Daily Archives: October 5, 2012

Did the gov’t incite the racial violence targeting the Rohingya?


Published: 5 October 2012 Riot:police shot

Policemen carry their weapons during fighting between Arakanese and Rohingya communities in Sittwe, Arakan state. (Reuters)

Following this summer’s rioting in western Burma, all eyes have been fixed on the government’s handling of the unrest in Rakhine state. With external pressure mounting, most specifically from the Islamic world, Burmese officials – from President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw to local security troops in western Burma – have been playing ostensibly the “humanist and humanitarian” card with the Rohingya.

If the findings from various investigative missions turn out to be little more than public relations white-wash for Naypyidaw, more than a few Rohingya have expressed their concerns to me that their communities – the bulk of whom are barely surviving under the recently imposed martial law – will explode again.

When an oppressed and downtrodden people feel they have absolutely nothing more to lose but their captive lives in the iron cage of refugee camps set up by the predatory and repressive state, radicalism and violence are just a step away. After all, the Rohingyas are surrounded and outnumbered by exceedingly hostile Rakhines [Arakanese], who reportedly and repeatedly told the touring US Ambassador Derek Mitchell and his inquiry team that the Rakhines are not at all prepared to live on the same land which they in fact share with the Rohingya. Worse still, neighbouring Bangladesh has consistently slammed its gates each time there is a wave of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Burma.

Seen from the Rohingya’s perspective, the fact-finding missions – including Naypyidaw’s own team – represent more than investigative tours. They are, ultimately, the last straw for a people who feel they are drowning in the sea of Burma’s popular “Buddhist” racist nationalism.

So, naturally, the Rohingya are pinning their collective hopes on the inquiries and that the findings by the independent investigation will mark the beginning of the end of their plight as the most persecuted minority in the country and a first step towards securing humane living conditions and legal rights as citizens in Burma, where they were born and have lived for generations.

Understandably, deep anxieties over the situation remain. Already some Rohingya are expressing their concerns that Burma’s government may not be coming clean. They point to the generals’ well-documented pattern of lying, distorting facts and manipulating domestic and international opinions during previous foreign relations crises – from the use of jailed dissidents as political bargaining chips to blocking emergency and humanitarian aid to two million cyclone victims to the slaughter of Buddhist monks during the “Loving Kindness” uprising in 2007.

For any politically and historically informed local, Rohingya victims or Burmese dissidents, Naypyidaw’s real intent behind its international cooperation with UN aid agencies, the OIC and US inquiry teams is to absolve itself of the ultimate “responsibility to protect” the most vulnerable community in the country and to reinforce its latest official spin that the plight of the Rohingya is the result of popular Buddhist racism and racial violence instigated by Rakhine nationalist extremists.

However, many locals suspect President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government was the real culprit behind the racial violence and the resurgence of the country’s popular xenophobic racist nationalism.

Independent Burmese researchers on the ground who have been engaged in below-the-radar investigations, who have spoken with local security troops made up of Rakhine and Burmese Buddhists, police officials, local eyewitnesses and Rakhine and Rohingya victims of violence, have recently uncovered fresh evidence lending credence to the Rohingya’s collective suspicion.

“Already some Rohingya are expressing their concerns that Burma’s government may not be coming clean”

Their hitherto unpublicised evidence pokes gaping holes in the Thein Sein government’s official narrative that claims the racial violence was the result of simmering sectarian hostilities. Most troublingly during Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to the US, she, who along with her senior NLD colleagues was the target of the regime-orchestrated mob violence at Depayin in May 2003, repeated with shocking naivety Naypyidaw’s deceptive narrative – that the latest wave of state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya was “sectarian”. She should know better. In fact, the findings by the team of my in-country research collaborators point to a very real possibility that Naypyidaw manufactured the trigger for the worst ethno-religious violence in Burma since the military came to power in 1962.

To start off with, what these local researchers have uncovered calls into question Naypyidaw’s official narrative about how and why the Rakhine-Rohingya ethnic conflict started. For instance, according to the official state newspaper the New Light of Myanmar (dated 4 June) and the government’s official report entitled: “Situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar” issued by the Ministry of Border affairs, the news of the unspeakable rape and murder of a Buddhist Rakhine woman, named Ms Thida Htwe, on 28 May by three Muslim men, triggered the initial mob violence in Rakhine state five days later.

What followed was the violent murder of ten out-of-state Muslim pilgrims who were dragged onto a busy town street from an inter-state bus and slaughtered by a mob in broad day light in the predominantly Rakhine Buddhist state in western Burma.

In sharp contrast, the government doctor, a civil servant by definition, who under duress signed the official post mortem report on Ms Thida Htwe said, in no uncertain terms, to one of the in-country Burmese researchers that there was no trace of rape on her murdered body.

Why then did Myanmar’s Ministry of Information which micro-manages all official publications and broadcasts went on to characterise incorrectly the three perpetrators as ‘Muslims’ whereas in fact one of them, Mr Htet Htet, was a Buddhist?

Additionally, why did the Ministry go with the fabricated medical report about Ma Thida Htwe, which made the patently false claim that she suffered violent sexual assault before being looted and murdered?

Rape as a violent crime may be prevalent in all societies. In Burmese society, of all the crimes, rape is considered the absolute worst. Rapists are reviled. Once in jail, they are taunted and physically attacked even by other inmates.

So what was the rationale behind the Ministry of Information amplifying, without verifying, the fabricated local notice reportedly put out by local anti-Rohingya Rakhine extremists, that “Muslim men intentionally raped a Rakhine Buddhist woman”, when it published the fabricated story approvingly in the Burmese and English language official mouth pieces on 4 June?

Even more curiously, the authorities declared that Htet Htet committed suicide in police custody, awaiting his trial. Burmese jails and police interrogation centres are infamous for the torture and deaths that occur in their halls, not inmates’ successful suicide attempts. Thousands of the country’s former political prisoners will attest to the impossibility of taking one’s own life behind bars.

Something even more mysterious seems afoot.

Three days after President Thein Sein authorised the formation of a Rohingya-Rakhine Riot Inquiry Commission made up of prominent public figures including dissidents and academics, Htet Htet’s widowed wife was found dead in a well. Did she accidentally fall into the well and drown? Or was there something dodgy going on?

Furthermore, according to the official narrative, the Buddhist Rakhine mob killing on 3 June of ten Muslim pilgrims during the former’s return bus trip from Rakhine state to Rangoon was in response to and as a retaliation against one Rakhine woman being gang-raped by “three Muslims” on 28 May.

According to local eyewitnesses interviewed by Burmese researchers, there were altogether six buses travelling on the same route at about the same time on 3 June. And yet, the mob – about 300 men, according to the estimate by the official Myanmar News Agency (New Light of Myanmar, 4 Jun) – seemed to have known exactly which bus to attack.

Recently, I pressed an official from Burma as to why no one has been arrested, tried or charged by the authorities for the slaughter of the ten Muslim men. According to the local official, the Rakhine refused to collaborate with any police investigation. No one would come forward to share any information about who might be involved in actual killings of the ten innocent Muslim men.

But successive military regimes in Myanmar have never needed eyewitnesses to arrest and jail political dissidents. For they spend an inordinate amount of resources, in monitoring, photographing and videoing any mob formation or mob action. In 2005 and 2006, I spent a little over one month in total as a “guest of the military government” in officers’ guesthouses in military intelligence depots in Rangoon and Mandalay. Every morning I saw young intelligence agents leaving various units, carrying point-and-shoot digital cameras in small shoulder bags in order to record the day’s events – especially in public spaces such as markets, bus and train stations and other surveillance spots.

Why have the authorities not tried to access photographic evidence or video records of the 3rd June slaughter of Muslims on the streets in broad day light, which they must certainly have in their police and intelligence archives? Perpetrators who would have been most certainly caught on either intelligence digital cameras or video cameras could easily be identified.

Judging from Naypyidaw’s official inaction, the regime doesn’t want to see justice carried out, insofar as the slaughter of the Muslims is concerned. There is then little wonder that President Thein Sein’s government is said to be stonewalling any and all attempts even by its own Riot Inquiry Commission to conduct proper investigation into the racial violence. Deceptively, during his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, Thein Sein showcased the multi-faith, multi-ethnic make-up of his Inquiry team, emphasing how esteemed the bulk of the presidential commissioners are.

According to the sources close to the Commission, the Ministry of Border Affairs in charge of Rohingya matters has so far failed to grant the Commission’s request to allow unfettered access to security forces stationed in western Burma. They have also failed to provide immunity for any Rohingya and Rakhine interviewees and have blocked access to the two remaining Muslim men behind bars who were convicted of the alleged rape and murder of the Rakhine woman.

Instead, Naypyidaw has transferred many key commanders and officers in charge of various security units from western Burma to remote areas such as Hpa’an in Karen state, thereby making it more difficult for the Commission to do a thorough job before its November deadline.

It seems as if Thein Sein’s government has decided that a serious investigation led by Burmese nationals on its own official commission has greater potential to get to the bottom of the racial violence that erupted in western Burma. Local Commissioners are certainly best positioned to excavate not only the mass graves, if there are any, but also to uncover the ugly truths about how President Thein Sein’s government may have manufactured the triggers that prompted the sectarian violence.

More specifically, the government wouldn’t want its direct involvement exposed, domestically and internationally, in terms not only of the security forces opening fire on the Rohingya, slaughtering them in the hundreds, but also in its central role in lighting the fire of sectarian violence that targeted the Rohingya.

One regime official recently told me, “the bottom-line is we don’t want any more ‘Mus’ (a coded reference to the Muslims amongst military officers) in our country. But we can’t possibly kill them all”. So, did the reformist government in Naypyidaw decide to outsource the job of cleansing the Golden Land of Burma of the unwanted Muslim Rohingyas to the extremist Rakhines?

Whatever the findings by various independent investigative missions concludes concerning how and why the worst racial violence in the country’s modern political history kicked off, the OIC’s fact-finding mission and Burma’s own Presidential Riot Inquiry Commission should demand that Burma government cooperates fully with both its own national fact-finders and all independent international investigators.

Further, they should press President Thein Sein’s government to guarantee the physical safety of fact-finders, especially the Burmese locals; provide unfettered access to security troops for interviews; offer the local Rakhine and Rohingya eyewitnesses unequivocal and official safeguards; and make available all relevant intelligence reports.

It is in the all-around interest of Burmese society and the government, as well as the international community to prevent any political and international scenario where Rohingyas feel, quite rightly, the world has abandoned them at the hands of the racist majority and their militarist government now wearing civilian garb.

Truthful reports by various inquiry commissions and missions can and will go a long way towards restoring a glimmer of hope in the world’s most persecuted minority community, if the investigators are able to get to the bottom of the recent large-scale racial violence, which left nearly 100,000 both homeless and hopeless.

– Dr Maung Zarni is one of the veteran founders of the Free Burma Coalition and a Visiting Fellow (2011-13) with Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit at the London School of Economics

Editor’s note: At the request of the author, Myanmar and Burma have been used where appropriate in the eyes of the author rather than either Burma or Myanmar exclusively.

– The opinions and views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect DVB’s editorial policy.


Australian High Court rules ASIO powers on refugee decisions are invalid

Source The Age, October 5,

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon

National Affairs Editor, The Age

Lawyers for the refugee have asked the High Court to overturn the landmark al-Kateb ruling of 2004.

The court’s decision may have implications for more than 50 other refugees with adverse security assessments. Photo: Louie Douvis

A majority of the High Court today held that a decision to refuse a Sri Lankan asylum seeker a protection visa after he received an adverse security assessment by ASIO had not been made according to law.

In a decision that may have implications for more than 50 other refugees with adverse security assessments, the majority held that a regulation which prevented the grant of the protection visa was invalid.

The plaintiff, a Sri Lankan known only as M47, has been in detention since his arrival to Australia three years ago.


A delegate of the Minister for Immigration found that the 36-year-old Tamil, who has a wife and child in Sri Lanka, had a well-founded fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, but refused his application for a protection visa because he had been assessed by ASIO to be a risk to security.

Led by David Manne, the legal team that successfully challenged the government’s Malaysian people-swap agreement launched the High Court action on M47’s behalf in May, challenging the validity of the decision to refuse him a protection visa and challenging his continued detention.

”This is a significant victory for our client,” Mr Manne told the National Times.

”The court has held that the processing of his protection visa, which is crucial to his freedom, was unlawful. The only thing that stood between our client, a refugee visa and his freedom was a regulation which the court has ruled is invalid.

”He should urgently be granted a refugee visa and his freedom. The government should now end, not only the detention of our client, but others in a similar predicament.”

The asylum seeker also argued that ASIO had denied him procedural fairness when making a fresh adverse security assessment in 2012 and that the Migration Act did not authorise the removal and detention of a person found to be a refugee.

A majority of the Court held that the plaintiff was not denied procedural fairness in connection with the making of the security assessment because the plaintiff was given the opportunity to address issues of concern to ASIO in the interview that was conducted before the fresh assessment was made in 2012.

However, a majority of the Court held that the migration regulations could not validly prescribe public interest criterion 4002 as a condition for the granting of a protection visa because doing so was inconsistent with the Migration Act.

Accordingly, it ruled that his continuing detention was valid for the purpose of determining his application for a protection visa.

Boat crew compo plan for youths

Source The Age, October 5

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Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon

THE Gillard government has been urged to establish a compensation scheme for dozens of Indonesian children who were wrongly jailed as adult people smugglers.

The scheme is proposed to avoid the prospect of many civil suits and potentially much higher payouts.

Mark Plunkett, the lawyer who exposed the jailing of children, has warned that Indonesia could institute an inquiry and back claims for damages if Australia’s response was inadequate.

Greens senator Penny Wright, who chaired a Senate inquiry into the detention of Indonesian minors, yesterday called for a formal apology to those wrongly detained and a mechanism for compensation.


Civil action has already been launched for two minors detained for 10 months, including six in an adult prison, before being returned to Indonesia.

Mr Plunkett likened the failure of any government official to admit fault at the inquiry to an episode of Yes Minister. ”It cannot pass that we would lock up more than 60 of the most vulnerable, uneducated children from another country without there being a proper inquiry. People should be brought to account for it,” he said.

He backed a scheme where compensation was paid according to the age and length of time spent in detention. ”If they get common-law claims, these kids will get hundreds of thousands [of dollars], but if it’s a redress scheme, the money can be properly managed,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Attorney-General’s Department reviewed cases of 28 convicted people-smuggling crew who claimed to be minors at the time of the offence, resulting in the release from prison of 15. There are still 33 cases where accused people smugglers in detention or jail claim to be minors.

The inquiry’s majority report was dubbed a missed opportunity by legal aid and human rights groups for avoiding recommendations that addressed compensation and an apology.

Victoria Legal Aid’s Sarah Westwood said the recommendations in the majority report for dealing with those who claim to be minors were ”all fundamental rights that are extended to people in Australia who are suspects in a criminal prosecution”.

She commended Senator Wright for endorsing calls for boat crew who claim to be minors being appointed an independent guardian; time frames being set to ensure that detention before any charges was kept to a minimum; and guaranteed access to legal advice at the point of detention.

Mr Plunkett said the incarceration of minors remained a big concern at the highest levels of the Indonesian government and warned that ”if Australia doesn’t have a royal commission, I’m encouraging Indonesia to have one, or go to one of the United Nations bodies to have one,” he said.

”The Indonesians themselves could have an inquiry, which would be very embarrassing to Australia, and you could sue in Indonesia for claims against Australia.”

In her own report, Senator Wright said the inquiry had heard evidence that young Indonesians were subjected to arbitrary detention, housed in adult facilities with convicted murderers and paedophiles and separated from their families for significant amounts of time.

While policy changes in the last year would help reduce the risk of Indonesian minors being ”inappropriately detained”, she backed reparations for those wrongly detained or imprisoned and an official apology.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government would consider the recommendations and respond in due course.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/boat-crew-compo-plan-for-youths-20121004-272bn.html#ixzz28QkaSvfH

Update News of Arakan

Source NDPHR(exile),

Pauktaw town

Four Rohingyas from Rwa Thit (Naya Fara) went for fishing in Thabya Chaung river were chased by Rakhine gang on the arrival of Thara Chaung river in the evening of 29 Sept. Two of them were firstly captured and soon the rest two escapees were also captured. The source says that the four Rohingya men were attacked firstly by arrows and slaughtered later according to the wounds found on their bodies. One of the body was firstly discovered burying in the mud near by the river on 30 Sept and the rest 3 bodies were later discovered along the river on 2 Oct. Three of them were identified as Boshir-40, Farus Khan-56 and his son Shukur-25. Despite the police authority taken the bodies for examination, no inquiry is made yet. The source attained photos of the victims but no alternative way to pass them.

Rathedaung town

28 Sept: In the evening, the military forces from 536 regime came to the Nyaung Pingyi (Muzadiya) village and seized a few mobile phones. Several villagers were beaten-up by the forces in the scene. As a result, most of the villagers had to hide into remote areas near by the creek.

Kyauktaw town

Rohingya own paddy from the farming lands are reaped and taking away by Rakhine people in all over the town while Rohingyas are constantly confined and facing threats.

The two wounded men, Paiketay (Fishing) village vice president U Maung Nu s/o Nurboshor and Jalalluddin-19 who were tortured in police lock-up on 21 Sept for speaking with Inquiry Commission, were taken away again by police authority. Their relatives don’t know where about them but police authority said they been transferred to Sittwe prison for further inquiry. As grantee given by Inquiry Commission members, the relatives informed to the Inquiry Commission base in Yangon but no response received so far.

Maungdaw town

3 Oct (Kaladan Press): The Nasaka has established Nasaka check-posts in every bridges, or culverts, Maungdaw-Aley Than Kyaw high way and Maungdaw- Bawli Bazar high way and then increase toll collection from Rohngya travelers.

The Rohingyas villagers from rural areas have to pay Kyat 200 to 500 per head at the Nasaka out-post. Sometimes, the Nasaka takes Kyat 500 to 1000, if the villager has more in the pocket.

1 Oct (Kaladan Press): Burma border security force (Nasaka) personnel from outpost camp-12 under Nasaka area number(5) arrested 3 Rakhines who beat Rohingya fishermen in Ywanyotaung village today after the information was sent by village administration officer. The Nasaka personnel rushed to the area where the Rakhine group were beating the Rohingya fishermen and arrested 3 Rakhines and other were fled to the Rakhine village.

The 3 Rakhine arrestees are kept in the outpost-12 for interrogation. The Nasaka officer identified the 3 Rakhines as- two of them are from Bangladesh and one from Rathedaung town.

(Kaladan Press): In the morning of 30 Sept, a group of Sarapa army (military intelligence), Nasaka (Burma’s border security force) accompanied by some local Natala villagers (Rakhines) went to Horsaraona and Lamba Gona villages of Zawmatet village tract and tried to arrest the villagers. So the villagers ran away and the security forces beaten up some 30 women including Ms Madani. The forces entered into the houses and looting some gold, money, clothes and destroyed household things. They also looted 35 cows and over 50 goats from the village. They entered at least 40 houses and destroyed cooking pots and some new ones were taken away. They also arrest some villagers including Fazal Haque and were brought to the Nasaka camp. The Natala villagers were holding long swords during the operation period of security forces.

The same security forces also entered the Marulla Para (village) and took away eight family lists and asked the female villagers to choose it by giving money when their husbands arrived from hiding places.

They also went to Sarcombo village and its market and chased the villagers but one villager named Fazal Ahmed-45 was arrested. They also beaten up women villagers as they did not find their husbands. A woman from this village was severely beaten up as she barred them from taking away her 3 cows. They also took away 7 cows from the village.

Besides, the security forces entered the Kunna Para (village) and insulted the females and then arrested some villagers.

According to villagers, about 300 youths are being trained at Kyein Chaung (Bawli Bazar) army camp from last September. After training, they will be appointed to Rakhine villages as Militants. The training is going on from 8am to 4pm. They will be equipped after training. This makes Rohingya villagers more frighten.

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