Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has uncovered what amounts to "strong evidence" of a genocide coordinated by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya people, according to an assessment by Yale University Law School.
The Lowenstein Clinic spent eight months assessing evidence from Myanmar, including documents and testimony provided by Al Jazeera and the advocacy group Fortify Rights.
"Given the scale of the atrocities and the way that politicians talk about the Rohingya, we think it's hard to avoid a conclusion that intent [to commit genocide] is present," concluded the clinic.
Exclusive evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and Fortify Rights reveals the government has been triggering communal violence for political gain by inciting anti-Muslim riots, using hate speech to stoke fear among the Myanmarese about Muslims, and offering money to hardline Buddhist groups who threw their support behind the leadership.
As the first fully contested general election in 25 years approaches on November 8, eyewitness and confidential documentary evidence obtained by Al Jazeera reveals that the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has attempted to marginalise Muslims and target the Rohingya.
Al Jazeera has made several requests for comment to the Myanmar President's office and government spokespeople but has not received any response.
The investigation, presented in a new documentary, Genocide Agenda, consults legal and diplomatic experts on whether the government’s campaign amounts to systematic extermination.
The University of London’s Professor Penny Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI)m said: "President Thein Sein (USDP) is prepared to use hate speech for the government's own ends, and that is to marginalise, segregate, diminish the Muslim population inside Burma.
"It's part of a genocidal process."
An independent report by the ISCI concluded that riots in 2012, which saw conflicts between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims erupt, were pre-planned. The violence saw scores killed, and tens of thousands of people displaced after several thousand homes were burned.
Women, men and children trafficked, held in hellish conditions, beaten or killed for ransom
Fears that hundreds, maybe thousands, more refugees and migrants have perished at sea than first estimated
New “sailing season” crisis looms in Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea
Rohingya women, men and children attempting to flee persecution in Myanmar by boat earlier this year were killed or severely beaten by human traffickers if their families failed to pay ransoms, and kept in hellish, inhuman conditions, Amnesty International reveals in a new report today.
With the monsoon over and a new “sailing season” already underway, thousands more could be taking to boats. Amnesty International is urging regional governments to urgently step up their response to the crisis.
“The daily physical abuse faced by Rohingya who were trapped on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea is almost too horrific to put into words. They had escaped Myanmar, but had only traded one nightmare for another. Even children were not spared these abuses,” said Anna Shea, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International.
The daily physical abuse faced by Rohingya who were trapped on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea is almost too horrific to put into words. They had escaped Myanmar, but had only traded one nightmare for another. Even children were not spared these abuses.
“The shocking truth is that those we spoke to are the ‘lucky’ ones who made it to shore – countless others perished at sea or were trafficked into forced labour situations. Governments must do more to prevent this human tragedy from recurring.”
The harrowing events that unfolded in May 2015 – triggered by Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking, and the traffickers’ subsequent abandonment of people at sea – left thousands of refugees and migrants stranded for weeks in desperate need of food, water and medical care.
While the UN estimates that at least 370 people lost their lives between January and June 2015, Amnesty International believes the true figure to be much higher. Eyewitnesses who spoke to Amnesty International saw dozens of large boats full of refugees and migrants in similar circumstances, but only five boats landed in Indonesia and Malaysia according to UN sources. Hundreds – if not thousands – of people remain unaccounted for, and may have died during their journeys or been sold for forced labour.
Deaths and beatings for money
Many Rohingya said that they had seen crew members kill people when their families failed to pay ransoms. Some people were shot by the traffickers on the boats while others were thrown overboard and left to drown. Others died because of lack of food and water or disease.
Refugees described how they were kept for months on very large boats and severely beaten while traffickers contacted their family members, demanding a ransom. One 15-year-old Rohingya girl said the crew called her father in Bangladesh, made him listen to her cries while they beat her, and told him to pay them about USD 1,700.
Virtually every Rohingya woman, man and child said they had either been beaten themselves or seen others suffer serious physical abuse. People were beaten with metal or plastic batons – sometimes for several hours – simply for begging for food, moving or asking to use the toilet. Many have been left with long-term physical or psychological scars from the violence.
Beatings were often carried out in a chillingly routine and systematic way. One 15-year old Rohingya boy said: “In the morning you were hit three times. In the afternoon you were hit three times. At night you were hit nine times.”
Persecuted at home
The Rohingyas’ desperation stems from decades of persecution and discrimination in Myanmar, where they are effectively denied citizenship under national law. Waves of violence against the Rohingya, most recently erupting in 2012, have forced tens of thousands into overcrowded camps where they live in desperate conditions.
Some people said that they had been abducted by traffickers in Myanmar or Bangladesh, whereas others had been promised a safe passage to Malaysia for a nominal fee – a tactic commonly used by traffickers looking to coerce people into forced labour.
“The Rohingya are so desperate that they will continue to risk their lives at sea until the root causes of this crisis are addressed – the Myanmar government must immediately end its persecution of the Rohingya,” said Anna Shea.
The Rohingya are so desperate that they will continue to risk their lives at sea until the root causes of this crisis are addressed – the Myanmar government must immediately end its persecution of the Rohingya.
The Rohingya were kept in inhuman and degrading conditions during their journeys. Boats were severely overcrowded, with people forced to sit in extremely cramped positions, sometimes for months on end. A local man who helped rescue people off the coast of Aceh in Indonesia said that the stench was so bad that rescuers could not board.
Food and water was severely lacking and rations usually consisted of a small cup of rice per day. Many of the Rohingya who reached Indonesia were emaciated, had difficulty walking after being cramped for so long, and suffered from dehydration, malnourishment, bronchitis, and flu.
Conditions in Indonesia
In May 2015, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand initially pushed overcrowded vessels back from their shores and prevented thousands of desperate passengers from disembarking. Following international criticism, Indonesia and Malaysia eventually agreed to admit a number of asylum-seekers, on the condition that another country accept them by May 2016.
Indonesia should be recognized for devoting resources to housing hundreds of vulnerable people in its Aceh province, and working to fulfill their basic needs in cooperation with local civil society and international agencies. But there are serious unanswered questions about a long-term solution, as the government has not clarified whether the refugees can stay beyond May 2016.
“Without cooperation between governments to combat human trafficking, grave human rights abuses will again be perpetrated against some of Southeast Asia’s most vulnerable and desperate people,” said Anna Shea.
“Governments must ensure that initiatives against traffickers do not put people’s lives or human rights at risk, which is what happened in May 2015. They must also act quickly to implement maritime search and rescue operations.”
Amnesty International is urging Southeast Asian states to act now, and not wait for another human rights disaster at sea.
Rohingya migrants stand and sit on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. A boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants -- including many young children -- was found drifting...
Human rights group details beatings and abuse faced on boats by ethnic minority seeking refuge from Myanmar
Hundreds or even thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar may have died at sea this year, according to a new report by Amnesty International, which says the number of those who have died attempting the treacherous boat journey to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia is "much higher" than U.N. estimates. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has estimated that 370 refugees have died this year in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in search of safety and a better life. But Amnesty International said in a press release that "hundreds — if not thousands — of people remain unaccounted for, and may have died during their journeys or have been sold for forced labor." The human rights organization said that it believes the number of Rohingya refugees deaths is "much higher" than the UNHCR figures, based on testimony from eyewitnesses who said they saw dozens of large boats full of refugees and migrants in similar circumstances — despite only five boats arriving in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to Amnesty's U.N. sources. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group living in Myanmar, which has a Buddhist majority. Although Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations, they were stripped of citizenship in the 1980s and are viewed by authorities in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. In recent years,they have been subjected to anti-Rohingya propaganda and violence. UNHCR has said that since 2014 more than 1,100 refugees who have departed by sea from Bangladesh or Myanmar have died, and an additional 1,000 people — who were thought to be at sea in May of this year — remain unaccounted for. The majority of the refugees are believed to be Rohingya, but also include many Bangladeshis. Boat crews abandoned thousands of people in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea in May, after a trafficking crackdown by Thai authorities. The crackdown coincided with the discovery of several mass graves, containing bodies believed to be migrants, along the Malaysia-Thailand border. Several Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty for its report detailed abuses they had witnessed and faced while at sea. In one such incident, a 20-year-old Rohingya man, who said he spent eight months on a ship anchored off the coast of Thailand, said he was beaten with plastic pipes with metal inside until his family wired a $1,700 ransom payment demanded by traffickers. He was then transferred to another ship and was eventually taken to Indonesia. In another case, a 15-year-old girl said traffickers demanded a $1,700 payment to secure her release from a large boat, where she said she had been frequently beaten. The girl told Amnesty that the boat crew called her father, who was at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, and made him listen to her crying as they beat her while demanding the ransom payment. Other witnesses told Amnesty that people who became sick or were unable to pay a ransom were killed. While Indonesia and Malaysia have allowed asylum-seekers to stay until May 2016, Amnesty has called on the governments to do more, and for international agencies to take "coordinated action against human trafficking in a way that does not put people's lives or human rights at risk."
Rohingya organization (ABRO) base in Melbourne received the lastest donation amount of (AUD 6315, from USMAA by the mid of Aug 2015.
According to Habib, it been distributed on the ground for two village tracts (Apauk Wa Pyar-pauk 110 families and Apauk Wa Arlaymu 156 families) of Kyauktaw township on the mid of Sept 2015. And each family received 25kg rice, 1 viss oil, and 1 viss chilli. This is one of the remote locations where aid workers unreachable areas.
Habib added that the displaced Rohingya and Kaman people living in 42 locations across Arakan state numbering about 165,000 according to 2013 data, are ending up in systematic confinement in the hand of heavy persecutions since June 2012.
Fleeing through the sea-routes therefore remains only option of escaping from such situation until international communities come to interfere.