohingyas’ protection is guaranteed before any such process takes place,” she added.

Agreeing with her concern, Roberta said, despite the deal signed on 23 November between Myanmar and Bangladesh to return the Rohingya to Myanmar, there is “understandably widespread aversion” among the displaced Rohingya to returning to their home state at present.

Labour MP from Manchester Jeff Smith said, “The repatriation deal requires that refugees produce a load of documentation, including names of family members, previous addresses, birth dates and a statement of voluntary return.”

“Given the systematic denial of citizenship rights, will that be incredibly difficult for them?” he asked.

In reply, Roberta said, “It is clear that the conditions for safe, voluntary and informed returns are not being met.”

The IRC also states that 81 percent of the Rohingyas it interviewed do not wish to return to Myanmar at present, she added.

She also said, “International pressure to solve the crisis is of the utmost urgency, and I would like to hear from the Minister what the Government are going to do to try to step up the amount of aid delivered not only by the UK Government but by other partners, and how they will press for a longer-term international solution to the problem.”

Labour MP from Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan, who also visited the camp, told the House of Commons, “I say on the record, as I have all week, that this is not ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is not a crime in humanitarian law. This is genocide—the systematic dehumanisation of a population of people—and we have to call it out.”

“We are proud to be British, and all that stands for. Our standing in the world is to be applauded. The amount we give to humanitarian efforts is absolutely wonderful, but it is tantamount to putting a sticking plaster on a gunshot wound and allowing the shooter to roam free. We cannot be bystanders to this genocide.”

She said she met an Imam in the camp who managed to escape into the bushes as the military arrived in his village and started shooting everybody.

The Imam described, through his tears: “All the men being mutilated and killed as their wives were forced to watch; women being dragged backwards by their hair and gang-raped repeatedly as their children were forced to watch; and their children, as they ran away screaming, being dragged back and thrown into the fires.”

“I know that that is hard to hear, but I promised I would tell their stories,” she continued.​

Another member of the British delegation that visited the refugee camps, Anne Main, a Conservative MP from St Albans said, “There is a cultural problem here—tacit agreement with the process that has happened. The local people in Myanmar are ‘not unhappy’ that these people have been driven out in the most horrific manner.”

“That needs to be addressed. Otherwise, sending the Rohingya back will only send them back into a scenario in which they are permanently under threat, despised and robbed of their rights,” she added.

Faisal Rashid, a Labour MP from Warrington South, called upon the British government to lead the way in organising an immediate and effective international response to the crisis.

He urged that the other members of the United Nations Security Council come together and use their collective power to help this persecuted minority.

“The Burmese Government must be held to account, and the war crimes that have been committed by the Burmese military must be investigated in an international court. The Rohingya people need justice,” he added.

source : https://bdnews24.com

US declares ‘ethnic cleansing’ against Rohingya in Myanmar

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States declared the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to be “ethnic cleansing” on Wednesday, threatening penalties for military officials engaged in a brutal crackdown that has sent more than 620,000 refugees flooding over the border to Bangladesh.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Myanmar’s security forces and “local vigilantes” for what he called “intolerable suffering” by the Rohingya. Although the military has accused Rohingya insurgents of triggering the crisis, Tillerson said “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued.”

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Tillerson said in a statement.

Although the designation carries no legal obligations for the U.S. to act, Tillerson said those who perpetrated the atrocities “must be held accountable.” He added that the U.S. wanted a full investigation and was considering “targeted sanctions” against those responsible — but not broader sanctions against the nation.

Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, seeking refuge from what Myanmar’s military has called “clearance operations.” The crisis started in August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces, leading to a brutal crackdown in which soldiers and Buddhist mobs have killed men, raped women and girls and burned homes and property to force the Rohingya to leave.

The declaration followed a lengthy review process by President Donald Trump’s administration to determine whether the violence met the threshold to be considered ethnic cleansing. The United Nations came to that conclusion in September, but the U.S. had held off, with Tillerson saying he needed more information even as he expressed deep concern about the crisis.

Last week, Tillerson traveled to Myanmar in the highest level visit by a U.S. official since Trump took office. U.S. officials dangled the possibility of an “ethnic cleansing” designation ahead of Tillerson’s trip, potentially giving him more leverage as he met with officials in Myanmar. In the capital of Naypitaw, Tillerson met with the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Myanmar’s powerful military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of operations in Rakhine state, home to Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

The leader of a group that works to improve conditions for the Rohingya said Thursday he hopes the declaration will strengthen the call for accountability. Arakan Project director Chris Lewa said he thought Tillerson’s visit had been relatively appreciated and he hoped it would prove constructive.

I hope that it will have the impact that (Tillerson) used the correct word I think to describe what really is going on,” Lewa said. “And I hope that the military will listen more, but it’s always difficult to predict how the military will react and sometimes it’s like they are not listening to anything at all.”

Senior State Department officials said the determination was intended to ramp up pressure on the military and others in Myanmar to resolve the conflict and repatriate refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. Yet it was also likely to intensify calls for the Trump administration and Congress to move toward new sanctions. Earlier this month, a House committee passed a nonbinding resolution condemning “murderous ethnic cleansing and atrocities” and calling on Trump to impose sanctions on those responsible for abuses.

Yet sweeping sanctions targeting Myanmar’s economy or its military as a whole are off the table, officials said, adding that the Trump administration had determined they would not be productive either for ensuring accountability or for promoting broader U.S. goals in Myanmar. Instead, the U.S. is considering sanctions against individuals only, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

Broad-based U.S. sanctions on Myanmar were eased under former President Barack Obama as the Southeast Asian nation inched toward democracy. U.S. officials have been concerned that slapping back sanctions or pushing Myanmar’s leaders too hard on the Rohingya violence could undermine the country’s civilian government, led for the last 18 months by Suu Kyi. That could slow or reverse the country’s delicate transition away from decades of harsh military rule and risks pushing Myanmar away from the U.S. and closer to China.

The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine meets the definitions for crimes against humanity or genocide, but have so far made no such determinations. Both designations carry significant legal consequences.

Ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, isn’t recognized as an independent crime under international law, according to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention. The ethnic cleansing term surfaced in the context of the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when a U.N. commission defined it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.”

Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, who numbered roughly 1 million in Myanmar before the latest exodus. The Buddhist majority in Myanmar believes they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Myanmar. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship.

Already, the United States has curtailed its ties to Myanmar’s military over the violence. Earlier this year, the U.S. restored restrictions on granting visas to members of Myanmar’s military, and the State Department has deemed units and officers involved in operations in Rakhine state ineligible for U.S. assistance.

 

Source : https://apnews.com

Rohingya crisis: US suspends offical travel to Burma as Rex Tillerson accuses regime of ‘ethnic cleansing’

The United States has temporarily suspended travel for American officials to parts of Burma’s Rakhine state, the US embassy said on Thursday, citing concerns over potential protests after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused the country of carrying out the “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims in the state.

Tillerson threatened penalties for military officials engaged in a brutal crackdown that has sent more than 620,000 refugees flooding over the border to Bangladesh.

The US Secretary of State blamed Burma’s security forces and “local vigilantes” for what he called “intolerable suffering” by the Rohingya. Although the military has accused Rohingya insurgents of triggering the crisis, Tillerson said “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued.”

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Tillerson said in a statement.

Although the designation carries no legal obligations for the US to act, Tillerson said those who perpetrated the atrocities “must be held accountable.” He added that the US wanted a full investigation and was considering “targeted sanctions” against those responsible – but not broader sanctions against the nation.

Rohingya from Burma’s Rakhine state have been fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh, seeking refuge from what Burma’s military has called “clearance operations.” The crisis started in August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Burmese security forces, leading to a brutal crackdown in which soldiers and Buddhist mobs have killed men, raped women and girls and burned homes and property to force the Rohingya to leave.

The declaration followed a lengthy review process by President Donald Trump’sadministration to determine whether the violence met the threshold to be considered ethnic cleansing. The United Nations (UN) came to that conclusion in September, but the US had held off, with Tillerson saying he needed more information even as he expressed deep concern about the crisis.

Last week, Tillerson travelled to Burma in the highest level visit by a US official since Trump took office. US officials dangled the possibility of an “ethnic cleansing” designation ahead of Tillerson’s trip, potentially giving him more leverage as he met with officials in Burma. In the capital of Naypitaw, Tillerson met with the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Burma’s powerful military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of operations in Rakhine state, home to Burma’s Rohingya population.

The leader of a group that works to improve conditions for the Rohingya said on Thursday he hopes the declaration will strengthen the call for accountability. Arakan Project director Chris Lewa said he thought Tillerson’s visit had been relatively appreciated and he hoped it would prove constructive.

“I hope that it will have the impact that (Tillerson) used the correct word I think to describe what really is going on,“ Lewa said. ”And I hope that the military will listen more, but it’s always difficult to predict how the military will react and sometimes it’s like they are not listening to anything at all.“

Senior State Department officials said the determination was intended to ramp up pressure on the military and others in Burma to resolve the conflict and repatriate refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. Yet it was also likely to intensify calls for the Trump administration and Congress to move toward new sanctions. Earlier this month, a House committee passed a nonbinding resolution condemning “murderous ethnic cleansing and atrocities” and calling on Trump to impose sanctions on those responsible for abuses.

Yet sweeping sanctions targeting Burma’s economy or its military as a whole are off the table, officials said, adding that the Trump administration had determined they would not be productive either for ensuring accountability or for promoting broader US goals in Burma. Instead, the US is considering sanctions against individuals only, said the officials, who weren’t authorised to comment by name and briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

Broad-based US sanctions on Burma were eased under former President Barack Obama as the South East Asian nation inched toward democracy. US officials have been concerned that slapping back sanctions or pushing Burma’s leaders too hard on the Rohingya violence could undermine the country’s civilian government, led for the last 18 months by Suu Kyi. That could slow or reverse the country’s delicate transition away from decades of harsh military rule and risks pushing Burma away from the US and closer to China.

The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine meets the definitions for crimes against humanity or genocide, but have so far made no such determinations. Both designations carry significant legal consequences.

Ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, isn’t recognised as an independent crime under international law, according to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention. The ethnic cleansing term surfaced in the context of the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when a UN commission defined it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.”

Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, who numbered roughly 1 million in Burma before the latest exodus. The Buddhist majority in Burma believes they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Burma. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship.

Already, the United States has curtailed its ties to Burma’s military over the violence. Earlier this year, the US restored restrictions on granting visas to members of Burma’s military, and the State Department has deemed units and officers involved in operations in Rakhine state ineligible for US assistance.

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk

Pope to meet head of Myanmar army, Rohingya refugees: Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis will meet the head of Myanmar’s army and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, both late additions to a tour of the two countries next week.

Human rights monitors and U.N. officials have accused Myanmar’s military of atrocities, including mass rape, against the stateless Rohingya during operations that followed insurgent attacks on 30 police posts and an army base.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Wednesday that the pope would meet army head Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Nov. 30 in a church residence in Yangon.

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Maung Bo had talks with the pope in Rome on Saturday and suggested that he add a meeting with the general to the schedule for a trip that is proving to be one of the most politically sensitive since Francis was elected in 2013. Both the pope and the general agreed.

Some 600,000 Rohingya refugees, most of them Muslim and from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, have fled to Bangladesh.

Burke said a small group of Rohingya refugees would be present at an inter-religious meeting for peace in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka on Dec 1.

Myanmar’s government has denied most of the claims of atrocities against the Rohingya, and the army last week said its own investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by troops.

The pope will separately meet the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in the capital Naypyitaw, on Nov. 28 in an encounter that was already on the schedule.

Briefing reporters on the trip, Burke gave no details of how the Rohingya who will meet the pope would be chosen. A source in Dhaka said the refugees would be able to tell the pope about their experiences.

Both events were not on the original schedule of the Nov. 26-Dec. 2 trip.

Bo, the cardinal from Myanmar, has advised the pope not to use the word Rohingya while in Myanmar because it is incendiary in the country where they are not recognized as an ethnic group.

Burke said the pope took the advice seriously but added: “We will find out together during the trip … it is not a forbidden word”.

source : https://www.reuters.com

U.S. Congress members decry ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar; Suu Kyi doubts allegations

YANGON/NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – Members of the U.S. Congress said on Tuesday operations carried out against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar had “all the hallmarks” of ethnic cleansing, while the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed doubts about allegations of rights abuses.

The U.S. Senate members also said they were disturbed by a “violent and disproportionate” security response to Rohingya militant attacks that have driven more than 600,000 people from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Human rights monitors have accused Myanmar’s military of atrocities, including mass rape, against the stateless Rohingya during so-called clearance operations following insurgent attacks on 30 police posts and an army base.

Myanmar’s government has denied most of the claims, and the army last week said its own probe found no evidence of wrongdoing by troops.

“We are not hearing of any violations going on at the moment,” Suu Kyi told reporters in response to a question about human rights abuses at the end of the Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw.

“We can’t say whether it has happened or not. As a responsibility of the government, we have to make sure that it won’t happen.”

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi said she hoped talks with Bangladesh’s foreign minister this week would lead to a deal on the “safe and voluntary return” of those who have fled.

Suu Kyi’s less than two-year old civilian government has faced heavy international criticism for its response to the crisis, though it has no control over the generals it has to share power with under Myanmar’s transition to power after decades of military rule.

HALLMARKS OF ETHNIC CLEANSING

While a top UN official has described the military’s actions as a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing”, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on a visit to Myanmar last week refused to label it as such.

In early November, U.S. lawmakers proposed targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on Myanmar military officials.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who was among the sponsors of the legislation introduced in the Senate, led a congressional delegation that visited Rakhine this week, but was blocked from traveling to the violence-hit north of the state and to Rohingya camps.

The group also traveled to Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, where Rohingya refugees are huddled into makeshift camps and fed by overstretched aid agencies.

“Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,” Merkley told reporters in Myanmar on Tuesday.

“We are profoundly disturbed by the violent and disproportionate response against the Rohingya by the military and local groups,” he said.

The delegation called for Myanmar to allow an investigation into the alleged atrocities that would involve the international community.

“We want to emphasize that the world is watching,” Merkley said, adding that it was important Myanmar allow anyone who wants to come back to return to their homes and their farms.

Merkley said the delegation was “not here today to recommend…what the U.S. government would do or should do,” when asked about the legislation introduced in the Congress.

‘ISOLATION IN CAMPS’

Myanmar officials have so far said they plan to resettle most returnees in new “model villages”, rather than on the land they previously occupied, an approach the United Nations has criticized in the past as effectively creating permanent camps.

“Individuals cannot be coming back…simply to return to camps where there would be continued discrimination, restrictions on full participation in the economy and society,” said Merkley.

He warned that isolating people in camps creates a “two-tier society that is fundamentally incompatible with the future of democracy and it guarantees perpetuation of suspicions and misunderstandings and conflicts.”

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Suu Kyi said discussions would be held with the Bangladesh foreign minister on Wednesday and Thursday about repatriation. Officials from both countries began talks last month on how to process the Rohingya wanting to return.

“We hope that this would result in an MOU signed quickly, which would enable us to start the safe and voluntarily return of all of those who have gone across the border,” Suu Kyi said.

The Rohingya are largely stateless and many people in Myanmar view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi said Myanmar would follow the framework of an agreement reached in the 1990s to cover the earlier repatriation of Rohingya, who had fled to Bangladesh to escape previous bouts of ethnic violence.

That agreement did not address the citizenship status of Rohingya, and Bangladesh has been pressing for a repatriation process that provided Rohingya with more safeguards this time.

“It’s on the basis of residency…this was agreed by the two governments long time ago with success, so this will be formula we will continue to follow,” Suu Kyi said.

Earlier talks between the two countries reached a broad agreement to work out a repatriation deal, but a senior Myanmar official later accused Bangladesh of dragging its feet in order to secure funding from aid agencies for hosting the refugees.

Source : https://www.reuters.com

UN ready to help Myanmar process Rohingya citizenship

TOKYO — The United Nations refugee agency will provide technical assistance to the Myanmar government if it begins to process and verify citizenship for Rohingya to resolve the humanitarain crisis, the body’s top official said on Monday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described the Rohingya refugee crisis as the worst since the end of the Cold War and compared it to the ethnic cleansing during the Balkan War and the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.

“Violence has to be completely stopped and the problem of their citizenship has to be resolved,” Grandi told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. He said that the number of refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Bangladesh has exceeded 600,000 since the end of August.

He said: “We are aware that the talks are happening between Bangladesh and Myanmar to discuss the solution of future repatriation.” He added that the Myanmar government contacted an UNHCR office in Yangon to say it wanted to open talks about the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

He offered to be an adviser for both countries to help organize the repatriation procedure. He said the Myanmar government had an intention to verify citizenship of Rohingya refugees but was held back by the fact that many of them were undocumented. But he said the agency, with its vast experience in such matters, would be able to support the government in confirming information including where applicants had lived in the past.

He said: “We are also helping the government of Bangladesh to register Rohingya [who had] arrived from Myanmar.” He said that if Rohingya were registered as having come from Myammar, then they would at the very least have this document to prove their identity. He said that this form of registration in Bangladesh was “going well.”

Grandi referred to three elements to support his view that the situation was at the worst since the 1990s: the sheer number of refugees in just a few months, the shocking violence that caused Rohingya to flee especially that inflicted on women and children, and the vast humanitarian needs in Bangladesh as a result.

Source : https://asia.nikkei.com

Aung San Suu Kyi Blames Illegal Immigration for the ‘Spread of Terrorism’

(NAYPYITAW, Myanmar) — Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the world is facing instability and conflict in part because illegal immigration spreads terrorism in a speech Monday that comes as her country is accused of violently pushing out hundreds of thousands of unwanted Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi did not directly mention the refugee exodus as she welcomed European and Asian foreign ministers to Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar. But her speech highlighted the views of many in Myanmar who see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and blame the population for terrorist acts.

The ongoing Rohingya exodus is sure to be raised by the visitors at the meetings held Monday and Tuesday.

The world is in a new period of instability as conflicts around the world give rise to new threats and emergencies, Suu Kyi said, citing “Illegal immigration’s spread of terrorism and violent extremism, social disharmony and even the threat of nuclear war. Conflicts take away peace from societies, leaving behind underdevelopment and poverty, pushing peoples and even countries away from one another.”

Myanmar has been criticized for the military crackdown that has driven more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations has said the crackdown appeared to be a campaign of ethnic cleansing, and some have called for re-imposing international sanctions that were lifted as Myanmar transitioned from military rule to elected government.

Suu Kyi is Myanmar’s foreign minister and state councilor, a title created for the country’s once-leading voice for democracy since she is constitutionally banned from the presidency. She does not command the military and cannot direct its operations in northern Rakhine state, but her remarks in seeming support of the brutal crackdown have damaged her global reputation.

In her speech to the visiting foreign ministers, Suu Kyi also cited natural disasters caused by climate change as compounding the world’s problems. She said mutual understanding of problems like terrorism would be crucial for peace and economic development.

Source : http://time.com