Monthly Archives: March 2011

History Repeats Itself In Burma – Dictatorship Rebrands Itself Again


30 March 2011, Burma Campaign UK,

Burma’s Dictator, Than Shwe, has today officially disbanded the State Peace and Development Council, the body through which Burma’s dictators have ruled the country since 1997. However, Burma Campaign UK today warned that dictatorship remains alive and well in Burma, guaranteed by a new Constitution and a new political infrastructure.

The transfer of power from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to a new all-powerful body, the National Defence and Security Council, is just the latest in a series of rebrandings since the establishment of the first dictatorship in Burma in 1962.

There are many parallels between the current rebranding, and that undertaken by General Ne Win between 1972 and 1974. Senior General Than Shwe has clearly taken these steps as a blueprint for his so-called roadmap to democracy.

Burma’s first dictatorship began in 1962, led by General Ne Win, under the name of the Revolutionary Council. At the same time he promoted the Burma Socialist Programme Party as a so-called grassroots political face for the dictatorship. Than Shwe has followed a similar path with the Union Solidarity Development Association, of which he was President, and which transformed into the Union Solidarity and Development Party ahead of the elections.

Like Ne Win, Than Shwe also drafted a new constitution designed to legalise his rule and give it a civilian face. Than Shwe also followed Ne Win’s blueprint in having a rigged referendum to approve that Constitution. Ne Win also held a sham election and created a rubber stamp Parliament, just as Than Shwe has now done. In another similarity Ne Win also had a handful of civilians in government positions in his dictatorship.

Following the introduction of the new Constitution in 1974, and a supposed transition from military to civilian dictatorship, Ne Win ruled for a further 14 years. 37 years later, there is still dictatorship in Burma.

This history helps to explain why most people in Burma are largely disinterested in the current political structures being created in Burma, as was shown by the low turnout in the election. They do not see any significant change. They have seen it all before. Excitement about these changes is largely confined to diplomatic circles, and those who are politically active in Rangoon. Understanding this history is also important in understanding the decision by the National League for Democracy not to take part in this sham process.

Whether or not the dictatorship brands itself the Revolutionary Council, the Central Committee of the Burma Socialist Programme Party, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the State Peace and Development Council, or, as now, the National Defence and Security Council, it is still a dictatorship. Whether or not it is led by Ne Win, Maung Maung, Than Shwe, or Thein Sein, it is still a dictatorship. Whether or not it contains a handful of civilians, or ex-military people, it is still a dictatorship.

The real facts on the ground are that there are no new freedoms, that human rights abuses continue, and that those ruling Burma clearly have no intention of introducing any genuine reforms to improve human rights or move towards democracy.

"What we are seeing in Burma today is a rebranding, not reform," said Mark Farmaner, Director at Burma Campaign UK. "It’s groundhog day for the people of Burma, dictatorship is alive and well, and large parts of the international community seem to have been fooled by its shiny new branding."

Burmese Regime Urged to Respect Laws of War


Irrawaddy news, 25 March 2011

A US-based human rights group has sent an open letter to Burma’s ruling regime urging it to respect international humanitarian laws, or “laws of war,†and cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes by the Burmese military.

The letter, addressed to the regime’s judge advocate general, Maj-Gen Yar Pyae, and signed by James Ross, the legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), also urged the regime to ensure that those responsible for abuses are held accountable.

“The army leadership needs to send the message that abuses must stop, and enforce that message by prosecuting the perpetrators,†the letter said.

Burmese military forces have long been accused of directly targeting civilians for attack in a number of ethnic minority areas, including in Karen, Karenni, Shan, Chin and Arakan states.

The letter cited a variety of offenses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence against women and girls, forced labor, targeting of food production and other objects indispensable to the survival of the population, and confiscation of property.

The regime and other armed groups in Burma have also been criticized for using anti-personnel landmines and actively recruiting and deploying child soldiers. There have also been widespread reports of the junta using prisoners as army porters, in some cases even forcing them to act as human minesweepers.

The letter said that the regime should show it is serious about addressing these issues by “expressing a willingness to cooperate with a proposal to establish a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on laws-of-war and human rights violations.â€

Such a move would “help curtail abuses by the country’s warring parties,†Ross said. “It would also open the door within the country for serious discussions about justice and accountability.â€

Asylum-seekers Crisis Is Not Over in Australia


By James,

I am stressed to describe the details about asylum-seeker crisis in Australia. The recent crisis in Christmas Island was shocked among Australians. It sparked from after a rejected Iranian asylum-seeker was informed by newly comer immigration officer that he could be kept up to 4 years like now.

 
 

Photo: theasutralian.com , "Fire event in North West Point IDC of Christmas Island"

 

On 14 Mar 2011, immigration minister Christ Bowen said, “at 3.37am this morning the Australian Federal Police determined that it was necessary to use tear gas to quell this protest.” source: http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/police-use-tear-gas-to-recapture-asylum-seekers/story-e6frg12c-1226021140286

Also not clearly knew about the current riot in Christmas Island was whether tactically paved by whom or how, in order to avoid immigration and police departments have been widely criticized for using tear-gases and beanbag bullets over unarmed asylum-seekers detained in North West Point Detention of Christmas Island.

 

People involved in this events or previous occasions are prolong detainee asylum-seekers who escaped from persecutions and detaining long-term in Australia for seeking protection. Their frustration with the process is critic day by day so that they are craving to get deeper attention to their cases and family left behind, due to lack of credible and accountable outcomes. That made to stage to an expression in order to get public attention. But the discontinuous of correspondence by immigration during their expression, caused unexpected outcomes..

 

As we know, immigration never come to know during the protest accordance with its policy and expecting for voluntarily fall down by asylumseeker-themselves. The department also responded during the protest that the such behaviour will delay or stop the process. It means the department has in placed with a technical punishment action against their right of expression. Their concern quarter immigration never came to bargain for their expression and technically blended it as protest then sending Serco staffs, unrelated and order follower contractor of detention facility. Serco staffs just usually urges to halt from any form of protesting without any engagement of claimants. Once Serco staffs can’t achieve negotiation to return to normal condition, Serco easily claimed that threatening and insulting of its staffs.

Eventually, the situation was denounced as riot and handed over to police by Serco backed by immigration planned to handle unarmed vulnerable asylum-seekers by the use of indirect threatening by armed forces. Police is also senior order follower who don’t listen to their concerns nor have experience with asylum-seekers. The deal is like that “the child will not stop from crying unless giving a sweet first.” Therefore, the protest is not discontinued. It is a visible root cause to deteriorate the situation due to lacked of appropriate engagement.

 

We might have pledge mutual engageable and negotiable way to ease such crisis as every case has a reason of destiny. Even though in minor cases, Serco staffs just simply eager to follow the order of DIAC and try to solve by manhandling which easily ignites confrontation or protest. The immigration is responsible for the whatever raising in detention and thus it might be eased by immigration itself.

They are desperate and vulnerable people then their freely expression should not be punished by any means. We professional and intellectual people are not back warded therefore we must solve them kindly and treat them fairly. The crisis is not over yet when mandatory detention system is uphold hereupon we should find workable and solvable way for it and politicians should be enhanced to follow the right path and to guide the crisis accurately.

 

The immigration is also responsible for wasting government budget by keeping people in long-term detention and expending new detention facilities. The system also creates invisible stresses among detainees and incurable mental and physical damages. As well as, it violates international laws and a serious concern for the degrading of their rights.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) says asylum seekers could sue the Commonwealth for hundreds of thousands of dollars for any physical or mental harm suffered while held in detention. (source:

http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/newshome/9039786/asylum-seekers-likely-to-sue-lawyer/3/ )

 

Despite ASIO told at ABC news on that its process takes 66 days for now and 57 days for last year, pending about thousand asylum-seekers who are found to be refugees have been since the whole last year to now. ASIO, the spy agency is hindering or delaying bureaucratically from liberty of desperate people by pointing to security. While their contractor migration agents do not demonstrate for further intervention through judicial review rather than its scope of work.

In last year the mid of October, immigration minister promised the family and children asylum-seekers to be released into community by June but only one third have been transferred up to date while the rest are detaining in one year. Then, minister Bowen had admitted recently over the delaying matters of transferring into community by stating various excuses.

 

However, the government’s recent notice issued on 17 Mar 2011, calmed the situation. Now, asylum-seekers rely on the notice stating, “security checking for people whose refugee claims have now been accepted will be completed progressively by the end of April”. (source: http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/media_releases/912 )

If the government notice would be unworked or delayed for pending security cases, there is no grantee for any future sparks of strike or riot or how.

related article: Violence on island of broken promises, http://www.smh.com.au/national/violence-on-island-of-broken-promises-20110325-1ca13.html

 

More than 400 Burmese migrant workers arrested in Thailand


Mizzima news, 25 March 2011

Bangkok (Mizzima) – Thai police rounded up more than 400 Burmese migrant workers at the V&K Pineapple Canning Company Factory in Ratchaburi on Friday morning.

Khaing Zaw Naing, who has legally worked at the factory for three years, told Mizzima that four hundred, ‘maybe 500 workers’ were arrested.

Most of the workers who were arrested did not have work permits or residence permits. Some had temporary passports. Thai authorities said that although some of workers had temporary passports, they had changed jobs without permission and were therefore arrested.

About 1,000 Burmese workers are employed in the factory.

About 812,000 workers out of 2 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are legal, according to the Thai Labour Ministry.

Joint Press Release: Concern on Narinjara’s concocted news linking Rohingyas with Taliban


Kaladan Press, 24 March 2011,

Concern on Narinjara’s concocted news linking Rohingyas with Taliban

We, the undersigned Rohingya organisations, strongly condemn the Narinjara News Agency for its disinformation of describing the innocent Rohigya people as suspected Talibans.

According to a pre-plan to extort money from the Rohingyas, the Nasaka collaborators informed the Nasaka  of the area that some insurgents had entered  in North Maungdaw and  held a meeting with people in Kamaung Seik village (Fokira Bazar) whereupon, taking advantage of opportunities and circumstances, the Nasaka started arresting and torturing the innocent villagers arbitrarily. So far, about 50 innocent Rohingya villagers were arrested under false and concocted allegation of having link with insurgents which Narinjara fabricated as Talibans in its news on 20 March, 2011. It has exaggerated news giving cry wolf mentioning the name of one imaginary Taliban Maulvi Harun as imparting combat and bomb making training to the villagers in the jungles. It further concocted that a seal and documents, which identified them as members of the Taliban, were seized. According to Irrawaddy news of March 22, 2011, the Narinjara editor Khaing Mrat Kyaw said, “Nasaka told us about Maulvi Harun, who entered the country from Bangladesh and had given training.” It hints his involvement in the plan of the Nasaka against the innocent Rohingya villagers.

To make the matter worse, Narinjara embroidered this false news by putting on it an unrelated picture of masked Afghan Taliban fighters holding RPG with intent to confuse them with Rohingyas and thereby to mislead the minds of the people.  The head of the Thailand based Arakan Project Chris Lewa told DBV that “there was no evidence to link the group to mujahideen groups”. This is a blatant lie, without any evidence, and is a politically motivated report aims at discrediting and tarnishing the image of one of the world’s most persecuted, underrepresented and voiceless peoples – the Rohingya — for being Muslims. We demand Narinjara to put up any evidences to substantiate its misleading report that it stage-managed by taking advantage out of the Rohingya people’s tragedy created by Nasaka and vested interest groups that resulted in the serious human rights violations by the regime.

Despite Narinjara’s callous effort, on 21 March 2011, the director of Nasaka Lt. Col. Aung Gyi, said in a public gathering of 300 people  at the Maungnama Madrassa (religious school) in Maungdaw Township, which was attended by village authorities, elders, and religious leaders, that  the rumour of “Taliban link” was  a fake  report and was a creation out of the enmity between the local members of the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) and the Rohingya political party of National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) both of which had contested in 7 November 2010 national elections. He continued that all innocent people who were arrested on suspicion will be released soon on the recommendations of the village authorities, elders and religious leaders after the completion of enquiry.

Despite protests from Rohingya civil societies time after time, the Narinjara News is still actively engaged in making false news against the Rohingya people thus contributing persecution of Rohingyas by the regime’s brute forces like Nasaka, army, police and other repressive functionaries.

We are dismayed that the Burmese Section of the BBC World and other media made similar reports based on the concocted news of Narinjara. Despite concern raised with BBC about the bias report of Narinjara’s editor Khaing Mrat Kyaw, who is also a BBC correspondent in Bangladesh, BBC continues to relay sensitive news that he incorrectly reported about the Rohingya people without proper investigation.

Meanwhile, we invite the attention of the media groups, human rights and democratic organisations, including Burma News International (BNI), to the fact that the activities of the Narinjara is objectionable, particularly in matters relating to the promotion of human rights, democracy and ethnic harmony in Arakan.

National Democratic Party for Human Rights (in exile) (NDPHR (in exile)
Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
Arakanese Rohingya Community in Thailand (ARCT)
Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan (BRAJ)
Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA)
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
Rohingya Community in Norway (RCN)

For more information, please contact:

AFK Jilani     +880-1674811079
Hla Aung     + 33-629258793
Zaw Min Htut + 8180 30835327

THAILAND: No Safe Refugee


source from Refugees International, 24 Mar 2011

for pdf:

Policy recommendations

  • Donor governments should pressure the Royal Thai Army to permit those fleeing fighting to enter Thailand and allow returns only in a safe and voluntary manner.
  • Donor governments and UNHCR should press the Royal Thai Government to re-establish and sustain the Provincial Admissions Boards to screen and register new arrivals according to international refugee standards.
  • Donor governments, particularly the European Commission, should coordinate efforts to restore funding for refugee and cross-border assistance programs.

The eruption of conflict between the Burmese military and an ethnic rebel faction in eastern Burma has forced over 30,000 people to flee to Thailand since November 2010. Skirmishes are ongoing and both parties have planted landmines in people’s villages and farmlands. While the Thai government has a long-standing policy of providing refuge for “those fleeing fighting,” the Thai army is pressuring Burmese to return prematurely and restricting aid agencies. Unless the Thai Government strengthens its policy to protect those fleeing fighting and persecution, current and future refugees will have no choice but to join the ranks of millions of undocumented and unprotected migrant workers in Thailand.

Background

In 2009, Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) demanded that ethnic ceasefire groups turn over their weapons and integrate into the military forces (Tatmadaw) as a Border Guard Force under its control. The latest outbreak of fighting began when a Democratic Karen Buddhist Army faction, unhappy with the lack of financial incentives offered by the border guard deal, launched an offensive against SPDC troops in the border towns of Myawaddy and Three Pagodas Pass on November 7th, 2010.

The offensive forced approximately 22,000 people to flee to Thailand. While local authorities, UNHCR, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Thai citizens quickly mobilized to provide assistance in the first two days, the Thai army ordered the refugees to return as soon as open hostilities ceased in the towns. When fighting shifted to rural districts, an additional 10,000 people were displaced into Thailand. Some went to the few official refugee sites managed by the Thai army, where NGOs and UNHCR were permitted to provide assistance during specified hours. However, the Thai army would only permit refugees to stay during periods of active fighting and then forced them back across the border within hours of gunshots or mortar fire ending. Some refugees told Refugees International (RI) that they had been forced to return up to five times and one woman who had given birth during the fighting said she had been pushed back twice.

The last official site closed in February and refugees are now dispersed along both sides of the river border and in Thai villages. Community-based organizations, which have no legal status to operate in Thailand, are now the only channel for reaching the refugees in unofficial sites. NGOs are barred from visiting sites and have been accused by Thai authorities of creating pull factors for refugees. UNHCR and NGOs fear that their visits would attract the attention of the Thai army, who would then force back the refugees. In one case, Thai soldiers set fire to refugees’ shelters and belongings to prevent their return to Thailand.

Increase Funding for Refugees and IDPs

The Tatmadaw continues to wage a systematic campaign against civilians, including forced labor, land confiscations, displacement, sexual violence and the destruction of property. These abuses by the army have resulted in a constant stream of people arriving in refugee camps in Thailand. However, donor governments have not provided the funding necessary to provide adequate food, shelter, sanitation and other assistance to Burmese refugees and IDPs.

The Thailand-Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), which aids camp residents, was forced to cut its budget “to the bone,” by $9 million last year. In northern Karen State, the plight of 27,000 internally displaced people is compounded by a poor harvest, leaving them with only enough food to last until April. Reductions in donor funding mean they will not receive food aid, which is now limited to displaced groups recently attacked by armed forces. The European Commission’s humanitarian office (ECHO), the main donor for cross-border aid, has cut its contributions by 25% since 2009. ECHO is also looking to reduce contributions to refugee programs to press the Thai government to expand livelihood opportunities, but in the absence of changes to Thai policy, these cuts are highly premature.

In the unofficial sites RI visited, a lack of funding has led to squalid living conditions for the recent refugees. This is not sustainable. Some of the unofficial sites lacked latrines. People were living under tarps propped up with bamboo with plastic mats on the ground. NGOs are already short of funds and with the rainy season beginning in May, refugees’ options are running out. Most of the displaced along the border do not want to enter Thai refugee camps, but for the most vulnerable, it is their only choice.

The Thai government and aid agencies must be prepared for new waves of refugees entering Thailand over the coming months. The majority of armed groups in Burma rejected the SPDC’s proposal to join the BGF and the situation remains tense. According to reports, the SPDC is moving more troops into Shan and Kachin states, and a dozen ethnic armed groups recently formed a military alliance. While these groups have little chance of rolling back the SPDC’s territorial gains, the possibility of further outbreaks of armed conflict is real.

Restore the Provincial Admissions Boards

Over the past 27 years, the refugee camps sites, which are still termed “temporary shelters,” have been consolidated into 9 camps along the border, housing approximately 140,000 people, according to the TBBC. The Thai government and UNHCR only recognize about 83,000 people, but TBBC provides food rations for the entire population. In February, the Thai government stated that only registered refugees can receive food rations and in Tham Hin camp, authorities only permitted TBBC to give rations to vulnerable unregistered residents. The implementation of these guidelines will have serious consequences for the health and security of all camp residents.

Large-scale resettlement, particularly to the U.S., has provided over 60,000 Burmese refugees with new lives abroad. Now donor governments and the Thai government complain that the total camp population has remained the same. While resettlement has been a draw for some, the vast majority of the refugees have legitimate fears of returning home. Ongoing fighting, arbitrary arrests and the planting of new landmines dramatically reduce the possibility for safe and voluntary returns.

Although Burmese refugee camps have existed for almost three decades, there has never been a Thai government mechanism to process new arrivals on a continuous basis. In 2006, the Provincial Admissions Boards (PABs) were established to assess the backlog of unregistered camp residents and new arrivals, but were closed to subsequent arrivals. In 2009, at the urging of UNHCR and NGOs, the Thai government piloted a process to pre-screen unregistered residents in four camps, and the results were sent to National Security Council for approval. Unofficial results were reported to be highly disparate, with acceptance rates of over 90% in some camps and less than 3% in others. Nearly two years after the pre-screening exercise was conducted, there has been no action from the Thai government.

Conclusion

As the humanitarian needs inside Burma remain substantial, Refugees International continues to insist that increasing humanitarian aid inside Burma should not come at the expense of refugee programs in the region. For decades, Thailand has been a generous host to refugees from neighboring countries, but it is clear that humanitarian space is constricting and fatigue has set in, whether driven by the lack of sustainable solutions or growing economic interests in Burma. The Thai government is currently besieged by its own domestic problems, as well as a border dispute with Cambodia. The U.S. and other donor governments, in cooperation with the Thai government, have done a formidable job in providing resettlement and humanitarian assistance, but it is time for donor governments to expand humanitarian assistance and access inside Burma while also covering the persisting needs of refugees in Burma’s neighboring countries and through cross-border aid.

Advocate Lynn Yoshikawa assessed the humanitarian needs of Burmese refugees in Thailand in February 2011.

800 fishermen saved off Tenasserim coast of Burma


DVB, 22 March 2011800 fishermen saved off Tenasserim coast thumbnail

A rescue boat brings the survivors to Tennasserim division’s shoreline (DVB)

Hundreds of Burmese fishermen found adrift at sea following a heavy storm last week have been rescued and were yesterday brought back to shore in southeastern Burma.

Around 800 men had been drifting for three days after extreme weather tipped several barges and boats off the coast of Tenasserim division on 16 March.

“At first, there were only two people on our barge but other survivors started climbing onto it,” said one fisherman, who was yesterday brought to Tenasserim division’s Kawthaung town, adding that he suspected there had been up to 60 groups of people floating at sea.

“Other people who we saw in the sea are likely to have died – some were clinging on to buckets and some were naked,” he continued.

Most of the survivors are reportedly in good health. One man who has been helping those who made it to Kawthuang said that people were continuing to arrive as of last night and were being given clothing and food.

Authorities are questioning the men, who are being kept at a school until “a five star ship arrives to take them to their homes” which are in the Irrawaddy delta’s Labutta, Hpyarpon and Daydaye townships, the man said. That was likely to happen sometime next week.

The Weekly Eleven news journal said on Monday that around 600 fishermen were drift in the Gulf of Martaban before being rescued by Burmese navy and taken to Rangoon’s Nang Thida port, while other sources put the figure closer to 1000.

Linking Taliban is a creation: Nasaka director


Kaladan Press, 21 March 2011

Maungdaw, Arakan State: The information of spreading rumor about linking with Taliban and villagers of Kamaung Seik (Fokira Bazaar) in Maungdaw north is a creation, according to Nasaka official.

The Burma border security force, or Nasaka Director Lt. Col Aung Gyi said to the public in a meeting held at Maungnama Madrasa of Maungdaw Township today afternoon that the linking with Taliban is a creation, the official said.

“The linking with Taliban with the villagers of Kamaung Seik village under the Nasaka area number 2 is a creation of some political offences between USDP and NDPD supporters.”

“It was found after inquiring in the area.”

“We had arrested some villagers after getting information of linking with Taliban. We will release all the innocent people after interrogation. We also need recommendations from village authorities, elders and religious leaders.”  

In the meeting, about 300 people participated, among them village authorities, local elders, religious leaders and villagers of nearby villages.  

During the last week of February of this year, two persons entered Maungdaw North from Bangladesh where they gathered some local villagers in hopes of forming an understanding between the Union Solidarity and Development Party, or USDP and National Democratic Party for Development, or NDPD groups—two groups that clashed during the national elections held on November 7, 2010. Most villagers supported the NDPD candidates, so the local authorities and Nasaka collaborators were very angry with the supporters of NDPD candidates.

“But one of the Nasaka collaborators informed the Nasaka that a group of insurgents had entered Burma and held a meeting with local villagers. Taking this opportunity, the Nasaka arbitrarily arrested people, tortured them, and forced them to admit that they had links to insurgents,” the elder said.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the Arakanese Rohingya community consented to the discussion with insurgents. It is just an excuse for the Nasaka to charge, harass, and extort money from the Arakanese Rohingya community.”

In Kamaung Seik (Fokira Bazaar), more than 20 villagers have been arrested and detained in the different Nasaka sectors from one to six in Maungdaw Township. There are a total of eight Nasaka areas (sectors) in Maungdaw Township.

In addition, the Nasaka arrested other four villagers—namely Sayed Amin (22), son of Md. Shoffi, Master Zahid Alam (44), son of Noor Ahmed, Abuya (38), son of Sher Muluk, and Sayed Alam (42), son of Mir Ahmed—last night. All of the arrestees belong to Latpuya Village under the Kwan Thipian Village Tract of Maungdaw Township.

Blame detention centres, not detainees


By Andrew HamiltonEureka Street, 21 March  2011
 
Taken together the recent events in remote detention centres are both deplorable and predictable.
The disturbances at facilities housing minors, the use of tear gas against demonstrators at Christmas Island, the approval of such measures by the Minister the next day, the riots and destruction of property on Thursday evening after presently unspecified letters were received by detainees, the demonstrations in Curtin, and the death of a young asylum seeker in Weipa, are simply deplorable.
They cause grief to the detainees, to the officers supervising the centres, to the police and to the surrounding communities.
But these events are wholly predictable. When you place vulnerable people, mainly young men, in remote places for long periods of time, they are driven mad. Prolonged detention of vulnerable people for no just cause, with no set end and with nothing to do, does that to people. It is like building a nuclear reactor, putting fuel rods into it, and neglecting to provide water or to care for it.
When the detention centres are also overcrowded and under resourced, it is totally predictable that people will act out their frustration and anger. When people in such a place, without adequate access to advice and support, receive impersonal Government letters, presumably containing notices of rejection, it is predictable that they will express their despair and anger.
The Government recognised the destructive nature of indefinite detention when three years ago it announced that people would only be detained if they posed a security risk. But because they never passed legislation to enshrine this principle, we now have the present disastrous situation.
Money continues to be wasted in building and staffing remote detention centres that harm the mental health of the detainees and lead to incidents such as those which we see now.
Other Government decisions have contributed to the present deplorable situation. The earlier decision to suspend the processing of applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka has both extended the time for which many asylum seekers have been detained and deepened their sense of grievance.

They know that they have committed no crime and that Australia is committed to protect refugees without respect to how they arrive. They can only see the extra months that they spend in detention as a deliberate punishment.
The length of detention and the consequent injury suffered by asylum seekers have been compounded by the Government decision to require security clearances from ASIO before releasing refugees into the community. Many people have remained locked up for over a year waiting for this clearance.
This demand is discriminatory and unnecessary. Thousands of people are admitted into Australian society as tourists or students without such clearance. If it is needed, it can be secured while living within the community.
If the present detention policy remains, the likely consequences are unfortunately also quite predictable. Asylum seekers’ mental health will continue to deteriorate. This will be reflected in more instances of self-harm and of violent protest.
Experience of police dealings with the mentally ill in many Australian states suggests that the responses to such protests will also become more violent and punitive, involving technology like stun guns and tasers. Politicians will defend their use, and blame the asylum seekers for creating the need for such measures. And if it comes to using guns and shooting asylum seekers who act out of mental illness, we shall be assured that it was necessary.
Those who defend the humanity of asylum seekers and criticise detention are used to being dismissed as bleeding hearts. Although name calling is not all that helpful, it would be tempting to respond by referring to those who defend the existing regime of detention as bleeding minds.
Could anything other than bleeding into the brain explain how one could defend the enormous financial outlay on detaining asylum seekers in remote areas, the prolongation of their detention in the sure knowledge that it will drive them crazy, the slowness of releasing children from such a regime, and the generation of conditions in which people will inevitably be injured and even killed.
Allowing asylum seekers into the community while their claims are processed would be a far more rational policy, both in economic and in ethical terms.
 
Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street. He was previously associated with Jesuit Refugee Service. 

14 Rohingya forced back to Burma from Bangladesh


Kaladan Press, 17 March 2011

Teknaf, Bangladesh: Fourteen Rohingya were arrested and pushed back to Burma by the Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB) on March 15, said a local from Shapuri Dip.

The BGB arrested the Rohingya while they were entering Bangladesh through the illegal point of Zalia Para under Teknaf Police Station.

Among the arrested were eleven males, a woman, and two children, officials said.

The officer of Battalion No. 42, Lt. Col. Mohamed Zahed Hasan, said that they were forced back to Burma on March 16, at night.

A local trader from Shapuri Dip said that the group came to Bangladesh to see their relatives in the refugee camps where Rohingya live along the Bangladeshi border.

“Most Rohingya come to Bangladesh either to visit relatives, or for better medical treatment, as they don’t get proper treatment in Arakan State, Burma.”

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