Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New plan addresses plight of Muslim refugees

By Helen Ang Jun 30, 10 3:53pm

Human rights groups have spurred into action following a recent conference highlighting the plight of marginalised Muslim refugees in Malaysia.

This new wave of refugees have been arriving in Malaysia from more than 40 countries – including Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan – over the past decade.

Since Malaysia is an Islamic country with modest entry requirements, it is seen as an attractive safe house for asylum seekers.

During a one-day conference earlier this month, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), NGOs and the Malaysian Bar Council agreed on a comprehensive taskforce plan specifically designed to help Muslim refugee communities.

As a relatively small population of 6000 refugees, they have been falling under the radar of NGOs equipped to help them and led an almost invisible existence until now.
In comparison, Burmese refugees amount to 81,000, accounting for 92 per cent of Malaysia’s total refugee population.

“It’s exactly because of their smaller often scattered communities that these newcomers haven’t received our help,” explains Lia Syed, executive director of Malaysian Social Research Institute, a KL-based NGO and conference organiser.

Matters are made worse because these smaller communities are less able to form solid self-help networks of the type formed by the Burmese, she said.

But, leading human rights lawyer and conference speaker Andrew Khoo says the problem exists because of a wide, yet ill-conceived perception that “the government operates a pro-Muslim policy of assistance to Muslim refugees.”

“With this so-called deep-pocketed supporter, community and NGOs are focussing their efforts elsewhere,” he said.

According to Khoo, Muslim refugees like the earlier Burmese Rohingya have received governmental assistance in the past.

However, the new wave of Muslim refugees “have been badly let down by the government”, he said.

Malaysia is one of the few countries yet to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and currently does not offer refugees any legal rights or protection.

Alan Vernon, head of the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur, says that without legal status or protection, refugees in Malaysia “are generally on their own”.

“And that is a very anxiety-ridden and dangerous place to be.”

SOURCE: New plan addresses plight of Muslim refugees

A Call to Stop Factionalism for Urgent Reconciliation

Press Release:

Date: June 30, 2010

We, undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about ongoing and systematic mispropagandas of Burmese opposition group towards continuous ethnic cleansing, persuading the Burmese military regime by various means.

The opposition is identified as Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), exile, which a coalition member together with National League for Democracy (NLD) and remained in exile Government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).

As of other ethnic minorities of Burma, the Rohingya ethnic minority is continuously struggling for the restoration of democracy and establishment of human rights in Burma, no matter how they were victimized. The role of Rohingyas in Burmese democratic movement in exile is totally undeniable but in many Burmese forums, their activities are denied or ignored without any hesitation, which will definitely lead to undemocratic steps with exclusive policies.

ALD is a party which is playing double standard roles both in the opposition groups and ruling military governance in order to strengthen Rakhaing racial supremacy and religious discriminations. These undemocratic activities will lead to establish Zio-Nazism in future Burma or Rakhaing colonialism throughout the factionalist activities and behaviors. The Rakhaing people both inside and outside of Burma are also committing crimes against humanity as partner of military regime.

It is true that almost entire pro-democratic Burmese groups in Malaysia are practicing the activities of colonialism and non-participatory, which is pushing the movement in dire situation.

In many occasion, the ALD's supportive statements towards the military regimes are being released. The latest version is appeared on June 18, 2010 at its official website: 06-18-15-21-08&catid=53:myanma-news-foreign&Itemid=78 assaulting the Rohingya ethnicity in the program of Myanmar Celebration 2010 organized by Amnesty International Malaysia and Malaysian Bar Council at Bar Auditorium.

In the statement, the ALD accused the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR), one of the1990s winning parties as "Bengali Refugee Organization" with a view to supporting military regime, while provoking the ASEAN nations throughout the misleading information on Burma nuclear issue.

In fact, members of ALD and its allied groups failed to give presentation on the present political situation in Burma and thus sentimentally acting the democratic opposition party in undemocratic way. Besides, it attack on an important figure for future democracy, who is one of 13 Democratic Leadership Trainers, trained by the National Reconciliation Program (NRP) of Burma, currently serving the responsibility of General Secretary for the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR), exile, South East Asia Regional Office, Vice-Chairman for the All Burma Democratic Force (ABDF), Malaysia, Advisor for the Democratic Federation of Burma (DFB), Malaysia and some other responsibilities in his own community organizations.

By this act, the ALD is proving its dedication against International Human Rights standards and genuine democracy, which does not have any difference from the act of Burmese military regime or SPDC.

We affirm that unless stopping such kinds of undemocratic supervision, the future federal democracy will not bring peace, justice, equality with full human rights and human dignity.

We also affirm that unless respecting the rights of every individual human being by the pro-democracy opposition, the restoration of democracy in Burma will lead to ethnic tension which may result to bloodsheds.

Therefore, national reconciliation among exile pro-democracy groups is much more important than reconciliation in Burma. If fail to do so, restoration of future democracy in Burma will be meaningless.

In these regards, we sincerely urge upon all pro-democratic Burmese groups to urgently abandon the every sorts of undemocratic activity and behavior which is against international human rights standards for the interest of peace and stability in the country of Burma.

We also call upon the international community to install pressure on pro-democracy Burmese groups to respect democratic rights of all citizens from all levels without further delay and to urgently convene the participatory process for the future federal union of Burma.

Signed by:

1. Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC), Malaysia

2. Arakan Rohingya Organization-Japan (JARO)

3. Arakan Rohingya Ulama Council, (ARUC), Malaysia

4. Burmese Rohingya Association in UAE (BRA-UAE)

5. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization (CBRO), Canada

6. Human Rights Association for Rohingya (HURAR), Arakan-Burma

7. Myanmar Muslim Council (MMC), KSA

8. National Council for Rohingya (NCR), Malaysia

9. National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) exile, HQ, USA

10. Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF), Arakan-Burma

11. World Rohingya Congress (WRC), USA

For further information, please contact:

Kyaw Soe Aung, Tel: +14147364273

Mohammad Sadek, Tel: +60 163094599

Rohingya Could Get Aid

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Rohingya Could Get Aid

Aid workers look into the case of 32 ethnic Rohingya asylum-seekers in Cambodia.

PHNOM PENH—A group of 32 ethnic minority Rohingya who fled to Cambodia from Burma are in a safe shelter and could soon get food and other aid, according to an official from a humanitarian group here.

Legal officer Lian Yong of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Cambodia said Tuesday that her organization would meet with the group to determine how to help.

"JRS, as with all asylum-seekers and refugees, will assist [the group] after we have made an assessment of their situation, and we will provide legal and social assistance."

The Rohingya, based in western Burma's northern Rakhine state, face systematic harassment and discrimination at home, rights groups say.

Burma's military government, which calls the country Myanmar, doesn't recognize them as citizens, and hundreds of thousands have fled across the border to Bangladesh over the years.

The 32 Rohingya, who first traveled to Cambodia in January, were living in the Russei Keo district of Phnom Penh while seeking political asylum from the government.

Lian Yong denied a report by the local Kaladan Press June 7 that said the Rohingya were facing a food shortage after running out of supplies and money.

"The Rohingya and JRS have asked [Kaladan Press] to take down [the news] as it includes a lot of incorrect information and they made up a lot of what they said. It is completely false," she said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kuy Kuong confirmed that the government had interviewed the asylum-seekers and was determining whether they qualify as refugees.

<strong>'They want to stay'</strong>

"We have interviewed them … They said that they are afraid of being persecuted and facing discrimination because of their ethnic identity. They came to seek asylum here," Kuong said.

"They want to stay in Cambodia."

Kuong said he believes there are more Rohingya in Cambodia seeking refugee status, but he declined to elaborate.

Another NGO official who asked not to be named said this group wasn't seeking asylum in a third country, but they haven't decided whether to pursue that option if they are refused residence in Cambodia.

Founder of Cambodia-based human rights organization LICADHO Kek Galabru said Cambodia is obligated by United Nations conventions to protect the Rohingya.

She added that if the government repatriates the group, they will face persecution in Burma.

Facing discrimination

The Rohingya drew global attention last year when the Thai military was accused of towing the boats of as many as 1,000 asylum-seekers out to sea and leaving them to drift at the mercy of the currents without adequate food and water.

The Rohingya themselves say they are Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan traders, who migrated to Burma as early as the 7th century A.D. But their ethnic identity isn't widely recognized.

Rights groups say the Rohingya are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers, and their case is now being taken up by the Bali Process, a human-smuggling summit involving more than 40 regional nations.

Some 200,000 Rohingya, ethnic Muslims who live in fear of arrest and deportation and lack access to the services provided at international refugee camps, have fled to Bangladesh from Burma.

Bangladesh does recognize as refugees some 28,000 Rohingya who live in two official camps run by the UNHCR and the Bangladesh government.

Original reporting by Yun Samean for RFA's Khmer service. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Translated by Vuthy Huot. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

RFA Web Administrator

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rare White Elephant Captured in Arakan State

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Another rare white elephant has been captured in Maungdaw Township in western Arakan State, according to local residents. White elephants were seen as a source of power and good luck by Burmese kings.
The age of the female elephant is estimated to be about 38 years. It has a circumference of 10 feet, 11 inches and is 7- feet, 4-inches tall, according to a state-run newspaper.
Employees of a nongovernmental organization based in Maungdaw Township said that the military commander of Arakan State was present when the elephant was captured, and it “was like a military operation.”
According to tradition, ancient Burmese kings believed that they would become more powerful if they possessed a white elephant. The junta's chief, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, and four other top leaders have named their two private aircraft “White Elephant.”
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, a monk in Maungdaw Township said, “White elephants are one of the treasures of the country. It is a good omen for the country.”
The military regime captured three white elephants between 2000 and 2002 in Arakan State. Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt, who is now under house arrest, built a garden on Min Dhamma hill in Insein Township in Rangoon where the elephants were kept in a compound.
Khin Nyunt presided over a ceremony for the three elephants, one male and two female. The male elephant is now 18 years old, and the two female elephants are 32, and 15.
Khin Nyunt was purged and placed under house arrest in 2005. The regime's leaders have never visited the site.
Source: Irrawaddy

Rohingya ‘victims of crimes against humanity’

Published: 28 June 2010

Abuses perpetrated by the Burmese government against the ethnic Rohingya minority in the country’s western region may constitute crimes against humanity, an expert on international human rights law says.
Forced labour, religious persecution and systematic rape by Burmese army officers are widespread against the Rohingya, according to the ‘Crimes Against Humanity in Western Burma‘ report, supervised by Professor William Schabas and released by the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR). Schabas was part of the team behind Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Schabas said that the minority group had “for decades…endured grave human rights violations in north Arakan state”, which borders Bangladesh. The report added however that their “plight has been overlooked for years and the root causes of their situation still remain under-examined”.
The treatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim group that is denied legal status in Burma, “[appears] to satisfy the requirements under international criminal law for the perpetration of crimes against humanity”, it added.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Michael Martin, said at the launch of the report in Dublin that the evidence published by the group was “compelling and credible”. It follows a report to the UN security council by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN’s special rapporteur to Burma, in which he similarly called for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity against the minority group.
The investigation for the ICHR report was carried out by Nancie Prudhomme and Joseph Powderly, who spent four weeks visiting Thailand, Bangladesh and Burma in 2009. Bangladesh is home to as many as 400,000 Rohingya refugees, while Thailand came under the spotlight in early 2009 after it pushed a boatload of Rohingya out to sea with no food or water, many of whom died.
The predominantly Buddhist Burmese government refuses to recognise the nearly 800,000-strong Rohingya minority as Burmese, and thus denies them legal rights and formal access to education and healthcare in the country. The Paris-based medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has described the Rohingya as one of the world populations ‘most in danger of extinction’.
Out of an estimated 400,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh’s eastern Cox’s Bazaar, less than 30,000 are registered by the UN and allowed to live in UN-run camps. Dhaka is believed to have resisted attempts by the UN to register those remaining, claiming that it would trigger an influx of more Rohingya into the country.
Prudhomme and Powderly’s fieldwork in the Bangladeshi camps was assisted by John Ralston, former chief of investigations at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the ICHR said.
Source: DVB

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Refugees in Malaysia: We need to do more

ALTHOUGH Malaysia has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, it is a member of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations, and should be able to consider doing more than what is being done today for the refugees.
Jobs can be offered to the refugees on a part-time basis. Some of the jobs, such as cooks and part-time helpers, are easily available.

We should recognise the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) cards as identification for the refugees. These would enable them to earn a decent living.

Non-governmental organisations can also open education centres to accommodate the children of refugees.

We must understand that most of these refugees are going to be here only for a short time.

Many of them have skills which can be used to overcome the shortage of skilled workers in some sectors.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress and Malaysian Employers Federation can help and organise jobs for the refugees. Malaysians should be proud that our country is the only one with a UNHCR centre in this region. Even countries that talk so much of human rights do not allow UNHCR to establish their offices there.

Executive director
Malaysia Tamil Forum

ex- Suhakam commissioner

Date: 27/06/2010

Read more: Refugees in Malaysia: We need to do more

Thursday, June 24, 2010

31 Rohingya Refugees in Australia

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thirty-one Rohingya refugees in a detention centre in Darwin, Australia are entering the 10th day of a hunger strike today in protest at the Australian government’s delay in processing their asylum claims, an average of nine months after their boats’ interception.

The president of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia, Kyaw Maung Shamsul Islam told Mizzima in a Burmese-language phone interview conducted late on Wednesday that three of the protesters had been taken to hospital because of the effects of their fast.

According to him, all 42 of the Rohingya refugees began the strike while held at the immigration detention centre in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, but 11 dropped out because of the physical toll.

Kyaw Maung said the 42 refugees were transferred to Darwin from Australia’s offshore detention centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean two months ago with the promise that they would be quickly processed and released. The group comprises two groups of Rohingya who were intercepted eight and 11 months ago while attempting to reach Australia from Indonesia. He said they the Rohingya protesters were very worried about the safety of the loved ones they had left behind.

“They have spent too much time in the detention centre. It has been a long time since immigration officers and social service groups have visited the detention center. So, they’ve lost their rights and have gone on a hunger strike”, said Soe Lwin, an employee from the Voluntary Social Work in Brisbane, capital of Queensland State, said.

According to Australia’s public broadcaster ABC, Australian immigration officials in Darwin coldly responded to inquiries about the hunger strike by saying that such actions would not speed up the processing of their asylum applications.

Suicide attempt unsuccessful

An Australian newspaper the Northern Territory News reported yesterday that one of the hunger strikers had attempted to hang himself on Tuesday morning but a fellow refugee intervened to save his life.

Immigration Department national communications branch manager Sandi Logan declined to reveal details in the report but said the suicidal refugee was “receiving appropriate care, including mental health support”. At the time of writing Mizzima was unable to contact any representatives of the Australian government for further comment.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for Australian advocacy network Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney told Mizzima that he had recently spoken on the phone with an Afghan refugee who was detained in the same area as the group of Rohingya hunger strikers. The Afghan described many of the Rohingya as “very weak” because of the far north Australian heat and their refusal to drink liquids.

A long-time refugee and rights advocate based in Sydney, Rintoul said the Australian government’s security check process was what was causing the lengthy delays in the Rohingya’s asylum claims. He criticised the government for stalling the process despite the fact that Australia considers the Rohingya a resettlement priority.

Rintoul told Mizzima that there was “no justifiable reason” for continuing to detain the refugees, adding that the government has refused to disclose what the security screening process entails.

Rintoul and others seeking to help the detained refugees have extremely limited access to them as they are housed far away from the Australian population centres. Further complicating matters is the government’s policy of limiting each detained refugee to make no more 10 minutes a week in phone calls. He believed this was one of the main reasons that details of the hunger strike have trickled out very slowly.

A contested history

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group that hail from Burma’s western Arakan State and who speak a separate language from Arakanese or Burmese. Despite the fact that many can prove their families have lived in Burma for several generations, most Rohingya do not have Burmese citizenship. Many Arakanese nationalist organisations dispute the legitimacy of the Rohingya people, claiming they are merely Bengalis, a claim Rohingya activists say is a deliberate over-simplification and a misrepresentation of history.

Rohingya activists point out that during the time of U Nu’s democratic post-war government, Rohingya were elected to the national parliament and Burmese state radio even had regular Rohingya language broadcasts.

Over the last 20 years tensions in Arakan state between Muslims and Buddhists have been exacerbated by scarce land resources. Outbreaks of violent intra-communal bloodshed that many Rohingya believe were instigated by the Burmese military regime have sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh. It is estimated that at present several hundred thousands Rohingya living illegally as refugees in Bangladesh.

The plight of the Rohingya briefly made headlines across the world last year when dozens of boats containing Rohingya refugees were pushed back into the ocean by Thai authorities.

In an attempt to counter the sympathetic coverage the Rohingya boat people received, Burma’s top diplomatic representative in Hong Kong Consul-General Ye Myint Aung sent a letter to his fellow diplomats in the territory that stated his regime’s position on the Rohingya issue. In the letter he claimed that the Rohingya could not possibly be Burmese citizens because their “complexion is dark brown” and that they are as “ugly as ogres”.

The Rohingya communities’ most famous political prisoner is Kyaw Min, leader of the small Arakan-based opposition party, the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) and an MP elected from Arakan State in the May 1990 election. Kyaw Min, served as a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s alliance of ethnic-minority MPs, called the Committee for the Restoration of the People’s Parliament (CRPP).

Kyaw Min was arrested in 2005 after meeting representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Rangoon. He was stripped of his citizenship and given a 47-year jail sentence. His wife Daw Tiza, his two daughters Kin Kin Nu and Way Way Nu and his son Maung Aung Naing were all given 17-year terms and also made stateless.

Australia tried to trade Rohingya refugees for Haitians and Cubans

In April 2007, the Australian government proposed a US-Australian refugee deterrence trading plan. To launch the programme, the Australian government wanted to send eight Rohingya refugees and 82 Tamil refugees who had been detained attempting to make it to Australia by ship with a similar number of Haitian and Cuban refugees who had been captured at sea by American coast guard authorities.

Australia’s then Prime Minister John Howard claimed the bartering of asylum-seekers would limit the number of refugees trying to flee to Australia. “I think people who want to come to Australia will be deterred by anything that sends a message that getting to the Australian mainland illegally is not going to happen,” Mr Howard told a reporter from The Age newspaper when this initiative was announced.

The famously tough-on-refugees prime minister added “I think people who set out for this country with the full knowledge that they’ll be prevented from coming to the Australian mainland will be additionally deterred” by the US-Australia trading scheme.

According to Rintoul, following a national outcry from refugee advocates and opposition politicians, the Howard government’s refugee-trading proposal was abandoned and no refugees were actually exchanged.

Malaria: Entry points screening tightened


Malaria: Entry points screening tightened

By: (Jun 24, 2010)

PUTRAJAYA (June 24, 2010): The Health Ministry will tighten screening process at all main entry points in the country to control imported malaria cases.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said although the situation was under control, the steps were taken to prevent those entering the country, from places or countries where malaria was still endemic.
"Now and then we come across 'imported' cases from Indonesia and Thailand.

"Three such cases, involving Myanmar nationals, are being treated at the Tanjung Karang Hospital, while another fisherman from Myanmar had died in Sekinchan, Selangor due to malaria," he told reporters after handing out Excellence Service awards to his staff at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) here today.
Liow said initial investigations showed that the three were 'imported' cases of malaria because Sekinchan was free from malaria.
"The Health office in Sekinchan had conducted tests on 122 locals and 216 foreign workers and all had tested negative. So, there is no signs of a malaria threat here," he said.

Liow said malaria cases in Malaysia had dropped to a satisfactory level with only about 3,000 cases recorded every year, mainly involving foreign workers.
"In the 1970s and even in the 1990s, malaria was a serious endemic in the country, infecting about 60,000 people a year, but we have been able to bring it down significantly to just about 3,000," he said.
He added that the ministry would continue efforts to control the spread of malaria.

In GEORGE TOWN, Opalyn Mok reports that the number of malaria cases in Penang is increasing, with four deaths recorded this year.
The four are illegal immigrants and a Rohingya refugee and are believed to have contracted the disease in their native country.

Between January and June this year, a total of 58 malaria cases were recorded, including the four deaths. In the same period last year, there were 55 cases.

State health, welfare, caring society and environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh told a press conference today that 54 of the 58 cases involved illegal immigrants while four are locals.

"These illegal immigrants contracted the disease in their home countries and brought it here," he said.

Describing the situation as serious, Phee said the number of malaria cases needs to be curbed with the cooperation of locals, especially those who hire foreign workers.

"A lot of illegal immigrants come here and hide in the hills, so we hope employers will only hire legal foreign workers who have undergone medical check-ups before coming here," he said.

Phee said the high-risk areas where malaria can spread are the hiding places of these illegal immigrants such as the hilly jungle areas of Air Itam, Relau, Balik Pulau and Southern Seberang Perai.

As for dengue, another disease spread by mosquitoes, the number of reported cases have gone down by almost 60%, with a total of 509 cases between January and June.

"Comparatively, in the same period last year, we have a total of 1,429 cases," he said.

As for chikungunya, as at June this year, there were only two confirmed cases.

A total of 475 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have been reported in the first half of the year.

"There was a high number of HFM cases even during the school holidays and to date, we have ordered for 16 nurseries and kindergartens to close when cluster cases were detected," he said.

In the most recent case, a kindergarten in Tanjung Bungah was ordered to close from June 23 until July 2 following four reported cases there. -- theSun

--- end ---    --- Article Information --- This article was emailed from Sun2Surf. Article's URL: 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Burmese Refugee Crisis: National Reconciliation or Dialogue A Must

By Mohammad Sadek*

Indeed, the National Reconciliation among Burmese people and authority have been alarming for decades in order to achieve the goal of democratic changes in the country and that definitely shall assist the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in building bridge to strengthen its regional cooperation.

In timely action, the Burmese people would solute the Malaysian Primer Datuk Seri Mohammed Najib Tun Abdur Razak for his pro-active call to the ruling military regime for national reconciliation.

On the other hand, the States Department of the United States of America has also been pushing for the same National Reconciliation in order to achieve the goal of democracy and to find solution for the Burmese refugees in neighboring countries.

The process of reconciliation/dialogue is much more important than other initiative as it helps to bring inclusive decisions and promote concept of people in respecting every individual efforts and rights for the establishment of peace, justice and equality with full human dignity in the country. These steps may be able to lay a foundation stone for genuine federal democracy.

Nevertheless, Burma's peace depends on neighboring countries' encouragements, while they are carrying the burdens of refugees like tens of thousand of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh for whom no alternative solution is found, while Chin refugees in India, Shan, Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Mon and other ethnic minority refugees in Thailand are also in notable situation.

In Malaysia chapter, Rohingya refugee issue is kept under the carpet, while other ethnic refugee issues from the same country are comparatively in progressive way to a meaningful solution. Over 84,000 refugees and asylum seekers are from various countries registered with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia, while bulk of them are still remain undocumented. This number was doubled in within one year.

Meanwhile, burdens are increasing day by day and thus finding solution towards these burdens is urgently required for which tripartite dialogues among all stake holders like the UN Refugee Agency, Host Government and genuine refugee representatives together with International Human Rights Defenders. Such dialogues may be able to identify a perfect way to achieve national reconciliation process from people level to governing position.

In current atmosphere, refugee communities from Burma have been facing challenges of disunity, ignoring each other causes, soaring for opportunities by means of racial, religious and ethnical excellences. Such things bring defamation to concerned quarters as its prioritization proves to discriminations.

By every circumstance, national reconciliation and reforms dialogues are the key tools to achieve goals. With a view to ending the refugee crises, urgent steps should be taken for the dialogue among the concerned stakeholders and that will pave a role to ensure the rights of refugees and their protection through effective and global initiatives. ##

* Writer is Program Coordinator of the Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC), Malaysia and the General Secretary of the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) exile, South East Asia Regional Office, Malaysia.

Government must look to the rights of refugees

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 15:02 Ou Virak .
Dear Editor,

In the shadow of World Refugee Day (June 20), I would like to take the opportunity to remember the 20 ethnic Uighurs forcibly returned to China by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) in December 2009, despite Cambodia’s signature to the 1951 Convention on Refugees.

There is no information on the whereabouts of the 20 returned individuals who had come to Cambodia seeking refuge following an outbreak of ethnic riots in July 2009. The group had described clearly to the Cambodian authorities the persecution they were escaping in China, and that they feared for the safety of their families, yet they were still repatriated in contravention of the Convention on Refugees. Neither the United Nations nor their families have any record of where the group ended up. As reported by Human Rights Watch in January 2010, there has been no notification of legal charges against the group and no guarantees given by the Chinese government that the group are safe from persecution.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights is following the plight of the ethnic Rohingya (another predominantly Muslim minority), fleeing persecution from the Myanmar government. As reported in The Phnom Penh Post on June 21, the group have been in Cambodia since January and have been given no indication by the RGC of their refugee status or right to asylum; they now face food shortages. I strongly urge the RGC to adhere to their obligations under the Convention on Refugees, in ensuring that the group is given access to public assistance, food and healthcare.

With the passing of World Refugee Day, it is important to remind the RGC that we have not forgotten the Uighurs. As a former refugee myself, having spent 4 years in a Thai refugee camp, I – like the countless other Cambodians who have sought refuge in foreign countries in recent decades – understand the plight of these people and would like to take this opportunity to remember all refugees and all those who have worked hard to help them. Moreover, I strongly urge the RGC to ensure that the Rohingyas are treated with the dignity and respect that was denied to the Uighurs.

Ou Virak, President
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Send letters to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Man in suicide bid at detention centre

June 23rd, 2010

AN ASYLUM seeker attempted suicide in Darwin Detention Centre yesterday.

It is understood the man tried to hang himself.

He was discovered by one of the fellow detainees, who saved his life.

NT police were alerted to an incident at the centre at 5.29am, and St John Ambulance paramedics rushed the man to Royal Darwin.

Immigration Department national communications branch manager Sandi Logan yesterday said the man was being observed in hospital but had no physical injuries.

"This was a self-harm incident - we don't disclose details," he said. "He's receiving appropriate care, including mental health support."

The man was released from hospital in the afternoon and returned to detention.

Police spokesman David Harris confirmed police attended, but said it was a matter for Immigration as it was under their jurisdiction.

When asked why police were called to a medical incident, he said: "We have a responsibility to respond to incidents that might be of concern to the coroner."

Trouble has been brewing recently at Darwin Detention Centre. The man is one of 31 Burmese asylum seekers who have been protesting for more than a week, holding a hunger strike.

One member had earlier been taken to RDH and was then returned to the detention centre.

The president of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia, Kyaw Maung Shamsul Islam, said the men were upset because other asylum claims had been processed much more quickly.

He said the men had been in detention between eight and 11 months so far, while other claims had been processed within three months.

Mr Logan said refugee applications always took some time while checks were carried out, and that some cases were more difficult to process than others.

Mr Shamsul Islam said fear for their families' wellbeing was fuelling the men's desperate frustration.

"(Their families) could be nearly dead and nobody would help them," he said.

"They're worried about their children."

Readers seeking support and information on suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Asylum seeker rushed to hospital in Darwin

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Asylum seeker rushed to hospital in Darwin

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Burmese Migrants in Thailand Facing Increased Scrutiny

A rights group in Thailand says a government crackdown on unregistered migrant workers, most of them from Burma, could encourage rights abuses.

The Human Rights and Development Foundation says Thai authorities are targeting for arrest migrant workers who failed to take part in a nationality verification program.

The HRDF says the government this month set up a special center to manage a crackdown on about 300,000 migrant workers who missed a February deadline to begin the verification process.

The rights group says hundreds of migrants have already been arrested and more arrests are expected.

Somchai Homlaor is a human rights lawyer and secretary general of the HRDF. He says the crackdown and high demand for cheap migrant labor will only encourage bribes and other criminal activities that the registration program was meant to prevent. He says the deadline to apply for nationality verification should be extended.

"The Thai government should open for the registering of these illegal migrant workers and allow them to become workers who work in Thailand legally, that they will not [be] subject to the exploitation and abuse of the power of the authority," he said.

The nationality verification program is part of the government's effort to give migrant workers legal protections and better access to public services.

There are more than two million migrant workers in Thailand, many of them illegally or without proper documentation. More than 80 percent are from Burma.

Their access to education and health care is limited and they are often taken advantage of by crooked employers, but have few legal remedies.

Only legal migrants were allowed to participate in the verification process. About 800,000 from Burma applied while an estimated one million unregistered were excluded and are subject to arrest and deportation.

Under the program, migrant workers are required to verify their nationality with their home government before they will be issued a work permit in Thailand.

But Somchai says Burma's military government does not recognize some ethnic groups, such as the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, as citizens of Burma.

"There are many, many workers from Burma that will not be able to pass their national verification process and they will not get the passport from Burmese authority and will not get the work permit from the Thai authority. This is the big question that what Thailand will do for this group of [what] becomes the stateless persons. We don't have a clear answer from the Thai government even though we raised this issue some time ago," he said.

Somchai says many migrants from Burma also refused to register for fear of persecution from Burmese authorities.

Others, he says, could not afford fees for brokers who help migrant workers through the application process or were not aware of the verification requirement.

Thailand depends on migrants as a cheap source of manual labor. Many work on construction sites and fishing boats, or as household servants.
Source: VOA
Published on 22 June 2010

When can we commemorate World Refugee Day?

By Eric Paulsen
IT was heartening to see the whole world condemning the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla bound for Gaza. While the Palestinians' struggle for a homeland deserves all the international aid, support and solidarity – we must not turn a blind eye to others with a similar or even worse plight than the Palestinians.
Refugees are defined as people who are unable to return to their home countries due to fear of persecution, war or conflict, and they are entitled under international law to protection and assistance. The Palestinians make up a substantial number – 4.8 million refugees from the total 15.2 million refugees worldwide as of end 2009, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
It estimates there are 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. As of January last year, only 36,671 refugees and 9,323 asylum seekers were registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. This registration affords them only a small measure of protection as the government does not generally recognise refugees but treats them like "illegal" migrants.
The majority, some 90% are from Myanmar.
World Refugee Day on June 20 saw little or no improvement to the lives of refugees in Malaysia. Refugees are still treated as undocumented migrants and subjected to harsh immigration laws and policies.
Without documents, they are unable to work legally and live in perpetual fear of raids, arrest and harassment. Consequently, they live in the margins of society, constantly in hiding and living in poverty.
When arrested they are detained at detention centres for several months (sometimes even years) before being charged, jailed, whipped (men only) and deported, mainly to the Thai border – and some find themselves sold to human traffickers.
In May and September last year, eight Myanmar detainees died in two detention centres due to Leptospirosis, an infectious disease caused by water or food contaminated with animal urine. Detention conditions are deplorable and inhumane – overcrowding, sweltering, lack bedding, poor hygiene and sanitation, insufficient and poor quality food, irregular access to clean water and medical treatment, all of which fall far short of minimum international standards. Serious abuse by detention centre staff is also common, including arbitrary beatings.
Then Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar reported to Parliament that between 1999 and 2008, there were 2,571 detainee deaths in prisons, rehabilitation centres and immigration detention centres. In December 2008, former Suhakam Commissioner Datuk Siva Subramaniam said 1,300 foreigners died in detention during the past six years due to lack of medical treatment and neglect.
How can we be blind to this serious ill-treatment of foreigners including refugees at our own doorstep when we can see and act on the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinians many thousand miles away?
Can we be principled and take human rights including refugee protection seriously and consistently? Refugees irrespective of their nationality (religion, ethnicity, political opinion, etc) must be afforded international protection and we cannot pick and choose who we want to assist and who we want to abuse, detain or deport.
Refugees are real people with real needs. At the very minimum, they need clean water, food, sanitation, shelter, health care and protection from violence and abuse. Can we not provide that? Can we not help them so they have a chance to rebuild their lives, and hopefully one day return to their home countries as preferred by most refugees?
The answer is "yes". After the December 2004 tsunami in Aceh, the government on humanitarian grounds issued the IMM13 work and residence permits to some 30,000 Acehnese who were then seeking refuge in Malaysia. The temporary protection ended in 2008 following the success of the peace accord in Aceh.
But most of the time, the government's answer is "no". The Rohingyas/Burmese Muslims were also supposed to be issued with the IMM13 permit in August 2006. But after some allegations of fraud and corruption, the Home Ministry suspended the scheme. About 5,000 Rohingyas had by then registered with the Immigration Department where they paid RM90 registration fee but no IMM13 permits were issued.
The government has refused to sign the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (144 countries have signed up) ie the key UN legal document that defines who is a refugee, their rights and legal obligation of state parties. Malaysia's refusal to sign the convention should not however absolve them from not recognising refugees as a special category of vulnerable persons in need of temporary protection as it is bound by other international human rights laws and standards including customary international law that prohibits refoulement (forced expulsion) and torture.
If Malaysia wants to be taken seriously when speaking on human rights issues, it must act consistently for the protection and respect for all human rights wherever they occur.
Instead of mistreating refugees, the government should provide them with documents, basic humanitarian assistance, access to social services, a chance to work and educate their children, so that they can lead a semblance of a dignified life while they are in our country. And when the time comes, they are able to return to their home countries or resettled in third countries, hopefully in a better condition than they were when they first arrived.
In February, Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mahmood Adam announced plans to issue identification cards to refugees recognised by UNHCR that would entitle them to stay temporarily in the country and perform odd jobs. This plan if implemented properly will be a landmark moment in refugee protection – and finally, a real reason for Malaysia to commemorate World Refugee Day.
Eric Paulsen is a member of Lawyers for Liberty, a newly formed human rights and law reform initiative. Comments:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A call to End Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma

Burmese Rohingya Democratic Alliance (BRAD)

Press Release:
Date: June 20, 2010

A call to End Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma

We undersigned organizations warmly solutes the recent report, titled: “Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas”, launched by the Irish Center for Human Rights (ICHR), National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, which is the one of the World’s Leading university based human rights research center.

We express our sincere gratitude towards the members, researchers, associates and all level of staffs or assistants and contributors both in cash or kinds from every quarter of humanity, particularly the Irish Government, Irish Center for Human Rights and Irish Aid and people for making this successful job to be done with tireless and restless efforts and contributions.

The report was officially launched by the Micheal Martin, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs on June 16, 2010 at Iveagh House, Dublin in the presence of Rohingya victims who were rescued by the Irish Government in one year ago.

For decades, the Rohingyas have been enduring human rights abuses in Northern Arakan State of Burma. In every moment, more and more Rohingya men, women and children are leaving Burma, fleeing the human rights abuses in the hope of finding peace and security elsewhere in the world. But, their plight has been overlooked for years and the root causes of their situation still remain under-examined. These violations are on-going and in urgent need of attention and redress.

A fact-finding mission managed to reach to the region, including Burma, as well as on extensive open-source research, and confidential meetings with organizations working in the region. Mission gained much of the most important information came from the many interviews conducted with Rohingya individuals in and around refugee camps in Bangladesh, where they were able to speak more freely than they can in Burma itself about the violations they had endured and which had caused them to flee their homes.

The Report has examined the apparent cases of enslavement, rape and sexual violence, deportation or forcible transfer of populations, and persecution against the Rohingyas may constitute crimes against humanity. “Describing the violations as crimes against humanity raises the possibility that cases against those Burmese officials who are responsible could be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The Report has also revealed the truth on the actual situation of the Rohingyas through the lens of crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and international criminal law jurisprudence, especially that of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, are used to provide detailed and clear legal foundations for the examination. As becomes evident in the individual chapters, there is a strong prima facie case for determining that crimes against humanity are being committed against the Rohingyas of Northern Arakan State in Burma.

The Reports affirms that people committing, allowing, aiding and abetting these crimes must be held accountable, calling the international community including the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council, ASEAN and all other stakeholders or states to take responsibility to protect the Rohingyas, to respond to the allegations of crimes against humanity and ensure that violations and impunity do not persist for another generation, establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and collect further evidence on the perpetration of crimes against humanity in Northern Arakan State. Moreover, as raised throughout this Report, there is strong foundation to believe that further crimes are being committed throughout other areas of Burma, and the Commission of Inquiry must have a broad mandate to investigate all allegations of international crimes committed in the country.

Commission of Inquiry should confirm a prima facie case of crimes against humanity, the Security Council should refer the case to the International Criminal Court, pursuant to Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute.

We do believe that the ICHR will conduct further researchers in states of Rohingyas’ refuge, where they have been being treated as slave labor under the title of temporary shelter. These kinds of words bring obstructions against international supports towards the Rohingya victims, living elsewhere in the world.

Base on these live evidences, we request to all level of human societies to come forward for showing strong solidarity in combating crimes against Rohingya Burmese minority through allocating them in the states parties to United Nations and International Treaties including 1951 Convention and its 1967 additional protocol and putting effective pressures on Burmese military regime for urgent democratic changes in order to ensure the full rights and dignity of the Rohingyas in Burma.

Signed by:
Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC), Malaysia
Arakan Rohingya Organization-Japan (JARO)
Arakan Rohingya Ulama Council, (ARUC), Malaysia
Burmese Rohingya Association in UAE (BRA-UAE)
Human Rights Association for Rohingya (HURAR), Arakan-Burma
Myanmar Muslim Council (MMC), KSA
National Council for Rohingya (NCR), Malaysia
National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) exile, HQ, USA
Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF), Arakan-Burma
World Rohingya Congress (WRC), USA

For further information, please contact:
Kyaw Soe Aung,, Tel: +14147364273
Mohammad Sadek, Tel: +60 163094599

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Abused and Abandoned: Refugees Denied Rights in Malaysia

English language version of Amnesty International's latest report on Malaysia, "Abused and Abandoned: Refugees Denied Rights in Malaysia (Index ASA 28/010/2010) which will be published on the 16th June ( embargoed until 14.01 GMT). Please also find attached the press release that accompanies the report. Once the report has been released, please feel free to circulate the report amongst your contacts. A Malay language version of the report will also be available shortly.

If you have any questions regarding the report, please contact Chris Nash (chris.nash@amnesty. org), head of the Refugee and Migrants Rights team, or the Refugee and Migrants' Rights team (rmrteam@amnesty. org)

Report Summary:

The report concludes that Malaysia's failure to officially recognize refugee status places it at odds with its international obligations and creates serious risks to the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and asylum seekers face the daily prospect of being arrested, detained in squalid conditions, and ill-treated, including by whipping. They are also subjected to extortion and abuse by the police or other immigration enforcement agencies. They face the constant fear of being forced to return to a country where they may be stripped of their rights or even killed.

While there have been recent positive developments and reforms adopted by the government, including with regard to the strengthened cooperation with UNHCR, challenges still exist in identifying and registering refugees. There continue to be documented problems in relation to respect for the rights of UNHCR card holders as well as the ability of UNHCR to access and secure the release of refugees from detention.

Some key recommendations identified in the report include calling on the Malaysian government to:

Introduce a government ID card system for asylum seekers and refugees which provides them with documentation evidencing their legal right to remain in the country during the refugee status determination process and for as long as necessary thereafter, and which affords entitlement to relevant rights and services (including basic healthcare, primary education and housing). Ensure that identity cards are respected by all levels of immigration enforcers, and holders are not arrested, detained or deported.

 Ensure that UNHCR documents are respected by all levels of immigration enforcement, including by issuing a circular to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

Provide asylum-seekers and refugees with the legal right to work in Malaysia, and documentation to ensure this right is understood and respected by employers and law enforcement agencies in line with international legal standards and practice.

End criminal penalties (including whipping and imprisonment) for refugees and asylum-seekers, including in relation to irregular entry.

Immediately remove all immigration related functions and powers from RELA, including the power to arrest and detain.

Ensure that asylum-seekers are detained only as a measure of last resort and in line with international standards, and that those detained are provided with prompt and unimpeded access to UNHCR. Ensure that unaccompanied children under the age of 18, the elderly, trauma victims and pregnant women are never detained for migration-related reasons.

Take steps to ratify the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and bring domestic law, policy and practice in line with these instruments. Take steps to ratify the ICCPR, the UN Convention against Torture and the ICESCR, and integrate them into domestic law, policy and practice.

The report recognises that while it is incumbent upon the Malaysian authorities to address many of the identified problems, the international community must also take its share of responsibility. In particular, this should include concerted efforts to increase the number of resettlement places available in third countries.

For the full version of the report and press release please click on the accompanying attachments.

All the best

Refugee and Migrants Rights Team

Amnesty International
email: rmrteam@amnesty. org
tel: +44(0) 20 7413 5500
fax: +44(0) 20 7956 1157


Working to protect human rights worldwide


This email has been sent by Amnesty International Limited (a company registered in England and Wales limited by guarantee, number 01606776 with registered office at 1 Easton St, London WC1X 0DW). Internet communications are not secure and therefore Amnesty International does not accept legal responsibility for the contents of this message. If you are not the intended recipient you must not disclose or rely on the information in this e-mail. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Amnesty International unless specifically stated. Electronic communications including email might be monitored by Amnesty International for operational or business reasons.

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Latest Report links:

Neglected Rohingya Refugee Children in Malaysia

By Mohammad Sadek

The Rohingya refugee children in Malaysia have gone in outrages and are facing inhuman challenges without child care and basic rights that accorded in various treaties in glorious history of the world.

Rohingya as a forgotten refugee groups in Southeast Asia , they do not have chance to send their children to gain any kind of knowledge for failure to meet in legal frameworks.

Out of ten of thousands of Rohingya refugees, only 18,800 were registered by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia . They are being marginalized and unspecific numbers of them are also passing life in sub-human condition with vulnerabilities. No justice is available for them. They are considered as illegal immigrant in this region. Their advocacy also remains unmoved.

Therefore, Rohingya Refugee rights activists in Malaysia have gone into possible studies and found that at least over 8,000 school age children underway to exploitation in the country as they are completely deprived of their basic rights to education and other needs, after being of persons of concern to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

At the same time, numbers of children become street children, who find means of survival by begging from the street. No quarter is taking step to assist them or to alleviate poverty and eradicate illiteracy rate among the Rohingya refugee children.

Fact that the issue of Rohingya refugees in South East Asia is getting less focused on real appearance which may bring adequate advocacy to the Muslim Malaysian Government to look after the causes of these neglected refugees like Cambodian, Pilipino and Acehnese Muslim refugees in previous years. But the government is not in position to do the same for the Rohingya because the ruling Burmese Government does not recognized them as its fellow citizen.

It is also true that in late 2009, the Government of Malaysia announced that the Rohingya refugee children would be allowed to access in public schools after 30 years of their history in Malaysia but commitment remain in papers and in the air, while local education authority rejected the news and responded Rohingya refugee parents like pre-announcement period, mentioning that refugees are illegal and thus children cannot access in public schools.

Besides, some concerned quarters often try to get information about children with unknown motives in order to develop their progressive reports, which give live evidence from their non-cooperative hands and undocumented communications.

It is sure that the Rohingya refugees are not being treated as other non-Rohingya Burmese refugee children for whom volunteers from different countries through the proper channels are being engaged to develop education together with persuading for advocacy and distributing financial aids and educational materials. No quarters have paid attetntion to supports to Rohingya Buremse refugees’ informal education centers, except implicating destructive name of underground schools. So, Rohingya refugee teachers or educators are being scared to involve in education in order to avoid from such accusation of underground activism as they are really working for the establishment of peace, justice and equality on principle of universal declaration of human rights and other international human rights treaties.

This contribution is a gift to advocate the causes of the Rohingya Burmese refugee children in Malaysia, appealing to the international community to take urgent step to abolish ill-motivated campaign against the unfortunate refugee children in Malaysia in order to let them chance to gain education and knowledge, while alleviating poverty among the Rohingya refugee community, eradicating illiteracy rate as well through out the effective humanitarian aids and charitable works.

Appeal also may be made to the UN Refugee Agency to urgently speed of resettlement process for the Rohingya refugees, particularly the active educationists Rohingya in order to ensure the hopes of their children, while getting cooperation from the UN Children Agency to bring assistances in balance for these worst neglected Rohingya refugee children in Malaysia .

Mohammad Sadek
Program Coordinator
Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC)

Crime against Humanity: Rohingya in Burma

Crimes Against Humanity Committed Against Rohingyas in Western Burma, Irish Human Rights Centre’ Report Conclude The Rohingya minority group in Western Burma has been victim of human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, according to a report released today by the Irish Centre for Human Rights. The report, entitled Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas, was officially launched by Micheál Martin, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, at Iveagh House.

‘For decades now, the Rohingya minority group has endured grave human rights violations in North Arakan State. Every day, more Rohingya men, women and children are leaving Burma, fleeing the human rights abuses in the hope of finding peace and security elsewhere,’ said Professor William Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, which is located at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The Report is based on extensive open-source research and on a fact-finding mission to Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh conducted by experts in international criminal investigation. As well as interviewing organisations working in the region, investigators met with Rohingya victims in and around refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Rohingyas’ plight has been overlooked for years and the root causes of their situation still remain under-examined. The Irish Centre for Human Rights’ Report identifies and discusses some of these causes.
The Report examines whether the apparent cases of enslavement, rape and sexual violence, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and persecution against the Rohingyas may constitute crimes against humanity. ‘Describing the violations as crimes against humanity raises the possibility that cases against those Burmese officials who are responsible could be referred to the International Criminal Court’, Professor Schabas explained.

The Report affirms that people committing, allowing, aiding and abetting these crimes must be held accountable. The international community has a responsibility to protect the Rohingyas, to respond to the allegations of crimes against humanity and ensure that violations and impunity do not persist for another generation, concludes the report.
Speaking at the launch of the Report, Minister Martin commended the work of the NUIG research team, stating that they have presented ‘compelling and credible evidence suggesting that crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by the Burmese authorities against the Rohingya minority group’. Noting the recommendation in the Report that the Security Council establish a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether there is a prima facie case that crimes against humanity have been committed, as well as similar recent comments by UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, Minister Martin said that he fully supported these calls for all such alleged crimes to be formally investigated.
The Irish Centre for Human Rights, based at the National University of Ireland, Galway, is one of the world’s leading university-based human rights research centres. The Centre, which marks its tenth anniversary this year, is dedicated to teaching, research and advocacy in the field of human rights.x x x

Contact:Irish Centre for Human Rights (+353 91 493609
Ms. Nancie Prudhomme (+353.83.0044754
Prof. William Schabas (+353.87.412.9551 )

Report available at:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


By Paul Collins, Community Newswire
SOCIAL Rohingya Central London 14 Jun 2010 - 17:17

a photography exhibition in London this week aims to raise awareness of the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Burma.

The collection of 25 pictures, taken by award-winning photographer Omi Saiful Huq, aims to make people aware of the suffering experienced by the Muslim ethnic group.

Hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya community in the Northern Arakan State of Western Burma, have been forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and Thailand since the 1978, when there was a large scale military operation against them.

Omi's exhibition, which runs from June 15 to June 24, has been organized by human rights group UNHCR as part of Refugee Week.

Omi, a photo activist from Bangladesh, said: "The Rohingya people have been forced to leave Burma since the 1970s but it has been getting worse over the past 10 years.

"They have faced a lot of persecution and there have been some terrible stories of violence and rape committed against them.

"I spent three months in some of the refugee camps in Bangladesh last year, and have been touring since then trying to raise awareness of the situation.

"I want as many people as possible to come to Brick Lane during the exhibition to find out more about the Rohingya people and how they have suffered.

"Nothing will be done if nobody knows what is happening, and hopefully the more people become aware, the more we can work to find a solution, and put pressure on Burma."

The exhibition, at East Gallery, 214 Brick Lane, is free entry and opening hours are 1pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday, and 11am to 6pm at the weekend.

UNHCR leads and co-ordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. For more information visit

Refugee Week, aims to celebrate the contributions refugees bring to the UK. Hundreds of events will take place during the week focusing on the arts, music and food. For more information go to:-


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Roaming Rohingya: Stateless and Suffering in Myanmar

Foreign Policy Digest
Asia Pacific - June 2010

Written by Niki Shah
After meeting this May with Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel laureate Burmese democracy icon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell said that Myanmar's upcoming elections, if held under the 2008 constitution, would lack international legitimacy. Under this revised constitution, the military junta in Myanmar would be replaced by a civilian government, including a 440-member legislature of which 25 percent of seats will be reserved for the military. The constitutional revisions prompted some cabinet members in the junta to resign from the military and transform themselves into civilians in order to qualify for a larger proportion of seats.

The junta's control has systematically disallowed social reforms to take place, continuously denying minority communities the basic civil liberties and rights necessary to sustain their daily lives. Political struggles and armed conflicts between the military regime and political opponents such as the National League for Democracy have left nearly 3.5 million people in Myanmar stateless without access to public services or a legal claim to basic freedoms and civil and political rights.

One of the world's most persecuted minorities according to the U.N., the Rohingya people comprise an Islamic community in the North Arakan region of Myanmar that has been subject to discriminatory practices and denied basic rights, such as the rights to free movement or marriage, as well as the rights to access to medical services, food or housing.

Two hundred thousand Rohingyas live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and others have fled to nearby countries such as India, China, Malaysia and Thailand. Thousands of Rohingyas have risked their lives in search of job opportunities in the Middle East and Bangladesh. Although some of the population has fled to neighboring countries, Rohingyas have been systematically denied the right to return to Myanmmar and face either deportation from Thailand and Malaysia into areas controlled by insurgent groups along the Burmese border. Reports from Thailand state that refugees are often arrested and subject to harsh treatment while in detention. In 2008, several refugees were directly transferred to the custody of the Thai Army at Koh Sai Daeng despite their weak conditions, while others were forced to board boats that were not seaworthy.

The 1982 Citizenship Law denied citizenship to the Rohingyas, restricted their ability to travel and made them ineligible for any government jobs, such as those in public schools or public health facilities. Women and girls are deprived of basic education and economic opportunities while forced marriages and sex trafficking are not uncommon. According to the Forced Migration Review, humanitarian agencies are prevented from training Rohingya health workers and auxiliary midwives are often subject to forced labor, arbitrary taxation and confiscation of land.

The current administration has pursued diplomatic engagement, as well as economic and diplomatic sanctions, to persuade the military leadership to heed international norms and to castigate Myanmar's military regime for depriving its people of human rights and political freedoms. In response to the military junta's March 2010 elections law that prohibits any pro-democracy party from participating in elections, the U.S. has twice attempted to hold talks with the military leadership to press for political and social reforms. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress assessed the implications of the new U.S. policy toward Burma, which was announced in October 2009. According to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing transcript, the Obama administration conducted the policy review due to some troubling developments, which included the crackdown on the Saffron Revolution, the national referendum held after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, human rights violations along the Sino-Burmese border, and the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the pro-independence leader Aung San.

Despite international engagement by the U.S., various NGOs and the international community, the humanitarian situation in Burma is improving, at best, a glacial pace.
Donor governments should continue to assess the impact of the UNHCR's work in Burma and in neighboring countries like India and Thailand, where significant numbers of Burmese have fled. Based on these evaluations, governments should maintain aid flexibility to coordinate efforts with humanitarian organizations that provide services in conflict zones, especially in Burma. Furthermore, the U.S. should consider increasing foreign aid for democracy and governance related programs. Although impact evaluations for such programs can be expensive and inaccurate, it is important to demonstrate accountability and transparency for effective aid to be channeled to multilateral institutions that work with the refugee population in and around Burma.

The U.S. should continue its negotiations with the military regime to create and maintain a protected environment, which include the right to self-determination, freedom of movement and free access to basic services. This is particularly urgent in the northern state of Rakhine, where language barriers prevent Rohingyas from accessing medical services and education. Rohingyas face challenges in receiving care from non-state sources because international humanitarian agencies are prevented from training Muslim health workers.

Regional stakeholders like Thailand, Bangladesh, China and India should confer some form of legal status to Rohingyas in order to prevent human right abuses and make them eligible for basic services. It is in the national interests of China and India, in particular, to work closely with these Burmese refugees and convince the Burmese military leadership to follow customary international norms of human rights, given their trilateral trade and military ties. More importantly, it is equally important for the international community, particular the regional stakeholders, to coordinate with humanitarian organizations to prevent human rights violations and provide access to services that can save lives and provide suitable living conditions.

Niki Shah has worked at the United Nations and Capitol Hill and periodically contributes op-eds for South Asian news outlets. Niki received a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Media and Economics from and M.S. in Global Affairs and minor in International Business from Rutgers University.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Opinion of One Exiled Arakanese Political Leader on Arakanese Parties Contesting in 2010 Election

The Burmese military government has been planning to hold an election this year, and three political parties have recently emerged to represent Arakan and run in the 2010 election. They are the Rakhine National Progressive Party, the Mro and Khami National Solidarity Organization, and the Myanmar Rakhine State National Force Party. The Arakan League for Democracy, or ALD, which won the most votes in Arakan and 11 parliamentary seats, has officially announced that not only will they boycott the election but they will not even register as a party with the election commission. The ALD states as it reasons that the new constitution of Burma was unscrupulously adopted by force and fraud, and it will not bring any democratic or ethnic rights to the people of Burma.

As with the Arakanese political parties, perspectives on the election among the people are also mixed. In such circumstances, one of the leading figures from the Arakanese political community, Dr. Khin Maung, sat with Narinjara's Ko Maung Aye to discuss the parties that will run in the upcoming election.

Dr. Khin Maung: Before speaking about whether we should compete in the 2010 election or not, I would like to talk about our stand on the matter.

First, we denounce the new constitution that was single-handedly drafted and undemocratically ratified by the Burmese junta to prolong their dictatorship.

Second, the constitutional referendum was held in 2008 right after the Cyclone Nargis catastrophe that destroyed hundreds of thousands of people, ignoring the pain and suffering of the people. Therefore, we strongly condemn the 2008 constitutional referendum and the resulting constitution itself.

Third, since the upcoming 2010 election is going to be held on the basis of that 2008 constitution it will not be a free and fair election, so we also oppose it.

Now the election regulations have finally come out, and when we analyzed them we found more immoral tricks. That has solidified our opposition to the election and we will continue opposing it.

However, I won't rule out the necessity of having other political organizations and sincere people to stand up and serve all Arakanese and to protect Arakan's rights. So I won't oppose anyone who is trying to form a political party to run in this election. Anyone can become involved in politics based on their belief and passion, and I have no feelings against them.

Narinjara: Do you think that having Arakanese parties run in the election can bring some benefits to the state and its people?

Dr. Khin Maung: It all depends on the extend of freedom and democracy inside parliament. Burmese generals might give some slack that they think can not hurt them. Depending on how well the representatives and senators can take advantage of this, how far they can fight for Arakan, and how willing they are to represent Arakan, the benefits could vary.

Narinjara: Do you know how much Arakanese people trust the competing parties and their candidates?

Dr. Khin Maung: Only the party or a person who really serves the people of Arakan deserves the peoples' trust. People will vote for the party they trust. In the 1990 election, as people trusted some leaders of the ALD, they voted for the ALD. In reality, some dishonest and conniving people became representatives. We need to be careful that does not happen again.

Narinjara: If the competing parties win some seats in the parliament, how well will they be able to work for Arakan and her people?

Dr. Khin Maung: It depends on how well freedom and democracy prevail in the parliament. Also, it depends on how much the representatives would like to serve the people who election them. If a party led by individuals determined to work for the people wins, to some extent, it could benefit Arakan.

Narinjara: If a certain political party that truly represents Arakan does not register and run in the election, what kind of impact could that have on the state?

Dr. Khin Maung: Well, it is necessary to be politically clever and contemplative. As I mentioned above, it depends on which party or who will faithfully and seriously represent Arakan. People have to differentiate who is for them and who is not. We must understand that this election is a "system change" for Burmans. In other words, it is a change from a military dictatorship to a democratic system. But for other non-Burman ethnic groups, including Arakanese, it is a fight for survival of their national identities. Burmese and ethnic people might see that difference. In terms of how much a party that does not register and contest in the election could affect Arakan, it will also depend on how well parties and representatives in parliament will be able to work for their national survival and development. At the very least, I hope they have the chance to protect their national survival.

Narinjara: Regarding this upcoming election, what would you suggest to the people of Arakan?

Dr. Khin Maung: What I would like to say is rather than generally hoping that Arakanese parties win the election, I would like them to vote based on who and which party will truly fight for the people of Arakan, who and which party will serve the people of Arakan in the best of their knowledge, and who and which party will try to protect the national interest of Arakan. I would like them to elect someone who can serve Arakan by deeds rather than by words.

Source: Narinjara

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Burma's Nuclear Ambitions 'Threaten Regional Security'

Source : Irrawaddy News
Published on: Friday, June 4, 2010

The Burmese junta’s ambition to become a nuclear power is a threat to regional security, according to a documentary by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), which alleges that Naypyidaw is developing nuclear weapons and a missiles system with help from North Korea.
Quoting experts and defectors, the documentary, which was aired by Al Jazeera on Friday, said that if the junta achieves its goal, Burmese missiles could target neighboring countries, as well as threatening US military activities in the Indian Ocean.
Burmese army defector Maj Sai Thein Win, who is a missiles expert, said the junta is constructing nuclear and missiles facilities at at least two sites in Magwe and Mandalay divisions in central Burma.

“They [the junta] really want a [nuclear] bomb. That is their main objective,” said Sai Thein Win in the documentary. “They want to have rockets and nuclear warheads.”
Burma's relationship with North Korea is expected to be a hot topic at the 9th Asian Security Summit, also known as the “Shangri-La Dialogue,” which is being held on June 4-6 in Singapore. The US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is scheduled to attend the annual summit along with representatives from 26 countries, including Maj-Gen Aye Myint, the deputy defense minister of Burma. Gates is expected to raise the issue at the summit. Following the latest allegations, Gates’ press secretary said the US is closely monitoring the junta’s cooperation with Pyongyang.
“We are concerned with [Burma’s] growing military ties with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and are following it closely to ensure that the multiple UNSCRs [UN Security Council Resolutions] are enforced,” Press Secretary Geoff Morrell reportedly told Agence France-Presse by e-mail. The Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 ban all North Korean arms exports.
However, Burmese Minister of Science and Technology U Thaung told a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell that while acknowledging that the Burmese government had publicly announced its agreement to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, it also has “the duty to maintain and protect national sovereignty.”
Sai Thein Win said the secret project sites for the junta’s weapons are in Myaing, a town in Magwe Division, and Pyin Oo Lwin, also known as Maymyo, which is in Mandalay Division. The projects are under the command of the Directorate of Defense Service Science and Technology Research Center, but also involves U Thaung's Ministry of Science and Technology, said Sai Thein Winn.
Bases on statements from the defector, Robert Kelley, a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the DVB: “Our analysis leads to only one conclusion: this technology is only for nuclear weapons, and not civilian use or nuclear power.” Sai Thein Win told DVB that two companies in Singapore with German connections sold machinery to Burma’s Department of Technical and Vocational Education, which covers any missiles programs in the country.

Photos which were brought to Thailand by Sai Thein Win show German technicians working at the junta’s sites and even some officials from the Burmese embassy in Germany visiting a machinery-producing factory.
Kelley said in his analysis that although the German machinery was “very expensive and capable, they were sold without all of the accessories to make the ... parts required for many missile and nuclear applications.”

The DVB documentary adds to the growing evidence over the junta’s development of nuclear technology, in particular to a 2009 report by Australian Desmond Ball. Quoting Burmese defectors, Ball said the Burmese armed forces established a “nuclear battalion” in 2000 whose operational base includes an underground complex in the mountains southwest of Naung Laing, near Pyin Oo Lwin, where the regime is reportedly constructing a nuclear reactor.

With North Korea's aid, the reactor in Naung Laing could be completed around 2012, and Burma could develop its first deliverable nuclear weapons by 2020, he said in the report.