Friday 17 December 2021

In Rakhine, more than 100 Rohingya were sentenced to five years in prison each

Source RFA, 16 Dec

aungdaw Township Court on December 14 sentenced 109 of the more than 190 Rohingya arrested in Rakhine State on a boat trip from Malaysia to Malaysia and sentenced them to five years in prison each, and sent them to Buthidaung Prison, a lawyer told RFA.

The other 90 were released after being warned by a court they were under the age of 18.

On November 29, the military arrested 228 people in a boat 17 miles northwest of Mayu Island near Sittwe, Rakhine State, along with a motorboat.

Of those, 35 children under the age of 10 were released the same day, and the rest were prosecuted by the Maungdaw District Immigration Department.

They are refugees from Rakhine State in a refugee camp in Bangladesh and have been sentenced to the maximum sentence under Section 13 (1) of the 1947 Immigration Act, "Tin Hlaing Oo, a lawyer representing the case, told RFA.

"They went to Malaysia illegally from Bangladesh," he said. Many of them took refuge in Bangladesh during the 2017 uprising. And there are five Burmans from Tanintharyi. And two Bangladeshi nationals. Section 13 (1) of the current provisions of the 1947 Immigration Act provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison. We have clients who have been handed over to Thazin. "I will appeal to them."

Five Burmese nationals were among those arrested and imprisoned.

A family member of the detainee told RFA that the Rohingya had fled to Malaysia because they were facing difficulties in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

"There are difficulties in the refugee camps in Bangladesh," he said. I am going to Malaysia because I do not want to live in a refugee camp because I can not live with the violence. Some people who have families in Malaysia go to their families. Some go to get married. Some took their brothers with them. It costs about 120 lakhs per person to go there. Some 110 lakhs. Some of them are 100 lakhs. In some cases, it costs 90 lakhs. "

They were killed during the 2017 conflict in Buthidaung. He said he had to flee from Maungdaw Township to a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

A Muslim village head in Buthidaung Township, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA that Muslims currently living in Rakhine State are also subject to travel restrictions.

"Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing.

They do not want to be named for security reasons, as they are often interrogated when reporting their problems to the media.

On November 25, Muslims in Buthidaung Township were required to travel on Form 4, and the township administration issued a local order restricting them to three months.

He said the ban on Rohingya Muslims from crossing the border and the arrest and imprisonment of them were inhumane.

"Wherever we find and arrest our people in Burma, we will be sentenced to two years in prison," he said. Three years The five-year sentence is inhumane. That should not be the case. We can not go anywhere in Rakhine State where we now live. For example, Maungdaw or Sittwe. If something goes wrong, do not go. He was arrested and interrogated. You have to take Form 4. It is not easy to take Form 4. There are difficulties. "

rohingya.jpg( Photo: Tatmadaw News Agency) 

Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Rohingya Liberation Coalition, said he could not accept the arrest.

"Imprisonment is not fair. According to Article 13 (1) of the Immigration Act, the minimum sentence is six months and the maximum is five years. But we do not care about the international community because of the pressure from the military on the Rohingya in the international community. Last month's issuance of travel permits made it clear that the International Court of Justice could not comply with the order.

Buthidaung, Rakhine State In Maungdaw townships, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh in 2017 due to military clearance.

They have not been able to return home and are still facing difficulties in the camps. 

Saturday 11 December 2021

A Day After Rohingya Refugees Sued Facebook for $150B, the Company Announced Some Changes

Source Time, 8 Dec

BANGKOK — Facebook's parent company Meta said Wednesday it has expanded its ban on postings linked to Myanmar's military to include all pages, groups, and accounts representing military-controlled businesses. It had already banned advertising from such businesses in February.

The February action, which also banned military and military-controlled state and media entities from Facebook and Instagram, followed the army's seizure of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The new action came just a day after a high-profile lawsuit was filed in California against Facebook parent Meta Platforms seeking over $150 billion for the company's alleged failure to stop hateful posts that incited violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority by Myanmar's military and its supporters, which crested in 2017.

The army, known in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw, was notorious for a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to seek safety across the border in Bangladesh. Critics say the campaign, which included mass killings, rape and arson, constituted ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide.

Since February's takeover, security forces have used lethal force to put down nonviolent protests against military rule. At least 1,600 civilians have been killed by security forces, according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The army also has been accused of abuses against villagers as it fights members of pro-democracy militias in the countryside.

Activists say the military uses the internet to spread disinformation and hate speech. In April, Facebook announced it was "implementing a specific policy for Myanmar to remove praise, support and advocacy of violence by Myanmar security forces and protestors from our platform."

The group Burma Campaign UK, which had sought to get Facebook do more to curb the military's reach through its platforms, welcomed the move but noted that Facebook had resisted taking down military companies' pages.

"The belated decision to remove military company pages appears more an act of desperation after being sued for $150 billion for being involved in Rohingya genocide than any genuine concern for human rights," Burma Campaign UK's director, Mark Farmaner, said in a statement.

Wednesday's statement from Rafael Frankel, Asia-Pacific director of policy for Meta, said the company was taking action "based on extensive documentation by the international community of these businesses' direct role in funding the Tatmadaw's ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Myanmar."

The military controls major portions of Myanmar's economy, largely through two big holding companies. Because corporate links are not always clear, Meta said it is using a report compiled by U.N, investigators in 2019 to identify relevant firms.

In response to the abuses committed against the Rohingya, Facebook in 2018 banned 20 military-linked individuals and organizations including Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who now leads the army-installed government. From 2018 to 2010, Facebook removed six networks of accounts controlled by the military, which did not acknowledge the backing.

This year, Facebook disabled pages belonging to state media that violated Facebook rules about promoting violence and harm to others.

Friday 3 December 2021

Australia to face pressure to use new Magnitsky-style laws against Myanmar and Chinese officials

Source Theguardian, 2 Dec

MPs from across the political spectrum raise human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong crackdown as they sign off on powers

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne
Marise Payne says Magnitsky-style laws will allow Australia to take action against 'those responsible for egregious situations of international concern'. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The Morrison government will face pressure from MPs to ratchet up sanctions on the Myanmar junta and target Chinese authorities after parliament passed sweeping new powers on the final sitting day of the year.

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum raised human rights violations in China's Xinjiang region and the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong as they signed off on long-awaited laws that will widen the government's ability to impose international sanctions.

The move is in response to cross-party calls for Australia to join the US, Canada, the UK and the EU in introducing Magnitsky-style laws to target human rights abuses and serious corruption.

Foreign government officials could face sanctions for "gross human rights violations" and "egregious acts of international concern", including cyber-attacks, under the laws that passed the lower house on Thursday, a day after clearing the Senate.

Corrupt business people could also be banned from travelling to Australia and have their assets and bank accounts frozen.

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, said the laws would "ensure that we do not become an isolated, attractive safe haven for such people and entities, and their illegal gains".

Payne said Australia would be able to "take timely action, including with like-minded partners where it is in our national interest, to impose costs on, influence, and deter those responsible for egregious situations of international concern".

It is understood the Coalition government is likely to face internal pressure to deploy the new powers, including against Chinese government officials and Myanmar's junta.

Government insiders have previously raised the lack of such laws as one of the reasons Australia wasn't able to join with its allies to impose coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass detention and persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

In March Australia and New Zealand issued a statement welcoming sanctions announced by Canada, the EU, the UK and the US – while saying they shared "grave concerns" about Xinjiang.

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If Australia now followed suit, it would attract a furious response from the Chinese government, which has signalled it would respond in kind to any sanctions over what Beijing calls "fake" allegations.

In the lower house on Thursday, the Labor MP Tim Watts cited Beijing's crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and "the reports of continuing mass detentions and other human rights violations against Ughyurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and across China".

Watts, the shadow assistant minister for cybersecurity, said the new option of sanctioning individuals for malicious cyber-activity would help in "the fight against international cybercriminals who are menacing Australian businesses and our essential services, our critical infrastructure".

Labor's defence spokesperson, Brendan O'Connor, accused some leaders of manipulating the pandemic to further weaken human rights.

"As we speak today Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan is on a hunger strike and at risk of dying without the urgent medical requirements that she needs," O'Connor told the House.

"Ms Zhang was sentenced to four years of prison in December last year for social media posts critical of the early Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan."

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The Liberal senator James Paterson, who has been outspoken in criticising the Chinese Communist party, said Australia was "equipping ourselves with the tools we need to defend our democracy, our sovereignty and our freedom in a dangerous world".

"The parliament of Australia is sending a very strong message to those who would seek to bully and threaten us … We will stand up for ourselves, our interests and our values on the international stage, no matter what you throw at us."

The Labor senator Kimberley Kitching said harmonising sanctions laws were "a weapon for democratic pushback".

"A strong and clear message will be sent to lower-ranking officials and criminal thugs that their crimes, whether on behalf of or protected by their superiors, will not be immune from international consequences," Kitching said.

"This legislation says to them: 'Your stolen money is no good here. No matter how you steal from your people, there will be no shopping trips to Paris, no harbourfront mansions in Sydney, no skiing in Aspen and no nest egg in a western bank.'

"Like King Midas, they will have lots of gold but no way to enjoy it."

Last-minute amendments included changing the bill's name to reference the late corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

In its first year in operation, the UK's global human rights sanction regime – on which Australia's legislation is modelled – imposed sanctions against 72 individuals and six entities.

Russia had the most designations, with 29, followed by Saudi Arabia (20), Belarus (eight), China (five), and Myanmar (four).

Twenty-five of Russia's designations arose from the maltreatment and death of Magnitsky. All of Saudi Arabia's sanctions were imposed over involvement in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Elaine Pearson, the Australia director of Human Rights Watch, said Australia should seek to harmonise its sanctions with those of allies and "use these provisions without delay". The measures would "raise the cost of serious human rights violations".

"We want to see this new law applied in a consistent, principled way," Pearson told Guardian Australia.

"There are particular countries in our region that are egregious human rights abusers, and where sanctions would have an impact: look at Myanmar, at China, at Cambodia and the Philippines."

The EU, UK, US and Canada have imposed sanctions against key figures in Myanmar's coup this year, and senior military officers accused of genocide and crimes against humanity committed against minority Rohingya.

The coup leader, Min Aung Hlaing, has been sanctioned by all four, as have senior members of the Myanmar state administration council. Australia has not imposed any new sanctions on senior Myanmar military figures.

Rawan Arraf, the executive director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, said she welcomed the "long overdue" laws, while calling for the sanctions office to be given more resources.

"We are also hoping for better engagement with civil society organisations," Arraf said.

"Targeted sanctions should be a tool for protecting against the most serious violations of human rights wherever they occur in the world. We hope the Australian government will approach the use of this new sanctions power consistently, equally and free from double-standards."

Myanmar opposition raises $6.3 mln on launch of 'revolution' bonds

Source Reuters, 23 Nov, 

Anti-government protesters hold placards to show their support and welcome the new National Unity Government found by ousted NLD legislators and call to continue strike from traditional new year in Myanmar, in Yangon, Myanmar, April 17, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Anti-government protesters hold placards to show their support and welcome the new National Unity Government found by ousted NLD legislators and call to continue strike from traditional new year in Myanmar, in Yangon, Myanmar, April 17, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Nov 23 (Reuters) - A shadow government in Myanmar said it has raised $6.3 million on the opening day of its inaugural bonds sale, in its biggest move yet to generate funds for its "revolution" to topple the ruling military junta.

Myanmar has been in bloody turmoil since the military's Feb. 1 coup and movements that have sprang up to challenge the junta have been mainly supported by public donations.

The National Unity Government (NUG), an alliance of pro-democracy groups, ethnic minority armies and remnants of the ousted civilian government, said bonds went on sale on Monday to mainly Myanmar nationals overseas in denominations of $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000, with two-year tenures.

Even though the bonds will generate no interest income for buyers, $3 million worth were sold in the first three hours, the NUG said, increasing to $6.3 million by the end of the day. Its overall target is $1 billion.

"From this, I witness the enthusiasm of people in the case of uprooting the fascist military," NUG spokesman, Dr. Sasa, said on Facebook.

The junta has outlawed the NUG and designated it a "terrorist" movement.

The NUG has not disclosed how the funds would be used.

A spokesperson for the junta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Opposition groups have been trying to stifle the military's efforts to consolidate power by encouraging people not to pay taxes and to join protests, a civil disobedience campaign and boycotts of army-linked businesses and a national lottery.

Buyers of the bonds made payments via international transfers to an account in the Czech Republic, the NUG said.

A 27-year-old Myanmar citizen, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said she invested $500 in the bonds.

"We do not expect to get money back after two years. We are buying it because we want to contribute to the revolution," she said.