India to deport second group of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

Indian police took a Rohingya Muslim family of five to the border by bus, readying to deport them to neighbouring Myanmar as the second such group expelled in four months during a crackdown on illegal immigrants. India’s Hindu nationalist government regards the Rohingya as illegal aliens and a security risk. It has ordered that tens of thousands of the community, who live in small settlements and slums, be identified and repatriated. The husband, wife and three children comprising the family set to be expelled on Thursday had been arrested and jailed in northeastern Assam state in 2014 for entering India without valid documents, police said.
“These five people are now at the border gate in the adjoining Manipur state and we are waiting for Myanmar officials to hand them over formally,” Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Assam’s additional director general of police, told Reuters. Jails in Assam held 20 more Myanmar nationals, all arrested for illegal entry, he added. But it was not immediately clear if all were Rohingya, a largely stateless Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. “We shall send them back to Myanmar once we get their travel permits from that country,” Mahanta said. “Most of them sneaked into India in search of a livelihood.”
India’s first deportation of seven Rohingya men to Myanmar in October sparked fears of further repatriations among those sheltering in its refugee camps, and concern that those returned faced the risk of abuse at the hands of Myanmar authorities. There has been no word on the fate of the deported men. The government estimates that 40,000 Rohingya live in India in camps across the country, including the capital, New Delhi, having arrived over the years after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship. In August, a United Nations report accused the Myanmar military of committing mass killings and rapes on the Rohingya with “genocidal intent” in 2017 in an operation that drove more than 700,000 of them to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. Myanmar has denied the charges, saying its military launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Muslim militants in August last year.

Repatriation plan stalls as Rohingya refuse to return to Myanmar

A plan to begin repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar stalls amid protests by refugees at camps in Bangladesh and recriminations between the officials in both countries.  Rohingya refugees slated to be among the first repatriated to Myanmar Nov. 15 refused to return because of concerns for their safety. Mohammad Abul Kalam, commissioner of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission of Bangladesh, told ucanews.com that no Rohingya were willing to go back to Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“We kept five buses ready to transfer 150 Rohingya consisting of 30 families from their camp to transit points, but so far nobody has arrived,” Kalam said at mid-afternoon. He said the repatriation process would not be canceled. “We will come back on Sunday [Nov. 18] to motivate people for repatriation and see how it goes. It will continue in the coming days,” he added. Kalam earlier told ucanews.com that if anyone was unwilling to return to Rakhine, they would not be forced. “No Rohingya will go back to Myanmar against their will,” he said. The commission said that Bangladeshi officials had completed preparatory measures to begin returning 2,260 Rohingya who have been verified by Myanmar within two weeks.
There were reports of some 1,000 Rohingya refugees demonstrating in at least one camp Nov. 15. Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in January to repatriate the more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to escape a Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine that began in August 2017. Local and international media reported that the repatriation plan had created panic in the refugee community and many have fled the camps in recent weeks to avoid being listed for returning to Myanmar. Nur Alam, 34, a Rohingya from Balukhali refugee camp, told ucanews.com that he knows of no Rohingya willing to return to Rakhine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amnesty takes back Aung San Suu Kyi award

Myanmar authorities and citizens leapt to the defense of Aung San Suu Kyi after Amnesty International stripped her of its top award over indifference to atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims, doubling down on support for the civilian leader in the face of global ire. Suu Kyi’s international reputation as a rights icon is in pieces and Amnesty’s move is the latest in a string of rescinded accolades. Canada revoked her honorary citizenship last month and the US Holocaust Museum in March took back an award named after concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel. Institutions that once showered Suu Kyi with titles are rapidly distancing themselves from a leader, they argue is doing little in the face of alleged genocide and ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya minority. Amnesty’s “Ambassador of Conscience Award” was bestowed in 2009 and other recipients include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai and Ai Wei Wei.

“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights,” Amnesty International chief Kumi Naidoo said in a letter to Suu Kyi released by the group. “Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you.” But domestically, Suu Kyi remains popular across vast swathes of Myanmar and within her party, the National League for Democracy, which won elections in 2015 ending decades of military-backed rule. The stripping of awards not only harms the “dignity” of Suu Kyi, but also that of all NLD members, the party’s spokesman Myo Nyunt said, adding he thought this was all part of a wider conspiracy.

 

“All these organizations are working for the Bengalis who have left the country in order to get citizenship,” he said, using a pejorative term for the Rohingya that is widely accepted in Myanmar and falsely implies they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Deputy Minister for Information Aung Hla Tun said he was personally sad and disappointed by Amnesty’s announcement and said Suu Kyi was being treated “unfairly.” Such moves would only “make the people love her more,” he added. People on the street in Yangon were defiant. “Their withdrawal is pretty childish. It’s like when children aren’t getting along with each other and take back their toys,” 50-year-old Khin Maung Aye said. “We don’t need their prize,” said Htay Htay, 60.
More than 720,000 Rohingya were driven over the border to Bangladesh in a crackdown that started in August 2017, and refugees have detailed horrific testimony of murder, rape, torture and arson. The military says it was defending itself against Rohingya militants. UN investigators have called for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide and accused Suu Kyi’s government of complicity, though has stopped short of calling for her to be hauled before a court. Suu Kyi became a democracy icon after spearheading the opposition movement to the feared military junta, which resulted in her spending some 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010. She has yet to comment on Amnesty’s decision herself but has in the past shrugged off questions about withdrawn awards.
Calls to revoke Suu Kyi’s 1991 Nobel Peace Prize have been rebuffed by the committee that oversees it. Some think, however, that Amnesty’s move will be taken more personally because she became a cause celebre for the rights group during her house arrest. “This is effectively an excommunication of Suu Kyi from the pantheon of human rights champions,” Yangon-based independent analyst David Mathieson said, adding that the decision would “sting.”

Rohingya on the verge of another dangerous journey?

Bhasan Char, a remote islet where Bangladeshi government is planning to resettle persecuted Rohingya community of Myanmar, is measured 15,000 acres at low tide and 10,000 acres at high tide, according to the government sources. According to data available, no one lived on the islet until the beginning of the Rohingya resettlement project nearly one year back. The islet was mostly used for cattle grazing and was a hub of the sea pirates. The islet emerged from the Bay of Bengal in 2006 and is about 30 kilometers (21 miles) away from the mainland. In 2013, the area was declared a forest reserve. Motor boats are the only mode of travel to the island.
Around 1,350 acres of land — 432 acres occupied and 918 acres vacant — was proposed for the Rohingya rehabilitation project. However, the journey to Bhasan Char is a toilsome job and during bad weather conditions it is one of the most dangerous voyages. The islet is 52 kilometers (32 miles) away from nearest land, Noakhali, and 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the nearest populated island, Hatia. The average land elevation of Bhasan Char is 2.84 meter above the Mean Sea Level, according to Bangladesh Naval sources.
Some local and international media reported it takes one-and-half hours to reach Bhasan Char from nearest land, Noakhali, and nearest inhabited island, Hatia, via trawler or engine boat. But the Anadolu Agency correspondent recorded more than two hours to reach the island by an engine boat from both Hatia and Noakhali. While it takes half an hour by speed boat to reach there from both Noakhali and Hatia, a little rough weather makes this journey impossible. The island is also prone to river erosion. Local fishermen told Anadolu Agency the southern and southeastern regions of the island frequently suffer from erosion. According to the Forest Department data and available information, a part of the island disappears into the sea every year due to erosion.
Most of the Rohingya refugees and experts have fears that natural disasters can wash away the resettlements in the islet, which is located on the estuary of river Meghna and the Bay of Bengal. However, a lieutenant commander in the Bangladesh Navy told Anadolu Agency two planned embankments will encircle the project area to protect it from natural disasters. Speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media, he said Rohingya would live here in “hundred times better conditions” than that in squalid and teeming makeshifts at Cox’s Bazar. He said Bangladeshi prime minister will inaugurate the project within possible shortest time. “Now the finishing of housing project is ongoing. We are ready to receive Rohingyas any time,” the navy commander said.
He said Rohingya refugees will be relocated gradually, like 1,000 per week, thus, it will take months to complete the relocation process. 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 Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA). More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.” Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017. The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Rohingya refugee girls pose with their new clothes during Eid Al-Adha

Young Rohingya refugee girls pose with their new clothes and make-up during Eid Al-Adha festival at Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia district near Cox’s Bazar. Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims marked Eid al-Adha on August 22 in the world’s largest refugee camp, almost a year to the day since a brutal military crackdown drove the persecuted minority from Myanmar in huge numbers.

Could Aung San Suu Kyi face Rohingya genocide charges?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, is determined that the perpetrators of the horrors committed against the Rohingya face justice. He’s the head of the UN’s watchdog for human rights across the world, so his opinions carry weight. It could go right to the top – he doesn’t rule out the possibility that civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the head of the armed forces Gen Aung Min Hlaing, could find themselves in the dock on genocide charges some time in the future. Earlier this month, Mr Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council that the widespread and systematic nature of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar (also called Burma) meant that genocide could not be ruled out. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high level,” said the high commissioner, when we met at the UN headquarters in Geneva for BBC Panorama.

That said, genocide is one of those words that gets bandied about a lot. It sounds terrible – the so-called “crime of crimes”. Very few people have ever been convicted of it. The crime was defined after the Holocaust. Member countries of the newly founded United Nations signed a convention, defining genocide as acts committed with intent to destroy a particular group. It is not Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s job to prove acts of genocide have been committed – only a court can do that. But he has called for an international criminal investigation into the perpetrators of what he has called the “shockingly brutal attacks” against the Muslim ethnic group who are mainly from northern Rakhine in Myanmar. But the high commissioner recognised it would be a tough case to make: “For obvious reasons, if you’re planning to commit genocide you don’t commit it to paper and you don’t provide instructions.”

 

“The thresholds for proof are high,” he said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me in the future if a court were to make such a finding on the basis of what we see.” By the beginning of December, nearly 650,000 Rohingya – around two thirds of the entire population – had fled Myanmar after a wave of attacks led by the army that began in late August. Hundreds of villages were burned and thousands are reported to have been killed. There is evidence of terrible atrocities being committed: massacres, murders and mass rapes – as I heard myself when I was in the refugee camps as this crisis began. What clearly rankles the UN human rights chief is that he had urged Ms Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, to take action to protect the Rohingya six months before the explosion of violence in August.
He said he spoke to her on the telephone when his office published a report in February documenting appalling atrocities committed during an episode of violence that began in October 2016. “I appealed to her to bring these military operations to an end,” he told me. “I appealed to her emotional standing… to do whatever she could to bring this to a close, and to my great regret it did not seem to happen.” Ms Suu Kyi’s power over the army is limited, but Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein believes she should have done more to try and stop the military campaign. He criticised her for failing to use the term “Rohingya”. “To strip their name from them is dehumanising to the point where you begin to believe that anything is possible,” he said – powerful language for a top UN official. He thought Myanmar’s military was emboldened when the international community took no action against them after the violence in 2016. “I suppose that they then drew a conclusion that they could continue without fear,” he said. “What we began to sense was that this was really well thought out and planned,” he told me.
Justin Rowlatt
South Asia correspondent
@BBCJustinR

Myanmar military leaders must face genocide charges : UN report

A UN report has said top military figures in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas. The report, based on hundreds of interviews, is the strongest condemnation from the UN so far of violence against Rohingya Muslims. It says the army’s tactics are “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”. Myanmar rejected the report. At least 700,000 Rohingya fled violence in the country in the past 12 months. The report names six senior military figures it believes should go on trial and sharply criticises Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks. Genocide is the most serious charge that can be made against a government and is rarely proposed by UN investigators.

 

That this report finds sufficient evidence to warrant investigation and prosecution of the senior commanders in the Myanmar armed forces is a searing indictment which will be impossible for members of the international community to ignore. However taking Myanmar to the ICC, as recommended by the report, is difficult. It is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court, so a referral to the ICC would need the backing of the permanent five Security Council members – and China is unlikely to agree. The report suggests, instead, the establishment of a special independent body by the UN, as happened with Syria, to conduct an investigation in support of war crimes and genocide prosecutions.
The government of Myanmar has until now rejected numerous investigations alleging massive atrocities by its military. This one will be much harder to dismiss. What crimes does the UN allege? The UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was set up in March 2017 to investigate widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state. It began its work before the military started a large-scale operation in Rakhine in August of last year, after deadly attacks by Rohingya militants. The situation was a “catastrophe looming for decades”, the report argues, and the result of “severe, systemic and institutionalised oppression from birth to death”. Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.

Rohingya Muslims struggle against famine as world watches silently

Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority continues to struggle against famine, disease and lack of access to clean water in sprawling camps in neighboring Bangladesh as the Muslim world remains silent in the face of their plight, exacerbated by an unsparing monsoon season that batters their flimsy improvised shelters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People need to know why our journalists were arrested in Myanmar, Reuters

Myanmar authorities should release two Reuters journalists detained for investigating a military massacre of Rohingya Muslims and drop the case against them. On July 2, 2018, a Yangon court will hear final arguments on whether to charge Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, which carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years. The journalists were detained on December 12, 2017, after being invited by police officials to meet at a restaurant in Yangon, where they were handed rolled up papers allegedly linked to security force operations in northern Rakhine State. The Myanmar Police Force announced that the journalists were arrested for “illegally obtaining and possessing government documents,” with the intent “to send them to a foreign news agency.” For more than six months, the two men have been held without bail while evidence has emerged showing police misconduct and conflicting official accounts.