Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Doctors neglect the Rohingya Refugee paitent in Bangladesh Camp

Ukhiya, Bangladesh: A registered refugee minor girl from Kutupalong official refugee camp fell into a damaged reservoir and died on February 24, said a refugee from the camp.
Jannet Ara, the girl who fell into reservoir and died, at her shack

“The minor girl fell into the reservoir while she was playing with other refugee children, but the reservoir is on the way and nearby school No. 8.It is also refugees walk path.”

The deceased was identified as Jannat Ara (7), MRC# Z 0288 Block-E, daughter of Aman Ullah of Kutupalong official camp.

According to sources, one side of reservoir has been damaged since long time. The neighboring refugees of the reservoir, complained to the Research Training Management and International (RTMI), but the RTMI didn’t pay any attention to repair it.

The damaged reservoir  after rescued the refugee girl

Suddenly, Jannat Ara fell and sank into dirty water when some refugees saw and went to the spot.

However, the refugees recovered her and brought to refugee clinic for treatment, but doctors declared, she died.

According to refugees, the doctors of Kutupalong official refugee clinic are neglecting the refugee patients. There was  no doctor and staffs in the clinic when the young girl arrived at clinic and not able to check the girl on time.

Source: Kaladan Press

Monday, February 27, 2012

U.N. should consider commission of inquiry on Burma: AI

(Mizzima) – Burma’s human rights situation has improved notably in some respects but it has significantly worsened in others, Amnesty International (AI) said this week. It called for the U.N. to seriously consider a commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes and systematic human rights abuses.

amnesty-international-logoFreedoms of assembly and expression remain restricted, and hundreds of political prisoners and many prisoners of conscience remain in jail. In several ethnic minority areas, the army continues to commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against civilians, including acts that may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes, AI said in a statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

“Many of these reported crimes are taking place despite cease-fire agreements between the Myanmar army and the relevant ethnic minority armed groups,” AI said in its statement. “In some cases, the cease-fire is not being obeyed, while in others serious human rights violations continue even when the fighting has stopped.”

Civilians have been a target of the Burmese army, the statement said. It cited “credible accounts” of the army using prison convicts as porters, forcing them to act as human shields and minesweepers. In Kachin State, where at least 55,000 people have been internally displaced since fighting resumed in mid-2011, AI said sources reported extrajudicial executions, children killed by shelling and other indiscriminate attacks, forced labour, and unlawful confiscation of food and property.

Human rights violations are not confined to the conflict zones, as evidenced by reports of forced labour on a large scale in Chin and Rakhine states (usually targeting the Rohingya ethnic minority in the latter), it said.

It said that in May 2011, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma referred to evidence that the armed forces continue to commit serious and systematic violations with impunity.

AI said Burma’s civilian government “has not taken any meaningful steps toward holding suspected perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.”

The Investigation and prosecution of human rights violations and crimes against humanity are obstructed by Article 445 of the 2008 Constitution, which stipulates that “no proceeding” may be instituted against officials of the military governments since 1988 “in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”

AI called for the U.N. to “seriously consider the establishment of an international commission of inquiry.”

In an early February statement,  Ojea Quintana stressed that moving forward on Burma cannot ignore or whitewash what happened in the past, and that acknowledging the violations suffered will be necessary to ensure national reconciliation and prevent future violations from occurring.

AI noted that ethnic minorities make up approximately 35-40 per cent of Burma’s population, including people of Chinese and Indian ethnicities. According to the government, there are at least 135 different ethnic nationalities in Burma, but the exact number is difficult to determine conclusively.

“There is clear evidence that Myanmar’s authorities often target members of ethnic minorities on discriminatory grounds, such as religion or ethnicity, or seek to crush their opposition to major development projects that adversely affect their lands and livelihoods,” the AI statement said.  In addition, the government often suppresses social organizations, including groups focused around religion or ethnic identity that are outside its authority and control. Some minorities’ ethnic identity in Burma is closely related to their association with a religion other than the majority Buddhism; this generally means Islam for most Rohingya, and Christianity for many Chin, Kachin, and Karen. The Rohingya ethnic minority is particularly exposed to human rights violations, as they are singled out in practice and law, with discrimination against them codified. “Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, they are denied citizenship and thus are de facto and de jure stateless,” AI said.

“The international community must improve its understanding of the aspirations of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities generally and give greater attention to addressing the needs of these minorities in discussions of the country’s human rights situation,” said the statement.

Amnesty International urged the U.N. HRC to:

– Support the establishment of an international commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes in Burma;

– Renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma for a three-year term.

– Call on the government of Burma to:

–  Immediately cease violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against ethnic minority civilians, both in conflict and ceasefire areas;

– Hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable;

– Release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience, including Khun Kawrio and Ko Aye Aung, and release political prisoners or charge them with an internationally recognizable criminal offence and try them in full conformity with international standards for fair trial;

– Seek assistance from the United Nations in convening a panel to reconcile differences in numbers and definitions of political prisoners;

– In full consultation with the UN and Burma civil society, amend or repeal laws used to stifle peaceful political expression, and reform the justice system;

– End immediately torture and other ill-treatment and punishment during interrogation and in prisons;

– Bring prison conditions in line with international standards;

–Cooperate fully with U.N. human rights treaty bodies and Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on Burma;

–Ratify and effectively implement core U.N. human rights treaties and their optional protocols and the Rome Statute of the International Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Source: Mizzima

Hungry boatpeople land on Thai beach

Phuket police searching for 12 would-be refugees after 102 men and boys come ashore at resort in rickety boat in a replay of notorious 2008 incident

Thai police in southern Phuket were yesterday searching for at least a dozen Rohingya boatpeople after the would-be refugees from Myanmar came ashore on a tourist beach.

They were among 102 boys and men who arrived aboard a 10-metre rickety wooden vessel on picturesque Nai Harn beach on Sunday. They then spread out across Phuket before dawn looking for food and water after what a detained 13-year-old boy told police was a 12-day voyage. Most of the men were quickly caught, but 12 have disappeared.

Images of the flooded vessel aground on Nai Harn beach, surrounded by crowds of Western tourists in swimsuits taking photographs, recall shocking photographs in 2008 that showed dozens of bound Rohingya being guarded by Thai troops on the island of Similan Eight, as tourists frolicked nearby.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar and the border regions with Bangladesh, are generally not considered dangerous but Phuket police hope to round them up quickly.

At least 65 men and boys were held briefly at Chalong police station on Sunday. By yesterday it was believed that group had been taken off Phuket to an undisclosed location.

The detainees appeared to be thin and desperate for the food and water that was supplied by police and locals, but otherwise in reasonable health.

Officers at Chalong station went through a similar experience 12 months ago when another boat landed nearby on Phuket.

The Rohingya diaspora board boats from Bangladesh or Myanmar in the winter months when seas are calmest, and head for safer southern shores. Many hope to find work in Muslim Malaysia, which last year announced an amnesty for more than half a million Bangladeshi illegal migrants.

The deal was valid for only two weeks in July, but still triggered a surge in the number of people willing to risk the sea crossing.

Tourists on the popular Phuket beach are believed to have sounded the alarm about the arrival of the latest boatload of Rohingya early on Sunday morning.

Nai Harn beach is surrounded by five-star and four-star resorts, offering a vivid contrast to the circumstances of the boatpeople, who cross the Andaman Sea with little more than dry rice and water.

The Royal Thai Navy conducts frequent patrols and usually "helps on" the vessels it intercepts by providing food, water, and mechanical attention if necessary.

The tactic is intended to keep the Rohingya out of official Thai custody; with Myanmar refusing to acknowledge their citizenship, repatriation can prove problematic.

This is in contrast to a notorious policy of "pushbacks" conducted by the Thai Army that was exposed by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) in January, 2009.

Under that now-disavowed scheme, Rohingya boatpeople were held behind barbed wire in secret detention on a Thai island, before being towed out to sea in unpowered boats and cast adrift. Hundreds died as a result.
The international scandal resulted in people-smuggling on the Bangladesh-Malaysia route grinding to a halt, as local authorities cracked down and the Rohingya, fearful of their treatment should they end up in Thailand, stayed ashore. But this season the sailings appear to have resumed in full swing.

In December, a boat carrying 120 people - mostly ethnic Rohingya - capsized in the Bay of Bengal, resulting in the drowning of 20 men.

After that accident, raids by border guards in the southeast coastal towns of Teknaf and Sabrum, which border Myanmar and host a large population of Rohingya refugees, have prevented several boats from illegally setting sail.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Source: South China Morning Post

Phuket's Boatpeople: Gone Within 24 Hours

Who is he? Where is he now? One of Phuket's 90 disappeared Rohingya

Phuket's Boatpeople: Gone Within 24 Hours

Monday, February 27, 2012
The likelihood is that these men and boys, even though they number about 100, will simply vanish one day. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a couple of weeks or months.

PHUKET: As Phuketwan predicted, the 90 Rohingya boatpeople who were forced to put ashore yesterday on a Phuket beach are no longer on Phuket.

From their predawn arrival at southern Phuket's Nai Harn beach on a flimsy timber craft that was not capable of carrying them onwards, all the men and boys have now disappeared within the space of 24 hours.

Some reports say that there may still be 12 Rohingya unaccounted for on Phuket. That may be true, or it may just be that there has been a miscount of the number of passengers.

What we can say with certainty is that the 90 men and boys who surrendered to Phuket police yesterday have all gone. Officials are not saying what happened.

The men and boys - 10 of them were teenagers, some just 13 years old - were probably carted off in a truck to Ranong, a port on the border between Thailand and Burma.

While briefly on Phuket they were allowed no contact with NGOs, no chance to press their case for refugees status, just carried off Phuket sometime in the dark last night.

In secrecy and contrary to international standards, Thailand is once again pressing the boundaries of how nations should deal with unexpected immigrants who arrive by sea.

This is a cause for considerable alarm because, although the details of the group were recorded at Chalong Police Station and again at the Immigration HQ in Phuket City, we were unable today to obtain a list of the names of the men and boys on the boat that landed on Phuket.

Aid agencies are perhaps even more alarmed by the lack of transparency in the process. But so far, there is no indication that the boatloads of Rohingya arriving along the Andaman coast, on Phuket and north and south of Phuket, are being mistreated.

The Royal Thai Navy has given an assurance that it is aware of the need for UN human rights standards to be maintained. Whether this is possible under a policy where there is no transparency is a moot point.

We cannot forget 2009 when the then Thai government secretly repelled unwanted boatpeople with the ''pushbacks'' policy, leading to the deaths of hundreds at sea.

The last known boatload of Rohingya to land on Phuket - about this time last year - were held in detention for several weeks before they also disappeared.

There is no suggestion of misdeeds. But it is believed the unwanted Rohingya, with no Burmese citizenship and therefore no hope of being returned to their homeland, are being tacitly handed back to people-smugglers.

Despite the Rohingya being among the most downtrodden people on the planet, the nations now engaging in conciliatory talks with Burma appear to be prepared to led concern for Burma's worst act of repression and subjugation slide for the time being.

We hope this attitude does not cost any lives.

We also are reminded of a less-than-prophetic paragraph that appeared in a local tabloid on January 28, 2009, soon after Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post revealed the reprehensible ''pushbacks'':

''Despite some rather dramatic 'reports' and opinions offered in local blogs and chat rooms, most resort managers and tourism officials contacted say they are not expecting the arrival of the Rohingyas on Phuket's beaches any time soon.''

Do not expect an upsurge of concern about the missing boatpeople. 
Source: PhuketWan

2012 Calendar, published by the RARC

Any one can order the printed version (hard cop). It is available over email:, Tel: +60163094599

Phuket Police round up Rohingya refugees in Nai Harn

Posted Yesterday, 16:31
Phuket Police round up Rohingya refugees in Nai Harn
Phuket Gazette –

Posted Image
Rohingya refugees at Chalong Police Station in Phuket this afternoon. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo.

Posted Image
A 13-year-old boy, one of the youngest members of the group of 102 Rohingya that came ashore at Nai Harn Beach in Phuket this morning. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo. Photo: Atchaa Khamlo.

PHUKET: Chalong Police have rounded up 90 starving Rohingya boat people who came ashore in the south of Phuket this morning, but 12 more remain unaccounted for.

The Rohingya, all males, were on their way to Malaysia when they ran out of food and their wooden boat began to fall apart at sea, forcing them to come ashore at Nai Harn Beach at about 5am.

Their arrival was quickly reported to patrol police, who rounded up the men in separate groups of about 30 each in different parts of Nai Harn in Rawai this morning.

Penniless, disoriented and unable to speak Thai, most of the men could do little but wait for their inevitable capture by police.

However, 12 Rohingya remain unaccounted for.

Those captured were sent to Chalong Police Station, where they gulped down drinking water and devoured fried chicken, bananas and sticky rice provided by officers there.

Communication with the men was a problem. One of their number, the only one who could speak Burmese, told police through an interpreter that they set off 12 days ago in hope of reaching Malaysia.

They set out from their homeland “between Burma and Bangladesh,” the man said.

The man said there were 102 people in the open boat, meaning that 12 remain unaccounted for.

The group ran out of food and water three days ago, the man said. Thirst, hunger and the problems with the wooden vessel forced them ashore short of their goal. The landing was sadly reminiscent of a similar beaching a year ago, when 70 Rohingya were rounded up and eventually deported.

The youngest members of the group today were four boys just 13 years of age.

The next stop for the group will be the detention center at the Phuket Immigration Office, police said.

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group originally from the Rakhine State of Burma.

Persecution by the Burmese junta beginning in 1978 led to their mass migration, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh and others taking to the sea in hopes of reaching Muslim countries like Malaysia in search of a better life.

Chalong Police continue to search for the 12 remaining members of the group this afternoon.

Source: http://www.phuketgaz...ticle12419.html

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Please Unite Us with Our Families: Mohd Muslim


Please Unite Us with Our Families: Mohd Muslim

Mohammed Muslim (47) is one of the most vocal among the detainees at the Distress Camp. He does not like to be addressed as Rohingya or Arakani. He says that he is from Teknaf, a sub-district of Cox Bazar, a division of Chittagong in Bangladesh.
"The officials from Bangladesh High Commission comes here every 5-6 months. They take all our addresses and details. But, nothing is happening in our case," he said.
'We are 265 persons and detained in this camp for last three years. Only 11 persons from our group have left. Out of 265, more than 100 persons will never get to go back as Bangladeshi official suspects us to be Arakanese," he worriedly said.
"About 40 persons in our group have their own residence in Bangladesh, but the land is not in their name. The local police officials in our village demand huge amount of bribe in Bangladesh to respond to the identification letters."
"Some of us even have Identity Cards, but our papers are not processed,"
"We are away from our families and they are in deep trouble as the earning members of the families are held up here. We speak to our family members over phone from here, but the authorities seem to be unaware of their whereabouts," Mohd told LOA. "Even UN is not taking up our issue with Indian Government. Give us the freedom every human being aspires for,” he pleads.

Source: The Light of Andamans


Monday, February 20, 2012





About 400 desperate souls rescued from the seas and detained in a distress camp for almost three years at Port Blair dream for a free life and a reunion with their families. Abandoned by both Myanmar and Bangladesh, their fate hangs in balance, with an indecisive government policy and the sluggish pace of repatriation.

By Zubair Ahmed

Since December 2008, about 702 boat people with Bangladesh-Myanmar nationality were rescued from various parts of the Islands. After a slow moving process, about 270 of them were repatriated.  The remaining 422 are languishing in the Distress Camp set up at Brookshabad by the ANI Admn. Another 54 were to be deported this week to Bangladesh.
"Its three years now, and we have not done anything wrong. We were first persecuted by the Burmese Junta, pushed by the Thais into the face of death. Indian government has been very sympathetic to us, but how can we continue to remain in a detention camp like this?" asks Ghulam Kadir, who is just 25 years old.
Mohammed Zameer: Optimistic!
The 400 persons have been lodged in the Open Distress Camp, where they live in three dormitories.  The Admn spends about Rs 75 per diem. They all look well-fed and clothed. However, they are unable to accept their fate, of living as prisoners without any hope.
"It is very unfortunate that poachers and Illegal fishermen from Myanmar, Bangladesh or Thailand, who are apprehended gets repatriated after they serve their sentences, whereas these boatpeople does not have the right to even get out of their camp," says a senior police officer.
Ghulam Kadir: Its a LongWait!
Mohammed Zameer, 23 years, born in Arakan has six members in his family. Faced with desperation and pain in managing a family in a hostile country, where its own citizens are persecuted by the Myanmar government, he crossed to Bothi Gaon in Bangladesh, just 20 kms away. One of the 2 lakh state-less and worst discriminated Rohingyas and Arakanese who had crossed the border looking for a safe haven from the clutches of Myanmar, he too dreamed of a better world. The border towns of Myanmar-Bangladesh are home to many such unfortunate souls. However life was not that easy in Bangladesh. He remained 8 months in Chittagong and thought of moving to Malaysia.
When he heard that Captain Rafeeque, would take him to Malaysia for an amount of 15-20 thousand takas, he too joined the 102 member group. Rafeeque, known as Captain promised them a safe landing in Malaysia. It took about 8 days to reach Phuket on their way, where they were intercepted by Thai Navy. They could see around 120 such Arakanese/Bangladeshi economic migrants already detained by the Thai Navy. 
Mukhtar: Engine Betrayed!
Lately, the Thai authorities had picked Red Sand Island for 'processing' the Rohingyas before pushing them into the sea. They are subjected to inhuman torture and humiliation in the process. They are detained on the beach with gun-trotting guards abusing and torturing them. About 413 of these boat people were loaded into a dead engineless incapacitated wooden boat and towed deep into the sea for 24 hours and left to drift. Two bags of boiled rice and two jars of water were provided on each boat. There was no provision to cook the rice. They soaked it in water and chewed raw. But that too did not last more than two days. 412 persons tossed in a boat with no space to even move, they drifted in the sea for more than 15 days and they even lost the count of days after a certain period. Hunger and thirst drove them mad. Everyday, they were throwing dead bodies into the sea. When after a long period, the boat drifted towards Little Andaman Islands, where they were spotted and rescued by the A&N police and ANC, out of 413, only 107 survived. 
UNENDING WAIT: At the Distress Camp at Brookshabad.
They arrived at Port Blair famished and totally dehydrated. They were shifted to hospital. After they recovered from the trauma, they were jointly interrogated by police and defence personnel. Although there is no lack of facilities, what they rue is detention without any crime. When asked SBS Deol, DGP told LOA, "They are not criminals and there is no justification in holding them in a detention camp, and I think they should be given Refugee status by Government of India."
When asked about the delay in repatriation, Naushad, Dy SP Emigration told LOA, "We have already forwarded all the details of the boatpeople to BSF as well as to the concerned High Commission; however, its time consuming and the response is very slow from Dhaka as well as from BSF." 
Thai Navy arresting the Boatpeople at Similan Islands
"We are doing our best in addressing their requirements. "There is cellphone facility provided to them and they speak to their family members and relatives," he said.
The Administration is spending about Rs 12 Lakhs per month for the detainees.
"The desperation among the detainees has increased a lot. They had gone on hunger strike four or five times demanding quick repatriation, which is not a good sign," said DGP. A few of them in fact had tried to escape from the camp. About ten of them are undergoing prison sentence.
"In 2005-07, many Rohingyas had trespassed Thailand to enter Malaysia. Although they were detained by Thai authorities for 10-15 days, as soon as their relatives in Malaysia intervened and paid an amount of 3000 Malaysian Ringgit, they were released. In Malaysia, the government accepted them and would provide them Refugee Card for labourers," said Mohd Zameer.
Mukhtar (35) belonged to a group of 61 persons, which landed in Twin Islands on 08 Jan 2009. Their boat had developed an engine snag, and drifting in open sea for about eight days.
In another incident, about 150 persons landed near Tillangchaung Island on 10 Jan 2009.  Ghulam Kadir (25) who is still in the camp says that they were about 110 and 41 more people were tossed into an incapacitated boat by Thai authorities and pushed into the sea. About 113 persons have been repatriated. Another 36 persons are still in the Distress Camp waiting repatriation to Bangladesh.
One more incapacitated boat carrying 133 Rohingyas reached Pillow Millow village in Great Nicobar on 15th January 2009. The boat caught the attention of the residents of the village that had just 5-6 families living there after tsunami devastated it in 2004. Rest of the 41 families of the village were still living in temporary shelters in Campbell Bay.
However, the villagers took out their boats and with great difficulties towed the drifting boat to the village in a very rough weather. The Rohingyas were famished and dehydrated as was the case with earlier arrivals in the Islands. There was not much in the village to offer over 130 hungry people, said Paul Jura, the tribal chief of the village from Campbell Bay. However, the villagers offered them banana and whatever else they could. The police in Campbell Bay was alerted though even that in itself was a monumental task.
The issue is very serious for those of Burmese origin. There were about 107 of them, out of which 38 of them were rescued in 2008 and only one of them was repatriated. Another group of 37 were found on Barren Island in December 2011. 34 more of Burmese origin was rescued near Goal Tikrey, Kalighat on 23 December 2011.
"Even Rohingyas living legally on Phuket have been refused passports by the ''new'' Burmese government. Those who do land in Thailand are ''helped on'' to Malaysia or into the arms of brokers," said Alan Morison, Editor, Phuketwan to LOA.
"Myanmar is not going to take them back as they are outcasts there and Bangladesh would do the same as they are Rohingyas. It would be inhumane to keep them in detention. Either United Nations or Government of India would have to pitch in and confer Refugee status to them," said a Police Officer.

It is human right issue of monumental proportion rather than stray incidents of desperate people drifting in with the trade winds as the A&N Administration treats it. A proper policy needs to be devised in consultation with the Government of India to handle the migrant Rohingyas problem.

Source: The Light of Andamans

Persecution of Rohingyas

Persecution of Rohingyas

According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya people have continued to suffer from human rights violations under the Myanmar junta since 1978, and many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result:
 "The Rohingyas' freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Myanmar citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction; and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps, although the amount of forced labour in northern Rakhine (Arakan) State has decreased over the last decade."
"In 1978 over estimated number of 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the 'Nagamin' ('Dragon King') operation of the Myanmar army. Officially this campaign aimed at "scrutinising each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally". This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction."
"During 1991-92 a new wave of the estimated number of a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. They reported widespread forced labour, as well as summary executions, torture, and rape. Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Myanmar army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labour of Rohingya civilians by the security forces."

Rohingyas or Bangladeshis?

The boatpeople pushed deep into the sea to drift by Thai authorities and reached the Andaman shores facing hardships and ordeals now face a major crisis - Burmese does not recognize Rohingyas/Arakanese as their citizens, and many of them living in Bangladesh does not possess any paper from Bangladesh government. Most of these state-less people were living in the border towns of Bangladesh. Two-third of us is from Cox Bazar in Bangladesh. 
Under Burmese law, the Rohingyas are de jure stateless, but they fare little better in Bangladesh. Most Rohingyas in Bangladesh have no legal rights and few employment opportunities. Hence, they try to move to Thailand and Malaysia.

"As we are landless, our families live in rented houses there," said Abdul Rehman, who had crossed from Myanmar and living with his family in Cox Bazar. "We would like to go back to our families in Bangladesh," he said.

Source: The Light of Andamans

Phuket News - 102 Rohingya found floating off Nai Harn - youngest just 13 years-old

The Phuket News - Sunday, 26th Feb 2012 01:51

More than 90 Rohingya refugees were captured by Chalong police this morning, after their boat ran out of fuel off Nai Harn beach.

The Phuket News - 102 Rohingya found floating off Nai Harn - youngest just 13 years-old
The Rohingya's boat, measuring just 10 metres long by five metres wide, with no apparent shelter for those onboard, was discovered wrecked just off Nai Harn beach.

It is reported that there were approximately 102 refugees on the boat, with some of them are believed to still be in hiding around Nai Harn and Promthep Cape.

One of the captured refugees, Suremula, 24, said that he and the others left their villages in Rakhine State, on the border between Burma and Bangladesh, about 12 days ago.

As with many of the predominately Muslim Rohingya, their final destination was Malaysia.

However, they ran out of food three days ago, and used up the last of their fuel early this morning off Nai Harn.

Their presence on Phuket was discovered by local villagers, who saw the refugees light a fire on the deck of the boat in order to warm themselves.

All of the refugees later left the boat to beg for food and water from people in the area.

Suremula said that life as a Rohingya in Burma is hard, as they are discriminated against as a minority, and pushed to the edge of society by the country's rulers.

"We don't receive help from the Burmese government," said Suremula through an interpreter. "Even though some of us have received basic education, we will never have the opportunity to find good jobs."

Suremula said that he earned about 1000 kyats (around B5,000) a year from whatever jobs he could find – ranging from rubber tappers to construction workers – to feed his family, which numbers more than ten.

"All of us onboard the boat decided that the only way out was to seek a better life in a new land," he said.

Among the refugees, the youngest are Dehuahusan, Aenatula and Sherfvic, all 13 years-old, who said they were only hoping for a brighter future.

"Do you know where we will be taken to?," asked Aenatula. "Will we be taken back to Burma? We don't want to go back to where we came from."

Local officials say that the Rohingya will be sent to a refugee centre in Ranong Province.

However, the Thai government can't send them back to Burma, as the Burmese government doesn't consider them to be citizens.

Their fate is unknown.

Burmese Rohingya refugees rescued in India's Andamans

More than 90 Rohingya refugees have been found by police in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.
All of them were starving and seriously dehydrated, police said; 25 have been admitted to hospital.
The refugees told police they had been set adrift with little food and water in a boat without an engine by the Thai navy. Thailand has denied the charge.
Thousands of Rohingyas - a Muslim minority group in Burma - have fled to the country to escape persecution.
An estimated 200,000 Rohingyas live in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Many of them - especially those living in unofficial camps - attempt to escape poor conditions by attempting to get to south-east Asia by sea.
"We found them in villages in the Car Nicobar islands, where they were desperately searching for food and water," police officer George Lalu told the BBC in a telephone interview from the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The Rohingyas said they were trying to enter Malaysia illegally through Thailand with the help of "agents" before they were caught by the Thai navy, he said.
Doctors at the hospital told the BBC they had been at sea without food and water for more than a week.
In a statement recorded by the police in Car Nicobar, one of the refugees said they were kept in a dark room with minimum food for about a week.
After that, they said, they were set adrift in open sea in an engine-less boat with minimal rations and water.
"They say more of their people may be on the high seas, drifting around in boats without engines and with no food or water," said Mr Lalu.
Thai authorities have denied that they have forced any of the Rohingyas onto the high sea in engine-less boats.
They said they had "intercepted" a group of 91 Rohingyas in Songkhla province in early January.
"But we deported them after proper formalities," said a Thai official in Songkhla.
In December 2008, nearly 300 Rohingyas were rescued from the Andaman Sea after their boats were towed to the high seas by the Thai navy and their engines removed.

Phuket Landing! Rohingya Boatpeople Captured, Police Hunt Others in Southern Phuket

Sunday, February 26, 2012
PHUKET: Police in southern Phuket today were rounding up Rohingya after a boatload of would-be refugees came ashore at Nai Harn beach before dawn.

The boys and men from the ricketty vessel spread out across Phuket looking for food and water after what a 13-year-old boy told police was a 12-day voyage.

The Rohingya, from Burma's oppressed Muslim minority, are not known to be dangerous but Phuket police will want them rounded up quickly.

By 11.30am a total of 65 men and boys were being held at Chalong police station, where officers went through the same experience 12 months ago when another boat landed nearby on Phuket.

Tourists on the popular Phuket beach early in the morning are believed to have sounded the alarm.

Nai Harn beach is surrounded by five-star and four-star resorts - a vivid contrast with the boatpeople, who have nothing and travel huge distances with dry rice and a small quantitiy of water.

The Rohingya, regarded as among the world's most persecuted ethnic groups, are denied citizenship and basic human rights in Burma.

Even the new so-called ''democratic'' Burma continues to conduct a campaign of subtle ethnic cleansing and declines to change its policy towards the Rohingya.

The 13-year-old boy told police that there were 102 men and boys on the boat but another voyager said there were 95 passengers.

Rohingya have been sailing in greater numbers from Bangladesh, where some live as refugees, and northern Burma because their oppression continues in both countries.

Boys and men always constitute the sailors. Rohingya women seldom leave their homes.

Many of the Rohingya boats, provided by people smugglers, put to shore only when food and water run out.

The Rohingya navigated by sight, never being sure whether or not they have reached Muslim-majority Malaysia, which is usually their aim.

A steady stream of boats have come ashore this sailing season - between October and April, when the sea is calm - both north and south of Phuket, along the Andaman coast.

The Royal Thai Navy conducts frequent patrols and usually ''helps on'' the vessels it intercepts with food, water, and mechanical attention if necessary.

This is a contrast to the notorious secret ''pushback'' policy adopted by Thailand and exposed by Phuketwan journalists working with the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong in January, 2009.

The series of articles made the region and the world aware of the Rohingya but neighboring countries have been unable to persuade Burma to treat the Rohingya humanely.

As a result, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on a policy of silence and seldom if ever mention the Rohingya in public.

The result is that their treatment remains covert, although aid groups say they are confident that Thai authorities no longer mistreat boatpeople.

Usually, instead of lingering captivity for years because they cannot be returned to Burma, the Rohingya capture in Thailand are returned to people smugglers and allowed on their way. 
Source: PhuketWan

Human Rights Must Be Ensured Immediately for the Rohingya Refugees

Translation from Malay Version through Google Translation Tools 

Joint Media Statement
Shura and MAPIM
24th February 2012
On this day 24th February 2012 a special workshop conference diadaka by the Secretariat of Asia Scholars Assembly (Shura) and the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations (MAPIM) to discuss the fate of Rohingya refugees.
(Shura) and (MAPIM) urged the Human Rights (HAM) in Myanmar's Rohingya back and protected. .
All ethnic groups are Muslims now faced with persecution from Myanmar's junta since 1992 under the military operations NaSaKa.
So far the fate of the ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees became very sad and not only in the state of Myanmar, but also outside of Myanmar refugees.
Statistics of the Rohingya refugees had already reached more than half a million in countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
Today in Bangladesh, they were in the camp of the very poor and hundreds of thousands who fled from Myanmar living in the worst case scenario without a future. Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh is the worst in this dunia.Setakat they live suffer and die in refugee camps or to flee by sea to build a life elsewhere. Humanitarian aid is very little that can be extended to them.
UN agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) so this can not defend the fate of the Rohingya refugees. Rohingya refugees could not return to Myanmar and Bangladesh are allowed to integrate in to get citizenship. Migrated to other countries only is their choice.Ethnic Rohingya refugees in other countries through the suffering that is very sad.
Fate of those who still live in the territory of Arakan (now Rakhine) more miserable human rights ternafi. Now do not have the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar kewarnegaraan itself. Tealh military regime gives two options: accept the cultural life and become a Buddhist Barman or out of Myanmar.
Now the fate of Rohingya is undergoing a process of elimination. ("A people at the Brink of extermination.")
Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which is Myanmar's most powerful body does not recognize ethnic "Rohingya". They will not be included in one of 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar. Therefore they are not given full citizenship under the Citizenship law of 1982.
Military junta regime has restricted the movement of Rohingya in that State, They were forced to get permission to move from one village to another village. This rule does not apply to other ethnic groups. This is against the Article 13 of the Declaration of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Rohingya persecuted by making their forced labor. Their lands were seized for was made as a "model Villages". Land taken without compensation. It also violates international law in the CRC and CEDAW convention is signed by Myanmar's government.
Rohingya ethnic persecution in the form of taxes also are very pressing. All high-taxed agricultural.
Since 1992 they are also not allowed to marry without permission from the military .. If they have obtained permission to a very high tax.
Glad UNHCR and NGOs and UN agencies do not protect the rights of Rohingya. Refugee after September 1992 are not recognized by the UN. Today, more than 350,000 fled to Bangladesh. Report of the International Federation of Human Rights League (FIDH) has criticized the UNHCR who do not fulfill the mandate for the right memlindungi Rohingya refugees.
We feel disappointed that this world from the OIC does not membantuk to help the fate of the Rohingya refugees. So far the issue of Rohingya are not given attention by the OIC and Islamic NGOs.
We urge the Malaysian government to give urgent attention to the ethnic Rohingya refugees in this country. In the estimate of between 20,000-40,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and the documents they have only the UNHCR. That many of them do not get the UNHCR as a very slow process.
We are very concerned about their fate, especially among children, women, youth, senior citizens who fled to Malaysia but did not get proper defense agencies semada through existing or from the local community.
We urge that their children be allowed to go to school in the national schools. The Ministry of Education shall provide flexibility on the basis of future humanitarian aid to Rohingya children in this country.
We also demand that the health service facility Rohingya refugees are also given so that they are not pressured to pay the fees of private health services is high.
To that end we are also looking to the registration of the Rohingya refugees in UNHCR they should be given the opportunity to seek employment in Malaysia. Otherwise they are very dark future.
We recommend that the Government of Malaysia expressed the fate of Rohingya Muslims to OIC so wrong on Myanmar junta they stopped and their rights protected. OIC can not turn a blind eye to the fate of the Rohingya only because they are not in the OIC.
We demand that the ASEAN Secretariat's role is to safeguard the Rohingya. Myanmar must be remembered that the conditions of their participation in the ASEAN should also involve the question of human rights.


Saturday, February 25, 2012



Contact: Roland Watson,


February 25, 2012

Please forward.

Burma is holding a by-election on April 1st for forty-eight seats in Parliament (just over 10%). International observers view this as a significant benchmark in the country’s supposed reform to democracy. Both the U.S. and the E.U. have ended some of their sanctions, with the promise that more will be eliminated if the election is free and fair.

The judgment of free and fair, however, does not apply only to what happens on election day. It is the entire process that must be appraised, starting with the freedom of the candidates to campaign and to speak their
mind. Considering the steps that the military-backed regime has thus far taken, the upcoming election is already fatally flawed.

Election-specific actions

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been campaigning throughout Burma. On a number of occasions she has been denied permission to use sports stadiums to hold rallies, with the result that she could not speak freely to local constituencies.

Much more importantly, though, and which few commentators have noticed, the regime continues to enforce the requirement (Union Election Committee notification No. 91/2010, imposed in advance of the fraudulent 2010 national election) that speeches by candidates must be pre-approved, and that they cannot “criticize the constitution, tarnish the image of the state or the military, or harm security.” Among other provisions, candidates have to anticipate the size of the crowds to which they will speak, and take responsibility for them. It is not permitted to shout slogans.

(Notification No. 91/2010 has also just been reinforced by an election commission statement on February 17, which applies the same provisions to radio and TV broadcasts.)

In late January Daw Suu did in fact criticize the 2008 Constitution, and it was just after this that reminders of the requirement began to appear in pro-regime media. A careful read of this notice makes it clear that candidates cannot criticize or even comment upon, without fear of arrest or being banned from the election, the most important issues facing the country. It is notable that Daw Suu ceased talking about the Constitution
after the notification was publicized. (She changed her focus to “jobs.”) It appears that she is censoring herself: Bending over backward so as not to anger the regime.

Alternatively, she may have made a tactical retreat, and will speak strongly on these subjects once in Parliament. Only time will tell. (It is difficult to see, though, why the regime will become more tolerant.)

Regardless of what Daw Suu ultimately ends up doing, if the candidates do not have freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly with voters, then the election is neither free nor fair. It doers not matter what happens on
April 1st. The election is already discredited.

This is not the only condemnation that can be made. Even though there is still a month to go, the regime has taken the following dishonest actions:

After free speech and freedom of assembly, probably the most important factor for an election is freedom of the press. Notwithstanding some minor changes in the application of current press laws, e.g., images of Daw Suu can be shown, nothing material has changed. (Consideration of a new press law has been postponed until after the election.) Burma has an extremely repressive press environment. Journalists, like the candidates, are
forbidden from discussing the country’s most important problems, including the Constitution, the on-going civil war and Burma Army atrocities, theft of land from villagers and bribery and corruption in development projects, etc.

And, along with the refusal to allow the use of sports stadiums, there is a growing list of  other types of “dirty tricks.” Pro-regime militia in Shan State have ordered villagers to vote for the military party, the USDP. In the Irrawaddy region, local officials have been warned that they will be forced to resign if the USDP does not win. There are also reports of similar threats in the Dawei area, as well as demands by government officials there that the polls themselves be manipulated, i.e., rigged.

Considering all of this, and again with the proviso that there is still one month to go, we can already conclude that the vote will not be free or fair. While it might not be as openly fraudulent as the 2010 general election, and while most if not all NLD candidates will probably win their seats, the process by which this occurs will fail to meet democratic standards.

However, the anti-sanctions crowd, starting with the E.U., will no doubt ignore this and instead argue that since the NLD won that is all that is required. The end is important, not the means. It is interesting that the E.U. has said election monitors are not necessary. This, though, is not linked to a belief that there will be no problems at the polls. Rather, Europe, which is determined that sanctions end and massive development proceed, is itself trying to censor news of poll irregularities that would force it to delay or even terminate its anti-sanctions drive.

Other repression in Burma

The idea that free elections justify ending the sanctions is based on an implied assumption that other conditions in the country are satisfactory. As the following list makes clear, other than ingratiating itself with Daw Suu and the International Community, Burma’s military regime is still as tyrannical as ever.

The first issue here is not only freedom of speech for candidates, but for ordinary people as well. The monk Ashin Gambira was detained and is now being charged, reportedly for entering a locked monastery. But U Gambira has been outspoken about the lack of real democracy in Burma, how many monks are still being held as political prisoners, and how monasteries remain closed, now some four and a half years after the Saffron uprising. Similarly, another prominent monk, Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha, has been banned from preaching. Moreover, all of this has been accepted by the elders of Burma’s Buddhist council, the Maha Nayaka, who are blocking the re-ordination of the monks who have been released, and who seem determined to continue their long-standing support of the military regime.

Of course, even though many prominent political prisoners have been released, one thousand or more prisoners of conscience remain. Indeed, it is astonishing that the NLD has disputed the assessed totals of political prisoners tracked by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which has assiduously worked to identify and help them and their families since 2000. Not every political prisoner is a recognized dissident. Villagers who stand up for their rights and are then arrested are political prisoners as well, as are any individuals who are detained by the regime for any reason other than overt criminal activity.

The fact that Burma has so many political prisoners destroys the argument that the NLD winning a few seats in Parliament will signal that democracy is truly on its way.

The most pressing problem, though, is the continued Civil War. It is impossible to accept that the by-election has positive significance when the regime continues to attack the ethnic minorities of the country. Thein Sein ordered the Tatmadaw to cease and desist, but  the commanders have refused. Some commentators blame rogue generals - hardliners - saying that a power struggle is underway. More seasoned analysts, though, argue that the entire presentation is a charade. Thein Sein is a hardliner as well:

Everyone in the regime, including in the Tatmadaw and Parliament, is a hardliner. All that is occurring is a sophisticated good cop/bad cop presentation, orchestrated by the only person in Burma who has real power,
Senior General Than Shwe. The puppet theater is being used to mollify regime opponents, and to provide support to regime apologists including Asean, the E.U., international corporations, biased academics and retired diplomats, and business press such as the Financial Times. The surface objective is to get the U.S. to end its sanctions, but the deeper goal is to create a drawn-out pseudo-democratic transition - commercial development before political change - that ensures that the generals and their cronies own all of the significant business interests in Burma, that such interests can never be seized, and, most critically, that they will never be tried for war crimes and other human rights abuses.

Right now the regime is fighting the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin State and northern Shan State, the Shan State Army in southern Shan State, the Karenni Army in Karenni State, and both the Karen National Union and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in Karen State and Tenassarim Division. (Even though the conflict has died down in a few areas, it can re-ignite at any time. The word out of Karen State is that Tatmadaw troops are acting like conquerers, and preparing for future offensives.)

All of this fighting has been accompanied by Burma Army-perpetrated human rights violations. Villages have been bombed and women have been raped, for the latter most recently at the Kachin front and in Karenni State.
Many ethnic villagers have been detained. Returning to an earlier point, they are all political prisoners, as is KNU leader Mahn Nyein Maung. Indeed, the women who are known to be being held as sex slaves by Burma Army units at the Kachin front, and forced to undergo gang rapes every night, are the most persecuted individuals in the entire country. I would argue that their freedom is actually the most important issue in Burma. It is intolerable that anyone would be subjected to such unspeakable torture. The by-election should not even be held until their whereabouts are determined and they are freed, using whatever level of force is required.

The regime has responded to this by saying that it will not allow an inquiry into its atrocities in the ethnic areas, and further that its war with the Kachin may last three more years. The former is deplorable (as is the U.N.’s refusal to investigate), and the latter is ridiculous, considering that it is the Tatmadaw itself which is wholly responsible for the conflict. The generals are basically saying, we will continue to attack the Kachin for at least the next three years, or, more practically, until we defeat the KIA and our Chinese allies can restart the Myitsone Dam.

The only acceptable response is that the Tatmadaw immediately cease its offensives and dismantle all its camps in the ethnic areas. To local villagers these camps are terrorist outposts, akin to al-Qaeda camps. There is no solution to the conflict other than their complete removal. Earlier this month, Daw Suu said that Europe and the U.S. should delay their decisions about the sanctions until after the by-election. She should in no way certify the regime’s fraud. Even more, she should stick to the position that the sanctions not be eliminated, or even reduced, until the Tatmadaw stops its war of aggression against Burma’s ethnic minorities, and frees all the political prisoners.

Statelessness and Burma’s democratic transition.

The Rohingya moment   24 February 2012

Statelessness and Burma’s democratic transition.
Rohingya children in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state.
Images: Eric Paulsen
In the midst of the cautious excitement accompanying Burma’s seeming democratic transition, one of the key human rights issues that international leaders and Burma’s pro-democratic and ethnic activists have failed to address is the continuing statelessness and marginalisation of the Rohingya, the Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in northern Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh. Rakhine (formerly known as Arakan), one of the poorest and most isolated states in Burma, is home to some 800,000 Rohingya, who are among the world’s most persecuted communities, on par with the Roma in Europe and the Hmong in Laos. They have remained stateless for decades, with neither home nor citizenship, popping up on the world’s consciousness only when a humanitarian crisis strikes. The most recent such crisis occurred in January 2011 when yet another boatload of Rohingya emigrants was detained in Thai waters, towed away by the Thai Navy and left to die in the open sea without an engine, food or water.
The Burmese population of some 58 million people is commonly defined in laws and government policies as comprising eight major ‘ethnic nationalities’: the Bamar (Burman), Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin (Karen), Mon, Rakhine (Arakan) and Shan (although they are further divided into 135 sub-ethnic groups). ‘Non-national’ ethnic groups – including the Rohingya, but also people of Chinese, Indian and Nepali origin – were burdened with proving their continued permanent residence in the country in order to claim full citizenship. Those claiming full citizenship were required to prove ancestral residence from prior to the start of the British occupation in 1823, while those seeking naturalised citizenship had to show continued residence predating 4 January 1948, the date of Burma’s independence. Of course, many were unable to provide such detailed evidence.
In practice, Burmese immigration authorities have been reluctant to grant full citizenship to people suspected to be of non-national ethnic origin or of having mixed heritage. Burmese officials constantly refer to such groups as guests, foreigners, suspicious citizens or even ‘half-breeds’, even though there is no genuine issue as to whether these people are Burmese nationals. Immigration bureaucrats have been known to use all manner of excuses and discretionary powers to reject or delay citizenship applications, often in order to obtain bribes, even in cases where applicants are fully eligible. The prospect of gaining citizenship often depends on an individual’s or group’s perceived degree of integration into ‘national’ Burmese society, forcing non-national groups to strive towards complete assimilation.
Statelessness and persecution
The Rohingya, meanwhile, are denied Burmese citizenship even though they have lived in Burma for generations. They are accorded only ‘permanent resident’ status, with the majority holding a Temporary Registration Certificate instead of the Citizenship Scrutiny Card issued to full citizens. Because the Rohingya are related to the Bengalis of Chittagong, the Burmese government claims that they are ethnic Bengalis who arrived unchecked from India during British rule, and more recently from Bangladesh. In January 2011, when Burma underwent its first universal review by the UN Human Rights Council, the Burmese delegation maintained the government’s long-standing view on the issue: ‘The allegation regarding the discrimination and harassment against the local population of Northern Rakhine State is contrary to the facts. Historically and culturally those people do not constitute any national race and are illegal immigrants residing along the border areas of Northern Rakhine State.’
The Rohingya suffer from serious state discrimination and degrading practices. These include arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labour, arbitrary taxation, extortion, travel restrictions, expropriation of property and poor access to higher education. Historically, they have also suffered tremendously from state violence. In 1978, over 200,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh during the naga min (Dragon King) citizenship scrutiny operation, which at times turned violent and deadly. A similar operation called the pyi thaya (Clean and Beautiful Nation) caused an additional 250,000 Rohingya to flee in 1991 and 1992. Most were eventually allowed to return following international pressure, but more than 28,700 Rohingya still remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while the Dhaka government estimates that another 200,000 are living in villages outside the camps. Not surprisingly, today many Rohingya try to flee in order to seek asylum and a better life elsewhere, making the dangerous journey to Thailand, Malaysia or Australia in overcrowded and rickety boats. There are an estimated 50,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, and half a million more living as migrant workers in West Asia.
It is difficult to understand the origin of Burma’s animosity toward the Rohingya, whom the Burmese consider to be beneath even the kala (foreigners) of Indian origin, who already face considerable discrimination. The simplest explanations are undercurrents of racism and Islamophobia, founded on the Rohingya’s dark skin and Muslim identity in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. The Rohingya’s general isolation from the mainstream Rakhine and Bamar population is also a contributing factor, but such isolation is not substantially different from that of other minorities who have fractious relations with the Burmese state but who are not treated with the same level of prejudice.
A Rohingya family photo taken by the local authorities as proof of residency in Maungdaw. Those not at home when the photos are taken risk being punished or struck off as a resident. 
To justify its treatment of the Rohingya, the Burmese state claims its policies are aimed at ensuring national security and preventing illegal immigration from Bangladesh. But these strike many as poor explanations. Rakhine, like Burma’s other border regions, is populated on both sides of the state line by members of the same ethnic group. For example, ethnic Chin and Naga are also present in India; Kachin, Wa and Shan in China; Karen, Mon and Shan in Thailand. Many of these groups enjoy trade, family ties and relaxed cross-border movement that the Burmese government has done little to control. Further, Muslim armed resistance has been insignificant since the 1950s, and has never compared with the well-established ethnic armed groups that continue to operate in Kachin, Kayin and Shan states.
The naturalisation solution
Technically, citizenship laws – mainly the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law – do not exclude Rohingya from acquiring naturalised citizenship. In practice, however, the overwhelming majority of the community hold only temporary documents, or are without any documents whatsoever. Those who manage to acquire naturalised or full citizenship rely on individual connections. Though these documents are technically obtained through legal channels, the Rohingya still risk being accused of falsely acquiring identity documents, as the official policy holds that all ‘Bengalis’ in Rakhine are only entitled to temporary documents.
As a solution, some Rohingya have demanded that they be recognised as a national ethnic group and be granted citizenship by birthright. The thought here is that anything less opens the possibility of future revocation. However, Rohingya who do not have the means or connections to acquire better documentation, but need identification paper for travel and employment, still welcome the possibility of naturalised citizenship.
Naturalised citizenship would go some way toward reducing the Burmese government’s arbitrary and discriminatory practices. Unless restrictive caveats remain, it would improve the Rohingya’s ability to travel, to acquire a passport and to access higher education. Hindus of Indian origin in Rakhine who recently obtained naturalised citizenship have said they are now able to travel more freely. There are murmurings that the Burmese government may also be considering naturalised citizenship or some status other than permanent residency for the Rohingya. It does not make good policy, after all, to exclude only the Rohingya while Indian-origin Hindus in Rakhine with similar eligibility are granted naturalised citizenship. In today’s era of new scrutiny by the outside world, such discrepancies matter.
Most significantly, the citizenship laws on the books already provide that after three generations, all descendants of naturalised citizens are to be granted full citizenship. These provisions have yet to be tested, however, and it will take some more time before the third generations of naturalised citizens are eligible to make such a claim. Of course, there is no guarantee that naturalised citizenship for the Rohingya, if it were to be granted, would not be revoked in the future on some flimsy pretext, or that their third generation would be able to acquire full citizenship. Nonetheless, at this point, surely the possibility of entrenching their status as naturalised citizens far outweighs any potential revocation. As such, if given the opportunity, the Rohingya should take advantage of the ongoing democratic transition to advocate for their rightful place in Burma, and to work towards the achievable goal of naturalised citizenship status rather than wait for national recognition as an ethnic group, which is highly improbable if not impossible.
To not be left behind
This is an important point to stress: the idea that the Rohingya could suddenly be accepted as a national ethnic group in Burma cannot be taken seriously. In general, Rohingya groups have been isolated and excluded from multilateral discussions, both within Burma and beyond. They have little to no public or political support from any other ethnic group or from Burma’s opposition and exile groups, and certainly none from the Rakhine ethnic majority in the state, where deep suspicion and hostility remain.
Seemingly innocuous events have recently highlighted the deep division between the Rohingya and the general Burmese population. In November 2011, a BBC report that carried a map depicting Rakhine as populated by Rohingya sparked outrage in Burma, especially in the state. This led to hundreds of complaints, many of which were harsh, nationalistic and racist in nature, calling on the BBC to issue a public apology and remove any reference to the Rohingya from the map. Since the incident, anti-Rohingya blogs and social-networking pages have appeared.
The view of Ye Myint Aung, Myanmar’s consul-general in Hong Kong at the time, expressed in a letter to his fellow heads of mission and international newspapers in February 2009, perhaps best puts the dynamic into perspective: ‘In reality, Rohingya are neither “Myanmar People” nor Myanmar’s ethnic group. You will see in the photos that their complexion is “dark brown”. The complexion of Myanmar people is fair and soft, good looking as well … [The Rohingya] are as ugly as ogres.’
Since then, at least at the national level, the tone of many political discussions in Burma has changed. Yet even if discussions do begin on reconciliation and ethnic minorities’ demands for a fairer and more equitable Union of Burma – and even if the Rohingya are invited to participate – it is unlikely that such talks would make inroads toward the community becoming an official national ethnic group, much less being granted ethnic autonomy and federalism. Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) currently have an extraordinary opportunity to include the Rohingya in the new democratic process, but the NLD has shown no indication that this issue is a priority. According to the stated views of NLD Vice-chairman Tin Oo, for instance, the prospects of the party reaching out to the Rohingya do not seem very high. In an interview in October 2011, Oo reaffirmed the government line that the Rohingya are immigrants from Bangladesh, and further stated that, when he was a general in the Myanmar Army, he had helped to protect ethnic Rakhine from Rohingya ‘threats’.
This should not discourage the Rohingya from demanding greater rights and equality. But in so doing, they should not take an ‘all or nothing’ stance. Doing so could not only prove counterproductive to their welfare but also perpetuate the community’s suffering and inequality. The Rohingya should seize the current opportunity and ride the ongoing democratic wave which has led to the release of political prisoners, the legalisation of the NLD, an attempted reconciliation with ethnic armed groups, a freer media, and even the halt of a mega-dam project. Failing this, the Rohingya will once again be left behind. Of course, naturalised citizenship is not on par with recognition as a national ethnic group, but at present it remains the most realistic and workable solution to the community’s statelessness.
~Eric Paulsen is co-founder and adviser to Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights and law reform organisation based in Malaysia. He has researched statelessness in Bangladesh, Nepal and, most recently, in Burma.

Source: HIMAL