Tuesday, November 29, 2011

60 Feared Dead After Malaysian Bond Trawler Capsizes of Arakan Coast

Maungdaw: At least 60 people are reportedly feared dead after a trawler capsized off the coast in Burma's western Arakan State last Tuesday as it was transporting the passengers to Malaysia illegally, said local residents from nearby areas in both Burma and Bangladesh.

"The trawler capsized last Tuesday at Nga Koung Toe located at the mouth of the Naff River between Burma and Bangladesh. I heard at least 60 people are feared to have died in the accident," a resident from Burma said.

The trawler set off for Malaysia from Alan Than Gaw in southern Maungdaw Township, opposite Bangladesh's Teknaf Town, last Tuesday night. When the trawler reached the area of Nga Koung Toe a few hours later, it reportedly sunk suddenly with the weight of too many passengers.

According to local sources, there were nearly 200 people on board from Burma and Bangladesh, all intending to cross illegally into Malaysia in search of work.

"Some bodies have been found in the Pa Din area of southern Maungdaw Township in the last few days, while others have been found in Bangladesh. Most are still missing," the resident said.

A resident from St. Martin Island in Bangladesh confirmed with Narinjara over the phone that five or six bodies were found on the Bangladesh side, but most of the bodies are suspected to be in the capsized trawler that has still not been found.

The English-language version of "The Independent" in Bangladesh published a report of the incident on 26 November that stated 163 people are still missing, but reported that all the missing are Bangladesh workers.

"There were not only Bangladesh citizens, but also Burmese who are Muslims from the border area. They all left for Malaysia with arrangement by a local agent who collected between 20,000 and 40,000 Taka per passenger for the trip to Malaysia by boat," the Bangladesh resident said.

A team of Burmese officials from several departments, including the Maungdaw District police, visited the area on Friday to investigate but did not disclose any information about the incident, according to a local report.

An unknown police officer from Maungdaw confirmed the incident occurred to Narinjara over the phone, but declined to disclose any further details about the accident of number of casualties.

Source: Narinjara

17 Rohingya Refugee Boat-people rescued, around 138 Still missing in Bay of Bengal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Kaladan Press Network

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Police confirm handover of 95 Rohingya near Phuket to Thai Army

PHUKET: Police in Kuraburi, Phang Nga province, have confirmed that 95 Rohingya landed on the island of Koh Phra Thong on Thursday morning. The island lies in the Andaman sea about 110km north of Phuket.

“We received a call from local villagers on the island saying that a boat full of Rohingya people had landed on the shore there, but by the time I got there the Army was already there,” Lt Col Akekachai Pueakmanee, Deputy Superintendent of Kuraburi Police Station, told the Phuket Gazette.

“The Army had already assembled all 95 of them at the Tung Laong Pier on the mainland,” he added.

Lt Col Akekachai did not specify how many of the refugees were men, women or children.

“An Army officer told us that all Rohingya of the ‘captured’ will be taken to the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 25th Military unit, Rattanarangson Camp, in Ratchakud District, Ranong province,” he said.

“I’m not sure if they will be sent to a third country or if they will remain in the camp,” he added.

The Gazette was told to call the Thai-Burma Border Patrol Police headquarters in Surat Thani, which is responsible for border patrol in the area where the Rohingya landed.

However, the officer the Gazette spoke with said he was unaware of the case and referred our reporter back to the police involved.

Lt Col Songsak Chanthep, who accompanied Lt Col Akekachai to Koh Phra Thong on Thursday, told us that, “The local villagers told me that Rohingya land on the shore of Koh Phra Thong every year.

“They seem to know that they will be safe if they make it to that spot,” he said.

International Concern Mounts as Boatpeople Vanish North of Phuket

After a long voyage, Rohingya boatpeople are trucked  to the Thai Army
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Phuket Updating Report

PHUKET: This photo shows the latest Rohingya boatpeople apprehended north of Phuket. The whereabouts of the 92 boys and men today has become a mystery and cause for international concern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phuketwan's Scoop Report on Thursday

Rohingya Captured North of Phuket Are Handed Straight Over to the Thai Army
Source: Phuket Wan

CSW urges US Secretary of State to highlight human rights violations in ethnic states during visit to Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has today written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, welcoming her forthcoming visit to Burma and requesting her to use the opportunity to “urge the regime to stop attacking ethnic people, declare a nationwide ceasefire, release all political prisoners, and engage in a meaningful process of dialogue with the ethnic nationalities and the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi”.

In a joint-letter by CSW-UK and CSW-USA, the organisation highlights specific incidents of rape, forced labour, torture, killings and attacks on churches in Kachin State. “We are deeply concerned about the continuing grave violations of human rights perpetrated by the Burma Army in the ethnic areas, and in particular Kachin State. There is no sign of the situation in the ethnic states improving, and in some areas the human rights and humanitarian crisis is deteriorating.”

The letter is signed by Bishop John Perry, Chairman of the Board of CSW-UK; Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW-UK; Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at CSW-UK; Lisa Scaling, Chairman of the Board of CSW-USA; Dr. Thomas Farr, Deputy Chairman of CSW-USA and former Director of the US State Department Office of International Religious Freedom; and Steve McFarland, a CSW-USA Board member and former Executive Director of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. In the letter, they specifically cite cases of violations against religious adherents, including attacks on Christian pastors, priests and churches in Kachin State; discrimination of the Muslim Rohingya people; and the continued detention of Buddhist monks, including U Gambira, one of the leaders of the 2007 pro-democracy protests led by monks.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We welcome the forthcoming visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first such visit to Burma in many decades, and we regard it as a unique opportunity to encourage significant and substantial change in the country. We hope the US Secretary of State will seize the moment, seek answers to the specific cases we have provided, and impress upon the regime the message that if it does want to convince people that it is serious about change, it must stop raping and killing people, stop attacking churches, declare a nationwide ceasefire, release prisoners of conscience, and engage in talks that will lead to a lasting and peaceful political solution for the ethnic nationalities, the democracy movement and all the people of Burma.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Diplomat U Kyaw Win's letter to The Honorable Hillary Clinton

The Honorable Hillary Clinton

The Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dated : July 4, 2011

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I am writing to inform you that, as of today, I have no choice but to leave the service of the Government of Myanmar and I am formally requesting political asylum in the United States for me and my family. After over 31 years of service in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I had lost confidence and my conscience would no longer allow me to work for the government. It has always been my hope that democratic reform could finally be realized in my country. The truth is that, despite the election that was held up as a democratic process, the military continues to hold uncontested power and democratic change under this system will not happen in the foreseeable future.

As the Deputy Chief of Mission to the Myanmar embassy in Washington, I was responsible forreaching out to the Washington, D.C.-based diplomatic community, members of Congress, the media and the governmental and NGO circles. Unfortunately, my efforts of reaching out to groups and individuals here, and my reports suggesting of actions to improve bilateral relation between Myanmar and the U.S. have been continually rejected and resulted in my being deemed dangerous by the government. Because of this, I am also convinced and live in fear that I will be prosecuted for my actions, efforts and beliefs when I return to Naypyidaw after completing my tour of duty here.

When I first began my service in the Foreign Ministry I thought that, over time and perhaps with the help of my efforts, the military would ease its grip and send Myanmar on a path to greater political pluralism. However, the truth is that senior military officials are consolidating their grip on power and seeking to stamp out the voices of those seeking democracy, human rights and individual liberties. Oppression is rising and war against our ethnic cousins is imminent and at present, threats are being made against Aung San Suu Kyi --they must be taken seriously. 

I have not left the service of my people, but I have defected from working for a government which is against its countrymen. I know that many in the military believe, like me, that the army of General Aung San has been corrupted and is now an oppressor of the people, not a defender of the people. I want to urge them not to fear democracy, but embrace it as the only way forward that can bring peace to the land we love. They too can become the heroes for whom the army used to represent by preventing violence and take steps to ease tensions and build respect with our ethnic minorities.

Madam Secretary, I respectfully want to urge you to use the political will of the United States to create through an international body, a council of inquiry to investigate the human rights violations that have taken place in the conflict zones of my country by the government’s armed forces or any other armed groups. I also respectfully urge you to fully implement highly targeted financial sanctions against the government and their cronies that serve to keep them in power.These sanctions can play a critical role in denying the regime, and the businessmen who live off of them, access to the international financial system.

The United States has played a special role in standing up for democracy and freedom in my country. Please, it is more important than ever that my country not be allowed to disappear behind the headlines of countries experiencing their own troubles. There are many civil servants and those in the military who can benefit greatly from greater exposure to the international community and international norms and values. Continued engagement with my government at all levels can help open a window, change the mindset imprinted by the regime, and let them see an alternative path towards peace and freedom.

Recently, Mongolian President Elbegdorj, a strong supporter of democracy in my country, spoke in Washington where he stated that “no dictatorship, no military regime, no authoritarian government can stand against the collective will of a people who want to be free.” I could not agree more and I hope those words start the leaders in Naypyidaw thinking about how to build  meaningful peace and prosperity in Myanmar.

I look forward to devoting my time, energy and my future to the freedom of my homeland. I thank you for your efforts on behalf of my countrymen and, as the American people celebrate their Independence Day, we will one day soon celebrate ours. The democracy movement in my country cannot be crushed. It is alive and well and at some point will prevail.
Kyaw Win

Rohingya Captured North of Phuket Are Handed Straight Over to the Thai Army

A Swedish holidaymaker snapped Rohingya spreadeagled on the sand at the other end of this beach in the Similan islands in 2008-2009

By Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian
Thursday, November 24, 2011
PHUKET: A boat containing 92 Rohingya was apprehended near the fishing port of Kuraburi, north of Phuket, about noon today.

The men and boys came ashore in Thailand and were handed over immediately to the Thai Army, raising concerns about whether the group will be treated appropriately under international conventions.

It's the first boatpeople vessel to be confirmed as arriving in Thailand under the new administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Government's policy on Rohingya has yet to be made clear.

Today's immediate transfer of the 92 from Border Patrol Police into the hands of the Army revived memories of the reprehensible ''push-backs'' of 2008-2009, when the Thai military and paramilitary detained Rohingya in secret on an island north of Kuraburi before setting large groups adrift at sea with little food and water.

Hundreds died before survivors reached Indonesia and India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, as revealed at the time in Phuketwan and the Hong Kong newspaper, the South China Morning Post.

Today the Rohingya came ashore near the village of Tung Laong on the mainland in Phang Nga province, about three hours' drive north of Phuket. Authorities were quickly notified.

It is believed the group was to be trucked north to the Thai-Burma border port of Ranong, where the Army has a large base.

It is from a village near the base that Rohingya were transported into secret detention on the island of Sai Daeng in 2008-2009.

Usually, illegal arrivals in Thailand are handed over to Immigration authorities. This was the procedure with groups that landed in several boats on Phuket and in provinces further south during the 2010-2011 ''sailing season,'' before the new government was elected.

Rohingya choose to chance their luck with people-traffickers between November and April when conditions in the monsoon-prone Andaman Sea are tranquil.

This coming ''sailing season'' is expected to see many boats put to the water because of Rohingya disillusionment over the new, supposedly more liberal approach in Burma.

While some reforms appear to be evident in the former pariah state, the repression of the outcast Muslims, who are deprived of citizenship, is not going to change.

The boatpeople had held off sailing in large numbers over the past two ''sailing seasons'' in the hope that they would be better treated, but the Burmese government has now revealed in the new Parliament that its policy towards the Rohingya remains as it was under the military junta.

Royal Thai Navy patrols attempt interceptions after traffickers sell berths and the boats put to sea from northern Burma, or neighboring Bangladesh.

The Navy applies a ''help on'' credo, offering food, fuel and medical treatment if necessary, and assisting the boats on towards Muslim Malaysia, which for many is the preferred destination.

While the whole South East Asian region and India was alarmed by the treatment of the Rohingya in 2009, Asean has fallen silent on the issue with the recent decision to allow the ''new'' Burma to chair the organisation in 2014.

Aid groups suspect that passengers on any Rohingya boats that land in Thailand before reaching Malaysia may be covertly handed back to the people smugglers.

The irony is that at this time of the year, the seas off Phuket and the Andaman coast are also being crisscrossed by holidaymakers enjoying diving, snorkelling and sightseeing outings in the same waters as boatloads of emaciated and desperate outcasts seek salvation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More Boatpeople Sailing Past Phuket, say Reports

By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
PHUKET: Reports have reached Phuketwan that as many as eight boats laden with would-be refugees have set sail from Bangladesh and northern Burma in the past few days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Repatriation only solution to Rohingya refugees: Razzak

Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzak today said repatriation of the Rohingya refugees and their rehabilitation in own country is the only solution for them, reports BSS.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should work to motivate the Rohingya refugees in this regard, he said when its visiting assistant high commissioner for operation Janet Lim met him at his secretariat office.

Despite being a poor country, Bangladesh has been providing assistance to the Rohingya refugees, Razzak said adding it is very difficult for the country to bear the Rohingya problems for a long time.

In recent time, some positive changes are seen within the Myanmar government. Taking this into consideration, he said, the UNHCR could play a role in the repatriation process of Rohingya refugees, he added. 

Praising Bangladesh government's assistance extended to Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Janet Lim said Bangladesh should give more attention to malnutrition problem that is prevailing in the refugee camp.

Janet Lim said family books are used for providing food and other assistances to the Rohingya refugees. But the UNHCR has introduced card system in 18 countries in the world to extend different supports for refugees, she added.

The visiting assistant high commissioner of UNHCR sought cooperation of Bangladesh to introduce the card system. 

In a response to her comment, the minister said malnutrition is a common problem for Bangladesh and people of different parts of the country are suffering from it.

Secretary of Disaster Management and Relief Division Dr M Aslam Alam and Representative of UNHCR Craig Sender, among others, were present on the occasion. 

Sources at the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management said nearly 24,000 registered Rohingya refugees are living at Cox's Bazar camp.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Sunday sought further support from UNHCR for future repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar on voluntary basis, foreign ministry and the UN agency sources said.

"Both sides agreed to intensify voluntary repatriation of documented and undocumented Rohingya refugees to their motherland Myanmar," Ms. Janet Lim, assistant high commissioner of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told journalists after her meeting with Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni at her office.

Janet Lim said UNHCR has helped resolve the two-decade long problem from the very beginning and has so far helped repatriation of 230,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

She said her organization would continue to help resolve the issue with 'voluntary' repatriation of 28,000 plus documented refugees as well as thousands of undocumented refugees living in Bangladesh.

Director General of United Nations of Foreign Ministry Saida Muna Tasneem later told journalists that Bangladesh has always been pursuing the voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas and not a single person was forced back to Myanmar. 

She said Bangladesh showed the highest level of tolerance and sympathy to the refugees, despite being the fact that it has little resources to accommodate such a big number of documented and undocumented refugees.

The issue of repatriation came to the forefront again after Myanmar responded positively to bring its nationals back home at a time when Bangladesh has been experiencing bitter experiences from the refugees both at home and abroad, which include security concern and law and order deterioration in greater Cox's Bazar, the world's longest sea beach, and a booming economic zone. 

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni held several meetings with newly appointed Pakistan High Commissioner to Bangladesh Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi, Spanish Ambassador Luis Tejada Chacon and visiting deputy director general of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Manoj Juneza. They discussed issues of mutual interests. 


By Nurul Islam (U.K.)

In recent months, series of anti-Rohingya campaigns afloat inside and outside of Burma. To the surprise of everyone, inflammatory writings are often posted on a few websites, face books and blogs that reveal deep-seated ill-will against the peace loving Rohingyas.
Propaganda against Rohingya has long been launched by the Burmese military dictatorship with some Rakhine intellectuals and politicians. Now it reached the new quasi-military government’s highest political institution, the parliament in Naypyidaw. The regime and xenophobes denied the existence of Rohingya as an ethnic group and alleged that Rohingyas are illegal Bengalis entered into Arakan from Bangladesh. This concocted propaganda was met with strong condemnation from Rohingya communities worldwide. There were global protests in front of the Burmese embassies on 15 September 2011. The protest rally held in London was joined by leaders and activists belonging to almost all Burma ethnic groups and democracy movements, some local supporters and NGOs. Speakers emphasised that the Rohingya are a part of the Burma’s society, and identified that they are worst victims of human rights violations.
Why is this anti-Rohingya propaganda? 
The propaganda against Rohingya is an undemocratic campaign. The intention behind is to deny the Rohingya of their rights and freedom -- their ethnic rights and citizenship rights. For the regime it is (i) to divert the minds of the Burmese people away from the current political stalemate and ongoing civil war, where chemical weapons were used against the Kachin people, causing outflows of refugees and grave humanitarian crisis; (ii) to continue dividing the two sister communities of Rohingya and Rakhine on cultural and religious lines. For the Rakhines, it is an opportunity to make a clean sweep of the Rohingyas, using the state oppressive apparatus, for their exclusive ownership of Arakan without Muslims, in line with their popular slogans. Arakan is for Rakhine; Rakhine and Buddhism are synonymous”. Few misguided people are seemed to have been allured to the anti-Rohingya trap.
Upon knowing the Thein Sein government’s hostile attitude towards Rohingyas, the Rakhines  backed by the Rakhine National Democratic Party (RNDP) organized anti-Rohingya meetings in the cities of Rangoon and Akyab and some towns in Arakan preaching extreme hatred against the Rohingyas. They warned that the Rohingyas have no rights to use the words Arakan/Arakanese for them. About 16 Rakhines had, on 16 November 2011, protested in front of the BBC in London demanding apology from BBC for suitably spotting the Rohingya as an ethnic group in Arakan in a report with a map, made in October 2010, by its reporter Anna Jone. Why this protest after nearly a year of its publication! It was due to the government’s intimidating attitude and instigation of some Rakhine xenophobic academics and leaders. One wonders whether similar protests would be made against UN, USA, U.K. and E.U. for their use of the word “Rohingya” for Muslim Arakanese.   
It is almost seven decades now (from 1942) the extremist Rakhines are harping on the tune of Muslim extermination prompting state terrorism. Half of their population have either been expelled or have had to leave their homeland for their lives. Despite colossal damages in terms of human lives, properties and civilization, the Muslim Rohingya are still living site by site with their Rakhine compatriots.
Anti-Rohingya propaganda is like a boomerang
Misinformation and actions against Rohingyas recoil on the regime, particularly when it claims to have been taking measures for political and democratic reforms, although until now very little   change is done. The international community will continue identifying the regime committing crimes against humanity.  Similarly the extremist Rakhines will be branded as non-state actors committing international crimes. Their fanatical patriotism is a contributing factor to the growth of anarchism, violence, chaos and lawlessness in the country. It is really sham and shame to speak of democracy without practice. In a democratic society, there is no room for discrimination, exploitation, social injustice, the degrading concept of ‘prime nation’ and ‘sub-nation’, on ground of race, religion, colour, culture and political opinion.
The word ‘Rohingya’
Like former military regimes, U Thein Sein government has blacklisted the word “Rohingya” in Burma. It might want to appease Rakhines under the policy of “divide and rule”. It might also be due in part to the influence of xenophobic Rakhine politicians and academics. However, the analysts say that it is a necessary evil for the dictatorship to make the Rohingyas scapegoats. They lied that the word “Rohingya” is nonexistent, unheard and a creation of Mujahids (Muslim rebels) and/or Rohingya leaders in 1951. When the name ‘Rohingya’ is substantiated with historical evidence, the imposters, who include U Khin Maung Saw of Berlin, start arguing without shame that ‘Rohingya’ is the other name of Rakhine as it derived from ‘Rohang’, a Bengali name for Arakan.”[1] But Dr. Michael W. Charney, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, writes,
“The earliest recorded use of an ethnonym immediately recognizable as Rohingya is an observation by Francis Buchanan in 1799. As he explains, a dialect that was derived from Hindi …is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long been settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Roainga, or native of Arakan”. He further mentions, “it can be asserted, however, that one claim of the Buddhist school in Rakhaing historiography, that Rohingya was an invention of the colonial period, is contradicted by the evidence.[2]
Thus, the word “Rohingya” was not coined but a historical name for Muslim Arakanese. There is still Muslim village in Akyab (Sittwe) city by the name of Rohingya Para. 
Unknown is the word ‘Arakan’ for its people
Arakan is the name of the country, not the name of its people. Accordingly, unknown is the word Arakan for its people. But now Rakhines are calling themselves also Arakan, which is a distortion never in use before. Arakan is a place name; and it belongs to all its peoples. Its two major communities of Rohingya and Rakhine are to be called as “Rohingya Arakanese” and “Rakhine Arakanese” when attributing the name of their homeland to their respective names.
Muslim rule in Arakan
Muslims played the phenomenal role of kingmakers in Arakan. Its heyday began with the spread of Islamic civilization. “Islam spread and deeply rooted in Arakan since 8th century from where it further spread into interior Burma”.[3] In fact, “Arakan was virtually ruled by Muslims from 1430 to 1531” [4] to the extent that it was turned into a sultanate. Arakan was depicted as an Islamic State in the map of The Times Complete History of the World, showing cultural division of Southeast Asia (distribution of
major religions) in 1500.(Edited by Richard Overy, eighth edition 2010, page 148.). These are enough evidences that the Muslims or Rohingyas are indigenous to Arakan.
Acceptance of Rohingya as an ethnic nationality
On the basis of the historical evidence, the Rohingya as an ethnic group was recognized by the parliamentary government that ruled Burma from independence in 1948 to 1958 and 1960 to 1962, which stated,  “The Rohingya is as the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan.” As such, together with other ethnic nationalities of the country, the Rohingya representatives participated as state guests in the Union Day Celebration held in Rangoon on 12 February every year.
Before the Rakhine language was put in the programme, the Rohingya language was relayed trice a week from the indigenous language programme of the official Burma Broadcasting Service, Rangoon, from 15 May 1961 to 30 October 1965 that is, nearly four years further beyond the seizure of power by Gen. Ne Win. The Rangoon University Rohingya Students Association was one of the many ethnic student associations that functioned from 1959 to 1961 under the registration numbers 113/99 December 1959 and 7/60 September 1960 respectively. In official Myanmar Encyclopaedia Vol.9, 1964, pages 89/90 the historic narration was given in detail concerning Rohingya while affirming that 75% of the population in Mayu Frontier is Rohingya. In the map of the High School Geography, published in BSPP period, giving the distribution of national races in Burma, northern Arakan is spotted as a region of Rohingya settlement.  There are many other evidences. Over and above, the Special Mayu Frontier District was created for Rohingya’s development.
They are blind and deaf
The regime and xenophobic Rakhines continue to reject Rohingya simply alleging that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Some members of the democracy movement agree with the regime and critics that Rohingya do not exist, and that they are not Burmese citizens. Like the regime, they will only accept the existence of foreign Bengali Muslims in Arakan. They lack political will to accept the recognition of Rohingya by U Nu parliamentary government. Similarly they never notice what the former President of Burma, Sao Shwe Thaike, said, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races.”[5]
The declaration of Rohingya as an ethnic group, along the line of other ethnic nationalities by a Prime Minister of sovereign State was essentially a matter of national importance with human rights or nationality rights concern. So far, no quarter or political parties, including leading Rakhine Ra-Ta-Nya party, had opposed it. Not this merely but also country’s leading opposition AFPFL (Stable) of U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein had recognized Rohingya as an ethnic group. All these are well documented, yet the regime and vested interest groups behave like an ostrich. They are blind to see and are deaf to hear. Human rights or nationality rights of a people can be promoted and further enhanced, but in no way it can be revoked or downgraded.
Rohingya ethnic identity deserves protection
It was the democratic government which recognized Rohingya as an ethnic group. So, every responsible and credible government that comes to power has responsibility to safeguard, protect and promote Rohingya’s ethnic identity in Burma. Similarly good oppositions or political parties have moral obligation to look into it. To this concern we earnestly invite the attention of Burma’s democracy icon and the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw Suu may be aware that the Rohingya people have been supporting NLD with a high expectation on her.
Alleged terrorist links, a conspiracy against Rohingya
It is paradoxical to accuse the Rohingya organizations and freedom fighters to have link with terrorist organizations. The sources they have referred to include SLORC/SPDC; and they are highly controversial as they are largely unsubstantiated. They are simply guesswork to hoodwink the international community to serve the interests of the Burmese regime and vested interest groups.
It is important to take cognizance of the actual situation of the Rohingya people, who are victims of state terrorism. Their movement is a struggle for their survival and existence with human dignity and rights. They have time and again condemned terrorism of any forms and declared that they were (and are) not part of any other movement(s) or group(s) outside of Burma.  In spite of that, for being Muslims, the regime and vested interest groups are trying to stain them to have link with terrorist groups or terrorism particularly after 11 September.
The human rights violations against the Rohingya are systematic, persistent and widespread that amount to crimes against humanity. Despite this, can anyone cite a single example that the Rohingya ever did any excess, wrong and injustice in Burma? Rohingya organizations are dead against narcotic trade and any activities causing instability in the region.  But they are made scapegoats. It requires in-depth study before anyone is writing on Rohingya who are dying alive only because of their religion and ethnicity.                                           
Muslims did not claim ‘Rohingya’ before Burma independence, why?
There is an argument posed specially by some Rakhines, “why the Muslims of Arakan did not call themselves Rohingya before and during Burmese independence”. The answer is simple and pure. During independence period, the Rohingya offered an olive branch to fellow Rakhines and tried to develop an integrated political culture, based on the common national aspiration of “Arakaneseness”, through rapprochement with the spirit of “Rohingya Rakhine Bhai Bhai” or “Rohingya Rakhine Twin brothers.” But the Rakhine politicians were not receptive to the proposal. They claimed that Arakanese and Buddhism are synonymous and the Muslims or Rohingya are outsiders. By bad luck, the extremists among them preferred to serve as the instrument of Rohingya oppression.  This terrible predicament, arising out of the ‘policy of exclusiveness’ of the Rakhine, called for the use of their exclusive ethnic name “Rohingya” in order to protect their legitimate rights and privileges. They cannot be blamed or deprived of their historically inherent ethnic name “Rohingya” for not claiming it at a given time in the interest of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among the peoples of Arakan. 
Last Words:
The Rohingya with a long history in Arakan are an integral part of Burma’s society. They are peace-loving; yet they are not tolerated and are persecuted in Burma for their religion and ethnicity. Rohingyas are living together with their Rakhine compatriots in the same place, drinking the same water and breathing the same air. There is no reason to be antagonistic to each other; it will damage both Rohingya and Rakhine, and their children. Unless both peoples cultivate a political will to change this miserable condition, they are bound to end up with humiliation in the abyss of their history. Let us revive our traditional relationship for the future of our succeeding generations. Let us work together on democratic principles with mutual respect, love and affection. This is the only way to salvation!  

[1]“Islamization of Burma Through Chittagonian Bengalis as Rohingya Refugees”, U Khin Maung Saw. 
[2] Dr. Michael W. Charney, “Buddhism in Arakan: Theory and Historiography of the Religious Basis of the Ethnonym”, Forgotten Kingdom of Arakan Workshop, 23-24 November 2005,  Bangkok, P.15
In Buchanan, “A comparative Vocabulary,” p.55
[3] Sasana Ronwas Htunzepho” a book published by SLORC in 1979.
[4] Ba Shin, “Coming of Islam to Burma 1700 AD”, A research paper presented at Azad Bhavan, New Delhi in 1961, p.4.
[5]The Rohingyas: Bengali Muslims or Arakan Muslim”,  Euro Burma Office (EBO) Briefing Paper No.2, 2009. In Dr. San Oo Aung. http://sanooaung.wordpress.com 22 January 2008.

Bangladesh against forced Rohingya repatriation: Dipu Moni

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni yesterday said, as a principled position, Bangladesh had never pursued forced repatriation of refugees.

Bangladesh has been working accordingly with the UNHCR in voluntary repatriation of the 'Rohingya' refugees through diplomatic negotiations with Myanmar, she told Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Janet Lim at the foreign ministry.

Dipu Moni told the UNHCR official that currently 25,045 registered refugees are residing in two camps at Kutupalong and Noyapara awaiting repatriation back to Myanmar. Of them, around 9,000 have been cleared by the Myanmar government in 2005.

She said the Prime Minister would pay an official visit to Myanmar in December, to unlock the stalemate regarding the longstanding issue of repatriation of Myanmar refugees.

Earlier, Deputy Director General (Operations) of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Manoj Juneja called on Dipu Moni. The minister underlined the need for effective research in crop varieties so that the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities could be reduced.

Newly appointed Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh Luic Tejada Chacon also met with the foreign minister to discuss bilateral issues of common interest.

Testimony of CSW- Mr. Benedict Rogers to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Hearing on November 17 (Rohingya)

For Public Use
Written Statement
by Mr. Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
to the
U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights
Hearing on “The 2011 International Religious Freedom Report”
November 17, 2011

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Payne, Distinguished Members of the Committee - firstly, thank you for the opportunity to submit evidence to this timely hearing. May I begin by expressing my deep appreciation for your leadership on these important issues of religious freedom and human rights. My colleagues in Christian Solidarity Worldwide join me in applauding your many years of dedicated work on behalf of those who are persecuted and oppressed for their faith, and we have greatly appreciated the opportunities over the years to work with you and your staff.

In looking at this year‘s International Religious Freedom Report, I would like to welcome the fact, as stated in the Introduction to the Report, that ―President Obama has emphasised the U.S. commitment to defend religious freedom in the United States and around the world and that the United States recognises that religious freedom is ―an essential element of a ―global commitment to advance human rights and promote national security. I welcome the expansion of training in promoting human rights and religious freedom at the Foreign Service Institute for officials from all U.S. agencies, and the formation of the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group of the Secretary of State‘s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. Other countries, including my own, the United Kingdom, are now starting to increase their focus on religious freedom, but for many years the United States has led the way in putting religious freedom on the human rights agenda and others have much to learn from the experiences, policies and practices which have been pursued here.

In this submission, I will focus on the countries for which I am responsible, in the East Asia region, namely Burma, China, Indonesia, North Korea and Vietnam. My own personal expertise is in Burma, Indonesia and North Korea, and I have travelled regularly to these areas, but I oversee a colleague working on China and Vietnam, and have travelled to those countries as well.

Let me start with Burma. I have no disagreement with the IRF report on Burma, and simply wish to add some updates on developments in Burma in recent months. Many Buddhist monks, including U Gambira, whose case is noted in the IRF report, remain in prison. In the recent release of an estimated 220 political prisoners, no prominent Buddhist monks held in prison were freed. U Gambira is held in solitary confinement in Kale prison, and is reportedly seriously ill and in need of urgent medical care. He sustained serious injuries as a result of torture in 2009. The United States should press for his immediate release and for urgent medical care to be provided.

The plight of the Rohingya people remains unchanged, and they face continuous discrimination on religious, as well as racial, grounds. It is vital that the United States continues to press the regime to recognise the Rohingya as equal citizens of Burma, by returning their citizenship status, and that pressure is put on any country, particularly Malaysia, that is considering repatriating Rohingya people to Burma, to desist until the Rohingyas are fully recognised as citizens of Burma and can live in Burma in freedom, peace and security.

I have travelled more than forty times to Burma and its different borders, including several times to the predominantly Christian Chin on the India-Burma border and Kachin on the China-Burma border, the predominantly Muslim Rohingyas on the Bangladesh- Burma border, and the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Mon, who include Christians, Buddhists, Animists and Muslims, on the Thailand-Burma border. I have also travelled several times inside the country, and in March this year I was deported by the authorities because they became aware of a book I had written about the dictator at the time, Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant. When I spoke to leading representatives of major church organisations in Burma in March, they told me nothing had changed and the pattern of restrictions, discrimination and persecution of religious minorities continues. It is worth noting that in 2007, Christian Solidarity Worldwide published a report, Carrying the Cross: The military regime’s campaign of restrictions, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma, which drew a significant response from the regime. Daily full-page denunciations were published in the state media for at least a fortnight.

I would like to highlight in particular the current situation in Kachin State. The Kachin are predominantly Christian, and their faith is integral to their cultural identity. In 1994, after decades of civil war, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), signed a ceasefire with the regime. During the ceasefire period, a genuine peace was never established and the Burma Army continued to perpetrate violations of human rights, including violations of religious freedom, but there was at least an absence of conflict and violations, while grave, were of a reduced intensity. In June this year, however, the regime broke the 17-year ceasefire and launched a new military offensive against the Kachin people, resulting in very grave human rights violations, including the widespread use of rape and forced labour, burning of houses, and attacks on civilians. A report released by the Kachin Women‘s  Association-Thailand (KWAT), Burma’s Covered Up War: Atrocities Against the Kachin People, published last month, details many of these violations.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has received many reports, and photographs, from sources in Kachin State, including reports of attacks on churches and new restrictions on religious freedom. On 6 November, for example, soldiers from the Burma Army‘s 88th Light Infantry Division shot at worshippers in a church in Muk Chyik village, Wai Maw Township. Soldiers attacked the Assemblies of God church in the village, injuring several people. The congregation was expelled from the church, and soldiers reportedly looted church donation boxes. The house of one church member, Mr Jumphpawk Hawng Lum, was burned down. At least fifty church members are taken to work as forced porters for the Burma Army. The pastor of the church, the Reverend Yajawng Hkawng, was severely tortured and is now in hospital. One of the church deacons, Hpalawng Lum Hkawng, who is the youth music team leader, was injured in his leg.

This attack follows one on 16 October when soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 438 seized control of a Roman Catholic Church in Namsan Yang village, Waimaw township, where 23 worshippers, mostly women and elderly people, had gathered for the 8am Sunday service. The worshippers took refuge from the gunfire behind the Maria prayer sanctuary. When the troops saw them, they shot several rounds of bullets into the sanctuary. The Catholic assistant to the priest, 49 year-old father-of-four Jangma Awng Li, decided to speak to the troops as he is fluent in Burmese. He was beaten in his head with a rifle butt, and injured his forehead when he hit a concrete wall. He and four other men were handcuffed and detained by the soldiers.

The troops, who were later joined by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 121, continued to march through the village shooting, and reached the Baptist church compound in the evening. During the march the detainees, including four from other villages who had been with the troops for two weeks, were used as forced labour. The detainees had to stay with the troops overnight and were temporarily stationed in the Baptist church compound. The whole northern part of village was burned and both church properties were destroyed.

In addition to physically attacking church congregations and individual Kachin civilians, it has been reported that the Burmese authorities are imposing new restrictions on religious activities in Kachin State. On 14 October, 2011 the Chairman of Maw Wan Ward in Phakant Township, Kachin State sent a letter to local churches, titled ―Concerning Christians conducting cultural training. The letter refers to an order by the General Township Administration Department requiring Christians in Phakant Township to submit a request at least 15 days in advance for permission to conduct ―short-term Bible study, Bible study, Sunday school, reading the Bible, fasting prayer, Seasonal Bible study and Rosary of the Virgin Mary Prayer. A request for permission must be accompanied by recommendations from other departments, and must be submitted to the Township Administration Office. Churches in Burma are already required to obtain permission for any events other than Sunday services, but this new regulation imposes further severe restrictions. A copy of this order is available from Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

In addition to these violations of religious freedom, there have been many reports of shooting and killing of civilians in Kachin State in recent months. A 72 year-old man, Maru Je Hkam Naw, was shot in the arms and legs whilst he was erecting a fence around his house in Namsan Yang village. A19 year-old Rakhine boy was shot dead, his body burned and thrown into the mine in Namsan Yang where he worked. A 19 year-old girl, Maran Kawbu, was detained, tortured and gang-raped by soldiers from the same battalion in Namsan Yang. Her body was left on the river bank and has since disappeared. On 19 October, a Shan farmer named Mr Tintun, was shot dead by soldiers from Light Infantry Brigade 601, while fishing.

There is some talk of change in Burma, and the regime has made some gestures which are positive and which should be welcomed. Meetings between the regime and Aung San Suu Kyi, a relaxation of restrictions on some media, the suspension of the Myitsone dam construction in Kachin State and the release of 220 political prisoners are, in and of themselves, welcome moves. However, as long as the regime continues to hold almost 2,000 political prisoners in jail, as long as it continues to attack civilians in the ethnic states and perpetrate rape, forced labour, the destruction of villages and killings of civilians, as long as it continues to forcibly recruit child soldiers and use people as human minesweepers, and as long as it continues to violate freedom of religion or belief, we cannot speak of significant or substantial change, and therefore the United States should maintain and indeed intensify pressure on the regime. The ‗Country of Particular Concern‘ designation for religious freedom should be maintained, particularly in light of the situation in Kachin State, and every possible tool should be used to urge the regime to match its reformist rhetoric with real action, end its policies of repression and its military offensives which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, and engage in a meaningful dialogue process with the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and the ethnic nationalities.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

U.S -Based Rohingya delegation participates in conference on Burma in Washington, D.C

The Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU), Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin, and the Co-founder of Free Rohingya Campaign, Nay San Oo, attended the Conference on Burma titled “China-Myanmar Relations: The Dilemma of Mutual Dependence” in early November, at the Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The conference consisted four different Panel Sessions, and the Panel Session II focused on the minority issues titled “Myanmar/Minority Perspectives”. A significant component of this session covered the minority issues in the eastern frontier regions of Burma; however, Rohingya issue in the western frontier also captured the attention from the audience and the panel when ARU Director General Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin raised human rights and citizenship issues faced by the Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan State in Burma. 
Dr. Uddin specifically directed his questions to Tom Kramer of Transnational Institute who addressed the Rohingya issues at a great length based on his experiences in Burma. Addressing Dr. Uddin’s questions about the ploys by the ultra-racist Rakhine National Democratic Party (RNDP) to discredit the Rohingya parliamentarians and RNDP’s hostile moves against Rohingya ethnic minority, Mr. Kramer provided transparent and in-depth assessments of the post-election situation in Rohingya regions in Northern Arakan. 
Mr. Kramer’s assessment accurately reflected the rapidly deteriorating situation in Arakan. The reports of RNDP’s approach to some major ethnic parties to form an alliance was discussed in Panel Session II that substantiate the earlier reports of anti-Rohingya maneuvering of the radical RNDP in Arakan and Naypyitaw at a high level. 

Nay San Oo had an opportunity to meet separately with Mr.Frank Jannuzi, (Policy Director) East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the United States Senate on Foreign Relations Committee. Nay San Oo specifically expressed where Rohingyas have been brutally discriminated by Burmese Regime and briefed about how 1982 Citizenship Law renders the Rohingya stateless. 

A number of journalists from the press in Washington had spoken to Dr. Uddin and Nay San Oo to arrange for interviews similar to that of the Radio Free Asia with Dr. Uddin in October.  

Prof. Dr. Mary Callahan (University of Washington), Prof. Dr. David Steinberg, (Georgetown University), Prof. Dr. Wakar Uddin (Director General, Arakan Rohingya Union) and Nay San Oo (Co-founder, Free Rohingya Campaign) at Burma Conference in Washington, D.C.

Ko Ko Naing 

Campaign Director, West Coast, USA 
Free Rohingya Campaign (FRC) 
Email: knaing@freerohingyacampaign.com

Flow of boat people will slow this year – Navy chief

The Phuket News - Thursday, 17th Nov 2011 05:44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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