UN: Food aid for 80,000 Rohingya blocked by Myanmar

Military clampdown following unrest has prevented any supplies from reaching Muslim minority group in Rakhine state.

The government has been accused of disproportionately helping Buddhist ethnic Rakhine civilians during the unrest [EPA]

The government has been accused of disproportionately helping Buddhist ethnic Rakhine civilians during the unrest

Food aid deliveries planned for more than 80,000 people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been blocked because of a military clampdown in the area, according to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

A predominantly Rohingya area in the north of the state has been closed off after attacks on police posts allegedly by Rohingya fighters over a week ago prompted a surge in government troops, WFP said in a statement on Wednesday.

The WFP normally feeds 80,000-85,000 people in the locked-down area, which borders Bangladesh, but aid deliveries have been disrupted and the military has prevented any supplies from getting through.

Rakhine state is where the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority group has allegedly faced systematic persecution since unrest broke out in 2012.

“There is military everywhere and a curfew in place. It’s impossible to access any of the areas affected,” said Arsen Sahakyan, WFP’s partnership officer in Myanmar.

“The areas affected are also where we normally operate.”

According to state media, security forces have killed at least 30 people since the raids on the police posts. A tally of latest official figures show at least 40 people being held.

Activists say a violent crackdown has been unfolding, with troops shooting dead Muslim civilians and torching their villages. But the military says it has been fending off violent attacks.

The government has blamed the attacks on an armed group called “Aqa Mul Mujahidin” and said hundreds of fighters are planning more attacks.

The unrest has raised fears of a repeat of the 2012 sectarian conflict that left more than 100 dead and drove thousands of Rohingya into squalid displacement camps.

READ MORE: Myanmar bans officials from saying ‘Rohingya’

About 125,000 Rohingya remain displaced and face severe restrictions on their movements, education and access to food while living in sqaulid camps.

Tensions have recently simmered between the Buddhist Rakhine community and the Muslim Rohingyas, and fears that unrest between the two groups will spread to other parts of the state have prompted the WFP to restart aid to some 6,000 displaced people whom they had stopped feeding several months ago.

Many Rakhines – who are also an impoverished community in Myanmar – resent the international aid given to the Rohingya.

In 2014, most aid agencies pulled out of the state after mobs of Buddhists ransacked their offices and warehouses, accusing them of bias in favour of Muslims.

That anger was on display outside a monastery in Maungdaw that has become a makeshift refugee camp for Rakhines, where a sign read: “We don’t need any support from UN, INGOs – Maungdaw Rakhine state”.

READ MORE: Myanmar Buddhists boo ex-UN chief Kofi Annan

“When our Rakhine houses were burned and attacked in 2012, they didn’t let the world know,” Hla Shwe, a Rakhine villager told the AFP news agency, referring to the aid agencies.

“They should think about the human rights of Rakhine ethnics as well.”

In June, the UN said widespread violations against the Rohingya, including denial of citizenship since they are accused of being illegal immigrants, forced labour and sexual violence could amount to “crimes against humanity”.

The EU, in July, urged Myanmar’s government to put an end to the “brutal repression” and “systematic persecution” of Rohingyas, but their requests for unimpeded access to areas where the Rohingyas were targeted have largely been ignored.


(Source / 20.10.2016)

Myanmar’s shame

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Rohingya Muslims, in camps, wait for what democracy led by a Nobel peace prize winner will bring them. So far: Nothing.


Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”. Back then, she was a campaigner for those things, spending a total of 15 years under house arrest.

She knows what it’s like to have rights and freedom taken away.

But now that she is in perhaps the ultimate position of power in Myanmar, there is no sign that she is going to defend the rights of people who have been detained simply because of who they are.

Tens of thousands of Muslims, mainly Rohingya, have been kept in camps in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State for almost four years since their homes and communities were attacked.

They were horrific events that were fanned by a powerful, nationalist Buddhist agenda – alive and well today – and it’s a movement Aung San Suu Kyi seems afraid of upsetting.


Grim prospects for democracy

After decades of campaigning against the previous military regime, her National League for Democracy party won last November’s general election and, even though the constitution prevents her from becoming president, she made it clear that she would be in charge and gave herself the title of State Counsellor.

Her choice of Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister raised eyebrows. Thura Aung Ko is a former army general and was a deputy in the same ministry under the previous military-backed government. And, so far, the new government isn’t sending any signals that it will adopt a policy to give rights to Rohingya who, in Myanmar, are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

On his first day on the job in the new administration, Thura Aung Ko gave a media interview in which he said that Muslims and Hindus were “associate citizens”, referring to the 1982 citizenship law that places people into three categories depending on their status.

He then visited leaders of a nationalist Buddhist movement who regularly spew anti-Islam rhetoric. It’s not known what was discussed at the meeting but it sent a bad message, something Aung San Suu Kyi herself has also been guilty of.

Tens of thousands of Muslims, mainly Rohingya, have been kept in camps, living in squalid conditions, for almost four years since their homes and communities were attacked

In April, the United States embassy in Yangon released a statement, offering their condolences for people who were killed when a boat sunk off Rakhine State. The people onboard were Rohingya and that’s exactly what the US statement called them.

That led to protests outside the embassy by people who refuse to recognise the term Rohingya because it’s not one of the official ethnic minority groups in Myanmar.

The response from Suu Kyi? Government officials sent a letter to the US ambassador and other diplomats urging them to refrain from using the word Rohingya.

Yes, it’s very early days in the life of the new government and there are many problems in this country to solve. Yes, the plight of the Rohingya is a very complex issue. Yes, the new government is talking about new laws to safeguard religious freedom and to get tough on hate speech.

But it’s not enough.

Here’s what we also know: Around 100,000 people have been living in squalid conditions for almost four years. They have no rights and many have died in a desperate attempt to leave. Over the past year though, the number of departures fell, partly because people wanted to see what the new government would do for them.

What Aung San Suu Kyi has at her disposal now is the power to speak out. Words can be powerful. They can offer hope. Particularly when they come from someone who built her name on a fight for freedom and rights.

But when it comes to the Rohingya, there has been nothing but silence; meaning for them, hope is already fading so early in Myanmar’s new democracy.

A broken ambulance – a sign of the poor medical facilities available to people in the camps. Only the most serious cases are allowed to go to Sittwe Hospital in town

(Source / 16.07.2016)

Al Jazeera investigation uncovers evidence of government-led genocide in Myanmar

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained compelling eyewitness and documentary evidence that the government of Myanmar has been triggering communal violence in order to achieve political gain.

The film, Genocide Agenda, exclusively reveals:

·         Evidence that Myanmar government agents have been involved in triggering anti-Muslim riots.

·         An official military document that uses hate speech and claims the Myanmarese are in danger of being ‘devoured’ by Muslims.

·         A confidential document warning of “nationwide communal riots” was deliberately sent to local townships to incite anti-Muslim fears.

·         A report by Yale Law School that concludes there is “strong evidence” genocide is taking place in Myanmar.

·         A former United Nations’ Rapporteur on Myanmar who says President Thein Sein should now be investigated for genocide.

·         Evidence that monks involved in the Saffron Revolution in 2007 that challenged military rule were offered money to join anti-Muslim, pro-government groups.

·         A report by the International State Crime Initiative at London University, which confirms that genocide is taking place. The team gathered independent evidence that riots in 2012 that left hundreds of Rohingya dead and over a hundred thousand homeless were pre-planned.

These actions amount to intent to commit genocide, according to the Lowenstein Clinic at Yale University, part of one of the foremost law schools in the United States.

As the first contested elections approach on November 8, Al Jazeera’s investigation presents compelling evidence that marginalizing Muslims and targeting the Rohingya plays into the hands of the military backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The USDP is running against numerous ethnic and other parties but primarily against the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

Evidence from a cache of confidential documents and sources within the Sangha (monkhood) confirms that monks who protested against military rule in 2007 and were later imprisoned were offered money to support government-backed religious institutions upon their release.

The investigation also reveals how the government triggers communal violence using hired thugs.  A former member of Myanmar’s feared Military Intelligence service describes how she witnessed agent provocateurs from the army provoke problems with Muslims. “The army controlled these events from behind the scenes. They were not directly involved,” she said, “they paid money to people from outside”.

According to Matt Smith, from the advocacy group, Fortify Rights, “Your documents indicate this trend is resurfacing, creating a common enemy.”

The documentary also includes a new study by Yale Law School, which concludes that there is “strong evidence” the government is guilty of genocide in its treatment of the Rohingya.

The study, released exclusively by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, follows an eight-month investigation into the plight of Rohingya. The paper drew from documents obtained by the Investigative Unit and Fortify Rights.

Smith told the programme: “Several of the most powerful people in the country should reasonably be the subject of an international investigation into this situation of Rakhine State.”

The former United Nations Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, tells the programme that certain ministers in the present Myanmar government should face a criminal investigation on charges of genocide. “You have the Minister for Home Affairs. You have the Minister of Immigration… and of course, we also have the President of Myanmar because overall it’s the president who appoints the ministers.”

The contents of a report by the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London are also released for the first time by al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

That report, Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar, concludes genocide of the Rohingya is taking place. Researchers gained evidence that communal violence resulting in hundreds of deaths in 2012 was pre-planned. “It wasn’t communal violence.  It was planned violence”, says Professor Penny Green. “Express buses were organized” to bring Rakhine from outlying areas to take part in the violence.

“Refreshments, meals were provided,” she said. “It had to be paid by somebody. All of this suggests that it was very carefully planned.”

Yale Law School’s full legal paper will be published on Thursday, the 29th October. On the same day, the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary, the University of London, will publish their report, Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar.

(Source / 26.10.2015)

Myanmar Muslim migrants abandoned at sea have been ‘drinking their own urine’ to survive after Thailand refuses boat entry

An estimated 6,000 Myanmar refugees have been left stranded as countries in Southeast Asia turn boats carrying hundreds of people away

Myanmar migrants left abandoned at sea after being refused entry to Thailand have been forced to drink their own urine to survive, it has been reported.

At least ten people have died on the fishing boat which has been stranded in the Andaman Sea for the last week with up to 350 Rohingya Muslims on board, the BBC has reported.

An estimated 6,000 Myanmar refugees have been left abandoned as other countries in Southeast Asia turn boats carrying hundreds of people away.

The region finds itself in a spiralling humanitarian crisis as members of Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims attempt to flee persecution in the Buddhist-majority country.

Rohingya migrants are pictured on a boat off the southern Thai island of Koh LipeRohingya migrants are pictured on a boat off the southern Thai island of Koh LipeRohingya migrants swim to collect food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopteRohingya migrants swim to collect food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopter

According to reports, more than 120,000 members of the Muslim minority have boarded ships to other countries in a bid to escape.

Smugglers however have now started to abandon ships, leaving migrants to fend themselves, in the face of a crackdown by the security forces of other countries.

According to Associated Press, while Thailand kept a large vessel carrying hundreds of hungry people at bay, a further two boats crammed with Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis were also left with nowhere to go after being turned away from Malaysia.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head has reported from alongside the boat situated off the southern coast of Thailand.

He said: “We can see there are actually people drinking their own urine from bottles. We’ve been throwing them bottles of water – everything we’ve got on board.”

Despite appeals by the UN and aid agencies, authorities in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia all appear to be unwilling to take the refugees.

“What do you expect us to do,” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar said.

Myanmar migrants

“We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha meanwhile has also said: “If we take them all in, then anyone who wants to come will come freely. I am asking if Thailand will be able to take care of them all. Where will the budget come from?”

“No one wants them. Everyone wants a transit country like us to take responsibility. Is it fair?” he said.

Rohingya migrants bring back food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopterRohingya migrants bring back food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopterA Rohingya migrant woman holding a child cries as she stands on a boat drifting in Thai watersA Rohingya migrant woman holding a child cries as she stands on a boat drifting in Thai watersWan Junaidia said roughly 500 people on a boat found off the Penang coast were given provisions before being sent on.

Two unidentified Malaysia officials have been reported by AP as saying another boat carrying 300 migrants was also turned away from near Langkawi island overnight.

A senior naval officer told AP meanwhile that migrants on the boat near Lipe island, in the sea border between Thailand and Malaysia, were given food and water.

“To bring them into our country is not our policy,” he said. “If they need fuel or food to go on (to a third country) we would help them with it.”

Matthew Smith, executive director of nonprofit human rights group Fortify Rights said: “This is a grave humanitarian crisis demanding an immediate response.

“Lives are on the line.”

(Source / 15.05.2015)

UN rights chief urges Myanmar to halt abuses, ‘get back on track’

The United Nations human rights chief warned Wednesday that widespread abuses of minority rights in Myanmar threatened to undermine reforms in the country.

“Myanmar had promised to end the era of political prisoners, but now seems intent on creating a new generation by jailing people who seek to enjoy the democratic freedoms they have been promised,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

He said the world had hailed the transition in Myanmar since a quasi-civilian regime took power in 2011 after decades of military rule “as a story of promise and hope.”

“But recent developments relating to the human rights of minorities, the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest are calling into question the direction of that reform and even threatening to set it back,” he said.

Zeid pointed to the case last week of 14 members of the Michaungkan community jailed for protesting peacefully against the military’s alleged confiscation of their land.

And in 2014, he said, 10 journalists were jailed “under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws.”

He also expressed concern related to upcoming elections.

“During an election year, it will be tempting for some politicians to fan the flames of prejudice for electoral gain,” he warned.

“But at a time when religious extremism is creating havoc in many parts of the world, the terrible consequences of appealing to or appeasing such sentiments should be all to clear.”

Among the worrying developments was a government announcement last week that identity cards for people without full citizenship, including Muslim Rohingya, will expire within weeks.

“The decision appears designed to prevent ‘white card’ holders — the majority believed to be members of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority — from being eligible to vote,” Zeid warned.

Many of Myanmar’s roughly 1.3 million Rohingya are stateless and subject to restrictions that affect everything from their ability to travel and work to the permitted size of their families.

Zeid said the Myanmar government even opposes the use of the term “Rohingya”, insisting that denying the group’s right to self-identification “should sound a clear warning bell.”

The UN rights chief also voiced alarm at escalating violence between the military and rebels in the remote Kokang region near the Chinese border, where more than 130 people have died since Feb. 9 and tens of thousands have reportedly been displaced.

(Source / 25.02.2015)

Myanmar: Tensions grow as government revokes ID cards for Rohingya Muslim minority

Camp For Rohingya Muslim Refugees

Rohingya women sit and squat in front of tents at a camp for those displaced by recent violence, outside Sittwe

Tensions are mounting in Myanmar after the government decided to revoke ID cards for theRohingya Muslim minority.

Many Rohingya are reluctant to give back their temporary identification cards, known as white cards, not knowing whether they are going to receive any identification document in return, Reuters reported.

The Rohingya live predominantly in camps in the western Rakhine state. The cards entitle them to vote and to access education and health services.

However, they are still barred from civil service jobs and some degree courses.

“Any attempts to enforce the order to surrender the cards could spark violence,” said Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based independent political analyst.

The Burmese government has been often accused of failing to help the Rohingya integrate, with the UN warning that the community, originally from Bangladesh,  is one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Myanmar refuses to give citizenship to the Rohingya, claiming that they are Bengali.

The government’s revocation of the white cards came a few months after reports emerged that dozens of Rohingya were beaten by the authorities for refusing to register as Bengali immigrants.

At the beginning of February the government condemned the UN for using the word “Rohingya”  to describe the country’s persecuted minority.

“Use of such term by the United Nations would certainly draw strong resentment of the people of Myanmar making the government’s efforts more difficult in addressing the issue,” the ministry said.

“Selectivity is often exercised. On some occasions, interfering on issues which fall within state sovereignty and domestic jurisdiction is evident.”

Violence against Myanmar’s Muslims has intensified over the past years, incited by extremist monks and the anti-Muslim ‘969’ campaign, which urges Buddhists to stop interacting with the Rohingya and boycott their businesses.

More than 230 people have been killed in religious violence in Myanmar since June 2012 and more than 140,000 have been displaced.

A New York Times short documentary, broadcast in June 2013, showed how Myanmar authorities confine the Rohingya to “quasi-concentration camps” or to their own villages, with reduced/minimal access to medical care and education.

(Source / 17.02.2015)

Why Myanmar is committing a slow genocide against nearly 2 million Rohingya Muslims

By Maung Zarni
Myanmar’s slow Rohingya genocide is a brilliant strategy that kills several birds with a single stone – as far as the country’s ruling military Bama regimes.
Myanmar’s great commercial opening, talked up as “reforms”, triggered Rakhine nationalists and democrats’ loud demands and agitations for 3 things – up until the state’s manufacturing of the Rohingya-raped-Rakhine woman story (the body of the victim Ma Thida Htwe had absolutely no trace of having been assaulted sexually – according to the medical doctor who performed the medical examination of her body – ask Mr Maung Thura (a.k.a Zargana. He is not telling the country or world, the real truth he knows for a fact because he interviewed the medical examiner on video camera)
1) more equitable revenue sharing (or greater control over Rakhine’s economic life)
2) greater political and administrative autonomy of the Rakhine people (the Bama king named Ba Dun or popularly King Grandfather, invaded, destroyed their kingdom, annexed the Rakhine territory into the present day Burma in 1785. The colonialist Bama feudal rulers used Rakhines as Prisoners of War and slaves in temple building and irrigation projects). Rakhines feel and remain a colonized people in their own land, truth be told).
3) resurgence of ethno-nationalism not allowed to express itself peacefully until after the opening up began
Myanmar regime has dealt with all 3 objectives of the Rakhine rather brilliantly – by diverting the Rakhines nationalist anger towards the Rohingya – most vulnerable, without any revolutionary or radical movement or organization to defend their own people or territory.
To date, Rakhines are perceived around the world as Nazi-like genocidal lot: the new perception serves the military leaders’ interests in multiple ways.
First, it helps erase their finger-prints on the 37-years of systematic genocide of the Rohingya.
Second, Rakhines are no longer in a position to demand anything successfully from the central colonizer – Bama ruling class EXCEPT the greater repression of their down-trodden and more oppressed Rohingya co-habitants of Rakhine land and denial of the Rohingya rights (such as identity recognition, which early military leaders including Ne Win and his deputies accorded the Rohingya – that the Rohingya would be known, recorded and referred to by their self-chosen identity Rohingya because they were borderland people like Wa, Karen, Chin, Mon, Shan, etc. whose presence in their ancestral land predates the creation of new nation-states such as Burma, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, China, etc.)
Rohingya continue to be subject to the central military’s genocidal policies albeit this time through Naypyidaw’s strategy of OUTSOURCING DIRECT VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION.
Rakhine nationalists, who wanted to full independence and/or greater autonomy from Rangoon/Bama rule, had never forgiven the Rohingyas for always siding with the Burmese rulers in Rangoon against the wishes of the Rakhines.
Bama rulers neither welcome the Rohingya presence nor like the Rakhine (for their ethno-nationalism, which is the result of their colonial status as a people).
Third, the military rulers and their spin-masters like Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who is involved in formulating, articulating and selling the Rakhine Action Plan (Myanmar’s equivalent of Final Solution) are telling international visitors and others in Burma policy circle to provide more development aid to addess the lack of development and resultant POVERTY needs to be tackled as a long term strategy!
and the Development Industry loves this b/s.
It even serves the Pentagon as it is placed in a position to discuss beefing up security capacity of the Burmese armed forces – both the Navy and the Army in Rakhine coastal region – where China has twin gas and oil pipeline and wants to have access to the port! (The American ‘strategic communitications adviers’ – then based in Naypyidaw, on and off, were known to have helped Kyaw Yin Hlaing and the government Rakhine Inquiry Commission in formulating the right spin. Read the recommendations – it reads like a blue print for the defence cooperation between the Pentagon and Burmese Ministry of Defence!)
Boy, genocide pays!
So, the current strategy of the military is paying off handsomely. Rakhine are used as local proxies to pursue the central regime’s long-term genocidal policies towards the Rohingya and will take the fall for the crimes of the Bama rulers. Rohingya, whom the regime has long come to view, rather out of its national security paranoia, as a security threat to Burma (because it is the only Muslim population concentrated in the 171 mile-long Burmese-Bangladesh border with linguistic and ethnic ties to the populous Bangladesh.
The Rakhine nationalist leaders, as in effect, finished as far as their demands for autonomy and economic control of Rakhine. Rohingyas continue to be destroyed as a community.
This is not simply a conflict between two religious and ethnic communities settling scores as the result of “the great transition” as morons and dishonest Myanmar experts and researchers have made it out to be.
There are those who those who think the United States Government is going to help rescue the Rohingyas from the slow genocide they need to think and look harder at the below-the-radar politics.
Twice Obama went to Burma and defended publicly Rohingya’s right to dignity, identity, etc.
His UN Rep Samantha Power makes mentions of Rohingya in her pronouncements.
At the same time, the Pentagon and its men and women plays a different game – vis-a-vis China.
The American ‘Strategic Communications advisers/specialists’ – in plain language ‘propaganda specialists – – then based in Naypyidaw, on and off, were known to have helped Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing and the government Rakhine Inquiry Commission in formulating the right spin. Read the recommendations in the Inquiry Commission Report (released in Spring of 2013): the list of recommendations reads like a blue print for the defence cooperation between the Pentagon and Burmese Ministry of Defence!
(Source / 20.01.2015)

Myanmar Enters Election Year With Powerful Military Largely Unchanged

FILE - A general view of the Myanmar parliament in Naypyidaw

A general view of the Myanmar parliament in Naypyidaw

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen staggering changes over the past few years. State censorship has been relaxed, political prisoners have been released, and foreign investment has poured in. For the country’s powerful military, though, much remains the same. As Myanmar prepares for another crucial election in 2015, critics say reforms are dangerously stalled.

Myanmar’s once anemic economy has seen staggering change: government controls on the economy have been loosened, with a new banking system, new land policies, and a currency whose value is determined by the market, not the government.

The steps have helped attract an estimated $9 billion in foreign investment since 2011.

But economist Sean Turnell said that although the changes have made the economy more functional, they have done little to change the military’s dominant role in both the economy and the political landscape.

“In a movement toward some new government reform after 2015, that issue of the military and its role, will it be the central actor? Will it step back in a meaningful way that really needs to happen? That’s the big question,” said Turnell.

In particular, the military still controls Myanmar’s largest business conglomerates, and most of the country’s most lucrative economic sectors, such as natural gas drilling and gemstone mining.

The military’s economic influence in Myanmar mirrors its political power. One quarter of seats in parliament are reserved for military appointees, giving it veto power over all constitutional changes.

This has meant little accountability when military forces are accused of rights abuses.

Last month, Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic released a report     accusing four top military officials, including current Home Affairs Minister Major General Ko Ko of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005 and 2006.

Matthew Bugher, Harvard’s Global Justice Fellow in Yangon, said there already is enough evidence to issue arrest warrants, but there have been no prosecutions. He said until top military officials are held accountable by a civilian-controlled justice system, the military will continue to act with impunity.

“The military has set their foot down and said they are not willing to address their conduct and they’re threatening people who do try to address that,” said Bugher. “We think that reformers in the government and opposition politicians who may want to deal with these issues haven’t taken a stand to address human rights abuses and address military conduct we also think the military is promoting rights abusers up the chain of command and into primary positions.”

Myanmar’s opposition, marginalized for decades, has gained seats in parliament, but been unable to upset the military’s dominance.

In particular, critics have called out opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to push for accountability. Some of her critics believe she has avoided confronting the military in the hopes it will improve her presidential prospects.

For all of the criticism leveled at the military, Myanmar’s generals defend their continuing influence by pointing to the country’s long-running rebellion by ethnic fighters in some parts of the country. With the military’s powerful voice in parliament, Myanmar spends 23.2 percent of its national budget on military spending, the highest in the region, in part to wage war against groups that reject the government’s authority. The National Defense and Security Council, effectively governed by the army, sets the budget.

But outside observers say the military’s business interests are partly to blame for the ongoing rebellions.

Bugher said the military’s economic interest in natural resources located in conflict areas is prolonging the peace process and diminishing trust in the government and military. Last month, government troops shelled a training ground for ethnic minority troops, killing 27 soldiers, just one day after a round of peace talks had ended.

“What we’re seeing is that in certain areas of the country where there’s extractive industries and natural resources the military’s control over government administration is very strong so for example in Hpakant region there’s jade mining the military seems to have influence over local government officials and the justice system, and is using those to protect its own interests rather than protect good governance and rule of law,” said Bugher.

The Thein Sein government is keen to get the elusive nationwide ceasefire signed ahead of the polls scheduled for late 2015.

It would require a change to Myanmar’s constitution to diminish the military’s role in government. During a parliamentary debate last month, military representatives made clear their unwillingness to amend the charter ahead of 2015.

(Source / 30.12.2014)

Police fire on Myanmar protesters, 1 dead, 20 hurt – reports

Police fire on Myanmar protesters, 1 dead, 20 hurt – reports

Burma Times: YANGON  – Myanmar police fired on protesters near a mine at the centre of a long-running land dispute on Monday, killing one person and wounding 20 others, media reports said, as the China-linked company announced plans to expand the project.
A Myanmar television station and website, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), said that one person was killed during the protest near the Letpadaung copper mine in central Myanmar. Khin San Hlaing, a parliamentarian with the opposition National League for Democracy, cited witnesses as saying a woman died after being struck in the head by a bullet.

The mining company, Myanmar Winbao, confirmed a person was killed.

“The events leading up to her death are still unclear,” company spokesman Cao Desheng said in a statement. “We understand the police were at the scene, and we hope they will start investigating this event.”

Local police contacted by Reuters said they had no information about the protests.

Earlier on Monday, Wanbao, which is a unit of the Chinese weapons manufacturer China North Industries Group Corp, said it would “be extending its working area in the Letpadaung copper project to comply with requirements of its investment permit”.

“Construction is proceeding as a result of broad community support for the project,” the company said in a statement, adding that two percent of the mine’s profits would be spent on community development.

The deadly protest comes as Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after 49 years of military rule, faces criticism for rights abuses including cracking down on journalists and against protests.

United States President Barack Obama warned during a November visit that the country was backsliding on reforms.
Local residents have protested against the Letpadaung mine in Monywa, about 100 km (60 miles) west of Mandalay, saying thousands of acres of land have been confiscated to enable the project to proceed.

In November, Amnesty International urged the government to halt work at the site, saying land had been acquired through a flawed process and that other social and environmental issues must be resolved.

The rights group also said authorities have yet been held accountable for attacks on protesters two years earlier. In November 2012, more than 100 people including at least 67 monks were hurt when riot police raided camps set up by protesters.

(Source / 23.12.2014)

Rohingya Muslims are the most mistreated people

It is about time that the Rohingya Muslims are recognised saved from the daily misery.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya Muslims are one of the most mistreated people in the world. They have been systematically persecuted for decades despite being rooted in the region for centuries. And that due to ethnic, religious and cultural differences with the mainstream Tibeto-Burman people. However, the Burmese government calls the Rohingya Muslims as ‘Bengali’ claiming that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Because of the large scale systematic persecution through ethnic cleansing and genocidal action against them, approximately about 1.5 million Rohingya Muslims have had to flee their homeland since the Burmese independence in 1948. These unfortunate, uprooted and stateless people are found in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Australia and some of them are also found in various Western countries. More than one million of the Rohingya ethnic minority are inside the country now, however, the majority lives in the Rakhine State (Arakan), which is the western part of Burma (Myanmar). Since the violence in 2012, more than 140,000 Rohingya people are trapped in dirty and crowded camps as Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) in the central part of the Rakhine State. These people are facing persecution and a wide range of human rights violations at the hands of the authorities and the Buddhist Arakanese community. These people have been kept in isolation and are not allowed to leave the camps.

Rohingya students are not allowed to attend university, nor are the children of these Rohingya people accepted to enrol in schools, though everyone has the right to education as per United Nations. These people have no access to government hospitals, except some limited medical treatment through mobile clinics in the camps. As a result, Rohingyas have to solely depend on humanitarian aid, having very limited access to food, water or medicines, which is causing their children severe malnutrition, eventually leading to death.

After a 10-day visit to the area, Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma), summed up her findings. “The situation is deplorable. By virtue of their legal status, the Muslim community has faced and continues to face systematic discrimination, which include restrictions in the freedom of movement, restrictions in access to land, food, water, education and health care, and restrictions on marriages and birth registration.”

(Source / 15.11.2014)