Monthly Archives: December 2010

More Land in Arakan State Confiscated for Railway


Irrawaddy news, 23rd Dec 2010,

More residents in Burma’s western Arakan (Rakhine) State suffer as their farm land and plantations have been confiscated or damaged due to a railway project in the area, according to local sources.

“Apart from receiving no compensation, we weren’t even informed that our lands were confiscated. Some rubber plantations located along the railway were also destroyed,†a resident in the construction area told The Irrawaddy. He said about two acres of his land were confiscated and part of his rubber plantation was destroyed.

Local residents said that the authorities had confiscated more than 1,000 acres of land between Mrauk U and Kyauk Taw townships, which are on the projected Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway line.

Last month, several ancient temples and cultural heritage sites in Mrauk U Township were damaged or destroyed because they were located on the planned railway route, according to local residents.

“By building this railway, the military regime is launching a psychological offensive against local people, rather than developing our area. It has destroyed what the locals value one by one, and it does as it wants,†said a Mrauk U resident.

He said the construction of the railway on ancient cultural land in Mrauk U began on Nov. 7. Authorities later altered sections of the route because of repeated objections from local residents.

The route is now affecting land around the Arakan State’s most ancient city of Dannyawaddy, he said.

A resident of Kyauk Taw told The Irrawaddy that a dispute broke out recently between the army and Myanma Railway officials after an earth excavator that was used in the railway construction work between Kyauk Taw and Mrauk U damaged underground cables connecting local army posts.

“A battalion commander ordered them to stop the construction work immediately after their property was damaged,†he said.

The order came from the commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 377 on Dec. 17. LIBs 377, 378 and 540 are based in the area, he said.

According to residents of Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, the regime has been working on the railway line in Arakan State since 2009. Several sections have been completed, they said, but some completed sections, especially in the Sittwe area, frequently need to be repaired.

The Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway is scheduled to be part of the regime’s nationwide railway network.

Forced refugee return angers UN


source from dvb, 28th Dec 2010,

The UN refugee agency on Tuesday raised concerns over Thailand’s move to forcibly return a group of displaced Burmese nationals on Christmas day, saying that conditions were not met for safe returns.

"The UN refugee agency is concerned over the circumstances of the return of some 166 Myanmar [Burmese] nationals seeking temporary protection from Thailand on 25 December," it said in a statement.

Thai authorities had expelled a group of displaced people from Burma "including 50 women and over 70 children" to their home country, even though the group had told the UNHCR that they were not ready to return due to security concerns.

"UNHCR appeals to the Royal Thai Government that returns should take place on a strictly voluntary basis, and only when conditions are in place to return in safety and dignity," stressed the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"These conditions were not met on 25 December," it noted. "In the past few weeks, UNHCR had already expressed its concern to the Royal Thai Government over the hasty manner in which some returns took place, where some persons returned home only to have to flee again when fighting resumed shortly afterwards," it added.

Among the recently returned group, many had fled their villages on more than one occasion since November due to clashes in the region.

In early November, about 20,000 people fled Burma into Thailand to escape fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels.

Voyagers to Malaysia resume their journeys


Source from Kaladan Press, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: Since December 18, voyagers heading to Malaysia, mostly Rohingya people from Arakan State and Bangladesh, have resumed their journeys from Bangladesh, said a local from Shapuri Dip who prefers not to be named.

On December 18, nearly 67 such voyagers set out towards Malaysia in wooden boats from the Shapuri Dip coastline in Bangladesh while the sea was calm. They hope to eventually reach Thailand, Indonesia, India or Malaysia.

The captain of the boats is Hela Luddin, a Bangladeshi who hails from Monda Bill village of Sa Pyin Union in Cox’s Bazaar district.

Most of the boats’ passengers are Rohingyas who recently crossed the Burma-Bangladesh border and stayed in Shapuri Dip in local houses after paying Taka 200 per day for food and accommodation.

In addition, on December 19, another boat with 30 people, including Rohingyas and Bengalis, departed for Malaysia but was stranded at the Nazira Point of Cox’s Bazaar on December 20 after its engine had trouble. It left for Malaysia from the Bakkhali River of Chowkoria Union in Cox’s Bazaar, said a local from Cox’s Bazaar who declined to give his name.

After receiving information, the police of Cox’s Bazaar Town arrested the 30 boat people on December 20. The travelers were brought to the police station and detained for further questioning.

Mohamed Shahjan, the officer in charge of the Mordern Police Station, confirmed that the police were not able to arrest the trafficker as he successfully fled from the scene as the police arrived.

The stranded boat people are originally from Cox’s Bazaar, Teknaf, Ukyiya, Chowkoria, and Chatkhaniya, and some are from Burma, the police said.

Following the incident, the Bangladesh-Burma border was strengthened by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), said a trader from Teknaf, a border town.

The traffickers collected Kyat 15,000–25,000 per head from those who wanted to go to Malaysia by sea, said one of the relatives of the boat people.

If the local Bangladeshi authorities do not stop boat people from attempting risky journeys to Malaysia along the sea route, the travelers could face more difficulties, a human rights worker said.

The Rohingyas have the unfortunate distinction of being the most devastated people in Burma. Rohingya people have been the target of abuse by the Burmese military for decades.

At present, Rohingya people are facing an increased risk of state violence and coercion after a barbed wire fence was constructed along the Burma-Bangladesh border. In relation to the fence, incidences of forced labor and other abuses have increased, said a businessman from Maungdaw who prefers not to be named.

A villager elder from northern Arakan State said, “People leave the country because of arbitrary arrests, torture and extortion, movement restrictions, forced labor, and joblessness.”

In Bangladesh unregistered refugees are not allowed to go out from their camps to work to support their family members. Therefore, refugees want to go to Malaysia, taking risks in wooden boats, said a refugee leader.

In 2009, thousands of Rohingya people fled Burma in search of a better life and because of persecution, such as denial of citizenship and tight restrictions on movement, employment and religious freedom. Many of them made it across the dangerous sea, crossing over in crowded boats to Thailand where they were housed in camps.

However, other boat people were towed out to deep sea without engines, food, or water and set adrift by Thai authorities. They were also tortured and beaten up. Hundreds are thought to have died as a result.

Despite the difficulties and dangers, on January 15 of this year, about 60 boat people already left for Malaysia in wooden boats from Cox’s Bazaar coastline in Bangladesh. Another boat with 80 boat people left for Malaysia from Cox’s Bazaar on January 30.

“Every year, traffickers are organizing voyages to Malaysia and sending people towards Malaysia by deadly sea routes with small boats and more people. Sometimes the traffickers trick the voyagers, dropping them inside Bangladesh but saying they have reached Malaysia,” said a member of a watch group for boat people.

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Muslim Victims of Cyclone Giri Face Discrimination


Letter to humanitarian communities by a youth Kyaw Zan from Myebon,

As we know, the recent cyclone giri displaced more than 100,000 people to homeless and killing at least 45 people while over 250,000 people were affected mainly in Kyaukfru, Myebon, Minbya and Pawtaw townships of Arakan state, Burma.

The distructions recorded as Burma’s the second largest disaster after Cyclone Nargis. But, the sources of devastations and detriments are unseenable by international communities. The victims needed both emergency and recovery assistances for normalization.

Despite the emergency assistences have been reached slowly and disributed by all humanitarian partners including government agencies, authorities, local NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies, the last hand-pickers are locals. The letter reveals they did not distribute yet to any Muslim victims. Some of their neighbour Rakhines had been berated for pointing to assist equally to those needy Muslim victims who are being more vulnerable than them.

Total affected Muslim family lists is estimated as; about 300 Muslim families from Fishing village and Prangfru village of Kyaukfru township, about 200 Muslim families from Myebon township, and some Muslim families from Minbya township. Although the emergency and a little recovery assistances have been supplied in Kyaukfru, Myebon and Minbya townships, Muslim victims were isolated from such assistances.

This are unacceptable behaviours against the victims therefore the aid supply groups require to monitor its workers to supply in equal term without any distinction.

Muslim Victims of Cyclone Giri Face Discrimination


Letter to humanitarian communities by a youth Kyaw Zan from Myebon,

As we know, the recent cyclone giri displaced more than 100,000 people to homeless and killing at least 45 people while over 250,000 people were affected mainly in Kyaukfru, Myebon, Minbya and Pawtaw townships of Arakan state, Burma.

The distructions recorded as Burma’s the second largest disaster after Cyclone Nargis. But, the sources of devastations and detriments are unseenable by international communities. The victims needed both emergency and recovery assistances for normalization.

Despite the emergency assistences have been reached slowly and disributed by all humanitarian partners including government agencies, authorities, local NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies, the last hand-pickers are locals. The letter reveals they did not distribute yet to any Muslim victims. Some of their neighbour Rakhines had been berated for pointing to assist equally to those needy Muslim victims who are being more vulnerable than them.

Total affected Muslim family lists is estimated as; about 300 Muslim families from Fishing village and Prangfru village of Kyaukfru township, about 200 Muslim families from Myebon township, and some Muslim families from Minbya township. Although the emergency and a little recovery assistances have been supplied in Kyaukfru, Myebon and Minbya townships, Muslim victims were isolated from such assistances.

This are unacceptable behaviours against the victims therefore the aid supply groups require to monitor its workers to supply in equal term without any distinction.

SPOTLIGHT: CHILDREN AT WORK When family’s livelihood comes first


source from nst, 01 Dec 2010,

THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Nor Hafiza has the kind of smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. Her pretty face has an inquisitive and eager-to-please manner that endears her to anyone immediately.

She seems innocent and naive, yet mature at the same time. Her background may have something to do with her growing up too soon.

She smiles as she talks about how she wakes up every morning at five. From her home in a dilapidated squatter area in Sabah’s east coast town of Lahad Datu, where she lives with her mother and siblings, she takes a 20-minute walk.

This does not bring her to school, where she longs to be, but to a coffee shop in town, where she has been working as a waitress for a few months now.

She sweeps, mops, cleans, takes orders from customers and serves them food and drinks.

She works from 6am to 6pm six days a week and earns RM150 a month.

That’s more hours than what many adults put in, but Nor Hafiza doesn’t complain.

She took the job because she wanted to help her mother out. She used to go to school, but had to stop when the family could no longer afford it.

"My father works in a plantation in Tawau and I only see him a few times a year. I saw my mum trying to make ends meet and I just wanted to help her."

She is the sixth child out of nine children born to Indonesian parents. Her elder sisters, aged 15 and 18, also work.

"When I gave my mum my first salary, she asked me where I got the money from. When I told her about the job, she was a little shocked at first and said I was still too young. But eventually she said thank you.

"I think in the end, she was just relieved to have some extra income for the rest of my family."

Nor Hafiza dreams of becoming a teacher one day.

Salasiah Saldy, 14, is luckier.

She lives with her parents at an oil palm plantation with three of her siblings. Two of her elder siblings are studying in Indonesia, where her parents are from.

Like many of her classmates, she goes to school five days a week but on weekends and school holidays, she joins her parents on the plantation where she helps to gather harvested oil palm fruit.

"It’s not hard work. At least I get to go to school during the weekdays. Some of the other children don’t, because they cannot afford it or their parents want them to help on the fields," she said.

"Many children at plantations help their parents out this way. It’s not hard work, but the problem is they don’t get an education, which means a bleak future for them," said Borneo Child Aid project director Torben Venning.

Their 113 non-profit schools in the plantations and two in the urban areas provide primary education for more than 9,000 children, most of whom are children of the workers.

The schools are funded by oil palm companies and other corporations, and partly by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which is also working with the task force, Teachers Foundation and the Education Ministry to set up an educational centre in Kota Kinabalu for about 200 refugee, stateless and undocumented children.

"Child labour robs the child of the opportunity of education," said Unicef representative to Malaysia, Hans Olsen.

"Most of them live in remote areas and have no access to school facilities. Those who live in towns may not have documents, so they cannot go to formal school. We have to solve this, even though it is not easy."

Read more: <b>SPOTLIGHT: CHILDREN AT WORK</b><br>When family’s livelihood comes first http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/13kid2/Article/#ixzz175YUyCLp

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