Monthly Archives: November 2011

Myanmar minorities suffer abuses despite reforms


source from AP, 29 Nov 2011

BANGKOK (AP) — Deep in jungles far from the international spotlight, Myanmar’s army continues to torture and kill civilians in campaigns to stamp out some of the world’s longest-running insurgencies.

In this undated photo released by Free Burma Ranger, Karen civilians flee the Myanmar suppression by boat in Karen state, Myanmar. Myanmar's military-backed government may have recently unveiled reforms unprecedented in half a century of despotic rule to worldwide applause. But away from the international spotlight, across large swaths of the country, its army continues to torture and kill civilians, gang rape women and turn thousands of villagers into refugees in campaigns to stamp out the world's longest running insurgencies, human rights groups say. (AP Photo/Free Burma Ranger) EDITORIAL USE ONLY NO SALESIn this undated photo released by Free Burma Ranger, Karen civilians flee the Myanmar …

Human rights groups say these ongoing atrocities against ethnic minorities serve as a reminder on the eve of a visit by the U.S. secretary of state that the reforms recently unveiled by the country’s military-backed government to worldwide applause are not benefitting everyone.

Neither the landmark visit by Hillary Rodham Clinton nor cease-fire talks are expected to soon end the plight of Myanmar’s numerous ethnic minorities or lead to the greater autonomy for which some have been fighting since independence from Great Britain in 1949.

Aid groups have reported atrocities that occurred as recently as last month — a village leader was killed, allegedly by soldiers, for helping a rebel group, his eyes gouged out and his 9-year-old son buried beside him in a shallow grave. The boy’s tongue was cut out.

With minorities making up some 40 percent of Myanmar’s 56 million people and settled in some of its most resource-rich border regions, resolution of these brutal conflicts is regarded by all sides as crucial. The fighting has uprooted more than 1 million people, now refugees within their country or in neighboring Thailand and Bangladesh.

"This is the most intractable problem facing the state since independence. I would argue it is more important than ‘democracy’ as an issue," says David Steinberg, a Myanmar scholar at Washington’s Georgetown University.

"Most minority groups want some form of federalism, but federalism is anathema to the military as they view it as the first step toward secession," he said.

While hopes are perhaps higher now than in decades, reports and interviews in recent days from inside the embattled areas are uniformly bleak.

"Even though there is activity (by the government) there has been no change in the ethnic areas. We continue to have widespread human rights violations and attacks on our villages," said Nan Dah Kler of the Karen Women Organization.

The spokesman for the Thailand border-based ethnic group urged that Clinton "keep these facts in the forefront of her mind as she talks to (the government)."

During her three-day visit, which begins Wednesday, Clinton is certain to bring up the issue when she meets President Thein Sein. But she will probably focus on pressing for greater democratic reforms, freeing political prisoners and giving opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi more maneuvering room in the political arena.

A sign that talks on the ethnic conflicts could at least be more forthright than earlier exchanges, is an unprecedented admission that the military may be committing human rights abuses, something blankly denied in the past.

"As you know there are no clean hands in conducting all sorts of war. There may be some sort of crimes committed by government troops similar to other armed forces of the rest of the world, including NATO troops in Afghanistan accused of killing innocent civilians," said Ko Ko Hlaing, an adviser to the president.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press he said such crimes were, however, not systematic and that violators face punishment under the law. The adviser also accused armed ethnic groups of extra-judicial executions, attacks on civilian trains and other human rights violations.

Ko Ko Hlaing said "positive signs" are emerging from preliminary peace negotiations, which he said would be carried out in three steps: with individual rebel groups, all the insurgencies and finally in Parliament.

Mynamar’s neighbors China and Thailand, seeking to make their frontiers safe and exploit resources of now embattled areas, are also key players. Beijing has long supported some ethnic groups by giving them outright assistance or letting them use China as a base.

Ratcheting that support up or down has given Beijing added leverage. As Myanmar warms to the U.S., some Chinese foreign policy experts are calling for more support for the ethnic groups to tweak the Myanmar government and bring it back in line.

Mizzima, an India-based exile news agency, said Kachin and government negotiators were meeting this week in China’s Yunnan Province, following earlier talks this month with the Kachin, Shan, Karen, Karenni and Chin insurgency organizations.

"There’s been no change on the ground since negotiations started, and the prospects for increased violence is high," said Bryan Erikson of Partners Relief and Development, who recently returned from Kachin State where some of the most intense fighting is taking place.

A cease-fire agreement forged in 1989 with the Kachin and other ethnic groups broke down in early June.

In a report and grisly photographs released Monday, Partners detailed a Myanmar army occupation of Nam Lim Pa village, saying it represented a "snapshot" of what was happening elsewhere in Kachin State in northern Myanmar.

About 200 troops attacked the village in early October with mortars and gunfire, killing five people, wounding others and forcing more than 1,500 residents from their homes, the account said. Soldiers looted 250 houses, a U.N. clinic and a Catholic Church.

A least three executions followed. Labang Brang Nan, a 34-year-old civilian village leader was killed because he had been providing food for the Kachin Independence Army. Found half-buried in a shallow grave, his eyes appeared to have been pulled out of their sockets along with other signs of torture. His 9-year-old son was found buried beside him. His tongue had been cut out and he had been shot numerous times in the upper body.

"No one here believes the recent moves of the dictators are sincere but there is always hope that change can come," said a message from inside Karen State, in eastern Myanmar, from the Free Burma Rangers, an American-led group providing humanitarian aid to internal refugees. The Rangers, who operate teams in all the major insurgency areas, said forced labor, use of humans as minesweepers and attacks on villagers were continuing with the army actual reinforcing its positions in some regions.

According to several ethnic women’s organizations, gang rapes were also increasing. In a letter to Clinton last week the Women’s League of Burma charged that the army views "rape as an important tactic in its ongoing military campaigns to subjugate Burma’s ethnic groups."

Although claims of atrocities cannot be independently verified, the United Nations, international human rights organizations and others have compiled a library of human rights abuses beginning not long after the military seized power in Myanmar, also known as Burma, in 1962.

Since then, the fear of Myanmar breaking up has been an obsession with the military, which still plays a dominant role in the year-old civilian government operating under a constitution offering almost no concessions to autonomy for ethnic groups.

Neither is the constitution likely to be radically changed nor are the minorities willing to submit to a centralized regime run by the Burman majority.

Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, says the peace talks are part of an effort to bring all opposition forces, including Suu Kyi’s party, into the system it created and controls.

"Once these opposition groups — armed or unarmed — are contained and confined in the system, they are no longer threats for the military and its political system will be strengthened and legitimized," he says.

___

Associated Press writer Charles Hutzler in Beijing contributed to this report.

17 rescued, around 138 missing while boat capsized in Bay of Bengal


Source from Kaladan Press, 28 Nov 2011

Teknaf, Bangladesh: About 17 people were rescued and around 138 were missing while a Malaysia voyage’s boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal on November 23, at night, according to an elder from Alaythankyaw, Maungdaw south.

The Rohingya boat-people dead body floating in the Naf River

“The boat was capsized between Saint Martin and Shapuri Dip Island at the Bay of Bengal of Burma side.”

“The boat was capsized while it attacked the rock between Saint Martin and Shapuri Dip Island.”

The Burmese border security force (Nasaka) and its collaborators boarded 155 Rohingya boat people – 120 from Maungdaw and 35 from Buthidaung- after collecting 300000 kyat per head where Nasaka took 30000 kyat per head, according to a school teacher from Maungdaw.

The camp-in-charge of Donkhali (Pa Yaunbang Gyi) Nasaka camp had given green signal to board the boatpeople from the Nasaka camp. The permission was issued by the Major Kyaw Aung, the commander of Nasaka area 7 as the Nasaka was involved in this trafficking of boat people, according to an aide of Nasaka.

The Nasaka collaborators are:- Abul Kalam, hailed from Lamba Ghona, Moslim, hailed from Dawn Khali, and Yasin from Konna Para- who are now hiding in the Donkhali (Pa Yaunbang Gyi) Nasaka camp because some of the concerned authorities from Maungdaw Town went to the spot to inquiry the event.

“The rescued 17 persons are being hidden by the Nasaka personnel as fear of exposing their involvement in the boatpeople trafficking. But, the Nasaka demands money from the rescued boatpeople to stay continuously in their villages,” the aide said

The dead bodies floating in the Naf River are not allowed to collect and bury by their relatives and villagers. The dead bodies were drowned in the sea by the Nasaka personnel after fastening heavy stone with dead bodies for destroying the evidences of the event.

The Rohingya community in northern Arakan is facing same as before such as discriminations – restriction of movement, marriage, education, health, employment and etc.-. Though there is some reforms appear to be marked in the Burma, the repression and oppression of the Rohingya community are not stopped, said a trader from Maungdaw.

The Nasaka is using the policy of “killing two birds in one shot” means the Nasaka is trying to reduce the population of Rohingya community from Arakan soil and earning money by giving permission to go abroad. But, there is no permission for Rohingya community to enter their homeland again.

Living in the Racial Faultline: Rohingyas Look like Bengalis but are the People of Burma


written by Abid Bahar Ph.D.

Who are the Rohingyas? An Arakani xenophob named Aye Chan says they are "Bengalis" from Bangladesh, and many of his hoodlum followers even call Rohingyas the "Talibans"; some even call them as "terrorists" perhaps because most Rohingyas are Muslims and some racist people it is easy to find all Muslims as being terrorists. However, research shows that Rohingyas look like Bengalis but aren’t Bengalis. If Rohingyas are not Bengalis, who are they? Rohingyas are a mixture of people beginning from indigenous Chandra people of pre 10th century Arakan, and also Rohingyas in them had Arab and Persian traders from the 7th century settled in Arakan, and the Bengali Sultan’s soldiers send to Arakan with General Sindi Khan to help restore Noromikhala in the mid 15th century, and finally they also had in their people Bengali slaves captured from lower Bengal during the 16th and early 17th century from raids by Mogh (Rakhine) pirates in the Bay. These flows of people from the north and west of Arakan are recorded in history.(1) These people who looked like Indians and Bengalis were scattered all around Arakan but due to their racial differences, eventually were pushed out to the Mayu frontier in the north. "Rohingya" as an official name adapted during the 50’s in the last century by its leaders to serve as a survival mechanism for its people to unitedly face the destiny of attack and expulsion by the brutal military regime and its Arakanese collaborators. However, the name "Rohingya was in use recorded by an early British historian of Burma.(2) In Arakan not surprisingly, "Rakhine" is also a new name changed from the historic name "Mogh" Most of the Rohingyas look like Bengalis because Bengalis have similar historic backgrounds as the Rohingyas have from the past. The racially motivated discrimination and expulsion of the Rohingya people has been an ongoing phenomenon for years for these people.The latest large scale push was during 1942, the 1978 and 1993 and even now in a smaller scale.(3)

Historically speaking, Arakan was an Indian land but occupied by the racially mongoloid people during the 11th century removing the Indian Chandra dynasty. The dark skinned Rohingyas called by the Rakhines as "Kalas" are the indigenous Rohingyas. Rohingyas look like Bengalis but aren’t Bengalis. Like the Rakhines (moghs) are racially like Burmese, so racially Rohingyas are like Bengalis. This is clearly because Arakan is a racial faultline. It is for this reason that there are Rakhines, Chakmas, Thanchaingas, Moghs, who are racially mongoloid people in Bangladesh. They are now Bangladeshi citizens. In contrast the Rohingyas in Arakan, Burma were denied of their citizenship in the 1982 constitutional reform by the racist military government of Burma. This change was done unfortunately (on record) with the help of some Arakani xenophobs like Aye Kyaw, Aye Chan and Ashin Nayaka who enjoy freedom and democracy in abroad but keep racist skeletons at home in Arakan; calling the Rohingya people as the "Influx Viruses". In this act of suffering of a people, causing genocide and crime against humanity, the xenophobes even call themselves as democrats-ofcourse, it is acceptable in Burma to the military’s Burmese way to democracy. Thus Rohingya issue remains unresolved and the suffering of these racially different Burmese people living in the faultline continues.

References:

(1) O, Malley, Chittagong Gazettier, p.20, Abid Bahar, Burma’s Missing Dots, p.54, D.H.L. Hall, Burma, 37, Phayre, History of Burma, p. 172
(2) Francis Buchanon,"A Comparative vocabulary of some of the languages spoken, in the Burmese empire"SOAS, p. 40-57.
(3) Abid Bahar, Burma’s Missing Dots, 23-50.
(4) Abid Bahar, Dynamics of Ethnic Relations in Burmese Society. An Unpublished thesis on Burma 1982.

(Dr. Abid Bahar is a playwright and public speaker teaches in Canada)

International Concern Mounts as Boatpeople Vanish North of Phuket


source from Phuketwan, 26 Nov 2011

After a long voyage, Rohingya boatpeople are trucked  to the Thai Army

After a long voyage, Rohingya boatpeople are trucked to the Thai Army
Photo by supplied
PHUKET: This photo shows the latest Rohingya boatpeople apprehended north of Phuket. The whereabouts of the 92 boys and men today has become a mystery and cause for international concern.

Sources have told Phuketwan that in a change from normal procedure, the boatpeople group has been handed over to the Army and trucked north to a large base in the Thai-Burma (Myanmar) border port of Ranong.

Two years ago, military and paramilitary replaced Immigration as the organisation that handles Rohingya boatpeople and carried out the notorious ”pushbacks,” that led to the deaths of hundreds.

Phuketwan spoke to officials yesterday from Human Rights Watch, a United Nations organisation and other rights bodies who all expressed concern about the lack of clarity in the policy of Thailand’s new government towards the boatpeople.

Previously, groups of Muslim minority Rohingya who landed on the holiday island of Phuket and south of Phuket earlier this year were handed over to Immigration officials for processing.

An article in the Phuket Gazette today confirms through local police sources Phuketwan’s exclusive report on Thursday that the boatload had landed on the Andaman coast, three hours’ drive north of Phuket, a few hours earlier.

International news media also began to show interest today with an article appearing in the Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post, which together with Phuketwan exposed the reprehensible ”pushbacks” in January 2009.

It is believed the group that were apprehended at Dab Tung, near the port of Kuraburi in Phang Nga province, scuttled their own rickety boat when they ran out of food and water, and waded ashore.

Informed sources say thousands more boatpeople are likely to head past Phuket and the Andaman holiday coast for sanctuary in Malaysia this November to April ”sailing season” as the new Burma government continues its policy of persecution.

Royal Thai Navy vessels patrol the Andaman Sea and attempt to ”help on” the boatpeople with food and water and fuel if necessary, but with so many boats now taking to the water in northern Burma or Bangladesh, some are inevitably bound to escape detection and land in Thailand.

The boatpeople set out to navigate by sight along the Andaman Sea coast, and usually are forced to come ashore whenever their food and water run out.

Although the issue received worldwide attention after the 2009 ”pushbacks” were exposed, Thailand and the countries of Asean have lately fallen silent and appeased the supposedly newly ”democratic” Burmese regime, where the treatment of Rohingya remains brutal.

The policy of the new Thai government towards Rohingya is not clear.

Earlier this year, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, the following exchange took place with the then Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was in charge at the time the ”pushback” policy was revealed.

Reporter: A couple of questions on Thailand’s policy towards the Rohingyas. Sometime in February, 129 Rohingyas refugees from Burma appeared on the shores of Aceh. And according to highly placed source whom I’ve talked to, they’ve admitted that they were stopped on the seas by the Thai Navy – boat bearing the Thai Navy flag – and subsequently, another boat had directed them out to sea. They were provided rice and water. Their engine was damaged and they were set afloat and they showed up in Aceh. We experienced a similar scenario in 2009, if you recall, and you yourself told a CNN in an interview it is somewhat disturbing and you would like to investigate.

So my question is, what was the outcome of the 2009 investigation? And have you heard of a scenario like the one that I just described to you that happened in February?

PM Abhisit: For this year, the accounts given to me, the evidence is very mixed about what actually took place but certainly after 2009 when we investigated, it was clear that the instructions is that if these people are turned away, they must be supplied with food and water and I think that’s the operating procedures that we pursue. I have to make a couple of points:

First, we have to take the right view of these people. They are often portrayed as refugees. But they are in fact very much like economic migrants. You will notice that they are always all of them are young men and actually, they are all looking for jobs, mostly down maybe in Malaysia down South. And every country has a right to turn people away. We just have these operating standard procedures to make sure that they have food and water. I can’t say about whether their engines were damaged or not. Clearly, there’s no intention for them to just be pushed out without chances of survival. But we have every right just as European countries and other countries have pushed back these people, these kinds of people trying to enter the country.

Reporter: Y’know, the Indonesian government and the Malaysian government have let the UNHCR talk to the Rohingyas to declare if they are entitled to the right of refugee status. As far as the Thai government is concerned, they have let UNHCR to meet the Rohingyas coming in to figure out if they have physical problems. But the Thai government has a policy not to permit the UNHCR to talk to the Rohingyas to see if they qualify for refugee status. Why do you have different policies from the Indonesians and the Malaysians on the refugee issue? Is there a position that you’ve taken against Rohingyas escaping from the horrors of Burma?

PM Abhisit: No, as far as I’m aware, people do visit the Rohingyas and they have access to these people whom I think two years ago, a number of them were retained; even this year in Ranong and other provinces.

Reporter: The UNHCR lets them talk, that’s not the problem. But the Thai government has a policy not to let the UNHCR discuss refugee issues with them whereas the Indonesians and the Malaysians seem to be a bit more open about it.

PM Abhisit: As I said, we will have our groups to visit these people and talk to them. I am not aware of us forbidding them to talk about issues.

The Rises of Protests by Rakhine People Confirm Hostility towards Rohingya community


by James,

Arakanese in Malaysia protest in British Embassy

The above photo and link here in a blog against Rohingya: http://www.rakhapura.com/news/international/339-protest-against-bbc-in-malaysia  is recent protest at British embassy in Kuala Lumpur by Rakhine people on 24 Nov 2011. Protesting accused a BBC report on 18 Nov 2010 that carried a map depicting Arakan state as populated by the ethnic Rohingya minority.  

Earlier this, Rakhine people in UK also hold similar strike that accused BBC for similar reason and urging BBC to apologize. This link can be seen at: http://www.rakhapura.com/news/international/328-demonstrations-of-burmese-infront-of-bbc-london

Despite this protest was also organized by Rakhine people, it was publicized as protest by Myanmar people.

bma(Mass Protest meeting in Maung Daw, Arakan state). In Arakan, there was a mass gathering from Oct 2011 for the use of Arakan by Rohinyans. Burma News Internation-BNI has reported as follow; http://www.bnionline.net/index.php/news/narinjara/11994-mass-protest-around-misuse-of-the-term-arakan-arises-in-arakan-state.html

However it’s an indication of anger with Rohingya and denial of their historical existences while oppressions by central government exist. As well as, the latest escalation of hostility towards Rohingya remains primitive. In face such misconceptions will deteriorate political reform and trust amongst Arakanese people.

It also makes awful for international communities by Rakhine people who are taking refuge in foreign countries are expelling the rights of their sister community Arakanese Rohingyans. DVB has already highlighted about it as follow; “BBC report stirs anti-Rohingya sentiment”- http://www.dvb.no/news/bbc-report-stirs-anti-rohingya-sentiment/18625

Today it became a matter for today Rohingyans have to claim their identity, territory and rights when Rakhine people still uphold to indoctrinate to formalize Rohingya as outsider.

 

To see BBC link at “who are Burma’s minority groups? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11620652

More than 40% of people living in Burma belong to one of the military-ruled nation’s different minority groups. The government recognises eight distinct ethnic groups, with dozens of sub-groups, but refuses to acknowledge others.

As the country holds its first elections in 20 years, the BBC profiles some of the main minority groups. Click on each image to find out more.

Continue reading the main story

Karenni Kachin Chin Wa Rohingya Shan Karen Mon Rakhine

Map showing Burma ethnic diversity

Karenni

The Karenni are a branch of the Karen ethnic group – their name means the Red Karens. They live in Kayin (Karenni) state, one of the least developed areas of the country. Like many groups the Karenni have suffered attacks and have been forcibly removed from their land. Rights groups say this is an attempt by the army to seize their region’s natural resources.

Kachin

Kachin womenThe Kachin, originally thought to have come from Tibet, encompass several smaller ethnic sub-groups. They are primarily Christian, having been converted by American Baptist missionaries in the 19th Century, and have a strong clan-based social system. The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) has a ceasefire agreement with the government and has administrative control over the region. It is enormously popular within the state, running schools and hospitals. But it maintains an armed wing which it says has more than 10,000 troops and is ready to fight.

Chin

Chin tribesman

The Chin were originally animist but mostly converted to Christianity in the 19th Century. Numbering about 1.5 million, they live mostly in the remote Chin state, close to the border with India. Human rights groups have warned they are one of the most oppressed ethnic groups in Burma, facing religious persecution and violence at the hands of both the national and the Chin ethnic armies. They also face acute food shortages and those who escape to India are often repatriated.

Wa

Members of the Wa armyThe Wa live primarily in the self-administrative division of Shan state. They have close ties with China and many use Mandarin as a second language. The Wa follow traditional animist religions although some have converted to Christianity. The Wa area is largely controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), one of the most powerful of the ethnic armies, with some 30,000 in its militia. A ceasefire agreement with the junta has enabled it to gain control over a large area. It makes huge profits from drug and weapons production and smuggling.

Rohingya

Rohingya menThe mostly Muslim Rohingya are considered one of the world’s most persecuted minority groups. Burma denies them citizenship and they cannot own land, vote, travel or marry. They have suffered well-documented abuse and forced labour at the hands of the military. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Thailand or Bangladesh, where they have ethnic ties, but have often been forced back over the border. Some have been forcibly been sent out to sea.

Shan

Shan womanThe Shan are the largest of Burma’s ethnic minorities, numbering an estimated 6 million. They are spread across the large Shan state and into Kayah (Karen) and Kachin states and the central Mandalay division. The Shan are mostly Buddhists, have their own language and script and have close links to the Tai ethnic groups in south-western China. At one point, Shan state was producing about half the world’s opium, controlled by the Shan warlord, Khun Sa. The Shan are represented in the election by the largest of the ethnic parties, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party.

Mon

The Mon are thought to be one of Burma’s oldest ethnic groups and to have brought Buddhism to the country. Most Mon still follow the religion. They live mostly in the south of the country but have close links with Thailand and the Khmer in Cambodia. The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has a ceasefire with the junta giving it some control over the state, but analysts say the movement has been weakened by internal divisions. Ethnic Mon are reported to suffer regular attacks by junta troops.

Karen

Members of the Karen armyThe Karen, Burma’s second largest ethnic minority, fought alongside the British against Japan in WWII. They were promised an independent state in return but this never happened and they have since been viewed as collaborators by the majority Burman government and have faced brutal repression. As a result, tens of thousands of Karen, many of whom are Christian, have fled their homes and live abroad or in hiding. While many Karen still live in Kayah (Karen) state, they are widely dispersed, making political representation more difficult.

Rakhine

Rakhine Rakhine people make up the majority in Arakan state and are thought to constitute about 5% of Burma’s population. Rakhine people also live in southern parts of Bangladesh and are mainly Theravada Buddhists. Several ethnic Rakhine parties are contesting the elections, the largest of which is the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.

Update 28 October 2011: The map on this story has been updated to include a section on the Rakhine people. We have also changed the text to make a distinction between ethnic groups and minority groups.

More Boatpeople Sailing Past Phuket, say Reports


Source from phuketwan, November 23, 2011

PHUKET: Reports have reached Phuketwan that as many as eight boats laden with would-be refugees have set sail from Bangladesh and northern Burma in the past few days.

A more certain report says that a boatload of boys and men who sailed earlier this month was intercepted and ”helped on” off the Thai island of Prayam in the border province of Ranong just yesterday.

If those reports are correct and if the departures continue at this rate, tourists on day-trips and fishermen off Phuket and the Andaman coast can expect to encounter Rohingya boatpeople at sea sometime soon this ”sailing season.”

The reason why so many departures are being reported after a couple of quieter sailing seasons lies with the new elected Parliament in Burma, and the people traffickers.

After the tragic loss of hundreds of lives at sea because of the inhumane ”pushbacks” from Thailand in 2008-2009, the Rohingya, treated as outcasts in their native Burma and in neighboring Bangladesh, bided their time.

Their hope was that the new and seemingly more democratic government in Burma, elected last year, would provide them with citizenship and a chance at change.

It didn’t happen. Once the ”new” Burma made plain in Parliament that the Rohingya would stay outcasts, the oppressed Muslim minority was left with no choice but to accept their status and cast themselves into the hands of people smugglers again.

Observers fully expect the number of sailings this safe and tranquil season, when tourists pack the beaches of Phuket and the neighboring Andaman province of Phang Nga, to rival 2007-2008, when almost 5000 boatpeople landed in Thailand.

The Royal Thai Navy’s ”help on” policy, which replaced the reprehensible push-backs, may see a larger number of vessels sail past Thailand to what’s believed to be their destination of preference, Muslim Malaysia.

However, mystery so far surrounds the landing place of several Rohingya boats that have been confirmed interceptions at sea off Phuket and Phang Nga in the past few weeks.

Silence is golden. The countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed that Burma, so recently a pariah dictatorship, now deserves to chair the organisation in 2014 because of evidence of reform.

Those reforms, however, do not include the Rohingya, who remain without citizenship and who are subjected to movement control and restrictions on marriage.

So Asean, with the pea of real change somewhere under one of those thimbles, by default countenances Burma’s appalling treatment of the Rohingya.

The lack of concern is likely to rebound around the region if sunblackened and hungry boys and men begin to turn up once more in vast numbers on the shores of Thailand and Malaysia.

Certain sailings occurred on October 16 (65 on board) October 24 (70) and October 25 (79). While one source says the two later sailings have landed in Malaysia, nothing more has been heard of the first boat.

The boat that was intercepted and ”helped on” off Prayam island yesterday is believed to be one of three boats reported to have sailed on November 5 and November 6.

If eight more boats have set to sea since, and the average number of people on each boat is around 70, then the people smugglers must be rubbing their hands with glee at Asean’s lack of interest, and at the prospect of thousands more Rohingya being pushed to sea by desperation between now and April.

Thai waters to protect the country from refugees and drug smugglers


source from The Phuket News – 17th Nov 2011

Flow of boat people will slow this year – Navy chief

PHUKET: The Commander of the Royal Thai Navy Third Naval Area Command believes the number of refugee boats entering Thai waters in the coming year will be lower than last year, thanks to greater cooperation with Myanmar.

Rear Admiral Tarakorn Kajitsuwan said today, “We have a policy for handling the refugee boat problem. This year we are focusing on the waters off Phang Nga, Ranong and Satul. We are also gathering information about the problem as it relates to Phuket, so that we can make plans for that, too.”

R/Adm Tarakorn added, “We are very serious about patrolling Thai waters to protect the country from refugees and drug smugglers. We discuss the problems with neighbouring countries such as Myanmar at a regional meeting once a year.

“Whenever we find a boat full of refugees we are obliged to arrest them. We get good cooperation from Thai fishing boats who let us know when they see refugee boats.”

Over the past three years, Thailand has seen a steady flow of people, mainly from Myanmar’s repressed Rohingya minority, taking terrible risks in small boats to escape repression and get to Malaysia. Most Rohingya are Muslim and see Malaysia as a potential haven. In this they are mistaken as Malaysia views illegal immigrants as undesirable.

The Thai Navy was severely criticised for its treatment of the passengers on the first few boats it stopped, and has since attempted to treat them in a more humane way. Repatriating them has proved difficult because Myanmar border guards have often refused to let them back into that country.

R/Adm Tarakorn did not clarify precisely how greater cooperation with Myanmar will result in fewer refugee boats.

Obama: Human Rights Violations Persist in Burma


source from Irrawaddy news, 17 Nov 2011

US President Barack Obama, top second from right, addresses the Australian Parliament on the second day of his two-day visit to Australia, on Nov.17. (Photo: Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama says violations of human rights persist in Burma and nations must build support for the fundamental rights of every human being.

Obama notes in a speech to the Australian Parliament on Thursday that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is currently free from house arrest and some political prisoners have been released.

But he says violations of human rights persist in Burma. He said the United States will “continue to speak clearly” about steps that must be taken by Burma “to have a better relationship with the United States.”

The US has called for release of all political prisoners, an end to conflict in minority areas and greater transparency regarding Burma relations with North Korea.

1,000 Kachins Flee to IDP Camps


source from Irrawaddy news, 16 Nov 2011

In October, Burmese people staged a protest in front of Burmese embassy in Malaysia, calling for the end of government military offensives in Kachin State. (Photo: Reuters)

More than 1,000 villagers in southern Kachin State have taken shelter in makeshift camps in the jungle after fleeing their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire of an intensifying conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government forces.

Relief workers say the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in question have fled in the last few days and are from five villages around Mansi Township, some 25 km southeast of Bhamo in southernmost Kachin State, close to the Shan State and Chinese borders.

The relief groups accuse the Burmese government of denying the UN and intentional organizations access to the IDP camps to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Kaw Ja, a member of a Kachin youth group which is assisting refugees and IDPs at the Sino-Burmese border, said that the number of IDPs had reached 1,187 by Tuesday, and that they had been separated into six camps near the border behind KIA front lines.

“In this camp alone, there are 400 refugees,” he said. “They are currently sheltering in temporary makeshift tents and sharing whatever food they have brought with them.”

“We are not able to adequately supply the IDPs, and in the long run they will face food shortages. They presently have no support,” he said.

A recently arrived IDP named Churchman said he and 180 fellow villagers from Mansi Township had fled in a hurry, and that many had run away without carrying any supplies. He said some had sheltered with relatives in other villages, but that he and his family had joined hundreds of other villagers in seeking refuge at a camp in Nawng Tau, near the Chinese border.

“Our living conditions are alright,” said Churchman. “However, we are worried about food supplies.”

Villagers fleeing from conflict in Kachin State are not recognized as refugees by the Chinese government and cannot therefore cross the border freely, said KIA spokesman La Nan. 

Mai Ja, a local relief worker, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the offensive is intensifying and more troops are being deployed into the region.

The exodus of people from their villages across Kachin State began on June 9 due to the resumption of hostilities between the two sides. There now estimated to be some 30,000 IDPs sheltering at nine camps in and around the main town of Laiza and seven camps in Maija Yang on the Shan-Kachin border.

The villagers say they fear being captured, abused or even killed by Burmese soldiers; accounts are rife of human rights abuses by troops in the area.

Mai Ja said that Tuesday marks the 19th day that a 28-year-old Kachin woman from Moemot Township has been held in captivity by government troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 321.

“The troops seized the girl, her husband, their infant and her father-in-law while they were returning home from their fields with maize,” she said. “The others were later released, but not the woman.”

According to a report by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, on Oct. 8, soldiers from LIB 74, 276 and 601 arrested eight males aged between 17 and 65 years from Namlim Pa village in Bhanmaw District. The eight were forced to work as porters, carrying army supplies and weapons.

Villagers often have to carry sacks of rice, food and heavy weapons, frequently have their hands tied, and may be forced to walk all day on very little water and food, the report said.

A UK MP, Andrew Mitchell, the country’s secretary of state for international development, visits Burma this week. Burma Campaign UK has called on him to do more to ensure British aid reaches internal refugees who have fled increased attacks by the Burmese army over the past year.

Burma Campaign UK said that almost 150,000 people in Burma have been forced to flee their homes in the past year because of internal conflicts, and that the Burmese government is severely restricting access to these internal refugees by the UN and other aid agencies, resulting in a shortage of food, shelter, clothing and medicine.

Open Letter from 3 Prolong Burmese Detainees in Australian Detention: We thought the nightmare was over


source from greenleft-Australian weekly magazine

Rohingya refugees apprehended by the Thai navy in 2009. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

We are recognized refugees of Burma. Our ethnic minority is unknown to the world, yet is one of the most oppressed minority group in Burma, the sole ethnic who has been declined any rights for an identity. We are de-facto stateless. Remember our race: we are Rohingyas.

It was out of ultimate survival that we embark in a boat hoping for Australian protection and mercy. The trip was promising pain and potentially death but it was far better than continuing enduring abuses and extreme violations of human rights in the countries of transit. Although we had refugee status in Malaysia, Malaysia was never better than Burma for our people.

As we hope for a life that we never had the right to have, a safe land that we never walked on, where we could breath without fear, we remained locked in Australian detention until May 2010, when we were finally confirmed as refugee. We thought the end of life of nightmare was over and we would born as new man. Yet we were kept in detention. The process of our case was not over and required security clearance by ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Two years have passed since our arrival in Australia and yet we remained detained. Although our physical health was maintained by constant check, our mental health has been severely affected as a consequence of the injustice of our mandatory detention.

We have a strong feeling of indirect discrimination and unfair treatment in processing our cases while both DIAC and ASIO uphold proper schedules which complete every process of asylum claim within 90 days with respect and dignity for the vast priority groups.

After a long wait of two years, we have been given a rejection letter as negative security assessment under Australian Security Act 1979-section(4) that stated to find a third country. This news has devastated us.
Why have we been rejected? What sort of security threat are we considered as? Rohingyas are terrorized by the military junta and there are no links that we know of to any terror organization. Our minority is surviving and we , as part of this community have also spend each day of our life trying to survive.

We have no alternative or way to appeal to this decision as our stateless and illegal status in Australia does not provide us any legal ground. Although we are in Australia, we have no access to Justice to defend our case and we are left languishing in unlawful detention for unlimited period ahead of us. Our full life in detention ahead. We are also not allowed to be placed into an alternative and softer detention like community detention and we are continuously placed in tight security were we are submitted to tempestuous intimidations although we are not criminal, just normal citizen of the world like most of you. And like anybody, we feel stress facing injustice and this leads to mental health issue, stress, depression, nightmare and more. We urge domestic and international legal system to review its policy in regards to stateless people and the fate for stateless refugees that are denied security clearance. We are human, our life is precious to us and you can not just store us in a box until we die. We hope for a future.

We can’t also help to feel injustice and inconsistency when we witness the release of 4 Bangladeshi people who claimed to be Burmese. They are granted visa and released earlier than genuine Burmese refugees. According to immigration the 3 other Rohingyans in NIDC detention are also awaited 2 years for security clearances when ASIO itself told a parliamentary enquiry in October that it is not a requirement under the ASIO Act for boat arrivals to be detained during security processing.

We have respect for Australian policy abroad defending the refugees rights and working hand in hand with UNHCR when it comes to refugees fleeing Burma to reach any country that would give them protection. Unfortunately, the plight of Burmese does not end at the Burma border and Malaysia is a country of much oppression for refugees and Malaysia is another dictator to refugees. Unfortunately , Rohingyas are rarely granted any visa to go to a third country, which is the reason why most of Burmese coming by boat are Rohingyas. This is how we came by boat. Today, the oppression of Rohingyas continues and has reached the soil of Australia that we considered a democratic country, respectful of human rights. Today, our life is hold forever in between walls, for no reason except ignorance.
We have no other ways to appeal any one, just through your kind humanitarian intervention to help us to get out of inappropriate, unreasonable, unlawful and arbitrary detention. Our lives are at risk, languishing in a legal limbo. We hope our voices will be heard, we hope all humanitarian quarters including resettlement countries will come and gather to help us through humanitarian intervention.

Today we are trapped, our past is dark. Our present is dark, our future is dark. Although we would like to taste life, Presently, death seems to be our only solution to finally find peace.
Please help us to find another solution than death.

Sincerely,
Shoef (Boat ID: VAU-2, in Villawood detention of Sydney)
Razamya (Boat ID: SEA-10, in Villawood detention of Sydney)
Mufis (Boat ID: SEA-3, in Meribyrnong detention of Melbourne)

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