April 28, 2016. MYANMAR:Buddhists monks along with several other protesters confronted the United States for using the term ‘Rohingya’ to refer a Bengali Muslims ethnic minority group. On Thursday, the protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, Yangon, and carried slogan boards proclaiming “No more use of the term ‘Rohingya”, “U.S. Embassy get out if you say more,” and “We request the present authorities of the state to announce the truth that Rohingyas are not Myanmar citizens at all.” They marched from the Yongon University to U.S. Embassy confronting the statement issued on April 20.
The protestors -many were Monks- insisted that the ethnic minority of Muslims should rather be called ‘Bengalis’ and regarded as illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh as there is no ethnicity of ‘Rohingya’ in their country. Despite many of the ancestors of the minority group have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are denied of basic rights and even citizenship as the country officially does not recognize Rohigya as an ethnic group.
The protest was ignited by the statement of U.S. Embassy referring minority group as Rohigya and expressing sympathies for the people, who drowned off the shore of Rakhine State on April 19.
Many of the people of the group are living in poor conditions in filthy displacement camps after being forced to flee their homes over the conflict erupted in the western state of Rakhine in 2012 which raised tensions between Buddhists of Rakhine and the Muslim group. They are restricted to travel freely in the country, to higher education and even to marry or have children without official permission.
Earlier this month, United Nations had given 100 days to Myanmar’s current civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to improve living conditions for this minority group.
The U.N. refugee and migration agencies are jointly appealing for $877 million to aid 855,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled violence and persecution from Myanmar three years ago, and more than 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis hosting them.
More than half of the money will provide vital services, including food, shelter, clean water and sanitation. The rest of the appeal will be used for health, protection, education, site management, energy and environmental needs.
Shahriar Alam of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says his government has welcomed this large exiled population within its midst. But he acknowledges their presence poses challenges and that the solution to the plight of the Rohingya refugees is repatriation to Myanmar when that becomes possible. But this is unlikely to happen, he says, without the vigorous support of the International community.
“We expect that U.N. member countries to do more and work closely and do everything possible to put pressure on Myanmar to take their citizenship back in a manner, a repatriation that is safe, voluntary, and dignified,” Alam said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi agrees that Bangladesh deserves support for hosting nearly one million Rohingya. He laments the short attention span of the media and the international community who quickly move from one crisis to another.
As a consequence, he says the Rohingya have become largely forgotten. He agrees with the Government of Bangladesh that the solution continues to be in Myanmar.
“The problem is that things that need to be done there to create conditions for refugees to return from Bangladesh into Myanmar are too slow or not happening yet–freedom of movement, return of internally displaced people that are in camps in Rakhine State,” Grandi said.
Grandi says those who return should be granted housing, land, and property rights and be given the education and training they need to be able to work. But the most fundamental step of all, he says, is for the Rohingya to be given a path to citizenship.
The Rohingya who have lived in Myanmar for generations were stripped of their citizenship in 1982. (VOA)
Dozens of sprawling informal education centers across refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar are providing a glimmer of hope for thousands of Rohingya refugee children who survived a massacre in their home country of Myanmar in 2017.
Across makeshift camps in refugee city of Kutupalong, hundreds of informal learning centers have been set up by international agencies and Rohingya community leaders to give the refugee children access to education. The opportunity to learn and improve skills is something the youngsters were never offered back in Myanmar.
Sharmeen Noor, a mathematics teacher at Kutupalong Primary School, told VOA that their programs ensure the Rohingya children do not fall behind in their education despite the absence of formal schooling. The centers can also create a positive impact to help those traumatized by the Burmese army’s 2017 crackdown that forced nearly 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh.
“Those who have seen violence think about it all the time,” said Noor. “They pay very little attention in class. As teachers, we are working on this matter. We are trying our best to bring them into normal life. God willing we will do it.”
About 350 Rohingya children are currently enrolled at Kutupalong Primary School, which provides basic informal education from preprimary through fifth grade. The children are taught subjects such as general science, mathematical, English, Burmese, and Bengali.
Noor said many of their teaching activities focus on play-based learning to provide education and at the same time give the children a chance to forget the daily struggles they face in the overcrowded camps. Particular attention is given to children who are mentally challenged.
“We put these children in between two good students so that the kids can follow their example … It is challenging, all kids are not similar. To understand them we have to rely on their mental ability. We make a list of pupils who are behind. To bring them to a normal level, we try to provide something they like, such as games,” Noor added.
More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya people fled their homes in Rakhine province of neighboring Myanmar in the summer of 2017 due to a crackdown by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist militias. The UN has described the army’s campaign in Rakhine province as “textbook ethnic cleansing”, and has charged that the Rohingya people suffered killings, rape, and mass destruction of their homes by the army and Buddhist militias.
Most of those who fled to neighboring Bangladesh have been placed in Kutupalong, making it the largest refugee settlement complex in the world.
An estimated 400,000 of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. Human rights organizations say only one-third of them have access to education. Lack of basic services and health care have also put many children at the risk of malnutrition and infectious diseases.
In a December report, Human Rights Watch said authorities in Bangladesh were deliberately preventing aid groups from providing education in the camps and banning Rohingya children from enrolling in schools outside the camps.
“Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster,” said Bill Van Esveld, the watchdog’s associate children’s rights director.
“The government of Bangladesh saved countless lives by opening its borders and providing refuge to the Rohingya, but it needs to end its misguided policy of blocking education for Rohingya children,” he added.
Informal learning centers
The Bangladesh government, however, announced in January that it was working with the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF to provide formal education to the children. UNICEF described the move as “a major new phase” for education of the refugee children that initially targets 10,000 Rohingya students from grades six to nine and will later be expanded to other grades.
Through a program called the Learning Competency Framework and Approach, the UNICEF currently provides informal education to 220,000 Rohingya children between aged four to 14. An estimated 315,000 children and adults are getting education in over 3,200 learning centers supported by the UNICEF and other agencies.
Many Rohingya refugees, however, say the learning centers are not enough to empower their children and equip them with needed skills.
Across the camps, religious leaders have volunteered to provide religious teaching in mosques and makeshift centers known as Madrasas. The children in the Madrasas mainly focus on Islamic studies and Arabic.
Teacher Abdus Sobhan told VOA that 15 volunteer instructors were working with him at a Madrasa hosting 93 students. The children in his classes are taught to recite Quran and learn Arabic.
“It is important to teach children religion, so that they refrain from bad actions and devote themselves to God,” Sobhan told VOA.
Hafez Idris, another Rohingya teacher based in Kutupalong lambashia I2 B3 camp, is working with four other teachers to help orphaned kids learn how to recite the Quran. The learning center, Nurani Yetim Khana and Hafez Khana, hosts as many as 250 Rohingya orphans who are put into religious studies as well as math, Burmese and English.
“We don’t take any money from students or people from our block, but if anyone willingly wants to contribute, then we accept the money. We run this Madrasa to save our religion and to educate our young generation about religious studies,” he told VOA.
According to Hafiz Ullah, another teacher at Hafez Khana, by providing children with education, even if informal, the community hopes to preserve their culture from being lost after being uprooted from Rakhine state.
Facebook has removed three networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in foreign or government interference on Facebook and Instagram that originated in Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The first operation originated in Russia and primarily targeted Ukraine and its neighbouring countries and the second originated in Iran and focused mainly on the US.
“The third network originated in Myanmar and Vietnam and targeted audiences in Myanmar. Each of them created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy, said in a blog post late Wednesday.
Facebook removed 78 accounts, 11 Pages, 29 Groups and four Instagram accounts in Russia for violating its policy against foreign or government interference.
Some of these accounts represented themselves as citizen journalists and tried to contact policymakers, journalists and other public figures in the region.
“Although the people behind this network attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to Russian military intelligence services,” said Gleicher.
Facebook also removed 6 Facebook accounts and 5 Instagram accounts that were involved in foreign interference as part of a small network originating in Iran that primarily focused on the US.
They shared posts about political news and geopolitics including topics like the US elections, Christianity, US-Iran relations, US immigration policy, criticism of US policies in the Middle East and public figures.
“Finally, we removed 13 Facebook accounts and 10 Pages for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behaviour. This Myanmar-focused activity originated in Myanmar and Vietnam,” said the company.
The individuals behind this network used fake accounts to manage Pages posing as independent telecom consumer news hubs. They also purported to be customers of some of the telecom providers in Myanmar posting critical commentary about those companies and their services.
The investigation found links to two telecom providers — Mytel in Myanmar and Viettel in Vietnam, and Gapit Communications, a PR firm in Vietnam. (IANS)