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Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi to meet Barack Obama regarding persecution of Muslim Minority Group Rohingya

The tragic treatment of the Rohingya amounts to genocide or not is a delicate political issue and how Suu Kyi addresses their plight is will be kept on check by the activists of Myanmar

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Rohingya stand outside their camp.
  • Since the sectarian and ethnic violence in 2012, thousands of Rohingya, claimed to be one of the world’s most persecuted minority groups, have been in deplorable condition
  • The chairman of North America Rohingya Association, Uddin, claims to have to insist the US officials to remind Suu Kyi to take steps to help the Rohingya
  • A legal study in Yale Law School in 2015 shows evidence of the treatment of the Rohingya as Genocide

Sept 15, 2016: When Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi meets President Barack Obama at the White House this week, activists will be keenly observing each of her actions to see how the pro-democracy icon addresses the plight of the country’s ethnic Rohingya, who, as claimed by the human rights groups, are among the world’s most persecuted minority groups.

Since ethnic and sectarian violence erupted in 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya have been living in overcrowded camps in conditions that rights groups have condemned as deplorable. Mosques have been shuttered and marriages unrecognized by the government. The government restricts their movement, limiting the Rohingya’s access to health care, education, and job opportunities.

In fact, most Rohingya are not even considered citizens. The Myanmar government and many of its citizens see them as illegal immigrants, and even refuse to call them by their preferred name, “Rohingya.”

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Instead, Myanmar refers to them as “Bengalis,” reflecting the view that they are from neighboring Bangladesh, even though many Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for generations. Aung San Suu Kyi herself has said that the Rohingya term is “divisive” and the government will refrain from using it.

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Thousands of Rohingya have fled abroad, risking dangerous trips to Indonesia or Malaysia since 2012. But an estimated 140,000 remain displaced in internal camps. Some rights groups have argued the treatment amounts to ethnic cleansing or even genocide.

“The situation on the ground today is not good,” said Wakar Uddin, a leading U.S.-based Rohingya advocate who met late last week with several U.S. administration officials to brief them — and sat down with VOA for an interview.

“People are dying. We have dire issues that need to be addressed,” Uddin said. “One hundred forty thousand [people] in camps, lingering. They need to be returned.”

Uddin is the founding chairman of the North America Rohingya Association and a professor of agricultural science at Pennsylvania State University.

Despite his deep concerns, he sees some hope with the creation of a commission headed by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, which has the blessing of the Myanmar’s quasi-military government. The commission is charged with probing the Rohingya conflict and filing a report within a year’s time, a kind of roadmap toward a future solution.

“This Kofi Annan commission is highly capable,” Uddin said. “They will be able to produce a balanced report: the truth. Whatever the truth is.”

Trust is key, added Uddin. “They will be and they should be talking to the victims, who have gone through this hardship.”

That said, he is calling for immediate action now to alleviate the humanitarian suffering. Uddin told VOA that he specifically pressed U.S. officials this week to remind Aung San Suu Kyi to take steps now. Other experts agree.

“The Annan commission has the ability to propose solutions that will assist the Rohingya and the Rakhine,” said Ronan Lee, an Australian-based researcher. “The commission will not make its report until the second half of 2017, meaning human rights for the Rohingya need to be progressed before this.”

Lee also pointed out that Myanmar’s Buddhists also need immediate help.

“It’s important to remember, too, that while the Rohingya Muslims have and continue to suffer dreadfully, Rakhine state’s majority ethnicity, the Rakhine Buddhists, are often also living in appalling poverty,” he said.

Uddin believes that, after speaking with U.S. officials, some of these more urgent, immediate humanitarian steps will be taken ahead of the Annan commission’s report.

One delicate political issue confronting Myanmar’s leadership, the Obama administration, and activists and Buddhists in Myanmar: Does the treatment of the Rohingya amount to genocide?

“You cannot paint with a broad brush. There are all kinds of voices in the community that use their own terminology,” Uddin said. “I really do not want to dwell on these terms. We want to make every effort to not anger the other side.”

Labeling the treatment of Rohingya as genocide could compel the 147 countries that have signed the 1948 Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide treaty to intervene in the situation. That would mark an extreme step, but one that some activists say is necessary.

“This is the case where we, as the predominantly Buddhist society, has been misled and brainwashed in the way the Nazis brainwashed and turned the German citizens against Jews,” said Maung Zarni, a human rights campaigner and co-author of the book “A Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar.”

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Researcher Lee points to other researchers whom he said confirm Zarni’s position.

“A well-researched report from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London was certain the Rohingya had been victims of state crimes and ‘genocidal persecution,’” Lee said, while admitting his own research has not focused specifically on the question of genocide.

A separate legal study by researchers at Yale law school in 2015 that analyzed Rohingya testimonies, Myanmar government documents, and analyses by other aid groups argued that there is strong evidence of genocide. The group argued that while it was difficult to determine whether the treatment of Rohingya was intended to destroy them “in whole or in part,” the available evidence strongly suggests that their treatment meets the legal definition of genocide.

As to whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi will act on the Rohingya issue, North America Rohingya Association’s Uddin is hopeful.

“I believe Aung San Suu Kyi is a visionary,” Uddin said. “She cares about our people. She recognizes that this Rohingya issue has risen to a global scale.”

Ultimately, Uddin added, as one of the most revered and well-known political campaigners in the world, she recognizes that “she cannot ignore this.” (VOA)

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Nearly 58% of Rohingya Refugees are Kids Suffering from Severe Malnutrition, Says UN Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Bangladesh, October 20, 2017 : Nearly fifty-eight per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) report also said that these children were highly exposed to infectious diseases, Efe news reported.

“In a sense it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” said Simon Ingram, Unicef official and author of the report.

Titled “Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future” was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering”.

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

The report also highlighted several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky.

In mid-August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees “are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops”, he said.

According to the Unicef estimates, one in every five children under the age of five is suffering from acute malnutrition and about 14,500 suffer severe acute malnutrition.

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water as these children consumed only contaminated water which is another main source of infection.

With regard to child protection, the expert welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification tasks carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced or early marriages, Ingram explained that for now they have only punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as in Cox’s Bazar.

What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people.

Not only do they have to be recognized as refugees, but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way, he said, should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

Unicef and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but the talks are still in process.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and are therefore stateless. (IANS)

 

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UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar's Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

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Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA

United Nations, October 17, 2017: The UN food aid agency withdrew a critical report revealing desperate hunger among the Rohingya Muslim minority after the Myanmar government ordered it to be taken down, the media reported on Tuesday.

The July assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that more than 80,000 children under the age of five were “wasting” – a potentially fatal condition of rapid weight loss, reports the Guardian.

The six-page document has since been replaced with a statement saying Myanmar and WFP were “collaborating on a revised version”.

That process would involve “representatives from various ministries, and will respond to the need for a common approach” that was in line with “WFP’s future cooperation with the government”.

When asked why the July report was removed, the WFP said it was withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review”, the Guardian reported.

In a statement, the agency said: “The WFP stands by its original assessment, which was conducted jointly with local authorities in Rakhine state… However WFP recognises that in a dynamic and evolving situation, it is important to coordinate closely with all partners, including the government.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s most senior official in the country is scheduled to leave at the end of the month amid allegations she suppressed another report and also attempted to shut down public advocacy on Rohingya suffering.

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar’s Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

It resulted in over half a million Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, many alleging that the Myanmar Army conducted a counter-offensive that included mass killings and rapes.(IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)