Conditions Bleak at Rohingya Refugee Camps

Conditions Bleak at Rohingya Refugee Camps

Mud, sludge and rains, coupled with improper sanitation, create a “perfect environment” for disease at Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, according to Dr. Imran Akbar, who shared photos of his visit to the camps with VOA.
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A sick baby is seen at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

A sick baby is seen at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

Shelters line a hillside at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

Shelters line a hillside at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

Rohingya refugees walk along a litter-strewn path next to makeshift tents at a camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

Rohingya refugees walk along a litter-strewn path next to makeshift tents at a camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

A woman holds a sick child at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

A woman holds a sick child at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)

US: Myanmar’s military accountable for Rohingya crisis

US: Myanmar’s military accountable for Rohingya crisis

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled the military's brutal crackdown in Myanmar [Al Jazeera]
More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled the military’s brutal crackdown in Myanmar [Al Jazeera]

The United States holds Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, the US secretary of state said.

Rex Tillerson, however, stopped short of saying on Wednesday whether the US would take any action against Myanmar’s military leaders over an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya out of the country.

“The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area,” Tillerson told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Forty-three US legislators urged the Trump administration to reimpose US travel bans on Myanmar’s military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.

The request, in a letter to Tillerson from members of the House of Representatives, said Myanmar authorities “appear to be in denial of what has happened”, and called for Washington to take “meaningful steps” against those who have committed human rightsabuses.


Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya?

Rohingya have fled Myanmar in large numbers since late August when Rohingya rebel attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.

Tillerson said Washington understood Myanmar had a problem with armed groups, but the military had to be disciplined and restrained in the way it dealt with this and to allow access to the region “so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances”.

“Someone, if these reports are true, is going to be held to account for that,” Tillerson said. “And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide what direction they want to play in the future of Burma.”

Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government.

US senators praise Hasina’s ‘strong leadership and compassion’ on Rohingya issue

US senators praise Hasina’s ‘strong leadership and compassion’ on Rohingya issue


EU to cut ties with Burma over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

EU to cut ties with Burma over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

Use of sanctions also being considered if there is no improvement in situation

The European Union is reportedly set to cut ties with Burma over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

The 27-nation bloc is also considering the use of sanctions if there is no improvement in the crisis which has seen more than half members of the minority community flee the country.

Many are now living in makeshift camps across the border in Bangladesh.

An agreement, which has been approved by EU ambassadors has called for the violence to come to an end. However, it still needs to be signed off by the countries Foreign Ministers.

“In the light of the disproportionate use of force carried out by the security forces, the EU and its member states will suspend invitations to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar/Burma armed forces and senior military officers and review all practical defence cooperation,” the agreement says.

Currently, the EU does not allow the export of arms and equipment that will be used for “internal repression” and warned it would consider “additional measures” if the crisis continued.

The news comes after Burma’s army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing the country’s US ambassador, Scot Marciel, that Rohingya Muslims were not native to his country.

However, he did not address accusations of abuses by his men and said the media was complicit in exaggerating the number of refugees fleeing.

General Hlaing is considered to be one of the most powerful people in Buddhist-majority Burma, which has slowly transitioned towards democracy under under Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Despite widespread condemnation of the country’s treatment of the Rohingya, inside the country, the military’s hardline stance appears to be popular.

General Hlaing referred to the population as “Bengali” a term which is also used by local media, but considered by some to be derogatory.

He also blamed British colonialists for the problems.

Rohingya not native, Myanmar army chief says

Rohingya not native, Myanmar army chief says

Rohingya are not native to Myanmar and were brought by British colonialists, the country’s powerful army chief told the US ambassador.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gave his most extensive account of the Rohingya refugee crisis in the meeting with American Ambassador Scot Marciel, according to a report posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.

The general is the most powerful person in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and his apparently uncompromising stance would indicate little sensitivity over the crisis, in which more than 500,000 people have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Min Aung Hlaing, referring to Rohingya by the term “Bengali”, which they regard as derogatory, said British colonialists were responsible for the problem.

“The Bengalis were not taken into the country by Myanmar but by the colonialists,” he told Marciel, according to the account of the meeting posted on Thursday.

“They are not the natives and the records prove that they were not even called Rohingya but just Bengalis during the colonial period.”

READ MORE: Army offensive aimed at ‘preventing’ Rohingya return

The UN human rights office said on Wednesday that Myanmar’s security forces had brutally driven outhalf a million Rohingya from northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh, torching their homes, crops and villages to prevent them from returning.

Coordinated Rohingya rebel attacks on some 30 security posts on August 25 sparked a ferocious military response.

The UN rights office said in its report, based on 65 interviews with Rohingya who had arrived in Bangladesh, that abuses had begun before the August 25 attacks and included killings, torture, and the rape of children.

The country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to make a speech on television later on Thursday.

She was swept into office last year after winning an election, but the military holds immense power, including exclusive say over security.

“Local Bengalis were involved in the attacks under the leadership of ARSA. That is why they might have fled as they feel insecure,” Min Aung Hlaing said, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army fighters.

Min Aung Hlaing, whom rights groups say carries personal responsibility for the crisis, insisted the Rohingya are merely returning to their motherland.

“The native place of Bengalis is really Bengal,” he said. “They might have fled to the other country with the same language, race and culture as theirs, assuming they would be safer there.”

FEATURE: The mental health toll of the Rohingya crisis

He said it was an exaggeration to say the number fleeing to Bangladesh was “very large”, adding that there had been “instigation and propaganda by using the media from behind the scenes”.

While immigration increased under British rule, historians say Muslim communities were recorded as living in the Rakhine region long before the colonial era.

This week, an AFP reporter on a rare government-steered trip to the conflict-hit Rakhine heard testimony from Rohingya villagers who are scared and fast running out of food.

They said Buddhist villagers are trying to starve them out of their homes.

Myanmar blocks UN investigators from areas of reported Rohingya atrocities


Deputy Prime Minister Zahid heading to Cox’s Bazar over Rohingya refugees

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Zahid heading to Cox’s Bazar over Rohingya refugees

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will travel to Cox’s Bazar to assess the situation of Rohingya refugees during his upcoming working visit to Bangladesh.

According to Wisma Putra, Ahmad Zahid will make a two-day working visit to Bangladesh from Oct 15, his first trip to the country since assuming office as deputy prime minister in 2015.

Wisma Putra said apart from the bilateral meetings, Ahmad Zahid would also travel to Cox’s Bazar, which is reported to be facing an influx of Rohingya refugees.

“This visit reflects Malaysia’s concern and seriousness on the Rohingya refugee issue in general,” said Wisma Putra in a statement today.

During the working visit, Ahmad Zahid is expected to call on Bangladesh’s prime minister and relevant ministers to take stock of the existing bilateral relations, and explore new areas of cooperation that were mutually beneficial to both countries, it said.

“Malaysia is optimistic that this visit will further strengthen the existing friendly ties between Malaysia and Bangladesh not only in the areas of bilateral cooperation but also on regional and international issues,” said Wisma Putra.

– Bernama



Who really attacked the Rohingya Hindus in Rakhine?

Who really attacked the Rohingya Hindus in Rakhine?

  • Mahadi Al Hasnat
  • Published at 12:44 AM October 01, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:24 AM October 01, 2017
Who really attacked the Rohingya Hindus in Rakhine?
Hindu villagers react as they identify the bodies of their relatives found by government forces on September 27, 2017, that authorities suspected were killed by insurgents last month, in a mass grave near Maungdaw in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, September 27, 2017REUTERS

The Myanmar government on September 27 announced it had found a mass grave of Hindus near Fakirabazar, where at least 45 corpses of local Hindus were buried

Among the half million Rohingya refugees who have come to Bangladesh, only a handful of them are Hindus. In their statements to many journalists and authorities, these people have described suffering horrors of slaughter and arson just like their Muslim neighbours.

In particular, Rohingya refugees from the Hindu neighbourhood of Fakirabazar in Maungdaw, described how masked assailants clad in black had shot and stabbed people and dumped the bodies in holes in the ground.

Over the last week and a half, however, some of the statements have begun to change. The Hindus, who are mostly gathered in a separate camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar, have started to blame “militant Muslims” for attacks on the Hindus.

Last week, a group of Rohingya women told AFP they were Hindus, brought forcibly to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh by a group of men and told to convert to Islam.

A reporter from Indian news magazine India Today also found a woman from this group. She claimed to have been forced to perform namaz and wear a burqa.

Reuters reports that in late August, a group of Hindu Rohingya women had told them it was Rakhine Buddhists who attacked them. But later on, three of them changed their statements to say the attackers were Rohingya Muslims, who brought them here and told them to blame the Buddhists.

The Myanmar government on September 27 announced it had found a mass grave of Hindus near Fakirabazar, where at least 45 corpses of local Hindus were buried. A group of local and foreign journalists were flown to the spot by the Myanmar army and shown decomposing skeletal bodies laid out in rows on a field outside the village, as distraught relatives wailed nearby.

Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar September 27, 2017. Photo: REUTERS

Rohingya killing Rohingya?

The Myanmar Army blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for this slaughter. Journalists have no access to Rakhine state outside of these official visits and cannot verify any of the official claims.

The same day, the Rakhine state government urged Hindu refugees who fled to Bangladesh to return, promising they will be cared for in Sittwe, according to reports in Myanmar media.

This correspondent visited the camp of Rohingya Hindus in Ukhiya and found them sheltered in a chicken farm and makeshift houses beside a Hindu temple. The majority of them were from the villages of Chikanchhari, Fakirabazar and Balibazar in Maungdaw.

The refugees said they had fled to save their lives from a group of people clad in black, whom they called “Kala Party” (Black Party). They believed these people were Rohingya Muslims.

“Muslim terrorists have become desperate and started resenting the Hindus who have citizenship in Myanmar,” said Puja Mallik, a young Hindu woman whose husband was killed by the masked men clad in black on August 25.

“The government is willing to give Muslims second class green citizenship card like ours, they do not want that. They demand the first class red citizenship cards that the Moghs [Rakhine] have,” she said.

The Myanmar has three tiers of citizenship, and the green card is for “naturalised citizens,” essentially immigrants.

A number of Hindu refugees while arriving in Bangladesh had told the media that they had lost their fathers and husbands at the hands of Myanmar army for their reluctance to partake in Muslim killing in Rakhine.

Expectant mother Anika Dhar, 18, escaped to Bangladesh and found shelter at Kutupalong’s Hindu camp with 77 other families. Her husband Milon was shot dead by the Myanmar army on August 27. The photo was taken on September 19, 2017. Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Cox’s Bazar Correspondent for New Age Mohammad Nurul Islam said: “They arrived in Bangladesh with the Muslim refugees and told us that the Buddhists had attacked them. We have audio records of their speeches.”

“Myanmar military and Buddhists killed my husband for not participating in killing and ousting Rohingya Muslims,” Anika Dhar, a pregnant Hindu housewife, had told the Daily New Age in late August.

She also told a senior journalist with the Reuters Television that she had taken shelter in a Muslim village after her husband was killed and came to Bangladesh with them.

Another woman, Padma Bala, who arrived in Bangladesh on August 30, told the same journalist: “The Moghs [Rakhine] are cutting us up.” The Reuters journalist is still in possession of the audio recording.

Many Rohingya Hindus have said they received support from Muslim neighbours in escaping the army’s persecution.

“The Kala Party with arms, bombs and lethal weapons confined us to our houses for five consecutive days. We managed to escape the confinement with a Muslim neighbour’s help,” Arimahan Rudra told the Dhaka Tribune.

According to him there were 607 Hindus in the camp.

What do Rohingya Muslims say?

The green card citizenship makes the Hindus more privileged than the Muslims. They can study in colleges and universities, they can get jobs and medical treatment from government hospitals, they can travel freely, at least in theory, and they can vote.

On the other hand, Rohingya Muslims demand full-fledged citizenship, acknowledgement as Rohingya, and removal of state-sponsored restrictions; demands that are unlikely to be ever fulfilled.

Many Rohingya Muslims think this is Myanmar’s long-term plan, a classic divide and rule strategy, to create anger and hatred between the two religious groups among the Rohingya.

Hashu Mia, a Muslim refugee from Fakirabazar village. Photo: Mahadi Al Hasnat/Dhaka Tribune

“We, the Hindus and Muslims, have been living together more than a hundred years in our village. The differences in our religious faiths did not create any trouble,” said Hashu Mia, a Muslim refugee from Fakirabazar village, now in Kutupalong.

“After coming to Bangladesh, I met one of my Hindu neighbours in Kutupalong bazar last week. He was the first to recognise me here. He embraced me tightly and we cried,” he said.

However, some Rohingya Muslims say some members of the Hindu community had sided with the army and Rakhine militia since the violence erupted.

“The Hindus are collaborating with the army and Moghs in Muslim killing. They helped them in looting and torching Muslim houses as they know the localities well,” said Abdus Salam, another Rohingya refugee from Fakirabazar.

“The relation between Hindus and Muslims has significantly deteriorated over a month,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

Manufacturing a divide

The Rohingya insurgent group ARSA has strongly denounced the allegations brought by the Myanmar army.

“ARSA categorically denies that any of its member of combatants perpetrated murder, sexual violence, or forcible recruitment in the village of Fakirabazar, Riktapur and Chikonchhari in Maungdaw on or about 25 August 2017,” the statement issued on Wednesday said.

Who then, killed the Rohingya Hindus in the Rakhine state?

Rohingya refugees say that since ARSA’s attack, the Myanmar army started a deadly crackdown and killed hundreds of villagers regardless of their religious identities.

“The army is playing a game. The Buddhists and government agents attacked the Hindu villages so that they can justify the military crackdown targeted on Muslim eradication,” Mohammad Ayes, who enrolled himself in ARSA in August, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Mohammad Ayes, who joined ARSA a few days before the insurgent attacks, said the government used the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims, and take side of the Hindus as they were working for them.

Ayes argued that since the ARSA combatants do not have any dress code, they do not need to hide their identity with black masks.

“Whoever uses masks, it means they want to hide their identities and commit atrocities. It is a conspiracy against the Rohingya Muslims to prove that what the army is doing is legal and necessary,”

“If Hindus were really attacked by the Muslims, would they not be afraid to escape with the Muslims to get shelter in Bangladesh?” he asked.

Ayes alleged that since the Rohingya Hindus already had Myanmar citizenship and the government had urged them to return, they were blaming Muslims to express their loyalty towards the government.

Another ARSA member who claimed to be a Jimmadar (commander) told the Dhaka Tribune through a messaging app that the corpses the Myanmar army found could be any Rohingya.

“Now they are showing those bodies and forcing the Hindu people to cry in front of the bodies and say that those corpses were their relatives,” he said.

“UN bodies and others are trying to enter Rakhine state to investigate what atrocities were done by the military. So they buried the bodies of Rohingya. If any investigation is carried out the military will be accused for sure. So to destroy the evidence they are posing Muslim bodies as Hindu bodies,” the militant said.

‘We want to go to India’

Asked why they had come to Bangladesh instead of moving further inland, Bhuban Pal, a refugee in the Hindu camp, said that they perceived all Muslims to be against them and had moved to Bangladesh because it was closer.

“One of our community leaders, Nirmal Dhar, told us we would be safe here and he would arrange our return soon,” he added.

Several refugees, when asked whether they had heard about Rakhine state government’s invitation to the Hindus to return and stay in Sittwe, said they did not feel safe in Myanmar and wanted to go to India.

A Hindu refugee camp built inside a chicken coop.  Photo: Mahadi Al Hasnat/Dhaka Tribune

“I would feel at peace in India. In Myanmar we will never feel safe,” one woman told the Dhaka Tribune.

India issued a prompt response when Myanmar army announced its finding of mass graves, calling on the country’s government to bring to justice perpetrators of the crime.

“We have conveyed our concerns about the affected people to Myanmar. The affected families should be given appropriate compensation,” Raveesh Kumar, the Indian External affairs Ministry spokesperson, told the press.

A Chilling Documentary, the UN Discusses the Rohingya and an International Judges Tribunal Declares Genocide

A Chilling Documentary, the UN Discusses the Rohingya and an International Judges Tribunal Declares Genocide

The UN Security Council held its first meeting on Rohingya in nine years last Thursday (September 28, 2017). The language was harshly critical of Myanmar. Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the situation as a “human rights nightmare” and “urged Myanmar to end its military operations”. The number of Rohingya refugees has meanwhile mushroomed to more than 500,000. All the members tiptoed carefully around the word ‘genocide’ … for a very good reason. Accepting such triggers action on their part.During the Kosovo crisis when Serbs were expelling Kosovars, the Clinton administration, reluctant to get involved, invented the euphemism ‘ethnic cleansing’. It has remained a favorite substitute.What does the Convention on Genocide actually state. Well, Article 2 lists five acts, each of which constitute genocide:

(a) Killing members of a group.

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

The UN Toughens its Myanmar Stance – Five Years into the Rakhine Crisis

The UN Toughens its Myanmar Stance—Five Years into the Rakhine Crisis

September 29, 2017

Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on September 26, 2017. 

Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

At the UN Security Council yesterday, both the UN Secretary-General and a number of UNSC members called for tough pressure on the Myanmar government, as the crisis in Rakhine State—and the exodus of refugees into Bangladesh—continues with little let up. U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley called for all countries to stop providing weapons to the Myanmar military, according to reports in Reuters. She said, “Any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place” to ensure that the ethnic cleansing stops and commanders who oversaw the Rakhine operation are removed from their posts. This is a commendable stance, and may be an important step to convincing the Myanmar armed forces that they could pay for their ethnic cleansing operations.

Meanwhile, during the discussion on Myanmar, Security Council members repeatedly mentioned commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing, who runs the Myanmar armed forces. He, even more than any other figure in Myanmar, is ultimately responsible for the army’s actions in Rakhine State. Yet his name has been barely mentioned in the international press as the crisis in Rakhine has escalated. (I will hopefully have two more pieces on Min Aung Hlaing next week, in The National and The Atlantic.) Although Aung San Suu Kyi certainly bears a significant part of the blame for the Rakhine crisis, Min Aung Hlaing needs to be front and center in discussions of Myanmar at the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also has taken an increasingly tough rhetorical approach toward the Myanmar government. He seems to be getting increasingly frustrated with Myanmar’s stonewalling on letting in UN rights investigators, and Naypyidaw’s refusal to even acknowledge that there are serious rights violations going on in Myanmar. The Secretary-General has forcefully called on Myanmar to allow in UN investigators and to halt the army’s actions in Rakhine State. This week he called the Rohingya crisis “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”

But the UN’s actions, though welcome, are more than a bit late. Although the crisis has grown exponentially since August, Rakhine state has been wracked with violence for nearly five years. For five years, the military and vigilantes have laid waste to parts of the state. And for five years there have been massive refugee flights into Bangladesh, as well as large numbers of internally displaced people inside Myanmar.

Indeed, multiple reports, including by the BBC, have shown that the UN mostly avoiding taking serious action on the Rakhine crisis over the past five years.

The BBC reports that, until the crisis that began this past August, “the head of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) [for Myanmar], a Canadian:

  • tried to stop human rights activists travelling to Rohingya areas
  • attempted to shut down public advocacy on the subject
  • isolated staff who tried to warn that ethnic cleansing might be on the way.”

The United Nations has “strongly disagreed” with the BBC report.

Other reports back up the BBC reporting on the UN’s go-slow approach to Rakhine. Last year, Vice obtained leaked documentswhich showed that “UN officials on the ground [in Myanmar] disregarded multiple recommendations on the rights and security of the [Rohingya].” The Vice documents further showed that an internal UN report had noted that the United Nations was focused mostly on “emphasizing development investment [in Rakhine State and Myanmar generally] as the solution to the problems in Rakhine State.”

Although Rakhine certainly could use development, investment and growth is hardly going to stop an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. What’s more, as some of the Vice documents showed, many UN officials accurately recognized that development in Rakhine State actually might be further fueling the conflict. Finally, the Vice documents noted that the United Nations’ coordinator in Myanmar had repeatedly “discarded or simply ignored information that underscored the seriousness of the [human rights] situation” in Rakhine state.

So, the United Nations’ actions this week on Myanmar are to be acclaimed. But they should have come much sooner.