March 25, 2017

The U.N. Human Rights Council have agreed on Friday to create an international fact-finding mission to probe allegations of human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim community.

The resolution by the top UN human rights body has agreed to "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission" to investigate allegations that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, "with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims."

Myanmar and several other nations, including China, India and Philippines "disassociated" themselves from the resolution in whole or in part.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, U Htin Lynn, objected to the resolution, saying that it was “not acceptable and not in harmony with the situation on the ground,” and that Myanmar should be allowed to respond to the accusations. “We will do what needs to be done,” he said.

Lynn did not say whether Myanmar would allow the fact-finding mission into Arakan, a state long off limits to the international media and highly restricted for all international organisations.

High ranking UN officials including Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, and Yanghee Lee, special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, had earlier called for an international commission for enquiry but world powers, instead called for an ‘international investigation’ after Myanmar objected to the language.

However, a report by The New York Times said both would achieve similar objectives.

Earlier there were concerns by the international media that Myanmar might escape international investigation after EU member states, long patrons of the Rohingya community seemed indecisive and divided. However, events over the last week made it clear that EU has stepped in strongly on the side of the beleaguered community.

There has also been unprecedented support from the Muslim world, especially ASEAN member state Malaysia for the Rohingya Muslims.

Rohingya activists and independent observers have earlier dismissed various investigation initiatives by the Myanmar government as a sham. Earlier this week, investigators visiting Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh dismissed first hand accounts of victims as ‘lies’.

More than a thousand people, including children and women have been killed or ‘missing’ in crackdown led by the Tatmadaw in the fall of 2016. 

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March 17, 2017

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reaffirmed the country’s strong support for the Rohingya community on Thursday and said Myanmar must be prepared to accept the Muslims as their citizens.

“Our friends in Myanmar must stop all this madness and prove to ASEAN that they can accept the Muslim minority Rohingya as their citizens,” he said in closing a three-day International Conference on the Rohingyas.

Hamidi said while ASEAN members remain dedicated to the no interference policy in the domestic matters of member states, Myanmar’s policy of carrying out atrocities against the Rohingyas is contrary to the spirit of the organisation.

In a strong break from conventional ASEAN policy, Malaysia has lent unprecedented support for the beleaguered Rohingya minority. Other member states have however been less willing to condemn gross violations of human rights carried out by the Tatmadaw.

The conference, attended by about 1,000 participants comprising government officials, diplomats and NGOs from Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Sudan, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and India, was themed “Plight of The Rohingya: Searching for Solutions.”

It was held to analyse issues affecting the ethnic group and the geopolitical effect and to look for long-term strategic solutions, among other reasons.

Hamidi, an ardent sympathiser for the Rohingya people expressed disappointment with continuing violence in Arakan and called upon Myanmar to stop.

The conference also proposed dialogue with the Tatmadaw to convince them to stop killing Rohingyas.

It also called for a special fund to be set up to aid the community, with the initial contribution coming from the Organisation of Islamic Conference member nations.

The 14 resolutions were handed to Hamidi, who urged the delegates to follow through with their governments.

Meanwhile British Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) also requested the Malaysian government to continue support for the Rohingyas. The president of the organisation Maung Tun Khin also spoke at the conference. 

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March 16, 2017

The European Union has called for the United Nations to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the Tatmadaw in Maungdaw North.

The EU draft resolution, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday, steps up the pressure from an earlier draft that stopped short of demanding an international probe into alleged atrocities.

The 47-member forum, currently holding a four-week session in Geneva, is to vote on resolutions from March 23-24.

If adopted, the UNHRC would "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims".

The U.N. Security Council will be briefed behind closed doors on Friday on the situation in Arakan, at the request of Britain, according to Reuters.

The EU resolution calls on the government to "fully cooperate with the fact-finding mission, including by making available the findings of the domestic investigations".

Both Rohingya and international activists have blasted the investigation initiatives set up by the government and security forces.

Many Rohingyas who spoke to investigation teams have been hounded, and at least one have been killed.

Myanmar continues to deny allegations of gross human rights abuses in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. 

 

March 15, 2017

Bangladesh police has given a list of yaba producing factories to their counterparts in Myanmar, according to reports in the Bangladesh media.

The report also quoted Bangladesh police as saying that high officials from the Myanmar police have earlier not visited the country, thus creating a lack of communications which led to problems in “breaking the ice”.

The location of factories producing yaba pills are more or less publicly known. Bangladesh police has said they have been given assurances that Myanmar will take appropriate steps to halt yaba production.

However earlier lists given by law enforcement forces of Bangladesh have been ignored by Myanmar.  

Yaba consumption has boomed in Bangladesh in recent years leading to significant socio-economic problems in urban areas. 

It is widely known high ranking government and military officials in Myanmar are behind the lucrative trade of yaba pills.

In mid 2015, in response to a huge yaba overhaul in Bangladesh, Hlun Htein forces kidnapped a Bangladesh paramilitary soldier and subjected him to abuse in prison.

 

Incidentally, Myanmar is attending a high level police summit in Dhaka along with 14 other countries.

A bilateral meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar police officials took place on Monday. 

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March 12, 2017

Activists belonging to the J & K Panthers party organised demonstrations on Friday demanding the government take strident measures to eject Rohingyas and Bangladeshis from the Indian state of Jammu. 

The rallies held in Jammu city gave an ultimatum of 72 hours urging the government to cut electricity and water supplies along the Rohingya and Bangladeshi neighbourhoods.

Tensions are increasing in the restive state over the presence of the Muslims from Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are viewed favourably by the Kashmiri Muslim community but are being targeted by anti Muslim groups.

The ruling BJP is known to support the exit of Muslim foreigners, especially millions of Bangladeshis alleged to be residing in the country.

There are around 50,000 Rohingya refugees in India.

In February billboards were erected by the J & K Panthers calling on Rohingyas and Bangladeshis to quit Jammu. 

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March 3, 2017

The Dalai Lama has once again spoken out against atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims, and said he had personally approached de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to use her influence to end ethnic cleansing against the minority community.

"All the world's major religions convey a message of peace and compassion, so it is especially saddening when we hear of violence being used in the name of religion like the very unfortunate events concerning the Muslim community in Burma,” he wrote in comments that will be read at the first hearing of the Permanent People's Tribunal on Myanmar at London's Queen Mary University on March 6 and 7.

Dalai Lama joined an increasingly louder chorus of voices including Pope Francis, calling for an end to atrocities against the Muslim community.

The Buddhist spiritual leader has always voiced his sympathies for the Rohingyas, and decried the use of a version of Buddhist nationalism to mobilise popular hatred against the Rohingyas. 

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February 24, 2017

Malaysian PM Najib Razak congratulated volunteers of the Malaysian food flotilla humanitarian mission for their sacrifices in ensuring success of the mission.

The prime minister also expressed gratitude for the safe return of the Nautical Aliya vessel, which docked at the Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang at 10am on Thursday.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and family members of the 183 volunteers aboard were on hand to welcome the volunteers from the early hours of morning.

“Alhamdulillah, the Nautical Aliya vessel carrying thousands of tonnes of food and other essential goods for the Rohingya community in Myanmar and Bangladesh has safely returned to Malaysia after completing its ‘Food Flotilla for Myanmar’ mission.

“May Allah reward all of those who have contributed to this noble mission, Insya-Allah,” Najib said on social media.

The Malaysian aid ship delivered food aid in Yangon in Myanmar, and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. The initiative is seen as a strong diplomatic and humanitarian statement, and has been warmly welcomed by the Rohingyas.

Myanmar nationalists have however protested against the Malaysian initiative saying Muslims were not indigenous to the country. Myanmar also refused to allow the ship to dock at Akyab and asked Malaysia to use the Yangon port instead, despite the clear logistical advantage of using the former. This has led to speculations much of the aid will be diverted away from the Rohingyas.

March 9, 2017

Myanmar looks set to escape an international investigation into atrocities against its Rohingya Muslim community, after the European Union decided not to seek one at the UN Human Rights Council, according to Reuters.

EU diplomats reportedly told a meeting on Tuesday that they preferred using an existing mechanism as it has received good cooperation from the government of Myanmar. They consider giving more time to the ongoing investigation initiatives taken by the government of Myanmar.

Many activists have however said the investigation initiatives adopted by the government is a sham. According to Charles Sanitago, Malaysian parliamentarian and a member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, “the Myanmar government’s repeated denials of rights violations demonstrate that Naypyitaw has no interest in resolving the situation or addressing underlying issues. The fact that security forces have been tasked with investigating themselves and rooting out abusers in their own ranks speaks for itself. There isn’t even a half-hearted attempt at impartiality or independence.”

The EU has historically taken a lead on issues related to Myanmar on the rights council and this week’s developments are likely to be an immense disappointment for Rohingya activists who have been lobbying hard with Brussels.

Myanmar’s reform process that has heralded the inclusion of the pro Western Aung San Suu Kyi had dramatically altered relations with the world, despite the country’s dreadful crackdown against ethnic minorities.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has sought at the very least “a commission of inquiry into the violence committed against the Rohingyas”. 

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February 26, 2017

Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Jammu are looking forward to an uncertain future in the tensed Indian state as nationalists of different shades have embarked on a campaign to drive the Muslim refugees and immigrants from the country.

Billboards calling for the expulsion of the Muslim countries have been erected by the J & K Panthers party, an influential political outfit representing the Dogra community. The signs also call upon the people of Jammu to unite to protect their history, culture and their identity.

The Rohingya community are living under the auspices of the UNHCR. As Muslims, they have gotten support from the Kashmiri community. Just like that in this communally surcharged part of the world, they have been targeted by anti Muslim communal outfits, including the ruling BJP.

BJP leaders who have even taken legal proceedings in the court against the Muslim immigrants have repeatedly pointed out the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis as a national security threat especially in a sensitive region near Kashmir.

There are an estimated 50,000 Rohingya refugees in India. The number of Bangladeshi migrants are likely to be in the millions.

Last week, activists allegedly belonging to the Panthers group burned down five huts in the Bhagwati Nagar region. Arson attacks are becoming more frequent as Hindu nationalists and regional groups launch movements against Rohingyas and Bangladeshi migrants.

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While welcoming the end of clearance operations in Maungdaw North, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) stressed that an independent inquiry is still needed to investigate alleged atrocities in the context of its operations, according to a statement issued on the group’s website on Saturday.

“Declaring an end to the crackdown does not absolve the Myanmar government of its responsibility to protect its people and ensure that they are not subjected to abuse. We’re talking about possible crimes against humanity here. This is not business as usual in ASEAN,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“The regional and international pressure that led to this outcome must be sustained,” Santiago said. The parliamentarian alleged the could not be trusted to carry out a fair investigation into the gross human rights violations of the minority community. “Our job is not done. We must ensure that there is no impunity for rights violations. This task demands a credible, independent investigation—one which Myanmar authorities have thus far demonstrated they are unwilling or unable to carry out,” he said.

Earlier, an UN report saying the government had carried out mass atrocities against defenceless populations was flatly denied by the Myanmar regime. Santiago said, “The UN’s exhaustive first-hand reporting further corroborates the claims human rights organisations and independent media have been making for months: possible ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Myanmar government’s repeated denials of rights violations demonstrate that Naypyitaw has no interest in resolving the situation or addressing underlying issues. The fact that security forces have been tasked with investigating themselves and rooting out abusers in their own ranks speaks for itself." He further states the government is not even doing a good job pretending it is serious in the investigation. 

March 8, 2017

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The severity of human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim community warrants the attention of the International Criminals Court (ICC), said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein speaking on Wednesday to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said the violations, “against a backdrop of severe and longstanding persecution”, amount to the “possible commission of crimes against humanity”.

Al Hussein urged the Human Rights Council to at least establish a commission of inquiry into the violence committed against the Rohingyas, especially during the Tatmadaw led crackdown after October, while pointing out at the same time that persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan is a long standing problem.

Earlier in February, referring to the atrocities committed by the Tatmadaw, the UN envoy had said, “The cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable - what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk?

Back then in a damning report, the UN had outlined gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas including instances where infant children were slaughtered in front of their parents, mass gang rape, killing and disappearance of civilians, and so on.  

Allegations have however been dismissed by the Tatmadaw which describes atrocities as a legitimate counter-insurgency operation. 

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February 26, 2017

UN human rights envoy Yanghee Lee have told Bangladesh reporters to wait for her report as she wrapped her week long tour of Bangladesh. During the visit, Lee made visits to refugee camps where she interviewed newly arrived Rohingyas on the atrocities committed by the Tatmadaw and Hlun Htein in October, November and December last year.

`I have personally learned and gathered experiences about the situation of Rohingya people in Bangladesh and Myanmar. So, wait for my report which will be published very shortly,’ she told local journalists.

She was replying to reporters’ query concerning the outcome of her visit, as she finished interviewing around 40 victims at the Kutuplong camp on Thursday. Earlier she had visited Nayapara and Leda camp on Wednesday and the newly constructed Balukhali camp on Tuesday.

Lee concluded her six day tour on Friday.

Thee report is expected to be completed in March.

The visit is considered critical as observers have faced hurdles in collecting eye witness testimonies in Myanmar.

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February 17, 2017

Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue with Germany during an upcoming meet in Munich, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister told reporters during a press conference in the country’s capital on Wednesday.

"We've already talked to the European Commission on the Rohingya issue. And of course, the issue will be discussed at a meeting with Dr Angela Merkel," said Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali.

Bangladesh Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to meet her German counterpart Chancellor Angela Merkel in Munich on Saturday during the Munich Security Conference.

Mahmood Ali also said that international opinion was in favour of Bangladesh and the Rohingyas, and commended international determination to put pressure on Myanmar.

"We think we're on the right track over Rohingya issue because the world has realised how much sufferings the Rohingya people have been going through," he said.

Bangladesh government has long tried to be friendly towards the Burmese regime and pledged utmost support to their neighbour as Myanmar commenced brutal military operations against the minority Muslim community in October. By contrast, Myanmar completely rejected Bangladeshi overtures of assistance and instead assumed an aggressive stance on the border. The Bangladesh government's current stance is however difficult to fathom.

Ali also spoke about the possibilities of relocating the Rohingyas to Haitya on a temporary basis before conditions would be suitable for them to return to their homeland.

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