Sunday, 2 April 2017

Kyauktaw’s Rohingya Community Rejects NV Cards

The Rohingya community in Kyauktaw unanimously rejected the NV Cards also known as the National Verification Cards on Thursday (Mar 30) after their compatriots in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe (Akyab) Townships, it has been reported.
The Mrauk-U District Immigration Chief, U Myint Thein; the Kyauktaw Township Administrator and Immigration Chief; and other administrative bodies held a meeting with the local Rohingyas at the village of ‘Khong Touk’ locally known as ‘Hondol’ in Kyauktaw at around 12:00 noon regarding the issue of the NV Card.
During the meeting, the authorities lured the locals to accept the NV Cards. The District Immigration Chief U Myint Thein said “if you take NV Card, you can travel and do all other things. You can apply for citizenship, too, after receiving the NV Cards.”
Meanwhile, an elderly Rohingya man stood up and said “the 1982 Citizenship Law has nothing to do with us. It’s not for us. We were one of the indigenous groups even before the establishment of 1982 Citizenship Law.” As he continued to express his views, the authorities abruptly stopped him and insulted him “are you a lawyer or something? You don’t need to be a busybody. So, be quiet.”
Then, the authorities asked the remaining people in the meeting if they wanted to accept the NV Cards, to which all of the people unanimously replied ‘NO.’
Before leaving the meeting at 1:30 pm, the authorities did try to coax the people saying “those who have National Registration Cards (NRCs) can apply for the Citizenship Cards. Those who don’t have NRCs must accept the NV Cards.” But the people present didn’t seem interested in the inducement.
The Rohingya people as a whole categorically reject the NVC as it is meant to issue to the foreigners recently arrived in Myanmar and valid for only two years. Therefore, accepting these cards will automatically deprive the Rohingya people of their indigenous status with the identity ‘Rohingya,’ disqualify their citizenship rights by birth and deny them their full rights as citizens.
The Myanmar authorities have severely restricted Rohingya movements and access to their livelihoods since March 19 for refusing to accept the NV Cards in order to force them cease their resistance against the NV Cards.

Myanmar Armed Forces Raid Rohingya Village in Northern Maungdaw

The Myanmar armed forces launched a surprise raid on a Rohingya village called ‘Dudan’ in Northern Maungdaw this morning and have detained at least one hundred villagers since then, according to the reliable sources.
Approximately 1,000 members of the Myanmar military and Border Guard Police (BGP) jointly began to round up the village of ‘Dudan’ locally known as ‘Ludain’ at around 10:00 AM and arbitrarily detained more than 100 people in the village’s school.
While the raids are still going on, the villagers detained are being interrogated with at least two people reported to have been arrested thus far. They are:
1) Idiris (20), s/o Mohammed Hakim
2) Auli Ullah (35), s/o Sayed Amin
“We don’t know why the military and the BGP are raiding our houses and detaining the villagers. It was all of a sudden. We couldn’t offer Friday prayer. We are really terrified”, said a villager while fleeing to escape the arrests by the military.
The exact numbers of the arrestees can not be verified from any sources at the moment and two people have been released from being held.
No harassments or molestations of the Rohingya women by the Myanmar armed forces have been reported yet.

Border Guard Police Tortures Rohingya Villagers in Buthidaung

The Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) has recently started to subject the local Rohingya villagers in southern Buthidaung to arbitrary tortures and money extortions, according to the local sources.
On Tuesday (Mar 28), five Rohingya workers from ‘Mraung Na’ village were severely tortured by the Commander of the BGP Camp based at ‘Aaka Pyan’ Rakhine village in southern Buthidaung.
“The five people were hired by the abbot of the monastery at a Mro village called ‘Yon Khone’ for cutting trees. While they are working on it, the ‘Aaka Pyan’ based BGP Commander arrived at the place; and began to racially insult them and beat them. Although the six workers said to the Commander that they were working for the monastery, still he continued to brutally beat them.
“Finally, the BGP stopped torturing the people only when each of the victims agreed to pay the Commander Kyat 60,000”, said an eyewitness on the condition of anonymity.
The victims are identified as:
1) Junaid (18), s/o Kadir Hussain
2) Dudu Meah (25), s/o Shuna Ali
3) Abdul Malik (20), s/o Mohammed Hussain
4) Mohammed Amin (18), s/o Habibullah
5) Ayat Ullah (20), s/o Khala Meah
Of the give people tortured, Abdul Malik (30) was critically injured and hasn’t been recovered yet.
On Wednesday (March 29) afternoon, another Rohingya man from ‘Thabbyay Taung’ village locally known as ‘Kiyaa Zongya Fara’ was tortured by the same BGP Commander based at the ‘Aaka Pyan’ village.
The victim identified as Shomsul Alam (28), s/o Noor Islam makes his living after collecting firewoods in the village and selling them in the market. He was stopped and tortured by the BGP while he was on his way to the forest I collect firewoods.
The victims suffered severe injuries on his face and mouth; and has since been vomitting blood from his mouth, reports said.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) robbed goats belonged to a helpless Rohingya woman in northern Maungdaw on Tuesday (Feb 21), it has been reported.

At around 12:00 noon on Tuesday, a group of the BGP personnel from the Region 6 camp in northern Maungdaw travelling towards the downtown on a van. The BGP caught some goats grazing by the Kyikanpyin (Hawar Bil)-Maungdaw Expressway post the Kyikanpyin checkpost, put them on the van and took them away.
The livestock belonged to ‘Ms. Mariam d/o Noor Ali, 32, from Kyikanpyin, a helpless mother of three children estranged from her husband when he got jailed in Malaysia after he fled from Myanmar to escape violence.
She, after the BGP had robbed her goats, said “the BGP and the military are not public servants but trained and licensed robbers.”
On Thursday (Feb 23), Sub-lieutenant Myint Kyu, the In-charge of the BGP Camp at Maung Ni village, arrested a poor man from the village on an arbitrary accusation of gambling and detained in the Camp. The next day, the BGP In-charge extorted Kyat 400,000 from him for his release.
A local man in the village said “this sub-lieutenant policeman was here as the in-charge of the cano during **Nasaka time too. Then, also, he was notorious for money extortions. Now, he has been enough posted here again as the BGP In-charge. So, he has resumed his money extortion business. We request the higher officials or the concerned quarters to take actions against the corrupted officers like him.”
**Nasaka is the former Border Security Force and the preceding department of the Border Guard Police.

More than 200 Rohingya civilians arrested in northern Maungdaw on 14th November 2016 are now facing arbitrary trials and subjected to long-term imprisonments, reports say.

On the November 14 last year, the Myanmar military rounded up the village of ‘Ye Dwin Chaung’ and arrested more than 200 innocent Rohingya men taking refuge in the village to escape from arbitrary arrests in its neighboring villages — such as ‘Pwin Phyu Chaung’ and ‘Kyar Gaung Taunt.’ They were detained without sufficient foods to eat and brutally tortured in the cells of the Border Guard Police (BGP) headquarter for two weeks.
Afterwards, they were transferred to the Buthidaung prison, where the authorities have tortured them less but detained them without providing critically required medical treatments; and regular and proper meals since then.
It has been learnt that the authorities are now putting the victims on arbitrary trials under four criminal charges — such as Section 302 (Murder), Section 17/1 (Unlawful Association Act), Section 324 (Voluntarily Causing Hurt by Dangerous Weapons) and one more — and using the office of the clerks of the Buthidaung Township Administration as an alternative courtroom for the trial.
The victims were apparently given the rights to hire their own lawyers.
“The victims have been allowed to hire their own lawyers. But winning margin of their cases are extremely slim, according to some lawyers, as all the prosecutors and the witnesses are the military themselves”, said a man, related to a victim charged under the false cases, while speaking to Rohingya Vision on the condition of anonymity.
The man further added “hundreds of other victims arrested and sentenced to long-term imprisonments earlier didn’t even get the right to know under what charges they were jailed. Neither did the lawyers working for Maungdaw High Court. The Judge made to the place of the detention and just read out the verdicts and terms of the imprisonments to the victims”
More than 1,500 innocent village men have been arrested and detained or imprisoned since the Myanmar military and the Border Guard Police began the so-called “Region Clearance Operation” in Maungdaw on October 9, 2016. Many of whom have been reported to have either died by falling sick due to ruthless tortures or been mercilessly killed after the arrests.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The displaced locals at the village of ‘Kyikanpyin’ will likely be able to return to their original places according to the verbal permission given by the Border Guard Police (BGP) in Maungdaw on Friday (Feb 17) afternoon, sources have reported.

The Myanmar military and the BGP conducted sporadic attacks on ‘Wapeik’ hamlet of the village of ‘Kyikanpyin’ in northern Maungdaw and burnt down the locals’ homes in October 2016, while ‘Middle hamlet’ (of Kyikanpyin) was entirely removed with the order of the BGP Commander ‘Brigadier General Thura San Lwin’ on October 23, 2016, displacing several hundreds of local people in the village.
At around 2:30 PM on February 17, ‘Brigadier General Thura San Lwin’ summoned the displaced people from these two hamlets for a meeting and told them they could return to their original places.
“The BGP Commander ‘Thura San Lwin’ said that they had to burn down homes in the Wapeik hamlet and expel people from the Middle hamlet because the terrorists were hiding in there and we could now return to our original places. According to him, the villagers of Wapeik can rebuild their houses, but the villagers of the middle hamlet can only repair their houses as they were not burnt down but damaged by the Natalas, illegal Rakhine settlers.
Besides, some displaced families of Wapeik whose houses were near to the BGP headquarter won’t be able return to their original lands but will be relocated somewhere else. He also threatened the people attending the meeting that the whole Kyikanpyin will be wiped out from the map if incidents like October 9, 2016 attacks happen again”, said a local, who attended the meeting on the condition of anonymity.
“However, we are still skeptic. We don’t know if we are permanently allowed to return to our original places or it was just an attempt to create news headlines on it and reduce international pressures,” he added.
During the meeting, the BGP Commander also accused three ordinary villagers of Kyikanpyin as people linked with insurgents in the region. Locals have confirmed them to be just simple and innocent people targeted and blacklisted by the BGP because they met with the UN-led Diplomats on November 2 and other UN representatives. They are:
  • Salimullah (s/o) Abdu Gaffar, a shopkeeper from the middle hamlet
  • Shafiur Rahman, a volunteer school teacher from Wapeik
  • Haarsoo, a fishery pond owner from Wapeik
Although the BGP Commander allowed the displaced people of Wapeik to return their home lands, the village administrator of Kyikanpyin, U Zaw Phyo Tun (a Rakhine), stopped the people on the way to the northern part of Wapeik, which is the main section of the village, mentioning that the village section is near to ‘Aung Zay Zayar’ village, an illegal Natala Rakhine settlement.
At around 6:45 PM yesterday (on Feb 17), the house of Hussain (son of) Abdu Karim at the Middle Hamlet was set on fire. When the neighboring Rohingya villagers rushed to the place to extinguish the fire, they saw a group of Natala Rakhine extremists including the one identified as U Tun Kyi (27), s/o U Thein Maung fleeing from the scene on motorcycles. Earlier, at around 6:00 PM, a Rohingya from the Kyikanpyin village also witnessed the group of Rakhine extremists sitting by the road before the house set ablaze later.

The Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) arrested six Rohingya figureheads in southern Maungdaw for skipping a meeting held on Sunday (on Feb 19) in relation to National Verification Card also called NVC, it has been reported.

The Rakhine (formerly known as Arakan) State minister, Colonel Htin Lin; and the Maungdaw Township Administrator and his team visited the village of ‘Alay Than Kyaw (locally called Haishshu Rata)’ yesterday afternoon. Then, they summoned the local figureheads and representatives of the village for a meeting related to the NVC at the village administration office at around 2:30 pm.
Some local figureheads attended the meeting, while the most skipped it, according to a local source. The Rakhine state minister ordered the villagers through the meeting to accept the NVC. A Rohingya cleric as well as other figureheads that attended the meeting questioned and opposed the order.
After the meeting was over, at around 6:00 pm of the day, the Border Guard Police from the Region 7 Camp conducted raids on the residences of the six Rohingya figureheads that had been absent in the meeting and arrested five of them (i.e. six figureheads). Meanwhile, the Border Guards arrested the wife of another figurehead as he was not present in his house at the time of the raids. They detained her in the police camp until her husband came and handed himself over to the BGP to release her.
Three of them released later having forced them to agree to accept the NVCs.
They are:
1) Lalu (30), Jamil
2) Nabi Uddin (50)
3) Fayazu (70), Nurul Jamal
Meanwhile, three others have still been detained in the BGP. They are:
1) Dr. Rashid (75)
2) Sayedullah (52), Moghul (he has been detained since he surrendered himself to release his wife on February 19 evening.)
3) Sayedullah (70), Ali Akhbar
The Rohingya people as a whole categorically reject the NVC as it is meant to issue to the foreigners recently arrived in Myanmar and valid for only two years. Therefore, accepting these cards will automatically deprive the Rohingya people of their indigenous status with the identity ‘Rohingya,’ disqualify their citizenship rights by birth.
Additional Report: The Myanmar government has severely restricted the movement of Rohingya people in Maungdaw for refusing to accept the NVC. The BGP is not allowing the people to go past the checkposts across Maungdaw without NVCs in their possessions.
[Edited by M.S. Anwar]

Monday, 30 January 2017

Joint Statement on the assassination of U Ko Ni.

Date: 29 January 2017

We, the following signatories, strongly condemn the tragic assassination of U Ko Ni, an expert in constitutional law and a legal advisor for Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), outside Yangon airport today (29th Jan 2017). U Ko Ni was assassinated upon his arrival from the official visit to
Jakarta, led by Information Minister Pe Myint, to study peaceful and
interfaith life in Indonesia.

U Ko Ni is the only Muslim, holding advisory position to NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi. In addition, he is the one who has expertise on the critical analysis of successive Myanmar government’s discriminatory laws against Rohingya and Myanmar Muslim minority. Furthermore, U Ko Ni was widely considered in Myanmar as main legal advisor who managed to penetrate the military drafted constitutions which bar Aung San Suu Kyi from being the President of Myanmar to be Aung San Suu Kyi the head of the state as State Counsellor. Therefore, we strongly believe that the assassination of U Ko Ni is a calculated political killing. We also believe this is the threat to the democracy and peaceful co-existence of multi-faith and multi-ethnic community in Myanmar.

We are deeply saddened and shocked. We believe that the loss of such a prominent human rights champion is shocking for all peace loving people across Myanmar in general, for Muslims in particular. We offer our heart-felt condolences to the family of U Ko Ni and his friends. We assure you that we will be mourning with you during these sad days, and will pray for the healing of this deep loss. There can never be any justification for political violence and terrorism.

We consider U Ko Ni as the champion and hero of human rights for ethnic minorities in Myanmar.

We urge the government of Myanmar, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to hold a “state funeral ceremony” for U Ko Ni. We also urge Aung San Suu Kyi to form an independent investigation commission to transparently investigate the bottom of the assassination immediately. All those responsible for this assassination must be investigated and brought into justice as soon as possible.

We also request Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Myanmar to  provide safety and security to all people in Myanmar irrespective of race and religion.

For more information,

Dr. Wakar Uddin (ARU), + 1 8147 774498

MP U Shwe Maung (AiPAD), + 1 3307856603

Dr. Anita Schug (ERC), + 4915750685496

Dr. Hla Kyaw (ERC), +31652358202


Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU)

Arakan Institute for Peace and Development (AiPAD)

Arakan Rohingya Youth Association (ARYA)

Burmese Rohingya Association of North America (BRANA)

The European Rohingya Council (ERC)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Maungdaw — A Myanmar Border Guard Policeman (BGP) robbed and beat a poor Rohingya woman in southern Maungdaw on January 15, a local source has reported.

The policeman robbed Kyat 60,000 and a nose ring worth Kyat 50,000 from the victim woman identified as Shashidah (25), daughter of U Ali Hussein, from the village of ‘Kyaung’Taung (Gora Hali)’ in southern Maungdaw.
It has been learnt that it was about 3:00 PM when got body-searched and robbed by the policeman on her way back home from her parents’ home in the village of ‘Udaung.’
“Ms. Shamshidah and her family is facing financial hardships. So, she went her parents to borrow some money. On her way back home, she encountered with a policeman from the BGP post between Gora Hali and Udaung passing by her on a motorcycle. He stopped her and searched her body.
So, he found Kyat 60,000 in her, which she borrowed from her parents and one nose ring. He robbed them all. When the woman demanded them back, he beat him mercilessly”, said a local Rohingya in the region.
When the village in-charge of ‘Kyaung Taung’ asked the policeman to return the woman her belongings, the policeman posed death threats even to him (the village-charge).
Later, the village in-charge lodged a complaint to the commander of the military infantry unit (nearby the mountain) in the village, some military personnel arrived at the (Kyaung Taung) BGP post and made the policeman return the money to the poor lady. However, the policeman didn’t return her her nose ring refusing that he hadn’t robbed it.
The same policeman beat a Rohingya man identified as Abdullah (son of) Abu Siddique from ‘Kanpoo’ village on the same day.
Although they are the Rohingya people in northern Maungdaw that have been under siege and continual assaults of the Myanmar armed forces for months, the people in southern Maungdaw too are frequently subjected to arbitrary arrests, tortures and loots.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Maungdaw — The Myanmar authorities accompanying Ms. Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar who is on a four-day visit in Arakan, duped her into visiting a wrong village in southern Maungdaw last Saturday (Jan 14), it has been reported.

On Saturday morning, the UN Rapporteur set off to meet the villagers of ‘Koetankauk (Dounsay Fara) in Rathedaung Township as initially scheduled. However, the authorities took her to the village of ‘Thawan Chaung’ in southern Maungdaw bypassing ‘KoeTankauk’ (in northern Rathedaung). 
She came to know she was in a wrong place when she asked the villagers of Thawan Chaung after being in the village. Angered with the accompanying authorities double-crossing her, she left the place and didn’t return to ‘KoeTankauk’ village again. 
On Sunday (Jan 15) morning, she visited the violence-hit northern Maungdaw region which has been sealed off since the Myanmar military began offensives on the Rohingya civilians in the region on October 9, 2016.
Deceived by the Myanmar Authorities once earlier, she asked the authorities to stop accompanying her in northern Maungdaw and instead, she chose to visit a few Rohingya villages in the region on her own accompanied only by her interpreters.
She visited the village of Kyikanpyin (locally known as Hawar Bil) and met up with the villagers especially women. After that, she visited Wapeik (Wabek) village but couldn’t meet anyone as the village had been deserted by the villagers due to brutal operations by the Myanmar armed forces (i.e. the Military and the Border Guard Police).
Post that, she visited a few other Rohingya villages such as KyetYoePyin (Kiyari Ferang), PyaungPaik (Haant Gojja Fara), Ngakura (Nagpura) and Sinthaepyin (Haanti Fara). 
During the visits by the UN Rapporteur especially without any members of Myanmar armed force accompanying her , the victims in the region were able to open up to her how the Myanmar armed forces torched their homes, unlawfully killed hundreds of innocent people, raped more than 200 women, arbitrarily arrested hundreds of civilians and plundered their properties. It has been learnt that Ms. Yanghee Lee got chance to also talk to some victim women who have become pregnant after being raped by the Myanmar forces.
Some locals in Maungdaw have raised their concerns over the possible distortions in interpretations by a female interpreter named Ms. Khet Khet that accompanied the UN Rapporteur during the visits. The interpreter is a Rakhine woman known for being an anti-Muslim racist remarks on the Rohingya during her term with UNHCR as a Community Development Facilitator in Arakan State.
Ms. Lee’s trip to assess the human rights situation in Arakan will end today and overall it could be considered successful one.

Buthidaung — A Rohingya Cleric was tortured to death by the Myanmar military in Buthidaung Township last Sunday (on Jan 15), a reliable source has reported.

The victim cleric is identified as Mv. Badullah (60) from the village of ‘Ngaran Chaung’ in ‘Taung Bazaar’ area in Northern Buthidaung. 
Last Friday (on Jan 13), approximately 30 military personnel from the ‘Battalion 552’ raided the house of Mv. Badullah and arrested him was along with his son Hala Bodiya apparently with the accusation of possessing weapons. 
The cleric was inhumanely tortured for two days leading him to an unfortunate demise on Sunday. 
On Monday (Jan 16) morning, the military took the dead body of the cleric to Taung Bazaar hospital for autopsy. Afterwards, the military summoned the remaining family members of the cleric and some elderly persons from his (the deceased’s) neighborhood and forced them to give statement and sign (on papers) that he was an asthma patient and died because of the disease.
After that, the military handed over the dead body to the family members for funeral and he was buried in the evening. 
Earlier, the military arrested three more villagers of Ngaran Chaung on January 9 on arbitrary allegation of involving in the raids on the three Border Guard Police (BGP) posts in Maungdaw on October 9, 2016. They were publicly tortured after the arrests and taken to the Battalion 552. From there, they were transferred to the Buthidaung Prison in the evening on January 9 without any trial. 
They are:
1) Abu Sufyan
2) and his son Burshah
3) Sultan Ahmed
The Myanmar military have since recently started conducting sporadic raids on Rohingya villages in ‘Taung Bazaar’ area on pretext of searching weapons hidden in the region. The military have ordered the villagers of ‘Ngaran Chaung’ through the village administrator, U Maung Lone, to stay home and also threatened them (the villagers) to be shot dead in case of fleeing from homes (in fear of arrests) during raids.

Maungdaw — Two exhumed mass graves at the village of ‘Dar Gyi Zar’ in Northern Maungdaw have revealed decomposed dead bodies of at least a dozen of people, reliable sources have reported.

The gruesome scenes of the skulls and skeletons found in the mass graves in ‘Dar Gyi Zar’ locally known as ‘Bor Gozi Bil’ (as shown in the pictures below) show the shocking scale of the local Rohingya Muslims massacred by the joint forces of Myanmar’s military and Border Guard Police (BGP) reported between 12th-14th November 2016.
A local in Northern Maungdaw (as his identity can’t be disclosed for security reasons) said “we unearthed the mass graves on January 10 in the hope that we would show them to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, as a proof of how the Myanmar military and BGP have committed massacres of our people. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to visit ‘Bor Gozi Bil’ during her visit that has left us disgruntled.
However, we are still hopeful and want to show the pictures of the mass-graves to the world and Ms. Yanghee Lee through media.”
According to the accounts of the surviving victims in the locality, at least 31 civilians were massacred by the Myanmar armed forces at the Dar Gyi Zar village alone in mid November 2016.
Human Rights groups backed with satellite images, accounts of the survivors in Bangladesh (who fled from Maungdaw to escape from killings) , reliable reports from the ground (in Maungdaw) and other credible sources, firmly claim that the atrocities and crimes being committed against the Rohingya ethnic group in Northern Maungdaw since October 9, 2016, amount to ethnic cleansing or genocide. However, the office of Myanmar’s State Counsellor, Suu Kyi, have always been quick to dismiss the reports and claims of the ethnic cleansing or genocide as Fake, while successfully sealing off the northern Maungdaw region from humanitarians, international media and international investigation teams and keeping the international community in dark.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

‘Myanmar must recognise Rohingyas as citizens’

Vijay Nambiar of India served as the United Nations’ special advisor on Myanmar from January 2012 to December 2016. In this capacity, he played a key role in supporting Myanmar’s transition to democracy. He was also the main UN voice on the Rohingya issue. Previously, he served as chief of staff of the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, a position he held from 2007 to 2012. A member of the Indian foreign service, Nambiar served as his country’s ambassador to Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
Prothom Alo’s special correspondent for the US Hasan Ferdous spoke to him on Sunday in New York.
Prothom Alo: You have visited the Rakhaine State several times. How would you describe the situation there?
Vijay Nambiar: I have not been to the Rakhaine State for quite some time, certainly not since 9 October 2016. After the 2012 violence (against the Rohingya Muslims), I was the first international (person) to visit the place. I also inspected the camps in Mongdaw, where the “boat people” rescued from the sea were given shelter.  Thus, I have seen the desperation as well as the complexities of the issue. During the (previous military government), I had been trying to impress them that unless they were more sensitive and tackled the problem in terms of their root causes, including citizenship and status, there was a danger that the situation could be further radicalised.
PA: I believe, after your last visit, you said there have been targeted killings.
VN: No, not after the last visit. I did say of targeted killings after the 2012 visit. That year in October, there were some targeted killings. It was very difficult to distinguish between common civilians and others.  Due to this, there was a danger of targeted killing.
PA: The international press have reported extensively about looting, burning and even incidents of rape, not just in the past but now.
VN: Yes, but these have also been denied by the local people. It was very difficult to get accurate information which could be verified independently. Much of the information has been filtered through the government, and the government has fiercely denied such accusations, especially rape.  We got some reliable information from outside, which said there were no reports of rape, initially for the first few weeks. Then suddenly these reports started appearing. I do agree, as repercussions, there could be attacks against women and children. But whether these were deliberate, I have not been able to independently confirm.
PA: The head of UNHCR in Dhaka called the military action against the Rohingyas a genocide.
VN: No, he did not. He did say there was ethnic cleansing, but did not use the word genocide. UNHCR later said it was his personal view and did not reflect the position of the organisation.
PA: Are you saying that things have got better?
VN: There has not been an escalation of violence, although the security forces feel threats of attack against them still remain.  Therefore, the lockdown they have imposed in the area has continued. Even though they have said the media and some of the agencies would be allowed to go in. It has been kind of an up and down situation.  There is effectively a lockdown, and the local people continue to face anxiety and uncertainty.  They are simply frightened, they are worried how long this would continue.  I think there is a need for the government to take pro-active action to reassure the local community. While they can legitimately take action against those who pose a security threat, that should not be visited on the entire population.  And the civilian population needs assurance that they would be protected.
PA: You briefed the Security Council on 17 November. Some reports say you advised the council members to go easy on Myanmar.
VN: No, I did not say that. What I said was that the lady (Aung San Suu Kyi) said she needed space and time, and I said, yes, she needed time and space to address the issue. When she was at the United Nations in September last year, she assured her support for human rights and dignity for all the people in the country. She said she would stand firm against violence and intolerance. She reiterated her faith in fundamental human rights and dignity of human persons. She, in my view, is capable of taking action that would change the situation. She has the moral authority and political clout to bring about necessary change. If anything can be done, it has to be done by the government and by her.  I personally feel that she would do the right thing if she is given the confidence by the people.
PA: What about the army? Does she (Suu Kyi) enjoy support from the army in dealing with the situation?
VN: At the moment, the military is looking at it purely as a security threat. After all, every hammer looks for a nail. There has to be some pressure on the military to look at the larger political dynamics, not purely as a threat.   At the moment, I don’t think Aung San Suu Kyi is in a position to push the military far enough. But if anybody can do it, in my view, it is Suu Kyi. She would do the right thing.
PA: The government has formed an investigation team that has already denied any religious persecution.
VN: I think there is still institutionalised discrimination inside the country. The current situation (of not granting the Rohingyas citizenship) has created a (dangerous) situation. The constitution itself recognises 135 ethnic groups.  There has been recognition — by Aung San and her father — that there is a need for the country to come together as a nation. (Unfortunately) there is still strong resistance among the majority groups against smaller minority groups, and they need to overcome this.
PA: Former secretary general Kofi Annan who recently visited Myanmar seemed very soft on the government.
VN: I agree with him on some of his positions, both in terms of complexity of the issue and for the country, especially its leadership, to raise its moral voice to reassure the minority community and to allow greater access to humanitarian assistance and the media. I also agree with him that a resolution has to be found through a political process.  It should be done through soft pressure. I don’t think that using such labels like ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ can help. These charges cannot be thrown around loosely. Even some senior US state department officials have said unless handled carefully, the situation could be infested with extremists.  All efforts must be made to avoid the situation getting worse.
PA: Can you explain the issue of radicalisation?
VN: I think the situation can be handled better if looked at it politically. If the local population continues to feel beleaguered and desperate, then it becomes a fertile ground for radicalisation.
PA: What about a regional approach?
VN: The first regional approach has been through ASEAN. The Bali Process — adopted in 2002 and supported by 48 countries to deal with the refugee crisis — can be a useful tool. The approach that Malaysia has taken — of sending a flotilla — does not seem to be productive.  On the other hand, Indonesia has been working with Myanmar over the months and beyond, after the 2012 events. They have been actively sending various humanitarian assistances.
More importantly, it should be between Bangladesh and Myanmar to discuss bilaterally. I understand the government of Myanmar has said it would send a deputy minister to Dhaka for meetings, and they are looking for a time when this could take place.  The UN is also sending its Special Rapporteur (on the situation of human rights in Myanmar) Yanghee Lee.
PA: What would be your advice to the government of Bangladesh?
VN: I think Bangladesh has so far been very constructive. It has been very careful of not allowing the situation to aggravate. At the same time, I understand they are under pressure due to the influx of refugees.  As their number goes up, there would inevitably be pressure to give them (the refugees) humanitarian assistance and protection which over time could become not possible for Bangladesh. There has to be a bilateral agreement on resettling the refugees back in Myanmar. I believe that this was done (successfully) in the 1990s.
PA: So, where do we go from here and what would be the action plan?
VN: The first thing  that needs to be done by the government of Myanmar — from people at the top leadership position – is to reassure the people of the northern state of Rakhine, particularly its Muslim community, that their protection, safety and dignity would be ensured. And wherever there would be excesses committed, they would be dealt with in an exemplary manner so that the locals do not feel that they may become victims.
Secondly, there has to be credible way in which (this) investigation takes place.  The people need to be reassured that all government and security actions would be taken strictly in accordance with the law and in a transparent way and in a manner in which the international community is brought into the picture.  Unless that happens, there will be lingering doubts and questions of credibility.
Thirdly, the government has to address the root cause, the issue of citizenship.  I understand the majority of the Rohingyas have in the past been recognized (as citizens). That process of reassurance must start soon.  There has to be a sense of assurance among the Rohingyas that the government recognises them as citizens, and the minority would be given their due place in the country. Under a unified federal structure, minorities need to be given the assurance that they are as much part of the country as the rest.  This would create a sense of ownership and they would have participation in the governance of the country.
PA: Do you see a role for the UN?
VN: The UN is willing to play a role, but it has to be dealt with nationally. If the international community is involved — either through the UN or regional organisations — the credibility of the political process would be enhanced and this could lead to the resolution of the problem.

About Me

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Maung daw, Arakan state, Myanmar (Burma)
I am an independent man who voted to humanitarian aid.