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

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