Monthly Archives: March 2009

US Disappointed by Suu Kyi’s Detention

source from irrawaddy news, 25 March 2009,

WASHINGTON — The United States said on Tuesday it is disappointed by the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and the Burmese junta’s failure to heed international calls for her release.

“We are disappointed that the regime continues to ignore the calls of the international community, including the UN Security Council, to release the more than 2,100 political prisoners immediately and unconditionally,” US State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement.

The US once again urged Burmese authorities to release all political prisoners and initiate a genuine dialogue that can help move the country toward political reconciliation.

The statement came in the wake of the latest ruling from a UN body which said that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is illegal both under international and Burmese domestic laws.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its order said the continued detentions of Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung Myin, Ko Jimmy, Paw Oo Tun, and Mtay Win Aung are arbitrary and unjustified.

It said the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is in contravention of Burma’s own law.  The UN working group urged the Burmese government to release these individuals immediately.

 “The Working Group . . . declare[s] Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s placement under house arrest [is] arbitrary, being in contravention of Articles 9, 10, and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . . . and even domestic law . . . which itself contradicts to [sic] the basic principles and norms of modern international law . . . Consequent upon this Opinion, the Working Group requests the Government to immediately release, without any condition, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi from her continued placement under house arrest,” the order said.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an independent and impartial body of the Human Rights Council. It consists of experts from Chile, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal and Spain.

Meanwhile, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg also announced his concern upon the release of the UNWGAD opinion on the ongoing detention of Suu Kyi.

“I use this opportunity to urge again the Burmese authorities not to violate its own and international law. I appeal on the Burmese junta to immediately and unconditionally release ASSK and all other political prisoners and detainees and begin an inclusive and genuine dialogue with the opposition groups and ethnic groups leading to their equitable participation in the political process,” Karel said.





Singapore cannot accept Rohingya refugees

source from
Posted: 24 March 2009 1935 hrs

Photos 1 of 1




SINGAPORE: Singapore cannot accept Rohingya refugees should they attempt to land, but would help them depart for another country, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

“Given our limited land and natural resources, Singapore is not in a position to accept persons seeking political asylum or refugee status,” said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Balaji Sadasivan.

“This has been our policy for decades. However, we will assist such persons by providing humanitarian assistance so that they can depart for a third country.”

He was responding to a question from Nominated MP Eunice Olsen in Parliament on what will be Singapore’s approach if Rohingya refugees flee to the city-state’s shores.

Dr Balaji said that the issue was discussed by ASEAN countries at a recent summit in Thailand.

There, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made it clear that the problem should be addressed at the source and that ASEAN members should not export their problems to one another.

The grouping, said Dr Balaji, will continue to contribute where possible, to the resolution of the issue.

Dr Balaji said: “Among other things, the ASEAN foreign ministers tasked the ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan to work with the Myanmar government to obtain the relevant statistics and information related to the Rohingya population. Such info will help in the formulation of a coordinated response by the various stakeholders.”

Previously little known, the plight of the Rohingya refugees hit the headlines earlier this year when Thailand’s army allegedly towed hundreds of them out to sea in barges with little food or water.

Dr Balaji also said authorities have not encountered any Rohingya refugees seeking to enter Singapore waters.

Numbering around 800,000 in total, the Rohingyas mostly live in the North Rakhine region of Myanmar. About 300,000 of them have, however, crossed over the border to live in Bangladesh, saying they are persecuted in Myanmar.

– AFP/CNA/yt

Thai Government Wants To Repatriate 78 Rohinyas

source form Irrawaddy news, 23 March 2009,

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya asked the Burmese government on Sunday to help Thailand screen Rohingya migrants who have entered his country illegally.

In a one-hour meeting in Rangoon with Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Kasit asked for Bengali-speaking embassy staff to be sent to Thailand to help with the work.

The Thai government says it wants to repatriate 78 Rohingyas, held in detention after arriving by boat in southern Thailand. The Burmese government maintains the boat people came from Bangladesh, not Burma.

According to Chris Lewa, an expert on Rohingya issues, illegal migrants face up to five years imprisonment if sent back to Burma.

Lewa said many Rohingyas had been imprisoned in Arakan State under Burma’s Immigration Law 1947 Section 13(1). On Karen rebels along the border, Thai foreign minister said that Bangkok was ready to help facilitate talks with the Karen rebels to improve the situation along the Thai-Burmese border. Responding to Thai’s mediator role, David Taw, a senior member of the Karen National Union said that KNU will discuss with central executive committee members. He also said that he was not sure whether the Burmese regime would accept Thailand’s offer to facilitate the talks between KNU and the regime.

Piromya said that f there is peace in Burma it will be good for Thailand.

The Thai minister ended his two-day visit to Burma on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Burmese authorities are building a fence along the Bangladesh border and patrolling Burma’s territorial waters to deter Rohingyas from fleeing.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, visited northern Arakan State earlier this month on a fact-finding mission.

The Thai government and the UNHCR in Thailand agreed to issue a “handbook” for officials to help them determine if any of the Rohingyas who arrive in the country are actually illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win said at last month’s Asean summit in Thailand that the Burmese government maintains that the Rohingyas are “Bengalis” and not Burmese citizens.

Thousands have attempted to flee in open boats to Malaysia and Indonesia. Many are believed to have drowned at sea, while more than 1,000 are being held in Thailand as illegal immigrants.

Attempts to repatriate the Rohingyas are opposed by both Burma and Bangladesh, who can’t agree on their true nationality.




Palestinian Refugees Demonstrate In UNHCR-Malaysia

Researcher James,

Today 19th March 2009, about 30 of Palestinian refugees had demonstrated in front of UNHCR, Malaysia.

Photo of Palestinian Refugees Seeking Equal treatment In UNHCR

Photo of Palestinian Refugees Seeking Equal treatment In UNHCR

Demonstration was started at 9:00am and ended 12:00pm (local time). The group also included children and women.

One from the group said that they had been spent up to 2 years in Malaysia. Except they received a registration from UNHCR, they did not receive any facility like assistance, protection or process of resettlement. That is why they have to hold demonstration.

He also added that they had held demonstration for 3 hours long under police watch as no officer from UNHCR response for their approach. Finally, they were informed to corporate in coming next month by the security head officer, Mr. Ibrahim (a retired police officer form the Royal Police Department).

“Beside this,  vulnerable Rohingya refugee 4 families are seeking survival assistance from UNHCR, one of them are a widow with four children under 14 years old who also showing referral  letter of vulnerable certification by community,  were expelled out from UNHCR and then  letting them to continue seeking beside UNHCR premise under unprotected sky.” One of them talked to The Sail.

“Meaningless of the role of UNHCR is here. No officers are looking into their genuine matters, even by new representative Mr. Allan was in the office. Humanitarian officers do not respect referral letter of community and failed to visit to some vulnerable, at least. This is clear that how UNHCR’s officers breached their promise to work together with refugees community. This is the worst that professional officers practicing discriminatory role against refugees. They don’t want to solve the matter according to Refugees Conventions.  But, like to put global concern. Sometime such officer may say to solve their problems require intervention by stakeholders. A way is that UNHCR or UNHCR identities should be surrendered in such role. “ an activist said.

UN Right Expert: Release Political Prisoners

source from Irrawaddy news, 17 March 2009

GENEVA — A UN human rights investigator has urged Burma to release its 2,100 or so political prisoners before holding next year’s elections—the country’s first ballot in two decades.

In a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Tomas Ojea Quintana said Burma’s military-run government should release all “prisoners of conscience”—starting with the elderly, the sick and political leaders—because their detention breaches basic human rights.

“Release must be without imposing any particular condition which may result in new forms of diminishing enjoyment of human rights, such as written statements renouncing the right to political participation or campaign,” Quintana said.

Prisoners who remain in custody should be spared cruel treatment and should be given better conditions and urgent medical treatment, he said.

Among those detained is Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held without trial for 13 of the past 19 years. Her pro-democracy movement won Myanmar’s 1990 democratic elections, a result the military junta never recognized.

Quintana said he regretted that the government denied his request to meet with Suu Kyi and other detainees during his February visit to the country.

In the 41-page report, which was made available on the Web ahead of its presentation Tuesday, he called for “an urgent, impartial and independent review” of Suu Kyi’s case.

Quintana also recommended other measures be taken in the run-up to next year’s elections, including reform of the judiciary, a review of 380 laws that may breach international standards, an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, and end to use of anti-personnel mines and the abolition of forced labor.

Meanwhile military authorities have arrested five members of Suu Kyi’s political party, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Among those arrested was Kyi Lwin, who has not been an active party member since suffering a stroke a year ago, said Han Tha Myint, spokesman of the National League for Democracy. Police took him from his home Sunday without explaining why.

“We have no clue at all why they were arrested,” said Han Tha. “Families were told that authorities are taking them for questioning.”

Four others arrested between March 6-13 include Myint Myint San, also known as Ma Cho, a member of the party’s Social Support Committee, which helps support political prisoners and their families. The three others are Sein Hlaing, Shwe Gyo and Thein Lwin, who are active party members, the spokesman said.

In recent months, the junta has locked away pro-democracy activists in an apparent attempt to clear away dissent before a general election promised for 2010. Military courts have sentenced hundreds of pro-democracy activists to harsh prison terms of up to 104 years.


Four NLD Members Arrested

source from irraeaddy news, 16 march 2009

Four members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party were arrested this month, as exiled human rights groups continue to call for the release of all political prisoners.

Kyi Lwin, in his 50s, a NLD member from South Dagon Myothit Township, was arrested by local authorities on Monday, said NLD spokesperson Nyan Win.

“He is in poor health, and he has been paralyzed,” said Nyan Win. 

A Burmese activist lights candles during Human Rights Day in Bangkok March 13. The global signature campaign aims to get 888,888 signatures, to demand for the release of all political prisoners, before May 24, 2009 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest will end. (Photo: Reuters)

Myint Myint San (also known as Ma Cho), a leading member of the Social Supporting Committee of the NLD, was also arrested on Friday, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP).

Ma Cho worked in the support of political prisoners, said Aung Kyaw Oo of the AAPP. 

“Most of the support was money and medicine so political prisoners’ families could visit prisons,” said Aung Kyaw Oo, who himself served 14 years in prison. 

Two NLD members, Sein Hlaing of Sanchaung Township and Shwe Gyoe of Hlaing Township, were arrested on March 6. Details of their arrest and where they are detained are not known.

Shwe Gyoe was the father-in-law of Aung Hlaing Win, who died in detention in 2005 during interrogation by Burmese military intelligence operatives.

The NLD established the SSC in 1995 to assist political prisoners across the country by providing them with basic materials such as soap, eating utensils, prison uniforms and towels.

In 1996, the SSC was temporarily suspended by the military regime, but it subsequently resumed its activities.

Meanwhile, the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now campaign committee, organized by the AAPP and the Forum for Democracy in Burma, lunched a global signature campaign on March 13 to mark Burmese Human Rights Day.





Media Statement –  14/3/ 2009

We, the undersigned organizations, groups and networks, concerned about migrant and worker rights, are appalled at Malaysia ’s unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-worker policy, known as ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) policy when it comes to retrenchment.

A recent Malaysian newspaper report read,“…Employers must retrench their foreign workers ahead of their Malaysian staff as they seek to weather the current economic slowdown, said Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad. She reiterated that employers should adopt the Government’s foreign worker first out (FWFO) principle…”(Star, 28/2/2009 – Retrench foreign workers first, employers told)

Whilst appreciating Malaysia ’s concern for its own citizens’ employment, this should never excuse employers from fulfilling their contractual obligations to  workers.

It is very wrong for the Malaysian government to compel/encourage employers in Malaysia to retrench their foreign workers first, before the expiration of the agreed duration of employment. Employers should have been fully aware of risks of economic crisis and other business risks, and as such there is no justification whatsoever of their breaching their employment agreements now.

It must also be appreciated that foreign workers do expend lots of monies, incur debts and make great sacrifices when they do decide to come over to Malaysia to work. These workers rely heavily on the representations of the employers and/or their agents especially with regards to wages and the length of period that they will be employed, before deciding to enter into employment agreements and coming over to Malaysia to work.  

Employment agreements with migrant workers are usually for a period of 3 to 5 years, and it would be a great injustice if Malaysian employers are now encouraged and permitted to prematurely terminate this employment agreement, and send these foreign workers back to their home country.

Early termination of employment agreements for many a migrant worker means ending up in a far worse condition than when they first entered into employment agreements to come and work in Malaysia . This is a great injustice, and it is inhumane.

If there is going to be early termination of employment agreements which are for a minimum fixed period of employment, then the worker must be paid adequate compensation, at the very least basic wages for the remaining duration of their employment agreement. Usual termination and lay-off benefits paid to local workers will definitely not be just for a foreign migrant worker who is sent back to her country.

We also wish to state that this ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) policy and practice is unconstitutional, as it goes against Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, whereby Article 8(1) clearly provides that ‘All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law…’, and there is nothing in the Constitution that permits discrimination against non-citizens, in favour of citizens, with regard to employment. Therefore, section 60N of the Employment Act 1955, which some use as the basis of FWFO practice is ultra vires the Federal Constitution, and as such is invalid.

We believe that it is better that migrant workers who are now in Malaysia who are or will be prematurely terminated be first used to fill up existing manpower needs, rather that bringing in new migrants.

We call on the Malaysian government to immediately stop this unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional policy and practice, known as ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) principle.

We call on Malaysia to demand that all employers fulfill their contractual agreements with regard to all workers, including foreign workers. We hope that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that employers pay workers adequate and just compensation for any early termination of employment agreement.
Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong
For and on behalf of the following 44 organisations

ALIRAN, Malaysia
All Nepal Women’s Association (ANWA) ( Nepal )
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Building and Wood Workers International, Asia Pacific Region (BWI)
CARAM Cambodia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Community Development Services (CDS), Colombo , Sri Lanka
Coordination Of Action Research on Aids &Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB )
Global Alliance against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
Hope Workers’ Center , Taiwan
IMA Research Foundation Bangladesh
Institute for Migrant Workers (IWORK), Indonesia
International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) Pakistan
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET (Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture)
MAP Foundation for the Health and Knowledge Of Ethnics Labour , Thailand
Messrs Charles Hector, Malaysia
Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI), Philippines
Migrant CARE (Perhimpunan Indonesia untuk Buruh Migran Berdaulat)
Migrant Services Centre – NWC, Sri Lanka
Multi National Women’s Organization of Burma ( MNWOB)
Myanmar Refugee Volunteer Group (MRVG)
National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS)
Nijera Kori,  Bangaladesh
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program( OKUP), Bangaladesh
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS), Malaysia
Raks Thai Foundation , Thailand
Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
The Action Network for Migrant Workers (ACTFORM), Sri Lanka
The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines
The Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrant Workers in Thailand Project (PHAMIT)
Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore
 United for Foreign Domestic Workers Rights (UFDWRs)
WARBE Development Foundation , Bangladesh
Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
Workers Hub 4 Change (WH4C)

 * For further information and/or clarification, please contact Mr Charles Hector and/or Ms Panom Somwong (+6019-2371300,,

Malaysia PM Department: Foreigners taking away jobs from locals

07March 2009,  source from

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign workers and students are taking away business opportunities from locals by working longer hours for less.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk S.K. Devamany said they were also turning away from labour-intensive jobs to go into the micro-credit system.

He said they were running businesses in Kampung Baru and the Chow Kit area, besides farming in rural areas. He also said locals allowed foreigners to run their businesses.

“The more foreigners work here, the more difficult it will be for locals to get a salary hike.”

There are about three million foreigners working in Malaysia.
To curb the trend, Devamany suggested several measures, including intensifying enforcement against foreigners and amendments to the law requiring employers to balance their workforce.

“Fifty per cent of the work force should be locals and the rest could be foreigners,” he said after launching the Career and Scholarship Guidance Seminar 2009 here yesterday.

The seminar will be held nationwide this month to help those with Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia qualifications look for higher education, training and job prospects.

Nationality Rights for All: A Progress Report and Global Survey on Statelessness

11 March2009, refugees international

The world community is no longer silent about statelessness. In recent years, countries such as Bangladesh, Estonia, Mauritania, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have made significant strides to protect the rights of stateless persons. The response of the United Nations (UN) has improved. Non-governmental agencies, legal experts, affected individuals, and others are joining forces to gather more accurate information and reduce the incidence of this often overlooked global phenomenon. Media attention has increased. Yet some 12 million people around the world are still stateless, and progress toward ending the problem is limited and slow. The campaign for nationality rights is far from over.

Nationality is a fundamental human right and a foundation of identity, dignity, justice, peace, and security. But statelessness, or the lack of effective nationality, affects millions of men, women, and children worldwide. Being stateless means having no legal protection or right to participate in political processes, inadequate access to health care and education, poor employment prospects and poverty, little opportunity to own property, travel restrictions, social exclusion, vulnerability to trafficking, harassment, and violence. Statelessness has a disproportionate impact on women and children.

Stateless people are found in all regions of the world. Among the most vulnerable groups are Rohingya in Burma and throughout Asia, Bidun in the Middle East, Roma in Europe, children of Haitian migrants in the Caribbean, individuals from the former Soviet bloc, denationalized Kurds, some Palestinians, and certain groups in Thailand. Their situations of legal limbo result from many factors such as political change, expulsion of people from a territory, discrimination, nationality based solely on descent, and laws regulating marriage and birth registration.

Because states have the sovereign right to determine the procedures and conditions for acquisition and loss of citizenship, statelessness and disputed nationality must ultimately be resolved by governments. But state determinations on citizenship must conform to general principles of international law. Numerous international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirm nationality rights. Two UN conventions on statelessness have long existed, but they are not widely ratified. To date, 63 countries have become party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and 35 countries have acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

The 1954 Convention identifies a stateless person as someone who does not have the legal bond of nationality with any state. Persons who have legitimate claims to citizenship, but who cannot prove their citizenship, or whose governments refuse to give effect to their nationality, are also considered to be stateless. The number of stateless persons in 2009 roughly equals the number of refugees worldwide. But unlike refugees, stateless individuals — particularly those who cannot be classified as refugees — often do not benefit from the protection and assistance of governments, aid agencies, or the UN, despite the institution’s mandate to assist stateless persons.

Since 2004, Refugees International (RI) has visited over a dozen countries to assess the situation of people who are stateless or at risk of statelessness. In 2005, RI published its first global survey of statelessness, Lives on Hold: The Human Cost of Statelessness, in order to bring renewed attention to the problem, asserting that “[t]he gap between rights and reality must be closed.”

This report, Nationality Rights for All: A Progress Report and Global Survey on Statelessness, provides an updated global survey of statelessness in over 80 countries and assesses progress since 2005 in protecting the human rights of stateless persons and in preventing and reducing statelessness. Important developments are reflected in changes in international law, and in steps taken by governments, international organizations, and non-governmental groups. And while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is thinking more strategically than before about living up to its obligations, the agency’s statelessness unit remains severely understaffed and underfunded relative to the organization’s other functions. Coordination among UN agencies regarding statelessness must improve.

Three cases of progress — Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Kenya — illustrate how improvements can occur, but also what challenges remain for complete and lasting solutions to statelessness. These three cases demonstrate the critical roles of political will (or the lack of it), international and national legal frameworks, liaison efforts by the UN and other agencies, as well as the initiative of stateless people themselves.

  • In Bangladesh, following legal precedent, most of the Urdu-speaking minority (also called “Bihari” or “stranded Pakistanis”) were recognized as citizens in a May 2008 High Court judgment. Since 1971, at least 200,000 and as many as 500,000 people from this minority have lived in squalid urban slums, with limited access to health care, education, and livelihoods. For thirty-seven years, neither Bangladesh nor Pakistan recognized them as citizens. As a first step towards integration, the High Court ordered that willing adults be registered to vote and issued national identification cards.
  • In Ethiopia, at least 120,000 and as many as 500,000 persons of Eritrean origin were stripped of citizenship during the 1998-2000 border conflict with Eritrea. Around 75,000 were deported to Eritrea, splitting families apart. Individuals who were not deported have apparently been able to reacquire citizenship under Ethiopia’s 2003 Nationality Proclamation, but precise numbers are difficult to obtain.
  • In Kenya, around 100,000 Nubians have had less difficulty obtaining national identity cards, particularly since they filed lawsuits in 2003 and 2004 against the government in the Kenya High Court and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights based in the Gambia.

Building on the momentum of these developments, this report aims to expand understanding of the problem of statelessness, increase recognition of the right to nationality, and promote solutions to end statelessness. The three cases show that real solutions for statelessness extend beyond finding neat legal status determinations. They involve long-term processes of integration and management of diversity. Governments need to ensure that public institutions — schools, hospitals, municipalities, courts — fully implement the law. Government leadership is important for setting a conciliatory tone.

Because statelessness is often a hidden problem, a sensitive topic, and sometimes stuck in diplomatic deadlock, it fades to the background. But loss of nationality and protracted neglect soon amount to massive denial of fundamental human rights. Local initiatives to resolve statelessness must be encouraged, but UNHCR’s engagement is essential to enhance the force and legitimacy of international legal standards on nationality rights and their implementation in practice.

Toward these goals, Refugees International recommends that all states respect and ensure the right of every person to have a nationality, work to facilitate acquisition of nationality, and uphold international standards to protect stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness. Refugees International also urges UNHCR to take concrete steps to fully live up to its mandate to help stateless persons. Nongovernmental groups also have an important role to play. Bold efforts to end statelessness are long overdue.

U.N. To Expand in Burma

U.N. To Expand in Burma


A desperate ethnic minority group in Burma gets more help from the U.N.’s refugee agency.


Rohingya migrants sit outside the Ranong police station before being transported to Thai police immigration in Thailand’s southern Ranong province, Jan. 31, 2009.

BANGKOK—The United Nations refugee agency now says it will immediately expand its work in Burma’s northern Rakhine state, home to the Muslim minority Rohingya who have fled poverty and abuse to seek asylum in other parts of Asia.

The announcement followed a visit to Burma by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief, Antonio Guterres.

…UNHCR’s current level of activities in northern Rakhine state does not correspond to the actual needs.”

UNHCR statement

In a statement, the UNHCR said that Guterres had traveled to Rakhine’s capital, Sittwe, near the Bangladesh border. He also visited Myeik, a southeastern port town on the Andaman Sea from which many Rohingya refugees are believed to have fled in boats.

Their plight sparked international concern amid allegations of abuse of the Rohingya by the Thai military.

“On the basis of his observations and the discussions held, the High Commissioner came to the conclusion that UNHCR’s current level of activities in northern Rakhine state does not correspond to the actual needs and a decision was taken to upgrade the program with immediate effect,” the statement said after Guterres left Burma late Thursday.

UNHCR and the Burmese junta agreed “on the importance of a continued presence of UNHCR in northern Rakhine state and the South East,” it said.

Critical areas in which to focus include health, education, water and sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure, it said.

“Frank and open discussions also covered all areas of concern to UNHCR, from prevention of displacement to voluntary return, registration and legal status, and improvements to economic and social conditions.”

An unwanted people

The Rohingya are denied citizenship under the laws of mainly Buddhist Myanmar and rights groups say they face official repression and poverty. Thousands more are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

A senior Burmese senior official in Hong Kong last month described the Rohingya as “ugly as ogres” and insisted that they should not be described as Burmese nationals.

The Rohingya, who speak a Bengali dialect and number around 800,000 in Burma and Bangladesh, were the subject of a diplomatic frenzy after reports that the Thai military may have set hundreds of them adrift as they tried to flee poverty and hardship in Burma.

Thailand initially denied the accusations, but the Thai prime minister later said he believe there may have been “some instances” of abuse, according to media reports.

Brutal suppression

Human rights groups say the Rohingya have been harassed since the junta seized power in 1962. Neither Burma nor Bangladesh recognizes them as citizens.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch in Bangkok called the plight of the Rohingya “the most brutal example of suppression committed by the Burmese military government [against ethnic minorities in Burma].”

“They are different on all fronts. Ethnically they are different from the Burman, religiously they are also different—they are Muslim—and we have an issue of racial discrimination as well,” Phasuk said in an interview.

“It is clear that they want to wipe out this ethnic minority group,” he said.

In 1992, 250,000 Rohingya, around one-third of their total population, fled over Burma’s border into Bangladesh, citing persecution in Burma.

But Phasuk said the Burmese government still has a legal responsibility to look after and protect people living within its territory.

Risking all

Phasuk urged Southeast Asian nations to share responsibility for protecting the Rohingya and called on the international community to contribute financial incentives to make neighboring countries willing to take them in.

He said that the number of Rohingya fleeing the Burma-Bangladesh border area to seek a better life has increased from the hundreds to the “high thousands” over the last five years.

“The Rohingya jump into boats, put their lives in the hands of human traffickers, travel a very perilous journey, and face very brutal treatment by the Thai navy and the Malaysian navy. Yet, they are still willing to take that risk,” Phasuk said.

“This means that the situation both in Burma and Bangladesh must have reached a point where they feel like everything can be sacrificed in order to get out of there.”

Original reporting by RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Produced by Joshua Lipes. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Appeal For International Intervention To The Plights Of Desparate Rohingyas.

Mr.Habib, a representative of Rohinya community in Malaysia and member of Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization-Malaysia, had sent a letter to us, as following: 

Joint Statement:

Date : 03 March 2009

Appeal For International Intervention To The Plights Of Desparate Rohingyas.

We under signed organizations are deeply concerned over the plights of Rohingya and role of ASEAN nations as their plight require international intervention without further delay.


Fact that Rohingya is an indigenous ethnic group of Arakan, which was a separated region until Burma’s 3rd emperor in 1824, and it was neither falled into part of British nor Burma.  Later, although Arakan falled into Burma, its ethnic Rohingyas were not recognized by later Burma rulers, as well as, trying to label them as Bangali when government failed to materialize non-Muslim state. However, it is undeniable history that the Rohingyas have rooted in Arakan since 7th Century AD.


In every power transition periods, the Rohingyas were victimized by various means. Widely in later 1962 military coup of dictator Ne Win, Rohingya became the most oppressed group in Burma and some others minorities as well. And it would be remained until genuine federal democracy system were formed rather than changing with people elected government in Burma. Whereas, UNHCR deal a little with the Rohingya plight since 1992. After loaded as a regional problem for its neighbor countries, it was discussed in  ASEAN’s 14th summit, Hua Hin, Thailand, on Feb 27 – 1st March 2009  .


We are very much thankful to host authorities for hosting us unavoidably against their legislations. We also acknowledge that unless having a proper legislation, acception like in the past and present in country of refuge, will not be paved protection for them and it will be closed to violate.


Based on our decades long experiences and gaining uncertain situation in some countries of refuge, relocation into any signatory country is only a way to find permanent solution. We know that the role of ASEAN could close in decreasing various conflicts in the country. But, to remove the doubt of ASEAN or its member states’ commitment could bring proactive achievement for the entire Burmese people, is required to substitute with people elected government. 


Therefore, ASEAN member state should hand over the refugees to concern agency UNHCR, as well as, to practice International Customary laws. And Rohingyas are in need to be recognized as refugees from Burma on their unexpected arrival into various regions,  while Rohingyas were branded as unidentified people in Burma.


Thus, we extend our continuous encouragement of urgent intervention by resettlement countries, as an only essential step that required to  international solution for their long standing problems. We have also received refugees’ personal testimonies for resettlement process. Their rights to meet with safety net process through relocation to signatory country, which would not be violated by unworkable regional dimension.


This statement is endorsed by:


Sincerely yours,


1.Rohingya Information Center (RIC)              

2.Rohingya Information Center (RIC-ABIM)

3.Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC)

4.Organization of Refugee Rohingya Woman, Malaysia (ORRWM)

5.Community Rohingya Islam Pro-Democracy Organization (CRIPDO)

6.Organization of Rohingya Stateless in Malaysia (ORSM)

7.Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization, Malaysia (MERHROM)


Contact person ( Habib : +(60) 12 2595185 )



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