ABOUT

The
Rohingya
Crisis
News
ROHINGYA CRISIS NEWS
 
 
CONTACT

The
Rohingya
Crisis
News
News & Information on the
World's Largest "Ethnic Cleansing" Humanitarian Crisis

HOME
SUMMARY
BACKGROUND
OFFICIAL
INFO
NEWS
 
prior news
2013-2017
2017
crisis news
2018
crisis news
2019
crisis news
2020
crisis news
news
sources


SPECIAL NOTE:
LIMITED & DELAYED POSTS

Starting in September 2019, Rohingya Crisis News has limited its operations, and delayed its fewer posts, owing to numerous internal factors unrelated to the Rohingya Crisis.

Some article links are being added, from time to time (especially in early December, 2019, during hearings at the International Courts of Justice) but most regular daily or weekly updates have been discontinued.

It is unclear when regular operations of Rohingya Crisis News will resume.
Meanwhile, we'll post occasional updates (& retroactive article listings).

We also encourage you to periodically check these generally credible & extensive news sources, for their Rohingya news listings:

The Rohingya Crisis News. remains an ongoing concern, and every reasonable effort will be made to maintain its operations.

We appreciate your concern for this issue, and urge all parties to work towards a civil, humane, ethical and durable settlement of the Crisis.

Thank you for your interest and attention.

~ RCN Editor.

Elderly Rohingya woman's makeshift shelter clings to the steep slopes of the world's largest refugee camp. Monsoons threaten flash floods and landslides. But most Rohingya refugees fear their homeland even more. (UNHCR photo)
ABOVE: Across Myanmar's Rakhine state, thousands of Rohingya homes, across hundreds of villages, have gone up in flames... sometimes with men, women and children trapped inside by attackers. ©2017 BBC
ABOVE: Torched Rohingya homes burn.
  ©2017 Australian Broadcating Corp.
BELOW: Thousands of Rohingya refugees struggle on a narrow path as they flee across the Bangladesh-Myanmar (Burma) border, autumn, 2017.
UNHCR
Rohingya refugees, escaping by boat, watch their villages burn
©2017 SCMP . TV
2019 NEWS
(THE CRISIS PERSISTS)

Major Media Reports

(UPDATED AT LEAST WEEKLY)

Click on article titles to open.

TABLE of CONTENTS:

CURRENT CRISIS EVENTS:
(2019):

(also see:
Current Affairs Summary )




JANUARY 2019:

    Jan. 1

              -----------

    Jan. 2

              -----------

    Jan. 3

    • India deports second group of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar
          - Associated Press

      Thousands displaced, as Myanmar army and Rakhine rebels clash
          2019-01-03 AFP / ABS-CBN (Philippines)

    • Myanmar says
      police attacked
      in Rakhine.

          - AAP / SBS News (Australia)

        (Australian public broadcasting)

        Myanmar police have clashed with insurgents in the troubled western state of Rakhine, state-run media reports say, as fighting continues between the security forces and an armed group representing the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group.
        The United Nations said about 2500 people had been driven from their homes since early December when clashes broke out with the Arakan Army, one of several groups fighting Myanmar's army that want more autonomy for ethnic minorities.
        The Myanmar military last month announced a four-month halt in fighting in the north and northeast of the country in order to kick-start stalled peace talks with the armed groups.
        Rakhine, in the west, was excluded from the pause, stoking doubts about the military's willingness to bring an end to all the country's conflicts.
        Rakhine was where the military launched a campaign in 2017 that has driven more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into bordering Bangladesh.
        Recent fighting has involved the Arakan Army, which claims to represent the Rakhine, the Buddhist ethnic group who make up the majority in the state of the same name. ...
        (same topic on: Jan. 4, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17... )

    Jan. 4

    Jan. 5

    Jan. 6

    Jan. 7

    • Myanmar's civilian, military leaders meet,
      vow to ‘crush' Rakhine rebels.

          - Reuters / Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
        Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi has discussed insurgent attacks on police in a rare meeting with the military chief, and her administration called for the armed forces to "crush" the rebels, a government spokesman said.
        Fighting between government forces and the rebel Arakan Army in the western state of Rakhine has displaced thousands of people since early December, according to the United Nations
        The Arakan Army wants greater autonomy for Rakhine, where the mainly Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group makes up the majority of the population.

        [NOTE: Rakhine state was home to nearly all of the Rohingya in Myanmar -- before most were attacked and driven out, into Bangladesh, in the attacks of 2017-2018 by the Myanmar military, working with local Rakhines (many of whom have, since, occupied the abandoned Rohginya lands). ~RCN Editor]
        * * *
        The [Rakhine] insurgents [of the Arakan Army] killed 13 policemen, and wounded nine, in attacks on four police posts on Friday -- as Myanmar celebrated Independence Day -- state media reported.
        An Arakan Army spokesman (outside Myanmar) told Reuters their group attacked the security forces in response to a broad [Myanmar army] military offensive in northern Rakhine State, which also targeted civilians. [NOTE: Northern Rakhine State was where most of the Rohingya were, before being driven out in 2017-2018 by the Myanmar military and local Rakhines ~RCN Editor]
        The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday that 4,500 people were sheltering in monasteries and communal spaces after being displaced by the fighting in the past month. ...
        * * *
        Myanmar governments have battled various ethnic minority insurgent groups since shortly after independence from Britain in 1948, though some have struck ceasefire agreements.
        * * *
       
      [Myanmar's civilian government spokesman] also accused the Arakan Army of meeting the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army -- a group of Rohingya insurgents whom Myanmar also considers terrorists -- but added that Myanmar was unable to eliminate the groups as they had bases across the border in Bangladesh.
        A Bangladeshi foreign ministry official and two Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) officers denied the accusation.
       
      One BGB officer asked Myanmar to provide evidence of militant camps in Bangladesh.
        "All the terrorism is taking place on the other side of the border," said Lieutenant Colonel [M.H.] Khan, a BGB commander in Cox's Bazar, the district where more than 900,000 Rohingya Muslims are sheltering, [after] having fled bouts of violence that have drawn international condemnation against Myanmar.
        "The world knows what happened on the other side," he said.

        The Myanmar government and military leaders also discussed a temporary ceasefire... in other parts of the country, where other insurgent groups operate, Zaw Htay said.
        The meeting was held at the request of the president's office, he said.

    • Official Statement:
      India must stop returning
      Rohingya asylum-seekers
      to Myanmar.

          - Amnesty International India

        The Indian government's expulsion of Rohingya asylum-seekers to Myanmar shows a disdain for international law, Amnesty India said today. ...

    Jan. 8

      Dozens of Rohingya flee India
      for Bangladesh:
      ~ Officials

          2019-01-08 AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)
        Dozens of Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border into Bangladesh from India in recent days, officials said Tuesday, as New Delhi faces censure for deporting the persecuted minority to Myanmar.
        Last week India handed a Rohingya family of five to Myanmar authorities, despite the army [of Myanmar] being accused of genocide against the stateless group.
        The forced return -- the second in recent months -- was criticised by the United Nations and rights groups, who accused India of disregarding international law, and sending the Rohingya to danger.

        Amnesty International, among other rights groups, has blasted India for forcibly repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar when persecution in Rakhine is ongoing.
        India, which is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, arrested 230 Rohingya in 2018 -- the most in years as Hindu hardliners called for the displaced Muslims to be deported en masse.
        Bangladesh border officials and police said dozens of Rohingya had been detained crossing from India in the past week. They were sent to refugee camps in the country's south, where a million of the displaced Muslims live in hardship.
        The round-ups in India, and fear of deportation to Myanmar, had fuelled the recent exodus, Bangladesh officials said.

        "They told us they panicked after India started detaining Rohingya refugees and deporting them to Myanmar," said Shahjahan Kabir, a police chief in the eastern Bangladeshi border town of Brahmanpara.
        He told AFP that 17 Rohingya were detained last Thursday after crossing into Bangladesh, followed by 31 at a different border point. Most had been living in India for up to six years, Kabir added.
        "They have come from places like Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir," said Rezaul Karim, government administrator of the giant Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar. Hyderabad is a major city in southern India and Jammu and Kashmir the only Muslim-majority territory under Indian control.
        * * *
        Dozens of Rohingya were also deported from Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh at the weekend, reported the London-based Middle East Eye website.
        * * *
        Indian officials say around 40,000 Rohingya are living in India. The United Nations refugee agency says around 18,000 Rohingya are registered with the UNHCR.
       
      A Rohingya girl's journey from refugee camps to college
          2019-01-08 Reuters News Service

    Jan. 9

    Jan. 10

    Jan. 11

    Jan. 12

  • 2019 Jan 13- Sunday

      -------------

  • 2019 Jan 14 - Monday

  • 2019 Jan 15 - Tuesday

  • 2019 Jan 16 - Wednesday

  • 2019 Jan 17 - Thursday

  • 2019 Jan 18 - Friday

      -------------

  • 2019 Jan 19 - Saturday

  • 2019 Jan 20 - Sunday

      --------------

  • 2019 Jan 21 - Monday

    • Saudi Arabia to deport
      250 Rohingya to Bangladesh:
      ~ Activist group.

        Activists fear deported Rohingya could be jailed upon arrival in Bangladesh.
          - Al Jazeera (Arab news network; Qatar)

      (NOTE: This news outlet is not objective.)
        Saudi Arabia is planning to deport 250 Rohingya men to Bangladesh, in what will be the second forced deportation by Riyadh this year, an activist group has told Al Jazeera.
        Saudi Arabia is home to almost 300,000 Rohingya, according to Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator for the Free Rohingya Coalition, who urged authorities to stop the deportations, adding that the men faced imprisonment in Bangladesh upon their arrival.
        "Majority of these Rohingya have residency permits and can live in Saudi Arabia legally," Nay San Lwin told Al Jazeera.
        * * *
        Saudi Arabia stopped issuing residency permits to Rohingya who entered the country after 2011.
        Nay San Lwin said that several human rights activists had appealed to Saudi authorities over the past two years and that he had personally approached Saudi officials and diplomats to intervene.
        "When these Rohingya arrive in Bangladesh, they could be jailed," he said. "Saudi Arabia should stop these deportations and grant them residency permits like the other Rohingyas who arrived in the country before them."
        Last year, Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that Rohingya detainees were being prepared for deportation shortly after Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Saudi Arabia.
        [NOTE: Some reports seem to imply that Saudi Arabia offered oil and/or financial aid to Bangladesh in exchange for taking Rohingya from Saudi Arabia. ~ RCN Editor]
        Some of the detainees held at the Shumaisi detention centre said they had lived in the kingdom their entire lives and had been sent to the facility after Saudi police found them without identification papers. 

    • ANALYSIS & BACKGROUND:
      The Hindu Rohingya who want to return to Myanmar.
          - Al Jazeera (VIDEO)

      (Arab news network; Qatar)
      (NOTE: This news outlet is not objective; it has a strong pro-Muslim bias.)
        Hindu Rohingya who sought refuge in Bangladesh want to return to their Myanmar homes.

    • Rohingya Muslim group
      fleeing India to Bangladesh
      stuck on 'zero line'.

          - Reuters News Service
        Bangladesh has denied entry to 31 Rohingya Muslims trying to enter from India and they are stuck in no-man's land on the border, Bangladesh authorities said on Monday, as India cracks down on members of the community.
        The stranded Rohingya, including women and children, had been living in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir...
        * * *
        India estimates that 40,000 Rohingya are living in scattered settlements in various parts of the country.   But [India']s Hindu nationalist government regards the [Rohingya Muslims] as illegal aliens and a security threat, and has ordered that they be identified and repatriated [to Myanmar].
        The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has issued about 16,500 Rohingya in India with identity cards that it says can help "prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation". India does not recognize the cards.
        Hundreds of Rohingya families have left India for Bangladesh since seven Rohingya men were deported to Myanmar in October. This month, India sent a Rohingya family of five to Myanmar. ...

  • 2019 Jan 22 - Tuesday

    • 30 More Guwahati-Bound Rohingya
      Arrested In Tripura-Assam Border

          - NDTV (India)

        Even as 31 Rohingya Muslims are stranded along the India-Bangladesh borders since Friday, 30 more Rohingyas, including 12 children, were on Monday night apprehended along the Tripura-Assam border, a police officer said.
        * * *
        A meeting between [India's] Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), supposed to be held on Monday over the 31 Rohingya Muslims, did not take place.
        * * *
        The Bangladeshi media said that [Bangladesh's] BGB Commanding Officer... has alleged that [India's] BSF has been pushing Rohingyas into Bangladeshi territory. [India's] BSF rejected the charge.

    • India-Bangladesh standoff ends,
      31 Rohingya Muslims
      to face prosecution
      in India.

          - India Today (India)

        A standoff between [India's] Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) ended on Tuesday after 31 Rohingya Muslims were handed over to Tripura Police.
        The group comprising of six men, nine women and several children was stranded on the Indo-Bangladesh border for three days while the border forces of both countries accused each other of pushing the group to the other country.
        The group was found about 150 square yards from the Bangladesh border.
        Early on Tuesday, [India's] BSF, on instruction from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) handed them over to Tripura [India] Police, bringing to end a standoff with the BGB.
        Identity cards of the people indicated that the group had come from Jammu camp.
        Speaking to the media near the border, a juvenile girl said, "We were getting hassled by the police in Jammu [India] camp." According to sources, the group was on its way to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh before it was intercepted.
        Both the MHA and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) were brought into the picture to diffuse the situation at the border.
        * * *
        According to local sources, the men were sent to jail under the Passport Act. The women and children -- who were granted bail and given accommodation -- face an uncertain future.
        (same topic at:
        - Hindustan Times (India)
          Which notes...
          31 Rohingyas stranded on Indo-Bangla border handed over to police; sent to 14-day judicial custody
          The 31 Rohingyas, who apparently came from Jammu and Kashmir, had been stuck in no-man's land, beyond the barbed wire fence along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura since January 18. ...

         
        - AP / World Religion News
          Which notes...
          ...About 40,000 Rohingyas -- other than the 61 mentioned above -- have taken refuge in different parts of India. [RCN Editor's note: By comparison, much smaller neighbor Bangladesh has taken in 1,100,000 Rohingya.] It does not help their condition that the present Indian Government is made up of Hindu nationalists, [who] are [hostile] to the [Rohingyas'] plight. They claim the Rohingyas are extremists who are a danger to India's sovereignty. Fewer than half of the total [Rohingya] refugees (about 15,000) are registered with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Several refugees have been deported on charges of illegal entry into the country.
          The consequent Indian roundups have led many Rohingyas, who do not want to be sent back to Myanmar, to be classified as stateless Muslims. A million Rohingyas reside in huge Bangladeshi refugee camps. According to Bangladeshi border security personnel, about 1,300 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh from India in January. Indian border guards have flatly denied media reports that they have pushed refugees towards Bangladesh.
          * * *
          India has faced intense criticism from international observers for deporting Rohingyas to Myanmar during the last few weeks. New Delhi has done so despite documented reports of atrocities done by the Myanmarese military against the Rohingya. An assorted number of rights groups have accused India of disregarding prevalent international law and sending the refugees to their probable slaughter. ...
        )

  • 2019 Jan 23 - Wednesday

      --------------

  • 2019 Jan 24 - Thursday

  • 2019 Jan 25 - Friday

    • Myanmar army chief
      must be prosecuted
      for Rohingya 'genocide':
      ~ U.N. rights envoy.

          - Reuters News Service

        Myanmar's army chief should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, a U.N. human rights investigator said, adding that holding perpetrators to account for crimes was necessary before refugees who fled the country could return.
        Yanghee Lee, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, was speaking during a trip to Thailand and Bangladesh, where she met officials and Rohingya driven out of western Rakhine state after an army crackdown in 2017.
        "Min Aung Hlaing and others should be held accountable for genocide in Rakhine and for crimes against humanity and war crimes in other parts of Myanmar," said Lee, who is barred from the country, referring to the military's commander-in-chief.
        Her interview marked the first time Lee has publicly called for the army chief to be prosecuted for genocide. A U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar last year said that the military campaign, which refugees say included mass killings and rape, was orchestrated with "genocidal intent" and recommended charging Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals with the "gravest crimes under international law".
        Since August 2017 some 730,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, where they now live overcrowded camps.
        "For any repatriation to happen ... the perpetrators must be held to account, because sending the refugees back with no accountability is going to really exacerbate or prolong the horrific situation in Myanmar," Lee told Reuters in an interview in Thailand on Jan. 18. "And then we'll see another cycle of expulsion again."
        Spokesmen for Myanmar's military and government could not be reached for comment. The country has previously denied almost all allegations made by refugees against its troops, who it says were engaged in legitimate counterterrorism operations.

      LEGAL ROUTES
        The U.N. Human Rights Council in September voted to approve the establishment of an "ongoing independent mechanism" for Myanmar that would collect, consolidate, and preserve evidence of crimes that could be used in an eventual court case.
        Lee said the independent mechanism would provide funds for "victim support", including money for criminal cases.

        Myanmar has said it "absolutely rejects" that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction to rule on its actions. The country is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the Hague-based court.
        Non-parties can be referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council, though diplomats have said permanent members China and Russia would likely veto any such move. Britain has been drafting a Security Council resolution on Myanmar, but diplomats told Reuters in December it did not include a referral to the ICC.
        Legal experts say other options for an international prosecution include referral by individual U.N. member states – five Latin American states recently successfully referred Venezuela – or an ad hoc tribunal.

      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      CAUTION URGED ON ISLAND PLAN
        Lee's trip to the region this week included visits to Cox's Bazar, in southern Bangladesh, where the camps housing Rohingya refugees are located, and Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal where the Bangladeshi authorities have been building new temporary accommodation for them.
        Bangladesh says moving refugees to Bhasan Char - whose name means "floating island" - will ease chronic overcrowding in the existing camps. But some humanitarian groups have criticised the plan, saying the island is vulnerable to frequent cyclones and cannot sustain livelihoods for thousands of people.
        Speaking at a news conference in Dhaka on Friday, at the end of her trip, Lee called on the Bangladesh government to consult with the U.N. and humanitarian agencies before any move to Bhasan Char, which she said should not be done in haste.
        "There should be no rush to relocate refugees, such as before the monsoon season which is one of the possibilities that has been outlined to me," she said.
        "The island's isolation does particularly trouble me, especially in the event of cyclones or other natural disasters."
       

        (same topic at:
        - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)
          Which notes... A UN human rights expert does not expect Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh anytime soon.
          "It is clear that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cannot return to Myanmar in the near future," the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said on Friday.
          She asked the government to draw long-term plan for their livelihood in Bangladesh.

          Bangladesh was set to start repatriation in mid-November, but had to cancel it as Rohingyas refused to go in fear of safety and security in the Rakhine State.
          "The solution lies within Myanmar but it is not creating conditions for their return, rather it has remained engaged in a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation," Lee said at the press briefing before leaving Dhaka.
          The UN human rights expert said the Myanmar government was consolidating what military governments worked towards over many years, defying a pledge to transition to a fully functioning democracy under civilian control.
          "Democratic freedoms are ever fragile," said Lee at the end of her 10-day mission to Bangladesh.
          "Communities are divided based on religion and ethnicity, and members of minorities face marginalization and discrimination. Ethnic nationalities continue to be subject to domination by the central government and the military, despite the official stance that they are working for peace to be brought to the country."
          Lee expressed serious concern about the situation in the strife-stricken states of Kachin, Shan and Rakhine.
          She noted that despite a unilateral ceasefire in Kachin and Shan states, there continues to be fighting between ethnic armed organisations that is increasing instability and insecurity for civilians.
          In Rakhine State, the escalating fighting between the military and the Arakan Army is "very worrisome, especially because the government and military have disallowed humanitarian access", she said.
          The special rapporteur said fighting was going in in Kayin State, and new military bases have been built in Kayah State.
          "From the discussions I had with Rohingya this week in Bangladesh, it is evident that Myanmar is not working to create conditions for return for the Rohingya but is engaging in a sustained campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment."
          * * *
          "According to information gathered by my team, the houses were burned by Myanmar security forces working in concert with Rakhine extremists.
          "The campaign of violence against the Rohingya continues, with the security forces slowly bleeding the remaining Rohingya population and continuing to force them to flee to Bangladesh."
          Lee visited the zero Line, the area along the border where more than 4,000 Rohingya refugees live within walking distance of their houses a few miles away.
          "A visit to this area is a lesson in Myanmar recalcitrance and highlights that authorities there are not sincere in their discussions of repatriation," she said.
          "Security forces on the Myanmar side of the border are engaging in an intimidation campaign, in the apparent hope of driving this group out of the Zero Line and into Bangladesh territory.
          "This includes shooting into the air to scare the community and blaring broadcasts which state that they are not Myanmar citizens and that they should leave Myanmar territory."
        DRAW LONG-TERM PLAN
          Over 1.1 million Rohingyas now live in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar.
          The independent expert, who will present a detailed report to the human rights council, said now that the election in Bangladesh has concluded, "I encourage the government to begin to engage in long-term planning and prepare the local population for this reality."

          "A failure to do so will not only have negative consequences for the refugee population but also for Bangladesh, including most significantly, the host community, who have already given so much to accommodate the refugees," Lee warned.
          "I do not underestimate the burden that housing so many refugees is for Bangladesh. However, this burden will not be lessened by excluding Rohingya children from formal education.
          "Equally, access to livelihood opportunities must also be ensured.
          "This is not only vital for the physical and mental well-being of the refugees but it will also provide an outlet through which the refugee population can have some positive impact on the local economy and positive engagement with the host community," she said.
         
        ALSO:

    • Myanmar Government
      side-lining democratic reform,
      resorting to military era repression:
      ~ UN expert.

          - United Nations

        The human rights situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, as the civilian government fails to bring about democratic reforms and instead resorts to the kind of repression carried out under previous military regimes, said the UN human rights expert Yanghee Lee, speaking at the end of an 11-day mission to neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh. ...

  • 2019 Jan 26 - Saturday

    • Myanmar Failing to Create Conditions
      Needed for Rohingya Return
      ~ UN

          - The Irrawaddy (Myanmar)
        (NOTE: This media outlet, though it appears indepedent, may be subject to Myanmar military control.)

        The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, on Friday said Myanmar security forces have been engaged in an intimidation campaign against Rohingya people living in border areas and camps in Bangladesh to ensure they do not return to Myanmar.
        "It is evident that Myanmar is not working to create conditions for return for the Rohingya but is engaging in a sustained campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment," she told a press conference at a hotel in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Friday evening. The press conference marked the conclusion of her 11-day visit to Bangladesh and Thailand.
        To the contrary, she said, Myanmar security forces have continued to force Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

        The UN special envoy said she had found during her visit that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will not be able to return to Myanmar in the near future. She encouraged the Bangladeshi government to begin to engage in longer-term planning and prepare the local population for this reality.
        She also suggested UN member countries consider setting up an ad-hoc court on Myanmar for ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity in Rakhine State.
        Obtaining such a decision from the UN Security Council is unlikely as permanent members have veto power and they are not all likely to agree. Therefore, she said, UN member countries could also take the step of establishing an ad-hoc court on Myanmar, among several other options.
        She expressed her annoyance over the deportation of Rohingya people from India and Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh, adding that Delhi and Riyadh must ensure that the Rohingya people can live in safety and dignity within their territories until the refugees can return home.
        Lee on Thursday visited Bhashan Char, an island in Noakhali District, to check the progress of facilities there. The Bangladesh government has a plan to transfer a portion of the Rohingya refugees to the island.
        "If any plans are made about refugee relocation in the future, refugees must be fully engaged and participate in the process," she said. "Without a protection framework agreed with the humanitarian community, the plans cannot move forward."
        She said third-country resettlement was not a realistic possibility, given the huge number of people involved. ...

    • Tripura [India]:
      27 out of 31 Rohingya held
      in [India's Assam] state
      registered as refugees:
      ~ UNHCR

          - The Northeast Today (India)

        A total of twenty seven out of 31 Rohingya including 16 children arrested on Tuesday by Tripura Police are registered as refugees with the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency has said.
        The government of India has been urged by the UNHCR to respect principle of "non-refoulement" – the principle of global law that disallows the repatriation of refugees to a country where they are liable to be persecuted – and not detain or deport the refugees.
        The group of Rohingya were arrested by the Tripura Police after they were stranded for almost four days between the border fence and the international border with Bangladesh and a standoff ensued between the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and India's Border Security Force (BSF).

    • Rohingya Refugees Create Music
      To Memorialize Culture [and suffering]
      For Future Generations.

          - NPR (National Public Radio)

        Years before Myanmar's crackdown on Rohingyas, authorities were trying to silence them. Refugees in southern Bangladesh's sprawling camps are now making music to commemorate their culture.

  • 2019 Jan 27 - Sunday

    • Myanmar army chief
      must be prosecuted
      for Rohingya 'genocide':
      ~U.N. rights envoy

          - Reuters News Service
        (same topic at: Jan 25 )

    • Official Report:
      Bangladesh: Humanitarian Situation
      Report No. 46 (Rohingya Influx),
      1 January, to 31 December, 2018.

          - U.N. Children's Fund

        * In 2018, UNICEF extended lifesaving services to over 1.2 million people affected by the crisis. This included 380,000 people provided with access to safe drinking water; 20,000 children under 5 treated for severe acute malnutrition; and 1,235,475 people over 1 year old who received oral cholera vaccine.
        * More than half of Rohingya refugee children aged 4 to 14 have now been engaged in non-formal basic education by UNICEF and the Education Sector. UNICEF reached 145,209 Rohingya children in 2018 with support from 4,028 trained teachers.
        * UNICEF and the Department of Social Services launched an integrated case management and cash assistance programme in June 2018, benefitting 4,200 children and 3,000 foster caregivers.
        * Comprehensive preparedness and mitigation measures taken with both government and NGO partners in advance of the monsoon in June 2018 resulted in no major epidemics or outbreaks. Actions such as chlorination of water points, intensive C4D messaging, relocating at-risk facilities and establishing mechanisms to reunite children separated during extreme rain, were some of the measures taken.
        The general election on 30 December 2018 passed without any major security incidents affecting the Rohingya refugee response. Awami League and her allies won a majority in parliament and Sheikh Hasina has been reelected as Prime Minister. Security risk mitigation measures put in place around the elections, including restriction on travel to the camps, slowed some components of UNICEF's response over the past month; these have since resumed. UNICEF contingency measures ensured that lifesaving services were not affected by the restrictions.  ...

  • 2019 Jan 28 - Monday

  • 2019 Jan 29 - Tuesday

    • Myanmar:
      Suu Kyi's party
      clashes with military
      over proposal.

          - Reuters News Service
      Myanmar's ruling party clashed with military lawmakers, on Tuesday, as it proposed steps towards changing the constitution -- its biggest challenge, in nearly three years, to the army's power over politics, as enshrined in the [government's] charter.
        Military members of parliament, clad in green uniforms, rose to their feet and stood in silence as parliament voted to approve the first stage of a proposal to form a committee on amending the constitution.
        The proposal could foment tension between the army and Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), who have been at loggerheads over the charter since the party's historic landslide election win in 2015.
        The surprise bid to reform the constitution comes as both civilian and military leaders face growing international pressure over an army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017 that sent about 730,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
        Constitutional reform was a central pillar of the NLD's platform ahead of the 2015 general election, but little progress has been made as leaders have proved reluctant to confront the military.
        With another election looming in 2020, analysts see Tuesday's move as an effort to shore up support for Suu Kyi's party and deliver on election pledges.

        "It is the election promise," Ye Htut, an NLD member of parliament told Reuters ahead of the vote.
        In recent weeks Suu Kyi has also toured ethnic minority areas, where support for her party is weakest, and on Monday touted Myanmar's potential to global investors.
        "As the 2020 elections are starting to influence political calculations in Myanmar, it is not surprising that the NLD wants to show progress on one of its key manifesto pledges," said Yangon-based political analyst Richard Horsey.
        "But it is also aware that this is a sensitive issue for the military. Establishing a committee is a much relied-on way to signal intent without immediately forcing the issue," he said.
        Nobel laureate Suu Kyi's party commands a large majority in the two houses of parliament.
        But the 2008 constitution, drafted during military rule, guarantees the army a quarter of seats and change to the charter needs a vote of more than 75 percent of members, giving the army an effective veto.

        The constitution also blocks Suu Kyi from becoming president, with a prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children. Suu Kyi had two sons with her late British academic husband Michael Aris.
        For nearly three years, she has ruled from "above the president" by creating a new position of state counsellor. The move to create that position sparked a similar protest by military MPs.
        The charter also gives the military control of ministries responsible for security, including defence and home [(internal law-enforcement)] affairs.
        The NLD has not said what provisions of the constitution it might seek to reform. In the past, some members of the party have called for change to Article 436, which gives the military the effective veto over constitutional reform.
      SILENT PROTEST:
        NLD lawmaker Aung Kyi Nyunt -- submitting an "emergency proposal" to discuss a committee that could propose [constitutional] amendments -- said the constitution was "not in line with the democratic system," and the "desires of the people" should not be ignored.
        After the speaker agreed to put the proposal to a vote, green-clad military lawmakers rose to their feet and stood for several minutes in silence.

        "This is me, as speaker, telling you to sit down," the speaker, T Khun Myat, said.
        The NLD won the vote 394-17. Discussions on the committee are expected to continue next month.
        Brigadier-General Maung Maung, a senior military official, said the NLD had not acted "in line with the law".

        "We don't say not to amend," he told reporters.
        "They can amend but they must do it according to procedure ... What kind of law will that committee analyze? How broad is the authority of the committee?"
        Suu Kyi has long spoken of the goal of reforming the constitution as part of a democratic transition after 50 years of strict military rule.
        "The completion of our democratic transition must necessarily involve the completion of a truly democratic constitution," she said during a forum in Singapore in August.
        But the military has, for decades, seen itself as the only institution capable of preventing the disintegration of the ethnically diverse country -- and has stressed the importance of its constitutional oversight of the political system.
        * * *
        An adviser to Suu Kyi who openly called for reforms to reduce the military's role, Ko Ni, was shot dead in broad daylight, at the Yangon International Airport, exactly two years ago, on Jan. 29, 2017.
        While no evidence has emerged that his call for constitutional reform led directly to his murder, or that active military officials ordered the killing, his death cast a pall over reform efforts.

    • BD wants Myanmar to
      create safe zone for Rohingyas
      under supervision of ASEAN.

          - UNB (United News of Bangladesh)

       
      ASEAN -- The Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (shown on the map, below, in shades of green) -- includes Myanmar (in pink), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and tiny Brunei.
        The ASEAN nations have a combined population of a half-billion (compared to the United States at one-third billion). Indonesia, alone, has the world's 4th largest population: 222 million. Most ASEAN countries are poor, and have unstable or limited democracy, or none. The tiny city-nation of Singapore (shown in red, at the tip of the Malay peninsula) is the region's economic and political hub.
        The ASEAN region is a complex mix of religious, ethnic and language groups. Malaysia and Indonesia are predominantly Muslim, and the southern Philippines are mostly Muslim. Northern Philippines are Christian, while most of the other ASEAN nations (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore) are predominantly Buddhist and/or non-religious. Most ASEAN countries have a significant Christian and/or Hindu minority.
      China -- increasingly expansionist -- is the region's dominant power, posing the greatest threat to the ASEAN nations, especially around the South China Sea. The U.S., under President Obama, attempted to forge an economic alliance (the "TPP" -- Trans-Pacific Partnership) with ASEAN and other East Asian nations (shown in dark purple) to counter China's growing power.
        But the increasingly isolationist U.S. abandoned the TPP, leaving ASEAN nations little economic recourse, except to cooperate with China -- which has begun aggressive moves to gain control of the South China Sea, and expand its economic and political influence, and consumption of resources, in the region, through its "Belt and Road" initiative. China particularly intends to use Myanmar (Burma) as western China's access to the sea, through a new seaport China is building on Myanmar's west coast, in Rakhine state. ~RCN Editor.
      Bangladesh has said Myanmar could agree to create a safe zone under the direct supervision of ASEAN [the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations] which may generate perception of safety and security for Rohingya people and make them willing to voluntarily return.
        "We're now committed to their voluntary repatriation to their homeland as soon as Myanmar will create the conducive environment for their safe return," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday.
        He conveyed this to [Vietnam's] Special Envoy of Prime Minister, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nguyen Quoc Dzung, during a meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs...
        * * *
        [Bangladesh's] Foreign Minister Dr. Momen requested Viet Nam to play an active role to get ASEAN more seized with Rohingya issue and promote dialogue among their members vis-à-vis Myanmar to curb out an early resolution of the crisis.
        Otherwise, he said, the whole region will have to face a threat of instability and insecurity causing deterrence to economic growth.

        * * *
        [Viet Nam's envoy] Quoc Dzung appreciated the kind gesture, generosity of Prime Minister for saving the lives of the 8,00,000 Rohingyas.
        [Viet Nam's envoy] then explained reasons of [Viet Nam's] voting against Rohingya issues at the UN as a policy of [non-]interference [in the internal affairs of member nations] and not supporting any issues brought against any specific country.
        He, however, indicated the possibility of revising their position on Rohingya issues in the future.

        Quoc Dzung informed that the government of Viet Nam will contribute US$ 50,000 as the humanitarian assistance for the ill-fated Rohingya and US$ 50,000 for World Food Program in Bangladesh.
        The Foreign Minister appreciated the revised position of Vietnam on Rohingya issues and expressed intention for a collaborative approach from now on.
        The Deputy Foreign Minister of Vietnam congratulated Foreign Minister Dr Momen on behalf of his government.
        He reaffirmed his government's willingness to work closely with the new Bangladesh government.
        * * *
        He also mentioned that both the countries share similar history of struggle for independence.
        * * *
        Mentioning trade between Bangladesh and Vietnam reaching close to US$ 1 (One) billion by the year 2018, he proposed Vietnam side to positively consider importing our pharmaceuticals, leather & leather products, and ships to fill the trade gap between two countries.
        * * *
        Recalling that China became member of the G77 group (G77+China) during the chairmanship of Bangladesh which brought about significant changes to the group, the [Bangladesh] Foreign Minister requested Vietnam to positively consider the intention of Bangladesh to become a member of ASEAN during their chairmanship in 2020.
        Quoc Dzung invited the Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam at an earliest convenience.

    • Myanmar Official Suggests
      Downsizing or Relocating
      Dam.

        A top Myanmar investment official, on Tuesday, suggested alternatives -- such as downsizing or relocating -- for a stalled Chinese-backed dam project that has strained ties between the neighbors.
          - Reuters News Service
        Myanmar angered China in 2011 when [Myanmar's] former quasi-civilian government suspended the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydro-power dam in the country's north, amid environmental concerns. [China's Yunnan province, was the planned destination for about 90 percent of the dam's electricity,]
        Asked, about the dam at an investment conference [on Tuesday], Thaung Tun, chairman of Myanmar's investment commission, listed several problems -- from an earthquake fault line running under the project site, to a large catchment area affecting residents.

        "Catchment area would be twice the size of Singapore. This would mean that a lot of villages will have been displaced from their accessible land. That is the issue," Thaung Tun told reporters at the conference, in the [Myanmar] capital, Naypyitaw.
        Thaung Tun listed several alternatives, including
      • scaling back the dam,
      • moving it to a different location, or
      • offering the operator an alternative project.
      He did not say if [Myanmar's] government had a preferred option.
        Myanmar had to consider its relations with China, its largest trade partner, and "was working hard to find the solution," he said.
        Spearheading these efforts is a commission launched by Aung San Suu Kyi's government, which came to power in 2016, to review the dam. Myanmar also began informal talks with Beijing, and dam operator Yunnan International Power Investment, a unit of [China's] State Power Investment Corp.
        China's Foreign Ministry said, in a statement sent to Reuters, that the dam was a "commercial cooperation project" already agreed upon by both countries, and had been through a complete approval process.
        "Relevant bodies and companies in China and Myanmar are in communication about this project, positively and appropriately handling problems that arise in the project's cooperation process," [China's Foreign Ministry] said.
        Finding a solution is critical for [Myanmar's civilian leader] Suu Kyi -- who has benefited from Beijing's support at the United Nations, following a 2017 army crackdown that drove 730,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the former Burma [(now Myanmar)].
        Myanmar also needs Beijing's help in peace talks with several ethnic armed groups operating along [Myanmar's] northern and eastern borders with China.

        * * *
        Thaung Tun said original plans for the dam were not "thought out" and failed to consider the impact on the community and the environment.
        The dam in the northern state of Kachin is very unpopular. Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) lost a seat in Kachin by-elections last year and party officials have voiced concern about their popularity in ethnic minority areas ahead of the 2020 general election.

        China's Yunnan province, the planned destination for about 90 percent of the dam's electricity, now has a power surplus, Thaung Tun said.
        "There's no need for this dam now," he said.
        On Monday, Nobel laureate Suu Kyi opened [Myanmar's] first government-led investment conference by calling on global investors to put their money in Myanmar -- seeking to offset the negative impact of the Rohingya crisis, and [the] slow pace of economic reforms.

    • Travel Association Forms
      Myanmar Chapter.
      But Will the Government Benefit?
          - Skift (USA)
            (travel industry journal)

        Myanmar is the newest chapter location for the American Society of Travel Advisors [ASTA] -- a move that reflects growing interest in an intriguing, once off-limits destination -- but also comes amid concerns about the ethics of promoting tourism to a country rife with controversy over human rights abuses, and even genocide. ...

  • 2019 Jan 30 - Wednesday

  • 2019 Jan 31 - Thursday

    • Sanctions Squeeze Myanmar's Economy
        A slowdown tied to the country's treatment of its Rohingya minority may open the door for China.
          - U.S. News

        Once an international icon of democracy who spent nearly 15 years under house arrest by the then-ruling military junta, Aung San Suu Kyi today draws criticism for her apparent inaction to the government's persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority, refusal to acknowledge military massacres, and defense of government prosecutions of journalists.
        "Some artists are still making pictures of her, but mostly now they've stopped," Zat says.
        The dwindling consumer appetite for portraits at Zat's shop is part of a larger economic slowdown in the country, one tied to Western criticism and sanctions over the Myanmar government's alleged role in violence... against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.
        Investment and tourism from Western countries has significantly dropped in the past year, and looming future sanctions from Europe threaten the country's lucrative textile industry.
        Western sanctions against Myanmar may not have their intended consequences, observers say: The government is recalibrating its economic policies for a more regional approach, with a familiar patron of the past, China, poised to play an increasingly important role.
       ...

    • Thousands of Rohingya children
      in the world's largest
      refugee settlement
      are going without an education.

          - Los Angeles Times (USA)

        In what has become the world's largest refugee settlement, half a million children are in need of a formal education -- which an international relief effort is failing to provide.
        What's more, some question whether aid agencies vying for funds are as interested in looking good to potential donors as in providing a basic education to the children they say they are serving.
        Rohingya families and Bangladeshi officials sharply criticize the United Nations-backed humanitarian operation — which has received $655 million in international aid over the last year — for providing inadequate classrooms and curriculum. The needs are particularly great, they say, because most refugees have little hope of returning to Myanmar anytime soon. ...


FEBRUARY 2019:

  • 2019 Feb 1 - Friday

  • 2019 Feb 2 - Saturday

  • 2019 Feb 3 - Sunday

    • 7 Assam-bound
      Rohingya Muslim children
      detained in Tripura.

          - Zee News / India.com (India)

            (NOTE: Quality of this media uncertain.)
        [India's] Security forces on Sunday detained seven children of Rohingya Muslims at a railway station in northern Tripura [state], [(in northeast India,)] adjoining Assam [state], a Railway Protection Force (RPF) official said in Agartala.
        With this, 68 Rohingya Muslims, mostly children, have been apprehended in Tripura and the Assam-Tripura border in two weeks.
        * * *
        He said that these children accompanied by touts [(suspected criminals)] reached Dharmanagar from Agartala by bus, and intended to go to Badarpur in southern Assam by train.
        "Sensing the presence of RPF troopers, the touts, who were accompanying the children, escaped from the spot (190 km [110 miles] from Agartala). We are also unable to understand the language the children speak.
        "Railway tickets up to Badarpur railway station were found on them. They might have been trafficked by middlemen," the RPF official said.
        A police official said the teenagers would be lodged in a juvenile home run by the Tripura government.
        * * *
        Tripura has a 856 km-long [500-mile] international border with Bangladesh, most of which is fenced, except a stretch of nearly 20 km [12 miles].

  • 2019 Feb 4 - Monday

    • [U.N. Ambassador] Jolie
      highlights Rohingya refugee plight.

        US film star Angelina Jolie has been visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh to help publicise the plight of thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims.
          - News.com.au (Australia)

        Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie has visited the world's largest refugee settlement, home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims, in a bid to put their plight back in the headlines ahead of a United Nations funding appeal.
        * * *
        A spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said Jolie, a special envoy for the organisation, would spend three days visiting the camps to "assess" the needs of the Rohingya and the challenges that Bangladesh faced as a host country.
        * * *
        Jolie, 43, will also meet [Bangladesh's] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has garnered global praise for committing not to repatriate any Rohingya unwillingly, and [her] Foreign Minister, A.K. Abdul Momen.
        The UNHCR spokesman said Jolie's talks would centre around "the need for safe and sustainable solutions to the plight of one of the world's most persecuted minorities, the Rohingya".
        The spokesman said the visit came ahead of the launch of a new appeal seeking to raise $US920 million ($A1.3 billion) to continue meeting the basic needs of the Rohingya.

    • Rohingya Refugees Call for Justice
      as Angelina Jolie Visits
      Bangladesh Camp.

          - Radio Free Asia (RFA.org)
            (U.S. propaganda radio)

        Hollywood superstar and U.N. ambassador Angelina Jolie heard stories of abuse when she met Rohingya children and women at a refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, authorities said, as she began a three-day visit to the country.
        Jolie, a special envoy for the UNHCR refugee agency, spent more than three hours at the Chakmarkul refugee camp in Cox's Bazar district, ahead of the launch of a new humanitarian funding appeal by the United Nations for almost $1 billion.
        "During her visit, she talked to refugees, including women and children, and listened to their stories of abuse toward them in Myanmar," Mahbubur Rahman, an official with Bangladesh's Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
        * * *
        Jolie came to Bangladesh "to assess the humanitarian needs" of the refugees and the challenges faced by Bangladesh in hosting the refugees from Myanmar, according to a statement issued by UNHCR on Monday.
        * * *
        "Her visit comes just before the launch of a new appeal for the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh – the 2019 Joint Response Plan – which seeks to raise some $920 million to continue meeting the basic needs of Rohingya refugees and the communities so generously hosting them,"  the statement said.
        [The U.N.] said that Jolie, 43, who was representing the U.N. High Commissioner [for Refugees] at the diplomatic level, was expected to meet with [Bangladesh's] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and other officials to discuss "safe and sustainable solutions" to the plight of the refugees.
        UNHCR said Jolie had previously met Rohingya refugees in Myanmar in 2015 and in India in 2006.
        * * *
        Jolie, who was appointed U.N. special envoy in April 2012,... had previously carried out almost 60 field missions related to refugees, officials said.
        But Abdus Shukur, a Rohingya refugee, expressed skepticism about Jolie's presence at the camp.
        "Many celebrities come to visit us, but did that make any change for us?" Shukur told BenarNews.
        "They just come and go, but have we received justice? Could we manage to return home with our Rohingya identity?"

    • Aid workers race to batten down
      Rohingya refugee camp
      with no sign of crisis ending.

          - Reuters (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

        While life in the settlement has started to stabilise, aid workers are rushing to secure the camps for the longer term with one factor hanging over them: the monsoon in May, then cyclone season. ...

    • BACKGROUND & ANALYSIS:
      Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
      could seek to free
      2 jailed Reuters journalists.
      She has not.

          - Washington Post

        Suu Kyi — once exalted as a champion of human rights — has tied her reputation to hard-line elements within her country who have sought to silence critics and others seeking accountability. ...

  • 2019 Feb 5 - Tuesday

    • ‘I Had No Options':
      The Rohingya Man
      Who Smuggled Himself.
        Myanmar has pushed out Rohingya Muslims for decades. One of them chose to flee within his own country.
          - The Atlantic (U.S.)

        Kamal and his family were among about 140,000 mainly Rohingya Muslims who were displaced in the bloodshed of 2012, three years before he and I first talked. Most were rounded up into chaotic displacement camps in Rakhine, where most still reside, while others were held in government-controlled ghettos, barred from leaving.
        Then in 2017, more than 700,000 others headed to neighboring Bangladesh, searching for safety from a country where they had lived their entire lives but which refused to recognize them. United Nations investigators have called the most recent exodus the result of genocidal military actions.
        Kamal made plans for a different path, though -- he smuggled himself within his own country. "Do you remember me," he asked in a recent message. "Now, I am in Yangon."
        Even among the myriad tales of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence, Kamal's stands out. The 24-year-old... is one of the very few Rohingya who have been able to escape a life confined to government slums or squalid camps. His is a route that many are now trying to replicate, whether by land, sea, or air. ...

  • 2019 Feb 6 - Wednesday

      --------------

  • 2019 Feb 7 - Thursday

    • OFFICIAL STATEMENT:
      Myanmar's Hollow Denial of Rape of Rohingya

        Overwhelming Evidence of Military Role in Hundreds of Sexual Assaults
          - Human Rights watch

        Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the government of Myanmar denies their armed forces raped Rohingya women and girls in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that forced more than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country since late 2017.
        In a long-delayed submission to the United Nations women's rights committee this week, Myanmar said there was "no evidence to support these wild claims" – a darkly risible denial to a very painful truth.
        The overwhelming evidence compiled by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations, the media, and the UN uncovered gruesome accounts of rape, killings, and other crimes against humanity in Myanmar's Rakhine State. A UN-backed fact-finding mission said the atrocities included genocidal acts.
        Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls have said they were raped. I spoke to dozens of them. ...

    • U.N. Official Statement:
      Angelina Jolie concludes visit to Bangladesh,
      urges sustained support for Rohingya refugees
      and calls on Myanmar
      to take necessary steps
      to end displacement and statelessness.

          - U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

        Visiting Bangladesh this week, Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy for the UN Refugee Agency, said the world must not turn away from the nearly one million Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. She urged continued support for those who have been displaced, until the Myanmar authorities show the genuine commitment needed to end a decades-long cycle of violence and displacement. ...

    • Facebook is reckoning
      with its role in
      "a textbook example
      of ethnic cleansing."

        The company failed to act in Myanmar.
        Rohingya Muslims suffered horribly.
        Can Facebook be held accountable?

          - VOX.com (USA)

        By its own admission, Facebook has a Myanmar problem. Social media users in that country used the platform to incite violence against the Rohingya...
        After facing months of criticism for its role in the crisis, Facebook acknowledged that it had been too slow to respond to inflammatory posts, [and] said it "can and should do more" on that front... And it removed several users with links to [Myanmar's] military, including its commander-in-chief.
        * * *
        Now the social media giant is ... banning four insurgent groups [in Myanmar] it has classified as "dangerous organizations"... But some local human rights groups and critics are already objecting to Facebook's choice of these groups, saying it's arbitrary at best and harmful at worst.
        * * *
        One thing's for sure: Facebook's attempt at corrective action is too little, too late for the Rohingya...
        * * *
       
      Facebook's role in the Rohingya tragedy has amplified a broader set of worries about the harmful impact social media can have on societies.
        In particular, the past couple years have seen mounting concern over the way Facebook gives right-wing politicians and authoritarian governments a leg up:
      by offering them a vast platform where they can demonize a minority group, it enables them to fuel a population's fear so it'll rally to them for protection.
        * * *
        The Rohingya crisis is another example of how easily social media can be coopted by bad actors who want to gin up violence against vulnerable people. And it raises questions about how much responsibility tech companies bear for these ill effects.
        * * *
        What went wrong in Myanmar?
        Can Facebook be held responsible? ...

    • Myanmar: UN expert
      welcomes move to
      amend constitution.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar -- who has been critical of failing democratic reforms in the country -- has welcomed the establishment of a parliamentary committee to amend [Myanmar's] problematic constitution.
        "The establishment of this committee is a positive development that I hope will aid Myanmar to truly transition to democracy," said Yanghee Lee.
        "The people wish the constitution to be amended, and I encourage the new joint committee to carry out their will," she said in a press statement issued in Geneva today.
        The ruling National League for Democracy party -- led by Aung San Suu Kyi -- pledged to amend the constitution during its 2015 national election campaign, which it won by a landslide.
        Myanmar’s 2008 constitution was drafted by the previous military government, and has been a key stumbling point in the country’s ability to move from decades of military rule towards democracy. It reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament to members of the military -- as well as designating military control of the Ministries of Home Affairs*, Defence Services and Border Affairs.
        * [(which includes the police ~RCN editor)]
        "The current constitution is not democratic, and Myanmar cannot be considered a democracy without it being amended," the Special Rapporteur said.

  • 2019 Feb 8 - Friday

  • 2019 Feb 9 - Saturday

    • Child Marriage of Rohingya girl
      stopped in Malaysia.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        The wedding dinner was being prepared for about 100 guests. But the police knocked on the door as the bride was an 11-year-old girl who was about to be married off to a man 10 years older than her.
        "She's a bright girl with a good attendance record. But when she did not continue school, we suspected something amiss," said Lifebridge Learning Centre director K Sudhagaran Stanley Singh.
        "As it was the long Chinese New Year break, we could not get United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia.
        With the clock ticking, we resorted to calling the police to intervene," he said yesterday.
        * * *
        Her 46-year-old father, who is a building contractor and reportedly facing financial difficulties, apparently agreed to postpone the marriage until the girl is old enough, after being advised by the authorities.
        The case has been referred to the Welfare Department. Police have also informed UNHCR Malaysia and the Penang Religious Affairs Department.
        * * *
        He said that the family could have gone ahead with the wedding if they had insisted.

        To them, there was nothing wrong about the marriage, he said.
        "We managed to stop it as the wedding was taking place illegally and it was not syariah-sanctioned," he said.
        * * *
        Sudhagaran noted that there was a high dropout rate among Rohingya girls in the school, especially when they reached puberty.
        "Almost 90% of the female students in this school do not complete their studies upon reaching 13 or 14 years old. Their usual reason is that they need to work and support the family. This remains a big concern for us.
      We have about 150 students here. Fewer than 10 of them are above 13 years old.
        Nine out of ten girls will drop out from school when they are 13 or 14, while half of the boys will drop out when they are 15 or 16," he said.
        Sudhagaran, who has been working with the Rohingya and running the NGO-funded school since 2011, said many of the dropouts ended up doing odd jobs.
        He believed that some of the girls ended up getting married.

        * * *
        A check a the UNHCR website listed about 88,880 Rohingya seeking refuge in the country as of end of last year. A quarter of them [22,000] are below the age of 18.
        Meanwhile, State Women, Family Development and Gender Inclusiveness Committee chairman Chong Eng urged UNHCR to come up with guidelines on child marriages involving refugees as the Malaysian law could be applied on them.
        "Hopefully, bodies like UNHCR will have guidelines and regulate them. We can only raise awareness and try keeping the children in school," she said.

  • 2019 Feb 10 - Sunday

    • ‘India [with China & ASEAN]
      should monitor safety of Rohingya'
      ~Bangladesh

          - The Hindu (India)

        Bangladesh wants India, China and the ASEAN to monitor the promise of safety by Myanmar to ensure protection of the Rohingya community, a Bangladesh source said on Sunday, reflecting the new official position that Dhaka has adopted. ...
        The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, had informed the Indian leadership about the new stance of Dhaka during his visit last week. "The Minister had asked for a safe haven for the Rohingya in Myanmar that should be watched by the ASEAN, India and China," said the diplomatic source
        * * *
        Ever since [Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's Rakhine province, where a major military campaign displaced more than a million Rohingya, in 2017], there have been several discussions to ensure repatriation of the community from the Chittagong region where they are stationed in temporary camps constructed by the international community and the Government of Bangladesh.
        However, such agreements do not enjoy sufficient credibility among the Rohingya who apprehend that the Myanmar military might carry out more attacks against them once they are repatriated.

    • Japan for expediting
      Rohingya repatriation process.

          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Japan put emphasis on expediting the repatriation process of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Bangladesh, saying the process cannot be prolonged.
        Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, made the remarks on Sunday, during a visit to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her Jatiya Sangsad office.
        "The Rohingya issue has been turned into a complicated situation," Sasakawa said.
        He also said the repatriation process of Rohingyas is now at a stalemate to some extent and it must be expedited.
        * * *
        "We will continue support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue," he said
        * * *
        [Bangladesh's] prime minister said the living conditions of the Rohingyas may be affected with the arrival of the monsoons.
        "We developed an island for the temporary shelter of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas," she said.

       

    • [Bangladesh] Foreign minister
      fears ‘pockets of radicalism'
      if Rohingya problem lingers.

        Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has called upon the international community to help resolve the Rohingya crisis to avoid a potential problem of radicalisation.
          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        "My fear is that if this problem lingers for a longer time, it may encourage creating pockets of radicalism and that may create problems of uncertainty and instability not only for Myanmar and Bangladesh but for the entire region," he said, speaking at a seminar in Dhaka on Sunday.
        "Therefore, Rohingya must go back to their homes, (the) earliest the better. The global leadership must come forward to resolve this crisis at its root, not in Bangladesh," he said.
        * * *
        The foreign ministry organised the seminar on human rights. United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo was also present.
        The foreign minister reminded all that "unless we stand like a solid-rock to end atrocities and the worst form of human rights violation -- termed by UN High Commissioner of Human Rights as ‘classic example of ethnic cleansing' and by others as ‘genocide' in Myanmar -- our efforts will never be of much value".
        "Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, by allowing the persecuted people of Rakhine province of Myanmar, has saved the face of the global leaders from ignominy and disgrace.
        "If she wouldn't have given shelter to them, it would end up with the gravest and worst genocide of the century since WWII,"
      he said.
        There are nearly 1.2 million Rohingya or ‘displaced residents' of Rakhine province being sheltered in Bangladesh now.
        They need to be repatriated with "safely and security at the earliest", he said.
        "Their exodus was created by Myanmar and it is their responsibility to solve it." ...

  • 2019 Feb 11 - Monday

    • Fresh rights violation in Myanmar:
      ~Amnesty [International]

        Amnesty International has reported of fresh human rights violations, during the ongoing military operation, in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar security forces have shelled villages and blocked civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State, [Amnesty International] said in a report today.
        Their claim comes amid a crackdown since armed attacks by the Arakan Army in early January.
        It is yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights, said Tirana Hassan, director of crisis response at Amnesty.
        "Shelling inhabited villages, and withholding food supplies, are unjustifiable under any circumstances," Hassan said.
        Amnesty International has received reports that army divisions involved in atrocities against the Rohingya in August-September 2017 have been deployed to Rakhine State, again, in recent weeks.
        "Despite international condemnation of the Myanmar military's atrocities, all evidence suggests that they are brazenly committing yet more serious abuses," said Hassan.

    • Bangladesh stops more Rohingya
      taking risky trip to Malaysia.

          - AFP / Straits Times (Singapore)

        Bangladesh security forces stopped 22 Rohingya Muslims from being smuggled to Malaysia by boat, officials said on Monday (Feb 11), the second group in three days prevented from leaving squalid refugee camps.
        Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) forces found 11 women, 10 children and a man at a village on the Bay of Bengal coast, near the border with Myanmar, on Sunday.
        The 22 had paid traffickers up to US$1,200 (S$1,630) each to get a place on a small boat for the dangerous journey, a BGB officer said. The people smugglers fled before security forces arrived.
        * * *
        "The traffickers took whatever they could from the refugees," Lieutenant Colonel Asadud Zaman Chowdhury, BGB chief for the town of Teknaf, told AFP.
        He added that it was possible many of the young women would have ended up in "forced prostitution".
        It is the fourth time since November that Rohingya have been intercepted attempting to get a boat to Muslim-majority Malaysia.
        On Friday, border guards stopped 30 Rohingya from boarding a boat and sent them back to their camps.
        Authorities fear that more Rohingya will try to take boats to Malaysia while the Bay of Bengal is calm up until the end of March.
        Bangladesh's refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said "an internationally organised racket" was preying on desperation in the Rohingya camps.

        "The refugees are lured by false promises. They simply don't have any idea how dangerous these sea journeys can be," he told AFP.
       

    • Watchdog accuses INGOs
      of living the good life
      on Rohingya aid money.

        The watchdog spokesperson said he was afraid the bulk of the money was not spent for the Rohingya
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        A watchdog organization has claimed that the money raised to aid the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is being spent to maintain the luxurious lifestyle of INGO [international non-governmental organization] executives.
        On Monday morning, the Cox's Bazar CSO-NGO Forum (CCNF) addressed journalists at the local press club. Co-Chairman Abu Morshed Chowdhury Khoka presented a written statement, accusing the NGOs and CSOs of appropriating the money for their own benefits and not helping the Rohingya.
        He said: "There are 123 local and international NGOs working in the Rohingya camps. These include 21 INGOs and five NGOs based in Cox's Bazar. Others, based elsewhere in the country, have expanded to Cox's Bazar.
        "They raise funds claiming to rehabilitate and assist the Rohingya, but spend the money on luxury SUVs, five-star hotel rooms, and other amenities."

        Abu Morshed added: "The Joint Response Plan (JRP) 2017 required $434 million in aid, but only $316 million was raised... So in 2018, the JRP budget was raised to $950 million, of which $655 million [was] raised. Another $72 million was raised outside the JRP. The JRP 2019 estimated a budget of $925 million and the possibility of raising $555 million."
        The watchdog spokesperson said he was afraid the bulk of the money was not spent for the Rohingya. He said they have tried to send a message to the [Bangladesh] government, through the Cox's Bazar administration, to no avail.
        He demanded the government strictly monitor NGO and INGO activities in Cox's Bazar.
        He also said: "They have to limit their luxurious lifestyles, and ensure 70-80% jobs for locals at the Rohingya camps. If not, the Rohingya crisis is going to scar Cox's Bazar."

    • JOB OPENING POSTING:
      HUMANITARIAN PROGRAMME COORDINATOR
      for
      Oxfam's humanitarian intervention in Bangladesh
      (Rohingya Refugee Crisis),
      and transition to longer-term programme.

          - Oxfam
            on ReliefWeb.int

        Manage and coordinate Oxfam's large-scale humanitarian intervention in Bangladesh (Rohingya Refugee Crisis) and transition the emergency response into a medium and longer-term programme
         ... Requires relevant degree and international / humanitarian relief experience (7-10 years; 5 years supervisory / managerial), excellent communications and diplomatic skills; budgeting, planning, programme cycle management, preferably in international NGO/operational UN agency/equivalent; large scale humanitarian programming at senior level; humanitarian management in complex, insecure environments; Expertise in programming in emergencies, conflict resolution and international humanitarian and refugee law; implementing gendered humanitarian interventions; Proven ability to work with multi-million budgets, with monitoring, evaluation and reporting.

    • JOB OPENING POSTING:
      CONSULTANT
      for
      "Strengthening regional advocacy
      for the legal and social protection
      of Rohingya refugees."

          - Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
            on ReliefWeb.int

        The Foundation for the Rights of Disadvantaged Populations (FRDP), operating internationally as the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), is seeking an energetic and visionary consultant to lead our regional advocacy around legal and social protection of Rohingya refugees.
        The ideal candidate will be passionate about advancing the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection, will be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to help us achieve our strategic goals, and will actively support the collaborative efforts of our diverse membership. ...

    • New York conference
      critical of U.N.
      over Rohingya crisis.

        "International Conference on
          Protection and Accountability in Burma"

          - Anadolu Agency (Turkey)
            in BigNewsNetwork.com
        (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)
        An international conference in New York called for the boycott of Myanmar, due to ethnic cleansing accusations regarding the country.
        The "International Conference on Protection and Accountability in Burma," held at Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York on Sunday, brought together... leading Rohingya campaigners, activists, renowned genocide scholars and UN officials. ...

    • Arakan Army steps up
      Myanmar's forgotten conflict

          - UCA News (Hong Kong, China)
        (Union of Catholic Asian News, Ltd.)
        (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown.)

            (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown)
        Militant ethnic separatism has been on the rise among indigenous Buddhists in Myanmar's Rakhine State -- even as most international attention has been focusing on the plight of Muslim Rohingya, seasoned Myanmar watchers say.
        The Arakan Army -- a well-armed insurgent group known for its slick recruitment videos on social media -- has been enjoying widespread and increasing support among ethnic Rakhine people for its guerrilla-style attacks against government forces, they say.
        "The Arakan Army has expanded to a force of [several thousand] soldiers," David Scott Mathieson, a security analyst and human rights expert formerly with Human Rights Watch, told a gathering of foreign journalists in Bangkok. "They have had lots of recruits and very good training. The scale and geographic reach of their activities have steadily grown."
        The guerrilla outfit is a relatively new fighting force in Myanmar's seething cauldron of ethnic rivalries. Set up in 2009 by a small group of young ethnic nationalists, the Arakan Army has been going from strength to strength in recent years. ...

  • 2019 Feb 12 - Tuesday

  • 2019 Feb 13 - Wednesday

  • 2019 Feb 14 - Thursday

    • OPINION:
      Rohingya Diaspora Crucial to
      Achieving Justice in Myanmar.

      by John Quinley III
      Human Rights Specialist, Fortify Rights.
          - TIME Magazine (USA)

        ...in the fight to hold Myanmar accountable, the Rohingya diaspora is too often overlooked.
        Historically, the pursuit of justice, for human rights violations, has been strengthened by the diaspora's participation. From Rwanda, to Cambodia, to Armenia, mobilizing the diaspora can be a powerful way to engage the community, and translate local context. Despite this, our team at Fortify Rights has routinely encountered diplomats, donors and others who dismiss the Rohingya diaspora as disconnected and irrelevant.
        In reality, as dispersed populations that maintain a sense of collective identity, diasporas provide a vital link between their host countries and their homelands. The Rohingya are no different.
        Today, more Rohingya reside outside Myanmar than inside the country. The diaspora initially comprised Rohingya uprooted by decades of violence and institutionalized discrimination — including sporadic military campaigns and a denial of citizenship. This longstanding exodus has established outposts around the globe, including refugee camps in Bangladesh, as well as communities resettled in America, Europe and Australia.  ...
        * * *
        ...the Rohingya diaspora is already acting as a transnational link between their homeland and their host countries. They have local knowledge, as well as an understanding of the history and context in Myanmar, that can uniquely assist in finding solutions for accountability and restoring citizenship to the mostly stateless group.
        The international community would benefit by making the Rohingya diaspora a part of these processes.
        For starters, non-governmental organizations should involve Rohingya in program designs and implementation, and policymakers should provide them with seats at the table.

        Some argue that diasporas can fuel conflict and extremism. However, in our team's experience, the Rohingya diaspora overwhelmingly supports nonviolent action.
        The fact is, the Rohingya diaspora is integral to international justice and accountability.

  • 2019 Feb 15 - Friday

  • 2019 Feb 16 - Saturday

    • Myanmar army chief denies
      systematic persecution of Rohingyas

          - Reuters / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar's army chief -- who is facing international calls that he be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority -- has denied any systematic army persecution, and said such accusations were an insult to his country's honour.
        * * *
        In his first detailed interview since the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in 2017, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing cast doubt on UN estimates that some 730,000 Rohingyas had fled to Bangladesh, and on their accounts of abuses by his forces, saying the refugees had been told what to say.
        * * *
        UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters in Geneva that he had not seen the interview but Myanmar's government had signed an agreement with the United Nations last year recognising that there had been violence and that people had fled across the border and that they had a right to return.
        "If some people among our interlocutors have different views, we stick by the letter of that memorandum of understanding, which recognises these problems and indicates precisely what solutions need to be carried out," he said.
        A UN rights investigator said last month that Min Aung Hlaing and others should be held accountable for genocide against the Rohingyas and doing so was necessary before refugees could return.
        Myanmar has consistently denied the accusations of murder, rape and other abuses by its forces though Min Aung Hlaing acknowledged that "a number of security men may have been involved".
        Min Aung Hlaing, in the interview on Thursday in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw, raised questions not only about the number of people who had fled, but also about their motives.
        "It's possible to think that the reasons they moved to Bangladesh were things like living with relatives or fleeing to a third country," he said.
        "All of them are saying the same thing, which I believe somebody told them to say."
        * * *
        The UN Human Rights Council, in September, voted to set up an "ongoing independent mechanism" for Myanmar that would collect, consolidate, and preserve evidence of crimes that could be used in any eventual court case.
        Myanmar has said it "absolutely rejects" that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction to rule on its actions -- a point Min Aung Hlaing repeated in the interview.
        Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the Hague-based court.
        "We will not accept any instructions that threaten Myanmar's sovereignty," he said.

  • 2019 Feb 17 - Sunday

      Exhausted Rohingya refugees trod a steep path through Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh -- the world's largest refugee camp. Summer monsoons threaten flash floods and landslides that will likely kill thosands, according to aid experts. But most Rohingya refugees fear their homeland even more. ©2018 The Guardian (U.K.)

    • Official report:
      ISCG Situation Report:
      Rohingya Refugee Crisis,
      Cox's Bazar
      January 2019

          - Inter Sector Coordination Group (UN / Bangladesh)
      on ReliefWeb.int

       
      The joint registration [of refugees] by the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR was scaled up with registration sites added in Kutupalong and a camp-level information campaign. The exercise will provide identity documents to refugees and support their protection in Bangladesh.
        There has been an increase in threats against women in the camps — targeting refugee volunteers and aid workers. UN and NGOs are engaging with local authorities to respond and develop an intervention strategy.
        Most bamboo in the camps predates the 2018 rainy seasons and will need to be replaced.
        ***
      911,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar
        903,788 refugees identified in camps according to the RRRC-UNHCR Family Counting exercise (including 34,172 registered before 31 Aug 2017). ...

    • Three Rohingya Muslims
      detained in Assam.

          - IANS / Business Standard (India)

        Three Rohingya Muslims were detained by the Government Railway Police (GRP) at Lumding town in Central Assam's Hojai district on Sunday morning.
        Superintendent of Railway Police Hemanta Das said: "They were detained after locals spotted them and [notified] the police.
        "Our [investigators] wanted to see their documents but they failed to produce any visa or valid travel document."
        During the initial interrogation, it was revealed that they first came to Bangladesh from Myanmar and then entered India. They also told the locals that they have been living in Hyderabad [India] for a long time.
        * * *
        The police and other security agencies have detained several Rohingyas from different areas of Assam in the past few weeks. Most of them have confessed that they first entered Bangladesh from Myanmar, and then India, through the International Border in Agartala.

  • 2019 Feb 18 - Monday

    • Education, income-generation
      for Rohingya refugees
      must be top priorities,
      say Oxfam, Save the Children
      & World Vision.

          - Oxfam International

            (one of the principal international NGOs
              serving Rohingya refugees)
        Education and income-generating opportunities must be made top priorities for the nearly 1 million Rohingya still languishing in the world’s largest refugee camp almost 18 months after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, said three leading NGOs at the launch of a new UN funding plan for the crisis launched in Geneva today.
        In a statement issued today, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision called on international governments to generously fund the 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis. While the agencies applaud the ambitious new JRP—an appeal for US$ 920.5 million to assist 1.25 million people, including 909,000 Rohingya refugees and 336,000 host community members—they urge donors to emphasize education and income-generating activities when allotting funding.
        The three agencies are also calling on donors and the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that humanitarian action in Bangladesh supports refugees and host communities to live in greater safety and dignity -- while meeting basic needs for food, clean water, and shelter. This means investing in education to equip children and youth with the skills they will need to create a more prosperous future in Myanmar when they can safely return there. It also means enabling refugees to become self-reliant today so they can provide for their families in dignity.
        Rachel Wolff, World Vision’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response Director, said: "Education is not a luxury. It is a human right. Refugee children and parents tell us that education is a top priority for them. However, there is an overwhelming gap in access for children and adolescents."
        An estimated 700,000 children and youth age 3 to 24 -- including 200,000 from the host community -- lack access to educational services.
        The situation for refugee adolescents and youth is particularly dire: only four in 100 have access to any form of education or life-skills and vocational training. ...

  • 2019 Feb 19 - Tuesday

      --------------

  • 2019 Feb 20 - Wednesday

      --------------

  • 2019 Feb 21 - Thursday

      --------------

  • 2019 Feb 22 - Friday

    • Suu Kyi woos investors
      to crisis-hit Rakhine,
      decries "negative" focus.

          - Reuters / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for investment in the crisis-hit western state of Rakhine on Friday -- saying the world had "focused narrowly on negative aspects" in the state, from which some 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled since 2017.
        On a rare visit to Rakhine, Suu Kyi emphasised responsible business practices as she addressed an investment fair sponsored by Japan in the coastal state's tourist hotspot of Ngapali beach.
        But she made only a brief reference to the conflicts that have roiled areas several hundred kilometres to the north -- and did not mention the Rohingya. As well as those stuck in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya -- and other Muslims -- remain trapped in camps and villages in Rakhine, where their movements and access to services are restricted.
        "For too long the international community's attention has been focused narrowly on negative aspects related to problems in north Rakhine -- rather than on the larger picture that shows the immense potential of this state for peace and development," Suu Kyi said.
        Her government recognised the "grave challenges" it faced in Rakhine and was doing its utmost to address them, she said.
        The Nobel laureate has pledged to make Myanmar more investment-friendly -- as her government attempts to reverse a drop in foreign investment and tourism from the West, since the Rohingya exodus sparked global outrage.
        A UN fact-finding mission, last year, said the 2017 military campaign that pushed out the Rohingya was orchestrated with "genocidal intent". Myanmar denies allegations of mass killings and rape, and says its offensive was a legitimate response to an insurgent threat and that it is welcoming the refugees back.
        The investment fair was attended by Myanmar officials, U.N. staff and investors and diplomats mostly from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere in Asia.
        Domestic and foreign investment could play a crucial role in the state, Suu Kyi said, but warned against irresponsible investments like "unchecked expansion of commercial fishery projects" that could damage Rakhine's coastal mangrove forests.
        Some experts warn a focus on economic solutions to Rakhine's problems could cement the marginalisation of the mostly stateless Rohingya.
        A Reuters special report, in December, revealed that officials had built new homes for Buddhists where the Rohingya once lived -- making the return of many refugees to their original homes impossible.

        Myanmar says it has been ready to accept returning refugees since January, and denies discriminating against Muslims who remain in Rakhine.
        (same topic at:
        - Jan 28
        - Mar. 6 (2 articles)
        - Jun. 20 (Human Rights Watch) )

  • 2019 Feb 23 - Saturday

      --------------

  • 2019 Feb 24 - Sunday

  • 2019 Feb 27 - Wednesday

    • Duterte offers Filipino citizenship
      to Rohingya refugees.

          - GMA News Online (Philippines)
        [Philippine] President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered Filipino citizenship to Rohingya refugees as he reiterated his willingness to accept them into the country.
        "I am willing to accept Rohingyas. ‘Yung talagang walang mapuntahan tatanggapin ko ‘yan, gawain kong Pilipino," he said in a speech before a convention of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel.
      Duterte said in April last year that the Philippines was willing to provide sanctuary for Rohingya fleeing what he called "genocide" in Myanmar -- a remark that prompted a Myanmar government spokesman to respond that [Duterte] had no restraint, and knew nothing about their country.
        The President then issued a public apology to Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for saying genocide was taking place in her country -- and clarified that he was hitting out at European countries [who] had accused Myanmar of human rights violations, but did little to help the Rohingya.
        * * *
        Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, last year, that the Philippines had facilities that could accommodate refugees -- citing a processing center in Bataan.
        Roque added that the Philippine government had an "open-door policy" for refugees.
        In 1975, the Philippine government accommodated thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled their country after the Vietnam War ended. The facility Roque cited, the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC), hosted many of them.
        [In the late 1930s], the Philippines -- under then-President Manuel Quezon -- gave refuge to Jews escaping the Holocaust.


MARCH 2019:

  • 2019 March 1 - Friday
      Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path as others travel on a boat after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar (Burma) border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 6, 2017. ©2017 Reuters
      Exhausted Rohingya refugees trod a steep path through Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh -- the world's largest refugee camp. Summer monsoons threaten flash floods and landslides that will likely kill thosands, according to aid experts. But most Rohingya refugees fear their homeland even more. ©2018 The Guardian (U.K.)

    • Bangladesh tells UN
      it will no longer take in
      Myanmar refugees.

          - AFP   (Agence France-Presse)
        Bangladesh told the UN Security Council on Thursday that it will no longer be able to take in refugees from Myanmar.
        [Bangladesh's] Foreign Secretary, Shahidul Haque, told a [U.N. Security] Council meeting that the crisis over the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya sheltering in his country had gone from "bad to worse" and urged the council to take "decisive" action.
        Around 740,000 Muslim Rohingya are living in camps in Bangladesh after they were driven out of Myanmar's northern Rakhine state during a military campaign in 2017 that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. [Another 250,000, or so, were already sheltering in Bangladesh, after having been driven out of Myanmar in previous years' violence. ~ RCN Editor]
        "Here, I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar," said Haque.
        Under a deal reached with Bangladesh, Myanmar agreed to take back some of the refugees, but the United Nations insists that the safety of the Rohingya be a condition for their return.
        "Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighboring country?" asked the foreign secretary.
        After five trips to Myanmar, UN envoy Christine Schraner Burgener reported "slow progress" in efforts to help hundreds of thousands of Rohingya return home -- and warned that Myanmar's elections next year could worsen the crisis.
        The Swiss diplomat, who was appointed in April as UN envoy for Myanmar, said UN agencies had been given "insufficient" access to help prepare the return of the Rohingya.
        MYANMAR APPEALS FOR PATIENCE
        Myanmar's Ambassador Hau Do Suan insisted his government was taking steps and appealed for patience.
        He spoke of "huge physical as well as psychological barriers" in the way of allowing the refugees' return and stressed that "it takes time and patience as well as courage to build trust and confidence among different communities in Rakhine."
        China, which has close ties with Myanmar's former military junta, insisted that development aid could help ease tensions in Rakhine and made clear the [U.N. Security] Council should not get involved in addressing the refugee crisis.
        "It is up to the two countries to work out a solution," said Chinese Deputy Ambassador Wu Haitao.
        In December, Britain circulated a draft resolution that would have forced Myanmar to roll out a strategy for addressing the Rohingya crisis, but China threatened to veto the measure, according to diplomats.
        "We are very disappointed that there hasn't been more progress on getting the refugees back," said British Ambassador Karen Pierce.
        "The scale of what has been done to the Rohingya Muslims, and the allegations of crimes against humanity, really mark this out as one of the most terrible events of this century so far," said Pierce.
        The UN envoy warned that the election campaign "could add to the domestic complexities" in Myanmar, which is still struggling with a democratic transition after 50 years of military rule.
        Myanmar's de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- who has been criticized for failing to speak out to defend the Rohingya -- is seeking to consolidate her position ahead of the 2020 vote.
        Myanmar's military dominates the Buddhist-majority nation, holding a quarter of seats in parliament and controlling three ministries [including law enforcement ~RCN Editor], making their grip on power firm -- despite political reforms which began in 2011.

    • UN urges Bangladesh
      not to close door
      to Myanmar refugees

          - AFP / France24 (France)
        The United Nations on Friday stressed that refugees fleeing conflict should be granted safe haven -- after Bangladesh declared that it would no longer take in Myanmar's Rohingya. ...
       
      (Official U.N. statement at:
      - "The Refugee Brief - 1 March 2019 (UNHCR)
      )

    • [Singapore] Committee of Supply
      2019 Debate, Day 2:

    • Myanmar land ownership law
      could displace millions of farmers.

          - Deutsche Welle (Germany)

        Under a land-reformation act, millions of farmers across Myanmar could be forced from land they have tilled for generations. Many are unaware of the danger they face. ...
      [NOTE: This land-confiscation has already happened to thousands -- probably hundreds of thousands -- of Myanmar's Rohingya minority. The Myanmar government has declared that the lands that the Rohingya abandoned -- as they fled for their lives from Myanmar's military and hostile Rakhine neighbors -- are now Myanmar government (or military) property, or taken over by local Rakhines. ~RCN Editor]

  • 2019 March 2 - Saturday

  • 2019 March 3 - Sunday

  • 2019 March 4 - Monday

  • 2019 March 5 - Tuesday

      ------------

  • 2019 March 6 - Wednesday

  • 2019 March 7 - Thursday

      ------------

  • 2019 March 8 - Friday

  • 2019 March 9 - Saturday

    • [World Bank] approves
      $165 mn grant
      to help Rohingyas
      in Cox's Bazar

          - UNB (Bangladesh) / MSN.com

        The World Bank has approved a $165 million grant to help Bangladesh provide basic services and build disaster and social resilience for the Rohingyas who fled violence in Myanmar and took shelter in Teknaf and Ukhia Upazila in Cox's Bazar.
        This is the third in a series of planned financings of approximately half a billion dollars announced by the World Bank in June 2018.
        Earlier the World Bank has committed a $75 million grant to provide for the health and learning needs of the Rohingya.
        The Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project will help Bangladesh cope with the world's fastest growing exodus -- where the Rohingya outnumber the local community more than threefold in the Teknaf and UkhiaUpazila, said the WB on Saturday.
        The project will help build and rehabilitate basic infrastructure, improve community resilience and help prevent gender-based violence. ...

  • 2019 March 10 - Sunday

    • Rakhine [Buddhist] rebels kill nine
      in fresh strike on Myanmar police.

          - Reuters News Service

        Arakan Army insurgents killed nine Myanmar police in the latest attack in the country's western Rakhine State, the government said on Sunday, as clashes threaten to engulf a large part of the troubled region.

    • [Bangladesh Foreign] Minister:
      Bangladesh Spends $300M Per Month
      on Rohingya Refugees.

          - Radio Free Asia (RFA)
            (U.S. propaganda radio)

        Bangladesh spends U.S. $300 million monthly to host Rohingya refugees, its foreign minister said, explaining why the country would no longer take in more people from the stateless group (as Dhaka had announced at the United Nations last week).
        About 745,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed the border into southeastern Bangladesh to escape a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, in what U.N. and U.S. officials have described as ethnic cleansing.
        "We won't host anymore Rohingya. There are 192 more countries in the world, they should also host some Rohingyas. Why only us?" Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, on Friday in Dhaka.
        "We are spending about $300 million per month for them," he said, echoing previous statements from other officials. That amount translates to a staggering $3.6 billion annually.
        When asked whether all of this cash was Bangladesh's own money, Momen replied that it was a mixture of local funds and foreign aid. However, he said, he could not immediately give a breakdown of the sources of money that Bangladesh was spending on Rohingya.
        On Feb. 28 in New York, [Bangladesh's] Foreign Secretary, Shahidul Haque, told the U.N. Security Council that the humanitarian crisis in the southeast and an impasse over repatriating the refugees had gone from "bad to worse."
        The idea of long-term hosting by Bangladesh was "not at all a viable proposition," Haque told the council.

        "Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar," he said. "Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighboring country?"
        Under a proposed repatriation scheme, which was supposed to start in November last year, Dhaka was to hand over the first batch of potential returnees from among 2,260 initially identified for being returned to Myanmar at a transit point along their common border.
        But the plan did not go through -- after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that refugees who had been identified for repatriation were gripped with "terror and panic" on hearing that they could be asked to return against their will, even though the program was supposed to be voluntary.
        Haque told the Security Council that despite his government's efforts, "not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of a conducive environment there."
        "Even if repatriation began today, it would take another 12 years (to finish the repatriation), based on an estimated 300 Rohingyas returning every day,"
      Haque said.
        Last year in New York, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the U.N. General Assembly that about 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims were in Bangladeshi refugee camps, where they were receiving food, clothing, healthcare and security, among other services. That number included more than 300,000 Rohingya who entered Bangladesh during earlier bouts of violence in Myanmar.
        In Teknaf, a sub-district of southeastern Cox's Bazar district, which lies along the border with Rakhine state, the Bangladeshi border guard said it was stopping new Rohingya arrivals from crossing over. ....

    • OPINION
      How WWII shaped
      the crisis in Myanmar.

      by Jayita Sarkar, historian, Dartmouth Coll.
        The crises of the era laid the groundwork for the persecution of the Rohingya.
          - Washington Post

  • 2019 March 11 - Monday
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • UN envoy fears 'new crisis'
      for Rohingya Muslims
      if moved to remote
      Bangladesh island.

          - Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Australia)

        A United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar has voiced deep concern at Bangladesh's plan to relocate 23,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island, saying it may not be habitable and could create a "new crisis". ...
        Key points:
      • UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee says it is not clear the remote island is habitable
      • Bangladesh has said the move will ease overcrowding at Cox's Bazar
      • Ms. Lee urged the UN Security Council to refer alleged atrocities in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court

    • Official U.N. statement:
      UN rights expert calls
      for end to 'purgatory'
      of ‘international inaction'
      facing Myanmar's
      remaining Rohingya.

          - UN News (United Nations)

        A humanitarian crisis, fuelled by the suppression of basic human rights, is continuing across Myanmar's Rakhine state -- a UN Human Rights Council-appointed expert [Yanghee Lee] said on Monday -- in an appeal for alleged atrocities there to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
      Presenting her latest report to the 47-Member body in Geneva, Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, highlighted several areas of concern across the country, including grave abuses linked to the mass exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine in August 2017, which was sparked by separatist violence against police posts.
        A separate Council-appointed probe last year called for the prosecution of top Myanmar military commanders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
        In reply, Myanmar's Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of the Republic to the UN in Geneva, rejected the Special Rapporteur's update.

      Rohingya ‘torched their own houses,'
      [Myanmar] officials claim:

        Among her findings, Ms. Lee noted that just last week she had received a report that 24 Rohingya houses in the town of Buthidaung in Rakhine, had been burned down, which officials explained afterwards by saying that the owners had torched the properties themselves.
        Under the terms of a 2018 U.N.-led agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh (who hosts more than a million Rohingyas in exile), Myanmar has agreed to create conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
        Today, the conditions of this Memorandum of Understanding have not been met,
      the Special Rapporteur said.
        The deal "expires in a few months", she added, insisting that there was "nothing to indicate that conditions have improved for the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar".
        * * *
        Staying with Rakhine state, the Special Rapporteur maintained that clashes between the separatist Arakan Army and the Myanmar military had forced 10,000 people to flee since November.
        "Allegations exist of fighters dressing as civilians and using civilian vehicles, landmine use, forced recruitment and forced portering, and arrest and detention of civilians suspected of being associates or sympathisers of the Arakan Army," Ms. Lee said. "It does not appear that the situation will improve in the immediate future."
        Given the gravity of the situation, she appealed for the UN Security Council to take the international lead on the matter.
        "I still firmly believe that the situation in Myanmar must be referred to the ICC [International Criminal Court] by the Security Council...Victims must not be forced to wait in the purgatory of international inaction,"
      she said.

      Exploitation of gems, timber,
      high on list of alleged rights violations:

        Allegations of misuse of Myanmar's natural riches constituted one of the biggest areas of the Special Rapporteur's investigations, particularly in the gemstones and timber sectors.
        "Revenues from natural resource extraction -- needed for vital services and development, [but] being diverted to the military and its allies -- undermines the civilian Government, democratic reforms, the peace process, sustainable development and the realisation of rights," the Special Rapporteur explained.

      Rohingya refugees
      give Council testimony
      for the first time:

        For the first time, the Council heard testimonies from two Rohingya refugees, Hamida Khatun from Shanti Mohila and Muhub Ullah from the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights.
        "In August 2017, I fled Burma to Bangladesh when my village was attacked,"   Mrs. Khatun said. "My Rohingya brothers and sisters were killed, my husband and mother were killed. I'm the only Rohingya woman who could leave Bangladesh to tell you what happened to hundreds of thousands of us."

        In her comments, delivered by Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Mrs Khatun added that she had "three requests for the international community:
        • 1st:  Justice, including compensation;
        • 2nd:  To return home, in safety and security, including citizenship;
        • 3rd:  Access to education."

      Rakhine problem vast and complex,
      says Myanmar:

        Myanmar told the Council that the [Myanmar] Government had sought sustainable peace and national reconciliation -- while the issue in Rakhine state was vast and complex.
        "We share the concern over the plight of all affected communities due to the violence triggered by provocative, coordinated attacks of ARSA terrorists against multiple security outposts in October 2016 and August 2017," said Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun.
        "I would like to reiterate Myanmar's readiness to receive the verified returnees in a voluntary safe and dignified manner in accordance with the bilateral agreements with Bangladesh."
        In response to Ms. Lee's appeal for an international tribunal to investigate alleged abuses, Mr. Kyaw insisted that his country "will not accept any call for referring the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. The Government of Myanmar established an Independent Commission of Enquiry in July last year. The Commission will investigate...as part of Myanmar's effort to the address the issue of accountability," he said adding that the Government "is willing and able to address the accountability issue."


  • 2019 March 12 - Tuesday

    • Individuals responsible
      for Rohingya atrocities
      will face justice:
      ~ ICC.

          - Frontier Myanmar (Myanmar/Burma)

            (NOTE: This publication may be subject to Myanmar military control)

    • U.S. military retrieves
      possible World War Two remains
      from Myanmar.

          - Reuters News Service

        The United States, on Tuesday, retrieved the possible remains of service members who went missing in Myanmar during the Second World War -- marking the first such mission to Myanmar carried out by U.S. military aircraft, American officials said. ...
      [NOTE: This accommodation of the U.S. may be intended by the Myanmar government, or military, to discourage any current or anticipated U.S. action against Myanmar (in defense of the Rohingya, or of any other minorities that are victims of the Myanmar government and military). So far, since the eruption of the Rohingya Crisis in 2017, the U.S. has taken little meaningful action -- except for a few official U.S. sanctions (of dubious impact) against certain Myamar military leaders. ~RCN Editor]

    • Bangladesh seeks
      Australia's active role
      over Rohingya issue.

          - UNB / Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

    • Malaysian Rohingya activist nominated
      for U.S. State Dept award.
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Sharifah Shakirah, who helps improve the lives of Rohingya women in Malaysia, has been nominated as Malaysia's candidate for the US Department of State's International Women of Courage award.
        * * *
        Sharifah, 24, founded the Rohingya Women’s Development Network (RWDN), the first Rohingya women’s group in Malaysia, in December 2016.
        * * *
        UNHCR said RWDN, which is self-funded, aims to empower women by harnessing their abilities and by providing them with opportunities to be leaders.
        It added that Sharifah does this by organising classes for women consisting of general education, education on sexual reproductive health as well as Quran-reading. ...

    • Some Rohingya refugees prefer
      death in Bangladesh
      over repatriation to Myanmar.

          - Religion News

        When 60-year-old Dil Mohammad found out in November that he was on a list of some 2,000 Rohingya refugees to be sent back to Myanmar, he grabbed the bottle of rat poison and poured it down his throat. His wife forced him to vomit and rushed him to the nearby Médecins Sans Frontières hospital.
        To Mohammad, suicide -- a grave sin in Islam -- was preferable to returning to the persecution that his people have suffered for decades, in their historic home in western Myanmar.
        "It’s better to die in Bangladesh, where I would get a proper Islamic burial, than be killed in Myanmar for being Muslim," he said. "God will forgive my act of suicide because he knows our pain."
        * * *
        Abdul Hamid, a community leader in the camps, said he left a flourishing restaurant business and expansive ancestral farmland in Myanmar. Now he and his family live off meager rations of rice and lentils supplemented by occasional meat and vegetables when they manage to secure cash. They sleep in a dusty hut with sewage running in a gutter out front.
        "We struggle with the refugee life here, but we’re grateful to be alive. We’d rather die here than be killed just for being Muslim in Myanmar," Hamid said.
        * * *
        In October, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to put into effect a bilateral repatriation agreement, with the first 150 refugees scheduled to return in mid-November. The plan was opposed by the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and other aid groups, as well as by the refugees.
        "When I heard we were on the list, I sent my family away to one camp and I ran away to another," said Hamid.
        * * *
        Khairul Bashir, another community leader, said he and his family were also on the list, adding that all the families in his section of the camp were ready to take poison if the authorities forced them to go.
        "There’s a mice problem in the camps right now, so we all have rat poison in the house," Bashir explained. "We were all prepared to die."
        According to a recent Amnesty International report, satellite images show that Myanmar’s military has built bases and roads where the Rohingya villages once stood.
        "None of us are ready to go back until the 1982 law is repealed and we get full rights as citizens in Myanmar," explained Mohammad Ilyas, whose name has been modified to conceal the identity of his family.
        * * *
        On repatriation day, in November, none of the 150 refugees in the first group -- including Mohammad, Hamid, Bashir and Ilyas -- agreed to go back. Since Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to only take those who were going back to Rakhine state voluntarily, the cars that were supposed to take the refugees to temporary transit camps went away empty.
        During a U.N. Security Council meeting on Feb. 28, Bangladesh’s foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, called on Myanmar to address the decades-long state practices of deprivation, disenfranchisement and atrocities.
        "Not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to [Myanmar's] Rakhine [state], due to the absence of a conducive environment there," he told the council.
        But Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world, has been hosting more than a million refugees for more than a year. The government appears to be very much set on repatriation. ...

  • 2019 March 13 - Wednesday

    • Rohingya militants condemn
      violence in refugee camps
      amid reports of killings.

          - Reuters News Service

        Myanmar's Rohingya militants urged their followers, on Wednesday, to refrain from crime in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh -- following reports of killings and abductions attributed to the group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). ...

    • RM300,000 (US$70,000)
      education aid for Rohingyas
          - New Straits Times (Malaysia)

    • U.S. says China's treatment
      of Muslim minority
      worst abuses
      'since the 1930s.'

          - Reuters News Service

        The U.S. State Department on Wednesday slammed human rights violations in China, saying the sort of abuses China had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen "since the 1930s." ...
      [NOTE: This article is included because it depicts the current extreme hostility of China towards its own Muslim minority -- a factor concievably correlated to China's very adamant actions in the United Nations to block any effective defense of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims. Acknowledging the rights and abuses of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority would inevitiably discredit China's own extreme abuses of its own Muslim minority.
        Further, authorizing U.N. action against Myanmar, for their crimes against Muslims, would inevitably be seen as an admission that China should face such punishment, as well. And China, like the United States, refuses to acknowledge any accountability to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and -- in sympathy with Myanmar -- continues to block U.N. actions that would refer Myanmar's crimes to the ICC. ~ RCN Editor]

  • 2019 March 14 - Thursday
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • Official Statement:
      For Rohingya, Bangladesh's Bhasan Char
      ‘Will Be Like a Prison.'

        Relocating Refugees to Unsafe Island Would Risk Lives, Livelihoods
          - Human Rights Watch

        Bangladesh authorities say they will soon start relocating over 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal. Officials said this is necessary to reduce pressure on the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, where nearly 1.2 million Rohingya have fled to escape military atrocities in Myanmar.
        Bhasan Char is a spit of land made of accumulated silt. Officials say the island has been secured with embankments, and the homes and cyclone shelters are better than anything available to millions of Bangladeshis. But they have yet to provide convincing assurances that the refugees will be safe there, and that their freedom of movement, and right to livelihood, will be protected.
        * * *
        The government brought some diplomats and other foreign officials to see the infrastructure on the island. But Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, who visited in January, noted, "There are a number of things that remain unknown to me, even following my visit -- chief among them being whether the island is truly habitable."
        Residents from nearby Hatiya Island say it is not. "Part of the island is eroded by the monsoon every year," one man told Human Rights Watch. "In that time, we never dare go to that island, so how will thousands of Rohingya live there?"
        Humanitarian aid groups are concerned about refugee health and safety in the Cox's Bazar settlement, but isolating them on Bhasan Char, with likely limited access to education and health services, could be even more problematic.
        * * *
        Although Bangladeshi authorities say there will be no forced relocations, there is little evidence that any of the refugees would be willing to move there. "Bhashan Char will be like a prison," one local journalist said.
        But when Lee warned that an ill-planned relocation would have the "potential to create a new crisis," the government said resettling the Rohingya is an internal matter. Minister AKM Mozammel Haq actually blamed nongovernmental organizations for highlighting safety and sustainability concerns.
        * * *
        Dumping a battered and traumatized people on Bhasan Char -- to face yet another threat to their survival -- is not a solution. Bangladesh should terminate the relocation plans, unless (or until) independent experts determine that the island is suitable -- and until the government ensures that refugees who consent to relocate there will be allowed freedom of movement on and off the island.
        (See also the following article, which -- in addition to its title subject matter -- also includes an extensive report on the Bhasan Char island-relocation issue.)

    • Bangladesh Probes
      Possible Misuse of Funds
      for Rohingya Refugees.

          - The Irrawaddy (Myanmar/Burma)
        (NOTE: This media outlet, though it appears indepedent, may be subject to Myanmar military control.)
      DHAKA -- The Bangladesh government, on Wednesday, asked intelligence agencies to look into the possible misuse of funds [that were] meant to help the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar.
        "I received allegations and there is also prima-facie evidence," said Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq, who heads the government cabinet's law and order committee, which requested the probe.
        He told The Irrawaddy that the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and National Security Intelligence (NSI) were given one month to look into how the funds have been used and report back.
        * * *
        Law Minister Anisul Huq... accused some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with the Rohingya in the refugee camps of having "ill motives."
        "We have received information that NGO officials have spent 150 crore taka [$17.87 million] since September on hotel rooms in Cox's Bazar. They spend only 25 per cent of the funds they receive from different agencies to assuage the miseries of the Rohingya," he said.
        "The chiefs of both agencies were present at the meeting and I asked them to complete their inquiries," he added.
        "I will come up with evidence and disclose our findings to the public to show how funds were used, because those who donate should also know how funds are being utilized." ...

  • 2019 March 15 - Friday

      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • Rohingya reject relocation
      to Bangladesh's island
      'prison camp.'

        Bangladeshi authorities say they are ready to move some 100,000 Rohingya refugees to houses on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal. Although construction is completed, the UN has said the island "may not be habitable."
          - Deutche Welle (Germany)

        Bhashan Char is a small, sediment island that is vulnerable to flooding and cyclones. On Wednesday, Bangladeshi authorities said they would begin relocating Rohingya refugees to buildings that they have constructed on the island. The UN, rights activists, and the refugees have all expressed opposition to the plan.
        In early 2018, Bangladesh began constructing roads, shelters and floodwalls on the island, and it has spent an estimated $280 million (€247 million) completing the project.
        Bhashan Char, which means "floating island," started to form in the Bay of Bengal 20 years ago from sediment building up at the mouth of the Meghna River. Map analysis shows the island is covered with tidal channels, which indicate that it floods during monsoon season.
        Bangladesh plans to shelter around 100,000 Rohingya in 1,440 buildings it has built on the island.

        Nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees currently live in overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar on Bangladesh's border with Myanmar. Mozammel Huq, a senior Bangladeshi government minister said, on Wednesday, that construction was complete, and that the relocations would start next month.
       
      Is Bhashan Char habitable?
        Bangladesh's coastal region is vulnerable to cyclones. Hundreds of thousands of people have died over the past 50 years from storms and flooding. On Bhashan Char, a 13-kilometer (8-mile) long flood-defense embankment surrounds the refugee barracks, and officials say it will stop tidal surges if a cyclone hits.
        However, a top UN rights expert visited the island and said she wasn't convinced it is "truly habitable."
        "Ill-planned relocations without the consent of the refugees have the potential to create a new crisis," said Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, who visited the island in January.

        Shahed Shafiq, a local journalist who visited Bhashan Char a few months ago, says that the island is far from habitable. He points out that even during a normal high tide, most parts of the island are submerged.
        "The island is uneven and even newly constructed roads go under water during high tide," he told DW. "Any cyclone could wash away the island easily."
        Shafiq also pointed out that the island is located in the Bay of Bengal far away from the mainland. "It takes more than three hours to reach the island by a trawler, and the sea is often rough, which makes the journey risky," he added.

       

    • Bangladesh's foreign minister:
      Rohingya crisis is a 'global problem'.

          - Deutsche Welle (Germany)

        .........................
      ........................

      Reuters News Service reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, in handcuffs, being taken to court. ©2018 BBC (U.K.)

    • Jailed Reuters journalists
      appeal to Myanmar's top court
      -- as rights group decries 'fear.'

          - Reuters News Service

        Lawyers for two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar, for breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, appealed to the Supreme Court, on Friday, against their conviction -- as a rights group said the government wielded repressive laws against peaceful critics. ...

  • 2019 March 16 - Saturday

  • 2019 March 17 - Sunday

      -------------

  • 2019 March 18 - Monday

  • 2019 March 19 - Tuesday

    • Myanmar military court
      to probe
      Rohingya atrocity allegations.

        Myanmar's military to "investigate" itself... again.
          - Reuters / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar's army said, on Monday, it had set up a military court to investigate its [own] conduct during a crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
        The court -- comprising a major-general and two colonels -- will investigate events in western Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017, the military said in a statement posted on the website of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the army commander-in-chief.
        "The information is released that the investigation court was formed with the following persons to further scrutinize and confirm the respective incidents," the military said.
        The court will respond to allegations made by the United Nations and rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accusing security forces of mass killings, rape and arson.
        * * *
        A UN fact-finding mission last year said the military campaign was orchestrated with "genocidal intent" and recommended charging Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals with the "gravest crimes under international law".
        Myanmar has denied the accusations of murder, rape and other abuses by its forces -- though Min Aung Hlaing said last month "a number of security men may have been involved".
        A previous military investigation in 2017 exonerated the security forces of any crimes.

        * * *
        The new court is "another bad faith maneuver" to fend off international pressure, said Nicholas Bequelin, Southeast Asia and Pacific Director of Amnesty International.
        "The military stands accused of the gravest crimes under international law and has shown no sign of reform," he said.
        "The idea that the Tatmadaw could investigate itself and ensure justice and accountability is both dangerous and delusional,"
      Bequelin added, referring to the army. ...

    • VIDEO:
      Women support group wants
      justice for Rohingya refugees
          - MSN.com (Microsoft Network)

  • 2019 March 20 - Wednesday

  • 2019 March 21 - Thursday

      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • UNHCR welcomes Bangladesh's plan
      to relocate Rohingyas
      to Bahasan Char island.

          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has lauded the Bangladesh government for its proactive steps to create an alternative settlement plan for Rohingyas.
        Visiting [U.N.] Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk... however, said any relocation must be voluntary in nature, and ensure livelihood.

        "We welcome the fact the government of Bangladesh has taken very active steps to identity alternative settlements," he said, replying to a question in Dhaka on Thursday.
        "You also know if you have been in Kutupalang or various camps in Cox's Bazar, there is huge congestion," he said, concluding his five-day visit in Bangladesh.
        The government is developing the river island habitable with its own cost of estimated Tk 23.12 billion. The relocation can start anytime soon as over 80 percent of the works are done.
        Some international NGOs are criticising the government for the move.
        Officials said this is needed to reduce congestion on the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, where nearly 1.2 million Rohingya have fled to escape military atrocities in Myanmar. The government has planned to relocate about 100,000 Rohingyas.
        The UNHCR official said the "UN has had very constructive discussion with the government of Bangladesh on the issue of relocation."
        "It's important for us we continue this discussion," he said, adding that for them it is important to ensure that the relocation takes place on voluntary basis.
        At the same time, he said, the [Bangladesh] government has to ensure that [the Rohingya] can continue livelihood. "Still we are having discussion." ...
        (same topic at: March 22, 23 and 25 )

  • 2019 March 22 - Friday

    • UNHCR blames Myanmar for
      Rohingya repatriation delay.

          - The Independent (Bangladesh)

        Volker Turk, the [United Nations] assistant high commissioner for protection, UNHCR, yesterday, said the Myanmarese government has not created a conducive environment for the repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine state.
        Saying that the situation was really critical in Rakhine state, Turk said even UNHCR has not been allowed to enter the area for the past few months. The UNHCR official told this to the media at a city hotel during his visit to Bangladesh to assess the situation of Rohingya refugees here and explore potential solutions.
        Asked about alleged fund misappropriation by the international community, he said: "We are very strict in using funds. There is transparency in it."
        Asked about the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhashanchar [island],
      Turk replied: "It's true that some Rohingya camps, including Kutupalong, are very congested. In this case, the Bangladeshi government's move to relocate some of the refugees is good, but the relocation should be voluntary. We are discussing the issue with the government."
        He also asserted that the international community will continue to support the Rohingya community.
        Asked about a possible solution to the crisis, the UNHCR officia said: "We are engaging with the Myanmarese authorities in this regard. We have a number of developments on this front. What we need is to continue pressurising the Myanmarese government." He also said Rohingyas belonged to Myanmar and all-out efforts were necessary for their repatriation. "But the return should be safe and dignified," he added.
        "I have talked to a number of Rohingyas. Many of them are traumatized. They want solution to the crisis and want to resume a normal and productive life in their homeland," he said.
        Turk also said UNHCR was a humanitarian organisation and it stood with distressed people like Rohingyas, but a solution will have to come from the government.
        Lauding the support of the local community for the Rohingyas during their influx, he said: "The people of Bangladesh, especially those living at Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar, were the first respondents in 2017, and they have continued to show a tremendous humanitarian spirit and generosity. The impact of the presence of refugees on their lives must be recognised and addressed."
        He also said the Rohingyas felt grateful to the Bangladeshi government and the people for finding sanctuary here.
        The UNHCR envoy also underscored the need for providing skill training to the Rohingyas, so that they can lead productive lives after they return to Myanmar.

    • UN official welcomes
      Rohingya relocation plan.

        Critics have raised concerns about the island's ability to withstand violent storms during the monsoon.
          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

       
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      A senior UN official has welcomed Bangladesh's plan to move Rohingya refugees out of the country's congested camps -- but said any move to transfer some 100,000 of them to a flood-prone island should be voluntary.
        Volker Turk, an assistant high commissioner at the UN's refugee agency, said Thursday (Mar 21) that the southeast Kutupalong [refugee] camp, the world's largest -- and now home to some 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled neighbouring Myanmar -- is highly overcrowded.
        "If you have been in Kutupalong or various camps in Cox's Bazar area, it is clear that there is huge congestion," the UNHCR official told reporters in Dhaka after concluding a five-day visit to the country.
        "So we welcome the fact that the government of Bangladesh has taken very active steps to identify alternative settlement (for the Rohingya refugees)."
        He added that the UN was still in "discussion" with the Bangladeshi authorities about the relocation of refugees to the island of Bhashan Char, in the Bay of Bengal -- but said refugees must be willing to move, and be able to continue their "livelihood" there.
        * * *
        International aid agencies --- including a UN rapporteur, in January -- have raised concerns about the island's ability to withstand violent storms during the monsoon. [Over the last 50 years,] hundreds of thousands [of people] have died in Bangladesh from cyclones... mostly in coastal areas.
        * * *
        A senior Bangladeshi minister, last week, said moving refugees to the remote island -- which is an hour away, by boat, from the mainland -- will start from next month as the majority of the construction work has finished.

        Dhaka has spent some US$280 million transforming the muddy silt islet that only emerged nearly two decades ago.
        Local officials have pointed to a newly-constructed three-metre (nine-feet) embankment around the island that they say will keep out tidal surges in the event of a cyclone.
        Many Rohingya have openly opposed the idea to migrate to the island, saying they would prefer to stay close to the Myanmar border. ...
        * * *
        Bangladesh had wanted to start relocating refugees to the island -- strictly off limit to the media -- last June, before the monsoon season began.
        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was then slated to open the new settlement on the island last October, but the inauguration was postponed.
        (same topic at: Jurist (law publication) )
        (same topic at: March 21, 23 and 25 )

  • 2019 March 23 - Saturday

    • UN draws up plans
      to ‘facilitate'
      Rohingya relocation to island.

          - Reuters / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        The United Nations is making plans to help Bangladesh relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island off its coast, documents seen by Reuters show -- a move opposed by many refugees, and that some human rights experts fear could spark a new crisis.
        * * *
        Bangladesh says transporting refugees to Bhasan Char -- a Bay of Bengal island, hours by boat from the mainland -- will ease chronic overcrowding in its camps at Cox's Bazar, which are home to more than 1 million Rohingya,
      members of a Muslim minority who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.
        Humanitarian and human rights groups have criticized the relocation proposal, saying the island is flood-prone, vulnerable to frequent cyclones, and could be completely submerged during a high tide.
        A document drawn up by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN's food aid arm, shows the agency has supplied the Bangladesh government with detailed plans – including a timeline and budget – of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya transported to the island within weeks. It stresses that any relocation should be voluntary, and done "in accordance with humanitarian principles and code of conduct". ...
        (same topic at: March 21, 22 and 25 )

  • 2019 March 24 - Sunday

      ----------

  • 2019 March 25 - Monday

      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • Human rights groups slam
      draft UN plans
      to send Rohingya
      to barren island.

        UN World Food Programme preliminary plan, to accommodate relocation of Rohingya to "floating" island, blasted by Asia office of Human Rights Watch and by Fortify Rights of Southeast Asia.
          - [London] Daily Telegraph (U.K.)

        Human rights groups have reacted with horror to reports of United Nations draft plans to help relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps to a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
        A document drawn up this month by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN's food aid arm, and seen by Reuters, has revealed how the agency supplied the Bangladeshi government with detailed plans of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya being transported to the island on a voluntary basis.
        Dhaka has long insisted that it is unable cope with the dramatic influx of refugees to camps in Cox's Bazar since a brutal crackdown by the Burmese military in August 2017, said by UN investigators to have been conducted with "genocidal intent", prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.
        Relocation to the uninhabited, remote island of Bhasan Char has been touted as a solution to chronic overcrowding. But many Rohingya are fearful to go, and human rights experts warn that the move -- to an island made of silt, and vulnerable to frequent cyclones -- could spark another crisis. ...
        * * *
        "The reality is the Rohingya don't want that one-way ticket to Bhasan Char, because it promises to be a Rohingya Alcatraz -- with freedom of movement restricted, health and other services limited, and no guarantees of survival if a typhoon hits and submerges the island,"

      ~ Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director, Human Rights Watch
        * * *
        "This isn't strategic diplomacy, it's spineless. Bhasan Char isn't a solution, it's a problem. The government wants everyone to believe this is the only option for overcrowded camps, but's that untrue. The authorities can find other options in Cox's Bazar District."
      ~ Matthew Smith, Fortify Rights
        * * *
        Mozammel Haque, the head of Bangladesh's cabinet committee on law and order, has previously described the accommodation of refugees as an internal affair -- dismissing concerns about Bhasan Char, and setting an April timeframe for relocation. ...
        (same topic at: March 21, 22 and 23 )

    • Bangladesh says no hurry
      to relocate Rohingya
      in talks with UN bodies.

      Text, photos, maps and diagrams of Bhashan Char island.
          - Reuters / CBC News (Canada)

        Bangladesh is not in a hurry to relocate Rohingya refugees to a Bay of Bengal island, a minister told Reuters on Monday -- after the United Nations sought more details on the government's plan, criticized by some human rights groups.
       
        Bangladesh wants to move 100,000 of the nearly one million Rohingya Muslims sheltered in cramped camps in its southeastern district of Cox's Bazar to the remote island, known as Bhasan Char, which it has been developing for the past two years.
        The United Nations is making plans to help Bangladesh with the move, Reuters reported last week.
        But in a statement on Monday, the world body called for a thorough assessment to ensure the viability of the move, saying it was discussing "critical protection and operational issues" ahead of any relocation.

        * * *
      UN studying operational issues:
        "We're also examining the potential operational implications of setting up a humanitarian response on Bhasan Char, including the requirements, time frames and costs involved," it said.
        Bangladesh is in talks with UN humanitarian bodies, and working on their observations, said Enamur Rahman, the junior minister for disaster management and relief.
        "So we are going a little slow. There's no exact date to relocate," he added.
        "We are not in a hurry, and it will start only when all these UN bodies and Rohingya people feel the area is ready."
        Rahman said the government was working to build more cyclone shelters on the island, which is hours from the mainland by boat. Many Rohingya have opposed the transfer plan.
        A World Food Program document shows the UN's food agency supplied Bangladesh with detailed plans, including a timeline and a budget, on providing for thousands of Rohingya taken to the island within weeks.
        The March 12 plans show how the agency and its partners "may facilitate the identification, staging, forward movement, reception, and sustainment of refugees" on the island, based on an initial appeal for donor funds from $9 million to $19 million US.
        Densely populated Bangladesh says it has been grappling with the large refugee numbers.
        The number of refugees in Cox's Bazar has swelled since August 2017, when a Myanmar military-led crackdown that UN investigators have said was conducted with "genocidal intent" prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee.
        Buddhist-majority Myanmar has denied almost all accusations of atrocities made by refugees, saying its security forces engaged in a legitimate counter-terrorism operation. ...

    • Lok Sabha polls:
      Rohingya issue takes center-stage
      in Jammu [in north-central India]

          - GreaterKashmir.com (India)

            (NOTE: The quality of this media outlet is unknown)
            (NOTE: Jammu is a disproportionately-Muslim province of India)

    • An artistic respite
      at a Rohingya camp.

        Entertainment and creativity in camps:
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        ...While the Rohingya crisis seems to be at an impasse, efforts to disseminate the fortitude of the most persecuted people in the world continues.
        Just a few weeks ago, UNHCR's special envoy and renowned actor, Angelina Jolie, came to the Rohingya Camps, spent time interacting with the children, and then made an impassioned appeal to the world to come forward and do the essential to help the unfortunate people.
        Just recently, there was another event at the Rohingya camps -- one which did not involve the oppressed to only relate their horrific experiences of suffering and oppression: ... a workshop for creative expressions at the Ukhiya camp in Cox's Bazaar. The aim was to give the children a chance to escape the monotony of camp life, and engage in creative pursuit involving fun, imagination, [and] excitement.
        Only a few weeks ago there was another much welcome distraction at the camp -- a match between a Dhaka based football club and a team of Rohingya.
      * * *
        ...more than one and a half years on, the real picture states that the Rohingya are here -- and since they will possibly remain for some time, it's a humane move to add uplifting diversions to their lives.
        The five-day art workshop at camp 4 in Ukhiya was aimed to give the children a chance to relegate the banality of camp life and plunge into artistic freedom.
        Amazingly, most of the artwork represents hope, laughter, fun, and joy -- an indication that, despite memories of violence and torture, children harbour a desire for a better day ahead. ...

  • 2019 March 26 - Tuesday

    • Aid for Rohingya
      costing taxpayers millions,
      says [Malaysia's] foreign minister.

          - Free Malaysia Today (Malaysia)

        GOMBAK: [Malaysia's] Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, says the government is committed to supporting displaced Rohingya refugees but warns that humanitarian aid is costing millions in taxpayers' money.
        He said great effort had been made to send aid to Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh as well as here in the country, but that no solution is in sight.
        "We are concerned that more people will be affected, and the cost will go up.

        "I am not saying we want to be calculative," he added. "(But) a lot of money has been spent, and we could have used it for something else."
        Speaking at a forum (on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other accountability mechanisms) at International Islamic University, Malaysia, here today, he said taxpayers' money is being spent all because one country is involved in genocide.
        He added that Canada and Qatar had pledged millions to help the Rohingya.
        * * *
        At a press conference later, he was asked if Putrajaya would take the case to ICC. To this, he said he would wait for a report from the forum.
        He also said talks on repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar had been ongoing since November, with no progress yet.
        Over 100,000 Rohingya had come to Malaysia, and more might enter the country if Myanmar does not put an end to the issue, he added.
        He nonetheless assured that Putrajaya is doing its best to push for a stop to the conflict, and for justice to be upheld and citizenship reinstated for the Rohingya.
        He said ASEAN [(Southeast Asian)] countries would uphold their policy of non-interference [in each others' internal affairs,] but had invited Myanmar to discuss closure to the issue through constructive engagement.
        Former home minister Syed Hamid Albar, who was also present at the forum, said the ICC was an avenue of consideration if Myanmar does not take steps to solve the issue.
        He said the issue of repatriation and reinstatement of citizenship for the Rohingya should be looked into, and that Myanmar should practise inclusive democracy.

  • 2019 March 27 - Wednesday

  • 2019 March 28 - Thursday

    • Human Trafficking:
      Rohingyas faced horrific crimes
      in 2012-2015:
      ~ Official report.

        Traffickers also targeted Bangladeshis.
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        A transnational human-trafficking syndicate committed "crimes against humanity" in Malaysia and Thailand against the Rohingya from 2012 to 2015, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Fortify Rights, a nongovernment rights body, have found in a six-year investigation.
        During 2012-15, more than 170,000 people boarded ships from Myanmar and Bangladesh bound for Malaysia and Thailand, and the trade over Rohingyas is estimated to have generated between $50 and $100 million a year.
        At sea, and in the camps of Thai and Malaysian borders, the trafficking network committed "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, and rape, as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against Rohingya civilians from Myanmar and Bangladesh" ...the report said.

        The majority of people trafficked were Rohingya Muslims, but in late 2014 and 2015, traffickers began to target Bangladeshi nationals as well, says the joint report, "Sold Like Fish," released in Bangkok [Thailand] yesterday.
        "The Commission and Fortify Rights therefore have reasonable grounds to believe that human-trafficking networks committed crimes against humanity at sea and in camps in Malaysia and Thailand against Rohingya civilians from 2012 to 2015," said the report.
        * * *
        Meanwhile, dozens of cases of trafficking of Rohingyas from the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar to Malaysia and Indonesia made headlines in recent months. ...
        * * *
       
      [NOTE: article continues with details of
          atrocities in 2012-2015,
          and lagging official responses
      .]

  • 2019 March 29 - Friday

      -------

  • 2019 March 30 - Saturday

  • 2019 March 31 - Sunday

    • First Rohingya woman shot dead
      in Bangladesh drugs clampdown.

          - AFP / Business Standard (India)

        Bangladesh security forces have shot dead a Rohingya woman in a border town known as a gateway for smuggling meth pills from neighbouring Myanmar, officials said Sunday.
        Rights activists said Rumana Akter, 20, was the first Rohingya woman to be killed in a clampdown by Bangladesh authorities against the narcotics trade.
        She was one of three alleged smugglers killed in two separate incidents in Teknaf, which is close to refugee camps housing about one million Muslim Rohingya who have fled from Myanmar.
        Teknaf is a hub for dealing in "yaba" -- a methamphetamine-based stimulant that translates in Thai as "crazy medicine" -- which has become popular in Bangladesh. More than 300 people -- including nearly 20 Rohingya -- have been killed in the clampdown launched in May last year.
        Impoverished Rohingya refugees are used by dealers to transport the drug from Myanmar, officials say.

        * * *
        Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said the Rohingya woman was killed during a gunfight between security forces and armed smugglers on the Naf river, which acts as a border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
        BGB spokesman Shariful Islam told reporters the woman's body was found after a 15-minute gunbattle "along with 10,000 pieces of yaba and three sharp knives in her bag".
        Akter came from a refugee camp in Teknaf.
        Rights activists questioned the death, saying the woman's name was not on a list of known drug traders kept by Bangladeshi law agencies.
        Two alleged drug traders were killed by police in a separate incident in Teknaf late Saturday. Police said 10,000 pieces of yaba, six guns and 18 rounds of ammunition were found.
        As part of the clampdown, Bangladesh authorities, in October, made yaba a class-A banned substance -- and parliament passed a law allowing the death penalty for dealing in the drug.
        (same topic, more info, at:
        - UCA News (Hong Kong, China)
          (Union of Catholic Asian News, Ltd.)
          (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown.)

          ...which adds:
          Rumana Akter, 20, from the Leda refugee camp near Teknaf town of Cox's Bazar, died in hospital after being shot during a police operation, a police official said.
          Police alleged the married woman was involved in a drug syndicate trafficking yaba
          * * *
          "Police learnt a large cache of yaba was ready to enter Bangladesh territory via the Naf River during the early hours of March 31. When police officers attempted to arrest the suspects, they came under gun and knife attack and they responded by firing," Prodip Kumar Das, officer in charge of Teknaf police station, told ucanews.com.
          * * *
        Rohingya arrests:
          In recent weeks, police have arrested dozens of Rohingya for possessing yaba in both Cox's Bazar and capital Dhaka, local media have reported.
          Bangladesh's war against illegal drugs started in May 2018 after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed to uproot the menace of drugs from the country.
          Since then more than 300 people, mostly alleged drug dealers, have been killed in so-called police shootouts. About 25,000 have been arrested on drug charges. Among the dead are 20 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
          Holy Cross Archbishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong Archdiocese, which covers Cox's Bazar, said if some Rohingya are involved in drug dealing, then they have been exploited to do so.
          "The government needs to collaborate with aid agencies in the camps so to best promote anti-drug awareness among Rohingya refugees," Archbishop Costa told ucanews.com.
          Bangladesh has also amended its drug laws and introduced the death penalty as the highest punishment for drug dealing.
          Rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, have urged the government to stop what they describe as "extrajudicial killings" in the name of a war against drugs.
          Prominent rights activist Sultana Kamal said both drug dealing and extrajudicial killings are heinous crimes.

          "We've warned that due to their poverty and misery the Rohingya might get involved in drug trafficking and sadly it has happened.
          But we denounce extrajudicial killings and demand a proper probe into all of the deaths,"
        Kamal told ucanews.com.
          "Both poor Bangladeshi people and Rohingya should get adequate support to have a better life, so they don't see the need to resort to drug trafficking."



APRIL 2019:

  • 2019 April 1 - Monday

      -------

  • 2019 April 2 - Tuesday

    • Stop expelling Rohingya students:
      ~ HRW [to Bangladesh]

        Global rights group alleges Bangladesh of expelling Rohingya students from schools
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Bangladesh should cease expulsion of Rohingya refugee students from schools, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement issued today.
        Alleging that Bangladesh government has expelled Rohingya students near refugee settlements, it said that authorities should ensure formal education for all children.
        "The Bangladeshi government's policy of tracking down and expelling Rohingya refugee students -- instead of ensuring their right to education -- is misguided, tragic, and unlawful," said Bill Van Esveld, senior children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
        "Education is a basic human right. The solution to children feeling compelled to falsify their identities to go to secondary school isn't to expel them but to let them get the education they deserve," Esveld added in the statement.
        HRW mentioned of interviewing 13 Rohingya refugee students, all of who said that school authorities read out a government-issued notice ordering their expulsion.
        "As long as Rohingya refugee children aren't able to obtain a formal education in the camps, Bangladesh should allow them to enroll in local schools," Van Esveld said. "The government should stop thwarting Rohingya students' right to learn."

    • [Bangladesh parliament speaker] Shirin
      urges Ankara [Turkey government]
      to help safe repatriation of Rohingyas.

          - Daily Sun (Bangladesh)

            (NOTE: Quality of this media outlet is unknown)
        [Bangladesh parliamentary] Speaker Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, on Tuesday, urged Turkey to play a strong role for safe and peaceful repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
        The Speaker made the appeal as Turkey Ambassador in Dhaka, Devrim Ozturk, met her at Sangsad Bhaban in [Bangladesh's] capital,
      said an official press release.
        During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations, parliamentary activities, safe and peaceful repatriation of Rohingyas and trade and business issues.
        Shirin said [Bangladesh's] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has opened up a new door of humanity by sheltering the forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
        She highlighted the Turkey’s humanitarian support to this end and recalled the visit of Turkey’s first lady to Rohingya camps here.
        Recalling the existing bilateral relations between the two countries, the Speaker said it would further be strengthened in the days to come.
        * * *
        The Turkey envoy said historically Turkey and Bangladesh have similarities in tradition, culture and trade and commerce. He also hoped that the existing bilateral relations between the two countries would reach to a new height by exchanging views and experience of their parliamentarians.

    • What A Conflict In Myanmar
      Has Done To A Refugee Center
      in Western Kansas.

        As the U.S. drastically cuts refugees accepted into the U.S., one American midwestern community struggles to lift those who have arrived -- but finds Rohingya Muslim refugees, fleeing Burmese Buddhist persecution, now avoiding U.S. citizenship classes that include Burmese Buddhist refugees and translator.
          - Kansas News Service / KCUR radio (USA)

            (public broadcasting service)   For years, one of the first stops for immigrant groups arriving in Garden City, Kansas has been an apartment in a brick building.
        A sign posted on the front door welcomes people in four languages. Inside, tables and chairs in the living room and kitchen form a classroom. Refugees learn English and the ways of American life from those who navigated the culture shock just a few years before them.

        Regardless of religion or customs, for years refugees at LiveWell Finney County's Neighborhood Learning Center have bonded while studying and learning to adjust to life in a small American city on the high plains.
        More recently, though, the dynamic shifted.
        First, the number of people flooding into the region, and the country, slowed.
        Then Garden City saw another, more subtle change — tension between Muslims and Buddhists who ran from the same troubled country of Myanmar.
        In 2017, workers at the refugee center noticed rifts from the home they'd left had taken roost in the home they'd adopted.
        "The Rohingyas ... were just really upset about the situation at home. And then, also, not that comfortable being around Burmese" said Birgit Lemke, the program coordinator for LiveWell Finney County. "The Rohingyas just didn't come to class anymore."
        * * *
        Over the decades, people fleeing political instability, conflict and genocide steadily landed in Garden City. In the region's meatpacking plants, refugees can quickly find jobs that few native-born Americans will take on. The city also includes immigrant communities that offer them a connection to their homelands of Southeast Asia, Eastern Africa and Central America.
        But new federal immigration rules decreased that resettlement drastically. In 2018, the United States took in 22,491 refugees, under an immigration limit of 45,000 [from all countries, combined]. The cap fell to 30,000 in 2019.
        [RCN editor note: This is less than one one-hundredth, of 1%, of the current U.S. population. By comparison, tiny, impovershed Bangladesh has taken in over 700,000 Rohingya refugees in just the last two years, on top of the 300,000 it was already hosting.]

        Before the new limits were set, then-Governor Sam Brownback's administration signaled it was less willing to take in more newcomers to Kansas, and ended the state's refugee resettlement program.
        The dwindling influx of refugees triggered the closing of the International Rescue Committee's Garden City office that had helped with the day-to-day needs of people adjusting to life in a new country.
        * * *
        As people find their way to southwest Kansas from troubled Myanmar, once known as Burma, ethnic tensions have followed. Families from the predominantly Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority, who escaped violence in Myanmar, found themselves in the same rooms with Buddhist Burmese refugees — members of the dominant ethnic group they blamed for the purge in their homeland.
        Now, the Rohingya have mostly abandoned English classes at the local refugee center — signaling that ethnic divisions traveled with them to a new continent.

        * * *
        The center is the nucleus for refugees and immigrants learning English and who need help with health care, housing and job applications.
        Immigrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, Haiti, Myanmar, Laos and the Democratic Republic of Congo sit side by side -- in a small apartment converted to a classroom -- and answer questions asked by their teacher. Some students are studying for the citizenship test.
        On any given day, the scene at the learning center is similar: immigrants who've lived in Kansas for years, helping immigrants, who have more recently arrived, learn English.
        But some immigrants are largely absent from that scene.
        "With the Rohingya people, we try our best to help them," [Burmese Buddhist refugee / health worker / translator] Pyi said.
        "They have family back home -- and me, of course, you're going to feel bad... because of what happened back home."
        * * *
       
      [Coordinator] Lemke said most Rohingya have shied away from the center.
        "People really have not been coming back," she said.
        * * *
        While Lemke and Pyi have worked to address the absence of Rohingya students, other refugees attending the center may soon have nowhere to go.
        The grant funding the Neighborhood Learning Center expires at the end of June, and the organization hasn't been granted new funding.

        Callie Dyer, executive director of Livewell Finney County, says people who arrived in Garden City when the center opened, six years ago, still go there.
        "It's a place where people feel safe, and they trust the individuals that are there to help them," Dyer said. "But we also are a place where other organizations in town dovetail, come in and let the residents know of what they're doing."

    • Think Out Loud
      topics:
      • Jails,
      • Talking Business,
      • Rohingya Crisis.
          - Oregon Public Broadcasting (USA)

        This week, the Oregon Historical Society is hosting a symposium on the crisis now facing Rohingya Muslims in Burma. There are more than 100 Rohingya families currently settled in Southeast Portland, [Oregon]. Yusuf Iqbal is a local community leader, and Kyle Wood is a lawyer who has litigated cases involving genocide.

  • 2019 April 3 - Wednesday

    • UN appoints head of
      Rohingya investigation team.

          - NHK World (Japan)

        The United Nations has appointed a head of a mission that will investigate alleged human rights violations on minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
        On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Nicholas Koumjian, a prosecutor from the United States, experienced in international criminal justice.

        Koumjian will lead the team and start visiting suspected sites of human rights abuses to conduct interviews.
        British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce spearheaded efforts to set up the mission and will help organize its funding.
        Last July, Myanmar's government set up its own [investigating] commission. It consists of two foreign nationals -- including a former Japanese ambassador to the UN -- and two members from Myanmar.
        Observers are skeptical about how much Myanmar's authorities will cooperate with the UN investigation, given their general mistrust of the body and western countries.

    • India:
      UN human rights experts
      condemn Rohingya deportations.

          - United Nations
            as transcribed on
            Scoop.co.nz (New Zealand)
            (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown)
        [UN Human Rights officials condemn India's decision to deport another three Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.]

    • Rohingya issue dominates agenda
      at [Bangladesh Prime Minister's]
      first meeting with UK envoy.

        UK companies "very keen" to invest in Bangladesh, he tells PM.
        PM Hasina emphasizes wish for rapid repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar.

          - United News of Bangladesh

        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reiterated that Bangladesh wants safe and quick repatriation of the displaced Rohingya, who took shelter in Bangladesh.
        She expressed this view when newly appointed British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Robert Chatterton Dickson, met her, at her official residence Ganobhaban, on Tuesday evening.
        PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
        "It'll be good for all if the Rohingya can be repatriated to their own country as soon as possible ensuring safety and security,"
      the Prime Minister was quoted as saying, by her press secretary.
        The UK High Commissioner also wanted the safe and successful repatriation of the displaced Rohingya.
        Focusing on the scenario of the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, the Prime Minister said her government is carrying out its best effort to rehabilitate the Rohingya, though they are large in number.
        [PM Hasina] told the British envoy that the locals are now suffering for such huge number of Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar. Some 40,000 newborn babies have already been born in the refugee camps there, she added.
        Sheikh Hasina emphasised the implementation of the recommendations put forward by the commission headed by the late Kofi Annan to the Myanmar authorities to solve the Rohingya crisis.
        In this regard, she also pointed to the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
        * * *
        During the meeting, Sheikh Hasina relayed her government's achievements on the socioeconomic front, saying that the aim of her government is to improve the living standards of the common people further.
        Welcoming the newly appointed British High Commissioner, the Prime Minister said that "very good bilateral relations" prevail between Bangladesh and the UK. "We want to strengthen this [Bangladesh-U.K.] relationship further on the economic front," she told Dickson.
        The UK High Commissioner highly praised the recent socioeconomic uplift of Bangladesh, saying people's confidence in Bangladesh has grown, leading to British companies being "very keen" to come up with more investment in Bangladesh. ...

    • Rakhine,
      the parlous state.

        Escalating fighting, bitter and growing ethnic tensions, and mysterious killings, are blighting Rakhine State -- and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.
          - Frontier Myanmar (Myanmar/Burma)

            (NOTE: This article appears independent, but this publication may be subject to Myanmar military control.)
            (NOTE: This article is presented in RCN because it shows the current ethnic violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state (recently fled by most Rohingya, and to which they are supposed to be repatriated). This current violence is between Rakhine rebels (the "Arakan Army"), seeking control of Rakhine state ("Arakan"), and Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, which is heavily dominated by the country's Bamar majority. Both factions are Buddhist, and have previously worked together to attack the Rohingya Muslims and Hindus during the recent years' purges in Rakhine state.)

        The fighting between the Arakan Army [(AA)] and the government was a smouldering issue at a meeting with non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in [Myanmar's capital,] Nay Pyi Taw, on March 21.
        It was the first meeting between the government-appointed National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) and the eight non-signatories [(leadership groups of ethnic factions in Myanmar)], which also include the United Wa State Party, the Kachin Independence Organisation and the Shan State Progress Party.
        * * *
        The AA's political wing, the United League of Arakan, was represented at the meeting by Colonel Kyaw Han, who had told reporters that one of the group's objectives was to establish a military headquarters in Rakhine State, where it enjoys considerable support.
        The AA believed that only a "Rakhine army" would be able to take responsibility for peace and security in the state, Kyaw Han said.
        * * *
        Sources at the meeting said Kyaw Han's comments were shot down by the vice chair of the NRPC,
      Dr Tin Myo Win. The sources quoted him as saying that the government was taking necessary measures to prevent an "armed group," that posed a threat to peace and security, from establishing a permanent presence in Rakhine.
        Tin Myo Win said that before the AA had become active in Rakhine, the state was "white territory", meaning that it was free of conflict, unlike areas designated as "brown" or "black".
        The sources said he repeatedly used the term "white territory" to emphasise the government's view that Rakhine was no longer peaceful because of the AA.
        Tin Myo Win urged the AA to participate in political dialogue instead of fighting against the government.
        * * *
        The rise of the AA -- and the fighting with the Tatmadaw that has escalated since late last year -- has ensured that northern Rakhine has remained in the headlines since the attacks by Rohingya militants, in August 2017, and the ensuing counter-insurgency operation that sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to safety in neighbouring Bangladesh.
        A curfew has been in effect in Maungdaw Township since the first attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in October 2016.
        The increase in fighting between the AA and the Tatmadaw, and a series of mysterious killings, has created a precarious environment in Rakhine.
        In recent months, politicians and public servants have been assassinated in the state capital, Sittwe, as well as Rathedaung, Myebon and Mrauk-U townships.
      The streets of Sittwe have been eerily quiet at night since last December, when a military intelligence officer was shot dead in public. Three Rakhine youths have been arrested over the incident.
        The government's severe measures aimed at maintaining law and order have fuelled deeply felt resentment among the Rakhine, towards the Bamar-dominated government and Tatmadaw, over historical and contemporary grievances, including the impoverishment of their state.
        It used to be common for Rakhine Chief Minister U Nyi Pu to be accompanied by about 20 police in public. But when he attended the opening of a market in Sittwe, in December, he was guarded by nearly 100 security personnel.
        Ordinary citizens are also nervous. A journalist in Sittwe said he was so concerned about safety, and the risk of being attacked, that he made sure never to cover his face in public.
        * * *
        An illustration of the hostility that many Rakhine harbour, towards the Union government, came after government spokesperson, U Zaw Htay, warned them not to support the AA.
        "Do they want to see a cycle of violence lasting decades?" Zaw Htay said on January 7. "I want to tell the Rakhine people who are supporting [the AA]: Don't think about yourself, but think about your next generation."
        The warning, which was issued after a high-level security meeting in Nay Pyi Taw -- after the AA attacks on security posts, in northern Rakhine, on January 4, that left 13 police dead -- drew outrage from many Rakhine people. Social media posts expressed support for the AA, and some young people publicly declared their intention to join the armed group.
        Support for the AA seems stronger than ever, even among those who have been most affected by the fighting. At a monastery in Mrauk-U providing shelter for hundreds of people displaced by the fighting, a 40-year-old woman told Frontier in early March: "We can run from the fighting, we can suffer. It's not any worse than before. We are just waiting for the AA's victory."
        Although it is mainly members of the state's Rakhine majority that have been affected by the fighting, it has also disrupted the lives of smaller ethnic groups, such as the Mro and other communities who live in remote mountainous areas far from any town.
        Hundreds of Mro and others were displaced by fighting in Kyauktaw Township earlier this year. They say they are suffering more from the fighting than the Rakhine because of discrimination. Mro and others interviewed at a camp in Kyauktaw Township told Frontier that the AA had confiscated their food and property because they were not Rakhine.
        The fighting on the ground in Rakhine is coinciding with battles in cyberspace -- as Rakhine, as well as Kachin, Shan and members of other ethnic nationalities, trade insults on social media with their Bamar compatriots. Even educated Rakhine, writing under their real names, are willing to get involved in these fierce online squabbles.
        U Ko Ko Gyi, "88 Generation" student leader, and chairperson of the People's Party, referred to the cyber war, at an event in Yangon on March 20, when he discussed the fighting in Rakhine.
        Citing the need to solve the conflict through political means, [the student leader] said, "Lobby groups are spreading their voices to annihilate and crush. [Because of this], the tension between the groups is getting worse."
        Hatred towards the Bamar manifests itself in many ways in the state; some Rakhine refer to the Tatmadaw as the "Bamar Tatmadaw". The animosity can be especially sharp in rural areas. During the recent visit to Mrauk-U, some of the Rakhine whom Frontier approached to interview refused to speak in Burmese.
        Anti-Bamar sentiment is clearly evident in Mrauk-U [in Rakhine state] -- the former capital of the once prosperous Arakan kingdom conquered by the Bamar Konbaung dynasty in 1784.
        Residents of other Rakhine townships have mainly expressed support for the AA on social media, but in Mrauk-U some citizens have displayed small Rakhine flags in front of their houses. Despite a warning from the state government that action would be taken against those displaying the flags, they can still be seen on some houses.
        Residents were infuriated, and tensions worsened, in Mrauk-U, after some of the town's historic pagodas were damaged by artillery fire on March 15.
        The AA and the Tatmadaw have each denied responsibility for the damage.
        At a high-level security meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, held to discuss the January 4 attacks, the Tatmadaw was ordered to "crush the terrorists", the Tatmadaw later claimed in a press conference.
        Asked at a subsequent press conference, held on February 25, why the Tatmadaw had yet to defeat the AA, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said it was because "the Arakan Army is our ethnic brother".

        The Tatmadaw campaign was initially focused on temporary camps the AA had established in remote areas but the armed group's guerilla tactics inflicted heavy casualties on government forces. However, few details have been disclosed on the extent of the losses.
        There are unconfirmed reports that Tatmadaw soldiers began refusing orders to fight the AA in rural areas, which is a possible reason why the AA was able to take the fight to the towns.
        * * *
        One consequence of the fighting -- and the heavy-handed treatment by government security forces of villagers suspected of sympathising with the AA -- has been the paralysis of local government in parts of Rakhine.
        On March 1, nearly 100 village-level General Administration Department (GAD) officials resigned en masse to protest the arrest of four counterparts, who were detained while attending a GAD meeting in Mrauk-U. The four were suspected of breaching the Unlawful Associations Act, for which the maximum penalty is three years' imprisonment.
        The Mrauk-U township administrator refused to accept the resignations, saying they needed to be submitted individually. After negotiations resulted in the release of the four detained officials on March 8, without charge, the village-level officials decided to submit individual resignations.
        "The problem is we do not know whether they [government] will arrest our men in the future," a 32-year old village tract administrator told Frontier.
        Many village-level officials complain of coming under pressure from both the AA and the Tatmadaw.
        "We are afraid of both sides," a village tract administrator who asked not to be named told Frontier.
        In December and January the AA sent threatening letters to some village tract administrators that told them to "cooperate" and warned against working for the government.
        Some village-level officials have been killed and others have disappeared, including the administrator of Than Chaung village tract in Kyauktaw, former pastor U Tun Nu, who was taken from his home by unknown men on the night of January 19.
        His wife, Daw Sandar Phyu, told Frontier she had no idea who had taken her husband, but that were wearing "speckled uniforms".
        Two men detained by the AA at Paletwa in Chin State on February 22 were more fortunate. The village tract administrator and its police chief were released a few days later.

    • Switzerland, Bangladesh
      hold political dialogue.

        Delegates visit Rohingya refugee camps and host communities, for which Switzerland has pledged $30 million in aid.
          - BDnews24.com

        The fourth round of bilateral political consultations between the foreign ministries of Switzerland and Bangladesh has taken place in Dhaka.
        Assistant State Secretary for Asia-Pacific of Switzerland, Raphael Nägeli, and Secretary (Bilateral and Consular) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, Kamrul Ahsan, led the delegations during the consultations on Tuesday.
        Apart from taking stock of the current status of bilateral relations, the two countries discussed ways to strengthen bilateral political, economic, development, and cultural cooperation during the consultations, the Swiss embassy said.
        The two sides exchanged views on socio-economic developments and human rights.

        The Swiss delegation also held an exchange with the inter-agency committee of the government of Bangladesh at the Ministry of Commerce.
        This committee was formed in September 2018 as a follow up to the Swiss presidential visit of February 2018 with the aim to promote bilateral trade and investment between Switzerland and Bangladesh.
        The economic relations between Switzerland and Bangladesh are growing rapidly. The trade volume has almost tripled since 2010, the embassy said.
        * * *
        The delegation met the representatives of the civil society, business, diplomatic community, international organisations, and INGOs during their stay in Dhaka.
        * * *
        During their stay in Bangladesh, the Swiss delegation travelled to the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, on April 1, to obtain a first-hand impression about the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
        Since 2017, Switzerland has committed more than $30 million in humanitarian aid to alleviate the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees as well as the host communities.

        * * *
        Under its current cooperation strategy, Switzerland is providing development assistance to Bangladesh in key areas such as income and economic development, democratic governance, and safer migration.

  • 2019 April 4 - Thursday

    • 'UN special envoy sees
      no immediate solution to Rohingya crisis'

          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        The United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener sees no immediate solution to the Rohingya crisis engulfing Bangladesh in the worst possible manner, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam has said.
        In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune, Kalam, the top government man on the ground to deal with the Rohingya crisis, shed light on different aspects of the dire situation that has evolved from the influx of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas...
        "I just met the special envoy. She also thinks that there is no immediate solution, although her office is trying," he told Dhaka Tribune at his office in Cox’s Bazar on Monday. ...

    • Myanmar villagers, lawmaker
      say 'helicopter attack'
      kills five Rohingya, wounds 13.

          - Reuters / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)
        Villagers and a lawmaker in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state said on Thursday (Apr 4) that a military helicopter attacked a group of Rohingya Muslims gathering bamboo, killing five and wounding 13, but a military spokesman declined to comment.
        Major-General Tun Tun Nyi said the army would release "true news" about the alleged incident in time. ...
        * * *
        The United Nations has accused the army of cracking down on the Muslim minority with "genocidal intent".
        More recently, the military has been fighting another armed group, the Arakan Army, which recruits mostly from the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist population.
        The latest incident occurred in a valley in Buthidaung township, near a village that was home to Rohingya Muslim families. ...
        * * *
        Many villages around Buthidaung were razed during the 2017 campaign against Rohingya, though the village that was home to the casualties from Wednesday's attack was spared at that time.
        * * *
        Myanmar’s leaders have vowed to crush all the rebels fighting for autonomy in Rakhine State, an area long scarred by complex ethnic divisions, and authorities have blocked most aid agencies' access to the area, raising fears of more civilian suffering.
        Stephan Sakalian, head of delegation in Myanmar at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said teams from the organisation had visited Buthidaung Hospital where 13 people were being treated for wounds, some of them in "urgent need of surgery".
        "ICRC and Myanmar Red Cross teams are following the situation very closely and offered our services in case of need, including medical supplies or transfer to the Sittwe hospital, as we did two weeks ago with 5 wounded civilians," he said. ...

  • 2019 April 5 - Friday

    • Thousands Displaced by
      Intensified Fighting in
      Myanmar's Rakhine State.

          - VOA (Voice of America) (U.S. propaganda radio)

        The U.N. Human Rights Office says more than 20,000 civilians in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State have been forced to flee their homes in recent weeks in the face of escalating fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army.
        The U.N. condemns what appear to be indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the military, as well as violence perpetrated by armed fighters in Rakhine state.
        It says it has received credible reports of the killing of civilians, burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, abductions and other forms of abuse.
        * * *
        U.N. Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said that on April 3 two military helicopters fired on civilians tending cows and paddy fields. She said at least seven civilians were killed and 18 others injured in the incident.
        "As the international community is taking steps towards accountability for crimes against civilians in previous years, the Myanmar military is again carrying out attacks against its own civilians - attacks which may constitute war crimes. The consequences of impunity will continue to be deadly," she said.
        Shamdasani said all victims in this week’s attack were Rohingya Muslims. But she noted civilians of various ethnicities have come under fire in Rakhine and neighboring Chin state.

        She told VOA the Rakhine Arakan Army that is fighting the Myanmar military recruits mainly from among the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community. She said the group and its issues are distinct from the Rohingya Muslim community.
        "This is an armed group that was formed, I believe, almost a decade ago and they have got their own grievances about the lack of proper governance, consultation by the central government with these communities. They have economic grievances - all sorts of gripes with the government about injustice that they have been suffering through the years," Shamdasani said.
        The U.N. spokeswoman said their complaints are quite different from those of the Rohingya Muslims in the same region, who are suffering from systematic discrimination.
        The U.N. rights office is calling on the warring groups to immediately stop their hostilities, to ensure civilians are protected and to grant humanitarian access to all areas of northern Rakhine.

    • Rohingya Settle In
      For The Long Haul,
      Even As Bangladesh
      Wants Refugees To Go Home.

          - NPR (National Public Radio)

        [Article includes exceptional photos of construction underway, and other factors.]
        Along the edge of the largest camp sheltering Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, hundreds of men and women with shovels and wicker baskets are turning a barren hill into a parking lot-sized plateau. The newly leveled land will eventually hold new stronger shelters for refugees from overcrowded parts of the camps.
        Under the direction of engineers from the World Food Program, the day laborers are building retaining walls, terracing slopes and digging massive drainage ditches.
        "We are here creating safe land for living," declares Mosa Alshalabi, a WFP engineer. "Because that soil," he says pointing at some sandy cliffs in front of him, "that soil is not safe at all. All these houses when it rains, the soil [beneath them] will be washed away."
        The Bangladeshi government continues to insist that the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees crammed into camps like this one outside Cox's Bazar are just temporary visitors. It wants them to go home.
        But a year and a half after most of the refugees arrived, there are few signs that they will leave anytime soon. Shoring up land for new homes, growing their own food and enrolling in religious schools, they appear to be settling in for the long haul. ...
        * * *
        In fact — if other refugee crises around the globe are a reasonable guide — it is rare for people fleeing conflict to return home very quickly. Some studies have said that the average refugee will end up in exile for 17 years, although that number has been disputed recently.
        Balukali is a densely settled part of what is now the largest refugee camp in the world — it merged with another camp, Kutupalong, and the combined camp now holds nearly 650,000 people [--more people than in most American cities ~RCN editor].
      This is more than twice the size of the world's next-biggest camp in Uganda, and about three times as large as the infamous Dadaab camp in Kenya.
        The Rohingya refugees in Balukali are packed so tightly together that the residents of one shelter can often reach out and touch their neighbors' hut. Workers have been trying to install solar street lights but have struggled to find enough open space to install concrete footings for the lamp poles. ...

  • 2019 April 6 - Saturday

    • Efforts Underway to Help
      Rohingya in Bangladesh
      Weather Next Monsoon Season.

          - VOA (Voice of America) (U.S. propaganda radio)

        The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and partners are scaling up emergency preparations to help hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees withstand a second monsoon season in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
        Heavy rains are expected in a few weeks. Aid agencies are racing to shore up flimsy shelters and stabilize shaky terrain before the monsoon season begins. UNHCR says the work ahead is monumental but preparations are off to a better start this year than last. ...

    • Bangladesh stops
      115 Rohingya refugees
      seeking to reach Malaysia.

          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        Bangladesh police have prevented 115 Rohingya refugees from being smuggled to Malaysia in rickety fishing boats, officials said on Saturday (Apr 6), but no suspected traffickers were detained.
        The group from the Kutupalong camp near Bangladesh's border with Myanmar - the biggest refugee settlement in the world - were stopped as they headed to boats in the Bay of Bengal.
        * * *
        The operation, which took place late Friday, was the latest in a series involving Rohingya refugees seeking to leave squalid camps for Malaysia, a more prosperous Muslim-majority nation.
        "We stopped a convoy of 15 auto-rickshaws and rescued 50 men, 39 women and 26 children," Bangladeshi police officer Anwar Hossain told AFP.
        "But we could not catch any traffickers."
        The officer said the Rohingya, who had already paid the traffickers some money, would be taken back to the camp.
        * * *
        So far this year, Bangladeshi security forces have stopped more than 300 Rohingya from attempting the trip on small fishing boats, which experts say are not fit for deep-sea navigation.
        The group detained Friday was the third prevented from heading to Malaysia this week alone.
        The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said the vulnerability of Rohingya to trafficking has increased enormously as livelihoods, support networks, and other fundamental systems are disrupted.
        "It is hard to comment on the scale of the activity, due to the clandestine nature of the activity," UNHCR spokeswoman Caroline Gluck told AFP.
        "The community finds it difficult to speak up."

    • EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT:
      Exiled to Nowhere:
      A Symposium on the Rohingya Crisis

      at Oregon Historical Society,
      Portland, Oregon, USA
        [The symposium] brings together survivors, activists, and internationally renowned experts to foster a better understanding of the crisis and explore possible paths forward. The symposium will be centered on the photography exhibit Exiled to Nowhere by documentary photographer Greg Constantine, on view at the Oregon Historical Society, April 5 – April 11, 2019... free and open to the public.
          - World Affairs Council of Oregon (USA)

  • 2019 April 7 - Sunday

  • 2019 April 8 - Monday

  • 2019 April 9 - Tuesday

    • OPINION & ANALYSIS:
      Chinese government
      to play mediator
      in sending back
      Rohingya refugees
      from Bangladesh
      to Myanmar

      In November 2017, China had proposed a three-step solution to address the Rohingya issue.
        The 2017 agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar hasn’t taken off -- primarily because Bangladesh insists on voluntary return of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

          - by Abhijit Chakravertty,
      (former special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat of India)
        Reuters / Economic Times (India)

        In a significant development, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ruling Bangladesh Awami League last week. It is noteworthy that after meeting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the visiting CPC Central Committee international development minister Song Tao confirmed that the discussions included Chinese mediation in ensuring repatriation of the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. He said China was in discussion with the Myanmar government in this regard.
        The 2017 agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar hasn’t taken off primarily because Bangladesh insists on voluntary return of Rohingyas to Myanmar, for which there are no takers as conditions have not been created that give the refugees confidence that they would be safe and secure in that country.
        Exacerbating the already complex situation,
      • Bangladesh has announced plans to relocate refugees in temporary shelters in a flood-prone island; and
      • Myanmar has revealed plans to set up designated [living] complexes -- away from their erstwhile homes -- for the returning Rohingyas.
        * * *
        The enactment of the Myanmar Nationalities Law by the junta in 1982 deprived the Rohingyas of citizenship status. In order to further emphasise their resolve, the Myanmar junta renamed the Arakan region as the Rakhine State.
        While earlier, too, Rohingyas had fled to Bangladesh to escape repression by the majority Buddhists and the military, the August 2017 exodus saw an unprecedented movement of over half a million people fleeing the Tatmadaw crackdown.
        * * *
        While Bangladesh continues to reel under the burden of hosting over half a million refugees, the regional powers India and China have attempted to find a solution. Both countries have major stakes in this region:
        * * *
        CHINA has the strategically critical Kyaukpyu deep sea port and the gas pipeline from there to its energy hungry landlocked province of Yunnan. The Rakhine State is also a crucial component of its Belt and Road Initiative.
        * * *
        INDIA, too, has economic and strategic interests in the region. India has invested in the Kaladan multi-modal project to connect Sittwe port to the [land-locked] northeast [of India]. However, for India there are, in addition, security concerns emanating from the presence of a large stateless and repressed Muslim population along its borders that potentially provide opportunities for radicalisation and terrorist recruitment.
        * * *
        In November 2017, CHINA had proposed a three-step solution to address the Rohingya issue:
      • FIRST: ceasefire on the ground,
      • SECOND: bilateral dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar to reach a workable solution, and
      • FINALLY: poverty alleviation, to tackle what it perceives as the root cause of the crisis.
        * * *
        While on-ground hostilities have ceased in Rakhine, and Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a repatriation agreement, the situation remains unchanged.
        * * *
        INDIA’s approach to the crisis, so far, has been to push for development in the region by operationalising the MoU with Myanmar on Rakhine State Development Programme.
        * * *
        Both [Chinese and Indian] approaches have not borne fruit.
        * * *
        The CHINESE perception of the root cause being poverty overlooks the flawed 1982 Myanmar Nationality Law and the repression of the Muslim Rohingyas by the majority Buddhists.
        However, while China may want to protect its investments in the region, it may not want a conclusive solution to the issue. It is perhaps not coincidental that major Ethnic Armed Organisations along the Chinese border did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015 -- while those abutting India and Thailand did so. The crisis provides China leverage on the Myanmar government, and an opportunity to meddle in India’s immediate neighbourhood.
        In this context it is noteworthy that China has often come to the defence of the Myanmar government over the Rohingya crisis.
        The recent MoU between the Bangladesh ruling party and the powerful CPC indicates yet another Chinese attempt to mediate in the Rohingya crisis -- after its "three step solution" proved to be a non-starter.

        * * *
        The INDIAN approach, too, would not yield lasting peace in the region because economic development may be a necessary -- but certainly not a sufficient -- condition for sustainable peace.
        A relook at the flawed Myanmar Nationality Law, enacted by the pre-democracy military regime, may be a difficult -- but perhaps essential -- ingredient of a long-lasting solution.

  • 2019 April 10 - Wednesday

  • 2019 April 11 - Thursday

    • Myanmar military chief
      thanks Beijing
      for support on Rohingya issue.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar military chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing, during a visit to Beijing, praised China as an "eternal friend" -- and thanked it for countering international pressure on Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis.
        During a meeting with members of China’s Central Military Commission and Joint Staff Department chief Gen Li Zuocheng on Tuesday, Gen Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar regards China as "an eternal friend" and "a strategic partner country," a Burmese daily [newspaper], The Irrawaddy, reports, quoting a statement from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief.
        "Myanmar is thankful of China as a good neighbor for its correct stance and standing against the international community over the Rakhine State issue," the military chief said.
        More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, to escape a military crackdown -- triggered by coordinated attacks on security posts in Rakhine by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, The Irrawaddy reports.
        The United Nations called the military’s actions a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
        Last year, China voted against the UN Human Rights Council’s move to establish a body to investigate possible genocide in Myanmar. Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the Rohingya issue should not be "complicated," "expanded" or "internationalized" because it was in essence an issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
        (same topic at: UCA News
        (NOTE: Quality of this media is unknown) )

    • PRESS RELEASE:
      [U.S. Senators]
      Cardin, Young, Durbin, Rubio, Merkley
      Renew Call for Sanctions
      on Burmese Officials
      for Rohingya Atrocities.

          - U.S. Senate (Office of Senator Merkley)

        U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), along with Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have renewed their bipartisan effort to impose sanctions on senior Burmese military officials who were responsible for the systematic human rights abuses against the Rohingya people and other minorities in Burma.
        Over 727,000 Rohingya have been forced from their homes following decades of systematic discrimination and dehumanization. The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019 (S. 1186) is a response to the compelling evidence that "the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya, the Muslim minority population of Burma," according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. ...

    • PHOTOS, VIDEOS & TEXT:
      Bhasan Char:
      The ‘floating’ island
      that has refugees terrified

      A disappearing island, cyclone season and 100,000 Rohingya refugees with nowhere else to go. What could go wrong?
        by Elise Thomas,
        (freelance journalist, and cybersecurity researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute).
          - Australian Broadcastng Corp. (Australia)

       
      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      In the Bay of Bengal, a tiny silt island has emerged
        Formed from sediment washed down from the Himalayas, it is most commonly called Bhasan Char ("floating island").
        It is three hours by boat from the coast of Bangladesh -- but heavy seas in the monsoon season often leave it cut off from the world.
        The island has existed for barely a decade, but it is already washing away, eroding at half a kilometre per year.
        Even in land-poor Bangladesh, the cyclone-lashed island has been uninhabited, used only for fishing or occasionally grazing cattle.
        But within a few weeks, it could be home to over 100,000 Rohingya refugees.

        * * *
        The island, which covers 52 square kilometres [(20 square miles)], has been floated as a mid-term solution [to Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee problem] for a few years.
        With a small city hastily constructed, it appears the government is serious.
        According to architectural plans, this "first phase" of construction will house 104,000 refugees.

        While tidal channels criss-cross the island, a flood defence system is supposed to protect the camp.
        Whether it will work remains to be seen.
        * * *
      ‘A prison for the Rohingyas’:
       
      Maung Maung Soe, 23, is one of more than a million Rohingya Muslims who’ve fled Myanmar and sought shelter in Bangladesh, [most of them arriving] since mid-2017.
        The UN have said their persecution in Myanmar may amount to genocide -- but, now, Maung Maung Soe has a new fear.
        As early as mid-April, the Bangladesh government hopes to begin transporting some 100,000 refugees to the flood-prone island to ease pressure on [the] overcrowded [refugee] camps at Cox’s Bazar.
        "We Rohingya are so worried about the government’s plans," says Maung Maung Soe.
        "Bhasan Char will be like a prison for the Rohingya."
        * * *
        Photographs, footage and architectural drawings hint at how the refugees will live.
        It looks as though each family will share a 3.6 metre by 1.2 metre (12-foot by 4-foot) concrete room -- with barred windows -- in a "family house" designed for 16-25 families.
        The roughly 64 people in each "family house" appear to share two kitchens and one toilet block.

        Family houses are grouped in clusters, sharing a cyclone shelter between them.
        * * *
      ‘There are a lot of rumours flying about’

        Mozammel Huq, the head of Bangladesh’s Cabinet committee on law and order, has rejected concerns expressed by UN human rights experts who visited Bangladesh in January.
        "It is up to Bangladesh to decide where we will keep the refugees," he told the AFP.
        * * *
        State Minister for Disaster and Relief Management Md Enamur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune, in March, that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had requested the relocation of 23,000 Rohingya families to Bhasan Char by April 15.
        "Housing, power, communication, healthcare, storm surge protection, cyclone shelter centres and every other facility is there," he said.
        * * *
        More recently, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told the Dhaka Tribune [that] the government wasn’t sure when it would be possible to relocate the Rohingyas -- and if they would even be willing to go.

        * * *
        Many aspects of Bangladesh’s plan remain unclear -- both to humanitarian workers, and to the refugees themselves.
        "Refugees are finding out through the media like everyone else, and there are a lot of rumours flying around about what might happen," says Jessica Olney, a community engagement consultant working in Cox’s Bazar.
        Mr Quinley says the Rohingya are terrified of moving to the isolated island.
        "I have been told by refugees that they would rather die than move there.
        "They’re worried about flooding, and lack of freedom of movement. Once they’re on the island it will be very difficult to get back to the mainland, especially during monsoon season."

        * * *
      Isolated and dangerous:
       
      Bhasan Char’s environmental risks and isolation are a dangerous mix.
        It is likely that any major flood event, or cyclone, would be accompanied by rough seas and bad weather -- making the island inaccessible by boat or helicopter for days at a time, and also potentially cutting off communication channels.
        It’s unclear how — or where — enough food would be stockpiled for 100,000 people during a sustained period of isolation, or what would happen if there was contamination to the water supply. The camp is expected to depend largely on rainwater collection and underground tanks. There are concerns the underground tanks themselves could also contribute to destabilising the island.
        * * *
        Whether Bhasan Char is actually habitable remains contentious.
        A feasibility study commissioned by the Bangladesh government found the island was flooded by 1–1.3 metres [(3-4 feet)] of water during high tide in monsoon season.
        The study welcomed the refugee relocation plan "as Bangladesh is a land scarce country" -- but did not recommend that Bangladeshis should live there after the [Rohingya] refugees leave -- saying the island should be used for crops and fisheries.
        For Maung Maung Soe, this is concerning.
        "Bangladesh has a big population, so my question is why the Bangladesh people haven’t moved there?" he says.
        "If Bhasan Char is safe for living on, why won’t Bangladesh’s people go?"
        * * *
      Bangladeshi authorities insist the camp will be protected from the sea by the flood defences being built by British company HR Wallingford.
        "HR Wallingford is continuing to provide ongoing consultancy for the development of Bhasan Char," the company said in a statement.
        "This includes design advice on coastal defences which would ensure long-term stability of the island, including resilience to the effects of sea level rise."
        The company did not respond to specific questions about whether they had conducted any independent assessment of the flood risk, what sized waves the embankment was expected to protect against -- or whether any measures had been taken to protect against erosion or subsidence.
        * * *
      A ‘dead island’:

        In a statement, the UN said that it "appreciates the Government’s efforts to seek alternative locations" for refugees to live -- and that it is in discussions with the government over protection and operational issues which should be considered before the relocation takes place.
        A spokesperson for UNHCR did not provide answers to specific questions about whether UNHCR had conducted any independent assessment of the habitability of Bhasan Char for the number of people who would be moved there under the plan.

        * * *
      The UN statement emphasised that relocation must be an informed voluntary choice.
        The Bangladesh government says that relocation to the island will be done on a voluntary basis, but a leaked document, seen by Reuters, shows the World Food Programme has been asked to help select families to move.
        Bangladesh’s last attempt to encourage voluntary movement of refugees -- in that instance, back to Myanmar -- was accompanied by the presence of the army, police and paramilitaries in refugee camps.
        "I worry that the ‘voluntariness,’ that the UN speaks about, could turn into coercive consent -- and Rohingya will be left with few options,"
      says Mr Quinley.
        Maung Maung Soe witnessed the last attempt at voluntary relocation.
        "A few months ago when the Myanmar government and Bangladesh government tried to deport the refugees to Myanmar, some Rohingya drank poison and tried to kill themselves," he says.
        "I’m afraid it could happen again if they try to make people move."
        According to Maung Maung Soe, the government has been telling refugees that if they go to the island, they will be given cows and paddy fields, and 50,000TK (about $845 AUD) per month.
        There is no sign, on satellite imagery, of preparations being made for farming -- nor how the farms, themselves, would be protected from Bhasan Char’s volatile environment.
        The Forestry Department, which has been planting mangroves in an attempt to stabilise the island, estimates that at least 5000-7000 acres of forest have disappeared into the sea since the program began.

        The offer has failed to sway most Rohingya.
        "The situation for us in Cox’s Bazar is very bad, but Bhasan Char will be worse," says Maung Maung Soe.
        "For the Rohingya, we say Bhasan Char is a dead island."
        * * *
      The Bangladesh Navy, who are managing the relocation, did not respond to requests for comment.


    • Chickenpox:
      The Latest Burden
      on the Rohingya Refugees.

          - NPR (National Public Radio)

        [Rohingya refugee camp doctor] Kabir has seen lots of chickenpox over the last couple of months.
        He first started seeing patients with the disease in December. In late February, he says, he was getting 30 to 35 cases a day just in his small, single-doctor clinic. By the end of March, there were nearly 65,000 reported throughout the sprawling Rohingya refugee camps.
        Chickenpox is highly contagious.
      The virus can move among family members as people touch each other or share blankets or even touch the same table. It also can spread directly through the air.
        Kabir says chickenpox does exist in Myanmar. But he says the Rohingya were so isolated that many may have never been exposed to it. What is clear, Kabir says, is that the Rohingya had very limited access to health care before they arrived in Bangladesh.
        "They didn't get any vaccines," he says. "Before coming here they don't have any idea about vaccines."
        And not just the chickenpox vaccine. Kabir says the Rohingya weren't getting the basic childhood immunizations that the World Health Organization has been recommending since the 1970s: vaccines for easily preventable diseases like diphtheria, measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
        "These people were not treated well," he says. "The Myanmar military regime are not at all bothered with [providing health care for] these people."

        Soon after the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh, UNICEF and other health agencies launched massive vaccination campaigns to try to get kids immunized against the most serious and potentially fatal illnesses like diphtheria and measles.
        More than a million doses of pentavalent vaccine to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and a bacterial infection known as Hib have been administered in multiple rounds in the camps. Despite this, there were 23 suspected cases of diphtheria in the camps in February alone. ...
        * * *
        Chickenpox, while uncomfortable, hasn't been a priority for vaccination. But the flare up of cases in the last few months does illustrate how the conditions in the camps are ripe for the spread of a highly contagious viral disease. ...

      Reuters News Service reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, in handcuffs, being taken to court. ©2018 BBC (U.K.)

    • Reuters Journalists
      Jailed in Myanmar
      to Receive U.N.
      Press Freedom Prize.

          - TIME Magazine (USA)

      Two Reuters journalists, who are currently serving seven-year prison sentences in Myanmar, are to be awarded a prize for press freedom, by the U.N.’s cultural organization.

      The 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize -- which honors the defense and promotion of press freedom -- is being awarded to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as a tribute to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression, according to a press release from UNESCO. The two journalists had been working on stories about a military crackdown, and alleged human rights violations, in Rakhine state in Myanmar, when they were arrested. They were also named, last December, as TIME’s Person of the Year -- along with three other journalists and a news organization.

      Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were first detained by authorities on Dec. 12, 2017, on the grounds of possessing classified state documents by the Myanmar government. The arrest has been largely condemned as a set-up by police -- in retaliation for [the reporters'] investigation of the massacre of Rohingya people in Rakhine State, at the hands of Myanmar military forces. The two men had been invited to dinner in the former capital of Yangon by police forces, where they were presented documents -- and immediately detained. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained for 265 days before they were sentenced to seven years in prison for violation of the Official Secrets Act, an archaic law dating back to the colonial era.

      While they were awaiting trial, in February 2018, their investigation was published by Reuters, and included graphic photography and detailed accounts providing evidence that state security forces were implicated in carrying out extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya at the village of Inn Din. The Myanmar government has been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingya Muslims by the U.N. and various human rights organizations since 2016. ...


    • Malaysian Police Say
      41 Rohingya Men
      Land on Northern Beach.

          - AP / New York Times

        Malaysian police say a group of 41 Muslim Rohingya men have been detained in the northernmost state of Perlis, the second group to have landed in the country in just over a month. Police say the men landed Monday on the same beach where 34 Rohingya women and children were found stranded March 2. Noor Mushar said one of the men told police they were part of over 200 Rohingya in a large boat that sailed overnight from Thailand and that 47 of them were transferred to a smaller boat to Perlis. Based on the information, he said some 200 Rohingya are still believed to be stranded at sea in Thai waters, and six others that landed in Malaysia are still missing.

  • 2019 April 12 - Friday

      -------

  • 2019 April 13 - Saturday

      -------

  • 2019 April 14 - Sunday

      -------

  • 2019 April 15 - Monday

    • Bangladesh Struggles To Cope
      With Pressures Of Hosting
      1 Million Rohingya Refugees.

          - NPR (National Public Radio)

        ...The sudden influx of 700,000 refugees in 2017 has had a huge negative impact on the local community, says Mohammad Abul Kalam, the head of Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission in Cox's Bazar.
        "We're being outnumbered by the sheer number of the refugee population," he says.
        Beyond this, "The infrastructure has been under unbelievable pressure," Kalam says — not just from the refugees themselves, but also from the tremendous aid effort underway to keep so many people sheltered, fed and healthy.

        Kalam is the Bangladesh government's top local official regarding the Rohingya. He says the area's roads and bridges are being beaten up by convoys of aid vehicles shuttling from Cox's Bazar to the camps.
        "They were not meant for this much population," he says.
        Kalam points out that Ukhiya, the administrative district that includes the camps, has a population of 230,000 people. "Yet we now have more than 700,000 in the refugee population," he says. "So the entire demographic balance has been reversed."
       
      * * * Kalam notes that the refugees' activities have been detrimental to the environment. They've cut down all of the forests surrounding the camps for firewood in what is a nature preserve. They've diverted streams as they've terraced hillsides to build new shelters.
        He claims they are driving up some food prices — while, at the same time, food aid diverted to local markets is driving down demand for Bangladesh-grown rice. And, he says, the refugees are pushing down wages by accepting jobs at lower pay than Bangladeshis are willing to accept. Aid convoys beat up the local roads and further congest what was already heavy traffic.
        The refugees are not supposed to leave the camps. Nor are they allowed to work in Bangladesh. Kalam says they do both. He doesn't blame them.
        "You cannot really stop people from being engaged in work of one kind or another," he says. "It always happens."
        But he says the Rohingya are taking away jobs from Bangladeshis, particularly low-skilled jobs on farms and other manual labor.
        The presence of nearly a million refugees is in this part of Bangladesh, he says, is unsustainable.

        "It's very, very difficult for us," he says. "We are already an overpopulated country with more than 160 million population in very limited space. * It would be really very difficult for Bangladesh to allow them to integrate within our own society."
      * [RCN editor note: The entire population of Bangladesh -- equal to about half the population of the entire United States -- is squeezed into a country the size of the state of Illinois.]

        * * *
       
      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      So Bangladesh last year proposed another solution: move from the overcrowded camps outside Cox's Bazar to a camp with brand-new dormitories that can accommodate 100,000 refugees.
        The only problem: It's on an island in the Bay of Bengal, more than 15 miles from the mainland.

        The Bhasan Char island emerged 20 years ago, formed in the bay's shifting currents. It is uninhabited and was designated by the government as a forest reserve in 2013. [RCN editor note: The Bangladesh government had previously listed the island -- which floods frequently during high tides and storms, and could be devastated by a major cyclone, commonly fatal in Bangladesh -- as "unihabitable." Since the Rohingya crisis, and the Bangladeshi government's initial plans to move Rohingya here, others have warned that a possible cyclone catastrophe could kill countless inhabitants of the island.] Kamal says Bangladesh has spent $300 million building housing, concrete seawalls and cyclone shelters on the giant sandbar.
        "Very good quality shelters and other infrastructure are put in place there, including long barriers meant to secure the inhabitants from any cyclonic hit from the Bay of Bengal," he says. "The government is suspecting that the Rohingyas will have a better life there."
        But Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says it's a terrible idea. She warns the island will serve more as a detention facility than upgraded refugee housing.
        "The truth is these are people who are going to be locked on this island," she says. "Because they're not really allowed to leave."
        Most international aid groups have been skeptical of the plan to relocate refugees to Bhasan Char. Supplies, aid workers, even teachers would have to be ferried in by boat. The island is controlled by the Bangladesh navy and it's unclear if the Rohingya would have the same access to international aid that they currently do in the camps.
        * * *
        In his bamboo and tarp shelter, Hamid Hassin, 30, says he has no desire to move to the island. He doesn't want to be separated from other Rohingya in the camps and is worried the low-lying island could flood in a major storm.
        "We fled Myanmar to save our lives," he says. "I don't want to end up dying on that island."

      Reuters News Service reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, in handcuffs, being taken to court. ©2018 BBC (U.K.)

    • Imprisoned Myanmar journalists
      awarded Pulitzer Prize

          - CNN (Cable News Network)

        Two Reuters reporters have been awarded one of journalism's most prestigious prizes -- while locked in a cell in Myanmar's most notorious prison.
        The Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting was handed to Reuters -- with a special mention for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are serving seven years in Yangon's Insein Prison for "exposing state secrets."
        The men led an explosive Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya men in the far western village of Inn Dinn
      -- part of a military-led campaign against the Muslim minority which began in 2017. The Myanmar government denies human rights abuses, saying it was targeting Rohingya militants who attacked police posts in August 2017.
        * * * Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo say they were set up by a police officer posing as a source. They say that in late 2017, officers invited them to a secret meeting at a restaurant on the outskirts of Yangon and handed them documents.
        Police swooped and arrested them with the classified information in their possession.
        * * *
        Now, as Myanmar's Supreme Court hears their final appeal against conviction, Pulitzer prize administrator Dana Canedy announced that the pair had been inducted into the elite group of winners... "for expertly exposing the military units and Buddhist villagers responsible for the systematic expulsion and murder of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar -- courageous coverage that landed its reporters in prison."
        Reuters Myanmar bureau chief Antoni Slodkowski told CNN late last year that the reporting was "not just based on testimonies of victims, which are key and incredibly important, but it includes one after another stories from the people who actually did this, and in some cases were actually proud of what they had done,"
        In April 2018 seven soldiers were sentenced to "10 years in prison with hard labor in a remote area" for their part in the Inn Dinn massacre, where the victims were forced to dig their own graves the day before they were beaten, stabbed and shot to death.
        The Reuters reporting elicited the only admission of guilt from the Myanmar government, which routinely rejects criticism of the actions of its troops in Muslim-majority villages in the far west of the mainly Buddhist nation. ...
        * * *
        [RCN editor note: This is the second consecutive year Reuters journalists have won a Pulitizer prize for reporting on the Rohingya Crisis. Reuters photojournalists won a Pulitzer last year (April, 2018) for extensive and extraordinary photography revealing important details of the Crisis. See: "Reuters wins Pulitzer for photography of Rohingya crisis," April 16, 2018, with photos, at Reuters News Service.

  • 2019 April 16 - Tuesday

      --------------

  • 2019 April 17 - Wednesday

    • Myanmar leader pardons
      9,500 prisoners --
      but not two
      Pulitzer Prize-winning
      Reuters reporters.

          - AP / Japan Times (Japan)

        More than 9,500 prisoners were ordered released Wednesday, in Myanmar, under a presidential amnesty -- but they did not include two Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters.
        The Facebook page of the Office of President Win Myint said he signed a pardon for 9,551 prisoners, including 16 foreigners, to be released nationwide to mark the country’s traditional New Year.

        Official lists of those to be freed are usually not made public, but activists monitor releases, especially at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where most important detainees are held.
        Supporters waited outside the prison for the possible release of the two Reuters reporters jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act, but they were not freed by late Wednesday afternoon.
        Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are serving seven-year sentences. They say they were framed because of official displeasure over their reporting on the crackdown by security forces on members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state
        * * *
        The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent human rights organization, said it knew of only two political detainees, imprisoned since 2000, who were released Wednesday. The group said last month that Myanmar has 364 political prisoners: 45 serving sentences, 94 being held awaiting trial, and 225 awaiting trial but not jailed.
        Last year 8,490 Myanmar citizens and 51 foreigners received New Year’s pardons. At least 36 of those freed in 2018 were political prisoners, according to the association.

    • 'We're broken':
      Rohingya on hunger strike
      in Saudi detention.

        At least seven hospitalised after 650 Rohingya men refuse food at a detention centre in Jeddah, activists say.
          - Al Jazeera (Arab news network; Qatar)

            (NOTE: This media outlet has limited credibility)
        Scores of Rohingya detainees inside a Saudi detention centre have gone on a hunger strike for the third time in recent months, activists told Al Jazeera.
        Almost 650 men, most of whom have been kept at the Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah since 2012 for not having valid documentation, started the strike on Saturday, Ro Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator for the Free Rohingya Coalition, said.
        By Tuesday night, at least seven had been taken to hospital, he said, as the strike continued in 10 rooms at the detention camp.
        Footage secretly filmed by a detainee, and sent to Lwin -- that was shared with Al Jazeera -- showed the Rohingya men lying on the floor.
        "The immigration police are harassing them, saying if you carry on this hunger strike, we will not even give you water," Lwin said in a phone interview from Frankfurt, Germany.

        Ambia Perveen, vice chairman of the NGO European Rohingya Council (ERC), who has also received video via WhatsApp since Saturday, said the police have now taken away the prisoners' blankets, pillows, shirts and other necessities.
        * * *
        Most of the Rohingya entered Saudi Arabia in 2012 -- following violence breaking out in Myanmar's western Rakhine state -- searching for a better life.
        Upon arrival, their fingerprints were registered under a different nationality as they carried fake passports obtained from brokers in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Lwin explained.
        Myanmar stripped the Muslim-majority Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, rendering them stateless.
        Many of them entered Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage visas but overstayed to work. They were detained at various immigration checkpoints and during raids, according to activists.
        "They didn't commit any crime," said Lwin. "Their only crime is they didn't have the valid resident permit, which is why they were arrested."
        * * *
        Matthew Smith, a cofounder and chief executive of Fortify Rights [an organization for human rights in Southeast Asia], said the Saudi government is "layering human rights abuses on to a community that is already experiencing genocide in Myanmar".
        "Nobody should be detained for their immigration status, and the Saudi authorities should immediately, and unconditionally, release all Rohingya that are in detention for immigration-related reasons," Smith told Al Jazeera by phone from Washington, DC.
        Since the start of this year, Saudi Arabia has forcibly deported dozens of Rohingya to Bangladesh - some of whom have been detained upon arrival at the Dhaka airport.
        Lwin explained that embassy officials from four countries were brought to the Saudi detention centre, and only Bangladesh agreed to take the Rohingya detainees, even though they are not from there.
        ERC's Perveen said countries such as Saudi Arabia and India are "indirectly helping Myanmar to wipe us out".

    • U.N. Sets Up
      Elephant Response Team
      In Rohingya Refugee Camp...

        Why elephants pose a threat to rohingya refugees...
          - NPR (National Public Radio)

        ...14 people, all but one of them refugees... have been killed by elephants over the past year and a half in and around the [Rohingya refugee] camps. The most recent fatality was in February.
        Asian elephants can weigh up to 12,000 pounds. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as endangered. In Bangladesh, there are only a few hundred left in a couple of areas in the wild. And one of those areas is exactly where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are now taking shelter in sprawling refugee camps.
        * * *
        To deal with the elephant problem, the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has helped set up elephant response brigades among the refugees.
        * * *
        "We are involved with the elephants here simply due to the fact that their migratory path has been cut off with the influx of refugees."
       
      The elephants end up in the camps, McCallion says, because they're instinctively trying to follow a path they've taken in the past. "It's just in their DNA, and they will keep naturally trying to take that route."
        He says the elephants travel each year back and forth between Myanmar and Bangladesh foraging on local vegetation. But as the Rohingya refugee camps have expanded, the settlements have taken over areas where the elephants used to graze and blocked them from getting to other grazing spots.
        McCallion says the elephants aren't naturally aggressive. The fatal encounters usually occur, he says, when an elephant ends up cornered in a camp:
        "The elephant can feel trapped. It can feel confused once it's behind the shelters. The danger is when the elephant ends up in the midst of a camp and doesn't know how to get out. That's when it gets to a stage where the animal could react in a very aggressive way."
        The main goal of the elephant response teams is to keep the animals out of the camps in the first place. ...
        * * *
        If an elephant does enter the camp, Salam and his colleagues use whistles to summon more members of the team. ...

  • 2019 April 18 - Thursday

    • Journalists in Myanmar
      Still Under Threat
      Despite Latest Pulitzer Wins

          - The Irawaddy (Myanmar/Burma)

            (NOTE: This media, while it has appeared to be relatively independent, may be subject to the control ot the Myanmar military)
        ... Myanmar climbed 20 places in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index between 2013 and 2017 -- but has since slipped, and is now ranked 138 out of 180 countries.
        Journalists are still often prosecuted under Article 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Act, which criminalizes online defamation and hampers investigative reporting. Dozens of journalists have been subjected to criminal prosecution, for their work, by both the government and military. Among those charged by the military have been journalists from The Irrawaddy and The Voice. Last year, three journalists from Eleven Media were sued by the Yangon government for incitement. ...

    • OPINION:
      U.N. Bureaucrats Just Want
      the Rohingya Off Their Plate.

        Dumping refugees on a doomed island in Bangladesh
      is as callous as it is predictable.

          - Foreign Policy (USA political journal)

        by Azeem Ibrahim
        (senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy in Washington,
      and author of "The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Hidden Genocide.")
        The United Nations recently announced that it would help fund Bangladesh’s initiative to move at least some of its Rohingya refugees, who fled Myanmar, from Cox’s Bazar to the island of Bhashan Char in the Ganges delta.
        Given the population pressures in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, this seems like a good idea—but it’s anything but. Stranding the Rohingya on the island could have catastrophic consequences.
       
      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char is unstable land that only emerged from the sea in 2006, it is extremely vulnerable to monsoons, and it would certainly not allow for the development of stable, self-sufficient communities in the long term. The move would be a disaster for the refugees’ future.

        The funding from the U.N. is supposed to mitigate some of these problems, such as by constructing flood protections and housing capable of withstanding the normal weather extremes in the region. U.N. support for the initiative is officially conditional on the rights of the Rohingya being respected:
      • All relocation to Bhashan Char is to be voluntary;
      • There is to be humanitarian response infrastructure on the island; and
      • The government of Bangladesh must -- at all times, prior and after relocation -- provide the relevant information, on the project, to the refugees who take up the offer of relocation.
        This all sounds very well on paper, but the scope for error, intentional or not, is wide—and the consequences disastrous.
        For one, this project entrenches Dhaka’s current policy that the Rohingya refugees are to be kept as a separate population so that they will be much easier to repatriate—the idea being that if the locals and the Rohingya do not form any real bonds, there will be nothing to keep any Rohingya in Bangladesh. So they are to be dumped on just about the only uninhabited land in a crowded Bangladesh and conveniently placed more than an hour away by boat from any other humans. The Rohingya know -- from past persecution in Myanmar -- that this kind of segregation leaves them vulnerable to changing political winds. They are tolerated for now. A future government in Dhaka may choose to turnon a segregated, disenfranchised, and vulnerable population for any number of reasons.
       
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      There are no guarantees that the infrastructure work, funded with U.N. help, will actually make the island habitable and safe. It’s not clear that any amount of work can keep the island above water. Bangladesh is on the front lines of climate change already and may [have to] struggle to preserve its key territories from the ocean, let alone a random alluvial island in the Ganges delta. Neither the U.N. nor Dhaka’s record of oversight speaks to the quality and effectiveness of the building projects—and Dhaka, if left to its own devices, has little reason to care.
        It will be almost impossible for refugee facilities built on the island to become self-sufficient. The island and its environs cannot produce enough food for the numbers of refugees envisioned under the current project. Nor is there any clear way for the new communities on the island to develop economically to be able to trade for their food with the Bangladeshi mainland.
        In other words, this is going to be a perennially precarious place to live for the people there, and the communities to be established will remain permanently dependent for funding and food—to say nothing of medical aid, education, and so on—on the U.N., and on the government of Bangladesh.
        This is not a stable and sustainable solution—even if the island is not swept away in the next hurricane.

        Nevertheless, this move allows the U.N. to be seen as supporting both the refugees and the government of Bangladesh, even if the end result is going to be the establishment of refugee communities that are even more isolated, vulnerable, and unsustainable than the tent cities around Cox’s Bazar. In their current state, the refugees have at least some degree of safety in numbers—and on dry land. And they are living on dry land. Bhashan Char may not be as bad as an internment camp in Myanmar, but it is still a serious downgrade for the refugees’ safety and future prospects.
        Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the U.N. and tragically consistent with its previous policies and initiatives on the Rohingya.
        In 1993, the U.N. monitored the repatriation of some quarter of a million Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar, after a mass exodus from Rakhine state between 1991 and 1992. As in the current crisis (in which more than 1 million Rohingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh), having an oppressed people able to return to their homes seemed like the ideal outcome. The U.N. was therefore happy to pursue that superficially attractive outcome, regardless of the fact that the refugees were returning to conditions that were just as bad as before and worse—as proved by the subsequent crises faced by the Rohingya in Rakhine.
        This is not simple ignorance on the part of the U.N. There has been a consistent pattern of behavior among at least some U.N. officials, dealing with Myanmar and Bangladesh, to prioritize economic and political considerations over the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya and other refugee populations:
        The most infamous example of this, of course, is the tenure of Renata Lok-Dessallien as the U.N.’s top official in Myanmar from 2014 to 2017, during which time the U.N. mission effectively helped shield the government of Myanmar against any censure on humanitarian grounds, while [the government] was setting in place the conditions for the 2017 genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
        The perplexing behavior of the U.N. in the Rohingya case study -- but also in humanitarian situations more widely -- is depressingly easy to unpack. On the one hand, the U.N. humanitarian agencies, and the people who work in them, are consummate professionals and dedicated human rights advocates. They are often the first to ring the alarm bells when humanitarian concerns arise. The analyses they produce are robust and thorough.
        The problems come from the fact that the policy response at the U.N., to emerging and ongoing humanitarian crises, is then formulated by political actors: typically, the political representatives of the member states of the U.N. -- each acting not as agents of the international community, nor of international law, but rather as ambassadors of their own national interests. And, from their point of view, humanitarian crises are regrettable, but they still need to do business with the states that perpetrate them.
        So U.N. humanitarian agencies are watching the Rohingya crisis closely, and continue to recommend actually useful and productive policy approaches:
      • that Myanmar should give equal citizenship rights and protections to Rohingya residents;
      • that Bangladesh must allow the Rohingya to become a functional, sustainable community within Bangladesh as long as Myanmar refuses to guarantee their safety and their property if they return;
      • and so on.
        But the political agents -- who actually get to formulate U.N. policy on the matter -- reliably opt for the facile political compromises, on largely worthless projects that allow them to look like they are doing something (even if that requires throwing some money down the drain). That way, they can wash their hands of their humanitarian responsibilities -- and can happily keep business rolling as usual.

  • 2019 April 19 - Friday

    • Bangladesh Struggles To Cope
      With Pressures Of Hosting
      1 Million Rohingya Refugees.

          - NPR (National Public Radio)
            on WJVT radio

        The sudden influx of 700,000 refugees in 2017 has had a huge negative impact on the local community, says Mohammad Abul Kalam, the head of Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission in Cox's Bazar.
        "We're being outnumbered by the sheer number of the refugee population," he says.
        Beyond this, "The infrastructure has been under unbelievable pressure," Kalam says — not just from the refugees themselves, but also from the tremendous aid effort underway to keep so many people sheltered, fed and healthy.
       
      Kalam is the Bangladesh government's top local official regarding the Rohingya. He says the area's roads and bridges are being beaten up by convoys of aid vehicles shuttling from Cox's Bazar to the camps.
        "They were not meant for this much population," he says.
        Kalam points out that Ukhiya, the administrative district that includes the camps, has a population of 230,000 people. "Yet we now have more than 700,000 in the refugee population," he says. "So the entire demographic balance has been reversed."
        * * *
        Kalam notes that the refugees' activities have been detrimental to the environment. They've cut down all of the forests surrounding the camps for firewood in what is a nature preserve. They've diverted streams as they've terraced hillsides to build new shelters.
        He claims they are driving up some food prices — while, at the same time, food aid diverted to local markets is driving down demand for Bangladesh-grown rice. And, he says, the refugees are pushing down wages by accepting jobs at lower pay than Bangladeshis are willing to accept. Aid convoys beat up the local roads and further congest what was already heavy traffic.
        The refugees are not supposed to leave the camps. Nor are they allowed to work in Bangladesh. Kalam says they do both. He doesn't blame them.
        "You cannot really stop people from being engaged in work of one kind or another," he says. "It always happens."
        But he says the Rohingya are taking away jobs from Bangladeshis, particularly low-skilled jobs on farms and other manual labor.
        The presence of nearly a million refugees is in this part of Bangladesh, he says, is unsustainable.
        "It's very, very difficult for us," he says. "We are already an overpopulated country with more than 160 million population in very limited space. It would be really very difficult for Bangladesh to allow them to integrate within our own society."
      [RCN editor note: The entire population of Bangladesh -- about half the population of the entire United States -- is squeezed into a country the size of the state of Illinois.]

        * * *
       
      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

        So Bangladesh last year proposed another solution: move from the overcrowded camps outside Cox's Bazar to a camp with brand-new dormitories that can accommodate 100,000 refugees.
        The only problem: It's on an island in the Bay of Bengal, more than 15 miles from the mainland.

        The Bhasan Char island emerged 20 years ago, formed in the bay's shifting currents. It is uninhabited and was designated by the government as a forest reserve in 2013. [RCN editor note: The island is frequently flooded, and experts warn it could be obliterated by a major cyclone. Cyclones are a common catastrophe in the region, and have killed several thousand people in coastal regions of Bangladesh in recent years.] Kamal says Bangladesh has spent $300 million building housing, concrete seawalls and cyclone shelters on the giant sandbar.
        "Very good quality shelters and other infrastructure are put in place there, including long barriers meant to secure the inhabitants from any cyclonic hit from the Bay of Bengal," he says. "The government is suspecting that the Rohingyas will have a better life there."
        But Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says it's a terrible idea. She warns the island will serve more as a detention facility than upgraded refugee housing.
        "The truth is these are people who are going to be locked on this island," she says. "Because they're not really allowed to leave."
        Most international aid groups have been skeptical of the plan to relocate refugees to Bhasan Char. Supplies, aid workers, even teachers would have to be ferried in by boat. The island is controlled by the Bangladesh navy and it's unclear if the Rohingya would have the same access to international aid that they currently do in the camps.
        * * *
        In his bamboo and tarp shelter, Hamid Hassin, 30, says he has no desire to move to the island. He doesn't want to be separated from other Rohingya in the camps and is worried the low-lying island could flood in a major storm.
        "We fled Myanmar to save our lives," he says. "I don't want to end up dying on that island."

    • Largest-ever sewage treatment plant
      opens in Bangladesh refugee camp
      [at] Cox's Bazar.

          - [London Daily] Telegraph (U.K.)

        The largest sewage treatment facility ever constructed in a refugee camp has opened in Bangladesh -- and has been heralded as a huge step forward in the management of humanitarian crises.
        The industrial-scale treatment plant built in Cox's Bazar – home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees who have fled persecution in Myanmar – will be able to deal with the human waste of 150,000 people a day, roughly equivalent to the population of Oxford.
        Construction of safe sanitation systems in refugee camps is a challenge: poor infrastructure often means human waste is often dumped in nearby fields or open pits, contaminating already scarce water supplies and becoming a breeding ground for disease.
        Cox's Bazar saw more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea last year, as well as respiratory infections and skin diseases... all related to poor sanitation and hygiene.
        Diarrhoea is currently the second-biggest killer of young children globally, and a report published by Unicef on Friday – World Water Day – found that more children die from contaminated water than [from] violence in war due to poor infrastructure.
        “The system is absolutely extraordinary, it’s the first time that there has ever been such a huge biological disposal site in a refugee camp,” said Andy Bastable, the head of water and sanitation for Oxfam.
        “If faecal waste is not properly and safely disposed of then it ends up contaminating the groundwater and people drink it. Or you can get sewage swimming all around the camp, which has many health implications,” he added. “A sustainable way of dealing with faecal sludge is a huge achievement.”
        In emergencies, the most common method of waste disposal is to pay private companies to collect the waste from latrine toilets in tankers but this is often dumped in nearby fields or rivers.
        Treating the faecal sludge on site will prevent this from happening, says Oxfam.
        “Before Bangladesh there was virtually zero sewage treatment in any refugee situation,” Mr Bastable said. “For instance, there’s the horrible example in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, where a big hole was dug into the ground in a solid waste disposal area. It turned into a big, horrible quagmire.”
        Oxfam’s treatment plant, which cost roughly £150,000 to construct, was built on land provided by the Bangladeshi government and is one of many waste management innovations currently under development in the camp.
        According to the Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesperson, there are plans to construct more treatment facilities across the refugee camp, which is likely to remain in place for many years to come.
        “This model will be rolled out across other sites in Cox’s Bazar area in 2019, and UNHCR is considering replicating it in future refugee crises,” he said.
        The plant, designed by a German company, Borda, also produces biogas -- and options to supply this, as cooking fuel, are currently being explored.
        “The initial investment is well worth it because the plant is cheap and easy to run, and could last for 20 years – benefiting local communities when this emergency is over,” said Salahuddin Ahmmed, Oxfam water and sanitation engineer. “We expect to replicate this model in future crises.”


  • 2019 April 20 - Saturday

      -------

  • 2019 April 21 - Sunday

      -------

  • 2019 April 22 - Monday

    • Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar
      resist plan to
      be relocated to island.

          - Kyodo News (Japan)

        Bangladesh is facing a dilemma over the planned transfer of thousands of Rohingya Muslims crowded into makeshift camps along the country's border with Myanmar to an uninhabited island in the Bay of Bengal.

      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service
      To ease social, economic, environmental and internal security hazards, the government plans to relocate nearly 100,000 Rohingya refugees from the camps in Cox's Bazar to Bhasan Char, which is about 1 hour by motor boat from the nearest shore.
        However, it seems that the Rohingyas are reluctant to move to their newly constructed dwellings on the island, located about 40 kilometers from the mainland.

        Although travel to the island is currently restricted to only day laborers, Kyodo News on Thursday last week became the first foreign media organization to tour the housing units and speak to the project's development authorities.
        * * *
        Refugees at the camps prefer them to the island as they are not far away from their homeland in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
        Experts believe that the proximity of Myanmar to the Cox's Bazar refugee camps keeps them socially and culturally alive as Rohingya.
        The refugees maintain close contact with family members and relatives and get information on a regular basis via informal channels from Rakhine.
        Furthermore, a substantial number of these refugees receive financial assistance from relatives and family members working abroad, especially in the Middle East, Europe and even Japan.
        According to the refugees, the belief is all too prevalent that once they leave Cox's Bazar, they will be deprived of most of the social facilities that they are currently enjoying unofficially.
      Refugees primarily selected for relocation to Bhasan Char are showing apathy to the notion of shifting to a remote island.
        They believe that Bhasan Char is not easily accessible and a physically hostile territory in comparison to their current settlements.
        * * *
        On the other hand, sources close to aid agencies have claimed that after a series of negotiations the United Nations has agreed to facilitate the government's relocation plan to Bhasan Char on condition that refugees will move there voluntarily.
        The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees also insists on the voluntary relocation of 100,000 refugees to their new temporary abode.
        Mamun, the project director, told Kyodo News that Bhasan Char now is almost ready for the refugees. The Bangladeshi government estimates the cost of the project at over 23.12 billion Bangladeshi taka (about $272 million), fully funded by the government.
        "We have tried to transform this two-decade-old uninhabited island into a livable place for the Rohingya refugees," said Mamun.
        Besides housing quarters and water and power supplies, the island has been provided with infrastructure including flood protection embankments, roads, emergency shelters, hospitals, schools, a mosque, and helipads, he said.
      Construction on Bhasan Char:
        Mamun said that under the direct supervision of the prime minister's secretariat, a team from the navy supervised every aspect of the project in liaison with British and Chinese consultants and engineers. Up to 16,000 workers have been working round the clock for over 15 months to complete the project.
        Chinese construction giant Sinohydro is working on a 13-km-long embankment and appears to have finished a large chunk of it.
        Mamun said around 600 hectares [(240 acres)] of the 5,200-hectare [(2100-acre)] island are being used for the project -- being divided into 120 plots of land with a total of 1,440 housing units, each divided into 16 rooms each measuring about 3.6 meters [(12 feet)] by 4.2 meters [(14 feet)] -- [(168 square feet)]. One family will be assigned to each room.


        Bhasan Char island plan. Copyright 2018 by Reuters. CLICK TO ENLARGE. He explained that by having 120 cyclone shelters it is clearly safer than the refugee camps. [RCN editor note: in 1970, a catastrophic cyclone killed 300,000 in Bangladesh; since then, other cyclones and storms have killed several thousands of people in the region -- in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.]
        Officials said 93 percent of the construction has been completed and the site is almost ready to receive refugees from Cox's Bazar.
        According to the navy, the government drew up the relocation plan with the aim of reducing the population density in the camps.
        But it still remains uncertain whether the authorities will be able to actually bring the refugees there.
        The refugees say they will resist relocation to the island as it is regularly swept by high tides and is vulnerable to flooding.
        The island, once known as Jaliar Char and later renamed Bhasan Char, which means floating island, by Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina, has been formed through sedimentation over the past two decades.
        Refugees camped in Cox's Bazar said living on the mainland is safer than the island, which is threatened by cyclones and tidal waves.
        Tarimina, 50, who is staying at Unchiprang camp, said, "We have heard that the island goes underwater during storms. We are fine in the camps."
        Mostafa Begum, 25, who claims her husband was killed by Myanmar soldiers, said she is worried about how she and her five children will live on the island.
        Tanmoy Das, deputy commissioner of Noakhali district, said the relocation was supposed to take place before the onset of monsoon rains. Reports now indicate that it will happen after the monsoon season.
        Boat services between Bhasan Char and the mainland have been set up by the navy in preparation for the transfer.

        People working with an aid agency said, on condition of anonymity, that the government plans to initially shift 60 willing families in October this year before the formal inauguration of the relocation project by Hasina.
        The administration has already started talking and distributing leaflets in the Burmese language to Rohingya community leaders in the camps to motivate the refugees with regard to the plan.
        The leaders will be taken to the island so that they can see the facilities for themselves and report back to their communities to encourage them to make the move, the sources added.

    • Rohingya crisis:
      Top UN officials
      to visit Bangladesh.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Three top United Nations officials will visit Bangladesh from April 24-26 to highlight the need for supporting the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees sheltered in Cox’s Bazar.
        UN announced the visit of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi; the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino; and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, in a statement today.
        In Dhaka, the delegation will hold talks with senior government officials including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen to explore ways the international community can provide further support to Bangladesh on Rohingya issue.
        The delegation will then travel to Cox’s Bazar to meet with refugees, assess preparations underway ahead of the monsoon season and visit projects, including those involving food distribution and shelters.
        They will also meet refugees who are working as volunteers, and observe a UNHCR-Bangladesh registration exercise, designed to provide identity cards to all refugees, ensuring their access to aid services and protection as well as establishing their right to return to Myanmar.
        The aim of the visit is to highlight the need to continue strong international support for the humanitarian response while solutions for the Rohingya are pursued, including the creation of conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that would allow for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to their homes. ...

  • 2019 April 23 - Tuesday

      Reuters News Service reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, in handcuffs, being taken to court. ©2018 BBC (U.K.)

    • Myanmar's Top Court
      Rejects Final Appeal
      by Jailed Reuters Journalists.

          - Reuters / New York Times

        Myanmar's top court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act, in a landmark case that has raised questions about the country's transition to democracy.
        "They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected," Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without elaborating.
        Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.
        Lawyers for the reporters had appealed to the Supreme Court citing lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police. A policeman told a lower court last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters. ...

    • EDITORIAL:
      Democracy is on the ropes
      in Myanmar
      and the rest of the world.

          - Washington Post

        * * *
        ... Authoritarian leaders from Turkey to Vietnam are silencing the news media.
        The latest annual index of press freedom in 180 countries published by Reporters Without Borders "shows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered" in many places, raising the danger level for journalists.
        The United States fell three places in the index to 48th in the world. On the same day that the Myanmar journalists lost their appeal, President Trump pathetically demanded the New York Times apologize to him "on their knees & beg for forgiveness" and declared the newspaper is "truly the Enemy of the People."
        U.S. presidents were once considered to be the leaders of the free world. It is a sad day when the incumbent has more in common with the prison wardens of Myanmar. Neither in the United States, nor Burma, nor anywhere between, should journalists be thus tarred for work that is essential to a healthy and thriving democracy.

  • 2019 April 24 - Wednesday

  • 2019 April 25 - Thursday

      ----------

  • 2019 April 26 - Friday

  • 2019 April 27 - Saturday

      -----------

  • 2019 April 28 - Sunday

    • In Rohingya Camps,
      Political Activities Risky
      For Some

          - Reuters / VOA (Voice of America)
            (U.S. propaganda radio)

        A new civil society is growing among the Rohingya in the refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area. Some refugee campaigners are seeking justice for reported violence in Myanmar. A small group of women are working for increased rights for females. Others are simply working to improve life in the settlement that is now home to more than 900,000 people.
        But several refugees told Reuters reporters that, along with the political awakening, violence has increased at the camps. They say militants and religious conservatives are competing for power. The refugees describe increasing fear in the camps, where armed men have raided shelters at night, kidnapped critics and warned women against violating conservative Islamic traditions.
        The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, is active in the camps, refugees say. So are several other armed groups. ARSA is also known as Harakah al-Yaqin -- the movement of faith.
        "In the daytime, the al-Yaqin guys become normal people," said one young woman, who, like other refugees, requested not to be identified for her safety. "But at night," she said, "it’s like they have a kind of magical power."
        * * *
      Talks and threats:
        Reuters spoke with UN employees, diplomats, Bangladeshi officials and researchers about the forces competing for influence in the world’s largest refugee settlement.
        Some are hopeful that the stateless Rohingya are beginning to find political expression.
        However, there are also fears. Officials worry that a turn to violence could make solving the refugee crisis through talks impossible.
        "Refugee camps in many parts of the world are becoming recruitment grounds for terrorists,"
      said Mozammel Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s cabinet committee on law and order. He said if this happens, it would affect Bangladesh and nearby countries. ...
        * * *
      Night terrors:
        Bangladeshi security forces guard the outside of the camps to stop refugees from leaving. But violent men run the crowded camps inside, especially at night, refugees told Reuters.
        In some parts of the camps, those men claim ties to ARSA, said more than six refugees. United Nations officials and other workers watching the group’s activities say it is unclear how many of those men are under orders from the group’s leadership. But some of them reportedly have asked wealthier refugees and shopkeepers to pay taxes. They say the money will be used to fight back in Myanmar, refugees said.
        One refugee who volunteers as an aid worker in the camps told Reuters he witnessed a kidnapping in January by men he believed belong to ARSA. Men with wooden sticks moved quickly into one area of the camp and took away a man who had refused to attend one of ARSA's meetings, he said.
        "They just carried him off like a goat to the slaughter." ...
        * * *
        Police have recorded a rise in violence in the camps in recent months, said Iqbal Hossain, a police official in Cox’s Bazar.
        "So far we have not found any link to any militant groups," said Hossain. He added that there were only 992 officers deployed to the camps [which are home to a million Rohingya ~RCN editor]. ...
        * * *
        ARSA propaganda shows the group as ethnic freedom fighters and does not suggest a position on religious tradition. But some refugees -- and a report by an international non-governmental organization -- say ARSA members and Islamic leaders push for extremely conservative religious behavior.
        Four women told Reuters they had received threats for going out to work for aid groups in the camps. Many women with jobs in the camps are experiencing paid employment for the first time in their lives.
        Mohammed Kamruzzaman is an education specialist with the aid group BRAC. He told Reuters that 150 of its female teachers had stopped coming to work in January after receiving or hearing about "violent threats" ...

    • Expert suggests Bangladesh
      follow Indira Gandhi’s way
      to deal with Myanmar.

      An international affairs expert has advised the government to study how Indira Gandhi tackled Pakistan in 1971 and deal with Myanmar accordingly to address the Rohingya crisis.
          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, who is also the director of the Center for Genocide Studies in Dhaka University, says Bangladesh needs to change the "body language" when it deals with Myanmar on the Rohingya refugee issue.
        "It would be easier to do it now than at any time before. We have had the election. We (the government) have a five-year mandate. So I think the government should be in a position….the body language ought to change," he said, speaking at a seminar in Dhaka on Sunday.
        The Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organised the seminar titled ‘Rohingya crisis: International Role for Tangible Solutions in Rakhine’ with its president Raheed Ejaz in chair.
        State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Md Shahriar Alam, was present as chief guest, while UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh, Steven Corliss, spoke as a panelist. DCAB General Secretary, Nurul Islam Hasib, made welcome remarks.
        Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, secretaries to the foreign ministry -- Md Khurshed Alam, Kamrul Ahsan, Mahbub Uz Zaman, and Khalilur Rahman -- were also present.
        Prof Imtiaz said this body language change is "very important" in diplomacy.
        "The body language must change with Myanmar when we are negotiating. They are the ones who committed genocide, not us," he said. "Look at the body language of Indira Gandhi way back in 1971".
        Gandhi was a staunch supporter of Bangladesh against Pakistan’s genocide in 1971.
        "I can give examples of an extraordinary number of people that I know back in India and back in 1971 and what was their body language.
        "That body language ought to change particularly given the fact that this regime or part of the members was responsible for committing genocide," he said, urging media to "keep a constant gaze" on Myanmar.
        He said people would say that Myanmar is a "hard shell". "But IR (international relations) says the harder the shell, the easier to crack. Always remember that….that’s part of the diplomacy." ...

  • 2019 April 29 - Monday

    • European Union extends
      Myanmar arms embargo,
      other sanctions
      for a year.

          - Associated Press
      BRUSSELS (AP) —
        The European Union is prolonging, by a year, an embargo on any arms that could be used in security crackdowns in Myanmar -- as well as sanctions against 14 top military and border officials.
        EU headquarters said Monday that based on an annual review the restrictive measures will be extended until April 30, 2020.
        The travel bans and asset freezes were imposed on the 14 officials "for serious human rights violations, or association with such violations" against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
        * * *
        The EU also refuses to cooperate with, or provide training to, the Myanmar military.

    • Russia expresses solidarity
      with Bangladesh
      on Rohingya issues

          - UNI (India)

        Russia expressed solidarity with Bangladesh on Rohingya issues and reiterated to continue its supports -- including humanitarian assistance.
       
      The Rohingya issues were discussed in detail during the bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Dr. Momen and his Russian counterpart Mr. Lavrov, held at Moscow today. During the meeting,
        Dr. Momen briefed his Russian counterpart on the status of 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, the Rohingyas, who have taken temporary shelter in Bangladesh.
        Dr. Momen sought active support of the Russian Federation in expediting the process of repatriation of these displaced people by encouraging Myanmar to create a conducive environment in the Rakhine state for return of the Rohingya. ...
        (same topic at next article)

    • Moscow welcomes Dhaka's idea
      of involving ASEAN
      in Rohingya repatriation.

      Russia expresses solidarity with Bangladesh on Rohingya issues
          - United News of Bangladesh

        Russia has welcomed the idea of involving ASEAN [(the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations)] in the Rohingya repatriation process.
        It also expressed solidarity with Bangladesh on Rohingya issues and reiterated to continue its support including humanitarian assistance.

        The Rohingya issue was discussed in detail during the bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held in Moscow on Monday.
        During the meeting, Dr Momen briefed his Russian counterpart on the status of 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, the Rohingyas, who have taken temporary shelter in Bangladesh.
        Dr. Momen sought active support of the Russian Federation -- in expediting the process of repatriation of these displaced people -- by encouraging Myanmar to create a conducive environment, in the Rakhine state, for return of the Rohingya, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
        This was the first official visit of the present Bangladesh Foreign Minister to Moscow and the third as a whole at the invitation of the Russian Foreign Minister.
        The two Foreign Ministers took stock of the various aspects of bilateral ties and discussed important regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
        During the talk, Foreign Minister Dr. Momen reiterated the strong admiration of the people of Bangladesh for the Russian Federation due to the valued support and contribution received from the people of the then Soviet Union during the Liberation War in 1971 and for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts after independence.
        Both the foreign ministers expressed deep satisfaction over the current progress of bilateral engagements between the two friendly countries.
        Dr Momen put emphasis on the initiatives of the two countries to boost the volume of bilateral trade to the expected level.
        He urged the Russian investors and companies to enter into joint ventures or 100 percent owned business ventures in the 100 special economic zones, which are currently being set up in Bangladesh as well as in High-Tech Parks.
        Lavrov informed that the Economic forum in Saint Petersburg would be the ideal platform for Bangladesh to attract Russian and foreign investors.
        Foreign Minister Dr Momen also sought support from Russia for duty-free quota-free access of Bangladesh’s products to the Russian market and also to the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union.
        A memorandum of Cooperation between the Government of Bangladesh and the Eurasian Economic Commission is expected to be inked soon.
        Both the Foreign Ministers have expressed deep satisfaction on the pace of progress of the project for implementing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant under the state export credit extended by the Government of the Russian Federation, which stands as a signature initiative in the bilateral relations.
        The Russian Foreign Minister assured Bangladesh of the timely completion of the project and training of the essential scientific and technical personnel.
        The two Foreign Ministers expressed their satisfaction over the successful operations and engagements of Gazprom in different gas fields of Bangladesh.
        Both the Foreign Ministers expressed their satisfaction over the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission which was held in Moscow in October 2018.
        The two Foreign Ministers consented on extending cooperation in the areas of education and culture.
        They also expressed satisfaction over the ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries.
        They also exchanged opinions and experiences on cooperation in different international and regional fora between Bangladesh and Russia.
        He particularly thanked Bangladesh for supporting different Russian candidatures.
        They also discussed and exchanged views on the current important global as well as regional issues.
        At the end of the bilateral official talks, both the Foreign Ministers took part at a joint press conference.
        Later, Momen met with the senior officials of GAZPROM International [Russia's state-affiliated petrochemical company]. and discussed about geophysical survey, and the exploration of natural resources from the Bay of Bengal, with the joint cooperation of BAPEX Bangladesh.
        GAZPROM expressed their interest to invest in LNG [liquified natural gas] sector in Bangladesh.

  • 2019 April 30 - Tuesday

    • OPINION & ANALYSIS:
      Is the UN doing enough
      for Rohingyas?

          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        The United Nations keeps on failing the Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted communities in the world, by not taking any concrete measures to compel Myanmar to take its people back to their homeland in Rakhine.
        UN officials from top to bottom, including the full UN Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres, along with state heads and royals, and the World Bank president, have been visiting Bangladesh since the latest influx began in August 2017, but these visits do not seem to be yielding any results whatsoever.
        The latest high-profile visit by three UN top officials, which just concluded, also failed to provide any glimmer of hope for the Rohingyas, who have already suffered a lot and are still suffering.
        Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, António Vitorino, director general of International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency, and Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, led the delegation that visited Cox’s Bazar on April 24-26.
        According to the UN, the aim of the visit was to highlight the ongoing need for support for the humanitarian needs of almost a million Rohingya refugees.
        With respect to this type of visit, what happens is this:
      • a UN dignitary meets with the prime minister and the foreign minister;
      • then, he or she flies to Cox’s Bazar and sit with the Bangladeshi officials, led by the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, and international organizations working to aid the Rohingyas;
      • afterwards, a visit to Rohingya camps takes place for interactions with the refugees,
      • followed by a trip to Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Bandarban, where several thousand Rohingyas live officially in Myanmar.
      • Before concluding the trip, the dignitary holds a press conference to reiterate the global body’s commitment to keep working toward safe and sustainable solutions for the Rohingyas.
        There was no exception this time round.
        In UN’s defence, one may argue that this type of visit "draws the attention of the international community."
        In response, one may be forgiven for asking how much attention the protracted humanitarian crisis still needs.

        The UN supremo visited the Rohingyas and gave a heart-rending account of the Rohingyas’ sufferings. The whole Security Council was there. The former UN human rights chief has described the atrocities as "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," while the fact-finding mission of the UN itself in its report indicated to genocide.
        Despite having solid evidence in hands, if the UN does not or cannot act, it is nothing but the failure of the global body, which has already lost much of its credibility over the years for failing to protect the helpless.
        Given the bleak scenario as regards to the Rohingya people, who are currently leading a terrible life both in Myanmar and Bangladesh, where the situation is much better than the former, it is incumbent upon the UN to give much more attention to Naypyidaw.
        The global body should make all-out efforts to force Myanmar to live up to its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission that are the road map for the permanent solution to the crisis.
        If the Rohingyas are being failed continuously by the UN, people’s trust in it, which has already been affected to a significant extent, will diminish further, turning the global body into an inactive one.


MAY 2019:

  • 2019 May 1 - Wednesday

      -------

  • 2019 May 2 - Thursday
      RCN Editor's note: Most of the recent news coverage of the Rohingya Crisis focuses on those Rohingya who have fled Myanmar violence for Bangladesh since mid-2017. However, this article is about the hundred-thousand or more Rohingya, still in Myanmar today, who have been effectively imprisoned in concentrated "displacement" camps -- following violence (between some Rohingyas and some Rakhines) in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2012, and since.
       

    • 'We will lose any hope
      of going home':
      Rohingya live in fear
      of resettlement.

      Plans to relocate Rohingya people, in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, promise to dash their dreams of returning to traditional life.
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        For the past seven years, Mohammad has been able to see the beach on the outskirts of Sittwe, and the Indian Ocean beyond, only through a barbed wire fence.
        "The only difference between a prison and the Rakhine camps is that, in prison, at least they know how long their sentence is," says the 23-year-old, shaking his head.
        Mohammad is one of 128,000 Rohingya Muslims forced from Sittwe, the capital of [Myanmar's] Rakhine state, and into camps [in Myanmar], after Buddhist extremists burned down their homes in 2012.

        For seven years, those who who did not flee across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh have been penned in, denied access to education, jobs, healthcare -- or even the chance to "to go for a walk along the beach and rest under a tree", says Mohammad.
        Despite pledges by the Myanmar government to close the camps, documents seen by the Guardian show the Rohingya will not be allowed to return to the homes from which they fled.
        Instead, rows of modular housing blocks being built next to the camps will be their new homes. There will be no land to grow crops or tend animals, no resumption of a traditional way of life or return to the city, where easy access to markets would allow them to sell their goods.
        Their movements will be restricted and, without identity documents, they will remain stateless, denied access to services and at risk of arrest if they should leave the compound.

        "I want to work back in the community, I want my generation to be educated," says Mohammad.
        The bamboo houses with tin roofs in which Mohammad and his fellow Rohingya live are packed tightly together. The camps are connected by a dirt road, along which Myanmar police sit at checkpoints behind fences made of bamboo spikes.
        Men loiter at a makeshift teashop while children play with a tin can and a piece of string. Manual water pumps and wells are the main source of water in each camp, while electricity is minimal, generated by a solar panel connected to a battery setup or generator.
        Sitting in her hut in the compound, Ma Hla Than, a mother of four daughters who lived in Sittwe before the conflict, says: "I want to go back to my place of origin. I want to return there, as I feel safe there. Here, the entire population is living together in one room, speaking and listening to each other. It’s too much."
        Myanmar’s minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, Win Myat Aye, has said construction of the new housing development is a response to an independent report published in 2017 by the advisory commission on Rakhine state, appointed by state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and chaired by the late Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary general.
        However, one of the commission investigators, diplomat Laetitia van den Assum, former foreign affairs minister of the Netherlands, says the Myanmar government was cherry-picking from the 88 recommendations made in their final report and failing to address the root causes of the conflict.
        "The priority was to ensure that the Rohingya could return to their place of origin," she says. "But it has to be made hand in hand with allowing them freedom of movement, and access to education and healthcare."
        Many Rohingya fear they will be pressured to move to the new resettlement sites.

        Kyaw Aye, who has lived in the camp for seven years, says: "We don’t want to depend on rations, we are ready to stand on our own two feet. If we accept moving to the new resettlement sites we will lose the attention of the international community and any hope of returning home to our place of origin."
        The Rohingya -- the majority of whom live in the western state of Rakhine -- were recognised as citizens after Myanmar gained independence in 1948. But, in 1982, the government stripped them of their national registration cards -- and many in Myanmar see them as illegal immigrants. They have experienced decades of persecution and discrimination.
        Some Rohingya say they need more protection. The powerful Buddhist nationalist group, Ma Ba Tha, infamous for vitriolic hate speech against Muslims, must be constrained, they say.
        With the daytime heat is unrelenting, it is impossible to stay inside the tin-roofed camp shelters. At night, meanwhile, the mosquitoes come out. "It’s impossible to sleep and the smell of the clogged drains is sickening," says Aye Mura, who longs to leave the camp and return home so that she can find work as a seamstress in Sittwe to fund her daughter’s education.
        She sometimes sells her food ration cards to save money to send her daughter to school in another nearby camp. "I have nothing, what can I do?" she says.
        "We were people before, and we were used to surviving without international support," says Mohammad, outside his hut. "We can survive on our own, but we need freedom of movement and true rights."

    • Tropical Cyclone Fani
      2019 India Path, Timing:
      Damage Expected From
      northern Andhra Pradesh
      to Odisha, Jharkhand,
      West Bengal and Bihar.

          - Newsweek (USA)

        Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest tropical storms to hit India in two decades, is on a scheduled forecast path toward a direct hit along the [Indian] coast Friday morning.
        The latest Cyclone Fani forecast updates suggest the storm will make landfall on a track on the coast of India’s Odisha state, near the city of Puri.
        Major damage is expected along the coast near Puri and from northern Andhra Pradesh to Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. Nearly one million people have been evacuated ahead of Fani’s strike, including more than 100,000 in the city of Puri.
        * * *
        Just hours ago the JTWC reported that Tropical Cyclone Fani’s maximum sustained winds were 155 miles per hour. Winds were forecast to diminish some before landfall, but the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned of widespread and significant wind-related damage along the coast.
        Predicted damage (from Accuweather) includes:
      • Total destruction of thatched houses
      • Extensive damage to kutcha houses (huts made of mud, wood, straw, and dry leaves), and some damage to more sturdy building
      • Bending and uprooting of power and communication poles
      • Major damage to roads and flooding of escape routes
      • Widespread damage to standing crops and plantations
      Tropical Cyclone Fani’s storm surge is expected to near five feet, with the most significant impact to the east of landfall. High tide at Puri is scheduled for 7::28 a.m. Friday, just a couple of hours before forecast landfall, which could increase the storm’s water impact.
        * * *
        Fani is the sixth-strongest tropical cyclone recorded in the Bay of Bengal, according to Weather Underground, which said the storm is unusually large and attacking from an unusual position for this time of the year.
        "Cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal peaks during April-May and October-November, on either side of the monsoon season," Weather Underground reported. "Fani is an unusual springtime threat for eastern India, as most of the April and May cyclones in this region move east or northeast toward Bangladesh and Myanmar. In eastern India, most of the worst cyclones have struck during the fall months. "
        (Official statement by:
        - World Vision (relief agency)
          World Vison is ready to respond to Cyclone Fani, which continues to intensify, threatening millions of families and their children in Bangladesh and India.
            The major coastal cities and communities in Bangladesh and India are among those in the path of the storm,...
            * * *
            [According to] World Vision Bangladesh National Director, Fred Witteeven:
            Heavy rains are also forecast to lash the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar -- home to over 900,000 Rohingya refugees -- in the coming days.
            "World Vision has emergency supplies ready to go in the camps and we have had thousands of refugees working on improvements to camp roads and drains over the previous months.
            "Nevertheless people are living in homes made of bamboo and on steep hillsides, which puts them at even greater risk." ...
          )

  • 2019 May 3 - Friday

    • Rohingya repatriation:
      4th JWG [Joint Working Group]
      meeting in Naypyidaw [Myanmar]
      ends without any breakthrough.

      Bangladesh proposes visit from Myanmar, to directly interact with Rohingyas
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        As feared, the fourth meeting of the joint working group (JWG) of Bangladesh and Myanmar ended on Friday in [Myanmar's capital,] Naypyidaw, without any breakthrough in regard to the repatriation of Rohingyas, a process that was supposed to begin over 15 months ago. ...
        * * *
        "I would not say that there has been any major changes to Myanmar’s attitude regarding repatriation," said a senior member of the delegation. "However, I can say that Myanmar appears to be somewhat ready for deeper engagement on the issue, and they want to keep discussions ongoing."
        Another delegation member said: "We have proposed that they to send a team to interact with the Rohingyas and persuade them to return to their homes, after creating a favourable condition for safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriation. The Myanmar side seemed positive about it.
        "However, no time frame for the visit of any team, or beginning of the repatriation, was agreed upon," he added.
        The official also said if or when a team came to interact with the Rohingyas, the JWG would begin with the Rohingya who have already been verified by Myanmar.
        "All in all, it can be said that we have to travel quite a way before the beginning of the repatriation," he added.
        * * *
        Dhaka [(the Bangladesh government)] highlighted the need for deeper engagement between Myanmar authorities and prospective returnees with a view to convincing and motivating them.
        Bangladesh also emphasized the need to allow greater engagement of the international community—including ASEAN and interested partners—in improving the ground situation in Rakhine, proposing appropriate mechanism for coordination of action, among those actors, to create greater confidence.
        Dhaka also highlighted the need for sharing verifiable information on the ground situation in Rakhine, so that prospective [Rohingya] returnees could take informed decision.

    • Myanmar army says it killed
      six unarmed prisoners

        Myanmar's army has said it shot dead at least six people detained in a village school in Rakhine state.
          - BBC News

        [Paraphrased from radio broadcast:]
        The Myanmar Army (the "Tatmadaw") has admitted that some of its soldiers shot to death a group of unarmed captives who were being held in a school for interrogation -- suspected of ties to the Rakhine Buddhist rebel Arakan Army.
       
      BBC ONLINE ARTICLE:

        The Myanmar army claims that its soldiers were acting in self-defense, after the prisoners attempted to grab the soldiers' guns.
        * * *
        A spokesman confirmed troops fired on unarmed detainees -- saying they had tried to grab the soldiers' weapons. The detained were being questioned for links to the rebels of the Arakan Army, who are ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
      He told AFP that warning shots had been fired first but that "six were killed, eight were injured and four escaped".
        But Ma Gne - a widow of one of the men shot dead - told AFP that her husband and the others "were killed for no reason".
        The victims' families said the bodies of the dead were laid out in front of the school.
        A multi-ethnic country, Myanmar is home to a number of rebel groups.
        While a lot of attention in recent years has been on the exodus of the Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh, other ethnic minorities also clash frequently with the government's military.
        The impoverished state of Rakhine in western Myanmar -- [the homeland of ethnic Rohingya Muslims and Hindus, and Rakhine Buddhists] -- has seen years of fighting and unrest.
        More than 30,000 mainly Buddhist civilians have been displaced in the latest fighting between national forces and the [Rakhine] rebels.

      [RCN editor's note:
        The Myanmar army is currently dealing with an insurgency of rebels calling themselves the "Arakan Army," (AA) after the original name of their homeland, Myanmar's Rakhine state. The Arakan Army has promoted the empowerment of the Buddhist Rakhine people, the principal ethnic group of Rakhine state, and their search for autonomy and dominance in the state.
        The Arakan Army is unrelated to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), another Myanmar rebel group, but one which is principally made up of a few Rohingya Muslims -- and whose August 2017 attacks on government security forces became the pretext for the massive military assault upon the Rohingya, driving most Rohingya from Rakhine state (their ancestral homeland), into Bangladesh.
        In fact, the Arakan Army (AA) appears to be predominantly Buddhist Rakhines -- the religious/ethnic faction that sided with the Myanmar army during the 2017-2019 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims and Hindus, which led to the current Rohingya Crisis.
        The current violence, apparently initiated last month by the AA, has added to the concerns of the U.N., and other agencies and NGOs (non-governmental org's -- especially aid agencies), about the dangers of returning Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar. ~ RCN editor.]

    • ANALYSIS:
      'Money interests
      fuel world neglect
      of Rohingya crisis'

        Expert says Rohingya issue ignored for many reasons
      -- citing, in particular, Myanmar's alliance with several countries.

          - Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

            (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)
        The world is ignoring the Rohingya crisis for several reasons, said an NGO leader in Canada, on Friday -- citing, in particular, the alliance of Myanmar's government with China, India, Israel, and Russia, as well as the global climate of Islamophobia.
        "Both India and China have a strategic economic interest in Myanmar.
        "The Myanmar government recently agreed to the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) agreement, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative," Yuriko Cowper-Smith, a board member at the NGO Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI), told Anadolu Agency.
        Starting in China’s Yunnan province, Cowper-Smith explained, the [new Chinese] economic corridor goes through [the Myanmar cities of] Mandalay and Yangon, and reaches Myanmar’s coast at the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in [Myanmar's] Rakhine state -- the site of a brutal 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya.
        "Neither India nor China would want to upset this status quo with any sort of international intervention, and so neither government will broach the Rohingya issue with the Burmese [Myanmar] government, let alone the United Nations," she added.
        "Therefore, the UN Security Council avenue is closed as a possibility."
        She downplayed any expectations of the U.S. or NATO taking action, saying: "The likelihood of this option seems low, as President Trump is not a fan of the UN system, or of trans-national justice."
        She added: "Although a Muslim nation, which has a significant Rohingya refugee population, Saudi Arabia also has economic interests in Rakhine state, which lessens the likelihood of them speaking out against the Burmese state."
        Cowper-Smith added that...
      • the global climate of Islamophobia,
      • fear of terrorism,
        as well as the
      • lack of access to Rakhine state by international observers
      ...lessens the likelihood of international involvement. ...
        (same article at:
        - The Peninsula (Qatar)
              (CAUTION: This media outlet is in a repressive Muslim country; its independence, objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.) )

    • Category 5 cyclone Fani
      Makes Landfall.

          - Reuters / Sydney Morning Herald
              (Australia)

        Cyclone Fani has made landfall on India's eastern coast as a category 5 storm, lashing the emptied beaches with rain and winds gusting up to 205 kilometres per hour [(125 mph)].
        The India Meterological Department said the "extremely severe" cyclone in the Bay of Bengal hit the coastal state of Odisha around 8am Friday, local time (12.30pm AEST) and was forecast to weaken to a "very severe" storm as it moved north-northeast toward the Indian state of West Bengal.
        * * *
        India has evacuated more than a million people living along its east coast ahead of the extremely severe cyclone, government officials said.
        * * *
        The cyclone is forecast to drop as much as 20 centimetres [(8 inches)] of rain on northern parts of the state of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, then continue north, hitting the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Bhutan, as well as parts of the Indian states of West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya.
        This could mean that heavy rains lash the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, home to over 900,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma.
        World Vision's Bangladesh national director Fred Witteeven said the organisation had emergency supplies ready to go in the camps.
        "Nevertheless people are living in homes made of bamboo and on steep hillsides, which puts them at even greater risk," Witteeven says.
        By late Thursday in India, Fani had sustained winds of about 250 km/h [(155 mph)], nearly in the range of a Category 5 hurricane,
      said Derrick Herndon, an associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. The World Meteorological Organisation said the storm was "one of the most intense" in 20 years in the region.
        "It's remarkable in terms of its wind speed," Herndon said. "The sustained winds are really near the top range of the winds we see in this part of the world."
        * * *
        Sea levels may rise about 1.5 metres [( 5 feet )] above astronomical tide, said Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, secretary at India's Ministry of Earth Sciences.
       
        (same topic at:
        - CNN (Cable News Network)
        - CBC News (Canada)
        - New York Times:
          Rohingya refugees at risk from the storm:
            Aid agencies feared that one million Rohingya refugees, [who] now live in makeshift settlements in the low-lying area of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, were at risk from the cyclone. The United Nations refugee agency said it had positioned emergency tents in the Bangladesh camps.
            The aid agency CARE, which works in the area, said Friday that the risk was high.
            "The densely populated Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar are susceptible to deadly mudslides triggered by torrential rainfall," said Zia Choudary, the country director of CARE Bangladesh.
            "The concentration of the one million displaced Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazaar is now among the densest in the world and, even if the region is not hit directly, the impacts of Cyclone Fani will create havoc."
            The storm was expected make landfall in Bangladesh early Saturday.
          )

      Official U.N. statement:
    • Cyclone Fani hits India,
      UN moves to protect
      vulnerable refugees in Bangladesh.

      One of the strongest storms to batter India in decades made landfall near the northeastern coastal city of Puri on Friday morning. UN agencies are monitoring Cyclone Fani’s movements closely and taking measures to protect families living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, which is on alert.
          - U.N. News (United Nations)

        The cyclone lashed the coast with maximum wind speeds of up to 175 kilometres per hour (125mph), heavy rainfall and coastal flooding, with 28 million people living along the route of the massive storm.
        * * *
        "The impact (is) expected to be less severe in areas such as, for example, Cox’s Bazar," WFP’s spokesperson Claire Nullis added, which is home to the world’s largest refugee camp, populated mainly by Rohingya who have fled northern Myanmar.
        The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration, IOM, were also taking measures to ensure the protection of families during the expected heavy rains and strong winds.
        In an interview with UN News, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh, Manuel Pereira, said that ‘tie-down kits’ were being distributed to secure houses and shelters for the past two weeks, and underlined that they were working to “avoid any loss of lives”.
        The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement that its staff had been completing engineering and disaster risk reduction work around Cox’s Bazar, to make the camps safer and more accessible, during the monsoon and cyclone seasons.
        Spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel added that extra stocks of food and prepositioned supplies were in place, in case of any impact and teams were monitoring the potential impact on the refugee camps.
        Bangladesh is home for 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, most of whom fled Myanmar in 2017.

  • 2019 May 4 - Saturday

    • Remove all barriers to repatriation,
      Bangladesh asks Myanmar
      at JWG meeting on Rohingya.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to remove all barriers to the repatriation of Rohingyas -- and to take concrete steps to create conducive conditions for their return.
        It also emphasised on positive steps towards a "well-defined time-bound pathway" to citizenship that would encourage the Rohingyas to return voluntarily.
        The suggestions were put forward at the fourth Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting in [Myanmar's capital,] Nay Pyi Taw, yesterday.
        * * *
        Bangladesh particularly stressed the need to remove legal and administrative barriers -- including freedom of movement, safety and security -- to ensure basic rights of the returnees, said the statement.
        * * *
        At the JWG meeting yesterday, Dhaka stressed on early start of physical repatriation. The process remained stalled although Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral deal on repatriation in November 2017.
        In June last year, Myanmar also signed a tripartite deal with the UN Refugee Agency and the UNDP, granting them assess conditions in Rakhine state.
        The UN says conditions in Myanmar have NOT been conducive for sustainable, voluntary and dignified return of the Rohingyas, who have been fleeing persecution in Rakhine since 1980s. They were denied citizenship and basic rights, including rights to movement, education and healthcare.
        Escalation of armed clashes between the Myanmar Army and Arakan Army, a Buddhist rebel group seeking greater autonomy in Rakhine, has further complicated the situation there.
        * * *
        Despite preparations from both the countries, Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar camps refused to return [to Myanmar] in November last year, arguing that the conditions were not safe and secure for them, and that there were no guarantees for their citizenship and recognition as an ethic group.
       

    • Cyclone Fani:
      UN moves to protect
      vulnerable Rohingyas
      in Bangladesh.

          - Daily Star (Bangaldesh)

        The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have taken measures to ensure the protection of Rohingya families in Cox's Bazar district during the expected heavy rains and strong winds caused [by] cyclone Fani. ...

  • 2019 May 5 - Sunday

    • Dozens killed as
      Cyclone Fani hits
      Bangladesh and India.

          - Reuters / Australian Broadcasting Corp.
        The strongest cyclone to hit India in five years killed at least 33 people in the country's eastern Odisha state before swinging north-eastwards into Bangladesh, where five more people died. But the evacuation of millions of people across the two countries is believed to have saved many more lives.
        Tropical Cyclone Fani, which made landfall early on Friday, lost some of its power and was downgraded to a depression as the storm hovered over Bangladesh.
        A storm surge still breached embankments to submerge dozens of villages on Bangladesh's low-lying coast, a disaster ministry official in Dhaka said.
        * * *
        About 1.2 million people living in the most vulnerable districts in Bangladesh had... been moved to some 4,000 shelters.

    • Cyclone prompts
      refugee safety review
      in Bangladesh.

      UN agencies take steps to
      make camps housing
      one million people
      safer.

          - Asia Times (China)

          (CAUTION: This media is probably subject to Chinese government control).
        After the strongest storm in years devastated the state of Odisha in eastern India and parts of Bangladesh, UN agencies are monitoring its movements closely and taking measures to protect people living in refugee camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar.
        UN News reported on May 3 that the impact of Cyclone Fani, as the storm was called, was expected to be "less severe in areas such as … Cox’s Bazar" where nearly one million Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in makeshift huts and similar, potentially vulnerable structures.
        Even so, the UN had extra food and other supplies in place in the camps. "Tie-down kits" have been distributed "to secure houses and shelters … [and to] avoid any loss of lives."
        In other parts of Bangladesh, schools were shut, airports closed and transport suspended.
        The World Food Program said in a statement quoted by UN News that its "staff had completed engineering and disaster risk reduction work around Cox’s Bazar, to make the camps safer, and more accessible, during the monsoon and cyclone seasons."
        The world’s largest refugee camp is located near Cox’s Bazar -- and efforts to have the [Rohingya] refugees repatriated, [from there] to Myanmar, have made little progress.
        Plans to relocate some of the refuges to an island off the coast of Bangladesh may also be re-considered after Cyclone Fani. The island, Bhashan Char, is in one of Asia’s most cyclone-prone areas.

  • 2019 May 6 - Monday

    • 12 people, suspected
      to be Rohingya,
      held in Mizoram
      [in Eastern India].

          - The HIndu (India)

        A total of 12 people, suspected to be Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, were arrested in Mizoram for entering the State without valid travel documents, a police officer said on Monday.
        Eight women and four boys from Bangladesh
      were taken from a house to Bawngkawn police station here on Sunday, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte said.
        It is suspected that they might be victims of human trafficking.
        Mr. Khiangte said the arrested people had mobile phones without sim cards in their possession.
        Investigation is on to find out their identities.
        The 12 people were found in the residence of a woman who claimed that her cousin who lived at Tahan in Myanmar had asked for her a favour to keep the ‘guests’ before they were taken to the neighbouring country.
        * * *
        In late April, eight Rohingya women were detained at India-Myanmar border Vairengte town for trying to enter Mizoram illegally and were pushed back.
        They had claimed that they were from Kutupalong refugee camp at Sabulara in Bangladesh and were abducted on April 19 by a group of men who brought them to Mizoram by truck. ...
        (same topic at:
        - "12 Suspected Rohingya Without Valid Documents Arrested In Mizoram: Report"
          May 6, at NDTV (India)
          A total of 12 suspected Rohingya from Bangladesh were arrested in Mizoram for entering the state without valid travel documents, a police officer said today. Eight women and four boys from Bangladesh ... It is suspected that they were victims of human trafficking. ...
        - "Suspected Rohingya refugees shifted to state-run shelter homes."
          May 8, Press Trust of India
            in Business Standard (India)
          The twelve suspected Rohingya refugees, who were rescued three days ago, here, allegedly from a human trafficking gang, have been shifted to state-run shelter homes, a senior police officer said.
            A group of eight women and four minor boys were apprehended from the house of a local woman in Aizawl on Sunday for residing in India without valid travel documents.
            The woman, who had been hosting the group, told police that she provided them shelter as a favour to her cousin in Tahan, Myanmar.
            She also said that it was the fifth time that people took refuge at her home, before being transported to Myanmar.
            "While the boys were sent to a home for orphans, the women have been moved to another protected shelter home, both maintained by the state social welfare department.
            "It seems that all 12 of them were brought to Mizoram from Bangladesh refugee camps,"
          Deputy Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Lalbiakthanga Khiangte said.
            The DIG also said that the group was probably trafficked to Mizoram through the porous Assam border.
            "No one understood the language in which they were speaking, making the interrogation process extremely difficult for us," Khiangte said, adding that an investigation is underway to nab the culprits who brought them here illegally.
            * * *
            Many [Rohingya refugees] fall prey to trafficking gangs, who lure them with promise of better jobs and livelihood. ...
        - "12 more Rohingya victims of trafficking rescued in Mizoram"
          May 15, at Hindustan Times (India)
          Rohingya activists in India and Malaysia say both the desperate refugees and the traffickers are using the India-Myanmar border crossings in Manipur and Mizoram for the "high risk" journey to Myanmar and further on to Thailand and Malaysia. ...
        - May 8, at Al Jazeera (Arab news network, Qatar)
          (CAUTION: Al Jazeera has bias & credibility problems.) )



    • SPECIAL REPORT:
          May 6-7, 2019
      REUTERS JOURNALISTS RELEASED
      FROM MYANMAR PRISON.

        Two reporters -- who discovered, documented and revealed a Rohingya massacre by Myanmar's army, and were later arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 7 years in prison -- and lost their appeal to the nation's Supreme Court last month, have suddenly been released from prison.

          - BBC News
        same topic at:
      - Reuters News Service ... and also at: - Associated Press
      - BBC
      - AFP (Agence France-Presse), and also at: - New York Times
      - Wall Street Journal
      - Washington Post
      - AP / Fox News
      - CBS News
      - PBS-TV (Public Broadcasting System)
      - NPR (National Public Radio) )
      - The Times [of London] (U.K.)
      - The Guardian (U.K.)
      - Deutsche Welle (Germany) ...plus... - Al Jazeera (Arab news, Qatar)
      - Reuters / The Hindu (India)
      - Daily Star (Bangladesh)
      - The Irrawaddy (Myanmar/Burma)
        (NOTE: Although this media appears to be independent and credible, it may be subject to Myanmar military control).
      - Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)
          (VIDEO on YouTube.com)
      - Straits Times (Singapore)
      - South China Morning Post (China)
        (VIDEO: may be subject to China gov't control).
      - Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
      - Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Australia)
      [Paraphrased from TV broadcast:]
        Two Myanmar journalists, who discovered and exposed the only confessions and photographic proof of a massacre committed during the Myanmar military's 2017 purge of Rohingyas -- and who were subsequently arrested and imprisoned by Myanmar -- have been unexpectedly released, among other prisoners released during an annual mass-amnesty program.
        Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, reporters for Reuters News Service, were released from Myanmar's notorious Insein Prison, Monday, May 6. -- surrounded by Reuters colleagues and numerous other reporters and photographers.
        Wa Lone expressed joy at his release, thanking the "many people inside, and outside [the prison]," who expressed support for the reporters, and pressured the Myanmar government for their release.
        Lone indicated he was looking forward to seeing his family again (his first child was born while he was in prison), and "getting back to my newsroom."
        Despite having been in prison for over a year and a half ("over 500 days" according to the BBC), Lone empahsized that he would never stop working as a journalist.

        * * *
      The Reuters Reporters' story:
        [Paraphrased from prior articles listed on this site:]

      Rohingya refugees, escaping by boat, watch their villages burn
      ©2017 SCMP . TV


      When, in August, 2017, the Myanmar military began its violent purge of Rohingyas from Myanmar's north-western Rakhine state, the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh reported thousands of atrocities, committed against the Rohingya, by the Myanmar military and indigenous Rakhine Buddhists -- mass killings, gang rapes, villages torched, elderly burned alive in their homes, children and infants thrown into fires.
        But, in their frantic flight, none of the Rohingya refugees collected video or photographic proof of the crimes -- all of which were denied by the Myanmar military and government.
        The Myanmar military cordoned off the conflict area -- forbidding journalists, human rights activists, foreign dignitaries and U.N. officials from entering, investigating and reporting on what was happening to the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
        Instead, in mid-November, 2017, the Myanmar military conducted its own official "investigation," into the widespread allegations of atrocities -- and exonerated itself completely.


      Reuters journalists Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe  Oo, working at Reuters in Yangon. Mynamar, on Dec. 11, 2017.  Photo by  A.Slodkowski, Reuters.jpg However, around the same time, two Myanmar journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo -- working for Reuters News Service (the world's leading international news-reporting syndicate) -- managed to track down rumors of a massacre of ten Rohingya at the Rakhine State village of Inn Dinn. Managing to find their way around security forces, they reached the village, and found some of the local Rakhine Buddhists willing to talk about what had happened.
        In fact, to their surprise, one of villagers provided them with photographs taken immediately before and after the group slaughter -- showing the captive victims, as well as some of the Myanmar soliders and Rakhine civilans who apparently had participated in the killings.
      These 10 Rohingya villagers were photographed by a Rakhine Buddhist villager shortly before they were ordered into a mass grave, where they were shot by Myanmar soliders, and some stabbed to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers. ©2017 SkyNews
      Witnesses -- including at least one participant in the killing -- spoke openly about what had happened,
      when ten young Rohingya men were bound, placed in a trench, then shot to death by soliders and hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhists.
        When the Reuters reporters documented and published their discovery -- and a villager's cellphone-video, of some of the event, was leaked to the media -- global opinion hardened against the Myanmar military and government, who were forced to admit their denials were not entirely true.
        But on Dec. 17, 2017, the reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were lured to a meeting in a cafe in Yangon -- apparently with the promise of further information for their investigative reporting. The invitation (as later testified by the reporters, and by a police captain involved) was a set-up by the Myanmar authorities, to entrap the journalists. While sitting at the cafe table, the reporters were handed a bundle of papers, and then promptly arrested for possesing them -- allegedly secret government documents.

        Officially, the Myanmar military arrested, tried and convicted a handful of soldiers reportedly involved in the Inn Dinn massacre, and sentenced them to a few years in prison in a distant province (though there were reports that they'd been subsequently seen "out on the loose").

        But, January 10, 2018 -- the day the Myanmar military publicly admitted the now-proven killings (while making excuses for them) -- was the day the reporters were summoned to court on the "official secrets" charge.
        At their trial, a police captain, who had been part of the scheme, testified that it was a set-up -- and he was promptly jailed by the Myanmar security forces on an unspecified charge. Another officer, in violation of court rules, listened and took notes during others' testimony before being called to give his own testimony.
        An initial rulling by the presiding judge appeared to turn things to the reporters' favor, but the judge reversed himself within a few days, and the reporters were convicted of violating Myanmar's "Official Secrets Act" -- and sentenced to 7 years in prison.

        Attempts to persuade Myanmar's leading civilian government official, Aung San Suu Kyi, to intervene, fell on deaf ears, with Suu Kyi declaring that the reporters -- unpopular with Myanmar's mainly Buddhist, anti-Muslim public -- were guilty, and shoud be punished.
        Global media and world leaders decried the verdict -- and lambasted Suu Kyi for her complicit intransigence -- while raising the cause of the journalists to a global cause.
        Last December, TIME   Magazine named the two reporters, along with another one elsewhere, as its 2018 "Persons of the Year."

        But, on January 11 of this year, an appeals court upheld their sentences -- stimulating global criticism from sources as diverse as the U.S. State Department, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal and Amnesty International -- as well as leading media, conservative and liberal, around the globe. Until today's release, many of them kept up pressure on Myanmar's government to release the reporters.

        The reporters lodged a final appeal with Myanmar's Supreme Court, February 1st. And just few weeks ago (the week of April 10-13) -- just days before the Reuters journalists were to argue their final appeal to the Myanmar Supreme Court -- the United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO, annaounced it was awarding its annual Press Freedom Prize to them, for extraordinary heroism in reporting.
        And the next day America' s Pulitzer Center awarded them the famed annual Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

        However, the global support appeared to all be to no avail, as the Myanmar Supreme Court, on Tuesday, April 23rd -- without comment or explanation -- ruled to uphold their convictions and sentences.
        The European Union's ambassador to Myanmar attended the hearing, and immediately after criticized the ruling, and urged Myanmar's official civilian President to arrange for the reporters' immediate and unconditional release.
       
      * (NOTE: Myanmar, as "Burma," was a British colony from the 1800s until after World War II, and Britain retains significant, if testy, relations with Myanmar/Burma (particularly economic and academic ties). Further, the U.K. was instrumental in agitating for Aung San Suu Kyi's transition from political prisoner to Myanmar's highest civilian government position in 2012. And British-educated Suu Kyi married a British citizen.)
      That same day, the British* Foreign Secretary lodged a complaint with Myanmar about the matter, and appealed directly to Aung San Suu Kyi -- Myanmar's defacto top civilian official -- "to recognise that, as someone who fought for democracy in Burma, she should be taking a personal interest in the future of these two brave journalists."

        There was no sign of any sympathy or cooperation from Myanmar's government. When it came time for the traditional annual selective-amnesty release of prisoners from Myanmar's prisons (for the Buddhist New Year), about 8,500 prisoners were released -- but not the Reuters reporters.
        However, on another round of Buddhist New Year amnesty releases, today, May 6, 2019, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were released, after over a year and a half in prison.
        Both men indicated gratitude towards their supporters, and a desire to reunite with their families -- and then plans to resume their work as journalists.

      ~ RCN editor.


  • 2019 May 7 - Tuesday

      ---------------

  • 2019 May 8 - Wednesday

    • [World Bank] to provide $165mn
      for Rohingya services.

          - UNB / The Independent (Bangaldesh)

        The government of Bangladesh on Wednesday signed a $165 million grant financing agreement with the World Bank to provide basic services and build disaster and social resilience for Rohingyas taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar fleeing violence in Myanmar.
        To help Bangladesh deal with the world’s fastest-growing exodus, the Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project will build 53 multipurpose disaster shelters in and around the camps, pave more than 200 km of roads, provide water and sanitation services for around 200,000 people, and set up 1,500 solar street lights.
        The project will also help strengthen emergency response services, provide community works and services, and prevent gender-based violence.
        * * *
        Dandan Chen said Bangladesh has generously provided shelter to about a million Rohingya refugees but the needs of both the Rohingya and the host community are huge. "This project addresses the current refugee crisis but goes further to help strengthen the government’s overall capacity to plan, coordinate and respond to emergencies," she said.
        * * *
        The $165million grant is the third in a series of planned financings of approximately half a billion dollars announced by the World Bank in June 2018.
        Earlier, the World Bank committed a $75 million grant that includes a $13 million from Canada, to meet health and learning needs of the Rohingya.

    • Swept up in Muslim genocide crisis,
      Hindu Rohingyas stuck in Bangladesh.

          - America Magazine

            (Catholic Jesuit news magazine)
            (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown.)
       

    • VIDEO:
      In exile, a bittersweet flourishing
      of Rohingya culture

          - The Telegraph (Australia)

      RCN Editor's commentary:

        This article reports on China's often-repeated expression that regional "development" (in cooperation with China) is the solution to the Rohingya "problem."
        In fact, this editor, and other analysts, believe that China's goal is to essentially exploit all the surrounding countries and people (and the Rohingya particularly), for its own purposes, through it's official expansionist "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI).
        The Chinese suggest that BRI is largely an economic "partnership," for "mutual" benefit. But critics see it as predatory Chinese economic colonialism -- intended to subjugate and exploit other countries, their resources, and their people.

        China has particular interests in Myanmar/Burma -- particularly in its western Rakhine state along the Indian Ocean coast (the homeland of the Rohingya):
        The explusion of Rohingya Muslims from their lands in Myanmar's Rakhine state has left their lands free for:

      • Chinese coastal and river port developments,
          China has already begun the development of a massive commercial port on the Rakhine coast, at Kyaukpyu, which it plans to use as China's closest seaport to inland Chinese cities in South-Central and Western China.
          The Rakhine coast is also a logical place for Chinese military bases to support China's expansionist goals, and to challenge its longtime principal regional rival: neighboring India.
         
      • Chinese-affiliated rice farming, to feed China, the world's largest population. (Myanmar is the world's largest exporter of rice -- and China is the worlds' greatest consumer of rice.)
         
      • Chinese-affiliated energy projects, including assets to support and protect China's current supply of natural gas from offshore wells along Myanmar's Rakhine coast, and pipelines or other shipment of it to China, across Myanmar.
         
      It is also in keeping with China's exceptional hostility towards Muslims. The militantly athiest Chinese government views any religion as a threat to its power and control -- and fears Islam in particular. According to numerous reports recently leaking out of the heavily-guarded region of Western China (generally off-limits to the rest of the world), China has recently begun interning hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims (who largely populate Western China) -- forcing them into massive "re-education" camps, in an attempt to eliminate their practice of Islam.

        China, while conceding that the Rohingya must someday be returned to Rakhine state, has refused to support the idea of full repatriation -- with the Rohingya being given back control of their land and property, and full freedom and citizenship within Myanmar.
        Instead, China has accommodated Myanmar's view that returning Rohingya should be forced to live in "temporary" "internment" camps, and -- rather than resume their traditional independent lives of farming on their own lands, and fishing on their own shores -- accept whatever "employment," is offered to them from new local "developments" in Rakhine state (now being plundered by the Myanmar military, and its commercial allies from China and India).
        This arguably creates the impression of a people being disposessed, imprisoned, and forced into servant labor, largely for the benefit of China.
                    ~RCN Editor.

      For supporting reports & analysis, see:

  • 2019 May 9 - Thursday

    • In a new gesture,
      China links Rohingya issue
      with BCIM* success.

      * [Bangaldesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor:
          the region's segment
          of China's expansionist
          "Belt & Road Initiative"]

          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        China -- which protected Myanmar in the UN Security Council using its veto power -- believes implementation of the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor can solve the Rohingya problem.
        "The real solution of the problem lies in development," Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Zhang Zuo said on Wednesday in Dhaka in a post-BRI, or Belt and Road Initiative, press briefing.
        His comment came in the backdrop of the international pressure, on Myanmar, to accept Rohingyas as their citizens, to make a sustainable solution of the decades-old crisis.
        [The crisis] took an appalling turn, in Aug 2017, when over 700,000 Rohingya people fled ‘ethnic cleansing’ in [Myanmar's] Rakhine State, and took shelter in Bangladesh.
        China has been wielding its veto power in the UN Security Council to ward off international pressure on Myanmar. The Chinese foreign minister was engaged with both Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a solution.
        "China pays very close attention to the Rohingya issue," the ambassador said one being asked.
        "We also hope that in the process of implementing the BCIM economic corridor, we could come up with a very good solution to the Rohingya problem," he said, appreciating Bangladesh for giving shelter to Rohingyas despite difficulties.
        Zhang said China is willing "to continue to play a constructive role and we would like to provide as much help as we can, according to the needs of the both sides".
        "Myanmar and Bangladesh could keep dialogue and keep communicating over this while keeping each other’s concerns in mind so that they can find ways to start substantial repatriation process as soon as possible."
        But the ambassador said repatriation is "only part of the overall solution proposed by China".
        "We believe that the real solution to the problem lies in development. So we hope that after the violence is stopped and the people are repatriated, the Rakhine state could be further developed. We believe that development could help effectively solve the poverty problem."
        China and Myanmar signed a document on the construction of economic corridor which, the ambassador said is a "very important" part of the BCIM.
        "This can also be seen as one of the early outcomes of the larger BCIM project," Zhang said, adding that they will work with all the other countries involved in the BCIM economic corridor initiative "to see early, substantial progress and early outcomes".
        He also believes that India will not hold "any reservations" about the BCIM.

      BRI MEET ACHIEVED ‘REMARKABLE’ OUTCOMES
        The ambassador said the second BRI meet from April 25 to 27 was "successfully" held in Beijing with the theme ‘Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future’.
        Over 6,000 foreign guests from 150 countries and 92 international organisations took part in the forum.
        They reached a broad consensus on "high-quality" belt and road cooperation, delivering substantial results. He said the meet achieved "a series of remarkable outcomes".
        There are some major outcome highlights summarised from President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech, and the Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable.
        Those are: drawing the blueprint for future cooperation actions, promoting a global partnership of connectivity, focusing on deepening practical cooperation, building long-term supporting mechanisms and committing to reform and opening up to show China’s sense of responsibility, among others.
        "The BRI is a long-term project and a common cause for global partners. China would like to work with all parties to promote the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation in the spirit of an architect refining the blueprint," the ambassador said.
        "We are willing to, together with cooperative partners, sow the seeds and reap the fruits."

    • India's Muslims fear
      for their future
      under Narendra Modi.

          - BBC

        NOTE: This article is included because this matter significantly affects the 40,000 or so Rohingya refugees in India, as well as various border issues with Bangladesh and Myanmar, related to the Rohingya Crisis.
        With incumbent Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his anti-Muslim BJP party now in power in India -- and appearing to again be the likely victors in the May 2019 elections -- Rohingya Muslims are the subject of various Indian government efforts to expel them from India (which adjoins Myanmar and surrounds Bangladesh), or block them from entering India in the first place.
        However, India -- a nation that is 80% Hindu, 20% Muslim -- remains a hopeful haven for the Rohingya.
        India is also a haven and trafficking route for human-traffickers, who seek to decieve and exploit desperate Rohingya, trafficking them (especially women and girls) within and through India to destinations promising work (which often turns out to be sweatshop labor, prostitution or arranged marriage).
        For the article, click on the title, above.
        ~ RCN Editor

  • 2019 May 10 - Friday

    • Bangladesh Chinese Envoy Rapped
      for Linking Rohingya Crisis
      to Economic Trade

          - Benar News / RFA (Radio Free Asia)

            (U.S. propaganda radio)
        A Bangladeshi official and political observers, on Friday, criticized a statement by the Chinese ambassador -- who suggested this week that the Rohingya refugee crisis could be solved through economic development in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine state [the Rohingya homeland].
        Linking the plight of Rohingya Muslims, to trade and infrastructure investments in the sub-region, would be tantamount to disregarding the human rights issues that led to a massive exodus of refugees from Myanmar, the official and analysts told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
        "Development alone could not resolve the Rohingya crisis," Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told BenarNews on Friday.
        "The political will of Myanmar’s government is most crucial," he said. "Unless the rights of the Rohingya people in Rakhine are not ensured, the crisis will not be over."

      BenarNews asked Kalam, and others in Bangladesh, for their views on a remark made by Chinese Ambassador Zhang Zuo, on the Rohingya, during a news briefing the envoy gave in Dhaka, on Wednesday, about Beijing’s massive "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) infrastructure initiative.
        "The real solution of the problem lies in development," Zuo said -- referring to the 740,000 Rohingya refugees who fled their homes, and crossed into Bangladesh, at the height of a Myanmar military crackdown in 2017.
        "We hope that after the violence is stopped and the people are repatriated, the Rakhine state could be further developed."
        "We also hope that, in the process of implementing the BCIM economic corridor, we could come up with a very good solution to the Rohingya problem,"
      the ambassador added.
      BCIM is an acronym for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (a sub-regional organization, also known as the "BCIM Economic Corridor"). It was conceptualized in the early 1990s to improve trade between the four Asian nations.
        Without elaborating, Zuo said repatriation was "only part of the overall solution proposed by China" [to the Rohingya Crisis].
        As proposed, the BCIM Economic Corridor would connect Kunming (the capital and largest city of Yunnan province in southwest China) with Kolkata (in the Indian state of West Bengal). The connection would run through the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, and [through] Mandalay, the second-largest city of Myanmar.
        "The Chinese ambassador tried to convey the message that the proposed BCIM corridor will cross via Rakhine state. So, resolving the Rohingya crisis was a precondition to implementing the BCIM corridor," Retired Maj. Gen. A.N.M. Muniruzzaman, president of the nonprofit think-tank Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, told Benar.
        Muniruzzaman, who attended the Chinese envoy’s briefing, claimed China appeared to be looking at the Rohingya crisis through the lens of Beijing’s national interest.
        "China has been constructing a deep seaport in Rakhine state. They are building up an energy terminal there," he said. "[But] development is not the only strategy to resolve the Rohingya crisis."
      In November, Myanmar signed a renegotiated deal with China’s state-run CITIC Group to develop a multibillion-dollar deep sea port in Kyauk Pyu in Rakhine State, on the Bay of Bengal. The agreement came as Myanmar moved closer to Beijing.
        Analysts and academics expressed agreement, alleging the Chinese diplomat made it appear that Beijing was looking at the Rohingya refugees from an economic perspective.
        "In the pretext of development, China has been overlooking the human aspect of the Rohingya crisis," Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.
      U.N. human rights investigators have accused Myanmar’s military of committing ethnic cleansing against the minority group during the brutal crackdown taken in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts.
        Beijing had proposed to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya refugee exodus, which peaked between August and September 2017. Negotiations for the Rohingya repatriation have stalled.
        In March this year, Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told a U.N. Security Council meeting that the refugee crisis had gone from "bad to worse."
        Dhaka, he said, would no longer be able to take in refugees from Myanmar.
      Mahmida Khatun, executive director of the private think-tank Center for Policy Dialogue, also questioned the Chinese envoy’s comments.
        "China says it wants development of Bangladesh and Myanmar," she said, "but they keep silent on Rohingya repatriation."

        Khatun said Myanmar must first guarantee the security and safety, fundamental rights, freedom of movement, education and job opportunities in the place where the refugees would be returned.
        Many residents of Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard Rohingyas as "Bengalis," implying that the minorities entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations. Most of them have been denied citizenship and prevented from traveling outside Rakhine state.
        "The Myanmar government should commit to ensure social development, in addition to economic development, in Rakhine state," she said.

  • 2019 May 11 - Saturday

    • UK officials
      immediately saw through
      Burma 'whitewash'.

          - The Times [of London] (U.K.)

        [In late 2017,] British diplomats privately accused [Myanmar's] Burmese security forces of "conniving" in razing villages and imposing an "Orwellian whitewash", cables released to The Times show.
        Distrust in the regime’s account of the Rohingya crisis emerged [this week],
      as two Reuters journalists were freed this week by presidential amnesty from seven-year jail sentences for reporting on the persecution.
        As the nation led by the Nobel peace prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi cracked down on the freedom of the press, British officials were scornful of the military’s accounts of events.
        The crisis -- which led to hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Rohingya Muslim minority fleeing into Bangladesh in 2016* -- has poisoned relations between Britain and Burma. [* This may be a typo; probably should read "2017" ~RCN editor.]
        British diplomats joined what they regarded as a military-organised propaganda trip to the conflict…

  • 2019 May 12 - Sunday

    • Bangladesh rescues 23
      Malaysia-bound Rohingya girls
      from traffickers.

          - AFP / New Straits Times (Malaysia)

        Twenty-three teenage Rohingya girls were rescued after being brought from refugee camps to the capital Dhaka to be sent to Malaysia by air, Bangladesh police said Sunday.
        Dhaka police also arrested four human traffickers including a Rohingya couple and recovered over 50 Bangladeshi passports from them on Saturday.
        Police spokesman Mokhlesur Rahman said they raided a residence in the northern part of the city and found the teenagers hiding in a room behind a tailoring shop.
        "They were promised jobs in Malaysia and brought from refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar," he told AFP, referring to the Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh’s southeastern coastal district.
        The girls – aged between 15 and 19 – could have been potential victims of forced prostitution, the official said.
        "We have filed cases against the four arrested persons and sent the girls back to their camps in Cox’s Bazar," Rahman said.
        Abul Khair, local police chief of Ukhiya, where Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp in the world, is situated, said he received the girls and would send them to their homes in the camps.
        * * *
        Jishu Barua, an aid worker specialised in human trafficking prevention, said he dealt with 100 cases of human trafficking in the camps in the last six weeks.
        "But this figure represents only a small portion of what is actually going on," he told AFP.

  • 2019 May 13 - Monday

    • Rohingya among
      4 Terror Suspects
      in Malaysian Custody.

          - RFA (Radio Free Asia)
            (U.S. propaganda radio)

        Two Rohingya were among suspects apprehended in a foiled Islamic State (IS) plot in Malaysia to attack worship sites and assassinate "high-profile personalities" during Ramadan, police said Monday, in the first terror-related arrests there involving members of the Myanmar ethnic minority.
        Officials said the Rohingya and two other suspects were arrested in raids in Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu between May 5 and 7, and planned to bomb Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, churches and entertainment spots during the first week of the Islamic month of fasting, which began May 6.
        "This is the first time we arrest Rohingyas. Prior to this, there was no case involving them," a police source close to the investigation told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
        The order to execute the plot was given by a Malaysian militant operating in Syria, but his identity was not known, Abdul Hamid Bador, Malaysia’s new chief of police, told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
        * * *
      Regional haven
        Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has been seen a safe haven in Southeast Asia for Rohingya fleeing from persecution in Buddhist majority Myanmar and violence in Rakhine state. There are at least 90,200 Rohingya living in Malaysia,
      according to UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency.
        Last year, Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu expressed worry about the possibility of Rohingya expatriates turning to extremism.
        "We are concerned that the Rohingyas could be manipulated to become suicide bombers or recruited into terrorist cells in this region," he told a Kuala Lumpur meeting of counterterrorist security professionals in August.

    • [Former U.S. ambassador]
      Bill Richardson
      says Aung San Suu Kyi
      'doesn't deserve credit'
      for releasing two jailed journalists.

          - PRI (Public Radio International)

        Today in Myanmar, two Reuters journalists are enjoying time with their families days after their release from prison. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo served more than 500 days in jail after they were arrested for violating the country's Official Secrets Act when they uncovered details around the killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys.
        Myanmar's civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was one of the biggest obstacles to winning the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, according to former UN Ambassador and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
        He spoke to Marco Werman about his meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi and his attempts to negotiate the freedom of these journalists. ...

        * * *
      Richardson:
        I had backed her for 20 years as a public official. I think what happened was she got infatuated with her power -- with the fact that she was president -- and the fact that she felt she needed the support of the military. She lost her conscience, and I deeply regretted that, because she was a political prisoner herself, and she said that these journalists are committing security secrecy crimes, which was totally false. There was a real regret on my part, to resign, because it obviously broke our relationship.

      Interviewer:
        Aside from the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi was a political prisoner herself, spoke fervently about human rights and won a Nobel Peace Prize for that, what signs were there, back in the day, that her moral compass might someday go astray?
      Richardson:
        The fact that she didn't tolerate criticism. It was obvious that this advisory panel she named was just to buttress what the Myanmar government was doing against the Rohingya: not giving them citizenship protection, and committing massive human rights violations. I wasn't going to be part of that.
        The first incident that I saw this was when I opened the advisory committee meeting with her by saying, "To start, you might release the Reuters journalists. They're just doing their job. It's giving you a bad name."
        She lashed out at me saying, "This is all wrong. You are wrong. This is not your charter."
        That's when I knew that our charter was going to be whitewashing what she wanted, and I wasn't going to be a part of it.
        I don't think she deserves credit for releasing the two journalists. I think it was the enormous public pressure, and maybe the military itself realized that this was a big problem for the Myanmar government.
        My information is that she resisted their release until the very end. She finally did it, but under enormous pressure. I'm not applauding the release of the journalists by Aung San Suu Kyi. It was international pressure.

      Interviewer:
        How do you process the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in terms of Myanmar's democracy? Do you see this as a new opening that diplomats in the West might pursue, and would you encourage that, given your current feelings about Aung San Suu Kyi?
      Richardson:
        I think that the judicial process would not release the two journalists; it took presidential pardon. Maybe there is a positive sign that, as the elections near in Myanmar, that Aung San Suu Kyi realizes they cannot continue these massive human rights violations, especially jailing journalists. There are a lot of other political prisoners, and other journalists, that are in jail today, that deserve to go out.

      Interviewer:
        Do you think this is a cautionary tale for US diplomats on whom they choose to ally themselves with, and the pursuit of democracy?
      Richardson:
        This is a cautionary tale for US diplomats, and all diplomats. Just don't believe press releases. Aung San Suu Kyi is a perfect example. She was a champion of human rights, but once she got power, she felt that she could abuse human rights to retain that power, and retain the support of the military. She tries to justify her actions, which have been cruel in terms of the Rohingya people, but also in terms of freedom of the press and democratic principles that she used to stand for.

        (same topic at:
        - New York Times / Irish Times (Ireland)
          ...which reports:
        The biggest obstacle to releasing two imprisoned Reuters reporters in Myanmar last week was not the country’s military, diplomats and others say, but its de facto civilian leader: Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and former political prisoner.
          Her seemingly incongruous opposition to freeing the two reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were let go last week after more than a year in detention, was well known among the diplomatic emissaries who repeatedly had urged her to release them. At times, she became angry when foreigners raised the case of the two men, who were imprisoned in connection with their coverage of the country’s crackdown on the Rohingya minority.
          In an interview on Japanese television, [Suu Kyi] -- the leader of the National League for Democracy and the country’s state counsellor -- declared that they broke the law, even before a court had delivered a verdict. After their conviction, she insisted that their legal appeals must be completed before she would intervene, despite clear evidence that police entrapped them.
          Suu Kyi defied a relentless if quiet campaign by the Reuters news service, the US government and other western nations to free the pair. But the international pressure appeared to have an effect in recent weeks, at least among Suu Kyi’s top aides.
          In late April, after Myanmar’s supreme court upheld the reporters’ conviction, her spokesman, Zaw Htay, quietly advised an intermediary that their families should stop filing legal appeals, clearing the way for a presidential pardon, according to three people in the chain of communications.
          * * *
          Rare concession
          After the families received his back-channel message, they dropped plans for further appeals and quickly drafted a new pardon request, said Pan Ei Mon, Wa Lone’s wife. Zaw Htay declined to comment on his role in communicating with the families or on Suu Kyi’s opposition to the reporters’ release until now.
          The release of the Reuters journalists is a rare concession by the Myanmar authorities in the face of intense global pressure, but it is unlikely to shift attention away from the hundreds of people still imprisoned or facing charges for speaking out.
          * * *
        ‘State of denial’
          "Because of her stubbornness and her state of denial over the abuses in Rakhine and the international criticism she received, she became the main obstacle in resolving the case," said David S Mathieson, an independent analyst of Myanmar’s politics. "It became a very personal case for her, publicly and privately."
          As the reporters remained in prison, they became a symbol of the government’s attempts to suppress free speech and to minimise or deny the atrocities in Rakhine. Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, share power with the military in a contentious arrangement enshrined in the military-drafted constitution of 2008.
          The daughter of the country’s founding general, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest and became a symbol of resistance to tyranny. Many of her supporters expected her to expand protections for human rights and free expression after her party swept parliamentary elections in 2015.
          Instead, crackdowns on free speech have persisted during her tenure, and hundreds of people are now in prison or face charges for speaking out.
          Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been investigating the massacre of 10 villagers in Rakhine state, were arrested as they left a meeting with the police. One officer handed them rolled up papers, which were later said to contain state secrets.
        Entrapped
          At trial, a police captain testified that the two had been entrapped. He was later convicted of having violated the police disciplinary code and was sentenced to a year in prison. Other prosecution witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the arrest and contradicted the police claim that information in the papers was secret.
          Nevertheless, the court found the pair guilty in September of having violated the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and sentenced them to seven years in prison.
          Within Myanmar, the prevailing view was that the two men were guilty and traitorous for having exposed the massacre, complicating any possible pardon.
          But the barrage of international criticism and quiet pressure from diplomats and others seeking their release prompted members of Suu Kyi’s government to seek a solution.
          The simplest answer, it seemed, was for the government to free them as part of an annual general amnesty, in which thousands of prisoners are released in mid-April. But time was running short. The supreme court released its decision upholding the pair’s conviction on April 23rd. Barely a week later, the office of the president, Win Myint, had the families’ new pardon petition in hand.
          With the legal process complete, they were pardoned in time for a third and final wave of prisoner amnesties last Tuesday.
          * * *
          [Amb. Bill Richardson's argument with Suu Kyi, about the reporters, is repeated here. See interview, above.]
          * * *
          Another source of pressure on Suu Kyi came from the Trump administration, which some free-press advocates considered a surprise because of its attacks on the news media. Vice-president Mike Pence took the lead in seeking the Reuters reporters’ freedom.
        Presidential pardons
          In November, Pence confronted Suu Kyi about the case at a regional forum in Singapore. Suu Kyi responded that the legal appeals process would have to conclude before any chance of presidential pardons.
          During the trial, the US ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, attended court hearings along with diplomats from other nations. Administration officials said that after the conviction, people around Suu Kyi sought to push her toward a position of leniency.
          Last Tuesday, Pence, speaking at a conference on Latin American issues at the state department, opened his speech by praising the release of the reporters and saying he hoped it "signals a positive and permanent respect for a free and independent press".
        Conviction flawed
          As part of the strategy to free the reporters, their supporters in Myanmar organised a 28-member legal team that included a retired judge, a former member of parliament and legal experts from a wide range of nongovernmental organisations. In December, the team issued a statement calling the conviction flawed and an obvious case of entrapment.
          Thar Lon Zaung Htet, founder of the Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists and a secretary of the Myanmar Press Council, helped the families communicate with top officials over the months, including Suu Kyi, and with arguably the country’s most powerful figure, Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing,
          "When I met Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, I asked him to help in the Reuters reporters’ case," Thar Lon Zaung Htet said. "He replied to me that he would help if he could. When I asked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she did not answer."

    • VIDEO: Bangladesh:
      Micro-gardening
      helps Rohingya refugees
      improve diet.

        Micro-gardening kits are distributed to tackle malnutrition and improve the diet of Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar.
          - Al Jazeera

            (CAUTION: Al Jazeera has bias & credibility problems.)

  • 2019 May 14 - Tuesday

    • Bangladesh police 'rescue'
      dozens of Rohingya
      being trafficked to Malaysia.

          - Reuters / The Star (Malaysia)

        Bangladeshi police prevented dozens of Rohingya Muslims, most of them women, about to be trafficked to Malaysia by boat, authorities said on Tuesday (May 14).
        Traffickers had picked up at least 69 Rohingya from refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar district, promising them work in Malaysia where many Rohingya already live, police said.
        Scores of Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia, part of what authorities fear could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking.
        An estimated 25,000 Rohingya crossed the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in 2015, many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.

        "After getting information from a secret source, our team carried out an operation last night and rescued them," police officer Abul Khair told Reuters, adding that there were 43 women and 11 children. They would be returned to camps.
        Police did not arrest any traffickers.
        * * *
        Buddhist-majority Myanmar regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent* and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps in Rakhine, since violence swept the area in 2012.

      * [calling Rohingya people "Bengalis" -- implying that they come from the Bengal region that is now divided between Bangladesh and India's West Bengal state ~RCN editor ],

  • 2019 May 15 - Wednesday

      -----------
       

  • 2019 May 16 - Thursday

    • Myanmar army chief's
      Twitter account suspended
      over anti-Rohingya hate speech.

          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        A Myanmar army general accused of masterminding genocide against the country’s Muslim Rohingya people has had his Twitter account suspended, following complaints about him using the social media platform for hate speech.
        Min Aung Hlaing, the south-east Asian country’s top ranking general, had his @sgminaunghlaing account taken offline this week.

        The move against the commander-in-chief, who claims his army did not use "excessive force" when about 700,000 Rohingyas fled Myanmar in 2017, was hailed by prominent Rohingya activist Tun Kinh as a "massive victory" for members of the ethnic group.
        Min Aung Hlaing, who was also accused of using social media to spread anti-Rohingya propaganda, had his Facebook account deleted in August 2018, after the United Nations called for Myanmar military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide.
        He used social media to refer to Rohingya people as "Bengali", implying that they were immigrants rather than Myanmar citizens. On Facebook he denied army atrocities and claimed that the military was targeting militants rather than committing genocide.
        The suspension came after Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, met Twitter executives in Silicon Valley, last week, and questioned them over why Min Aung Hlaing’s account remained live. The general’s Twitter account had not been used in about a year, but the suspension was still hailed as a significant gesture.
        Tun Kinh said: "The fact that Twitter has joined Facebook in deleting his account – which he used to sow hatred and spew out his defensive propaganda – is a massive victory for the Rohingya people."
        He added that "Min Aung Hliang was the mastermind of the Rohingya genocide … it is crucial that Twitter now follows through in deleting other accounts used by the regime for the same purpose."

  • 2019 May 17 - Friday

    • Stateless Rohingya Refugees
      in Bangladesh
      Receive Identity Documents
      for First Time.

          - VOA (Voice of America)
            (U.S. propaganda radio)

        Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency [(UNHCR)] have registered more than a quarter million Rohingya refugees -- and presented them with identity documents that grant them a number of rights and safeguards.
        Unlike citizens of a country, stateless people have few rights. They may be deprived of an education, a job or health care. Those who are not registered at birth have no identity. That is the situation for millions of Rohingya who were stripped of their citizenship in neighboring Myanmar in 1982. Many of them are sheltering in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, after fleeing killings and persecution in Myanmar.

      Change for better:
        For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, things are about to change for the better. The U.N. refugee agency says the more than 270,000 Rohingya refugees who have completed the registration process have, for the first time ever, received an identity card.
        UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the ID card includes a photo and key information, such as name, date of birth and place of birth. It also indicates Myanmar as the country of origin.
        "The first and foremost purpose of this registration is humanitarian, in order to safeguard their right to return, to regulate their stay -- and also to make sure that we do not know only how many people there are, that we have a detailed profile which allows us, with the more accurate data, to deliver far better assistance to this massive refugee population," Mahecic said.
        Mahecic says the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities hope to complete the registration process for the entire refugee population by November. He cites a number of benefits associated with having an ID card.

      Target assistance:
        Mahecic says the data will allow aid agencies to target assistance to people in acute need, including women and children heading families and people with disabilities. With the monsoon season approaching, he says the registration data will help reunite families who are separated during storms.
        He notes the refugees are ripe for exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Mahecic says the ID card will help authorities combat that nefarious trade.


  • 2019 May 18 - Saturday

    • Bangladesh stops
      84 Rohingya
      from perilous sea journey to Malaysia.

          - AFP / New Straits Times (Malaysia)

        COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh authorities prevented 84 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar from attempting a perilous boat journey to Malaysia [about a thousand miles away], officials said Saturday.

        Police in Pekua said 67 Rohingya Muslims from Kutupalong – the largest refugee settlement in the world – were stopped as they waited to board a fishing trawler.
        They included 31 women and 15 children.
        On Saint Martin’s, a small Bangladesh island in the Bay of Bengal, the country’s coast guard stopped 17 other Rohingya, and five Bangladeshi traffickers, before they could board a rickety fishing boat.
        Fayezul Islam Mondol, the regional coast guard commander, said they were acting on a tip off.
        * * *
        Thousands of refugees attempt to flee the camps each year in pursuit of better opportunities in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
        They frequently spend their life savings to embark on dangerous boat journeys they believe will improve their lives, but many fall prey to international human trafficking gangs.

        Most attempt the journey before March, when the sea is calm before the monsoon season sets in, but experts say traffickers are now convincing the refugees to attempt the crossing even in rough waters.
        "This is a very alarming situation," Jishu Barua, an aid worker specialising in trafficking, told AFP.

  • 2019 May 19 - Sunday

    • Are they really Rohingya?
        Rohingya refugees in Malaysia repudiate terrorism and recently-captured terror suspects -- and question whether they are truly Rohingya.
          - The Star (Malaysia) *

        News that two of their own have been arrested by the Malaysian police, for terrorism, rocked the Rohingya community here to the core this past week.
        Community leaders said they were shocked that the Rohingya here could be involved in these activities as they were "peace loving" people who were against violence. Some of the leaders even questioned if those picked up by the police were really Rohingya. ...
        * [NOTE: This source does not appear to conform to western journalism standards. It refers the suspects as if they have already been convicted of "terrorism." And it refers to "Arsa"/ARSA -- the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army -- as a "terrorist" organization ("one man's 'terrorist' is another man's 'freedom fighter'," seems an especially relevant journalistic caution, in this case).  ~RCN Editor.]
        (same topic, original event, at:
        - May 13 )

  • 2019 May 20 - Monday

  • 2019 May 21 - Tuesday

    • OPINION:
      [India's] Moral ambiguity
      on the Rohingya

      by Angshuman Choudhury,
        Senior Researcher & Coordinator, South East Asia Research Programme, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies, New Delhi, India.
      India must break its silence on the gross human rights violations by Myanmar.
          - The Hindu (India)

        India’s abstention from voting on a UN Human Rights Council draft resolution, in March this year, on the "situation of human rights in Myanmar" needs closer examination.
        Co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh, the resolution "expresses grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar", particularly in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States -- and calls for a full inquiry into these by the Council’s own mechanism and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
        In its follow-up explanatory statement, India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Rajiv Kumar Chander, said that it would "only be counter-productive" to support "extensive recommendations regarding legislative and policy actions" and "threatening Myanmar with punitive action, including at the ICC, to which that state is not a signatory".
        It is understandable that -- as a non-signatory of the Rome Statute [establishing the ICC] -- New Delhi [India's capital / government] would register its dissent against any punitive interventions by the ICC on another non-signatory country (Myanmar).

        However, what is deeply unfortunate is India’s continued diplomatic and moral passivity on the Rohingya crisis.
        Despite the Myanmar Army facing charges of serious war crimes, including genocide — according to a UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) and several other international human rights organisations — India refuses to take a strong moral stand for the sake of maintaining cordial bilateral relations with Naypyidaw [Myanmar's capital / government].

      A deference:

        India continues to toe Myanmar’s line on the issue, which:

      • harps on the "complexity" of the whole situation;
      • lays emphasis on economic development,
        rather than political rights, for the Rohingya;
      • lays stress on internal inquiries,
        instead of international mechanisms; and
      • even refuses to call the Rohingya community by its name.

        In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not even publicly condemned the horrible atrocities that the Rohingya have faced at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces.
        On his last visit to Myanmar in September 2017, he simply expressed concern at the "loss of lives of security forces and innocent people due to the extremist violence in Rakhine State". There was no reference to the excessive and arbitrary force used by security forces on Rohingya civilians in response to the "extremist violence".
        Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was a part of the three-member UN FFM [(Fact-Finding Mission)], during a recent briefing, said, "Acknowledging that human rights violations have been committed, holding people accountable and reforming the Tatmadaw, is the only way forward."
        India, for its part, continues to maintain ties with the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) -- supplying them with combat hardware, and imparting UN peacekeeping training. An edition of the India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise, IMBEX 2018-19, took place this January at Chandimandir.

      Arms and business ties
        According to the arms transfer database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is one of Myanmar’s top arms suppliers, and weapons sales includes military aircraft, artillery, naval vessels and reconnaissance equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-submarine torpedoes and missiles.
        One analysis by the Dutch advocacy group, Stop Wapenhandel (Stop Arms Trade), claims that India transferred combat equipment in violation of international embargoes.
        * * *
        India’s core logic here is to "modernise" the Tatmadaw [(Myanmar's army)] with the intent of securing [India']s 1,640-km-plus [(over 1,000-mile)] border with Myanmar -- and forge a sustainable strategic partnership at China’s doorstep. But, in this inflexible realpolitik approach, there is little space for end-user accountability and human rights. Whether Myanmar is using some of its India-supplied weapons to maim non-combatant civilians in Rakhine State -- and other ethnic regions -- is a question that New Delhi has not asked so far.
        * * *
        Further, Indian companies continue to invest in Myanmar, with several having direct links with Tatmadaw-owned businesses.

      Through Dhaka’s lens
        India has so far refused to exert any pressure on Myanmar, instead choosing to balance ties with Dhaka [Bangladesh's capital / government] and Naypyidaw [Myanmar's capital / government] by sending humanitarian aid to both. But India’s soft, backfoot approach is being increasingly seen by Bangladesh -- which is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees -- to be tilted in Myanmar’s favour.
        Bangladeshi journalist Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan argues that "Indian policy regarding the Rohingya crisis has always favoured Myanmar." He also flagged India’s recent abstention as another sign of New Delhi’s no-support for Dhaka on the Rohingya issue. It is clear that if India continues to tacitly favour Myanmar at international forums, its much-valued bilateral ties with Bangladesh may suffer greatly.
        Instead of just pushing one-time economic aid into Bangladesh and Myanmar, India could have forged a regional ‘compact’ -- much like the Jordan Compact on Syria -- to ensure sustained humanitarian assistance in addressing the short- and long-term needs of the displaced Rohingya population. This would have ensured uniform donor interest and better monitoring of where aid is going to.
        Instead, India has deported (or refouled) more than a dozen Rohingya refugees from its own territory [India] back to Myanmar -- in violation of international and domestic legal norms.
        Using the geo-economic leverage that it enjoys with Myanmar, India could compel Myanmar to bring the alleged perpetrators of war crimes to book -- or at least get a guarantee that such conduct would not be repeated in the future.
        But New Delhi does not want to corner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose own relations with the Generals remain dicey.

        For now, India is happy to be in a stable, but morally tenuous, friends-with-benefit relationship with Myanmar. The victims continue to be the stateless Rohingya.

  • 2019 May 22 - Wednesday

    • OPINION:
      The grim reality behind
      Rohingya crisis rhetoric

      by Mohammad Zaman,
      an international development / resettlement specialist, and advisory professor at the National Research Centre for Resettlement, Hohai University, Nanjing, China.

      (NOTE: The author works for a university in authoritarian China, an ally of Myanmar. ~RCN editor)
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)
            -- via Asia News Network (ANN)
            as published in The Nation (Thailand)

      (NOTE: The quality of this media outlet is unknown.)
        Repatriation to Myanmar is nowhere in sight as threat of disease and hostility from local hosts rises.
        There are over a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh – the latest batch of 800,000 came after August 25, 2017, joining 250,000 that had arrived since the first exodus of mid-1990s.
        As Myanmar nationals, Rohingya Muslims have historically faced ethnic and religious persecution -- culminating, in 2017, in a fierce, protracted genocidal campaign by the Myanmar army against its own people... that forced communities to seek shelter in Bangladesh -- unleashing a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in recent history.

        False starts:

        In the last two years, there have been many twists and turns concerning the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to their homeland:

      • First, a repatriation agreement signed in November 2017 failed due to the unwillingness of the Myanmar government to recognise the rights and citizenship of Rohingya Muslims.
         
      • Second, Myanmar imposed an unfair screening and verification process to eliminate so-called illegal Bengali Rohingyas from the list of returnees.
         
      • Third, in November 2018, a much-publicised repatriation bid, for some 2,000 families, was stalled after the refugees refused to return -- for fear of fresh persecution and confinement in newly-built camps across the border in Rakhine state.
         
      • Fourth, the planned relocation of 100,000 Rohingya to Bhasan Char Island, in the Bay of Bengal, found no voluntary takers among the refugees for such a remote home on a flood-prone island.
         
      • Finally, according to a UN official, the repatriation plan is now at a "total standstill".
         
        With no solution to the refugee crisis in sight, there is growing concern in Dhaka [Bangladesh's capital] and among the host communities in Cox’s Bazar, who have been severely impacted by the influx of huge numbers of outsiders in their neighbourhoods.
        There is equal disquiet among Bangladesh government officials about the future of the refugee situation. The challenge is to find the right balance -- between...
      • the official rhetoric calling for their speedy return,
        ...and...
      • long-term plans for the refugees in Cox’s Bazar camps, supported largely by external aid and assistance.

        The ongoing [refugee-relief] initiatives -- for more durable houses, improved roads, solar street lamps, training and employment for women, markets/shops within the camps, and finally provisions for schools for the kids -- are all indications of a much longer -- or even permanent -- stay.
        * * *
        Given the ongoing military atrocities against the Rohingya [still] inside Myanmar, the refugees in [Bangladesh's] Cox’s Bazar are not going back home any time soon. Aid workers, diplomats and humanitarian agencies working on long-term plans for improving camp conditions will not, however, publicly state this for fear of contradicting the official position.
        * * *
        At this point -- despite constant diplomatic efforts by Dhaka -- there seems to be no hope for immediate repatriation.
        Indeed, the Myanmar government seems least interested in resolving the crisis.
      The military "clearance operation" is completed; the Myanmar army is sticking to its lies and deceptions, unwilling to give in to any demands of the international community.
        * * *
        Even the strategy to send back refugees to so-called "safe zones" inside Myanmar is not gaining any ground. If it does happen, which is unlikely, it would be tantamount to sending them to concentration camps, and robbing them of their future rights and citizenship – which are their primary demands.

        There cannot be any safe zones in Myanmar unless the perpetrators of the Rohingya crisis -- including the military generals who committed crimes against humanity and genocide -- are brought to justice.
        * * *
      No jobs, no schools, no hope:

        The current scenario offers no hope or relief for any prospective returnees to Myanmar, nor those stranded in Bangladesh camps.

        The refugees...:
      • are not allowed to work (although many sneak out to work);
      • they can’t
        • leave the camp,
        • open a bank account, or
        • own a mobile phone;
      • and children can’t attend schools – which could lead to social and cultural integration.

        The present overcrowded living conditions, poor quality of water, and inadequate vaccination, have left Rohingya refugees prone to contagious diseases. As a result, both the refugees and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar are reportedly vulnerable to serious health risks.
        * * *
        Meanwhile, the host communities are slowly turning hostile towards their "guests".
        The concern is equally evident in Dhaka. At a recent meeting, leading economists and policy analysts rejected the idea of allowing the refugees access to the local labour market -- instead recommending their quick repatriation to ease pressure on Bangladesh. Thus, any plan for a long-term stay -- or opening the door for resettlement and integration -- would lead to conflicts with local communities, and raise a range of security issues for Bangladesh.
        A Rohingya diaspora in Bangladesh also means a second-class status -- and extinction of Rohingya culture. Many refugees don’t want this to happen. They want to return to their homes and re-establish their life
      on their ancestral lands, with dignity and full rights as Myanmar nationals.
        * * *
        The Rohingya crisis has not run its course yet.
        The Bangladesh government should continue to pursue voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar.
        Since the UN finds the situation to be at a "total standstill", Bangladesh should look elsewhere -- and work with India and China for an acceptable resolution.

      • India has not been friendly to the Rohingya, and never supported Bangladesh in any international forum to solve the protracted Rohingya crisis. Myanmar seems more important to India than Bangladesh -- due to India’s economic and geopolitical interests.
         
      • China has a strong grip on Myanmar at various levels, including the government and the military establishments.

        Bangladesh must seriously engage both China and India to find a resolution for a dignified return of the refugees. Until this happens, the crisis will continue and bring miseries to the refugee population as well as the host communities.

  • 2019 May 23 - Thursday

    • VIDEO:
      Bangladesh:
      Rohingya refugee camp
      prepares for monsoon season.

        Some 1,400 rescuers take part in a disaster management drill in Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar.
          - AFP on YouTube.com

    • Nationwide drive
      [in United Arab Emirates]
      to generate donations
      for Rohingya refugees

          - Gulf News (U.A.E.)

            (NOTE: The quality of this media outlet is unknown. It is in an authoritarian Arab country: the United Arab Emirates.)
        Abu Dhabi: More than a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are slated to benefit from the latest humanitarian campaign of the Emirates Red Crescent Authority, after it launched a nationwide drive to generate donations for them, in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
        The humanitarian campaign will also be publicised on local television stations from Friday to invite all residents across the country to participate in assisting Rohingya women and children. The current campaign is entitled, "From the UAE for Rohingya Children and Women".
        There are 1.2 million refugees, in which 720,000 are children, 240,000 women, and 48,000 elderly, and they need food supplies, medical assistance, water, education and housing, according to Red Crescent officials.
        International statistics indicate that among 1.2 million people, about 660,000 children lack access to basic health care services, clean water, food and education facilities; over 253,000 women don’t have access to clean water and sufficient food.

        * * *
        ...at the headquarters of Emirates Red Crescent in Abu Dhabi, Dr Mohammad Ateeq Al Falahi, Director General of the authority, said: "So far, in Bangladesh, more than one million refugees have sheltered there. We need to benefit all of them especially the women and children.
        "We target to reach all Rohingya refugees who have sheltered in different neighbouring countries of Myanmar. Since the trouble started a few years back they have started taking refugees in Bangladesh, at the same time, we also started providing them possible help,"
      he said.

      Public participation:
        "This time, our government decided to let the UAE people participate in helping Rohingya Muslim brothers and generate their donations. That’s why, this time, we allow -- through this campaign -- everybody to share," said Dr Al Falahi.
        Before, different organisations from the UAE were working there; but now, 20 UAE humanitarian organisations will work together as one team, and maximise our reach to needy people," he said.
        * * *
        There are a number of different UAE organisations working in refugee camps in Bangladesh, [including] Emirates Red Crescent, who have so far spent Dh5.5 million (US$1.4 million), alone, ...more than 700,000 people have benefited from the Red Crescent’s actions, alone.
        "We build wells, provided them with clean water, medical assistance, plastic sheets, constructed temporary houses and gave food. We also cooperated with Bangladesh Red Crescent," he said.

        The campaign is being launched under directives of
      • President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,
      • His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, and
      • His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

        "We feel proud that the UAE was the first country which started humanitarian efforts in Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees and carried out a number of projects for the benefits of children and women in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Affairs, Saudi Arabia and Malaysian hospitals," added Dr Al Falahi.
        What is the Rohingya crisis?
        The Rohingya people are a mostly Muslim minority group (some Hindu) residing in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar. The crisis refers to their mass migration following ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s majority Buddhist regime.
        When it began?
        Rohingya have always been a sidelined minority in Myanmar, but this latest crisis started with anti-Muslim riots in 2012. Evidence of human rights abuses surfaced on a much wider scale in 2015, and mass migration into neighbouring countries has continued since.
        How many people have been displaced?
        Since 2015, over 900,000 of the 1.3 million total Rohingya population in Myanmar have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh alone. More than 100,000 are being held in confinement camps in Myanmar. More than 24,000 have been killed, and 18,000 have been raped, since 2017 alone.

  • 2019 May 24 - Friday

    • UNHCR:
      Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
      Face Water Shortage.

          - VOA (Voice of America)

            (U.S. propaganda radio)
        The U.N. refugee agency [UNHCR] says water rations for tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees, in Bangladesh, have been cut, because of a serious shortage.
        The U.N. refugee agency reports that temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and sporadic rainfall, have reduced the region's water supply to a critically low level.
        UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says aid agencies will begin trucking in water in the next two weeks for the more than 140,000 Rohingya refugees living southeast Bangladesh's Teknaf Peninsula. He estimates the operation will cost about $60,000 a month.
        Because of the growing shortage, the UNHCR began rationing the refugees' daily water supply.
        "We are talking here about 20 liters [about 5 gallons] a day," Mahecic said. "This is a minimum standard in an emergency -- and we, because of the shortage of water, had to go even lower now -- to 15 liters [about 4 gallons] a day, per person. This is supposed to meet all of peoples' needs for water during the day. So, from hygiene, preparing food, sanitation, everything."

        * * *
        Mahecic notes the situation is different in the northern part of Bangladesh's Teknaf Peninsula, where the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong settlement in Cox's Bazar have water available through boreholes.
        * * *
        The dry spell in the southern part of the peninsula is expected to last a few more weeks, andwill likely be broken when the monsoon season begins in June.
        In preparation, Mahecic says the UNHCR is building better facilities to capture and preserve rain water. He said hundreds of refugees are participating in a project to create a reservoir to capture monsoon rain in Teknaf and preserve it throughout the year.
        The project
      -- run by the World Food Program, with humanitarian agency ADRA, and supported by UNHCR -- should temporarily improve the situation.

    • Strategic support necessary
      to deal with Rohingya crisis:
      ~UNHCR envoy.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Ambassador, and prominent South Korean actor, Jung Woo-sung has laid emphasis on a 'strategic support' plan for the Rohingya people and their host community in Bangladesh, amid the absence of a political solution to Rohingya crisis.
        "Although there was a great support from the Bangladesh government as well the host community, I still see a lack of political solution for the Rohingya refugees," he told UNB in an interview during his second visit to Bangladesh to see the Rohingya situation on the ground.
        * * *
        Talking about his role in helping these vulnerable people, the UNHCR envoy said there are people who do not even get to know about them, as the conflicts continue other parts of the world.
        "There's a need for everyone to know about these problems globally. So, my role is to share the stories to people in Korea, and around Asia, and the plights of refugees -- which I believe, may lead to a solution for them," said Jung, who has undertaken extensive awareness and fundraising activities for [the] Rohingyas [whom] he has met in Cox's Bazar, twice.
        He thanked the government of Bangladesh and the local community expressing his deep respect for showing the generosity by giving Rohingya people shelter safely.
        The UNHCR Goodwill envoy expressed satisfaction over the progress made so far -- though he still sees a lack of political solution for the Rohingya people.
        Responding to a question, he said the number of "persons of concern" (refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and returnees) globally was 45 million. "Now in 2019, the number has increased deeply to almost 70 million."
        According to UNHCR 2018 data, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
        * * *
        A Joint Response Plan (JRP), launched in February 2019 in Geneva, has estimated US$ 920 million funds to meet humanitarian needs of Rohingya people and vulnerable Bangladesh host community in 2019. As of mid-May, only 18 percent of the required fund is managed.
        Asked how celebrities contribute to the benefits of the refugees, Jung said the UNHCR, and other partner agencies, have their specific needs to support the situation. "I've never seen a situation or an emergency situation that was fully funded."
        He said for him as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, it is his role to ask individuals and people to continue raising funds and give funds for the refugees. "And celebrities like me could also personally make donation."
        Jung, however, said it is important that they do not force people to donate or support refugees, but continue to persuade them. "It's very important to continue the support for them. This brings me back to Bangladesh for my second time."
        * * *
        The film star said he is very happy to hear that there are many fans in Bangladesh. "And I'm actually honoured to know of it," he said -- adding that he is not sure through which movies or films the fans got to know of his work. ...

    • U.N. PRESS RELEASE:
      Rohingya refugee men
      join push to
      curb sexual violence.

        Volunteer outreach programme in Bangladesh refugee settlements recruits men to challenge gender violence, forced marriages.
          - U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

        When he hears sexual insults or slurs targeting women, Rohingya refugee Mohammed challenges them.
        "When we talk of sexual violence, I say to a boy, ‘You are born of a mother. You have a sister,’" he says.
        "For a young man who thinks of women, I tell him to think of his mother or sister. ‘Would you want something to happen to them?’"
        Mohammed is a refugee role model, one of 105 in the giant complex of refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District, which is now home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees.
        * * *
        While facing persecution and exclusion in Myanmar, the Rohingya lived in well-spaced village communities in which self-correcting traditional practices flourished.
        The violent conditions under which Rohingya refugees were uprooted from their homes, coupled with the unnatural living conditions in the densely populated camps, are among the principal drivers of abusive behaviour in exile.

        UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, supports the identification, counselling and referral to services for all survivors, including men and boys.
        The role model programme seeks to encourage men to challenge sexual harassment and violence in exile, and rethink complex gender issues which sometimes lead to violent disputes.
        "We need to educate these young men. So we need to explain what we’re doing and what they can do," says Mohammed, 23, another role model volunteer in the settlements, where residents are safe, housed and fed, but have few opportunities to work or study formally.
        "Many of these young men say: We are useless!" Mohammed says. "Many are uneducated. They feel they can do things with a young woman … and feel they can get away with it."
        Mohammed is part of a group of five young men in their late teens and twenties, working alongside an imam in the settlement to challenge these attitudes.
        The young men, who are all community volunteers, are trained to identify issues arising from domestic violence, early marriage, dowry payments, polygamy and aggressive behaviour towards women. They were trained through role-playing as perpetrators, victims and bystanders, according to UNHCR programme coordinator Jahidur Rahman.
        "Our role in this was to show how to change bystanders into change makers," Rahman says. The programme is new and, to launch it, the organizers set up meetings in mosques and community centres. The young role models were encouraged to work through sports, as a path to build trust with the community.
        * * *
        In a direct outreach to women and girls -- who make up more than half the population of the camps -- a network of refugee women volunteers go door-to-door throughout the settlement. If they suspect evidence of sexual violence, they contact camp authorities and have the victim moved to a woman-friendly space.
        * * *
        "I heard about the discussions concerning sexual violence, and I wanted to get involved," Imam Mohammed says.
        "The camp staff asked me to identify the biggest problems in the community," [Imam Mohammed says.] "From the list, I saw a major problem of child marriage, and a rising divorce rate. I sat down with community leaders, and we prepared a document for the camp authorities. I included the Holy Koran, which prohibits violence against wives, and which discourages dowries when there is no money."
        Early marriage and dowries are often linked. Parents who arrange the marriage of a daughter are relieved from supporting her, but the price is a dowry. And money in the camps is scarce.

        Ahmed, another role model leader, explains how the process becomes enmeshed in violence.
        "Sometimes, if the dowry is supposed to be 60,000 Taka (roughly US$700), the parents can’t pay the whole amount. So they negotiate a down payment and promise to pay the rest later."
        He then describes with pride how he persuaded two families to forego a dowry to preserve harmony. "And the neighbours accepted the idea," he says, "because it was better for the community than violence."
        That sense of pride is evident in all the young men as they describe their work in the community.
        At the beginning some may have joined simply to have something to do. But now they’re part of the team, they see themselves as leaders in the community. And their work also emphasizes the importance of men in this process.

        "I spend two to three hours a day working on this," says Ahmed. "When I play football, when I see someone doing or saying bad things, I start by talking to them."
        The initial success of the programme has led to plans to expand it. The pride and persuasive skills of the young role models is helping to alleviate tensions and bring communities together, even though it will take longer to tackle the underlying causes.

  • 2019 May 25 - Saturday

    • UAE raises Dh33 million
      [(US$9 million)]
      for Rohingya refugees.

            Gulf News (U.A.E.)

            (NOTE: The quality of this media outlet is unknown. It is in an authoritarian Arab country: the United Arab Emirates.)
        Abu Dhabi: A nationwide campaign to support Rohingya refugees raised Dh33 million on its first day on Friday, with residents across the country showing their support. Launched by the Emirates Red Crescent, the humanitarian initiative -- "From the UAE for Rohingya Children and Women" -- aims to provide the more than 1 million displaced refugees with food supplies, medical assistance, clean water, education and housing. According to international statistics, the vast majority of Rohingya refugees are made up of women and children -- with at least 660,000 children lacking access to health care services, education, food and water, and over 253,000 women having no access to clean water and sufficient food. ...

  • 2019 May 26 - Sunday

      ------------
       

  • 2019 May 27 - Monday

    • Rohingya massacre:
        Myanmar grants soldiers
        early release.

      Myanmar Soldiers Jailed
      for Killing Rohingya
      Served Less Time in Prison
      Than the Journalists
      Who Exposed Them.

        The only people to have been convicted for the 2017 crackdown on Rohingya, in Myanmar's western Rakhine State, have been released (apparently in November) -- after serving less than a year of their 10-year sentences for aiding or committing murder.
        This news follows last month's release of the two journalists who were imprisoned after they discovered and reported the soldiers' crimes.

            BBC News

       
      These 10 Rohingya villagers were photographed by a Rakhine Buddhist villager shortly before they were ordered into a mass grave, where they were shot by Myanmar soliders, and some stabbed or hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers. ©2017 SkyNews
      Seven soldiers jailed in Myanmar for killing 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys have been released early from prison.
        The soldiers were sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for the Inn Din village killings, but they "are no longer detained", prison officials say.
        Reuters [news service], which uncovered the massacre and first reported the early releases, said the men were freed in November.
        They are the only people to have been convicted for the 2017 crackdown on Rohingya in the western Rakhine State.

        * * *
        On Monday, a spokesperson for the prison department told reporters that the seven soldiers convicted over the Inn Din executions were "no longer detained in our prisons," without giving further details.
        One of the soldiers confirmed to Reuters that he had been released but declined to comment further, saying: "We were told to shut up."
        Two fellow inmates told the news agency that the release came in November -- less than a year into the 10-year prison term.
        * * *
        The journalists who exposed the massacre [Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo] were sentenced to seven years in prison for their reporting. [They] were granted a presidential amnesty in May after serving 16 months.
        * * *
        Authorities launched a probe into the Inn Din killings after the journalists' investigative work was published.
        The massacre -- and the jailing of the journalists investigating it -- is seen by observers as indicative of the army's role in the treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

      These 10 Rohingya villagers were photographed by a Rakhine Buddhist villager shortly before they were ordered into a mass grave, where they were shot by Myanmar soliders, and some stabbed to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers. ©2017 SkyNews
      What was the Inn Din massacre?
        The final report by Reuters gathered testimonies from a range of participants -- including Buddhist villagers who confessed to killing Rohingya Muslims and torching their homes. Accounts from paramilitary police also directly implicated the military.
        A group of Rohingya men seeking safety on a beach were singled out, as their village was raided, the report said.
        Buddhist men from the village were then ordered to dig a grave, and then the 10 men were killed -- at least two hacked to death by the Buddhist villagers, with the rest shot by the army.

        This was thought to be the first time soldiers had been implicated with photographic evidence and by fellow security personnel.

      Who was jailed?
        The military eventually confirmed the massacre had taken place -- and, in April 2018, 10 soldiers were sentenced to prison for their involvement in the killings.
        The soldiers were to serve 10 years of hard labour for "contributing and participating in murder."
       
      Reuters News Service reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, in handcuffs, being taken to court. ©2018 BBC (U.K.)
      The two journalists were arrested before their findings were published, after being handed documents by two policemen who they had met at a restaurant for the first time.
        The [reporters] were charged with violating the country's Official Secrets Act. But a police witness testified, during their trial, that the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the men.
        Aside from the Inn Din killings, the military exonerated itself of any wrongdoing in Rakhine -- despite large amounts of testimony from Rohingya refugees describing atrocities.

  • 2019 May 28 - Tuesday

    • Rohingya repatriation:
      UNHCR, UNDP signs
      extension of MoU
      with Myanmar.

            Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), today signed extension of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar for one year -- aimed at creating conducive conditions for voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya from Bangladesh.
        The MoU was first signed in Naypyiday on June 6 last year, which has been extended for one more year.
        The MoU provides a framework of cooperation to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in northern Rakhine state, according to a press release.
        All the parties – UNHCR, UNDP and Myanmar’s Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population – have reaffirmed their full commitment to the timely and effective implementation of the MoU, it said.
        * * *
        Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on repatriation of the Rohingya in November, three months after some 750,000 Rohingya had fled military crackdown by the Myanmar military.
        Repatriation was scheduled to start in November last year, but the Rohingyas did not agree, saying the conditions in Myanmar were not conducive.

        * * *
        Talking about the extension of the tripartite MoU, Ro Nay San Lwin -- coordinator of Free Rohingya Coalition, a worldwide network of Rohingya diaspora -- said to The Daily Star that it is regrettable that the UN is cooperating with Myanmar, which is not doing anything to improve the conditions of Rakhine [state] for their return.
        "UN agencies have not even consulted the Rohingyas, the survivors of genocide," he told The Daily Star, from Germany, over phone.
        There is no guarantee of safety of the Rohingya or their citizenship there. The genocide survivors cannot return to a country under such conditions,
      he said -- demanding that the UN should expose these to the world.

    • UAE’s Rohingya campaign
      raises Dhs50m
      [(US$13.6 million)],
      widens ambit on social media.

            WAM / Gulf Today (U.A.E.)

            (NOTE: The quality of this source is unknown. It is in an authoritarian Arab country: the United Arab Emirates.)
        As the UAE’s campaign to support Rohingya refugees raised around Dhs50 million during the first three days, the authorities are trying to spread its message to more people with support of social media influencers.
        The latest move is inspired by the UAE’s past experience of receiving unexpected support of people from distant lands, since the advent of technological tools, a senior official told WAM.
        "Since we started using the latest technological tools -- such as online payment system and social media -- a few years ago, people from distant foreign lands have been donating money (through electric money transfer), and some social media influencers abroad have been voluntarily promoting our humanitarian campaigns," said Fahad Abdulrahman bin Sultan, Deputy Secretary-General for International Aid at the Emirates Red Crescent.
        "This underscored the UAE’s global reputation and credibility as an honest and efficient organiser of relief programmes and we are trying to utilise that experience (by engaging social media influencers to widen the campaign's ambit)." ...

  • 2019 May 29 - Wednesday

    • Amnesty International Report
      Says Myanmar Military Is
      Again Committing War Crimes.

            NPR (National Public Radio)
      [Some] Myanmar military units -- [previously] instrumental in the brutal push to drive out hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya from the mainly Buddhist nation [in 2017-2018] -- have unleashed a new round of war crimes, and other human rights violations, against ethnic groups in the state of Rakhine, according to Amnesty International.
        In a new report released Wednesday, the organization claims "indiscriminate" attacks against civilians began on Jan. 4, after the Arakan Army (an ethnic Rakhine armed group) launched a series of coordinated attacks on police posts that left 13 officers dead.
        The Arakan Army is one of several insurgent groups fighting Myanmar government forces and is made up of ethnic Buddhists. The government considers the group a terrorist organization.
        The ambush prompted the government to order military forces, including new units, to "crush" the group, spawning fresh, and perhaps more egregious, violations than those committed in 2017, Amnesty International contends.
       
      ABOVE: In 2017, across Myanmar's Rakhine state, thousands of Rohingya homes, across hundreds of villages, were set afire by the Myanmar army and Rakhine neighbors... sometimes with Rohingya men, women and children trapped inside by attackers. ©2017 BBC
      "Less than two years since the world outrage over the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya population, the Myanmar military is again committing horrific abuses against ethnic groups in Rakhine State," said Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, Nicholas Bequelin, in a statement.
        "The new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military -- terrorizing civilians, and committing widespread violations, as a deliberate tactic."
        Evidence gathered from interviews, photographs and satellite imagery indicate
      In 2017, these 10 Rohingya villagers were photographed by a Rakhine Buddhist villager shortly before they were ordered into a mass grave, where they were shot by Myanmar soliders, and some stabbed or hacked to death by Rakhine Buddhist villagers. ©2017 SkyNews
        troops are:
      • instigating violent clashes,
      • carrying out extrajudicial executions,
      • conducting arbitrary arrests,
      • torturing prisoners, and
      • destroying historical sites,
      -- according to the [Amnesty International] report called "No-one can protect us."
        * * *
        While the military campaign has been directed at quashing an Arakan rebellion, the vulnerable Rohingya population is also a target -- as well as other Buddhists and Christians.
        According to the report, a military helicopter opened fire on Rohingya laborers cutting bamboo on April 3 -- killing at least six men and boys, and injuring at least 13 others.
        "The helicopter came from behind the mountain," a survivor of the attack told Amnesty International. "Within minutes, it fired rockets. I was running for my life, thinking about my family and how I would survive."
        * * *
        Meanwhile, Amnesty International says the government military isn't the only force committing atrocities. The Arakan Army is also perpetrating human rights violations, victimizing local villages and businesses.
        Rebel soldiers have "threatened and intimidated village administrators and local business people, warning them in letters against interfering with the group's activities. The letters were each accompanied by a bullet and bore the [Arakan Army's] official seal."
        * * *

      BELOW: Fleeing the Myanmar army and ethnic Rakhine neighbors, Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path as others travel on a boat after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar (Burma) border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 6, 2017. ©2017 Reuters

        Amnesty International estimates about 30,000 people have been displaced by the conflict since January. Nearly all humanitarian aid has been blocked, and -- as both sides continue to destroy farmland and harvests -- human rights groups are warning of a "looming food insecurity crisis."
        The report follows the release of two Reuters reporters earlier this month, after spending more than 500 days in prison. They were captured after reporting the massacre of 10 Rohingya men, at Inn Din, in Rakhine, in 2017. The investigation earned the pair a Pulitzer Prize last month.
        Amnesty International said it is imperative to step up international pressure on Myanmar's government -- advocating for targeted sanctions, and a comprehensive arms embargo, by the International Criminal Court.
        "With Myanmar's military committing atrocities as brazenly as ever, it's clear international pressure needs to intensify," Bequelin said. "Again and again, the international community has failed to stop the Myanmar military's crimes and protect the civilian population. The [U.N.] Security Council was established to respond to exactly these kinds of situations; it's time it took its responsibility seriously."
        (same topic at:
        - ITV News (U.K.)
          ...which adds:
            Last month, the main UN human rights agency expressed concern about the upsurge in fighting, especially attacks on civilians by both sides.
            Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the agency had "credible reports of the killing of civilians, burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, abductions, indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, and damage to cultural property".

    • Myanmar police hunt
      radical Buddhist monk
      over Suu Kyi comments.

        Ashin Wirathu, at forefront of radical nationalist movement, known for extremist language.
      [Wirathu is blamed for largely inciting the 2017 violence against the Rohingya. ~RCN Editor]

          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        Myanmar police have issued an arrest warrant for Ashin Wirathu, a firebrand monk known as the "Buddhist Bin Laden", over alleged incendiary remarks about Aung San Suu Kyi.
        Wirathu has long been accused of inciting sectarian violence against Myanmar’s Muslims -- in particular the Rohingya community -- through hate-filled, Islamaphobic speeches.

        The monk, who is at the forefront of Myanmar’s radical nationalist movement, supported the military crackdown on the Rohingya in August 2017 in Rahkine state. The UN has since defined the military violence as ethnic cleansing which was carried out with "genocidal intent".
        * * *
        The police confirmed on Tuesday that a warrant had been issued for Wirathu’s arrest under article 124(a) of the legal code. It covers sedition -- defined as "attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government". The charge carries a three-year sentence.
        It is believed to be connected to defamatory comments made by Wirathu about Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
        The police were still trying to hunt down the monk on Wednesday. He usually lives in his own compound within the Masoeyein monastery in Mandalay but his whereabouts were currently unknown.
        If he is charged, this would not be Wirathu’s first time in prison. He was first jailed in 2003 by the military junta, but released in 2012, under an amnesty -- and began touring the country, whipping up hatred against Muslims with his extremist sermons.
        While a senior Buddhist council temporarily prevented Wirathu from preaching, over the past few months he has been a regular feature at pro-military rallies -- again stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment by calling for boycotts of Muslim businesses, and referring to the Rohingya as illegal immigrants.
        He has also been banned from Facebook since January 2018 and he was banned from entering Thailand last month.

        While Buddhism espouses non-violence, Wirathu has openly said he is "proud to be called a radical Buddhist." ... In a 2013 sermon, [he] said of Muslims in Myanmar: "You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog."
        Speaking at a rally in October, the monk spoke out against attempts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the crimes against the Rohingya in Rahkine. "The day when the ICC comes here," he said, "is the day that Wirathu holds a gun."

    • [Bangladesh police make]
      16-point recommendations
      to ensure security
      in Rohingya camps.

        A section of the Rohingyas is getting involved in crime which is triggering violence, murder and other breaches of law
            Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        To ensure security in the Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps, 16 recommendations were sent from the police to relevant quarters.
        The 16 point recommendations include...:
      • stoppage of holding indiscriminate illegal markets,
      • forming of a valid guideline for bazaars,
      • placement of light posts and CCTV cameras,
      • stopping use of illegal [cellphone] SIMs by Rohingyas,
      • establishment of barbed wire fences, and
      • ensuring presence of rehabilitation official at the camps at night.

        According to several sources, the situation at the camps undergo a massive change at night with several depraved Rohingyas engaged in open trade and abuse of narcotics along with other unlawful acts. This is created due to absence of electricity and problems related to infrastructure.
        A section of the Rohingyas is getting involved in crime which is triggering violence, murder and other breaches of law.

        Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said: "Unless Myanmar repatriates the Rohingyas, they may become victims of international terrorism, which will threaten not only Bangladesh but the whole world."
        In the last 21 months, many Rohingyas have become involved in murder, smuggling, rape and human trafficking.
        In the same period, 328 cases were lodged with 711 accused. Of these, there were 31 murders, 31 cases related to illegal weapons and 118 linked to drugs.
        [NOTE: These crime statistics, for a cramped refugee population of over one-million, are arguably trivial in comparison to the crime statistics for any typically violent major American city. ~RCN Editor]
       
      Reportedly the older Rohingyas have sophisticated weapons.
        But Cox’s Bazar police Superintendent (SP) ABM Masud Hossain, says: "We have ensured 24 hour police presence at the camps; joint forces are carrying out patrols and 24 hour police presence has been confirmed."
        Most of the crimes committed in the camps were related to extortion from illegally established markets and family feuds; also, the weapons recovered are locally made and not modern, he observed.
        Recommendations have been made to improve communication, power, CCTVs and barbed wire fences, said the police officer, adding: "Once these are in place, the situation will become normal."

  • 2019 May 30 - Thursday

  • 2019 May 30 - Thursday

    • VIDEO:
      Rohingya Relocation Plan
      Raising Concerns.

          - NHK World (Japan)

        The number of Rohingya Muslims who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh has reached 900,000 with the majority living in refugee camps. In an attempt to ease congestion, the Bangladeshi government hopes to transfer some of them to an uninhabited island. But as NHK World's Orie Sugimoto reports, the plan is not without controversy. ...

    • OIC condemns inhumane situation
      of Myanmar's Rohingya.

            Reuters News Service

        The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit [in Cairo, Egypt] condemned the inhumane situation of Rohingya Muslims, urging a halt to violence, it said in a statement on Saturday.
        The summit in Mecca also stressed that Myanmar’s government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, the statement added.
        [NOTE: Among major international organizations, he OIC is second only to the U.N. in the number of member nations. It represents over 50 Muslim-dominated nations throughout the world. ~RCN Editor]

    • Bangladesh Coast Guard picks up
      58 Malaysia-bound Rohingya
      at sea.

          - The Star (Malaysia)

        Bangladesh coast guards on Thursday (May 30) stopped 58 Rohingya refugees from making a potentially dangerous journey to Malaysia by sea and arrested two suspected traffickers, an official said.
        Acting on a tip-off, a patrol ship challenged a fishing boat near Saint Martin's, a small Bangladesh island in the Bay of Bengal, and found the Rohingya on board, coast guard Lieutenant Josel Rana said.
        "We've found 58 refugees and detained two human traffickers on the boat," he told AFP. ...
        * * *
        So far this year, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have rescued over 400 Rohingya refugees from coastal villages as they were waiting to board boats bound for Malaysia.
        But this is the first time in 2019 that Rohingya refugees were rescued at sea, raising concerns that the situation in Bangladesh's overcrowded camps - home to nearly one million - is worsening. ...

    • OPINION:
      The World Bank is rewarding
      ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

        by Azeem Ibrahim,
      Center for Global Policy.

          - Washington Post

        This month, the World Bank published a proposal for a $100 million development project in Rakhine state, the region of western Myanmar that recently saw the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim community. The aim of the project is to fund credit for small businesses in the region and boost economic development.
        Aiding local economic development in a conflict-torn region sounds like a good idea on paper. But as many nongovernmental groups involved in the region point out, the World Bank is pushing ahead with its plans even though the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine is not even close to resolution

        * * *
        About 1 million Rohingya remain in refugee camps over the border in Bangladesh — almost the entire pre-2017 Rohingya population of western Myanmar. The international community has done nothing to hold individuals in the Myanmar state apparatus to account for the ethnic cleansing of the past two years. And the government of Myanmar has done nothing to implement civil and legal protections for Rohingya individuals so that they can return to the country of their birth.
        This World Bank funding project also attaches no conditions on Myanmar in order to access this funding. To spell it out: The World Bank is funding a state that has carried out ethnic cleansing in just the past 24 months, with no strings attached.
        The armed forces of the federal state of Myanmar and the local police have burned down Rohingya villages and bulldozed Rohingya mosques, and then proceeded to reallocate lands and cattle to local Buddhist-nationalist supporters.
        And now the World Bank is helping to fund the redevelopment of the region for the benefit of the occupying settlers.

        To be sure, $100 million for a development project is not a large amount. But the signal this sends is catastrophic. This project demonstrates that the international community and the institutional order of the West simply do not care about crimes against humanity. ...

  • 2019 May 31 - Friday

    • Rohingya refugees prepare camps
      for monsoon season.

          - Deutsche Welle (Germany)

        As monsoon season begins in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees are working with humanitarian agencies to fortify the flood-prone terrain where they have taken refuge.... reports, pictures from Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh...

    • Rohingya Refugee Camps
      Turn to LPG, Reforestation
      to Save Depleted
      Bangladesh Forests

          - IOM (Int'l Org.for Migration)
            at ReliefWeb.int

        In mid-2017 violence across the border in Myanmar drove nearly a million Rohingya onto the previously uninhabited hillsides of Cox’s Bazar.
        Families desperate for fuel to cook the rations they received from aid agencies scoured the area looking for firewood. The result, according to IOM, was the deforestation of some 7,000 hectares [(17,200 acres; or 27 square miles)].
        With the monsoon and cyclone season fast approaching, the implications of a treeless landscape in and around the camps are stark. Soil erosion is a growing problem and there is an ever-present risk of deadly landslides triggered by heavy rains.
        In 2018 the humanitarian community in Cox’s Bazar stepped in to address the problem, launching programmes to reduce the need firewood and to replant trees in and around the refugee camps.

        IOM, in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), launched "Safe Plus" – a project to provide the refugees and local communities with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) stoves and fuel, while rehabilitating deforested areas.
        Under the scheme, refugees and local villagers are given LPG stoves, fuel tanks and access to re-fills. Some 45,000 LPG stoves have already been distributed, with a target of 80,000 by June.
        * * *
        The LPG programme has been universally welcomed by the refugees and local communities, who say it reduces their spending on firewood and means cleaner air in their homes and in the camp.
        It also reduces the risk of violence for women forced to walk further from the camp to collect increasingly scarce firewood. ...

        [article includes contact info on IOM-Bangladesh rep.George McLeod]

    • Rohingya crisis a lesson for world
      ...[Bangladesh Prime Minister]
        tells conference in Tokyo

        -- says Dhaka preferred talks over discord, despite provocation.
          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the Rohingya crisis is a lesson for other situations of crises in the region, and elsewhere in the world, to overcome chaos with the power of peace, humanity and development.
        "We have sought dialogue and consensus over discord, even in the face of extreme provocation and crisis. We are not only responding to a humanitarian call, but we’re also aware about not allowing the crisis to escalate into chaos and regional instability," she said.
        The PM was delivering her keynote speech at the 25th International Nikkei Conference on Future of Asia at Imperial Hotel [in Tokyo, Japan] yesterday ...
       


JUNE 2019:

  • 2019 June 1 - Saturday

    • [Bangladesh's Prime Minister]
      seeks OIC support
      to launch Rohingya case
      at [the International Court of Justice]

        She urged all to demonstrate zero tolerance for terror
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

       
      The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is one of the world's largest multi-national alliances -- second only to the United Nations in the size of membership. It is comprised of 57 mostly-Muslim nations across Africa, Asia, Europe and various ocean islands.

      The organization has had limited effect in its efforts, owing largely to the wide range of geographic, religious, cultural, political and economic differences between (and within) the member countries -- several of whom have warred with each other.

      The OIC was formed in 1969 over widespread Muslim concern about Palestinian / Israeli affairs and conflicts.

      ~RCN Editor.

      Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought the support of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states to launch the Rohingya case at the International Court of Justice—with funding and technical help—to ensure the legal rights of Rohingyas and address the question of accountability and justice.
        Mentioning that the Abu Dhabi Conference of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held in March created a pathway to move the International Court of Justice she said: "We thank Gambia for steering the process this far. We are appealing to the member states to support launching the case with voluntary funding and technical help."
        The prime minister was speaking on behalf of the Asia Group at the 14th OIC Makkah Al Mukarramah Summit titled "Hand in Hand Towards the Future" at Safa Palace on Saturday, reports UNB.
        Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has sheltered more than 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar despite resource constraints.
        "But their dignified return is still uncertain – as Myanmar consistently fails to honour its promises to create a conducive environment for return to Northern Rakhine," she said.
        Mentioning that poverty still remains the biggest challenge, the premier said it is both a cause and a consequence of ignorance, disasters, and eroding human values.
        She stressed the need to implement the "OIC-2025: Programme of Action" through joint Islamic action to address this anomaly.
        The prime ministers also urged the OIC to devise a comprehensive strategy to meet the adverse changes in the strategic spaces in a world facing the challenges of economy, ecology, and security.
        "In a world faced with challenges of economy, ecology, and security, the OIC has to devise a comprehensive strategy to meet adverse changes in the strategic spaces in which each of us operates as states," she said.
        "We have more than a third of the world's strategic resources and the majority of its youth. We, ourselves, should able to solve our own problems," she continued.
        Sheikh Hasina urged all to pursue a course of zero tolerance for terror, prevent territories be used by any individual or group for launching a terror or extremist agenda, and fight it together.
        To this end, she recalled her four-point formula for the Muslim world—announced at the Riyadh conference—which were: stop the supply of arms, stop the flows of terrorist financing, remove divisions within the Muslim Ummah, and pursue the peaceful settlement of conflicts through dialogue.

        The premier said it is heartening to see the OIC is taking a much-needed path of reform and renovation to adapt to the twenty-first century.
        "While we change and adapt, we must aim for the values of Islam —fraternity, equality, and justice—as demonstrated by Rasul-E-Kareem (SA)," she said.
        She said Islam—which came as a harbinger of light to a dark world—is now misconstrued with the ideology of extremism and violence because of its misinterpretations.
        Regarding the recent terror attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, she extended sympathies and solidarity to the bereaved families of the Christchurch attacks. She also condemned the terror attacks in Sri Lanka— which killed one of her grandchildren—eight-year-old Sheikh Zayan.
        "We share the pain and agony of helpless peoples of Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere getting mercilessly murdered every day. Let this summit set the course—under your Majesty's stewardship—to turn the tide. Let there be a beginning of an end to the Muslim indignity and misery," she said.
        Mentioning that OIC was conceived to get back the land and sovereign rights of its Palestinian brothers and sisters, safeguard dignity and rights, and strengthen solidarity and cooperation amongst peoples of the Muslim world, Sheikh Hasina said: "Seven decades on, the Palestine question still persists, and our nations and communities still stand divided.
        "We should make the best use of OIC institutions—like the Islamic Development Bank—by synchronizing their policies and practices with OIC agenda under the program."
        Saying that the Islamic world today needs to incubate ideas and innovation into marketable products and services, she invited all to participate in turning the Islamic University of Technology (IUT)—which Bangladesh is hosting—into a centre of excellence.
        She sought OIC members countries' support for Bangladesh candidate -- an expert in migration studies and action -- Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque for the post of deputy director general of International Organization for Migration.
        Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud hosted the conference of the OIC, comprising 57 member states, to develop a unified stance of Muslim leaders on rising tensions in the Gulf.
        The OIC first met a month after an arson attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on August 21, 1969.

    • South China Sea dispute,
      Rohingya crisis
      are key regional threats:
      ~Malaysian defence minister.

          - Straits Times (Singapore)

        Disturbances in the South China Sea, the movement of Rohingyas in the region, and non-traditional security threats (such as maritime and cyber security risks) pose the biggest challenges to the region, Malaysia's Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said on Saturday (June 1).
        The region needs to build on collaborative defence diplomacy to deal with these challenges, Mr Mohamad said in his address to the Shangri-La Dialogue.

        * * *
        He... highlighted the large movement of Rohingya refugees as [a] regional challenge.
        "The plight of Rohingyas has snowballed into a crisis. No longer is the situation in (Myanmar's) Rakhine a domestic conflict.
        "Malaysia will continue to subscribe to the Asean* principle of non-interference. But the widespread movement of Rohingyas creates instability," he said, adding that it could be a factor in extremism.

        Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar in recent years, many of them heading to Bangladesh where they have been living in temporary camps, while they await a decision on their future, and repatriation back to Myanmar. Some, however, have made their way to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
        But reports that have hinted at their involvement with terrorism have raised alarm bells.
        Last month, Malaysia arrested four men who were said to be planning attacks on temples and churches to avenge the death of a Malay-Muslim fireman, who died from injuries sustained after he responded to an emergency call at a Hindu temple, where a riot had taken place last November.
        There were people who felt that the government had not suitably addressed his death.
        Of the four people arrested, two were ethnic Rohingyas.
        * [ASEAN - Association of SouthEast Asian Nations]

    • UAE raises Dh65 million
      [(US$17.7 million)]
      for Rohingya refugees

        Funds to help provide displaced lot with food, medical aid, water, education and housing.
          - Gulf News (U.A.E.)

            (NOTE: The quality of this media outlet is unknown. It is in an authoritarian Arab country: the United Arab Emirates.)
        The weeklong fund-raising campaign in support of Rohingya refugees -- that began in the last week of May -- has raised Dh65 million, the Emirates Red Crescent Authority (ERC) announced on Saturday.
        Expected to support more than a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the nationwide campaign generated funds through various platforms including social media, while thousands of individuals and charities also came forward for the cause.
        The ERC launched the campaign under the directives of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, aiming to provide more than one million displaced refugees with food supplies, medical assistance, clean water, education and housing.
        The campaign was supported by all the UAE leaders,...

  • 2019 June 2 - Sunday

      ----------

  • 2019 June 3 - Monday

    • Massive fire destroys 'jhuggis'
      belonging to Rohingyas
      in Jammu [India]

          - ANI / Business Standard (India)

        A massive fire broke out in Jammu's Maratha Mohalla last night. The incident happened near [the] Jammu [India] railway station.
        Around 150 jhuggis -- including 41 of those belonging to Rohingyas -- were gutted in fire. No injuriess have been reported.
        While speaking to ANI, one of the residents said, "It was a massive fire, wind fuelled it. Fire brigade came after an hour.
        "No one from administration has come yet."

    • PRESS RELEASE:
      3 in 4 Rohingya Refugee Babies
      are Born in Unsanitary
      Bamboo Shelters.

        Save the Children estimates after assessment in community of 20,000 expectant mothers need access to proper maternal care, says Save the Children
          - Save The Children foundation

        An estimated 75 percent of Rohingya babies are born in the unsafe and unsanitary bamboo shelters in which refugees live, based on an assessment by Save the Children. Home births in such conditions put the lives of both mother and baby at great risk. Save the Children is warning that hundreds of mothers and babies in the refugee camps could die this year of entirely preventable causes if mothers don’t get proper maternal health care.
        Data from Save the Children’s Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) from July 2018 to April 2019 shows that of the expected 400 births in a community of some 20,000 people[1], only 119 babies were safely delivered in Save the Children’s properly-equipped health facility, with the remaining births taking place at home.
        Save the Children’s assessment comes as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) jointly release new data from the Rohingya refugee camps, which estimates that for every 100,000 live births, 179 mothers die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth – almost two-and-a-half times higher than the worldwide target for maternal mortality of under 70 per 100,000 live births.
        Worryingly, the UNFPA/CDC study also found that half of all maternal deaths in the camps happen at home. This means mothers received no emergency care, which could have been lifesaving. Save the Children has heard anecdotally that some families don’t seek out care during pregnancy complications because they fear sterilization or infanticide based on their experiences in Myanmar and would rather keep the woman at home at all costs. Health care providers need to earn the trust of this community so that expectant mothers get the care they need when they need it.
        Home births put the lives of both mother and baby at serious risk, as unskilled birth attendants are often unable to identify or handle emergencies in time, and are unaware of mothers’ preexisting conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia and malnutrition, which can lead to complications during delivery. Also, the poor hygiene practices can lead to severe infections for mothers and newborns.
        The maternal mortality rate paints a grim picture of the unhygienic conditions in which many girls and women in the camps deliver their babies. It also shows that despite the availability of free prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care, more work needs to be done to dismantle barriers and encourage expectant mothers and their families to access health care.
        The circumstances in which mothers give birth in the Rohingya camps must improve rapidly in order to save lives. That is why Save the Children is calling for:
      • Rapid investment to make high-quality health facilities available for expectant mothers and their families.
      • Expectant mothers in the refugee camps to have access to proper prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care.
      • Further consultation with community leaders to address traditional practices that prevent pregnant women from seeking proper medical care.
        * * *
        "Pregnant women in the refugee camps face tremendous challenges and barriers to accessing proper maternal and newborn care," said Dr. Golam Rasul, senior health program manager for Save the Children’s Rohingya response. "Besides addressing the traditional practices that keep many Rohingya women in the home during and after the birth, we must invest in more special care for maternal complications and care for small, premature, or sick newborn babies. This could help save hundreds of lives as this crisis becomes more protracted."

  • 2019 June 4 - Tuesday

  • 2019 June 5 - Wedneday

      ----------

  • 2019 June 6 - Thursday

    • U.N. PRESS RELEASE:
      Rohingya refugees fret
      for their children’s futures.

        UNHCR is promoting more learning opportunities and higher teaching standards for thousands of young Rohingya refugees.
          - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

        When Abu Sayed, father of six, thinks about the future of his children, he breaks down and weeps.
        "My life is almost gone. If they cannot have an education, they will be ignorant," he says, sitting in his family’s bamboo shelter in the vast Kutupalong refugee settlement, the largest in the world.
        "I can see with my own eyes that their life is becoming meaningless because they do not have enough education and skills to have a good career. (It) is about their future,"
      he says. "If I die tomorrow I will die with a pain in my heart and a regret."
        Abu Sayed is among some 745,000 Rohingya refugees who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state since August 2017 to seek safety in Bangladesh. More than half – 55 per cent - are children.
        His three younger children receive a basic primary education at the Sunflower temporary learning centre, a short walk from the family’s shelter. ... The centre is supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and run by its Bangladeshi partner, BRAC.
        Students at the settlement receive just a few hours of education per day, learning English, Burmese, life skills, and maths, with learning centres operating three shifts per day. However, the centres have no fixed curriculum. Going forward, there is no secondary education available to students.

        "Young people require, and desire access to meaningful education that offers clear pathways to progression and is officially recognized by state agencies," says James Onyango, UNHCR’s education officer in Cox’s Bazar.
        "People will need skills and recognized qualifications to help them develop their communities. We’re only too aware of the dangers of a lost generation of youth," he adds.
        The outcomes of a recent learning assessment indicated that [the] majority of [Rohingya refugee] students are only able to participate in the first three grades of basic education. As a result, organizations working in the education field are now grouping learners together according to their assessed levels, rather than their age groups, to facilitate more structured learning.
        However, the education programme does not address the needs of older learners who have never been to school, or those whose education was interrupted at upper grades when they fled Myanmar. There is no standard, accredited curriculum, no defined pathway to recognized qualifications, and few opportunities to study beyond the age of 14.
        While some progress is being made toward providing access to quality primary education, older children are missing out.
      While he is happy to see his younger children being able to study at the two-storey centre, the first of its kind at the settlement, Abu Sayed worries about his older son Mohammed Ayaz and daughter Anu Ara, who are among thousands of children of secondary school age without access to education.
        "My elder son studied until sixth Grade in Myanmar … but the [older ones] cannot continue studying while coming here," he said. "We are worried. I wish we could have the opportunity for our children to receive education."
        A keen student in Myanmar, Mohammad Ayaz, 15, dreamt of becoming a doctor, until the violence forced him to quit school and run for his life. These days, he says, he passes the time in the sprawling refugee settlement trying to keep busy, but too often he simply hangs out with his friends.
        "We wander aimlessly in the camp," he sighs. "People my age have no good jobs here. I help at a small grocery stall and some of my friends are volunteers with organizations. I wish I could continue studying, so that I could keep on learning new things every day."
        Improving education is a priority for UNHCR, Onyango says, noting that the Refugee Agency opened a first teacher training facility for the settlement last October.
        "In collaboration with other humanitarian agencies, we’re also looking at strengthening the capacity of teachers and improving the overall quality of educational services," he explains. "We’ve also been piloting some literacy learning sessions for adolescent boys and girls, we nonetheless remain deeply conscious that this is inadequate."

        Improving services is supported by dedicated teachers at the settlement. At the Sunflower temporary learning centre, Rohingya teaching facilitator Umme Habiba is working in a packed class of around 40 children, alongside a local Bangladeshi teacher.
        Just 18, she studied until 8th grade in Myanmar, and used to be a private tutor. She welcomes any chance to expand her skills. "To become a good teacher, it is important to have a good education.
        "Some of my friends were eager to study in Myanmar but there was no chance. Without education, there is no future,"
      she says. "Our future, and our present, are at risk."

    • Turkish [Foriegn Minister]
      extends Eid greetings
      to Rohingya Muslims.

        Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterates Turkey's support for Rohingya Muslims.
          - Anadolu Agency

            (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)

    • Turkish agency aids
      Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh.

        Poor families living in refugee camps provided with passenger, cargo carrier vehicles, sewing machines.
          - Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

            (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)
        A Turkish humanitarian aid group has distributed aid to oppressed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
        Sadakatasi Association facilitates refugees living in camps to earn a living.
        A total of 400 sewing machines, 60 passenger vehicles and 30 cargo vehicles were delivered to refugee families.

  • 2019 June 7 - Friday

    • Aung San Suu Kyi
      finds common ground
      with Orbán over Islam.

        On a rare trip to Europe, Myanmar leader and Hungary PM discuss issue of ‘growing Muslim populations.’
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        From her failure to speak out against ethnic cleansing to imprisoning journalists, the reputation of Aung San Suu Kyi in the west has taken a battering in recent months.
        But the leader of Myanmar has found a new ally in far-right, staunchly anti-immigrant Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

        In a rare trip to Europe, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize laureate who was once the figurehead of the fight for democracy in Myanmar, met Orbán in Budapest. There, the two leaders found common ground on the subject of immigration and Islam.
        "The two leaders highlighted that one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions – south-east Asia and Europe – is migration," read a statement released after their meeting.
        "They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of co-existence with continuously growing Muslim populations."
        * * *
        Once lauded as the great democratic hope for Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected as civilian leader in 2015 after living under house arrest by the military for 15 years, has proved a marked disappointment to most western governments who were her champions.
        Her failure to condemn the military’s violent crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017 – which saw thousands of Rohingya raped and killed in what the UN described as an exercise in ethnic cleansing – and her defence of the military’s brutal actions against Myanmar’s Muslims, have proved particularly contentious.
        Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has since repeatedly failed to offer assurances, to the million Rohingya now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh... that, if they return, their security, and pathway to citizenship, would be guaranteed.
        * * *
        Orban, meanwhile, has an equally bad track record. His government declared a "a crisis situation due to mass immigration" in 2015, stirring up fear in Hungary over an alleged threat of migrants. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights released a recent report accusing Orbán’s government of using anti-migrant rhetoric that fuels "xenophobic attitudes, fear and hatred".

        * * *
        Aung San Suu Kyi has increasingly spoken out against the imposition of western ideas and principles in Myanmar, a view which was reflected by Orbán in the statement released after their meeting, where he emphasised his rejection of the "export of democracy" from other western countries.
        "Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen so astonishingly far from being the darling of the EU that she now counts a meeting with Orban, the pariah of Europe, as an important accomplishment," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
        "After shamefully helping the Myanmar military cover up their genocide against Rohingya Muslims, now she’s glad-handing and making friends with Europe’s most xenophobic, anti-democratic leader."
        Robertson added: "The message of this meeting to Brussels should be clear: Myanmar is not listening to your quiet diplomatic niceties."
        A spokesperson for the Myanmar government could not be reached for comment.
        Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to central Europe was with the aim to strengthen economic ties in the region. Prior to Hungary, she visted the Czech Republic, where she met with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

    • Rohingya crisis:
      Japan will stay beside
      Bangladesh.

        Says Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Terming the prevailing situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state complicated, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi has said his country will stay beside the host country for immediate resolution into the crisis.
        "Japan is beside Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue, and it will continue its supports resolving the crisis," Izumi said while addressing a press conference at his Baridhara residence in Dhaka yesterday evening.
        Claiming that Myanmar Army has been fighting against the Arakan Army for nearly two years after the exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, the ambassador said the overall situation in Rakhine state has become more complicated than before.
        Responding to a query on whether Japan would put any pressure on Myanmar to smooth repatriation of Rohingyas, Izumi said, "Only pressure is not enough. Dialogue with Myanmar is a must to put an end to the crisis".
        About safe and dignified repatriation of Rohingyas, he said, "We will support and advocate for the implementation of Kofi Annan Commission’s report resolving the Rohingya crisis."
        * * *
        Earlier, on June 5 and 6, Izumi -- along with a popular Japanese football player and Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF Japan, Makato Hasebe -- visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
        Addressing the press conference, [footballer] Hasebe said he was surprised to see that so many children in the refugee camps are being deprived of the rights of education.
        The world community should come forward to help in ensuring the education of the Rohingya children, said the internationally famed footballer.

    • 3 Rohingya ‘kidnappers’
      die in alleged gunfight
      with police in Teknaf
      [in northeast India].

          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        Three Rohingya refugees with links to crime have been killed in a so-called shootout with law enforcers during a police drive to rescue an abducted child in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf Upazila. ...
        * * *
        They were all [allegedly] members of an organised kidnapping racket that had abducted a three-year-old child from the Leda Camp a few days ago, according to the police. They had demanded a ransom of Tk 500,000 from the child's parents.
        Police launched a raid in the wee hours of Friday, on information that the kidnappers were holding the child hostage on the hilly area behind the Leda Camp, said the [police] OC.
        "The kidnappers opened fire as soon as the police reached the scene, forcing a retaliation from the law enforcers."
        "The child was rescued unharmed after the gunfight ended. Police also found three members of the kidnapping ring, bodies lying on the ground, with bullet-wounds."

        * * *
        Three policemen were also injured in the operation and received primary care at the hospital. ...

    • Football helps Rohingya refugees
      find their feet
      as champions
      for brighter future.
          - Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Australia)

        From kicking balls made of plastic bags, in Bangladesh, to playing on green fields in Brisbane [Australia], football is helping 20 young Rohingya refugees gain the confidence to become leaders.
        Rohingya United is one of the teams taking part in Kicking Goals Together, a program run by the Australian Catholic University that supports refugees, migrants and international students. ...

    • PRESS RELEASE:
      Bangladesh: Caring for
      mothers and newborns
      amid the Rohingya refugee crisis.

          - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
            (Doctors Without Borders)

        Nearly two years after they began crossing into Bangladesh after fleeing horrific violence and persecution in Myanmar, more than 700,000 Rohingya people are still trapped in precarious living conditions in refugee camps near the border. Denied access to health care for years in Myanmar, many of them still have trouble reaching the services they need. The influx of refugees has also strained Bangladeshi health services.
        * * *
        In Ukhia, Bangladesh, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs the Goyalmara Green Roof hospital, where a team provides specialized care to mothers and children, Rohingya and Bangladeshi alike. ...
        * * *
        Twenty-five miles away in the town of Cox’s Bazar, MSF medical coordinator Jessica Patti is facing another challenge. It’s not enough to open a hospital and wait for the patients to arrive—before they can come they have to know it’s there. MSF staff have been increasing their efforts to raise awareness about the Goyalmara hospital amongst other humanitarian organizations providing aid in the region.
        * * *
        Reaching the refugee camps in Bangladesh is not a guarantee of survival for Rohingya refugees, especially babies. A refugee newborn’s chances of survival often depend on escaping the crowded and unsanitary conditions of the settlements. Many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are unable to reach appropriate medical care until it is too late.
        Reasons for this can include traditional practices of the community, an understandable lack of trust in unfamiliar health facilities, and difficulties moving within and outside the camps. Humanitarian organizations operating in the region—including MSF—need to do more to understand the barriers to care the Rohingya people face. There is also a need to increase access to specialized health care facilities like Goyalmara hospital.
        "The first 28 days for newborns are critical—they need both preventive and curative medical care," says Patti. "Unfortunately, lack of health care facilities -- for both refugees and Bangladeshi citizens -- can mean newborns are extremely susceptible to death in their first month. We opened Goyalmara hospital to focus on neonatal and pediatric care, and we want unwell newborns to be referred here from other hospitals in order to receive specialized care."
        Referrals are critical to saving lives. ...

    • 300 Rohingya in Bangladesh
      Traveled Abroad on
      Bangladeshi Passports.

          - The Irrawaddy (Myanmar/Burma)
        (NOTE: This media outlet, though it appears independent, may be subject to Myanmar military control.)
        Amid a crackdown on illegal migration via sea routes, a number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh—mostly women and girls—are being given fake documents by suspected human traffickers, at various locations across the country, in order to get Bangladeshi passports and travel to countries where their relatives are currently living in better conditions. ...

  • 2019 June 8 - Saturday

    • Outcry as ASEAN report
      predicts 'smooth' return
      of Rohingya to Myanmar.

        [Bangladesh & Myanmar] signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 -- but, so far, virtually no Rohingya have volunteered to return [to Myanmar], out of fear for their safety and rights.
          - AFP / Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

       
      ASEAN -- The Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (shown on the map, below, in shades of green) -- includes Myanmar (in pink), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and tiny Brunei.
        The ASEAN nations have a combined population of a half-billion (compared to the United States at one-third billion). Indonesia, alone, has the world's 4th largest population: 222 million. Most ASEAN countries are poor, and have unstable or limited democracy, or none. The tiny city-nation of Singapore (shown in red, at the tip of the Malay peninsula) is the region's economic and political hub.
        The ASEAN region is a complex mix of religious, ethnic and language groups. Malaysia and Indonesia are predominantly Muslim, and the southern Philippines are mostly Muslim. Northern Philippines are Christian, while most of the other ASEAN nations (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore) are predominantly Buddhist and/or non-religious. Most ASEAN countries have a significant Christian and/or Hindu minority.
      China -- increasingly expansionist -- is the region's dominant power, posing the greatest threat to the ASEAN nations, especially around the South China Sea. The U.S., under President Obama, attempted to forge an economic alliance (the "TPP" -- Trans-Pacific Partnership) with ASEAN and other East Asian nations (shown in dark purple) to counter China's growing power.
        But the increasingly isolationist U.S. abandoned the TPP, leaving ASEAN nations little economic recourse, except to cooperate with China -- which has begun aggressive moves to gain control of the South China Sea, and expand its economic and political influence, and consumption of resources, in the region, through its "Belt and Road" initiative. China particularly intends to use Myanmar (Burma) as western China's access to the sea, through a new seaport China is building on Myanmar's west coast, in Rakhine state. ~RCN Editor.
      An Asean [Association of SouthEast Asian Nations] report -- predicting half a million Rohingya refugees will return to Myanmar in two years -- has left observers incredulous for glossing over army atrocities, ignoring an ongoing civil war in Rakhine state, and failing to mention the persecuted Muslim minority by name.
        The leaked report, penned by the Southeast Asian bloc's "Emergency Response and Assessment Team" (Asean-Erat) and seen by AFP, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
        It gives a glowing assessment of Myanmar's efforts to entice Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh, where some 740,000 have taken shelter in fetid, overcrowded camps.

        Claiming to root out insurgents, Myanmar's military drove the Rohingya from Rakhine and over the border in a 2017 crackdown, the latest in several waves of persecution.
        Evidence of widespread murder, rape and arson prompted UN investigators to call for the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for "genocide."
        The two countries signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 but so far virtually no Rohingya have volunteered to return out of fear for their safety and rights.
        The "Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State, Myanmar," works off the basis of 500,000 Rohingya returning.
        That is the official number of refugees given by Myanmar, well below figures from Bangladesh and the UN.
        The word "Rohingya" is not used in the report, which instead refers to the community as "Muslims."
        It claims automated, rather than manual, processing of returnees would mean repatriation will be "completed in a little more than two years."
        The report praises Myanmar on efforts to ensure "smooth and orderly" returns -- echoing the Southeast Asian country's view that delays in repatriation are due to bungled paperwork by Bangladeshi officials.
        Bangladesh puts the blame for the setback on Myanmar and says no refugees have yet volunteered to return.

      'Ludicrous':
        Amnesty International said it was "astonishing" the report failed to mention the military atrocities that drove the Rohingya out, the continued segregation of those who remained or ongoing armed conflict in Rakhine.
        The rights group last week accused the military of committing new "war crimes" in the state as it battles against ethnic Rakhine rebels.
        "It's ludicrous to think that returns in this context could be safe, voluntary or dignified," the group's Myanmar researcher Laura Haigh told AFP.
        An estimated 400,000 Rohingya still live in Rakhine -- often in conditions Amnesty has likened to "open-air prisons", languishing in camps or villages for years, with scant access to healthcare or education.
        [However,] the Asean report dismissed the movement restrictions as "short-term inconveniences," and also said local communities "felt safe" around Border Guard Police (BGP) units accused of helping drive the Rohingya out.

        * * *
        Asean-Erat could not immediately be reached for comment.
        The 10-nation bloc normally sticks to diplomatic niceties, and refuses to interfere in the internal affairs of member states -- although Malaysia has openly condemned Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya.
        Critics accuse Myanmar of playing for time, by choosing to bring in Asean on the issue of repatriation -- a bloc more sympathetic than the West or the UN.

        But ASEAN will not "enhance the (global) credibility of the process in a significant way," said Soe Myint Aung from the Yangon Centre for Independent Research (YCIR).
        The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary probe into military abuses against the Rohingya
        The UN refused to comment on the report before receiving it officially.

    • Delhi [India]: At Rohingya camp,
      a festival under shadow of disease.

        Inside a one-room house with no toilet, Kalam and his wife raised two children. The camp was beginning to feel like home, when a fire gutted 47 homes on April 15, last year.
          - Indian Express (India)

        A decade ago, when Fayazul Kalam was a teenager, he fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. By the time he turned 18, he found himself in Jammu, [India] -- and six months later, at Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj Rohingya camp.
        Inside a one-room house with no toilet, Kalam and his wife raised two children. The camp was beginning to feel like home, when a fire gutted 47 homes on April 15, last year.
        * * *
        A year on, the houses haven’t been rebuilt, and 200-plus people have built temporary homes at an adjacent plot, using bits of blankets, mattresses, wooden doors and cardboard pieces — all susceptible to fire.

        Salimullah (35), who lives and runs a shop there, said, "The Zakat Foundation of India (ZFI) was to build the homes, but that didn’t happen. We’ve made the structures using materials donated to us last Ramzan."
        ZFI president Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood told The Indian Express, "The Centre [India's central government] released a mandate that banned construction in the area… we don’t know why, or when the ban will be lifted."
        * * *
        The old plot is now covered with flowers and creepers. Next to it at the new camp, the sweltering summer is taking a toll on 66 Rohingya families — electricity connection is temporary and when the "line" is cut, rented fans and coolers become useless.
        "Children are the worst hit… they get dehydration, diarrhoea and rashes. In the last month, I had to take my two children, aged three and five, to the dispensary thrice… every time at the cost of work," said Kalam (26), who drives a rented e-rickshaw.
        * * *
        For Salimullah, the fire meant double jeopardy, as his kirana store on the main road was also gutted. "I set it up again, but since this is a low-lying area, people have stopped coming here because it’s inconvenient… they hesitate," he said.
        * * *
        Eid [the most joyful Muslim holiday] festivities, too, were low-key at the camp. "It would have been a celebration if we were back in the old camp… Most of us have heatstroke now," Salimullah said.
        * * *
        Once summer ends, rain will bring another problem — flooding.
      "The camp is low-lying and even with a little rain, water can enter homes and bring new problems… it happened last time too," said Mohd Shakir, a resident.
        * * *
        A few kilometres away at Shaheen Bagh are clusters of displaced pockets — from a group of families from UP’s Ayodhya to 85 Rohingya families from Myanmar. The housing is similar to the camp at Kalindi Kunj, with five hand-pumps for 300-plus people.
        * * *
        Mohd. Ayas (30), recovering from a bout of typhoid, said he had to rush his 10-month-old son to a dispensary nearby at least four times in the last month.
        "He vomits and has an upset stomach. The heat has caused blisters on his arms, doctors have asked me to give him ORS," said Ayas, a daily wager, who has missed work for over two weeks.
        Last week, when temperature touched 47 degrees Celsius [116 degrees Farenheit, in humid India], Ayas took his two children to the Kalindi Kunj Metro station.
        "We just sat on the steps — it was cooler than being here, and the baby stopped crying," he said.

        * * *
        The hand-pump under a tree’s shade remains busy all day. Toddlers sit in a puddle there, while their mothers wash utensils and clothes.
        "It’s the only way to handle the heat, even though the water is dirty and smells. Younger children end up drinking it and then fall sick. Drinking water is expensive if you are a daily wage earner… it costs Rs 15-20 for a water can. It’s so hot that a family of five needs two such bottles daily… some days, we let them drink the hand-pump water," said 30-year-old Rashida Begum.

  • 2019 June 9 - Sunday

      ----------

  • 2019 June 10 - Monday

    • Bangladesh PM
      attacks Myanmar
      over Rohingya deadlock.

          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has slammed Myanmar for delays in the repatriation of Rohingya refugees who fled violence in the neighbouring country. ...
        Many still fear for their safety if they return to Myanmar, where the Muslim minority has faced decades of repression and erosion of rights.
        But the Bangladeshi prime minister's comments late Sunday are a sign that the country's patience is wearing thin.
        The two governments signed a repatriation deal in November 2017, yet so far virtually no Rohingya have volunteered to return.
        "The problem lies with Myanmar as they don?t want to take back the Rohingyas by any means," Hasina told a press conference.
        She also criticised international aid agencies working in the refugee camps in the border district of Cox's Bazar --who object to any forced relocations - saying they are not interested in ending the crisis.
       
      "The problem that I now see is that different international agencies that are providing voluntary services or working at Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar never want any refugee to go back," she said.
        "The principal problem lies here."
        Bangladesh has said it will not force Rohingya to return to Myanmar, where the Muslim minority faced several waves of persecution before the 2017 crackdown which saw widespread murder, rape and arson.
        But Hasina called for an investigation into the organisers of protests against repatriation that have been held within the squalid camps.

        "Who instigated the movement?" she asked.
        "Those who provide assistance to Rohingyas have a serious objection, though the government has constructed very beautiful houses and structures at Bhashan Char," Hasina said of the shelters Bangladesh has built on a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
        Hasina's comments follow the leak of a report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations emergency response team, seen by AFP last week, which gave a glowing assessment of Myanmar's efforts to entice Rohingya refugees back.
        The report left observers incredulous for glossing over army atrocities, ignoring the ongoing civil war in Rakhine state and blaming the delays in repatriation on bungled paperwork by Bangladeshi officials.

    • [ASEAN's]
      AHA Centre defends
      leaked report
      on Rohingya refugees.

          - Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

       
      ASEAN -- The Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (shown on the map, below, in shades of green) -- includes Myanmar (in pink), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and tiny Brunei.
        The ASEAN nations have a combined population of a half-billion (compared to the United States at one-third billion). Indonesia, alone, has the world's 4th largest population: 222 million. Most ASEAN countries are poor, and have unstable or limited democracy, or none. The tiny city-nation of Singapore (shown in red, at the tip of the Malay peninsula) is the region's economic and political hub.
        The ASEAN region is a complex mix of religious, ethnic and language groups. Malaysia and Indonesia are predominantly Muslim, and the southern Philippines are mostly Muslim. Northern Philippines are Christian, while most of the other ASEAN nations (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore) are predominantly Buddhist and/or non-religious. Most ASEAN countries have a significant Christian and/or Hindu minority.
      China -- increasingly expansionist -- is the region's dominant power, posing the greatest threat to the ASEAN nations, especially around the South China Sea. The U.S., under President Obama, attempted to forge an economic alliance (the "TPP" -- Trans-Pacific Partnership) with ASEAN and other East Asian nations (shown in dark purple) to counter China's growing power.
        But the increasingly isolationist U.S. abandoned the TPP, leaving ASEAN nations little economic recourse, except to cooperate with China -- which has begun aggressive moves to gain control of the South China Sea, and expand its economic and political influence, and consumption of resources, in the region, through its "Belt and Road" initiative. China particularly intends to use Myanmar (Burma) as western China's access to the sea, through a new seaport China is building on Myanmar's west coast, in Rakhine state. ~RCN Editor.
      [The Association of SouthEast Asian Nations] (ASEAN)'s disaster-management unit, AHA Centre, has come out to defend its assessment of the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, following an outcry over the report it had submitted to Myanmar at the end of May.
        News agency AFP -- citing a leaked report penned by AHA Centre's Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT) -- had said, on Friday, that the assessment glossed over allegations of Myanmar military atrocities in Rakhine State, and ignored the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army.
        AHA Centre's executive director, Adelina Kamal, said AFP misinterpreted the assessment.

        Speaking to CNA, Ms Adelina said: "I think they have misinterpreted our report. This is why for sensitive issues like this, we need to understand the context and read the entire report.
        "Our assessment is very focused – tasked by ASEAN leaders to conduct needs assessment to identify areas that ASEAN can offer to facilitate the repatriation process so it’s very focused - it’s just to facilitate."
        ERAT had put together the 60-page Preliminary Needs Assessment report after visiting Rakhine State in March.
        "The focus of the report is preliminary assessment. It’s not a repatriation plan. What AFP put out, it seems as if it’s a repatriation plan that will be confined to two years," Ms Adelina said.
        AFP had quoted the Preliminary Needs Assessment as predicting that "half a million Rohingya refugees will return to Myanmar in two years".
        Ms Adelina explained: "Based on our calculations, if Myanmar were to manually process refugees based on its current capacity, which is 300 a day, then it would take six years.
        "If we were to automate the process, it can be cut down to two years,"
      she explained.
        AFP also quoted Amnesty International as saying that it was "astonishing" the (ERAT) report failed to mention the military atrocities that drove the Rohingya out, the continued segregation of those who remained, or ongoing armed conflict in Rakhine.
        In late May this year, Amnesty International accused the Myanmar army of committing new "war crimes" in Rakhine amid its ongoing battle with the Arakan Army.
        However, Ms Adelina said ERAT had written the report factually, and had worked within its mandate.
        In 2018, ASEAN leaders tasked AHA Centre to look at ways to work with Myanmar and facilitate repatriation.
        "ASEAN's ERAT has specific areas of expertise – disaster management," Ms Adelina said.
        "And so we have been requested by Myanmar to provide assessment for them - it's very focused and we cannot go beyond our mandate," she said.
        "We can only recommend how to improve the repatriation process – registration, improving facilities, providing refugees treatment such as how they can get medical access," she said.
        In other words, ERAT does not have the authority to focus on issues not tasked to them by ASEAN leaders or Myanmar - including looking into allegations of human rights abuses by the army.
        In July 2018, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi appointed Filipino diplomat Rosario Manalo to head [Myanmar's own] "Independent Commission of Enquiry," to probe into allegations of serious crimes in Rakhine State.
        In September that year, the United Nation's Fact Finding Mission released a 400-page report that said the Myanmar army must be accountable for allegations of genocide, which it said had forced more than 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh in August 2017.
        AFP had also said the Preliminary Needs Assessment failed to use the term "Rohingyas" in its report, and instead chose the term "Muslims".
        In response, Ms Adelina said that it is more important to focus on constructive solutions, and to focus on helping Myanmar.
        Ms Adelina said ERAT's Preliminary Needs Assessment covered four major components: Physical safety, material safety, registration of the Rohingyas and cohesion.
        She declined to give further details when asked to clarify what aspects of physical safety was covered in the report.

        * * *
        The full report has been handed to the Myanmar government as well as the ASEAN secretariat and will be made public by the government.
        ASEAN leaders are set to meet in Thailand on Jun 20, where the issue of Rohingya repatriation is expected to be discussed.

        It is likely that ASEAN leaders will then decide if AHA Centre - or any other agency - will need to follow up and take the next step.

    • Bangladesh, Myanmar Trade Blame
      Over Stalled Rohingya Repatriation.

          - RFA (Radio Free Asia)

            (U.S. propaganda radio)
        .....................................

    • Rohingya crisis:
      Only 22% of $920m JRP
      [Joint Response Plan] 2019 appeal
      met so far.

        Lack of funding for key sectors may affect the lives of Rohingyas
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Halfway into 2019, only 22% of the $920 million annual appeal for the Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis has been met so far, prompting officials of the government and international organisations to express concerns over the slow pace of fund collection.
        They have expressed fear that the apparent apathy in funding -- especially in some key sectors such as food security, health, shelter, protection and nutrition -- can have significant negative impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees,
      who had to flee their homes due to unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs, and people from other ethnic groups in Rakhine State.
        The officials placed great emphasis on the necessity for smooth flow of funding to ensure efficient operation of relief activities in one of the gravest humanitarian crises in recent history.
        JRP 2019 was launched in Geneva on February 15, seeking $920.5 million to cover expenses in the period between January and December.
        About 69% of the $950m appeal in JRP 2018 was met -- while around 64% of the $434m sought under JRP 2017 was provided.
        According to the financial tracking system of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only $202.3m_less than one quarter_of the $920.5m asked for in JRP 2019 has been met.
      • For food security, $54.1m (21.3%) of the $254.1m sought was funded.
      • Of $128.8m for shelter, only $7.5m (5.8%) has so far been collected.
      • For health, $6m (6.8%) of $88.7m has been provided.
      • For nutrition, out of $48.1m, a paltry $2.2m, (4.6%), has been made available, while
      • for protection, $8m out of $38.9m has been collected.
        The funding scenario in regards to other sectors – child protection, communication with communities, coordination, education, emergency telecommunication, gender-based violence, logistics and site management – is more or less the same.
        "The current flow of funding is not what we expected. In all our meetings with the international community, we ask them to ensure the proper funds needed to look after the Rohingyas," Abul Kalam, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner (RRRC) based in Cox’s Bazar, told Dhaka Tribune.
        "We always get assurances from donors that money will be no problem," he added.
        "We do hope that they will live up to their pledges," said Kalam (who is also an additional secretary of [Bangladesh's] Disaster Management Ministry, and the top government official dealing with the Rohingya issue in Cox’s Bazar).
        "Prior to, and after, opening our border to the Rohingyas, we have been led to believe that money will never be a problem. Now, after about half of the year, 22% of the fund appeal has been met, which is inadequate," said a senior government official, who did not wish to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
        "These people (the Rohingyas) are under our care. If their well-being is affected due to the lack of funding, Bangladesh will have to take the blame. This is the last thing we want," he added, expressing his optimism that the international community will do what is needed to maintain smooth flow of funding.
        "We are grateful to our donors for their support so far, and we sincerely hope that the donors will be more generous in the coming days," said an official of a UN organization.
        "It is needless to say that vital issues in respect to the well-being of the Rohingyas will be compromised if proper funding does not arrive at the proper time," he added.
        "Look, it (the Rohingya crisis) is a long haul. No one knows when the crisis will end. If the flow of funding continues in this way, the people may become worried about the future," said an official of an international humanitarian organisation.
        "Continued funding is also vital to conduct the relief efforts without problems," he added.

    • EDITORIAL:
      Rohingya crisis unlikely to be solved
      without help from China, Russia.

        The two superpowers seem reluctant to pressure Myanmar to take its people back
      by Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, in
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Any solution to the Rohingya crisis, which has undoubtedly affected Bangladesh very bad manner, will continue to remain elusive for many years, considering the hundreds of thousands of persecuted people from Rakhine already in Bangladesh, prior to the latest exodus in late August 2017.
        People in Bangladesh and across the globe, believe there will be no solution, be it permanent or temporary, without help from China and Russia, two superpowers and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a most powerful body.

        Beijing and Moscow, especially Beijing, have significant influence over Naypyitaw. As such, they are well positioned to pressure Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back and facilitate a permanent solution by addressing the root causes, including citizenship for the Rohingyas.
        But it does not look like they are prepared to do so, at least for the time being, and perhaps anytime in the near future. Any help from India will also be handy as it has some influence with Myanmar.
        So far, the efforts of Bangladesh to get China, Russia, and India on its side have not produced any significant outcomes worth mentioning.
        As things stand, Bangladesh cannot get anything through the United Nations from China and Russia, two veto wielding nations at the UNSC, mainly due to the geopolitical and economical interests these countries have in regards to Myanmar.
        In all the voting on Myanmar at the UN, China and Russia have always voted against any motions favoured by Bangladesh, while the country’s first neighbour India, has abstained, reflecting a grim scenario for Bangladesh. In short, Myanmar is more important for China and Russia than Bangladesh is.
        The international community, including three other veto-wielding powers, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, are not interested at all in imposing any major economic sanctions or considering any military action against Myanmar, bypassing the UN system.

        Against the backdrop of such a hopeless situation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced she will visit China in July to talk to the leadership of the world’s most populous country about the crisis.
        We the people trust the Prime Minister will try to make the Chinese leaders understand why Beijing should do more to put pressure on Naypyitaw to take the Rohingyas back as the Myanmar authorities are not willing to adhere to the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in November 2017.
        Hasina is likely to reiterate her proposal for a temporary solution by returning the Rohingyas to a safe zone in Rakhine before going for a permanent solution in accordance with the recommendations of the Annan Commission.
        Experts believe that if China can be persuaded, it will not be a problem to get the support of Russia, and that if these two nations fall in line, any Indian opposition would be easily overcome.
        The people of Bangladesh will now eagerly wait for the Prime Minister to visit China, hoping they will be able to get past one of the gravest circumstances the country has ever experienced.

  • 2019 June 11 - Tuesday

    • Thailand: 65 Rohingya Stranded
      with Suspected Traffickers
      from Myanmar [and Thailand].

          - BenarNews / RFA (Radio Free Asia)

            (U.S. propaganda radio)   Sixty-five Rohingya landed on an island in southern Thailand on Tuesday with six suspected human traffickers, including five from Myanmar, after their wooden boat ran out of fuel, officials said.
        Five children were among the Rohingya passengers that included 29 men and 31 women who were stranded on Rawi island in Satun province, Thai Coast Guard Cmdr. Thanapong Sudrak told reporters.
        He said a Thai man and five Myanmar nationals were on board, and were being held for questioning, as authorities believe they helped facilitate the travel in what could be a case of human smuggling or trafficking.
        "We moved them to the mainland for questioning because there was one Thai man on board and we will investigate if this is human trafficking,"   Thanapong said, emphasizing that Coast Guard crewmen had provided water and food to the passengers and their suspected "facilitators."
        Police identified the Thai man as Sangkom Papan, 50, from nearby Ranong province, next to Myanmar, but did not release the identities of the five Burmese
        "Officials from agencies involved discussed an urgent plan to help them and to interrogate the Thai,"   Police Col. Samrej Jai-eau, the deputy chief of the police station in La-ngu district of Satun, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
        * * *
        Four years ago, Thai authorities discovered the graves of 32 Rohingya and Bangladeshis near the Malaysian border, prompting a crackdown on illegal immigration. Thailand subsequently sealed its maritime borders to boats smuggling people from Bangladesh and Myanmar.
        In 2017, a Thai court convicted and sentenced Former Army Lt. Gen. Manas Kongpaen to 27 years for trafficking Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis as part of a crime syndicate that was exposed through the unearthing of the graves in the jungle in southern Songkhla province.
      The former military officer was among dozens of people convicted.
        * * *
        A co-founder of the rights groups Fortify Rights told BenarNews that Rohingya would be expected to continue fleeing their homes in Myanmar -- where they have been subjected to decades of hostility, and denied citizenship.
        U.N. officials believe a few hundred thousand Rohingya remain in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state -- despite the destruction of villages during a military crackdown beginning, in August 2017, that led to an exodus of more than 700,000 into Bangladesh.
        "The numbers of Rohingya arriving in Thailand have decreased in recent years, when compared to 2015, but they’ve never really stopped coming,"
        said Matthew Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fortify Rights.
        Thai authorities are obligated to provide protection, Smith said.
        "Rohingya are continuing to flee mass atrocities and genocide in Myanmar and inhumane conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh,"   he said. "They’re refugees and they have rights."
        * * *
      House rescue:
        In a separate incident, Thai police, on Tuesday, said they had rescued 38 Myanmar nationals who were confined in darkness in a house while awaiting their "facilitators" in the Had Yai district of the southern province of Songkhla.
        Authorities identified them as workers who were hoping to reach Malaysia, but did not release additional details.
        * * *
        Police Inspector-General Suchart Teerasawat said Myanmar nationals often pay their facilitators or brokers about 20,000 baht (U.S. $637) per person.
        People found guilty of human trafficking in Thailand could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison and fined up to 1 million baht ($29,759). Thai law imposes double punishment for government officials who are found guilty.
        The crime persists despite the stiff penalties, officials said.
        "We have ordered local police to eradicate trans-boundary human trafficking, a big problem similar to that of Rohingya,"   Suchart told BenarNews. "But there’s still an influx of illegal workers from Myanmar destined for Malaysia."

    • [Bangladesh] Government
      asks honorary consuls
      to engage international bodies
      in Rohingya repatriation.

        Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh does not have the capacity to host Rohingya refugees for an indefinite period of time.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has requested honorary consul generals of different countries working in Bangladesh and abroad to engage their respective governments and civil societies to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingyas refugees.
        The foreign minister made the call with an aim to create a favourable environment in the Rakhine State of Myanmar for the Rohingya community and initiate the refugee repatriation process, said a press statement published on the ministry’s website on Tuesday.
        The minister said Bangladesh does not have the capacity to host Rohingya refugees for an indefinite period of time.
        "The security and stability of the region will be threatened if the placement of this community, which had been distressed and deprived of basic rights for generations, is prolonged in this country," the release said.

    • Rohingya crisis:
      Gov't efforts remain ineffective
      with [the Bangladesh gov't in] Dhaka
      not in control.

        Foreign minister briefs foreign diplomats Wednesday.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

  • 2019 June 12 - Wednesday

    • Mount pressure on Myanmar
      ~ Bangladesh to diplomats

        Bangladesh Foreign Ministser briefing diplomats, urges focus on Rohingya issue.
          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Bangladesh has urged the international community to ramp up pressure on Myanmar so that it creates a congenial environment for the earliest repatriation of displaced Rohingyas with safety and dignity.
        After briefing diplomats stationed in Dhaka this morning, Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen said Bangladesh clarified its position about the matter.
        "They told us that they're with us. We told them to increase pressure further on Myanmar to create a conducive environment," he told the media adding that "Almost all of them agreed to do so."
        The minister briefed the heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies in Dhaka... on the recent developments related to Rohingya repatriation. Senior foreign ministry officials were present at the event.
        * * *
        Minister Momen said Bangladesh strongly protested the fabricated remarks and disinformation spread by Myanmar officials. He presented relevant facts and arguments to invalidate Myanmar's allegations, and also to expose [the Myanmar government in] Nay Pyi Taw's disrespect to its obligations and commitments.
        "Basically, we gave the diplomats an update about Myanmar as one of its ministers at a recent event in Japan blamed Bangladesh for the lack of progress in Rohingya repatriation."
        "He also claimed that Bangladesh is not cooperating with Myanmar in this regard."

        Foreign Minister Momen strongly protested against the comment, saying: "We sincerely want Myanmar to take back its citizens. But Myanmar has repeatedly been breaching its promises."
        He said the repatriation was supposed to begin first in January last year and later in November, 2018. "But it didn't happen."
        Momen said they joined the 4th joint commission meeting in Myanmar in May last with a high hope to get very positive results. "But we still couldn't commence the repatriation process."
        He said Nay Pyi Taw recently had the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conduct a study on two villages out of 800 in Myanmar to show that the situation was very good there.
        "The reports Myanmar is producing through others are completely false and fabricated, and no one believes those. Basically, Myanmar didn't keep any of its promises," the minister said.

        He said Myanmar was supposed to create a conducive environment in the Rakhine State but did nothing instead.
        "We didn't find any new development there during our last joint commission meeting," he said.
        He further said, not a single displaced Rohingya could be repatriated to Myanmar from Bangladesh and the no-man's land. "The disinformation being spread by Myanmar is not correct."
        Momen voiced concern as the Rohingyas staying in Cox's Bazar are getting involved in crimes and said, "That's why we want to force Myanmar to take back its citizens."
        * * *
        He said that Dhaka would also request Myanmar's friendly countries to convince Nay Pyi Taw to ensure safe return of its displaced people. "Or else, if the terror activities continue to rise or uncertainty prevails, the investment they (Myanmar's friendly countries) want to make will be harmed."
        The Foreign Minister said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to visit China next month, and will raise the issue with due importance. "We would tell China that your interests will be hampered if uncertainty prevails there and peace and discipline can't be restored."

        He hoped to get a good response from China as the country also wants Myanmar to take back its citizens.
        Asked what kind of pressure Bangladesh wants international community to create on Myanmar, the minister said, "We told them (diplomats) that the sovereign countries themselves will determine it."
        "Muslims are not the only ones being disgraced and ill-treated here, but also the whole of humanity. I told them that if you have the least sympathy for humanity, then you'll find out the proper way for mounting pressure on Myanmar," he added.
        Momen also mentioned the decision of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for establishing the legal rights of Rohingyas and addressing the question of accountability and justice.
       
      He said the OIC member states at a recent meeting in Saudi Arabia spontaneously agreed to bear the expenses in this regard on voluntary basis.
        The minister sought comprehensive engagements and decisive actions from the international community for the earliest repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingya population and their reintegration in Myanmar with safety and dignity.

    • China's, other Asian nations'
      involvement sought
      to solve Rohingya crisis.

          - UNB / Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Bangladesh has raised the Rohingya issue at an international media forum and sought more Chinese—and other Asian nations'—involvement to solve the Rohingya crisis – for regional peace and stability.
        The Bangladeshi authorities raised the issue at the China-South Asia Media Forum, held on the sidelines of the second China-South Asia Cooperation Forum – that ended on Tuesday evening at the Hilton Yuxi Fuxian Lake Resort, China.
        Bangladesh stressed that the Rohingya crisis needs to be solved, permanently, ensuring the safe return of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Myanmar's Rakhine State, reports UNB.
        * * *
        Speaking at the roundtable dialogue of the forum, [Controller of News, Bangladesh Betar] Tania Naznin said: "We expect more Chinese and other Asian nations' involvement to solve the Rohingya crisis."
        She requested members of the media in China, and other countries, to visit Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar district and report on the situation on the ground. ...

    • Bipartisan House bill
      seeks to punish Burma
      for genocide.

          - The Hill (U.S. political journal)

        A pair of powerful House lawmakers introduced legislation, Wednesday, intended to punish the Burmese government for its brutal campaign targeting ethnic minority groups across [Myanmar/Burma].
        Sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the proposal aims to hold Burma's military junta accountable for a long-running campaign of violence against the Rohingya, a Muslim group occupying western regions of the state, as well as more recent campaigns targeting other minority groups within the Buddhist-majority country.
        Among the penalties, the bill would bar any new military assistance to Burma until the regime enacts reforms; slap new trade sanctions on the government; and impose new visa and financial limits on the military leaders behind the atrocities.

        "Since August of 2017, the Burmese military has inflicted horrific violence against the Rohingya in Burma's Rakhine State, and today is using the same tactics against the Kachin and other ethnic minorities," Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
        "We will not rest until there is justice."
        The idea of imposing new restrictions on Burma's military regime is hardly new. In the last Congress, the House passed similar sanctions legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The measure won overwhelming bipartisan support in the lower chamber but hit a roadblock in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has opposed the proposal. [NOTE: Sen. McConnell claims a close personal friendship with Myanmar's anti-Rohingya civilian government figurehead, Aung San Suu Kyi, and steadfastly defends her government against any Congressional action. ~ RCN editor.]
        * * *
        A United Nations report released last year found evidence that Burmese forces were responsible for mass killings, gang rapes and other "violations [that] undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law." The U.N. labeled the purge a "genocide," and recommended the perpetrators be tried before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
        The Trump administration, to the consternation of the Rohingya champions on Capitol Hill, has not gone so far.
        While the State Department, last year, released its own report on the Burmese atrocities — finding that the Burmese military "targeted civilians indiscriminately and often with extreme brutality" — the agency stopped short of labeling the tragedy a "genocide."
        That omission has angered lawmakers in both parties, who are warning that a failure to confront Burmese leaders, more aggressively, threatens the reputation of the United States as a champion of human rights.
        Aside from the sanctions provisions, the Engel-Chabot bill would require new reporting on crimes against humanity in Burma; provide U.S. assistance with investigations that could lead to the prosecution of war criminals; and promote efforts to spread Burma's vast mineral wealth, largely controlled by the military elite, more broadly throughout the country.
        "Chairman Engel and I introduced the BURMA Act in the last Congress because we believe there must be consequences for the Burmese military’s barbaric atrocities," Chabot said. "Today we continue the effort to hold the perpetrators accountable."
        (see, also, Jewish lobby support at:
        - June 14 )

  • 2019 June 13 - Thursday

    • Rohingya repatriation:
      Bangladesh informs UN
      about Myanmar's inaction.

        The UN chief expressed his deep concern
      over the delay in repatriating Rohingyas.

          - UNB / Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)
        Bangladesh has informed the United Nations about problems regarding the Rohingya issue and Myanmar's lack of cooperation in starting repatriation.
        State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam conveyed the information to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at a bilateral meeting—on the Rohingya issue and the celebration of birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—in New York, reports UNB.
        The UN chief expressed his deep concern over the delay in Rohingya repatriation, the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the UN said in a statement on Tuesday. ...

    • Rohingya Girl Found Dead,
      Allegedly Raped,
      in North Rakhine.

        [Villagers suspect local police.]

          - The Irrawaddy (Myanmar/Burma)
        (NOTE: This media outlet, though it appears independent, may be subject to Myanmar military control.)
        Local authorities have confirmed that an 11-year-old Rohingya girl was found dead near her village in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township Wednesday.
        Maungdaw Township General Administrative Department (GAD) deputy administrator U Phyu Hla told The Irrawaddy the girl was found near the Rohingya village of Ngan Chaung. He declined to provide further details.
        * * *
        Local Rohingya media reported that locals believe that the girl was first gang-raped, then murdered, by plainclothes Border Guard Police (BGP) from Na Kha Kha No. 6, or Battery 6, based about a 15-minute walk from the village. Rohingya Today cited two local women who claim to have seen BGP personnel from Battery 6, who had earlier been vandalizing an abandoned home, later carrying something the size of a body wrapped in black tarpaulin at 6 p.m. Wednesday -- but did not know of the missing girl at the time.

    • Luxembourg assures support
      for resolving Rohingya crisis.
        [Discusses its development projects in Bangladesh]
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

    • Stranded Rohingya people
      linked to trafficking.

          - Reuters / U.S. News

        [Thai] police said, on Thursday, that there is enough evidence to press human trafficking charges against the captain and crew of a boat carrying 65 Rohingya Muslims, which was shipwrecked this week on a southern island [of Thailand].
        Many Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia -- part of what authorities fear could be a new wave of people-smuggling by sea,
      after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking.
        The 65 Rohingya men, women and children were discovered on Tuesday on Rawi island off Thailand's southern Satun province where their boat had beached due to engine trouble while en route to Malaysia.
        Police have already charged the crew with assisting the migrants to illegally enter Thailand.
        "We have completed talking to some of the Rohingya and we now have evidence to press human trafficking charges against the Thai captain and the five Myanmar crew," Pol Maj Gen Supawat Thapkliew, the head of police in Satun, told Reuters.
        "We have not completed questioning all the Rohingya to determine whether they were tricked or they came willingly," he added.
        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday ordered relevant agencies to care for the Rohingya — 29 men, 31 women and five children — while authorities complete their investigation.
        "The prime minister wants to stress that the Rohingya migration issue is important to the government and Thailand have worked with other countries on this issue continuously," Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the government spokesman, told reporters.
        Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent -- and has confined tens of thousands to sprawling camps in Rakhine state, segregated from the Buddhist Rakhine population, since violence swept the area in 2012.
        The unrest prompted tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee Myanmar by sea -- an exodus that peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 people crossed the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia... many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.
        More than 700,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh in 2017 after a crackdown by the Myanmar's army, according to UN agencies.

    • OPINION:
      ASEAN: Prioritize the
      rights of the Rohingya.

            by Chris Lewa, in
          - Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

        As ASEAN prepares for its 34th Summit in Bangkok on June 20 to 23, the heads of member states must keep the Rohingya crisis at the top of their agenda. With the world’s largest refugee camp now sitting at the doorstep of ASEAN, the regional dimensions of the crisis can no longer be ignored.
        ASEAN’s demonstrated interest in finding solutions to this complex and protracted crisis is welcome. But instead of focusing on the repatriation of nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, ASEAN must work first to address the human rights crisis faced by hundreds of thousands of Rohingya still inside Myanmar.
        They must create safe conditions for refugees to return.
        It is also crucial that ASEAN works closely with UNHCR — the UN agency mandated to provide international protection to refugees and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation ...

  • 2019 June 14 - Friday

    • Rohingya-carrying boat captain charged.
          - AFP / ManilaTimes (Philippines)

        A Thai boat captain has been charged with smuggling 65 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, police said Thursday, after their vessel was shipwrecked off Thailand’s southern coast.
        The same area was the hub of multimillion-dollar trafficking route, which unraveled in 2015, after the discovery of mass graves of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, along the border with Malaysia.
        Police said the boat -- which was carrying the stateless Rohingya minority, and was found on Tuesday on an island off the coast of Satun province -- was captained by Sangkhom Paphan, a Thai from nearby Ranong province.

    • PRESS RELEASE:
      The Burma Act in the
      [U.S.] House [of Representatives]:
      What it means for the Rohingya.

          - Jewish World Watch

      (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown.)
        Congress is not giving up on the Rohingya! After much anticipation, the House companion bill to the newest incarnation of the Burma Act was introduced on Tuesday, June 14. The "Burma United through Rigorous Military Accountability Act" (H.R. 3190) — sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) — authorizes significant humanitarian assistance, and aims to hold Burma’s Tatmadaw military accountable -- not only for the atrocities it continues to perpetrate against the Rohingya Muslim minority population, but also for campaigns targeting other minority groups within the Buddhist-majority country.
        The "Burma Act of 2019" (H.R. 3190) would:
      • Prohibit expansion of American military assistance to Burma until reforms take place;
      • Require reporting on crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide;
      • Impose trade, visa, and financial penalties on those responsible for orchestrating the atrocities;
      • Support U.S. assistance in investigations that could lead to the eventual prosecution of war criminals; and,
      • Promote reforms to limit the Tatmadaw’s stronghold on Burma’s abundant natural resources.
      Take action! Urge your House Reps to support the Burma Act now!
        Rep. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and champion of the Rohingya cause, promised, "We will not rest until there is justice."
        Like Jewish World Watch, certain members of Congress remain steadfast and indefatigable in their refusal to stand idly by in the face of the world’s most recent genocide. This is not the first time Reps. Engel and Chabot have tried to ring the alarm for the Rohingya. They co-sponsored similar legislation two years in a row, only to see it flounder in the Senate. Rep. Chabot spearheaded a successful House resolution last year, which labeled the atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Tatmadaw as "genocide" — a significant accomplishment in the face of the the State Department’s persistent refusal to make such a designation, despite mounting evidence from myriad reputable sources including the UN, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Fortify Rights, and the Public International Law and Policy Group (the entity contracted by the State Department to assist in its assessment).
        This time around, Reps. Engel and Chabot are back, with an even more comprehensive bill that would enact several measures to ensure justice -- including targeted sanctions against those in the upper echelons of the Tatmadaw, and other bans and financial penalties that follow the cash, and impact the many businesses owned by the Tatmadaw and their family members.
        On April 11, Senator Ben Cardin (D-M.D.) reintroduced the "Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act" (S. 1186) in the Senate. Like its House companion, the Senate bill includes:
      • targeted sanctions;
      • new funds for humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar;
      • periodic reporting on sanctions compliance; and
      • assistance to investigative and justice-seeking mechanisms.

      Take action! Urge your Senators to support the Burma Act now!
        Jewish World Watch is confident that the time is ripe to have these two bills finally move through both chambers and catalyze tangible changes for the 1 million Rohingya who escaped genocide and now live in squalid camps in neighboring Bangladesh, as well as numerous other minority groups still suffering inside Myanmar, facing various forms of persecution at the hands of the unrepentant Tatmadaw.
        These pieces of legislation are poised to exert real pressure on the perpetrators of violence and help to create a better future for survivors of the genocide. But the path will not be easy and success is far from certain. Previous bills have failed to pass, largely because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the Senate versions to vote. [RCN EDITOR'S NOTE: Senator McConnell (R-KY) is the Senate Majority Leader, and, as such, effectively controls the U.S. Senate. McConnell claims a strong personal friendship with the Myanmar government's top civilian official, Aung San Suu Kyi, which pre-dates her role as an official. He has blocked all Congressional action against Myanmar.]
        We must send a clear message that intransigence -- in the face of genocide and crimes against humanity -- will not be tolerated, and is a failure of moral leadership. Our rallying cry must be widespread, loud, and persistent to show our legislators that meaningful action is long overdue.
        Washington’s inaction in the face of such clear-cut genocide, and other mass atrocities, not only jeopardizes the United States’ position as a global promoter of human rights, but also sends the worst possible message to the Tatmadaw -- and [to] other egregious rights violators around the world:  that they can continue perpetrating unconscionable abuses with zero repercussions, and with total impunity. We already see this happening inside Myanmar, as the Tatmadaw preys upon other minority groups using the same tactics it employed against the Rohingya, and continues to terrorize those internally displaced Rohingya who remain inside Rakhine state.
        We have a collective responsibility to help end this ongoing genocide. Jewish World Watch is working in coalition with American Jewish World Service and other organizations through the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network to amplify our voices and broaden our reach. Please join us in making noise for the Rohingya by contacting your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 3190 and S. 1186.
        (same topic at:
        - American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
            (NOTE: The quality of this media is unclear; it is an established global support organization for Jews. AJWS, however, has long expressed serious concern over the genocidal treatment of the Rohingya.) )
        (Same topic & official announcements at:
        - June 12 )

    • When Rohingya Refugees
      Fled to India,
      Hate on Facebook Followed.

          - New York Times

        KOLKATA, India — Mohammad Salim, a Rohingya Muslim refugee, thought he had left genocidal violence and Facebook vitriol behind when he fled his native country, Myanmar, in 2013.

      But lately, his new home, India’s West Bengal state, has not felt much safer. And once again, Facebook is a big part of the problem.

      During India’s recent national elections, Mr. Salim said, he saw Facebook posts that falsely accused Rohingya Muslims of cannibalism go viral, along with posts that threatened to burn their homes if they did not leave India. Some Hindu nationalists called the Rohingya "terrorists," and shared videos on the social network in which the leader of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vowed to expel the minority group and other Muslim "termites." A week ago, new posts popped up falsely accusing the Rohingya of killing B.J.P. workers in West Bengal.

      "Many groups demonized us on Facebook and WhatsApp, and they succeeded in whipping up a strong anti-Rohingya passion in the state," Mr. Salim, 29, said in a recent interview in a village near Kolkata, West Bengal’s capital.

      He said he had quit selling fruit juice at local rail stations and was moving with his pregnant wife and two toddlers to a new, undisclosed location — their fourth home in the past 15 months — because he was afraid of being attacked by right-wing Hindus or arrested.

      Mr. Salim’s experience -- echoed in interviews with other Rohingya Muslims who sought refuge in India -- shows the widening, real-world repercussions of Facebook’s failure to stop anti-Rohingya hate speech on its platform -- an issue that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, promised last year to solve.

      For years, Facebook ignored dehumanizing anti-Rohingya propaganda on its Myanmar pages -- despite substantial evidence that it was leading to mass killings, rape and the destruction of villages. After United Nations investigators criticized Facebook last year -- for playing a "determining role" in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, and the flight of 700,000 refugees -- Mr. Zuckerberg told the United States Senate: "What’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more."

      But anti-Rohingya hate speech and falsehoods have since spread to India, where Facebook has 340 million users. That is creating the potential for violence in tinderbox regions like West Bengal [the Indian state on Bangladesh's western border], a Hindu-majority state with a substantial Muslim population, where the B.J.P. has stoked fears of Muslim "infiltrators" from Bangladesh. In total, the government estimates there are about 40,000 Rohingya in India.

      "Hate speech and misinformation is adding fuel to the already existing hatred towards the Rohingyas,"  said Mariya Salim, an independent activist on minority and women’s rights, who lives in Kolkata. "It’s not a secret that online calls for violence can easily turn into real-life threats." ....

        (same topic at: - Vice News
            (NOTE: The quality of this media is unknown.) )

    • PRESS RELEASE INFOGRAPHIC:
      Rohingya Refugee Camps,
      2019 Cyclone-Monsoon Preparedness
      - Bangladesh.
          - World Vision (charity) on ReliefWeb.int

    • ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION:
      'Engage Rohingyas in
      multi-year planning,
      provide formal education'

        [Ideas aired at roundtable sponsored by a newspaper, UNHCR, and the NGO Coast, with other NGOs, media, and Bangladesh government officials.]
          - UNB (United News of Bangladesh)

        Speakers at a roundtable suggested engaging Rohingyas in multi-year planning, providing formal education and more support as their repatriation continues to be delayed.
        They also urged involving Rohingyas with meaningful and productive activities.
        National Daily Samakal organised the roundtable titled ‘Human Dignity to Rohingya People: Bangladesh Perspective’ in cooperation with Coast, an NGO working in Cox’s Bazar, and sponsored by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

        It was held in a city hotel on Thursday moderated by Mustafiz Shafi, acting editor of Daily Samakal, and Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of Coast.
        Rejecting the prevailing negative perceptions about Rohingyas, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said Rohingyas are becoming victims of atrocities and Myanmar’s negative propaganda.
        He said it was important to speak about the situation accurately based on facts.
        Steven Corliss, the UNHCR country representative, said that the root cause of Rohingya refugee’s displacement and the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar.
        Praising the generous response of the Bangladeshi people, he suggested keeping a distinct focus on supporting the host communities, to ensure peaceful social cohesion, as the response continues.
        Sayed Abul Maksud, renowned columnist, urged to keep the human spirit that the nation and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shown in opening the border.
        Shirin Haque of Narripakkha said, "Rohingya children and adolescents should be provided higher education. They should be brought under health care training and in productive work to save them from traffickers and religious fanatics."
        Barrister Manzoor Hasan of BRAC University pleaded for Rohingya people’s voice in the decision making.
        He also urged providing technical education for the Rohingya youths, who constitute more than half of the forcibly displaced Myanmar population.
        Asif Munier, refugee and migration expert, said that Bhasan Char or other similar projects will not solve the problem -- and suggested the authorities concerned to create multi-year planning for a comprehensive response.
        Mustafiz Shafi of Samakal said, "We should be united on the issue, to keep up our spirit as a humanitarian state."
        Nayeem Gowhar, Julfikar Ali Manik of New York Times and Boishakhi TV and a long-term researcher on the Rohingya issue, and Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also took part in the discussion.
        Mujibul Haque Munir of Coast presented the keynote questions to the participants.

    • CPJ urges Myanmar
      not to harass
      local top journo
      [journalist/editor Aung Marm Oo].

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged the Myanmar authorities to stop harassing and threatening to arrest Aung Marm Oo, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Rakhine-state-based news agency Development Media Group.
        Aung Marm Oo went into hiding after the country's authorities filed a complaint on May 1 seeking his arrest for unspecified violations of the colonial-era Unlawful Association Act, CPJ said in a news release published on its website yesterday.
        The compliant can result in up to five years' imprisonment and fines, according to independent news outlet The Irrawaddy and the journalist, who corresponded with CPJ.
        The Unlawful Associations Act is often used by Myanmar authorities to stifle news coverage of armed conflicts, CPJ said based on reports.

        Development Media Group -- based in Rakhine state's capital of Sittwe -- reports regularly on politics, society, and security in western Rakhine state, where government forces are locked in conflict with insurgents,
        "Myanmar's press freedom situation has deteriorated to such an extent that a journalist is now in hiding to avoid arrest on undisclosed accusations," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "Myanmar authorities should stop harassing Aung Marm Oo and allow his independent media group to continue reporting without fear of reprisal."
        Special Branch police -- under the military-controlled Home Ministry -- have questioned Aung Marm Oo's colleagues and family members about his whereabouts, including his wife, mother, and brother, the journalist told CPJ by email. He said police searched his home earlier this month and he only narrowly escaped arrest at the time.
        Development Media Group reporters Nay Win San and Thet Naing were interrogated about the case at the No. 1 Sittwe police station in Rakhine on May 5 and 6, respectively, Aung Marm Oo said. During those interrogations, police did not indicate what news stories or reporting prompted the accusation, Aung Marm Oo said.
        CPJ called the military's public relations arm, the True News Information Team, for comment but did not receive a response.
        On May 8, Aung Marm Oo sent a letter to the Myanmar Press Council -- an independent body tasked with resolving media disputes -- requesting mediation on the case, as permitted under the country's Media Act to prevent frivolous lawsuits against journalists, he said. As of today, the council had not replied.
        Aung Marm Oo's harassment comes amid rising pressure on the nation's press by the military; on April 1, Myanmar's military filed an online criminal defamation complaint against The Irrawaddy's Burmese-language editor Ye Ni under the Telecommunications Law's Section 66(d), which carries a possible two-year prison sentence, over the news publication's reports on armed clashes in Rakhine state that allegedly caused civilian casualties, CPJ reported at the time.

      * Cica -- The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia is "an inter-governmental forum for enhancing cooperation to promote peace, security and stability in Asia," established in 1992 with UN support. Most countries on the Asian continent are members. Observers include the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, League of Arab States, and Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking Countries (central Asia).
       
        These remarks, by the President of Bangladesh, occured during the 5th Summit of Cica -- held in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan (in central Asia), on Saturday. The event was reportedly attended by 40 representatives of different countries and international organizations, including national presidents and prime ministers. Tajikistan’s President Emomail Rahmon served as chair.
        Discussions on issues of security and cooperation in the Asia Pacific region—and assistance in the global fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and transnational crimes—are the main objectives of this conference.

      ~from cited sources & Wikipedia: RCN Editor.

  • 2019 June 15 - Saturday

    • [Bangladesh] President
      to Cica [summit]*:
      Rohingya crisis
      may destabilize region.

          - UNB / Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        [Bangladesh's] President Hamid said stability and security in Asia are imperative for economic development
        Stressing the importance of a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis, President Abdul Hamid has said the crisis could destabilize the entire region if left unresolved.
        "We seek a peaceful solution to the crisis, and signed instruments on repatriation with Myanmar. If it is left unresolved, the crisis could destabilise the entire region," said the president.
      [He] stated this while addressing the 5th Summit of [the] Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (Cica) -- held in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on Saturday -- reports UNB.
        He also sought support and cooperation from Bangladesh's Cica partners so that the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals can return to their homeland with safety, security, and dignity.
        President Hamid said: "The world knows Bangladesh is hosting 1.1 million forcibly-displaced Myanmar nationals. You must be aware of the evidence of genocide and gross violations of human rights, which has been termed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and humanitarian catastrophe of unmanageable magnitude."
        "These people were forcibly displaced from their ancestral homes and they took shelter in Bangladesh. We have opened the door and are still hosting them," he added.

      Asian Security
        Mentioning that Asia is facing issues like violent extremism, international terrorism, and forced migration—among others which go beyond borders—the president stressed the need to coordinate a response among the states to tackle them.
        The president said: "Asian security is vulnerable as: irregular migration, drug trafficking, territorial claims, ethnic conflicts, separatism, economic problems, and climate change are visible here. To address these crucial challenges, Cica needs to enhance its capacity by promoting the concept of indivisible security."
        "We must work together so that the existing discord in the region does not impede the process of resolving issues related to security and cooperation in Asia," he added.
        Stability and security in Asia are imperative for economic development, Hamid said adding: "We can achieve that through dialogue and cooperation."

        (same topic at:
        - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)
        - Anadolu Agency (Turkey) *
              * (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect. This outlet's article appears to contain pro-Turkish-government propaganda and pro-Rohingya biased language.) )

  • 2019 June 16 - Sunday

      ----------

  • 2019 June 17 - Monday

    • UN report condemns
      its [own] conduct in Myanmar
      as 'systemic failure.'

      Exclusive: ‘Serious errors’ found in agencies’ approach to Rohingya crisis in Rakhine.
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        A damning report by the UN on its own conduct in Myanmar has condemned the organisation’s "obviously dysfunctional performance." over the past decade -- and concluded there was a systemic failure.


      The report, seen by the Guardian before publication, was commissioned by the secretary general, António Guterres, after accusations that the UN system ignored warning signs of escalating violence before an alleged genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.

      The report, written by a Guatemalan former foreign minister, Gert Rosenthal, concludes there were various damaging failures, including competing strategies between agencies, a "culture of mistrust" in relations with Myanmar’s government and "mixed and incomplete signals coming from the field." The report is due to be made public this week.

      "Without question, serious errors were committed and opportunities were lost in the UN system following a fragmented strategy rather than a common plan of action," Rosenthal writes. "The overall responsibility was of a collective nature; in other words it can truly be characterised as a systemic failure of the United Nations."

      Myanmar’s military launched a crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state in August 2017. The violence, which the UN described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide, included the killing of thousands of people, the rape of women and children and the razing of villages. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.

      Rosenthal’s report emphasises the damaging impact of competing strategies between some UN agencies and individuals. The polarisation of approaches -- between quiet diplomacy with the Myanmar government, and public condemnation of escalating human rights abuses -- became more magnified as the situation in Rahkine worsened, the report says.

      "Even at the highest level of the organisation there was no common strategy," Rosenthal writes. As a result, the UN system was "relatively impotent to effectively work with the authorities of Myanmar to reverse the negative trends in the area of human rights."

      "The United Nations' collective membership, represented by the Security Council, bears part of that responsibility, by not providing enough support to the secretariat when such backing was, and continues to be, essential," Rosenthal wrote.
        The 15-member Security Council, which visited Myanmar's Rakhine state last year, has been deadlocked -- with Myanmar allies China and Russia pitted against western states over how to deal with the situation.
      ~Reuters News Service

      The situation descended into "unseemly fighting" where "those that promote constructive engagement sometimes incur the wrath of those who favour a more robust advocacy role, and vice versa," the report says. "One can only speculate that [former] secretary general Ban Ki-Moon was either unwilling or unable to arbitrate a common stance between these two competing perspectives."

      Rosenthal emphasises that he did not investigate particular 6:46 PM 6/20/2019 individuals -- but his report addresses the controversial actions of the former resident coordinator for Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, who was accused of downplaying concerns about worsening abuses against the Rohingya to further her development agenda.

      Rosenthal’s findings confirm what many had claimed, that "there appear to have been instances of deliberately de-dramatising events in reports prepared by the resident coordinator."

      His report says Lok-Dessallien was brought in to push forward a development agenda, and she "suddenly found herself embroiled in a situation with strong political overtones," which was not her area of expertise. Despite pleas for assistance, Lok-Dessallien was "understaffed and without clear instructions from headquarters."

      Rosenthal writes that Myanmar’s government "appeared to exploit the diverse narratives that they were hearing from different UN entities to play one against another" and forward its own agenda.

      This was reiterated by a UN source in Myanmar who described the relationship with the UN and the government as unchanged. "It seems to be that the Myanmar government and military have a set policy with senior UN people -- where they try to affect who is hired, work with them for as long as they play ball, and then cut ties and ask for their removal when they do something they don’t like, as we have seen with Knut Ostby," he said. "The UN of course mostly gives in to their demands -- and then the whole cycle starts again."

      Ostby, the current resident [U.N.] coordinator [in Myanmar], is stepping down -- reportedly as a result of pressure from the [Myanmar] government over the situation in Rakhine.
        * * *
      The UN had been reluctant to make the internal report public, according to Matthew Smith, the chief executive of the NGO Fortify Rights, which was among those to have highlighted UN dysfunction in Myanmar for years.

      Smith welcomed the fact that the report had been written but was critical of its content. "The report repeatedly states that it’s difficult to assign responsibility to individuals, which is ironically representative of the problem," [the Fortify Rights NGO chief] said.

      Human Rights Watch said the report was disappointing, given the scale of the Rohingya crisis, for not identifying specific U.N. officials responsible for the failures.
        "The report now looks increasingly like a check-the-box exercise by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, designed to show commitment to accountability when in reality it accomplishes exactly the opposite," Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia, said in a statement.
      ~Reuters News Service
      "Failures in the UN rarely lead to accountability. Who else could be responsible for a systematic failure than the individuals involved?

      "This report will be helpful if it can push the UN in a better direction, but it appears to have dodged the most difficult task of unearthing what specifically went wrong in Myanmar. There are no easy answers but some level of accountability is needed."

      The former assistant UN secretary general, Charles Petrie -- who, in 2012, authored a report on similar UN failures in Sri Lanka during the endgame of the civil war -- said he thought Rosenthal had "done a very good job," but that "ultimately he doesn’t say anything new."

      "It’s really a question of the system not having the determination and courage to implement the lessons that are so blatantly clear," he said.

    • Cox's Bazaar District Landslide Hazard
      - Susceptibility Model
      Version 1_02019-06-17

          - REACH Initiative
            Inter-Sector Coordinating Group (ISCG)
            (on ReliefWeb.int)

        [Map of landslilde risk areas at Rohingya refugee camps.]

  • 2019 June 18 - Tuesday

      ----------

  • 2019 June 19 - Wednesday

    • Rohingya organization thanks [Bangladesh Prime Minister];
      demands pressure on Myanmar.

        The Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights [ARSPHR] announced this on Tuesday.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        A Rohingya refugee group based in a Cox’s Bazar camp, on Tuesday, thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her comments on Myanmar's government’s negligence in taking Rohingyas back.
        On June 9, upon returning from her foreign tour, the prime minister said: "The Myanmar government has not done enough to prove they are ready to accept Rohingyas returning home."
        The group, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPHR), also demanded the international community put pressure on Myanmar to make Rakhine safe for Rohingyas.
        They thanked Sheikh Hasina for sheltering 1.1 million Rohingyas.
        In a statement, ARSPHR mentioned that it wrote a letter to the prime minister saying they do not want to stay in Bangladesh for long.
        "The international community has lost its focus and is too distracted by humanitarian issues in the refugee camps," said the statement, adding that they did not think that enough pressure is being put on the Myanmar leaders to make the repatriation process possible.
        "We keep hearing them say that Rohingya refugees will be in Bangladesh [for] a very long time. This is not what we want. Bangladesh is not our home. We do not want to stay in refugee camps in Bangladesh forever," the statement added.
        The statement continued that the reluctance of the Myanmar government to take responsibility for Rohingyas' safe return is barring them from returning to their homes in Rakhine.
        "We think it is because the international community does not really care about what Rohingya refugees want. They are not really listening to us," ASPHR said.
        "We know this is not an easy situation for Rohingya refugees and host communities [in Cox’s Bazar]. This situation is not sustainable," the statement said.
        ASPHR said they want to work together with the government for safe and dignified repatriation.
        * * *
        Around 1.1 million Rohingyas are living in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar's northern Rakhine state during a 2017 military campaign the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.

    • Rohingya body wants involvement
      in decision-making.

        All Rohingyas want to return home if the situation is right in Rakhine, says the ARSPHR chief.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        The Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPHR) -- a group that claims to fight for the just causes of one of the world’s most persecuted people -- has demanded that they have a say in every decision regarding the Rohingyas, especially on repatriation.
        While talking to the Dhaka Tribune from Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday, ARSPHR Chairman Mohib Ullah claimed that the repatriation process would have advanced further if the views of the Rohingyas were taken on-board.
        He also categorically said Rakhine State is the home of the Rohingyas, and all of them want to go back to Myanmar if the conditions are safe.

        "Look, we, the Rohingyas, are the main stakeholders in the Rohingya issue, but we have not been included in any of the decision making. If you look at the agreements so far signed by Bangladesh, Myanmar, and UN agencies, there was no involvement of the Rohingyas," Mohib Ullah said -- claiming that ARSPHR, currently based in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya upazila, speaks for all Rohingyas both in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
        Criticizing the international community -- especially the United Nations system -- he said: "As far as the international community is concerned, we simply do not exist. You cannot just get a solution without including the very people you are working for in the discussions. There will be no repatriation without us.
        "We just want to work with everyone to find a solution to the problem. That is all,"
      he added -- alleging that the international community is not exerting enough pressure to force the Myanmar government to take back its people.
        In response to a question, Mohib Ullah said: "All the Rohingyas want to return home to Rakhine if the situation is right. Bangladesh is not our home. Myanmar is our home. We want to go back to our homes as soon as possible."
        In response to another question, the ASPHR chief said the organization does not have any ties with separatist or extremist entities. "The objective of our organization is to seek justice and rights, no more than that."
        Praising Bangladesh and the host community in Cox’s Bazar, Mohibullah said: "We are grateful to Bangladesh. We are particularly grateful to the host communities, as they are suffering due to our presence."
        When asked if the Rohingyas are willing to be relocated to Bhashan Char, he said most of them prefer to stay where they are now, as they know little about the island.

      ARSPHR thanks PM Hasina
        Meanwhile, the ARSPHR -- which moved to Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar in 2017, after the latest exodus, due to unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from other groups in Rakhine -- has thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her comments on the Myanmar government’s negligence in taking back the Rohingyas.
        On June 9, upon return from her foreign tour, the prime minister said: "The Myanmar government has not done enough to prove they are ready to accept the Rohingyas returning home."

      International community criticized
        In a statement on Tuesday, the ARSPHR demanded that the international community increase pressure on Myanmar to ensure that Rakhine State is safe for the return of the Rohingyas.
        ARSPHR also mentioned that it wrote a letter to the head of the government, saying they do not want to stay in Bangladesh for long.

        * * *
        ASPHR said they want to work together with the government for safe and dignified repatriation.
       

    • ASEAN: Prioritize Rohingya
      Rights, Protection
      [~ Rights Groups]

        Human rights organizations call on ASEAN
      to prioritize Rohingya rights.

          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        ........................................
      ABOVE: Rohingya refugees, escaping by boat, watch their villages burn, ©2017 SCMP . TV
      BELOW: Thousands of Rohingya refugees -- fleeing attacks by their government and neighbors in their Myanmar homeland -- struggle along a muddy path, as others travel by flimsy boat, after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar (Burma) border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 6, 2017. ©2017 Reuters
      BELOW: Around a million Rohingya refugees find shelter on steep and unstable hillsides, in Kutupalong, the world's largest refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. ©2017 The Guardian
      CLICK for SLIDESHOW:
      Where do the most refugees come from?

      ~Reuters News Service
       
      Which countries take in the most refugees?

      ~Reuters News Service

    • Displaced people, worldwide,
      reached a record: 70 million,
      ~ UN says.

          - BBC World News

        [Paraphrased from BBC World News radio broadcasts]

      The U.N. has announced that the number of displaced people in the world has mushroomed to an all-time high of 70 million. Secretary General Antonio Guitierrez noted that "85 percent of them" are in "low-income or middle-income countries." The announcment indicates that the numbers are so vast that it is hard to find a safe place for them all.

      [RCN Editor's note: By contrast, many upper-income nations, such as the U.S., have blocked immigration by refugees (the displaced people fleeing war, persecution and violence).
        The U.S., in particular, under the presidential orders of Donald Trump, has generally opposed the immigration of any refugees from the rest of the world -- first cutting the U.S.'s annual refugee-immigration limit in half, from 110,000 to just 45,000
      -- less than one sixth, of one tenth, of one percent of the U.S. population -- and has subsequently suspended most refugee immigration that even that small quota would have allowed.
        Yet, ironically, millions of those refugees are fleeing wars initiated by the U.S. (Afghanistan and Iraq), or partially resulting from them (Syria), or from other U.S. military action (Libya).

        By contrast, tiny, overcrowded Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest and least-combative countries, has welcomed well over a million Rohingya refugees over the last decade -- including, since late 2017, the recent massive influx of three-quarters of a million Rohingya, fleeing the recent ethnic cleansing campaign of the Myanmar military. ~RCN Editor]

        (same topic at:
      • BBC World News
        Which adds:

          The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million globally last year -- the highest number in the UN refugee agency's almost 70 years of operations.
          The almost 70.8 million people forcibly displaced is 2.3 million more than the previous year, according to the agency's annual Global Trends report.
          The figure is also double the level recorded 20 years ago.
          The number averaged out to 37,000 new displacements every day.
          * * *
          The number also represents a sharp increase in the number of displaced people as a proportion of the world's population. According to figures kept since the 1951 Refugee Convention, its previous peak was in 1992, at 3.7 per 1,000 of the population. By 2018, the number had more than doubled to 9.3 [per 1,000].
          According to the UN Refugee Agency, the actual figure for 2018 is likely to be higher, ...
        (same topic at:
      • CNN (Cable News Network)
          [Exceptional details & stats, with clarifying charts & graphs. A must-see. ~RCN Editor.]
            "One in every 108 people on the planet has been displaced, says UN Refugee Agency."

  • 2019 June 20 - Thursday - World Refugee Day
      ABOVE: Rohingya refugees struggle ashore, smuggled to safety in rickety wooden fishing boats, often by costly and ruthless people-smugglers, arriving in a strange land with only what they can carry. (UNHCR photo)
      ABOVE: Exhausted Rohingya refugees hike along the steep slopes of Kutupalong camp -- the world's largest refugee camp, on the mountain slopes of southeastern Bangaldesh. With monsoon season approaching, the fear of catastrophic landslides is ever-present. (UNHCR photo)
      ABOVE: Elderly Rohingya woman's makeshift shelter clings to the steep slopes of the world's largest refugee camp. Monsoons threaten flash floods and landslides. But most Rohingya refugees fear their homeland even more. (UNHCR photo)
      ABOVE: Although mature and elderly adults abound among the world's displaced people, children make up the largest percentage. Thousands of these Rohingya children have arrived in the "safety" of Bangladesh, fleeing the people in Myanmar who tortured, raped or murdered their parents -- often in front of them. Here in orphan limbo, forbidden full education or employment opportunities, they live listless, hopeless lives -- becoming desperate, easy prey for those who take them for forced labor, sexual exploitation, and terrorism -- while the "civilized" world ignores them, and bars them from "better" places. (UNHCR photo)

    • The 2019 World Tour Events:
      World Refugee Day

          - United Nations - UNHCR

    • World Refugee Day 2019
          - International Rescue Committee (IRC)

    • Far from home
      on World Refugee Day

          - Reuters News Service

    • Poor nations hosting
      most refugees worldwide,
      need more Western help
      ~UN.

          - Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

    • World Refugee Day:
      U.S. Leading Decline
      in Global Support
      for Refugees
      Under Trump Administration.

          - Newsweek

    • OPINION (TEXT & VIDEO):
      U.S. committed to refugee assistance,
      but can't solve the crisis alone.

      by Ambassador Callista Gingrich,

          - Fox News

    • Canada resettled
      more refugees than U.S.
      in 2018, U.N. says.

          - CNN (Cable News Network)

        [RCN Editor's note: Canada has one-tenth the population and wealth of the United States -- and most of its land area is frigid wasteland, essentially uninhabitable (and utterly foreign to most refugees, who mainly come from warm or hot countries). Yet Canada took in more refugees than the U.S. last year.
        In fact, the Trump administration has set the maximum limit on refugees at less than 45,000 per year (one-sixth of one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. population) -- and has, since, essentially turned away most refugees fleeing to the U.S. from war, persecution and violence. ~RCN Editor.]

    • World Refugee Day:
      How well is Japan
      fulfilling its obligations
      in 2019?

          - Japan Times (Japan)

    • Venezuelan migrants
      cross into Peru
      as border tightens.

          - Reuters News Service

    • The Refugees [whom] the World
      Barely Pays Attention To:

      Climate Refugees:
      No International Definition, Recognition or Protections

          - NPR (National Public Radio)

    • ROHINGYA REFUGEES, specifically:

    • OFFICIAL STATEMENT:
      Japan's Cold-Blooded Approach
      to the Rohingya Crisis

          - Human Rights Watch
        ...the Japanese government has been largely indifferent to the plight of the Rohingyas. Japan has abstained from all Myanmar-related resolutions at the UN in recent years, while refusing to use the term "Rohingya" -- claiming that calling them "Muslims in Rakhine State" is much more "neutral."
        Japan’s decision to side with the Myanmar government’s political rhetoric is unsettling. But it is only a small part of Tokyo’s eager embrace of the Myanmar government’s attempt to divert attention away from the Rohingya crisis -- and instead to promote foreign business opportunities in war-torn Rakhine state.

        Earlier this year, Japan and Myanmar co-organized the Rakhine State Investment Fair, seeking to draw in foreign and national investors -- while overlooking the deadly rights abuses, and massive displacement of people, in the state.
        Ichiro Maruyama, the Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, justified hosting the investment fair by claiming that "if there is economic development… there will be no conflict." In late May, Maruyama also bucked global condemnation of the Myanmar military’s atrocities in Rakhine state, saying that Japan "cannot agree to the international community applying pressure or taking action against Myanmar concerning the Rakhine issue. Things will become more complicated."
        Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, echoed Maruyama’s sentiment at the investment fair, saying that "for too long the international community’s attention has been focused narrowly on negative aspects related to problems in north Rakhine rather than on the panoramic picture that shows the immense potential of this state for peace and prosperity." Sadly, she continues to besmirch her Nobel Peace Prize by continuing to deny the findings of the UN’s fact-finding mission and prevent the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from visiting the country.
        The Japanese and Myanmar governments’ prioritization of business development is happening as tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people suffer from deteriorating living conditions.
        In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where most of the Rohingya refugees have fled, they live in overcrowded camps, facing a heightened risk of domestic and sexual violence, communicable diseases, community tensions, fires, and landslides. Human Rights Watch found the camps lack any sort of effective evacuation plan in case of a natural disaster in this typhoon-prone region. Access to basic education and medical services is severely limited, along with freedom of movement.
        In Myanmar, another more than 128,000 Muslims — about 125,000 Rohingyas and 3,000 ethnic Kamans — have been held for the past seven years in de facto open-air detention camps, without access to livelihoods or adequate basic services.
        If Japan is going to invest in Myanmar and reap economic benefits, especially in Rakhine state, it needs to do so while pursuing accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military. For starters, Japan can begin supporting Myanmar-related resolutions at the UN, demand access for the UN special rapporteur, and respect the Rohingyas’ right to self-identification.
        Positioned as the new "leader of the liberal order in Asia," Japan has a responsibility to promote human rights in its foreign policy. So far, its values-free diplomacy toward Myanmar has been indisputable proof that Japan would be the last to [abandon a convenient deal] out of moral indignation.
        (same topic at:
        - Jan. 28
        - Feb. 22
        - Mar. 6 (2 articles) )

    • EU announces €18m fund
      [over US$25 million]
      to strengthen resilience
      for Rohingyas, host communities.

        To date, the EU has contributed €24.8 million
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        The European Union (EU) has announced a fund of €18 million (nearly Tk171.5 crore) to help improve resilience among both the Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host communities in Cox's Bazar.
        Over 288,000 children and families of both the communities will be benefited as a part of the EU-supported United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) program, titled "Building Rohingya Refugee and Host Community Resilience."
        Rensje Teerink, EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, made the announcement during an event held at a hotel in Dhaka on Thursday.
        Teerink said the funding would help to improve resilience among the Rohingya refugees as well as the local host communities in Cox’s Bazar, the district along Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
        The project -- which was launched in January this year and is expected to end by 2021 -- is focused on four key areas of nutrition: water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and child protection.
        The host communities, and the forcibly displaced Rohingyas, will equally share the benefits of the project, which especially prioritizes women having children.
        "We need to act decisively to secure a better future for all who were affected by the refugee crisis. With this strategic support, we aim to ensure continuity between humanitarian and development actions for the Rohingyas and Bangladeshi communities," she said.
        "We shall tackle the underlying issues to improve access to water, education, child protection and food and nutrition security in Cox’s Bazar. Our aim is to strengthen local development efforts and reduce the need for humanitarian assistance in the future."
        "The support from the EU allows us to address the issue of resilience in a holistic manner, integrating and harmonizing services for the delivery of better results for Rohingya and Bangladeshi children, adolescents and families," Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef representative in Bangladesh, said.
        "At the same time, the situation remains critical with 1.2 million people [Rohingyas] requiring humanitarian assistance in one of Bangladesh’s poorest and most vulnerable districts."
        The EU will fund the lion’s share of the project – €15 million, or about Tk143 crore – while Unicef will contribute the rest of the fund.
        Home to some 2.3 million people [(about half of them Rohingya refugees)] Cox’s Bazar is one of the most vulnerable districts to natural disasters in Bangladesh -- including cyclones, flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains, and the impact of climate change.
        Around 33% people in the coastal district live below the poverty line -- where education indicators are among the lowest in the country,
      with the primary school completion rate standing at 55%. More than half of the girls are married off before the age of 18, and close to 50,000 children are engaged in child labour.
        The district records very high rates of malnutrition. One in every two children suffers from stunting due to poor maternal nutrition, and the lack of adequate infant feeding and care practices.

    • U.S. Report:
      Bangladesh Ignoring
      Sex Trafficking of Rohingya.

          - AFP in BenarNews

            (U.S. gov't affiliate in S.E. Asia)
        Bangladeshi criminal groups take Rohingya women from refugee camps at night, exploit them in sex trafficking and return them during the day, the United States said Thursday, in an annual report accusing Dhaka of not probing "potential crimes" against the stateless minority.

      Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government "does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so," the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said -- explaining why it kept Bangladesh on Tier 2 Watch List, just one step above the lowest ranking.

      "Despite at least 100 credible reports of forced labor and sex trafficking of Rohingya within Bangladesh, the government did not report investigating or prosecuting these potential crimes, and the Bangladesh High Court did not entertain anti-trafficking cases filed by Rohingya," the report said.

      Released by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, the report kept Indonesia and Thailand on Tier 2, while the Philippines remained on Tier 1. Malaysia was placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second year. The report identifies the best countries as Tier 1 and the worst as Tier 3.

      The designations carry consequences, Pompeo said iduring a speech at an event marking the report’s release attended by human-trafficking survivors and diplomats. He said President Donald Trump last year restricted certain types of assistance to 22 countries ranked in Tier 3.

      "Human trafficking is a stain … on all of humanity," Pompeo said. "We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable. We must achieve justice for survivors as they rebuild their lives," he said.

      An estimated 25 million people around the world are trapped in labor- or sex-trafficking, according to the report.

      Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal challenged the findings.

      "We do not agree with this report," he told BenarNews. "It is not true that the government is not taking measures to stop human trafficking."

      The U.S. Congress enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act more than 18 years ago to prevent trafficking, protect victims and punish traffickers. The law requires the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on human trafficking and to rank foreign governments based on anti-trafficking efforts.

      The law stipulates that that the worst performers in the TIP Report could be subject to potential restrictions on U.S. foreign aid and other funds.

      According to the TIP Report, Bangladeshi traffickers also sometimes transport Rohingya girls from refugee camps to Chittagong and Dhaka [in Bangladesh], and to Kathmandu, Nepal, and Kolkata, India for sex work. Some traffickers "trade" these girls over the internet, it said.

      The report cited reports from NGOs and foreign organizations alleging that some Bangladeshi border guard, military, and police officials had been involved in facilitating trafficking, including accepting bribes from traffickers.

      "Traffickers defraud and coerce Rohingya women and girls from refugee camps into sex trafficking through fraudulent job or marriage proposals, and abduction," the report said.

      "Other observers reported some police conducted slow and flawed investigations to allow traffickers to evade punishment, including when suspects included fellow officers," it said.


      Indonesia making ‘significant efforts,’ report says

      The report said Tier 2 Indonesia demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period by establishing 13 anti-trafficking law-enforcement task forces and continuing to create and disseminate awareness materials.

      "However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Investigations, prosecutions, and convictions decreased," the report said. "Although the government reported ongoing investigations, it did not report any prosecutions or convictions of officials allegedly complicit in trafficking."

      Corrupt Indonesian officials reportedly continued to facilitate the issuance of false documents, accept bribes to allow brokers to transport undocumented migrants across borders and protect venues where sex trafficking occurred, it said.


      Malaysia on Tier 2 Watch List for Second Year

      The TIP report praised the Malaysian government for probing allegations of official complicity in the 2015 discovery of graves of victims at human-smuggling camps along Malaysia’s border with Thailand.

      But it said Kuala Lumpur also "did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous year" in the fight against trafficking.

      "Corruption related to processes for foreign nationals to work in Malaysia remained pervasive and the government did not report initiating new prosecutions or convicting any complicit officials during the reporting period," it said. "Therefore Malaysia remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second year."

      U.S. law requires countries be automatically downgraded to Tier 3 after two consecutive years on Tier 2 Watch List, unless granted a waiver based on credible evidence the government has a written plan that makes significant efforts to comply with minimum standards.


      Philippines: Robust efforts to prevent trafficking

      The Philippine government has demonstrated serious and sustained efforts against trafficking, the report said, lauding the country’s robust efforts to prosecute traffickers and keeping it at Tier 1.

      It noted that while Manila "meets the minimum standards, it did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes."

      An estimated 10 million Filipinos reside or work abroad and the government processes around 2.3 million new or renewed contracts for Filipinos to work overseas each year.


      Thailand ‘does not fully meet minimum standards’

      Tier 2 Thailand has demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, the report said, citing the government’s "efforts to identify more victims and sentencing of convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, to significant prison terms.

      "However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers and investigated only 43 cases of labor trafficking," it said.

      The report lauded the government’s amended 2008 anti-trafficking law, which imposes harsh penalties for sex trafficking and labor trafficking, including fines of up to U.S. $62,000 for those involving a child victim.

      Thailand investigated 304 trafficking cases, compared to 302 in 2017, prosecuted 438 suspected traffickers and convicted 316 traffickers in 2018, the report said.

      The report was released a week after 65 Rohingya landed on an island in southern Thailand with six suspected human smugglers, including five from Myanmar, after their wooden boat ran out of fuel, officials said.

      After interviewing the 65 Rohingya, police on Thursday said they had charged five Myanmar men and the Thai boat captain with human smuggling. Investigators said they were compiling evidence to determine if additional charges of human trafficking can be pressed.

      "The Rohingya were interviewed and their story sounds like human trafficking," said Police Maj. Gen. Damras Wiriyakul, the commander of the Police Region 9 Bureau, told reporters on Thursday.

  • 2019 June 21 - Friday

    • Rohingya crisis:
      [Bangladesh's] Foreign minister
      blames UN.

        Rohingyas are still fleeing homes, while Myanmar lays mines to prevent their return, Momen says.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        [Bangladesh's] Foreign Minister, Dr AK Abdul Momen, came down heavily on the United Nations -- blaming the global body, along with others, for the ongoing Rohingya crisis, for which Bangladesh is suffering immensely without being any party to it.
        He said Rohingyas are still fleeing their homes, and Myanmar is laying mines to obstruct their return.
        "The UN made procedural mistakes in regards to the Rohingya issue. This crisis was not created in one day. Hatred and acrimony have been spread against the Rohingyas for a long time. The UN has not been aware," the foreign minister told reporters after a seminar in Dhaka on Thursday.
        The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organized the seminar on the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions at the Bangladesh International and Strategic Studies (BISS) auditorium.
        Putting emphasis on creating the mindset to resolve conflicts across the world, the foreign minister noted that the UN believes in this, but it does not work accordingly.
        "After the incidents [in Myanmar], the UN made some statements. But they did it for Bangladesh. Their footing is weak where it is supposed to work," he said.
        Earlier, speaking at the seminar as the chief guest, Dr Momen said: "We are painfully aware that respect for humanitarian law has been on the decline, causing further humanitarian crisis. Take the example of Myanmar."
        The military operations in Rakhine resulted in forced displacement of over a million innocent civilians, he reminded.
        "Not only that, but the international reports, including those from the UN, suggest that the Rohingyas were subjected to mass atrocity crimes, and the worst form of human rights violations in Myanmar," he added.
        The minister further said: "They [Myanmar] have laid mines to prevent the return of the displaced Rohingyas. Even today, Rohingyas continue to flee their homes to save themselves from forced starvation and deprivation of livelihood.
        "It is not only Muslims, but also Buddhists, Hindus and other Rohingyas who are being forced out of their traditional homes and jobs," Dr Momen said. "The international community must take strong resolve to ensure that Myanmar is held accountable for this gross violation of human rights. Otherwise the spirit and value of the Geneva Conventions will continue to be undermined."

        Shedding light on international humanitarian laws, Dr Momen said the four Geneva Conventions are among the very few international treaties that have been universally ratified, and these conventions reflect universal values of ethical behaviour.
        "If we look at today’s global context, the power of international humanitarian law could be found in the battlefields of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan or Yemen. The consequences of these wars are heartbreaking," said the minister.
        "Conflict shatters lives in many different ways," he added.
        Detailing the rights under the Geneva Conventions, Dr Momen said [that] every individual who is not (or no longer actively) participating in the hostilities of wars is entitled to protection, and must be treated humanely.
        * * *
        Ikhtiyar Aslanov, head of the ICRC [(International Committee of the Red Cross)] delegation in Bangladesh, said: "For me, it is not about anniversaries or debates on legal phrasing; it is about protecting people from the worst of the wars which rage today.
        "It is about the laws that assert that as long as conflict remains a reality, there also must be a limit to suffering. And this is the message the ICRC has been carrying forward, including in Bangladesh since 1971,"
      he added

    • [Bangladesh Prime Minister]
      urges int’l bodies to
      help rehabilitate Rohingyas
      in Myanmar.

        Putting emphasis, again, on repatriation of the Rohingyas, she questioned how long Bangladesh will bear the burden.
          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon international organizations -- including International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- to help rehabilitate the displaced Rohingyas in Myanmar. ...

  • 2019 June 22 - Saturday

    • Minister:
      [Bangladesh Prime Minister]
      expected to discuss
      Rohingya issue
      during China visit.

          - Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)

        The Rohingya issue is likely to come up when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meets with the Chinese premier during her official visit in July.
        [Bangladesh] Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said ...in Dhaka on Saturday... "Myanmar has great respect for China. If [the Chinese government in] Beijing requests [the Myanmar government in] Nay Pyi Taw, then we hope the Rohingya issue will be resolved quickly."

    • Malaysia rattles ASEAN summit,
      demands 'justice' for Rohingya.

          - AFP - New Straits Times (Malaysia)
        Malaysia, today, said the perpetrators of violence against Myanmar's Rohingya minority must "be brought to justice," in sharp comments delivered at a normally tame regional summit.
        Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, instead officially labelling them "Bengalis," short-hand for "illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh."
        * * *
        In talks Saturday with Southeast Asian counterparts, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Bin Abdullah called for the "perpetrators of the Rohingya issue to be brought to justice", his ministry said in Tweet.
        He also said repatriation of the minority -- from the fetid, overcrowded refugee camps of Bangladesh -- "must include the citizenship of the Rohingya."
        * * *
        Malaysia, a Muslim country which hosts a large Rohingya refugee population, is one of the few members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak up for the minority.
        The 10-member bloc normally abides by a principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

        ASEAN was heavily criticised by rights groups after a report it commissioned lauded Myanmar's work on the repatriation issue.
        Rakhine state, the western region home to the Rohingya, remains cut by violence.
        Only a handful of the Muslim minority have returned under a discredited repatriation deal.
        Myanmar has not offered citizenship to the mass of Rohingya in Bangladesh's camps should they return -- while the minority also want safety guarantees, and restitution of seized lands and torched villages, before agreeing to go back.

    • ASEAN foreign ministers
      seek time frame for
      return of Rohingya.

          - Kyodo News (Japan)
        BANGKOK - Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] want to see a clear time frame for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, Thailand's foreign minister said Saturday.
        Speaking after a meeting of the ministers in Bangkok, Don Pramudwinai -- representing the host country, [Thailand] -- said that ASEAN wants Myanmar and Bangladesh to discuss the issue and set a timeline for the return of the refugees.
        Don added that Myanmar informed ASEAN about the issuance of identification cards to the refugees to identify them when they return to Rakhine State.
        "ASEAN recognizes the intention of Myanmar to solve this issue and will help promote the relevant process and see the repatriation begins," he said.
        He noted that the related parties have to build trust among the refugees -- assuring them that they will live in Rakhine State with safety.
        Although the grouping has a policy of non-interference in members' internal affairs, the Rohingya issue has been fixed on the agenda of relevant meetings since 2017, when the Myanmar military clashed with armed Rohingya groups, drawing criticism from the international community.
        * * *
        At their meeting, the ministers also renamed the grouping's Indo-Pacific outlook as the "ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific."
        The outlook -- which aims to ensure that ASEAN plays a "central and strategic role" in the evolving regional architecture -- will be adopted by the leaders on Sunday.

        * * *
        In the weekend summit of the ASEAN leaders, the Rohingya crisis -- as well as the South China Sea situation -- are set to figure highly in their talks. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be attending.
        China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has reclaimed a number of the disputed reefs and fortified them with military features over the past few years.
        Laos and Cambodia, which have strong economic ties with China, have a more pro-Beijing stance on the issue. In contrast, Vietnam, which has competing claims with China, takes a harder line on Beijing's assertiveness in regional waters.
        To what extent the leaders can unite against China's land reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea will be closely watched.
        * * *
        On Saturday, the leaders of the 10-member grouping are scheduled to meet with representatives of various groups such as the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Assembly and ASEAN Business Advisory Council, to be followed by a plenary session focusing on internal cooperation.
        * * *
        The opening ceremony will take place on Sunday, followed by a leaders' retreat.
        Also Saturday, ASEAN economic ministers agreed at a meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] to continue efforts toward concluding negotiations on the Asia-wide free trade deal involving 16 countries by November.
        "The ASEAN economic ministers urge and assign officials to exert efforts to drive the negotiations in various topics under the RCEP such as rule of origins, investment in order to find an ASEAN stance before meeting with the six partners of ASEAN," Auramon Supthaweethum, director general of the Thai Trade Negotiations Department, told Kyodo News. She was referring to upcoming RCEP Trade Negotiations Committee meetings in Australia and China.
        The RCEP is being negotiated among the 10-member ASEAN [plus] China, India, Japan, South Korea, [Australia] and New Zealand.
        ASEAN [members are Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines].

  • 2019 June 23 - Sunday

    • ASEAN Leaders Hold Off
      From Demanding Citizenship
      for Rohingyas.

          - Bloomberg

        Southeast Asian leaders held back from collectively demanding that Myanmar provide citizenship for Rohingyas -- even as some member nations sought more rights for the persecuted minority group.
        The region’s leaders had faced pressure from rights groups -- ahead of their biannual meeting this weekend -- to take a tougher stance on Myanmar, including holding the military accountable for the atrocities committed. The nation has also been criticized for failing to ensure the safe repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims forced into Bangladesh.
        "We stressed the importance of and expressed our continued support for Myanmar’s commitment to ensure safety and security for all communities in Rakhine State as effectively as possible and facilitate the voluntary return of displaced persons in a safe, secure and dignified manner," the leaders said in a joint statement after the summit in Bangkok.
        Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah had earlier called for justice to be brought to the perpetrators of the Rohingya crisis, and said the repatriation process should include citizenship for them, the Malaysian foreign ministry said in a Twitter post on Saturday. There are some 730,000 displaced Rohingyas, and citizenship for them is something Myanmar’s government has long refused to do. ...

      Asean Leaders Pressured to Push Myanmar on Rohingya Repatriation:
        Asean’s leadership pledged to "go further" with recommendations made in a report by the Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management that offers a plan for capacity building and the provision of basic services for the repatriation.
        * * *
        Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, speaking on the sidelines of the Bloomberg Asean Business Summit in Bangkok on Friday, vowed to help Rohingya Muslims seeking refuge in Malaysia. He said on Sunday that the Rohingyas should be consulted as they return.
        "I raised the issue of Rohingya and many reports don’t take into account the views of the migrants, the refugees," Mahathir said. "It is a must that their views are considered because they feel afraid to return to Rakhine state. And we hope that if they return, the international community can supervise and ensure that when they come back, they wouldn’t be subjected to certain actions by Rakhine state and Myanmar."

  • 2019 June 24 - Monday

  • 2019 June 25 - Tuesday

    • ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY:
      The Rohingya in Bangladesh
      are surviving – but
      their long-term prospects
      are grim.

      by
      • Paul Dorosh,
        Director, Development Strategy & Governance Div., International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and
      • John Hoddinott
        nonresident fellow, IFPRI; and
      • H.E. Babcock,
        Professor of Food & Nutrition Economics and Policy, Cornell Univ.

          - [London Daily] Telegraph (U.K.)

        It’s been nearly two years since 671,000 Rohingya fled violence and persecution in Myanmar for the safety of Cox’s Bazar, near the southeastern tip of Bangladesh.
        Between August and October 2017, they joined more than 200,000 Rohingya displaced over the previous 20 years -- with around one million of these displaced people now living in Bangladesh.
        Only 50,000 have official refugee status; the vast majority live in legal limbo as "Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals" (FDMNs).
        Their situation remains tenuous in many ways -- presenting serious immediate and long-term challenges for the government of Bangladesh, aid organisations, and the international community.

        * * *
        We were among a group of researchers from the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies and the International Food Policy Research Institute -- in collaboration with the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger -- who conducted a survey of approximately 2,100 Rohingya FDMN in October 2018.
       
        We found that the Rohingya are, at best, surviving -- not thriving.
        * * *
        Access to food assistance is nearly universal, the data show.
      At the time of the survey, 62 per cent received a food parcel consisting of rice, lentils and micronutrient-fortified cooking oil; 34 per cent received electronic food vouchers (e-vouchers) that could be redeemed for 19 different food items; and four per cent reported receiving both.
        * * *
        The good news is that the Rohingya were able to access this assistance easily and there were virtually no reported instances of harassment or payments to persons in position of authority. For those Rohingya arriving after October 2017, these transfers comprise approximately 80 per cent of household income.
        These aid efforts by the Bangladeshi government, the World Food Programme, and the international community have averted a potential humanitarian disaster.
        * * *
        Yet by any measure – income, consumption, assets – the Rohingya are poor. Monthly per capita income for those Rohingya who arrived after August 2017 is $19 -- and $22 for those who arrived earlier.
        By comparison, income levels of Bangladeshi households in the host community are 46 per cent higher ($29). Whilst their calorie intake is above the minimally required level, Rohingya households have monotonous diets and eat little fruit, vegetables, meat or dairy products.
        While children’s nutritional status has improved, under-nutrition remains unacceptably high. Among Rohingya children aged six to 59 months who arrived after August 2017, 32 per cent are chronically undernourished and 13 per cent are acutely undernourished.
        Children in Rohingya households who arrived earlier are not better off: 36 per cent are chronically undernourished and 12 per cent are acutely undernourished. A lack of nutrients during pregnancy, monotonous diets and poor hygiene conditions in the camps are important factors in the continuing poor nutritional status of children.
        Rohingya families try to supplement the food assistance they receive -- but, because they do not have legal refugee status, those who arrived between August and October 2017 have limited options.
        Around 10 per cent of their income comes from working inside or outside the camps, with the remainder coming from other sources or running their own businesses. As a result many are forced to buy food on credit or are reliant on other strategies to survive such as skipping meals.
        Rohingya households that have lived in Bangladesh longer -- particularly those with refugee status -- have better access to other forms of income.
        As a result, while 70 per cent of their income comes from food assistance, 19 per cent comes from working inside or outside the camps, and two per cent from their own businesses.
        The Rohingya in Bangladesh face difficult circumstances with few options for viable, productive livelihoods – and their long-term prospects appear grim. While averting a humanitarian disaster is an impressive achievement, the status quo is not sustainable.
        International efforts to guarantee the Rohingya safe return to Myanmar have been ineffectual. Continued financing by Bangladesh and the donor community is threatened by competing needs and donor fatigue.
        Equally important, the FDMN children are not in school and adults have no access to training, further endangering their long-term prospects. In the absence of new initiatives, the Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh may become places of hopelessness, anger or even violence.
        One way to help the Rohingya would be to relax legal restrictions which prevent them working outside the camps. Research shows that the Rohingya could be absorbed in the local labour force without lowering wage rates as long as there are significant government or NGO payments to the host population along with investments in job creation.
        This idea faces considerable opposition, however – both among the Cox’s Bazar Bangladeshi community and in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. This should come as no surprise – research shows that without investing in the local population, wages of the host community would fall if the Rohingya were allowed to work.
        The Rohingya also face the problem of displaced people around the world: actual or potential large-scale influxes of migrants are deeply unpopular among many groups in both developed and developing countries, and Bangladesh is no exception.
        * * *
        Some opponents of long-term support to those in the camps voice concerns that allowing them to work or have refugee status could discourage Myanmar from providing a safe return, or even lead to additional forced exiles.
        * * *
        The international community has some options to encourage greater Rohingya access to employment. Syrian refugees in Jordan, for example, have benefited from World Bank loans and trade concessions (eased access to the European Union market) -- which have spurred investments in firms that employ both refugees and native Jordanians.
        * * *
        Difficult policy choices lie ahead for the people of Bangladesh, their government, and -- to a large extent -- the Rohingyas themselves. Humanitarian efforts, to date, have opened a window of opportunity to consider longer term solutions – but that window will not be open forever.

  • 2019 June 26 - Wednesday

    • ICC prosecutor seeks
      Bangladesh and Myanmar
      investigation.

          - Reuters News Service
        The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday moved closer to opening a full investigation into alleged crimes against the Rohingya people who were driven from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
        Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement she would ask judges for permission to investigate crimes that had "at least one element" in Bangladesh, which is a member of the ICC.
        She added that her investigation would cover crimes that also took place "within the context of two waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of" Myanmar.
        The war crimes court said in a separate statement it had assigned a three-judge panel to hear Bensouda’s request.
        If granted, the ICC would become the first international court to look into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority of Myanmar.

        Although Myanmar is not a member of the court, the ICC in September determined it has jurisdiction over some crimes in the region when they had a cross-border nature, given that Bangladesh is a member.
        "The Court has jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of deportation allegedly committed against members of the Rohingya people," it said in a September 2018 ruling. "The reason is that an element of this crime - the crossing of a border - took place on the territory of a State party (Bangladesh)."
        The following day, Myanmar’s government said it rejected the court’s jurisdiction.
        An independent U.N. fact-finding mission in August concluded that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya. Bensouda’s office began a pre-investigation examination in the Bangladesh-Myanmar case last year, and a delegation from the court visited Bangladesh in March.
        With 122 members, the U.N.-backed ICC is a court of last resort, only stepping in when member countries are found to be unwilling or unable to prosecute war crimes on their territory — or when a case is referred to it by the U.N. Security Council.
        That occurs only rarely as the United States, Russia and China are not ICC members, and can use their veto powers to prevent a referral, as Russia has done with Syria.

    • Myanmar must give Rohingya
      'pathway to citizenship':
      ~U.N. investigator.

          - Reuters News Service

        Myanmar must grant citizenship to stateless Rohingya with roots in the country, a senior U.N. investigator said on Wednesday, as she urged the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to "be the democrat she once told us she was".
        Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognize the Muslim Rohingya as citizens despite a long history in the country. ...
        "I have seen much brutality in the different parts of my career but the rape and forced eviction of the Rohingya shook me to my core," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the U.N. fact-finding mission that gathered evidence on the violence.
        Coomaraswamy said statelessness was at the root of the "horrific" Rohingya crisis, which was among the worst she had seen, second only to the Rwandan genocide.
        She told how soldiers shot at fleeing villagers, gang raped women and burned down houses with children inside.

        Myanmar has rejected a report by the United Nations investigators calling for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide, saying the international community is making "false allegations".
        Coomaraswamy was speaking after addressing a global conference on statelessness in The Hague where the plight of the Rohingya is in the spotlight.
        The Rohingya are among an estimated 10 to 15 million stateless people in the world who are not recognized as citizens of any country.
        Sometimes called "legal ghosts", stateless people are deprived of basic rights from education to employment and vulnerable to exploitation, violence and arbitrary detention.
        "These are heartbreaking issues and one is never quite the same after ... seeing the impact that forced statelessness has," Coomaraswamy told delegates.

      BULLDOZED VILLAGES
        The Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless population. About 900,000 are in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands remain in Myanmar and others are scattered throughout Asia.
        Coomaraswamy said she was struck by one elderly refugee she met who showed her a dirty plastic bag of papers.
        These included the citizenship document her grandparents had received at independence, a paper from 1982 denying her citizenship, and a card she had just received stating she was a "Bengali Muslim" which gave her access to some services.
        "She was holding it like this was her life. She had left everything behind (when she fled) including even her jewelry. She said she sleeps with this bag under her pillow," Coomaraswamy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
        Myanmar has said it will take back some Rohingya who can show they have a long history in the country. But many fled to Bangladesh with nothing, and many do not want to return without full citizenship.
        Coomaraswamy urged the international community to stop pressuring Rohingya to return and ensure those behind the violence are brought to justice.
        "Before you force people to go back into Myanmar you must make sure the conditions are right and the Rohingyas will have ... a clear pathway to citizenship," she said.
        "The problem is their villages have been bulldozed – without a tree standing."
        She said those still in Myanmar were in decrepit camps with severe restrictions on their movement, limited access to food and healthcare and sky-high malnutrition rates.

      SUBTERRANEAN WORLD
        The mission will hand its evidence to a new prosecutorial authority in September so that it can build cases against the generals behind the atrocities, she said.
        Coomaraswamy said the desperation and sadness was overwhelming when investigators met refugees immediately after the August 2017 violence.
        When the team returned to Bangladesh last month the Rohingya were "much more organized, much clearer on what they want and deeply disappointed in the international community," she said.
        "They would like to see justice and citizenship."
        She said the continued defense of the military by Myanmar’s civilian leader and Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi posed serious concern.
        "We would hope she would change and be the democrat she once told us she was and have ... the Rohingyas (who lived there) come back ... with a guarantee of full rights."
        Coomaraswamy told the conference that increasing numbers of people globally were ending up stateless after "falling between the cracks".
        They lived in a "subterranean world" without formal rights, documents or sense of belonging, at risk of violence and easy prey to traffickers.
        "Statelessness is no longer the exception in the world – it has become endemic," she said.

  • 2019 June 27 - Thursday

    • Myanmar army rejects
      ICC bid for
      full Rohingya probe.

          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        Myanmar's military on Thursday (Jun 27) rejected an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor's call for a full investigation into alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims.
        Fatou Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in September into the 2017 crackdown by Myanmar's military that forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh with accounts of rape, mass killings and razing of villages
        On Wednesday she said she would take the issue to the next stage by submitting a request to ICC judges to open a full investigation.
        It is not clear when that decision would be made.
        Myanmar has not signed up to the ICC, but the court ruled in September it has jurisdiction over alleged atrocities because Bangladesh - where the Rohingya are now refugees - is a member.
        Myanmar had rejected the ruling in September in a typically defiant manner, a position a military spokesman reiterated Thursday.

        "The military and government have not neglected the issue and have been trying to take action against those who committed abuses," Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Htun told AFP Thursday.
        "Myanmar has an investigative committee looking at this and they (the ICC) should respect what we are doing," he said, adding that the "ICC's interference harms the dignity" of Myanmar and its military.
        The government and army have acknowledged virtually no wrongdoing related to the "clearance operations" they justified as a means of rooting out Rohingya insurgents in western Rakhine state.
        Seven soldiers jailed for their role in the killing of 10 Rohingya were freed despite serving less time than two Reuters reporters imprisoned for exposing the massacre.
        Asia Pacific Director for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Frederick Rawski said an ICC intervention was "entirely appropriate".
        "The military has proven itself wholly unwilling and incapable of providing justice for crimes under international law perpetrated against Rohingyas," he said.
        UN investigators have separately called for the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for "genocide".

    • [Bangladesh Prime Minister]
      Sheikh Hasina
      says Rohingya crisis
      may disrupt stability

        Rohingya crisis may disrupt security: PM. Warns Bangladesh’s stability may be at stake if the refugees are not repatriated soon.
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        [Bangladesh] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, yesterday, said Bangladesh’s security and stability may be hampered if the Rohingya refugees cannot be repatriated to Myanmar soon.
        In reply to a query from Awami League lawmaker Nur Mohammad in the Jatiya Sangsad, Hasina said, "The displaced Rohingyas, who have been deprived of basic rights by Myanmar, are dissatisfied. If we cannot send them back soon, there is apprehension that our security and stability will be hampered."
       
        The PM also slammed Myanmar for making excuses for delaying repatriation of the refugees though it signed three pacts with Bangladesh, pledging to complete the repatriation process within two years.
        "They [Myanmar] are delaying the process on various excuses."

        Bangladesh and the international community are putting pressure on Myanmar to create conducive conditions in Rakhine State, but unfortunately the situation there has not improved, due to Myanmar government’s rigid stance, the PM noted.
        In a scripted answer, the premier told the House that Myanmar is carrying out propaganda, in the international arena, that the Rohingya repatriation is being delayed due to Bangladesh’s non-cooperation.
        "We are continuing bilateral efforts with Myanmar to resolve the crisis. We are also making diplomatic efforts with international and regional forums to mount pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back."
        * * *
        Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh in November 2017. In June last year, the UN [Development Program] and the UN Refugee Agency [(UNHCR)]struck a tripartite deal with Myanmar on creating conditions conducive for Rohingya return.
        Though the repatriation was scheduled to start in November last year, Rohingyas say conditions in Rakhine are not safe for them, and there is no guarantee that they will be granted citizenship.
        * * *
        Bangladesh sheltered the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds, but it is bearing the brunt, as their stay in Cox’s Bazar is taking a heavy toll on forests, and local community and businesses.
        In recent months, a number of Rohingyas were arrested in different parts of the country, after they sneaked out of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Dozens more were detained while trying to go abroad with Bangladeshi passports. Besides, scores of Rohingyas were found involved in drug trafficking.
        The PM said, "It is very tough for us to arrange food, clothes and accommodation for over 11 lakh [(1.1 million)] Myanmar nationals for an indefinite period."

        * * *
        Hasina, the leader of the House, said she repeatedly raised voice in different international forums that it is Myanmar’s responsibility to take back all the displaced Rohingyas and it has to take initiatives in this regard.
        She also informed the House that world leaders are now putting immense pressure on Myanmar to stop inhuman torture on Rohingyas and take back its citizens from Bangladesh.
        "At the 72th general assembly of the United Nations, I put forward a five-point proposal, including complete implementation of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations, and also a three-point proposal on the sidelines of the 73rd general assembly for repatriation of over one million forcibly displaced Rohingyas."
        Various international organisations and forums -- such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) -- have been working to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back its nationals, she added.
        * * *
        The lawmakers’ questions for the PM were tabled, breaking away from the usual practice in which the premier answers their queries directly. It was done so that the MPs had enough time to speak on the proposed budget for fiscal 2019-20.
        * * *
        In reply to another query, Hasina said the government has set a target for creating some 1.5 crore [(15 million)] jobs in the next five years.

    • Canada urged to take
      international action
      on Rohingya genocide.

          - Candian Press / Global News (Canada)

        OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is facing mounting pressure from across the country to take more international action to hold Myanmar to account for the genocide of the Rohingya people.
       
      Thirty-four senators (a third of the Senate) — and more than 100 human-rights organizations and advocates — sent a joint letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, this week, urging Canada to initiate proceedings [against Myanmar], before the International Court of Justice, for breaching the United Nations convention against genocide. The court deals with disputes between states.
        * * *
        In September 2018, Canada became the first country in the world to officially recognize the violence perpetrated against the Rohingya, by Myanmar’s security forces, as "genocide." Canada also stripped Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung Sun Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship over her inaction on the violence in her country.
        But branding the situation a "genocide" carries with it an international legal obligation to intervene -- potentially with force -- which is why the push is now on, to see Canada take this next step.
       
      "As concerned parliamentarians and members of civil society, we strongly believe that those responsible for the genocide against the Rohingya must be held to account by the international community," the letter says.
        "We firmly believe that Canada is in a position to exercise strong and effective global leadership in response to the genocide by pursing this matter before the International Court of Justice."
       
      This letter follows several similar letters that have also been sent to Freeland, and [to] Justice Minister David Lametti, in recent weeks -- including one from an all-party group of [Members of Parliament] who also called for Canada to take international legal action.
       
      In addition, Toronto and Montreal city councils have passed unanimous motions, and several other Canadian mayors and rights organizations have sent their own letters to Freeland -- urging Canada to seek justice for the mass killing and atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
       
      Last year, the UN human-rights council released a report on its fact-finding mission on three states in Myanmar, documenting the systematic targeting of civilian Rohingya by the military -- including mass gang rape, sexual slavery and the razing of hundreds of villages.
        This followed a report by Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar, Bob Rae, who urged Canada to take a leadership role in the humanitarian crisis — but focused more on calling for increased spending on the migration crisis in the region.
        * * *
        In a statement on Thursday, Freeland’s deputy press secretary Marie-Pier Baril said the government believes those responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims must face justice -- noting that Canada has sanctioned key military commanders.
        But rather than initiating the process independently, Canada has called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation, faced by the Rohingya, to the International Criminal Court
      -- which handles charges against individuals of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
        "Canada will continue to lead international efforts to support the Rohingya’s basic needs, to exert pressure on the Myanmar government and to bring justice to the Rohingya for all they have suffered," Baril said.
        "We will continue to work closely with like-minded partners to explore all avenues for holding perpetrators to account, including through the International Court of Justice."
        * * *
        Canada is also providing more than $300 million in humanitarian aid for this crisis, including to aid partners in Bangladesh.
        * * *
        [Canadian] Fareed Khan, spokesperson for the Rohingya Human Rights Network, stressed the need for more urgent action to help the hundreds of thousands who have fled [Myanmar] -- and the hundreds of thousands more who remain trapped in Myanmar, facing ongoing rape, torture and death.
        "As Canadians, as human beings, it’s our moral responsibility to act, to lift the Rohingya out of the despair and hopelessness that many of them feel because of what they have endured," Khan said during a recent press conference in Ottawa.
        "If we want to live up to our claims of being defenders of human rights, if we want to live up to our own image of being a moral nation, we have no choice but to act to stop genocide."

  • 2019 June 28 - Friday

    • Indonesia opts for pragmatism
      in addressing Rohingya crisis
      at UN Security Council.

          - Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

        ..............................

    • ANALYSIS:
      Why the UN failed to
      save the Rohingya.

        Insiders say U.N. sought to downplay criticism of Myanmar -- and was hamstrung by China, Russia opposition to firm response.
            by Joshua Carroll, in
          - Al Jazeera (Arab news; Qatar)
        (NOTE: This media has pro-Muslim bias & credibility problems.)
        When Liam Mahony travelled to Myanmar to advise the United Nations on its handling of the Rohingya crisis, the dozens of aid workers he spoke to were almost unanimous in their appraisal of the organisation's approach.
        Their view, the researcher recalls, was "this was all screwed up... this was not going to help the Rohingya population".
        * * *
        An aid worker who was helping to manage the detention camps in the western state of Rakhine --
      where the UN and others provide food, and other basic necessities, to tens of thousands of Rohingya who were forcibly relocated after riots in 2012 -- offered Mahony a grim assessment of her role there.
        "I just feel like I've spent six months as a jailer," she told him.
        * * *
        While assistance in the camps has saved many lives, Mahony's research in 2015 and 2017 led him to the conclusion that it also makes the UN, and its partners, complicit in what he considers a system of apartheid.
        * * *
        The UN has been dogged for years by uncomfortable questions about its approach to the Rohingya.
        Senior officials have been accused of downplaying human rights abuses and ignoring the warning signs in the run-up to military-led mass killings that started in August 2017 -- and sent some 730,000 (mostly Muslim) Rohingya fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.
        * * *
        An independent review, published last week, found "systemic failure" in the UN's handling of the crisis.
      The report -- written by former Guatemalan Foreign Minister and UN Ambassador Gert Rosenthal -- was a response to growing pressure for an inquiry.
        But, while some have welcomed the review, others (including Rohingya activists) are angry that Rosenthal failed to hold any individual leaders accountable -- instead arguing that "the overall responsibility was of a collective character … it truly can be characterised as a systemic failure".
        "The system failed because individuals didn't fulfil their obligations," said Nay San Lwin, an activist with the Free Rohingya Coalition. "This is blaming the system to avoid accountability."
        His group has called for the resignations of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as well as Renata Lok-Dessallien, who held the top UN post in Myanmar until late 2017.

        They say that in 2012, Guterres, who was then UN High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], was told by Myanmar's then-President Thein Sein of plans to detain Rohingya in camps -- and [was] asked to facilitate their removal from the country.
        While Guterres publicly dismissed the request, the Free Rohingya Coalition says more should have been done.
        "Myanmar's intent to commit international crimes was thus made clear to the most senior levels of the UN -- yet no action was taken," the group said in a statement last week. ...

  • 2019 June 29 - Saturday

    • PM’s China Visit:
      Dhaka wants
      stronger role of Beijing
      on Rohingya.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        [The government in Bangladesh's capital] Dhaka is expecting [the government in China's capital] Beijing (a close ally of Myanmar) to play a more effective role in addressing the Rohingya crisis -- as [Bangladesh] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visits China, from July 1-5.
        "We hope Rohingya issue will get prominence during her visit. We have high hopes to see progress in this regard," [Bangladesh's] Foreign Minister, Dr AK Abdul Momen, said at a press briefing at his ministry yesterday.
        Foreign Minister Momen, [along with the] PM’s Adviser on Private Industry and Investment Salman F Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, Information and Communication Division State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, officials concerned, and a delegation of business leaders, will accompany the PM.
        During the visit, Hasina will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and Chinese National Peoples’ Congress Chairman Li Zhanshu. She will attend banquets to be hosted by Chinese premier and president.
        At the meetings, the PM will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues as part of the strategic relationship between the two countries.
        Bangladesh and China will sign eight memorandums of understanding and agreements on power, loan, economic and technical cooperation, investment cooperation, sharing of hydrological data, and cultural and tourism exchanges.

        She will also address the Annual Meeting of the New Champion of the World Economic Forum to be held on July 1-3.
        However, Rohingya repatriation will feature prominently during the meetings with Chinese leaders.
        "We will tell them that Rohingya are Myanmar people. They faced persecution and fled to Bangladesh. We sheltered them temporarily," the minister said, adding that a long-term stay of such a huge number of people may help rise of radicalism in the camps.

        * * *
        While speaking at the Parliament on June 26, PM Hasina said Bangladesh’s security and stability may be hampered if the Rohingya refugees cannot be repatriated soon.
        "We will strongly demand speedy repatriation of Rohingya," Momen said.
        Over 741,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape military crackdown in Rakhine since August 2017 -- and joined some 300,000 Rohingyas, who had already taken shelter in Bangladesh in the previous years to escape atrocities in Myanmar, where they were denied citizenship and basic rights since 1982.
        Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh in November 2017. In June last year, the UNDP and the UN Refugee Agency struck a tripartite deal with Myanmar on creating conditions conducive for Rohingya return.
        Though the repatriation was scheduled to start in November last year, the process never started as the Rohingyas claimed the condition in Rakhine was not safe for them and there was no guarantee that they would be granted citizenship.

        China has been advocating for bilateral solution to the crisis since the beginning. The UN Security Council also could not take any concrete action against Myanmar thanks to the vetoes issued by China and Russia.
        Referring to Chinese Ambassador-to-Bangladesh Zhang Zuo’s recent visit to Rohingya camps, [Bangladesh's foreign] minister said that Zuo supported Bangladesh’s position.
        "He [Zuo] said they [Rohingya] must go back to Myanmar. So, we see a change in their mindset," Momen added.
        He also said China, Russia and even India are now shifting their positions and speaking in favour of Bangladesh.

        "Bangladesh always believes in peaceful solution to any problem. We solved many of the problems, including land boundary and maritime boundary with India, which is an example of how problems can be solved through dialogue," he said.
        Besides, he said, maritime dispute with Myanmar was also solved through dialogue and legal process.
        "Myanmar is our friend. We solved the Rohingya problem earlier in 1980s and 1990s. We hope we can succeed the same way," Momen said.
        * * *
        The minister said Bangladesh and China signed 27 MoUs [(memoranda of understanding)] and agreements -- worth more than $20 billion -- during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in October 2016.
        "The works under these deals are in progress," he said.
        Asked about China-led "Belt and Road Initiative" [BRI], and the concerns regarding the debt trap of Chinese loans, Momen said the government is well aware of such issues.

    • U.S. calls for end to
      mobile data blackout
      in two Myanmar states.

          - Reuters News Service

        The United States on Saturday urged an immediate end to a mobile data blackout in parts of two Myanmar states, saying a service restoration would help provide transparency to what the government says are law enforcement actions to avert unrest.
        Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States was "deeply concerned" by the data shutdown that has curbed internet-based communications for as many as 1 million people in Rakhine and Chin states.
        On Monday, Yanghee Lee, the special U.N. rapporteur who monitors human rights in Myanmar, said the Myanmar military was conducting a "clearance operation" against Arakan Army rebels in the blacked out areas. She said she feared troops were committing "gross human rights violations" against civilians under the cover of the shutdown. ...

    • Bangladesh highlights
      UN’s failure to prevent
      atrocities in Myanmar.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        .................................

  • 2019 June 30 - Sunday

    • Myanmar to send envoys
      to Rohingya camps
      in Bangladesh.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Myanmar is sending a high-level delegation soon to camps in Bangladesh to explain to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims how they can return home, Myanmar's UN ambassador said Monday.
        Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a crackdown by Myanmar's military in 2017 in Rakhine state and are living in camps in Cox's Bazar. Many refugees have been traumatized, providing accounts of rape, mass killings and razing of villages.
        Myanmar's Ambassador Hau Do Suan told a General Assembly meeting that his government will "dispatch a high level delegation to Cox's Bazar very soon, by the end of July, to explain to the displaced people the arrangements made for the repatriation and resettlement."
        He said some 30,000 Rohingya had requested to return, of whom about 13,200 have been verified as former residents and "can return to Rakhine anytime".
        Myanmar has faced international pressure to allow the Rohingya to return to Rakhine and grant them citizenship rights.
        The United Nations has complained that progress to address the refugee crisis has been far too slow.
        "The only viable solution for the refugees is the safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation to Myanmar," said UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner-Burgener.
        "And the key responsibility for creating conducive conditions in Rakhine lies with Myanmar."
        She said that a "first step" to addressing the Rakhine crisis would be to halt the heavy fighting with the Arakan Army (AA), a group pushing for more autonomy for the state's ethnic Buddhists.
        The United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing" the mass expulsion of the Rohingya, but Myanmar's army insists the campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
       


JULY 2019:

  • 2019 July 1 - Monday

      ----------

  • 2019 July 2 - Tuesday

    • U.N. investigator reports
      possible fresh war crimes
      in Myanmar

          - Reuters News Service
        Myanmar security forces and insurgents are committing human rights violations against civilians -- in restive western states -- that may amount to fresh war crimes, a United Nations investigator said on Tuesday.
        A 2017 military crackdown drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. U.N. investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with "genocidal intent".
        The government denies committing those atrocities and says its military campaign across northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya militants.

        Government troops are currently fighting ethnic rebels in conflict-torn Rakhine and Chin states. The Arakan Army is an insurgent group that is fighting for greater autonomy for the two states.
        On June 22, [Myanmar] authorities ordered telecoms companies to shut down internet services in the two states. Telenor Group said the ministry of transport and communications had cited "disturbances of peace and use of internet activities to coordinate illegal activities".
        Yanghee Lee, the U.N. independent expert on human rights in Myanmar, said last week [that] the army may be committing gross human rights violations under cover of a mobile phone blackout in Rakhine and Chan -- but on Tuesday she went further:
        "The conflict with the Arakan Army -- in northern Rakhine State, and parts of southern Chin State -- has continued over the past few months, and the impact on civilians is devastating. Many acts of the Tatmadaw ([Myanmar's] army), and the Arakan Army, violate international humanitarian law -- and may amount to war crimes, as well as violating human rights," Lee said.

        The Arakan Army had reportedly abducted civilians, including 12 construction workers in Paletwa and 52 villagers near the Bangladesh border, she told the U.N. Human Rights Council.
        Lee cited reports of civilians, mostly ethnic Rakhine men, being detained and interrogated by the Tatmadaw for suspected links to the Arakan Army and said several had died in custody. In April, a military helicopter opened fire on Rohingya men and boys collecting bamboo, she said.
        Some 35,000 people have fled the violence this year, she said.
        Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said that the government had declared a ceasefire through August, and was trying to bring about national reconciliation.
        "The government of Myanmar is working tirelessly to end ethnic strife and end conflict and to achieve sustainable peace in Myanmar through a peace process," Tun told the forum.
        "Freedom of expression and media is one of most visible areas of change in Myanmar," he said. "No restriction is imposed on the use of internet and social media, but we need to strike a balance between security and freedom and rights and responsibility."
        Lee said the blackout was endangering villagers, obstructing aid and shielding the military.

    • The Government Cut Their Internet.
      Will Abuses Now Remain Hidden?

          - New York Times

      RATHEDAUNG, Myanmar —
        Rakhine State -- a ribbon of marsh and mountain on the western coast of Myanmar -- is isolated in the best of times, racked by guerrilla warfare and ethnic cleansing that takes place far from international scrutiny.

      Now, an internet blackout has all but severed parts of the state from the outside world -- in a dramatic display of how easily a government can silence a population in the digital age.

      “The internet will resume when stability is restored in that area,” said U Myo Swe, the chief engineer for Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications.

      The blackout, which came at the behest of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, was “for the benefit of the people,” Mr. Myo Swe said.


      Government-mandated internet or social media shutdowns, -- which have occurred with increasing frequency in places like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Sudan -- are often deemed necessary for silencing the kind of innuendo and rumor that causes online mobs to catalyze real ones.

      But such telecommunications embargoes can be designed to foil members of the political opposition as well. And they can particularly hurt vulnerable communities in conflict areas, who depend on internet connections to keep them out of the crossfire or publicize abuses in remote locations.

      “I’m worried that there will be more human rights violations during the internet shutdown,” said U Aung Thaung Shwe, a member of Parliament from Buthidaung Township in northern Rakhine State, where civilians have been killed as hostilities have increased between insurgents from the Rakhine ethnic group and the Myanmar military.

      “It seems like the internet shutdown is only for the military’s sake,” he added. “It destroys the rule of law and security.”


      The online blackout for cellphones -- which began on June 21, and affects eight townships in Rakhine State, and one in neighboring Chin State -- “is depriving aid workers and rights monitors of vital communications in a time of crisis,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
      Telenor Myanmar, one of the nation’s largest cellular providers, said in a statement that “freedom of expression through access to telecoms services should be maintained for humanitarian purposes, especially during times of conflict.”
      The United States joined the condemnation, saying that the shutdown “has curtailed some forms of internet-based communication for as many as one million people,” according to a statement by Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the State Department.

      “Internet service should be restored without delay,” Ms. Ortagus said, to “limit further damage to Burma’s international reputation.”

      The United States refers to Myanmar by its previous name, "Burma."


      Once hailed for what its army leaders portrayed as a peaceful transition toward democratic governance, Myanmar has had its reputation battered by continuing military aggression -- most notably against ethnic minorities, who make up at least one third of the nation’s population.

      Since 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been expelled from Myanmar, in a murderous campaign that some United Nations officials say may constitute genocide. The pogroms by the Myanmar military were aided by mobs of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.


      This year, a long-simmering ethnic Rakhine insurgency exploded as well, complicating the security landscape in an already wounded region. The Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine armed group that claims 7,000 soldiers, has launched fatal raids on Myanmar soldiers.

      The response by the Myanmar military has been fierce, human rights groups say: massacred children, arbitrary detentions and the destruction of Rakhine historical monuments. More than 35,000 ethnic Rakhine have fled the fighting, according to the United Nations.


      Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said that the internet suspension could be designed to cloak abuses by the military, known as the Tatmadaw.

      “I am told that the Tatmadaw is now conducting a ‘clearance operation,’ which we all know by now can be a cover for committing gross human rights violations against the civilian population,” Ms. Lee said. “We must not forget that these are the same security forces that have so far avoided accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State less than two years ago.”

      Ms. Lee, who has spoken out in defense of Myanmar’s persecuted ethnic groups, has been barred from the country.


      A decade ago, when the country was still fully controlled by a military junta, few people had internet access -- particularly in remote regions like Rakhine. SIM cards [to enable cell phones] could cost $2,000 -- far more than the average yearly income.

      But as the military began transferring some power to a civilian government led by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar began opening up. SIM cards are now affordable. Facebook has become a key news source, even as hate-filled posts, some fanned by the military, have heightened communal tensions.

      This time around, the internet blackout in Rakhine was again attributed to social media excesses, said Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the Myanmar military.

      “There is racial hatred in Rakhine,” he said, “because of racial hate speech and propaganda on social media.”

      Under pressure for having allowed hate speech to fester on its platform, Facebook has taken down accounts associated with the Arakan Army and the Myanmar commander-in-chief. But far more incendiary accounts have not been banned.


      At an army base in Rathedaung, a few miles from where the Arakan Army launched an attack this year, soldiers crouched behind fences of barbed wire and branches.

      Rakhine villagers walked by, avoiding eye contact with the infantrymen. Tensions between the two sides reach back centuries.

      Next to the base was a telecommunication tower, shiny and new, also encircled by crude fencing.

      After much of the state’s Muslim population was forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, Myanmar officials vowed to reinvigorate Rakhine through investment. In the northern townships, where most of the Rohingya used to live, a construction boom is bringing new government buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

      Myanmar’s official line: Rohingya are returning, but cracks in that story abound .]

      But the renewed fighting has dimmed the state’s economic prospects. Internet stoppages will only dissuade potential investors further.

      “The government says the internet shutdown is for the benefit of the people, but I don’t see any benefit for the people,” said Kaung Mrat Naing, a resident of Maungdaw, a northern Rakhine township. “This only makes trouble for the people.”

  • 2019 July 3 - Wednesday

      -------------

  • 2019 July 4 - Thursday

    • Prosecutor seeks probe
      of crimes against
      Rohingya Muslims.

          - AP / Washington Post

        The International Criminal Court prosecutor on Thursday filed a request with judges to open a formal investigation of crimes against humanity allegedly committed against Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.
        Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she wants to investigate crimes of deportation, inhumane acts and persecution allegedly committed as Rohingya were driven from Myanmar, which is not a member of the global court, into Bangladesh, an ICC member.
        The announcement marked a significant step in efforts to deliver justice to victims of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises of recent years. ICC judges will carefully study the 146-page written request before deciding whether to authorize an investigation.

        Bensouda said that a preliminary probe established "a reasonable basis to believe that at least 700,000 Rohingya people were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh through a range of coercive acts, and that great suffering or serious injury has been inflicted on the Rohingya through violating their right to return to their state of origin."
        Her written request said that the coercive acts allegedly committed by Myanmar’s armed forces, border guards and police included "killings; rapes and other forms of sexual violence; acts of physical and psychological violence intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health; and the destruction of property including homes, livestock and entire villages."
        Last year, the court ruled that it has jurisdiction over alleged deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh because part of the crimes allegedly happened in Bangladesh.
        Myanmar’s military has been accused of widespread rights violations leading about 700,000 Rohingya to flee the country since August 2017. Bensouda said she wants her investigation to date back to October 2016.
        Bensouda said her investigation is limited by the fact that Myanmar is not a member of the court, meaning her investigation "would not extend to all crimes potentially committed in Myanmar, but will focus on crimes allegedly committed in part on the territory of Bangladesh."
        But she added that investigating deportations also will mean "taking a close look at the alleged violence that left the Rohingya no genuine choice but to flee Myanmar."
        Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis" from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless.
        The long-simmering Rohingya crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign led to the mass Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.
        The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort that takes on cases when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged atrocities.
        Bensouda said that potential cases arising from her investigation should be admissible under ICC rules due to "the gravity of the acts committed ... and the absence of relevant national investigations or prosecutions in Myanmar" or other countries.

    • UN official likens
      Rohingya living conditions
      to Nazi concentration camps.

        Thousands of Rohingya remaining in Myanmar are denied basic freedoms and forced to live in ‘urban ghettos’, says investigator.
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya muslims in Myanmar are living in concentration camps and urban ghettos like those in Nazi-occupied Europe, a UN investigator has said.
        Christopher Sidoti, a member of the UN fact-finding mission into crimes against the Rohingya that last year accused Myanmar’s military of genocide, warned the crisis is far from over for the persecuted minority.
        Sidoti said 128,000 people forced from their homes by violence are now in camps in central Rakhine and urban ghettos, living in conditions that he likened to those endured by Jewish people under the Nazis.
        Rohingya people remaining in Myanmar live in villages where their movements are severely curtailed and their rights to get married and have children are strictly controlled, he said.
        "There are concentration camps – let’s call it what it is – with 128,000 internally displaced people in central Rakhine, outside Sittwe," said Sidoti. "In Sittwe, there are three areas where Rohingya people live and they have become urban ghettos like those Jews lived in under Nazi-occupied Europe."
        Sidoti, a keynote speaker at a conference on the Rohingya crisis at University College London on Thursday, added: "The mass expulsions and shootings may have stopped, the military may have achieved their purpose – the makeup of the Rakhine state has changed – but the crisis is not over."
        There are only an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 Rohingya left in Myanmar, he said, compared with 2 or 3 million in 2012.
        "We said a year ago there were circumstances to give rise to an inference of genocidal intent," Sidoti said.
        "What has happened in the past two years has strengthened the genocidal intent. Villagers are still isolated, and their movement restricted; fishermen can’t go to fish and kids can’t go to school. They need written permission from the authorities to travel any distances, and permission to marry and have children. You might need six different written approvals, from six different authorities, to go to hospital. The whole thing has been calculated to watch them fade away."

        Sidoti said he expected the panel’s new report, which will be published in the next few months, to say that the inference of genocide has "strengthened".
        His comments came as the UN warned that civilians in Rakhine and Chin states may be suffering fresh war crimes and human rights violations as fighting between military and rebel groups intensified.
        Speaking to the UN human rights council (UNHRC), Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, detailed accounts of abduction and torture of civilians by both the Myanmar army and the rebel insurgent group the Arakan Army, which is fighting for greater autonomy in the region.
        "The conflict with the Arakan Army in northern Rakhine state and parts of southern Chin state has continued over the past few months and the impact on civilians is devastating," Lee told the UNHRC on Tuesday. "Many acts of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar armed forces] and the Arakan Army violate international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes, as well as violating human rights."
        Speaking to the Guardian after her address to the council, Lee said the situation was worsening by the day, and that the UN security council needed to draw up a resolution swiftly condemning the actions of the Myanmar military.
        It was in Rakhine state that the Myanmar military carried out its violent clampdown on the Muslim Rohingya community in August 2017, razing villages, killing thousands and sending almost 800,000 Rohingya over the border to Bangladesh in attacks that the UN has since described as ethnic cleansing and having "genocidal intent".
        The fresh wave of violence in the state is now between security forces and the rebel army of ethnic Rakhine Buddhist fighters, which has been escalating since January, resulting in more than 35,000 people fleeing their homes.
        With media and humanitarian organisations barred from entering the conflict areas, accurate information is hard to verify, though it is thought that the Tatmadaw have now posted about 35,000 troops in the area, with more arriving in recent days.
        Lee recounted numerous incidents of human rights violations, including reports of the Myanmar military opening fire from a helicopter on civilians collecting bamboo, forced labour, looting of houses and attacks on monasteries suspected of housing those fleeing violence.
        There have also been multiple deaths of civilians taken into custody by the Tatmadaw,
      most recently Zaw Win Hlaing, who was detained in mid-June and died from injuries on Monday, which his mother told local media had been caused by him being beaten by rocks.
        The Arakan Army was also culpable for abuses, added Lee, including the abduction of 12 construction workers in the village of Paletwa and another 52 villagers living near the Bangladesh border.
        In an unprecedented move, in June the Myanmar military ordered a telecommunications blackout across eight townships in Rakhine state and one in neighbouring Chin state, cutting access to phones and internet, which is still in place. Lee and other human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights said the blackout was being used to cover up the abuses being carried out in the region.
        It is thought the internet blackout is also being used by the Myanmar military to prevent financial transactions going through to the Arakan Army.
        Lee, who has been banned from visiting Myanmar by the government, repeated her previous call for Myanmar to be referred to the international criminal court (ICC) for war crimes. Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome statute and is not under the jurisdiction of the ICC, but the court ruled last year that it could prosecute Myanmar for alleged crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people.
        Lee said: "So long as impunity for alleged atrocity crimes prevails, we will continue to bear witness to flagrant violations of rights perpetrated against ethnic minority populations in the name of counterinsurgency, entrenching grievances and prolonging insecurity and instability."
        On Thursday, Fatou Bensouda, the international criminal court prosecutor, filed a request to open a formal investigation of crimes against humanity allegedly committed against the Rohingya.
        Bensouda said she wants to investigate crimes of deportation, inhumane acts and persecution allegedly committed as the Rohingya fled Myanmar – which is not a member of the global court – into Bangladesh, which is an ICC member.

    • Man dies after 'custody abuse'
      in Myanmar's Rakhine.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        A detainee in Myanmar's Rakhine state died from injuries allegedly sustained in custody, his family said, as the army wages war against rebels in the same area which saw the 2017 mass expulsion of Rohingya Muslims.
        Myanmar's army has deployed thousands of troops to the troubled western state, in recent months, to try to crush Arakan Army (AA) insurgents, who say they are fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
        The military has cut off whole villages, and rounded up locals for interrogation, as it tries to flush out AA members and sympathisers.
       
      Zaw Win Hlaing, 28, was detained on June 19 in Mrauk U township, his mother told AFP by phone.
        Five days later he was sent to a local hospital before being transferred for treatment in the state capital, Sittwe.
        But his condition deteriorated and he died on Monday, local media reported.
        His mother confirmed Wednesday her son's death, saying he had coughed up "huge amounts of blood".
        "My son told me they beat and tortured him by hitting his back with a longyi (a traditional sarong-like garment) packed with stones," Thein Nu Sein said, sobbing.
        * * *
        Army spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told AFP he had heard the accusations about Zaw Win Hlaing's death, adding any official complaint would be investigated.
        He insisted torture is "banned" during military interrogations.

        * * *
        Northern Rakhine is under complete lockdown -- as well as a government-imposed internet blackout -- making any independent reporting difficult.
        * * *
        On Tuesday in Geneva, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee warned abuses on both sides of this latest conflict "may amount to war crimes".
        Dozens of civilians have been caught in the crossfire, even while sheltering in monasteries.
        The army confirmed it shot dead six Rakhine detainees in late April, saying its forces acted in self-defence.
        Rights groups are calling for independent investigations into the deaths of at least 14 civilians who died in or shortly after being held in military custody.
        "The military is operating in Rakhine State with total impunity," said John Quinley from Fortify Rights.
        * * *
        More than 35,000 people are believed to have fled their homes and nearly 100,000 are without access to basic services.
        Northern Rakhine was also the epicentre two years ago of the military's brutal crackdown against the state's Rohingya Muslim population.
        Some 740,000 Rohingya fled over the border into Bangladesh in violence UN investigators have said warrants the prosecution of top generals for "genocide".

    • Dutch House of Reps
      adopts resolution for Rohingya.

        Resolution requests government to seek support of other states to open case against rights abuse in ICJ [(International Court of Justice)].
          - Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

            (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)
        HAGUE, the Netherlands
        The Dutch House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday adopted a motion asking the government to investigate Myanmar's genocide against Rohingya Muslims, in order to pave the way to open a case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
        The resolution -- which requests the government to gather support of other countries to back the case -- was accepted by majority of votes. ...

  • 2019 July 5 - Friday

    • VIDEO
      Monsoon Season Brings
      Heavy Rain, Flooding
      to Rohingya Refugee Camp.

          - Daily Telegraph (Australia)
        (Official U.N. statements at:
      • UNHCR briefing transcript
      • UNHCR article:
        "Heavy monsoon rains drench Rohingya sites in Bangladesh"

          ...which notes:
          Three days of continuous rain in Bangladesh have destroyed 273 shelters and injured 11 people in the Cox’s Bazar settlements where more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees live.
          An estimated 350mm [(14 inches)] of rain fell in 72 hours, from Monday -- and more heavy downpours are expected throughout next week -- with four months of the monsoon season to go. According to preliminary reports, there have been 26 landslides.
          Refugee volunteers, trained by UNHCR and partners, worked throughout the night on Wednesday in heavy rain to help families in urgent need. In some cases, this involved rescuing refugees from shelters destroyed by landslides. We have temporarily relocated 2,137 people, either because their shelters suffered substantial damage or as a precaution.

          Our network of Emergency Response Teams has been mobilised to identify the needs of the most vulnerable and prioritise them for assistance. As an immediate response, pre-positioned emergency supplies are being distributed to help rebuild, repair and strengthen damaged shelters.
          In support of the humanitarian response led by the Bangladeshi authorities, UNHCR and partners, including WFP and IOM, made preparedness for the monsoon season a priority, including building retaining structures on hillsides, installing drainage, and building roads and bridges. Reservoirs have been also constructed to hold monsoon rains and stabilise water supplies.
          We remain on high alert, ready to deploy additional Emergency Response Teams to support our network of refugee volunteers and partners as needed.
          To date, the 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh has received only a third (US$301 million) of the US$920 million that is needed.
        )

    • Solving Rohingya Crisis:
      China to press Myanmar.

        Chinese PM tells Hasina at Beijing meet.

          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)
        Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang yesterday assured that China would persuade Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis through bilateral discussions.
        He gave the assurance during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
        Li Keqiang agreed that the return of the forcibly displaced people to their homeland is a solution to the problem.
        Briefing reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said, "The Chinese prime minister said they’ll try so that the two countries [Bangladesh and Myanmar] can find a solution to the problem. And China will persuade Myanmar in this regard."

        Appreciating Hasina for her humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis, Li Keqiang said China can understand that it is a big challenge for Bangladesh.
        The Chinese PM said they thought the crisis would have to be solved through bilateral channels. China had previously helped solve the problem as both Bangladesh and Myanmar are its friends, he added.
        During the talks, Hasina said peace and stability is very essential for development, but the displacement of the Rohingyas from their homes in Myanmar affects the peace and stability in the region.
        Mentioning that the Rohingya crisis would worsen with the passage of time, she said it needed to be resolved quickly. "The return of the Rohingyas to their homeland is the solution to the crisis."
        The PM said Bangladesh engaged in bilateral arrangements and made all sorts of efforts for the repatriation of Rohingyas, but they do not want to return to Myanmar as they are afraid.
        In this context, she said China can play a role in creating a congenial environment in Myanmar for ensuing safety, dignity, and citizenship of the displaced Rohingyas and their access to their land and property in Myanmar to remove their fears.

      [ECONOMIC RELATIONS:]
        Talking about economy and trade, the Chinese PM said the China-Bangladesh trade volume grew by 16 percent last year.
        Hasina stressed the need for addressing the trade imbalance between the two countries as the trade growth is in favour of China. "So, China should make investment in Bangladesh, develop factories, and industries with the buyback guarantee."
        Mentioning that Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones, she urged China to invest in those zones.
        Li Keqiang said they want balanced trade relations and assured Hasina of working to reduce the trade imbalance.
        Noting that 97 percent Bangladeshi products now enjoy duty-free access to Chinese market, the Chinese PM said they will try to allow duty exemption to the rest of the goods. "China is closely monitoring the outcomes of the FTA feasibility study," he added.
        About the implementation of projects, Hasina said during the Chinese president’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, Dhaka had signed a number of agreements and MoUs with Beijing to implement projects in Bangladesh.
        She put emphasis on expediting the project implementation process.
        Hasina urged China to ease the terms and conditions of loan agreements and take necessary measures for timely disbursement of fund for implementation of the projects.
        Her Chinese counterpart said his country would consider the matter.
        The Bangladesh PM sought Chinese assistance for implementing the Delta Plan 2100, setting up a Climate Adaptation Centre, and mobilising resources in implementation of the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project.
        She also urged China to expedite the implementation of Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar high-speed train service project.
        About visas, the PM said Bangladesh provides preferential visas to Chinese nationals under the umbrella of "on arrival visa" arrangements. But a similar treatment is not offered to Bangladeshi nationals travelling to China.
        She hoped that China would ease the visa process for Bangladeshi passport holders, students, and businessmen in particular.
       
      The Bangaldesh-India-China-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor -- planned to connect Kunming (China), to Mandalay (Myanmar), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and ultimately Kolkata (India).
        China claims the BCIM corridor must pass through Rakhine state, on Myanmar's w`est coast -- the Rohingyas' homeland, but also an area with value to China.
        Currently, China is building a seaport on the Rakhine coast, at KyaukPyu, which will become the primary seaport for Western and South-Central China (and China's only Indian Ocean port). Vital oil and gas shipments to China from the Middle East can arrive here without having to traverse the greater distances through Malaysia, Indonesia and the tense regions of the South China Sea. A naval base here could greatly expand China's projection of seapower.
        The Rakhine region is suitable for large-scale production of rice -- THE essential food of the Chinese diet.
        And, already, China is harvesting natural gas from offshore wells along the Rakhine coast -- and wants a secure route through Rakhine state to transport this and future drilling products to China.
        Rakhine state may be a somewhat out-of-the-way jog for China's BCIM corridor route, but -- for China -- Rakhine state, the Rohingya's homeland, is not just part of a route... it's a key destination.
      ~ RCN Editor
      About the BCIM economic corridor, the two prime ministers highlighted its importance and potentials to connect markets of the region and agreed that it should be implemented quickly.
        The foreign secretary said the Chinese PM termed Bangladesh a partner of China in South Asia. "We value our relationship with Bangladesh and would like to take it to a higher level... we’ve a strategic partnership and we hope that it’ll be deepened and strengthened further," Li Keqiang said.
        Bangladesh Ambassador to China Md Fazlul Karim and PM’s Speech Writer Md Nazrul Islam were present at the briefing.
        Chairperson of National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders Saima Wazed Hossain, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, PM’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Foreign Affairs Ministry Muhammad Faruk Khan were present, among others, during the talks.
        After the meeting, Hasina joined a banquet hosted by her Chinese counterpart at the Great Hall of the People.
        Earlier, on her arrival at the venue around 10:45am (local time), she was welcomed by the Chinese PM and accorded a state reception.

      NINE INSTRUMENTS SIGNED:
        Bangladesh and China yesterday signed nine instruments for further strengthening cooperation on power, water resources, culture, and tourism sectors as well as providing 2,500 tonnes of rice for the displaced Rohingyas.
        The instruments, including two loan deals, were signed in presence of the two prime ministers after their meeting.
        Of the instruments, four were signed between the Economic Relations Division (ERD) of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Commerce of China, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque told reporters.
        The four deals are Framework Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area; Framework Agreement of Power Grid Network Strengthening Project under PGCB Project; Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the two governments; and Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of Investment Cooperation Working Group.
        The ERD also inked two loan agreements with the Export-Import Bank of China.
        The two agreements are Government Concessional Loan Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area Project; and Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement of Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under DPDC Area Project.
        Besides, an MoU on provision of Hydrological Information of Yaluzhangbu/Brahmaputra River and its Implementation Plan was signed between the water resources ministries of the two countries.
        Another MoU on Cultural and Tourism Exchange Programme was signed by Ministry of Culture of China and Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh.
        A Letter of Exchange (LOE) on the Rohingya Refugees Rice Aid was signed by the disaster management and relief ministry of Bangladesh and China International Development Cooperation Agency.
        Under the LoE, China will provide 2,500 tonnes of rice as assistance for the displaced Rohingyas who have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

  • 2019 July 6 - Saturday

    • Rohingya Crisis:
      [Bangladesh's] Hasina, [China's] Xi
      for quick solution.

          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday agreed [with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] that there should be a quick solution to the Rohingya crisis so that the displaced people can go back to their homeland soon.
        "The two leaders agreed that the Rohingya crisis will have to be solved quickly. It can’t be kept unsolved anymore. Two years have elapsed after signing of the agreements. There’s no difference in opinion," [Bangladesh] Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told reporters, after a bilateral meeting between [Bangladesh] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and [Chinese] President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

        Speaking at the meeting at Diaoyutai State Guest House, the PM said Bangladesh was hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas, which is a big challenge for the country. It has emerged as environmental and security challenges and trafficking problem in particular.
        "We expect goodwill of the Chinese government, and the president, so that the displaced Rohingyas can go back," Hasina said.
        In response, the Chinese leader said his country had previously worked with Myanmar and Bangladesh in this regard and it would continue to do so.
        Xi Jinping said their goal is also quick return of the Rohingyas to their homeland.

        The Rohingya issue was discussed also during the dinner hosted by the Chinese president, said the foreign secretary.
        "At the meeting, it was agreed that the representatives of the two countries will work together. They’ll also use their goodwill on Myanmar," Shahidul said.
        The PM told the Chinese president that the Rohingyas did not want to go back to Myanmar, as they were afraid of a recurrence of persecution there.
        In response, Xi Jinping said there is a very slim possibility of a recurrence of such incidents, as there is international attention on it.

        The president said his country would try as much as possible, in this regard, as both Bangladesh and Myanmar are its close friends. China treats the two friends equally, he added.

      [ECONOMIC RELATIONS:]
        Talking about the projects being implemented with Chinese assistance in Bangladesh, Hasina said during the Chinese president’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, 27 agreements and MoUs [(memoranda of understanding)] were signed between the two countries, to implement a number of projects.
        She put emphasis on expediting project implementation.
        The PM requested the Chinese president to ease the terms and condition of loan agreements, for timely disbursement of fund to expedite the project implementation.
        Xi Jinping said he would take proper measures in this regard.
        About trade and investment, the PM said Chinese companies should invest in Bangladesh with a buyback facility to ease the big trade imbalance against Bangladesh.
        Hasina said Chinese entrepreneurs can invest in economic zones, as her government was setting up 100 economic zones across the country.
        The Chinese president said they were aware about it, and would make all efforts to reduce the trade imbalance. He said they encourage Chinese investors to invest in Bangladesh.
        The Chinese side discussed the trade gap issue very rationally, rather than arguing that there were not enough products to be imported from Bangladesh to reduce the trade gap, said the foreign secretary.
        The PM sought Chinese assistance for implementing the Delta Plan 2100 and setting up a Climate Adaptation Centre, and implementation of Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration project.
        The Chinese leader assured that they would help Bangladesh set up the Climate Adaptation Centre and consider extending Chinese assistance for Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project.
        Highly appreciating Bangladesh’s GDP growth, Xi Jinping said both countries could learn from each other’s development.
        Both the sides gave importance to the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, saying that the initiative would have to be revived, working together with India.
        * * *

      CPC TO HELP RESOLVE ROHINGYA CRISIS:
        The Communist Party of China (CPC) yesterday said it would contact the top Myanmar leaders to amicably solve the Rohingya crisis and start the repatriation as soon as possible.

        CPC Minister for International Affairs Song Tao gave the assurance when he met PM Hasina at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing.
        "We’ll contact Myanmar political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to solve the Rohingya problem amicably and so that the repatriation of the first batch of the Rohingyas starts as soon as possible," he said. ...

    • Myanmar has political will
      to take Rohingyas back:
      ~ Chinese [foreign minister].

          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday said Myanmar has a 'political will' over the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas.
        He made the remark at a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Dr AK Abdul Momen in Beijing, the capital of China.
        "The Chinese foreign minister informed that Myanmar has a 'political will' to take back its Rohingyas from Bangladesh," said Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said while briefing reporters after the meeting.
        Highlighting the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Momen said Bangladesh has no conflict with Myanmar. "We're good neighbours and we want Myanmar to take its nationals back from Bangladesh," he said.
        In reply, the Chinese foreign minister hoped that the repatriation of the first batch of Rohingyas will be made soon. "We hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar will make arrangements over the Rohingya repatriation and we'll always stay beside the two countries on this issue," Haque quoted the Chinese foreign minister as saying.
        The foreign secretary said Bangladesh, China and Myanmar sat over the issue in New York and Beijing. "A new door may be opened up due to the talks," he hoped.

    • Thousands protest amid outcry
      over Myanmar child-rape case.

        [Protesters, from across Myanmar, march on the nation's largest city
        -- outraged by rape of 3-year-old girl, and by a poor police response.]

          - Reuters / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)
        [NOTE: This is apparently NOT the Rohingya girl raped and killed as reported on June 13 (see above). However, it raises broader questions about child rape and the authorities in Myanmar -- a major factor in the recent-years' attacks on the Rohingya, conducted or supported by the Myanmar authorities].
        Thousands of protesters marched to a police office in the north of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, on Saturday (July 6), demanding speedy and transparent justice in a child-rape case that has sparked national outrage.
        Police said this week they had arrested a suspect in the rape of a toddler - nicknamed Victoria - at a private nursery school in the administrative capital, Naypyitaw, in May.
        Social media users have criticised the speed and professionalism of the police response, after the girl's family filed a complaint more than a month ago -- underscoring a lack of trust in authorities in a country still emerging from decades of military rule.
        A government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took power, after sweeping elections, in 2015 -- but key institutions, such as the police, remain under military control, and efforts to strengthen the rule of law have floundered.
        Organisers estimated as many as 6,000 protesters gathered on Saturday at the Yangon office of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) wearing white T-shirts, some printed with the words "Justice for Victoria". One banner read: "We don't want any more Victorias."
        "We need an explanation that people can accept and justice for the kid," said 33-year-old protest organiser Aung Htike Min.
        The protesters also called on the government to create a safe environment for Myanmar's children.
        * * *
        The police force's deputy director general, Aung Naing Thu, said on Friday -- in a news conference broadcast live on Facebook, and watched by thousands of people -- that police had filed a case, at court, against a driver at the victim's nursery, who was in custody.
        A thorough investigation was conducted, he said, but efforts to identify the perpetrator had been delayed because officers were waiting to speak to the victim, a three-year-old girl
      who was recovering from medication she was given after the assault.
        "We filed the lawsuit against the suspect based on the testimony of the child and technical records," said Aung Naing Thu, referring to security-camera footage that he said implicated the driver.
        The nursery had also been closed because it lacked the correct license to operate, he said.
        Demonstrators were sceptical about the account given by Myanmar police, a force that is widely perceived as corrupt or incompetent.
        Ye Myint Win, 37, who joined Saturday's protest along with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, told Reuters authorities should take child rape cases more seriously.
        "I found it very suspicious and I don't trust the investigation of CID," he said.

  • 2019 July 7 - Sunday

      ----------------

  • 2019 July 8 - Monday

    • [Bangladesh Prime Minister]
      slams US congressman
      for proposal to attach Rakhine
      with Bangladesh.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today strongly criticised the US congressman for his proposal to attach Myanmar’s Rakhine State with Bangladesh to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
        "Each state is a sovereign one. Why they want to attach Rakhine State with us?" the prime minister said, responding to query, while briefing the media this afternoon.
        She was briefing the media on her five-day official visit to China...
        "Myanmar is our neighbor. And I have sheltered the Rohingyas on humanitarian ground. The U.S. man expressed his audacity by placing such proposal," the PM said.
        The premier also said: "Myanmar imposed its burden on us. Despite this, I am still maintaining good relation with the country, without initiating any hardline."
        According to US media report, Congressman Bradley Sherman, Chairman of Sub-committee on Asia Pacific of the Congress, made the proposal on June 13 during a hearing on the State Department’s budget for South Asia.
        Sherman also called upon the State Department to consider the proposal of bringing Rakhine state of Myanmar under Bangladesh, the Economic Times [of India] reports, quoting the US media report.
        * * *
      China to remain beside Bangladesh:
        Sheikh Hasina said that China would do whatever necessary to accelerate repatriation of Rohingya people to Myanmar.
        "China is attached to Myanmar. Despite this, it assured that it will talk to Myanmar for repatriating Rohingyas," the prime minister said.
        "China assured us it will remain beside Bangladesh in the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Is it not good news for us?" Hasina responded to a query at the press briefing. ...

    • Buddhists Go to Battle:
      When Nationalism
      Overrides Pacifism.

      [NOTE: The Rohingya Crisis is largely a Buddhist-nationalist purge of the (mostly non-Buddhist) Rohingya. ~RCN editor]
          - New York Times

        Incited by a politically powerful network of charismatic monks like Sumedhananda Thero, Buddhists have entered the era of militant tribalism, casting themselves as spiritual warriors who must defend their faith against an outside force.
        Their sense of grievance might seem unlikely: In Sri Lanka and Myanmar, two countries that are on the forefront of a radical religious-nationalist movement, Buddhists constitute overwhelming majorities of the population. Yet some Buddhists, especially those who subscribe to the purist Theravada strain of the faith, are increasingly convinced that they are under existential threat, particularly from an Islam struggling with its own violent fringe.
        As the tectonic plates of Buddhism and Islam collide, a portion of Buddhists are abandoning the peaceful tenets of their religion. Over the past few years, Buddhist mobs have waged deadly attacks against minority Muslim populations. Buddhist nationalist ideologues are using the spiritual authority of extremist monks to bolster their support.
        “The Buddhists never used to hate us so much,” said Mohammed Naseer, the imam of the Hillur Mosque in Gintota, Sri Lanka, which was attacked by Buddhist mobs in 2017. “Now their monks spread a message that we don’t belong in this country and should leave. But where will we go? This is our home.”


  • 2019 July 9 - Tuesday

    • Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
      battle monsoon landslides
      and floods.

          - BBC News

        Thousands of people have been relocated and at least one person has died after Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh were battered by heavy monsoon rain.
        Weather warnings suggest the downpour is likely to continue.
        According to UNICEF, more than 3,000 families have been affected. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had relocated thousands of refugees in recent days.
        The camps house more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees. ...

  • 2019 July 10 - Wednesday

    • Dozens of Malaysia-bound Rohingyas
      detained in Myanmar.

          - Kyodo News (Japan)
            / Bangkok Post (Thailand)

        YANGON (Myanmar/Burma):
        Police in strife-ridden Rakhine State in western Myanmar have detained dozens of Rohingya Muslims who were seeking to get to Malaysia by boat, state media reported on Wednesday.
        The 63 members of the stateless, persecuted minority in Myanmar -- 29 men and 34 women -- and four crew members were arrested near a beach in Maungtaw, Rakhine, [in Myanmar,] on Tuesday, after their boat ran out of fuel in bad weather, and drifted ashore, according to the report.
        Thirty-four of the Muslims were from refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in neighbouring Bangladesh -- while the rest were from Rakhine.
        More than 740,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar's military launched a harsh crackdown in Rakhine in August 2017.
        Two of the detained are alleged to have worked with the crew members as traffickers. The refugees had agreed to pay 1.7 million kyat (about $1,130) for passage to Malaysia by boat, the report said. ...

  • 2019 July 11 - Thursday

    • Former UN chief concerned
      over monsoon floods
      in Rohingya camps.

        Ban Ki-moon says threat exacerbated by Bangladesh's vulnerability to climate change.
          - AP / Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (Canada)

        Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon expressed concern that monsoon floods could threaten the lives of Rohingya refugees in sprawling camps in Bangladesh.
        Ban -- who was visiting in his role as head of The Hague-based Global Commission on Adaptation to climate change, or GCA -- said he was "saddened and dismayed" by what he saw while visiting the Kutupalong camp, Wednesday, in the southern coastal district of Cox's Bazar, where more than one million Rohingya Muslims, from Myanmar, have fled military-backed persecution in their home country.
        Bangladesh has a history of violent cyclones -- but has reduced the number of casualties from such natural disasters by investing in roads and other public infrastructure, building cyclone shelters, and training volunteers across its vast coastal region (which has the world's largest continuous beach).
        Still, the UN's children's agency UNICEF said, earlier this week... that thousands of families living in the refugee camps -- and Bangladeshi communities in surrounding villages -- are at risk from flooding and landslides caused by heavy rainfall in the last few days.
        The situation is particularly grim in the camps -- though many of the more than 4,000 families affected have been relocated to safer areas, it said.

        One seven-year-old boy drowned following heavy rains, and two children were injured, the agency said. It said that schools and other facilities serving more than 60,000 children have been damaged.
        "It's just impossible to think of how all these young people live in this condition... I know that there are more than half a million young people," Ban told The Associated Press in an interview during his visit to the camps at Kutupalong.
        Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Ban was visiting along with the World Bank's Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva and other commissioners of the GCA, which was initiated by the Netherlands and set up in 2018. Ban and Microsoft founder Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are co-chairs along with Georgieva.
        Ban and other GCA leaders could see vast areas of the delta nation, of 160 million, under water, as they flew on Air Force helicopters from Dhaka, the capital, to Cox's Bazar.
        "Bangladesh, of course, is one of the most vulnerable countries and climate change is happening much, much faster," said Ban, who also met with the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to discuss the country's efforts to adapt to flooding, rising sea levels and extreme weather.
        "Bangladesh has been wisely investing, with a vision of Prime Minister Hasina. That is why we are here -- to learn the lessons from Bangladesh, and to disseminate this message to the world far and wide," he said.
        Georgieva praised Bangladesh's progress in reducing damage and deaths from the monsoon season floods.
        During the ride to Cox's Bazar, the officials saw low-lying land "as far as the eye can see, a lot of water, it is monsoon season, but also roads are elevated so they can sustain the flooding," she said. "More and more green belts that protect the inland communities, and I also saw that the agriculture is clearly doing well."
        The GCA was launched with the support of 17 convening countries including China, Canada and the U.K., and low-lying countries vulnerable to climate change -- including Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands.
       

    • Official report:
      Bangladesh's Rohingya Camps Hit
      by 7th Day of Wind, Rain.

          - IOM (Int'l Org. for Migration) (U.N. affiliate)

        .......................................

    • Myanmar has much more to do
      for safe Rohingya return
      says [former U.N. Secretary General]
      Ban Ki Moon.

          - BDnews24.com

        .....................................

    • Myanmar:
      No homecoming for Rohingyas.

      [Housing erected in Myanmar, for returning refugees, is for Hindus only -- none for Muslims.]
          - BBC News

        In Myanmar’s Rakhine state, hundreds of new houses have been handed over to families displaced by the violence of the Rohingya crisis in 2017. But none of the homes were for the Muslim minority group.
        Almost two years on, there’s no sign [that] the 700,000 Rohingyas who fled across the border to Bangladesh will be returning soon. Myanmar continues to deny its troops carried out ethnic cleansing and genocide.
        The BBC's Myanmar correspondent Nick Beake has gained rare access to the affected part of Rakhine.

    • EDITORIAL:
      Caution needed:  
      on [India's] Supreme Court decision
      on Rohingya’s status.

        Supreme Court decision, on the Rohingya’s status, must protect those fleeing persecution.
          - The Hindu (India)

        The [India] Supreme Court’s decision to examine the question whether illegal immigrants are entitled to refugee status needs to be welcomed, but with caution. It is debatable whether the Centre is right in claiming that this has emerged as a substantial question of law in the context of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. For, it is fairly obvious that those escaping persecution in their home country are invariably undocumented. It logically follows that those fleeing conditions of war or conflict will have to be treated as refugees first before their cases can be examined in detail, and deemed fit for deportation as illegal entrants. It will be strange if any court holds that no illegal immigrant is entitled to refugee status. That would amount to a perverse denial of the very existence of refugees as a class. ...
        * * *
        India is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951, and a Protocol adopted in 1967 on the subject. However, since Independence it has by and large adhered to the larger humanitarian principles underlying these instruments. In this backdrop, it is astonishing that the present regime is determined to deport the Rohingya, in utter disregard of the danger to their lives in Myanmar, and in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, the norm that prohibits states from forcibly returning refugees to conditions that caused them to flee their homes in the first place. It will be amoral and unjust if this most vulnerable group from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, numbering about 40,000 in India now, is denied refugee status. With the Centre taking a stand against treating them as refugees, a positive ruling is needed from the apex court to prevent their forcible deportation. ...

  • 2019 July 12 - Friday

  • 2019 July 13 - Saturday

      ----------

  • 2019 July 14 - Sunday

    • Deadly monsoon
      destroys 5,000 shelters
      in Bangladesh Rohingya camps.

          - AFP / The Hindu (India)
        Bangladesh's meteorological department said the Cox's Bazar district, home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, has seen nearly two feet of rain since July 2.
        At least 10 people have died and thousands of shanty homes have been destroyed by monsoon rains in overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's southeast, officials said on Sunday.

        Bangladesh's meteorological department said the Cox's Bazar district —home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar— has seen at least 58.5 centimetres (nearly two feet) of rain since July 2.
        An International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokeswoman said heavy rains triggered mudslides in the refugee camps, which are mostly built on hill-slopes, destroying some 4,889 tarpaulin and bamboo shacks in the first two weeks of July.
        * * *
        More than 200 landslides have been reported since April in the camps, built near the border with Myanmar, and at least 10 people were killed, a United Nations report said, adding nearly 50,000 people have been affected.
        In the last week alone, two Rohingya minors died and another 6,000 people were left without shelter because of heavy rains.

        The UN said the schooling of some 60,000 children had been interrupted with over 750 learning centres partially damaged and five heavily damaged.
        Displaced refugees said they were suffering as rain disrupted logistics and daily activity in the camps. "It's tough to go to food distribution centres by wading through a swamp of mud," Nurun Jan, a Rohingya refugee said. "Rains and gusty wind have made our life miserable."
        Refugees also described a shortage of drinking water and a looming health crisis due to flooded toilets, which foster disease outbreaks.

        World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said they had to significantly increase assistance in the camps to cope up with the monsoon. "So far 11,400 people have required the extra food assistance due to the heavy rains, compared to 7,000 during the whole of July 2018," she said.
        * * *
        Last year the UN refugee agency moved 30,000 Rohingya out of areas considered at high risk of landslides and floods.
        Heavy rains frequently trigger flooding and landslides in Bangladesh's southeastern hill districts, and in 2017 at least 170 people were killed.
        * * *
        Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a military crackdown in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017, joining about 200,000 already living in camps in Bangladesh.
        Officials said landslides were increasing in the region because forests had been cleared to make way for the sprawling Rohingya camps. One of the settlements, Kutupalong, is now the world's largest refugee centre.
        Refugee homes are particularly susceptible to damage or destruction because Bangladeshi authorities will only allow them to be built with tarpaulin, twine, bamboo, or other flimsy materials to maintain the "temporary" character of the camp, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
        A senior Bangladesh official said the government has barred permanent structures as they hope the refugees will eventually return home.

        * * *
        Bangladesh wants to relocate up to 100,000 refugees to Bhashan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, but this is opposed by the Rohingya and international rights groups. Dhaka says any relocation to the island would be voluntary.

  • 2019 July 15 - Monday

  • 2019 July 16 - Tuesday

    • OFFICIAL U.N. REPORT:
      Rohingya refugee crisis:
      Monsoon season hits Bangladesh.

          - United Nations Population Fund
      on ReliefWeb.int

        Rohingya refugees and the local host communities of Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh continue to display immense resiliency amid the harsh conditions inflicted by the ongoing monsoon season.
        For much of July, relentless rains have been pounding the area, which is home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees. According to ISCG data for 4-11 July, flooding, landslides and wind storms have affected 13,738 people, within this time frame, throughout the 34 camps. ...

    • Myanmar must take back
      all Rohingyas,
      [Bangladesh Prime Minister]
      tells outgoing French ambassador.

          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday reiterated her call to Myanmar to begin the repatriation of the Rohingyas and said that the country must take back them from Bangladesh.
        "The repatriation process should start. How long will we bear the burden? … The sooner the Rohingyas are repatriated, the better it will be for all," she said.
        The PM made the comments when French Ambassador Marie-Annick Bourdin paid a farewell call on her at the Gono Bhaban yesterday afternoon.
        She said international organisations and UN agencies should work inside Myanmar for the rehabilitation of the displaced Rohingyas. The work should include construction of houses for them.
        Referring to the influx of 1.1 million Rohingyas into Cox’s Bazar, the PM said they outnumbered local people.
      "As many as 40,000 Rohingya babies have so far been born in the Rohingya camps," she said.
        * * *
        In reply, the French ambassador said her country will continue to support Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue. "We started supporting Bangladesh on the issue right from the beginning, and it will continue," she said.
        Marie-Annick Bourdin, however, said the situation in Myanmar for the return of Rohingyas was not conducive at present.
       ...

  • 2019 July 17 - Wednesday

    • Aung San Suu Kyi's bid
      to reform charter
      sparks rival demonstrations.

          - Reuters / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        YANGON:
      Hundreds of people demonstrated in [Myanmar's largest city,] Yangon, on Wednesday (Jul 17), in support of proposed constitutional amendments that would reduce the power of the military.
        A separate protest against the reforms was planned for later in the day.

        * * *
        Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party is pushing for change despite objections from military lawmakers, who hold a veto over amendments.
        The demonstrators, led by activists not aligned to the party, wore red headbands printed with the words "Amend the 2008 Constitution".

        "The current government is trying to move forward, but they can't because of the 2008 constitution," said protest organiser Pyae Phyo Zaw -- who also called for elected leaders to be given oversight of the security forces.
        After decades of military rule, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took the reins in 2016 after an electoral landslide, but is forced to share power with the generals.
        Under the constitution drafted by the former military government, the military chief nominates a quarter of lawmakers and the ministers of defence, home affairs and border affairs.
        It also blocks Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, with a prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children. Aung San Suu Kyi had two sons with her late husband, Michael Aris, a British academic.
        * * *
        A flyer for Wednesday's separate counter protest called on "those who love their race and religion" to turn out to help preserve that clause.
        A nationalist movement led by Buddhist monks is critical of Aung San Suu Kyi and casts the military as protector of the Buddhist-majority nation.

        * * *
        A report containing thousands of amendments proposed by various political parties was submitted on Monday for debate at the parliament in the capital, Naypyitaw, but has not been made public.
        Nay Phone Latt, an NLD lawmaker in Yangon's regional parliament, told Reuters one of the party's key proposals was to set a timeline for the gradual reduction of military seats in parliament, beginning with a move from 25 per cent to 15 per cent in 2021.
        * * *
        The NLD holds the most seats in parliament, but the military lawmakers mean it lacks the 75 per cent majority needed to amend the constitution.
        "We need military men’s support, so it depends on the stance of the military," Nay Phone Latt said. "But we hope that it can be accepted by the military as it would reduce bit by bit over time."

        Kyaw Khine Win, another demonstrator, said he rallied in favour of amending the charter because it was written to bar Aung San Suu Kyi from leading the country and imposed "forcefully".
        "We want a country which is commanded by the people," he said.

    • Top Myanmar Generals
      Are Barred From Entering U.S.
      Over Rohingya Killings.

        [U.S. becomes first nation to directly sanction Myanmar generals.]

          - New York Times
        The United States has imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top military commander, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and three of his highest-ranking generals for their roles in the atrocities carried out against Rohingya Muslims since 2017, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced.
        The four generals and their immediate family members will be barred from entering the United States, Mr. Pompeo said on Tuesday. "With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military," he said in a statement. ...

    • Myanmar says military 'dignity'
      harmed by US ban
      on army chief.

          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        YANGON: A US travel ban on Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing -- over his role in orchestrating a bloody crackdown against Rohingya Muslims -- harms the dignity of the military, a spokesman said Wednesday (Jul 17), adding critics failed to properly understand the crisis.
        * * *
        The sanctions against the army chief and three other top military brass was the strongest censure from a western power since the army launched its offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017 following attacks on police posts.
        Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the senior military figures were responsible for human rights violations including extrajudicial killings during the "ethnic cleansing" of the stateless minority when more than 740,000 were driven into Bangladesh.
        * * *
        But military spokesman and Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said the campaign was in self-defence, and they had carried out their own investigations.
        "Our actions should be respected," he said, adding that the sanctions "harmed the dignity of the military".
        He said the US misunderstood the history of the fighting in Rakhine state where the Rohingya crackdown occurred.
        "The military carried out our duty to protect the lives of ethnic minorities and to protect the region," he added.
        * * *
        Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as one of its many official ethnicities, insisting they are interlopers from Bangladesh.
        * * *
        The US, Canada and the European Union have passed sanctions against members of the powerful military before, but stopped short of reaching the very top of leadership.
        But rights groups and UN investigators have called for stronger action against Min Aung Hlaing -- including international prosecution for genocide.

        * * *
        Pompeo said, in his statement, that the US remains concerned the Burmese government had taken no action against rights violators.
        He cited the "egregious" example of the release of soldiers who massacred 10 Rohingya Muslims.
        The soldiers spent only a few months in prison - less time than two Reuters journalists who exposed the massacre and were behind bars for more than 500 days on state secrets charges.
        * * *
        The sanctions against Min Aung Hlaing, deputy commander-in-chief Soe Win, brigadier generals Than Oo and Aung Aung also apply to their immediate family members.
        Min Aung Hlaing has yet to comment on the moves and has remained defiant as accusations mount.
        In a rare interview in February, he said there was "no certain proof that the national army was involved in the persecution" of Rohingya.

  • 2019 July 18 - Thursday

    • US travel ban
      on Myanmar army chief
      not enough, says UN.

          - AFP / Channel NewsAsia (Singapore)

        KUALA LUMPUR: A US travel ban on Myanmar's army chief and three other top officers -- for their role in orchestrating a crackdown against Rohingya Muslims -- does not go far enough, a UN rights investigator said on Thursday (July 18).
        * * *
        The sanctions announced on Tuesday were the strongest censure yet from a Western power since the army launched its offensive against the stateless minority in August 2017 following attacks on police posts.
        Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said army chief Min Aung Hlaing and the other officers were responsible for human rights violations - including extrajudicial killings during the "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya when more than 740,000 were driven into Bangladesh.
        * * *
        But the United Nations Special Rapporteur to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said the US move "does not go far enough, it should go further".
        Lee, during a visit to Malaysia, criticised the sanctions as unrealistic, saying that the officers were unlikely to travel to the US anyway.
        Washington should go further by seizing their assets, and those of their families, and extending the sanctions to cover other senior commanders, she said.

        * * *
        Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as one of its many official ethnicities, insisting they are interlopers from Bangladesh.
        * * *
        The US, Canada and the European Union have previously passed sanctions against members of the powerful military, but stopped short of reaching the very top of leadership.
        But rights groups and UN investigators have called for stronger action against Min Aung Hlaing - including international prosecution for genocide.
        * * *
        Pompeo said in his statement that the US remains concerned the Burmese government had taken no action against rights violators.
        He cited the "egregious" example of the release of soldiers who massacred 10 Rohingya Muslims.
        The soldiers spent only a few months in prison - less time than two Reuters journalists who exposed the massacre and were behind bars for more than 500 days on state secrets charges.
        * * *
        The sanctions against Min Aung Hlaing, deputy commander-in-chief Soe Win, brigadier generals Than Oo and Aung Aung also apply to their immediate family members.
        * * *
        A Myanmar military spokesman criticised the sanctions, saying they harm the armed forces' dignity.

    • Rohingya activist calls U.S. ban
      on Myanmar generals
      a first step.

          - AFP / Japan Times (Japan)
      A formerly imprisoned Rohingya activist said Wednesday that a U.S. ban on Myanmar’s top generals was a welcome first step -- but urged more action to support the long-targeted minority.
        The State Department, on Tuesday, said that [Myanmar] army chief Min Aung Hlaing, three other top officers, and their families, would not be allowed to visit the United States -- due to their roles in "ethnic cleansing" of the mostly Muslim Rohingya.
        Participating in a high-level State Department meeting on religious freedom, peace activist Wai Wai Nu said it was critical to address the "decades-old impunity" enjoyed by the military in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
        "Many of us in Burma welcome this decision of the State Department. However, we think this is a first step -- and we are hoping to see more concrete and efficient steps in the future," she told reporters.
        This, she said, should include an end to impunity in the country.
        "The only way to move forward, I believe, is holding the perpetrators accountable, and abolishing institutionalized religious and ethnic discrimination against ethnic minorities," she added.
        Wai Wai Nu founded two groups promoting inter-ethnic harmony and women’s rights. Along with other survivors, and witnesses to abuses -- who are taking part in the ministerial -- she met Wednesday, at the White House, with President Donald Trump.
        Wai Wai Nu, whose father was also an activist, was arrested with her family in 2005, when she was a law student.
        The family was freed in 2012, amid a political opening in Myanmar, as the military junta reconciled with the West, and eventually allowed civilian, elected leaders.
       ...

    • Trump to Rohingya refugee:
      'Where is that exactly?'

        While meeting with victims of religious prosecution on July 17, President Trump asked a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar where his home was.
          - Washington Post (VIDEO)

        ....................
        (same event, in video, at:
      • PBS-TV (Public Broadcasting System)
      • [London Daily] Telegraph (U.K.)
          ...with this summary note:
          President Donald Trump was asked by a Rohingya refugee what the plans were to help them return home. The President in turn asked where Rohingya is.
      • The Guardian (U.K.)
          ...with this summary note:
          Donald Trump has had some awkward exchanges with survivors of religious persecution during a meeting with them in the Oval Office on Wednesday. When the Nobel laureate and Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad requested aid for the Yazidis, the president replied: ‘And you had the Nobel prize? That's incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?’ When asked by a Rohingya refugee about the plan to help his people, Trump replied: ‘Where is that exactly?’
      • The Guardian (U.K.) on YouTube.com
      • Irish Times (Ireland) )
        (same topic, in article at:
      • Indian Express (India)
          ...which reports:
          Donald Trump appeared clueless when a Rohingya refugee enquired what help can be extended to the community by the State and, in turn, the US President asked: “"Where is that (Myanmar) exactly?”
            Trump was having an interaction with a group of survivors of religious persecution -- which included Nobel laureate Nadia Murad, as well -- in the Oval Office, on the sidelines of a major meeting at the State Department on Wednesday.
            A Rohingya stepped forward and introduced himself saying, “I am a Rohingya from Bangladesh refugee camp. Most of the refugees are willing to go back home as soon as possible. So, what is the plan to help us?”
            Replying to the Rohingya, the US President said, “Where is that exactly?” He was then informed, “Bangladesh is right next to Burma,” by one of Trump’s advisors.
            In another incident, Trump seemed unaware about the work and cause of Nobel laureate Nadia Murad as she requested him to help the Yazidis of Iraq. "And you had the Nobel Prize? That’s incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?” Trump asked.

    • ICC prosecutors expect investigation
      into Rohingya persecution
      after October.

          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        A team of International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors expect to get the green light to launch an investigation into the atrocities committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine State shortly after October.
        Victims of the alleged persecution have been given until Oct 31 to make their submissions to the free trial court or the prosecutor’s office, ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Thursday.
        After that, the prosecutors hope the authorisation to investigate the crimes against humanity will come "as quickly as possible".
        Stewart is visiting Bangladesh following ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request, on July 4, to the judges, to authorise a probe into the alleged crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
        * * *
        The panel of prosecutors, as part of its "normal practice" to work in a country, is in the process of signing a MoU [(memorandum of understanding)], with the Bangladesh government, to press ahead with the investigation.
        "We are preparing the way for the investigation. We are not investigating now," Stewart said. "The judges will decide whether to grant authorisation to investigate."

        "We are here to engage with the government and other relevant stakeholders including in affected areas, to explain and answer questions on the ICC process, and where we are currently in the judicial proceedings."
        He said, the team expects the Bangladesh government to offer "basic cooperation", including security, if they are allowed to look into the issue.
        Asked about the lengthy process of starting the investigation and the subsequent trial, Steward said, they understand the pain and anguish of the victims of alleged crimes, but they have to work within the legal mandate given by the Rome Statute
        "It may be frustrating for some that the process takes the time it does, but we hope the wait will be worthy," he said, adding that they will be ready to start the probe as soon as they get the permission.
        The ICC was established to deal with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after July 1, 2002, and the crime of aggression after July 17, 2018, on the territory of a party state.
        "We are a court of last resort, however, and can only act where these crimes are not being investigated and prosecuted by the national authorities," the deputy prosecutor said.
        Myanmar is not a state that is party to the court -- but Bangladesh is.
        "So any potential investigation could only focus on crimes allegedly committed, in part, on the territory of Bangladesh."

        But the crimes have been committed in Myanmar.
        Replying to that question, he said, following Prosecutor Bensouda's analysis, she determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that at least 700,000 Rohingyas people were deported, from Myanmar to Bangladesh, through a range of coercive acts, and that great suffering, or serious injury, has been inflicted on the Rohingya, through violating their right of return to their state of origin.
        "In addition, there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Rohingya people have suffered persecution as a result of these alleged crimes. Investigating deportation, and the other alleged crimes, would mean, of course, taking a close look at the alleged violence which left the Rohingya no option but to flee Myanmar.
        "Our mandate is purely legal. The ICC and the office of the Prosecutor have no political role to play,"
      he said.
        Deputy Prosecutor Stewart will travel to Cox’s Bazar on Friday.

  • 2019 July 19 - Friday
      Bhashan Char island -- a barely-visible dot in this map (click to enlarge) -- is several miles out to sea, and exposed to the ravages of the ocean, in a region where major cyclones (and occasional tsunamis) commonly cause widespread death.
      Bhashan Char -- which means "floating island" -- has only risen from the sea in the last 20 years, and is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it. It floods often, and is especially vulnerable to cyclones. Bangladeshis avoid it during monsoon season. But this is where Bangladesh proposes moving at least 100,000 Rohingya. ©2019 Reuters News Service

    • Bangladesh prepares to move Rohingya
      to island at risk of
      floods and cyclones.

        Foreign affairs minister defends controversial proposal as ‘only solution’ despite misgivings of human rights campaigners.
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        The first Rohingya refugees could be relocated to an island in the next few months under controversial plans drawn up by the Bangladesh government, the country’s state minister of foreign affairs has said.
        Some of the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar and are now living in camps in Cox’s Bazar will be relocated to the silt island of Bhasan Char in the estuary of Bangladesh’s Meghna river, accessible only by boat.
        The proposal has concerned human rights groups and NGOs who are particularly worried about Bhasan Char’s isolation – the island is prone to severe flooding and cyclones and is more than a three hour boat ride from the mainland. Rohingya people living in the camps have repeatedly said they will not go out of fears for their safety.
        But speaking to the Guardian, minister of foreign affairs Shahriar Alam said the plan would go ahead, with the first refugees expected to arrive there within two to three months.
        "The plan is to give the refugees a better shelter," Alam said.
        * * *
        Asked what would happen if people didn’t want to go, Alam replied: "We cannot force them to move, of course."
        * * *
        Bhasan Char -- 30km [(about 20 miles)] from the mainland -- only emerged from the river over the past two decades. Concerns have been raised over how much free movement those on the island would have.
        Over the past year, multiple NGOs have emphasised the difficulty, and high risks, involved in evacuating hundreds of thousands from the island, in the event of natural disaster.

        * * *
        Journalists have not yet visited Bhasan Char. Alam said they had to bring over UN bodies first, such as the International Organization for Migration.
        "We want them to see the place first and we will move them [the refugees] only after that. We are not rushing but we firmly believe this is the only solution," he said.
        Alam added that he was not worried about flooding. "A category 10 cyclone will not just impact them [the refugees moved to the island], it will impact 20% of our population … We are vulnerable anyway, so they won’t be any more vulnerable." ...

    • Bangladesh Calls for
      Financial Sanctions on Myanmar,
      as Country Pushes for
      Rohingya Repatriation.

          - VOA (Voice of America)
          (U.S. propaganda radio)

        Bangladesh wants Myanmar to repatriate the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees who have fled genocide, and a top Bangladeshi official wants international financial sanctions to back it up.
        * * *
        Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen called Wednesday for the international community to place concerted financial pressure on Myanmar in an interview with VOA Bangla. ...

    • Bangladesh police arrest 12
      as Rohingya trafficking fears rise.

          - Reuters News Service / Thomson Reuters Found.

        DHAKA, July 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
        Bangladesh has arrested 12 men suspected of targeting Rohingya refugees for trafficking, police said on Friday, amid concerns over the growing desperation of the refugees.
        Two Rohingya women and a Bangladeshi child were also held in the operation by the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite force of the Bangladesh police, in the capital Dhaka late on Thursday. Police said they were being questioned.
        The arrests came as U.N. investigator Yanghee Lee warned traffickers were increasingly targeting Rohingya both in Myanmar and in neighbouring Bangladesh (where hundreds of thousands fled, following a brutal military crackdown in 2017).
        Mainly Buddhist Myanmar regards the Muslim minority Rohingya as illegal migrants.
        "These traffickers are involved in sending people to Malaysia and the Middle East," Major Mohammad Ashraful Haque told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
        He said they had taken 250,000 taka ($3,000) from each of the three and had given them fake identity documents.
        "We suspect that they were bringing in more Rohingya," he added.
        In a statement, the RAB said the suspects were part of a "human trafficking ring" that had long been "taking advantage of the desperate Rohingya".
        Scores of Rohingya have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia and Thailand, prompting fears of a fresh wave of people smuggling by sea.
        An earlier upsurge of sectarian violence in Myanmar prompted tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee -- an exodus that peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 left for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many drowned in unsafe and overloaded boats.
        There are now about 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps on Bangladesh's southeast coast, in an area that covers about 6,000 acres -- just under half the size of [New York City's] Manhattan [island].
        Heavy rains have pounded the camps in the past two weeks, destroying hundreds of temporary structures.

        Bangladesh has pledged to boost its anti-trafficking efforts in the camps, following criticism from Washington.
        Government figures show authorities in Bangladesh rescued at least 250 Rohingya from human traffickers in the first half of this year.
        But Haque said the arrests were "just the tip of the iceberg".
        "We are trying to find out more stakeholders involved in this. It's difficult, because these arrests make traffickers careful. We will follow this for a long time, and find out more," he said.

    • Rohingya groups urge
      tougher US sanctions
      on Myanmar.

        Rohingya rights group calls U.S. travel ban, on top Myanmar military officers, 'insult to genocidal inquiry of Rohingya.'
          - Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

            (CAUTION: This media outlet is state-run media of Turkey, a repressive Muslim country; its objectivity, accuracy and quality are suspect.)

      Rohingya rights groups on Friday urged the U.S. to impose tougher sanctions on top military officials of Myanmar for crimes against Rohingya Muslims -- calling the existing sanctions toothless.

      Free Rohingya Coalition:

      "The U.S. sanctions -- travel restrictions on two Myanmar senior generals and two minions that don't travel to the U.S. -- is an act adding insult to the genocidal injury of the Rohingya people," said Maung Zarni, a Burmese coordinator of Free Rohingya Coalition, an advocacy group working for the rights of the persecuted people.

      The U.S. announced Tuesday that for their roles in the ethnic cleansing of the country's Rohingya Muslim minority, it is banning four top Myanmar military officials and their immediate families from traveling to the United States.

      If the U.S. is serious about accountability it should impose "crippling financial, political, diplomatic and economic sanctions, invoke the Genocide Convention, and file a legal challenge at the International Court of Justice," said Zarni, who is also a fellow of the Genocide Documentation Center of Cambodia.

      The U.S.' Myanmar policy is based on "the farce that there is a 'fragile democratic transition,' led by Washington's former 'democracy queen,' Suu Kyi -- while her National League for Democracy (NLD) party-military coalition government is committing the gravest crimes, including genocide and war crimes, against Rohingya and other national minorities," he stressed.

      Burma Human Rights Network:

      Another Rohingya rights group welcomed the sanctions, but also urged the U.S. to take further actions.

      The London-based Burma Human Rights Network -- using an earlier name for Myanmar -- said in a statement Thursday that the group "welcomes the public designation of four senior military figures by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but calls on the United States to follow with targeted sanctions against military-owned companies and businesses."

      The U.S. action "is a major step in acknowledging and punishing their cruel and inhumane actions against the Rohingya and other minorities inside of Burma," said Kyaw Win, the group's executive director.

      "But we also ask them to go further, as the military will not be thwarted from committing further crimes by symbolic actions alone."

      They also called on the U.S. and other nations to impose "targeted sanctions against [Myanmar's] military-owned companies and businesses"

      The group underlined that the targeted sanctions must include top generals' business interests and partners -- operating both inside Myanmar and abroad -- in order to ensure their effectiveness.

      "It is time that the world recognizes the awful crimes committed by these men, and that they are held accountable," Win added.

      A persecuted people

      The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

      According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

      Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar's state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

      More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

      Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar's army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

    • US to stand strong
      to resolve Rohingya crisis;
      hold perpetrators accountable.

        Int'l community urged to mount pressure on Myanmar.
          - UNB / Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        The United States has reiterated that they will stand strong on resolving the Rohingya issue and also hold the perpetrators in Myanmar accountable for committing the crimes of atrocities against Rohingyas.
        US Vice President Mike Pence conveyed the US position expressing concern over the violation of basic right of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

        Pence delivered keynote speech at the 2nd Ministerial meeting on advancing religious freedom hosted by the US Department of State yesterday, according to a revised media release issued today.
        He expressed happiness with the progress that has been achieved since the last Ministerial in 2018. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen attended the meeting.
        Delegates from 106 countries with about 40 Foreign Ministers attended the meeting at the invitation of Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State.
        Secretary Pompeo reinforced that ensuring religious freedom for all remains the top foreign policy priority of the USA.
        He thanked all the governments for their participation and called for collective efforts to ensure the freedom of thoughts, freedom of conscience and religion as reflected in the US Constitution.
        Foreign Minister Momen highlighted the commitment of the government to ensure basic rights of its people.
        He mentioned that inspired by the call of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh has been relentlessly working to maintain the religious rights of all sects of people.
        Momen said [that] under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has upheld religious pluralism and rights of minorities.
        He elaborated how the government of PM Sheikh Hasina maintained a 'Zero Tolerance' approach to any form of violence and discrimination, under any pretext, against religious minorities, and successfully prevented rise of extremist contents in Bangladesh.
        This has resulted in the unprecedented socio-economic growth of its economy, he said.
        Besides, non-communalism and peaceful coexistence, PM Hasina also promotes a national slogan 'Religion unto individual, festivals unto all', to promote religious tolerance and create a sense of accommodation among religious sects.
        Foreign Minister Momen thanked the US government and the international community to extend support to host 1.1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
        He called on the international community to increase the pressure on Myanmar to take back these people.
        Momen observed that, at times, certain media is disseminating hatred and violence against selected religious groups.
        He called for the media to play a constructive and responsible role in promoting religious freedom, thereby supporting peace and stability.
        Momen reiterated that violence and wars emanate from a mindset of hatred and ignorance.
        Therefore, in order to have sustainable peace and stability across nations, he called for creating a mindset of tolerance -- a mindset of respect for others, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, colour and background.
        Momen said [that] to create such a mindset, everyone -- including religious, social, community, academia, and media leaders -- must work together in collaboration and partnership.
        He proposed to host a similar ministerial at regional level in Bangladesh soon. ...

  • 2019 July 20 - Saturday

      ----------

  • 2019 July 21 - Sunday

    • 12 Rohingya Muslims
      prevented from entering
      Tripura [northeast India] from Bangladesh
      ~ [India's Border Security Force]

          - Business Standard News (India)

        The Border Security Force (BSF) on Saturday said the force has thwarted an attempt of at least 12 Rohingya Muslims to enter into Indian territory, through Tripura [(in northeast India)], from Bangladesh.
        Two men, five women and as many children had tried to enter Sipahijala district, about 50 km from here.

        "Our troops thwarted their attempts to enter into our territory through Futia village in the international border on Thursday. We have successfully prevented their entry. They are still on the zero line," BSF Deputy Inspector General C L Belwa said.
        A company commander-level flag meeting was held two days back on this with Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) which was followed by a battalion commander-level meeting, he said.
        "We have seized biscuits and soft drinks from their (Rohingyas') possession, which were manufactured in Bangladesh. These were provided by the World Food Programme, at Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh," he said.
        During the meeting on Thursday, the BGB accepted that Rohingyas came from Bangladesh side and sought two days time for a final decision, Belwa said.
        According to sources in the BSF and the police, over 250 Rohingya Muslims have been detained during the past one year from different parts of the North-East, which share 2000 km long border with the neighbouring country.

  • 2019 July 22 - Monday

    • OPINION:
      Suu Kyi should learn from US sanctions
      on Myanmar military leaders
      over Rohingya

          - The Statesman (India)
            via Asia News Network
            in StraitsTimes (Singapore)

        ............................

    • Rohingya Crisis:
      Dhaka seeks NAM, ASEAN
      member states' role.

      [At meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) nations, Bangladesh ambassador compares plight of Rohingya refugees, from Myanmar, with Palestinians under Israeli occupation.]
          - Daily Star (Bangladesh)

        Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Masud Bin Momen has urged the NAM [(Non-Aligned Movement)] member states -- including the ASEAN [(Association of SouthEast Asian Nations)] neighbours of Myanmar -- to remain engaged, and put in more efforts, so that Myanmar authorities do not fail in taking the Rohingyas back.
        While referring to the oppression against the Palestinian people and violations of international law and international human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory, he cautioned that mere expression of concerns for the misdeeds in Palestine and other places in the world did not stop these from recurring again.
        "Therefore, we must ensure that nations respect international law, and the international community should take necessary measures to hold accountable the perpetrators responsible for crimes against humanity such as those took place against the Rohingyas in Rakhaine State of Myanmar," he said.
        Ambassador Masud said was delivering the national statement at the debate of the Ministerial Meeting of the NAM Coordinating Bureau in Caracas, Venezuela on Sunday, said a media release on Monday.
        The theme of the debate was, "Promotion and consolidation of peace through respect for international law."
        Stating that misunderstanding and cross-cultural ignorance are among the root causes of conflicts that they see today, he said international law which is an essential tool for the protection, maintenance and consolidation of peace draws upon the principles of peace expressed by great scholars and thinkers of the past.
        * * *
        The Ministerial meeting was attended by 16 ministers, and other high level representatives of 85 countries -- from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean region.
        The Ministerial meeting was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza Montserrat.
        President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro also addressed the meeting. ...

  • 2019 July 23 - Tuesday

      ----------

  • 2019 July 24 - Wednesday

    • Satellite images reveal scale
      of Myanmar's Rohingya crisis.

        Myanmar appears unprepared for return of refugees, who might be put in camps.
          - The Guardian (U.K.)

        Analysis of satellite imagery has cast further doubt on promises that arrangements are being made by Myanmar for the safe and humane return of Rohingya Muslims, and revealed that the destruction of their villages has continued.
        Despite repeated assurances by the Myanmar government that it would repatriate the 700,000 Rohingya who fled over the border from Rakhine state after a military-led violent crackdown in August 2017 – violence described by the UN as having "genocidal intent" – the preparations for their return have been "minimal", a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has found.
        "We’ve found no evidence of widespread preparation for Rohingya refugees to return to safe and dignified conditions," stated the report.
        * * *
        The report also found satellite evidence that the burning of the Rohingya villages in Rakhine has continued until this year, long after the initial outbreak of violence in August 2017 when the razing of Rohingya villages and the killing and rape of Rohingya men and women sent hundreds of thousands over the border to refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region.

      BELOW: The Rohingya village of Maw in 2017 (left). In the righthand image, taken in 2018, the scale of the destruction can be clearly seen. (source: Google Earth/ASPI via The Guardian.)

        The ASPI researchers identified at least 58 Rohingya settlements that were subjected to fresh demolition in 2018, while satellite imagery also showed the demolition of other Rohingya villages in 2019, as part of what appears to be a campaign by the Myanmar military to ensure there are no habitable villages for the Rohingya to come back to.
        "What surprised me most was the scale of the continued burning after 2017," said Nathan Ruser, one of the authors of the report. "It wasn’t just scattered villages or occasional homes being burned in 2018 and 2019, the military went through whole landscapes and burned every village. So there is still that widespread, ongoing destruction of Rohingya residential areas."
        Ruser added: "This in particular undercuts the message from the Myanmar government that they are willing to pursue a repatriation process."
        * * *
        Meanwhile, more than 320 Rohingya settlements destroyed in the violence   show no sign of reconstruction -- despite claims that repatriated refugees would be allowed to return to their original villages.
        The data and satellite imagery, said the report, "cast doubt on the credibility of claims that refugees will be allowed to return to their homes".
        "Instead, we’ve found ongoing destruction of additional settlements and the construction of highly securitised camps and military bases that have been built, fortified or expanded on the sites of razed Rohingya settlements."

      BELOW: Hla Pho Khaung village. The second picture, from 2019, shows the construction of the Hla Pho Khaung transit camp, which it is believed has been built to house returning refugees. (source: Google Earth/ASPI via The Guardian.)

        * * *
        While the conditions stipulated by the UN for the return of the Rohingya is that their return must be "voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable" -- which would include freedom of movement -- the ASPI report backed up fears that any returning refugees would, instead, be placed in camps or highly militarised areas.
        Rather than rebuilding Rohingya villages, the satellite images show that the construction focus in Rakhine has been on building or enlarging at least 45 camps, which human rights groups have previously expressed concern would be nothing more than "open-air prisons". In addition, six military facilities have been built or expanded on former Rohingya settlements.
        While some of the structures are intended to house the 128,000 internally displaced Rohingya refugees who are already living in squalid camps in Rakhine, "it’s very likely that the majority of these new camps, especially the ones that are under construction, are designed for returning refugees," said Ruser.
        Nonetheless, the international community has insisted progress is being made towards beginning repatriation, especially as conditions in Cox’s Bazar have worsened in recent months with the destructive and often fatal monsoon flooding. The governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a pact agreeing to work jointly towards repatriation.

    • Regulator launches inquiry into
      Rohingya charitable fund

        The fund is not a registered charity but, as it raised money for charitable purposes, it falls within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
          - CharityUpdate.co.uk (U.K.)

        The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a charitable fund for Rohingya refugees -- which never registered as a charity -- after concerns about how it was operating.
       
      The inquiry was launched in April 2018, after the Commission received information from a partner agency about a separate investigation into the fund’s two trustees: Mohammed Hasnath and Ruksana Ali. The inquiry could not be announced until now, due to the risk of prejudicing that investigation (which the Commission has been informed has now ended).
        The fund raised money between July 2017 and March 2018 for the prevention and relief of poverty of Rohingya refugees, via two online donation platforms, and through social media.
        The fund is not a registered charity but, as it raised money for charitable purposes, it falls within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
        The Commission has acted to safeguard the fund by making an order under section 76(3)(d) of the Charities Act 2011 (‘the Act’) to freeze a number of bank accounts holding the charitable funds.
        The trustees are also ordered under section 76(3)(f) of the Act from undertaking specified transactions in the administration of the fund without prior written approval from the Commission.
        The inquiry is examining:

      • Whether the trustees have properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law in the administration, governance and management of the fund;
      • Whether the trustees have put charitable funds at risk by using them for non-charitable purposes;
      • Whether the trustees can adequately account for the end use of the charitable funds which have already been applied;
      • The conduct of the trustees; and
      • The optimal way to apply the protected charitable funds to support the Rohingya refugees who are the intended beneficiaries.

       

  • 2019 July 25 - Thursday

    • Myanmar 'ill-prepared'
      to repatriate thousands
      of Rohingya.

        Hopes dwindle as report shows little progress in preparing camps for return of refugees.
          - Religion News

           
      (by Union of Catholic Asian News, Hong Kong, China) Myanmar has made minimal preparations for the return of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled Rakhine State and have taken refuge in Bangladesh -- according to a new study by an Australian think-tank.
        The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said in a study released July 24: "Satellite analysis shows minimal preparations for a return of half a million refugees."
        The study, " Mapping conditions in Rakhine State ," found that preparations supposedly being made, for the return of the refugees, cast doubt on the conditions under which they would be expected to live.
        The new study, based on satellite imagery from Dec. 2018 to June 2019, studied 392 Rohingya settlements identified by UNOSAT, the United Nations imagery analysis service, as having been burned, damaged or destroyed in the 2017 crackdown.
        It reveals that more than 320 settlements showed no signs of reconstruction -- and that 45 camps had been built or enlarged... some of which were believed to be already housing internally displaced people.
        More worryingly, the report also described a pattern of what it called "securitization" in the region since 2017, after finding what it suspected to be military facilities built on former Rohingya settlements.
        It identified at least 58 settlements that had been subject to new demolition in 2018 -- and that demolition had continued in other settlements in 2019.

        "The continued destruction of residential areas across 2018 and 2019,  clearly identifiable through our longitudinal satellite analysis, raises serious questions about the willingness of the Myanmar government to facilitate a safe and dignified repatriation process," said Nathan Ruser, from the ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Center.
        "The visual analysis we provide in the report demonstrates this powerfully."
        The Myanmar government and military are yet to respond to the report.
        Kyaw Min, chairman of the Yangon-based Human Rights and Democracy Party, which fights for Rohingya rights, told ucanews.com he was not optimistic about thousands of Rohingya being able to return to their homes in Rakhine.
        "Their houses were burned and destroyed — where will they live if they return?" Kyaw Min asked.
        He added that it would take at least seven years for repatriation to be completed, even if the government’s plan to accept 300 refugees per day proceeded smoothly.
        The release of the new report comes as protracted negotiations continue between Myanmar and Bangladesh for the repatriation of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims ...

    • Barred from jobs,
      Rohingya refugees eat up
      Bangladesh labour market
      ~ Study

          - BDnews24.com (Bangladesh)

        Rohingyas who are not officially allowed to work in Bangladesh are eating up the labour market of the host community in Cox’s Bazar, a study finds.

        They have also lowered the wage rate of the local people, the Policy Research Institute (PRI) study revealed on Thursday.
        "Though they are not supposed to be employed, but we saw them everywhere," Dr MA Razzaque, research director of PRI, said while presenting the report at an event in the presence of Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and UNDP country chief Sudipto Mukherjee.
        PRI conducted study titled ‘The Rohingya refugee crisis and its impact on the host community’ with the support of UNDP.
        Over 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh following August 2017 military crackdown in the Rakhine State that the UN termed "ethnic cleansing".
        The latest influx has taken the Rohingya population to more than 1.1 million in Bangladesh.
        "With less than 0.31 percent* of the earth’s population, Bangladesh hosts 4.7 percent of its total refugees," Dr Razzaque said.
        * [RCN Editor's note: Bangladesh has a reported population of over 144 million people -- actually about 2.05 percent of the planet's population of about 7 billion -- according to the 2006 World Almanac.]
      The study tried to understand poverty and vulnerability, environmental impacts, agricultural production, fishing and related activities, among others.
        "They have created impacts on prices of essentials. Coarse rice was Tk 32 per kilogram before the influx. After the influx, it rose to Tk 38," he said.
        The rate of all wage labourers before the influx was Tk 417 per day n Teknaf which fell to Tk 357 – marking a 14.3 percent decline.
        In Ukhia, it fell to 6.08 percent.
        But in Cox’s Bazar where all NGOs and foreigners are staying to work for the Rohingyas, the daily wage rate rose to 4.2 percent because of the presence of foreigners.
        The study also found that 2,500 households have fallen below the poverty line, while 1300 more have become vulnerable.
        * * *
        PRI Chairman Dr Zaidi Sattar said there have been some "positive impacts" of the crisis, arising from the presence of international agencies and NGOs, that are here to mount a massive humanitarian effort, addressed towards the management of Rohingya refugees -- with complimentary