Thursday 3 November 2022


Source DVB, 11 Oct

While the world's attention is fixated on the escalating NATO-Russia proxy war taking place on Ukraine's soil, with its nuclear saber-rattling and domino effect on the world's economy, on Burma's western front, the decades-old triangular conflict deserves some serious attention as the deeply troubled country's civil war has widened to engulf external powers, including the neighbouring country of Bangladesh.

This appears to be a case wherein one of Burma's key actors, namely the Arakan Army (AA) – with its Buddhist Rakhine nationalist base – is replicating Vladimir Putin's tactical moves in Ukraine.  

The AA is a separatist ethnic militia estimated to be 30,000-strong, and has been equipped with Chinese-made weapons. Its ethno-political base of Rakhine known for their genocidal racism and collaborative deeds against the Rohingya – reportedly base themselves among Rohingya villages – as opposed to their own Buddhist communities from which the AA draws its rank-and-file fighters. 

Rohingya activists in the diaspora have kept quiet about this deeply troubling development – that the AA have encamped themselves among Rohingya communities. Some tried to give the impression of impartiality that Rohingyas were being caught in the "crossfire" between the AA and the genocidal Burma Army. Understandably, Rohingyas are between a rock and a hard place – insofar as the collaborators in genocide against their communities are now fighting ferociously against each other. 

But that silence, and that "crossfire" narrative, came to a loud end when a Rakhine sniper killed Shekul Islam, a 45-year-old Rohingya community leader and educator who happened to be a close relative (uncle) of Wai Wai Nu, a celebrated human rights activist. 

Khaing Thukha, the AA spokesperson, denied responsibility for the killing and shifted the blame onto the Burma Army while speaking to RFA Burmese on Oct. 9. Tun Khin, president of the UK-based Burmese Rohingya Organization – UK (BROUK), took to Twitter: "Having spoken to the sources on the ground, it is clear that AA is responsible for (the) killing …."

The problem is incomparably bigger than the murder of a Rohingya leader and which party – the AA or the Burma Army – was behind the killing. Rather, it is the evidently sinister use of Rohingya villages and neighbourhoods along the Burma-Bangladesh border, as the chosen battlefield.  

Throughout my recent travels in the former Yugoslavia, I have had numerous in-depth discussions with my scholar friends who survived the "Balkanization" where ethno-religious triangular politics – among the Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians (or Bosniaks) – had produced nasty genocidal violence and concentration camps in the early 1990s. Some of them are now experts on the ethnic conflicts in their ancestral homelands.  

According to one scholar who specializes in paramilitaries and mercenaries across the Slavic regions – North and South (including Ukraine) – Putin has deployed the tactics of placing pro-Russian separatist militias in the civilian neighbourhoods of the Donbas region, where administrative buildings – including police and security stations – are mixed in with civilian homes and business. The move, explained my scholar friend, was designed to lure Ukraine's infamous neo-Nazi Azov regiment on to the battlefield.    

It worked as Moscow had anticipated. The Ukrainian Azov-commanded  units launched a counter-offensive against the separatist militias, having killed an unknown number of Russian-speaking civilians. The Azov units handed Putin the much-desired evidence, which Moscow then used to make the case at the UN that the Russian Federation was acting as the benevolent protector of the Russian population in Ukraine bordering Russia. To be sure, no two parallels are identical in international politics or history of conflicts. Actors and contexts differ. 

The Rakhine separatist militia AA's reported use of Rohingya villages in Maungdaw Township as their temporary bases immediately adjacent to Bangladesh has become home to an estimated one million Rohingya genocide survivors. This strikes me as remarkably similar to Putin's cold-blooded, calculated, use of Russian civilians in the separatist Donbas region of Ukraine. 

In Burma, I have spent the last decade arguing that the genocide perpetrated against the Rohingyas can only be fully understood as the culmination of the triangular ethnic power struggle among the three primary parties in the conflict. The Burmese central government, both civilian and military, the Buddhist Rakhine, who make up roughly two-thirds of the population in the strategic coastal region (with their decades-old independence aspirations), and the predominantly Muslim Rohingyas whose mass exodus in 2016 and 2017 have been a topic of international judicial and policy concern among UN bodies (such as the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, and the International Criminal Court, or ICC, the UN Human Rights Council, along with technical agencies like the UNHCR), along with the UN Security Council, namely China and the U.S.

In the last and largest wave of genocidal violence against the Rohingya in 2017, both local Rakhine extremists and the Burma Army joined forces to ethnically cleanse the Rohingya Muslim villages, towns and cities. The Rohingya are forced to live in segregated neighbourhoods similar to those in Northern Ireland during the Troubles (between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Republicans).  

Because the global judicial processes have focussed on Burma's central role in perpetrating genocide, more specifically in 2016 and 2017, anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim Rakhine nationalist leaders have busied themselves, reinventing their local communities as "justice-minded."  

The AA leadership has reportedly handed over one or two Burma Army defectors, whom they had captured alive, to UN investigators while dimming the light on their active complicity and collaboration five years ago. But now they are fighting for their (Rakhine) independence.   

But irrespective of which Rakhine nationalist leader or organization is in the driver's seat of the separatist movement, what universally undergirds its ethno-religious nationalism is the view that the majority Rakhine Buddhist population are the only indigenous or "sons of the fatherland" and hence the rightful owners of the region.  

Through this mono-ethnic nationalist lens, the rest of the region's inhabitants such as the Muslims, including the Rohingya whom Rakhine Buddhists outnumber by three-to-one, are "guests" or "migrants" from Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, while promoting itself as a modern, liberal pro-human rights group, the Rakhine nationalists in the media as well as the senior leadership of the AA have refused to allow them to self-identify as Rohingya. Strikingly, the Rakhine nationalist sentiments and views are no different from the Bama nationalist discourses, popularized across Burma's dominant Buddhist society and institutionalized within the Burma Army.

The AA Commander-in-Chief Twan Mrat Naing, formerly a Thailand-based English-tour-guide-turned-separatist-leader, has cleverly outfoxed the Bama leadership in terms of its propaganda aimed at human rights-sensitive audiences (that is, the international media, the UN, and foreign governments). 

You have to give it to Rakhine separatist media strategists for their brilliant manipulation of international concerns of Rohingya genocide survivors. They have been able to cultivate the image of themselves as an acceptable alternative to Burma's junta not only among international circles, including Bangladesh and U.S. government entities such as the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and the Rohingya diaspora in both countries.  

It is utterly impossible for any armed group to be more ruthless and murderous than the Burma Army. After the killing of a Rohingya community leader, the community has exploded with all kinds of reports indicating that the AA has also been perpetrating numerous human rights violations, including gang-rape, extortions, kidnapping, torture, forced labour, murder and so on. It is time for the international policy circles and media to sober up and stop drinking the liberally-coated propaganda "Kool-Aid" by the genocidal Rakhine nationalists.  

Maung Zarni is the co-author of Essays on Myanmar's Genocide of Rohingyas (2012-18). He is a UK-based Burmese exile with over 30-years of first-hand involvement and scholarship in Burma affairs. 

U.N. investigator says Facebook provided vast amount of Myanmar war crimes information

Source Reuters, 13 Sept

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar to escape a military crackdown in 2017, in Cox's Bazar
Rohingya refugees hold placards as they gather at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar to escape a military crackdown in 2017, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman/File Photo

GENEVA, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The head of a U.N. team of investigators on Myanmar said on Monday that Facebook has handed over millions of items that could support allegations of war crimes and genocide.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) aims to build case files for proceedings in national, regional or international courts. It was established in 2018 by the U.N. Human Rights Council and began work the following year.

"Facebook has shared with the mechanism millions of items from networks of accounts that were taken down by the company because they misrepresented their identity," Nicholas Koumjian, head of the IIMM, said in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya that forced more than 730,000 people to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

Facebook, whose parent company changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) last year, said that they support international efforts for accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

"(We) have made voluntary, lawful disclosures to the U.N.'s investigative mechanism as well as disclosures of public information to The Gambia" which has filed the ICJ genocide case, Miranda Sissons, director of human rights policy at Meta, said in an e-mail.

U.N. investigator says Facebook provided vast amount of Myanmar war crimes information

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar to escape a military crackdown in 2017, in Cox's Bazar
Rohingya refugees hold placards as they gather at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp to mark the fifth anniversary of their fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar to escape a military crackdown in 2017, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman/File Photo

GENEVA, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The head of a U.N. team of investigators on Myanmar said on Monday that Facebook has handed over millions of items that could support allegations of war crimes and genocide.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) aims to build case files for proceedings in national, regional or international courts. It was established in 2018 by the U.N. Human Rights Council and began work the following year.

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"Facebook has shared with the mechanism millions of items from networks of accounts that were taken down by the company because they misrepresented their identity," Nicholas Koumjian, head of the IIMM, said in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya that forced more than 730,000 people to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

Facebook, whose parent company changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) last year, said that they support international efforts for accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

"(We) have made voluntary, lawful disclosures to the U.N.'s investigative mechanism as well as disclosures of public information to The Gambia" which has filed the ICJ genocide case, Miranda Sissons, director of human rights policy at Meta, said in an e-mail.

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In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said the social media site had spread hate speech that fueled the violence in Myanmar. Facebook has said it is working to block hate speech.

With the Facebook items and other pieces of information from over 200 sources, the mechanism has prepared 67 "evidential and analytical packages." These packages are intended to be shared with judicial authorities, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ICJ, Koumjian added.

The ICC has also opened a case looking at deportation and other crimes against humanity in relation to Rohingya refugees who were forced into ICC member state Bangladesh.

Myanmar denies genocide and says its armed forces were conducting legitimate operations against militants.

Unprecedented Case Brought Against Myanmar Junta in Indonesia

Source Tempo, 7 Sept

Myanmar junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled the elected government in a coup on February 1, leads a military parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 27 March 2021. [REUTERS/Stringer]

TEMPO.COJakarta - A group of public figures in Jakarta has formally submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court effectively asking it to permit a case against the Myanmar junta, accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against the country's Muslim population.
The move is unprecedented and could lead to the first universal jurisdiction case against the Myanmar military in an ASEAN member state.

One of the petitioners, former Attorney General, Marzuki Darusman, said "the Indonesian constitution is very clear that everyone, Indonesian and non-Indonesian, has the right to equal treatment before the law. That means the universal protection of human rights. One small change to the law governing the Human Rights Court would recognize this and pave the way to a trial in Indonesia for the crimes being committed by the Myanmar junta."

The case for action is clear and urgent. At the end of July, the Myanmar military executed four prisoners of conscience, which drew widespread international condemnation. Dozens of other activists are awaiting execution.

Meanwhile, the number of people killed by the junta since the coup in February last year has passed two thousand; fifteen thousand have been arrested or have disappeared; 1.2 million people have been displaced and, according to the UN, over 14 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The sheer scale of this human tragedy in the East Asian region is an affront to Indonesia's 1945 Constitution.

There are well documented cases including the torture of journalists, health workers, teachers, lawyers and humanitarian workers. The Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to the same atrocities and despite investigations in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, they have not been granted justice.

Unless there is accountability against the junta, there will be further crimes and abuses and the continuation of the anti-Muslim genocide.

The people of Myanmar will never find justice through their own court system which has become a politicized tool in the hands of a vindictive junta. Meanwhile, cases against the Myanmar military at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are severely delayed.

This is why ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, must act now.

The Indonesian constitution guarantees the protection of human rights universally. This can be demonstrated by the use of the phrase "everyone" in the articles on human rights protection. The 1945 Constitution also protects human rights regardless of citizenship.

However, Article 5 of Law 26 dating from 2000, concerning the Human Rights Court, places restrictions on the protection of human rights that are contrary to the 1945 Constitution. The article stipulates that a trial of perpetrators of human rights violations can only be carried out if the crimes are committed "by Indonesian citizens."

But the law does permit a degree of "extra-territoriality". If the human rights crimes occurred outside the territory of Indonesia, a court can be established as long as the perpetrator is an Indonesian citizen.

Not only does Article 5 violate the 1945 Constitution. It also limits Indonesia's role in realizing world peace and upholding the rule of law, as stipulated by the Constitution.

Indonesia has a particular imperative to act, as Jakarta is widely viewed as the "capital" of ASEAN in that it hosts the ASEAN Secretariat and is often visited by perpetrators of gross and widespread human rights violations from Myanmar.

Indonesia can live up to the commitments and ideals of the 1945 Constitution, in protecting human rights universally, if the phrase "by Indonesian citizens" is removed by the Constitutional Court.

That is why the Petitioners are asking the Constitutional Court to remove this phrase and thus allow the human rights of some 55 million Myanmar people to be protected in accordance with Indonesia's 1945 Constitution.

Monday 25 July 2022

ICJ ruling raises hope for Rohingya justice

Source Asia News, 25 July

DHAKA – We welcome the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of the trial of the Rohingya genocide case. This gives us hope that the Myanmar military will not be let off the legal hook easily, even as it continues to dillydally in the repatriation bid with Bangladesh. The court's ruling paves the way for the case to be heard in full, which we hope will lead to justice sooner than later. The trial and finding a long-lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis are both key priorities, and both should be given due importance.

It's been several years since the Myanmar military committed what has been termed "ethnic cleansing" with genocidal intent, the kind of which the world hasn't witnessed in recent decades. Although the junta has been rejecting the "genocide" aspect of the crisis, the World Court on Friday invalidated its objections. The central argument of Myanmar was that Gambia, which brought the suit, had no standing to do so at the top UN court. But the president of ICJ, Judge Joan Donoghue, made it clear that Gambia, as a state party to the 1948 Genocide Convention, can act to prevent genocide, and that the court has jurisdiction in this case.

The Rohingyas have had to go through a series of calamitous episodes since they were brutally murdered, raped and ousted from their ancestral homes in Myanmar. The trauma still haunts them as they wait in squalid camps in Bangladesh to go home and begin a new life. But safety, dignity and integration are of essence while their fate is being decided, and care should be taken so that they do not fall from the frying pan into the fire. No doubt the question of international justice and accountability will be crucial in finding a durable solution to the crisis. We believe all parties involved should maintain their focus on the question of confidence-building among Rohingyas, first by ensuring swift justice in the ICJ case, and then by ensuring that their return home is accompanied with their rights as citizens restored.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate the importance of starting the repatriation process which has been dragging on for a couple of years. As well as getting justice for what happened to them in the past, the Rohingyas are equally concerned, and rightly so, about what will happen to them in the future. World leaders cannot champion the cause of justice on one front, and abandon its pursuit on another front.

Why Has the World Forgotten About Myanmar?

Source HIR, 27 June

The world was stunned when the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's military, deposed popular civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on January 21, 2021. As the opposition protests against the coup led to a violent retaliation by the military and the country dissolved into civil war, the international community watched with concern. Nations condemned the military junta's actions, piled sanctions onto top military officials, and crossed their fingers. But the situation has continued to worsen, and now more than two years later, the country is in an all out civil war with no end in sight.

Despite Myanmar's continuing humanitarian crisis and democratic disintegration, the conflict has lost the attention of the international community, particularly in the West. While this may at first seem like another tragic tale of affluent and powerful nations refusing to step in and help restore justice in less developed countries, the true picture is much more complicated. Substantial intervention by the US and other Western nations is highly unlikely, given the lack of economic potential in Myanmar and the loss of faith in the nation's democratic leadership. Moreover, intervention by Western powers may arguably be unwise due to Myanmar's deep-rooted national military culture as well as China and Russia's vested interests in Myanmar, both making the country a dangerous boat to rock.

A History of Economic Isolationism

Myanmar's military has securely held power since 1962. There was a brief period of republican government after Myanmar's—then called Burma's—independence in 1948, but that period abruptly ended with a military coup. For the following decades, the military tightly controlled Myanmar with an isolationist foreign policy and a tight grip on the economy. Because of this isolationist foreign policy, foreign firms were not incentivized to invest in Myanmar. The military junta instituted "the infamous 'Burmese Way to Socialism' – an ideology that resulted in unprecedented economic devastation and Myanmar's near-total isolation from the international community." Myanmar was isolated economically by the junta's increasing restrictions on foreign aid, nationalization of key industries, and tight control of foreign trade. Ideologically, the junta closed off Myanmar from the West by removing English education from primary schools, clamping down on visas to and from the West, and instituting harsh press censorship.

Myanmar's economic model changed after the Saffron Revolution protests, in which citizens protested the military junta government because of fuel price hikes. In response to the protests and international pressure, the Tatmadaw began to loosen its grip on power. This loosening of the reigns continued for the next few years, and in 2011, the military junta officially dissolved and a military-dominated citizen parliament was created. The parliament engaged in reforms such as decreasing media censorship and economic regulations, which encouraged international investment. Foreign countries started to invest in Myanmar as the country looked to be entering into a new, more modern stage of development. In 2019, Myanmar's GDP had grown to nearly double what it was in 2008, and the country's poverty rate declined from 48 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2017.

But since international investment in Myanmar only started to ramp up in 2011, and that investment was not substantial for most countries, few nations have deep economic ties with Myanmar. This lack of foreign investment is one reason many countries are not highly concerned with the instability in Myanmar, since their companies and profits are not on the line.

Myanmar's Democratic Transition

Also during this period of loosening, the call for democracy was strengthening in Myanmar. This movement was led by Aung San Suu Kyi, an activist whose fame entered the spotlight in the 1980s thanks to her democracy campaign in Myanmar. The campaign culminated in a 2015 election in which the citizens of Myanmar voted for Suu Kyi by wide margins to run the country. The international community was ecstatic about Myanmar's democratic transition, and hopes were high for the burgeoning democracy.

Countries around the world then had their hopes dashed when the military embarked on a genocide campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar—and Aung San Suu Kyi defended the killings. Many lost faith in her leadership, and this marked the beginning of the West's re-distancing from Myanmar. The moderate foreign investment that had just begun in 2011 was quickly reversed. The violence against the Rohingya population made foreign investors nervous, and many pulled out their already-meager investments. Along with the loss of faith in Suu Kyi, the divestment in Myanmar led many countries to distance themselves from Myanmar diplomatically.

The 2021 Coup

Despite the violence being carried out against citizens in Myanmar under Suu Kyi's presidency and her declining international popularity, Aung San Suu Kyi remained popular among the Buddhist majority in Myanmar. As a result, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the December 2020 elections by a landslide. The military had backed the opposition party, so they claimed that the election was fraudulent and demanded a rerun of the vote. When the election commissions proceeded to deny their claims of fraud, the military carried out a coup against Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders in February 2021, piling on accusations of corruption against Aung San Suu Kyi that could amount to 100 years in prison. But the citizens of Myanmar were not content to renounce their democratic progress without a fight. Opposition forces reacted to the coup with acts of civil disobedience, such as banging pots and boycotting military-supported companies, ultimately transitioning into mass protests.

The military has reacted violently to the protests with rubber bullets, water cannons, and fire directed at protesters. But the opposition movement did not acquiesce, so the civil war still rages on. The military's brutal tactics include shooting live ammunition into homes and protesters, razing entire villages, and arresting over 8,000 suspected opposition forces. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports that at least 1,500 people have been killed, but this is likely a grave underestimate.

Beyond the suffering caused by direct violence, Myanmar citizens are victims of a shrinking economy, a collapsed healthcare system, and skyrocketing poverty rates: millions of people in Myanmar have faced serious hunger crises, with poverty levels expected to double in 2022. CFR writer Joshua Kurlantzick explains that "because of the coup, Myanmar has become a failing state." While some of this damage has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil war has greatly exacerbated the deteriorating living conditions of these citizens.

A large protest following the 2021 military coup in Myanmar.

An Anti-Climactic International Response

The international community's response to the coup has been, on the whole, underwhelming. The Biden Administration has sanctioned military officials and companies, condemned human rights abuses, and pressured the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to put more pressure on the military junta. But the administration could strengthen their support by sanctioning Myanmar's oil and gas revenues, persuading other countries to stop supporting the junta, and increasing aid to the opposition movement. The UN has similarly come out with statements against the coup and the military's violent acts but has hesitated to directly intervene in Myanmar.

Some of the few countries that have remained highly involved in Myanmar are China and Russia, which are close allies of Myanmar's military junta. Due to China and Myanmar's close geographic proximity, China has been able to exert significant economic and diplomatic influence over Myanmar. In fact, China is the most supportive ally of Myanmar and its largest trading partner because of their extensive infrastructure and energy projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Therefore, China has a vested interest in preventing violence and instability in Myanmar by keeping the junta in power, both because of its geographic proximity and China's economic interests in the county. Some military leaders in Myanmar are wary of losing power to Chinese influence, but with the West's refusal to accept junta leadership, military leaders are forced to grow closer to China.

Russia is also an increasingly strong ally of the military junta. They did not support an arms embargo on Myanmar and have not condemned the coup. In fact, Russia has even continued arms sales to Myanmar during the coup period. In return, Myanmar has wholeheartedly backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia needs strong allies right now, given the backlash they face over the war, so they have a clear interest in keeping the military in power.

China and Russia's vested interest in keeping the junta in power in Myanmar make intervention on the side of the opposition a formidable task. What's more, although the international community was optimistic about Myanmar's democratic transition, the military never really lost its hold on power in Myanmar. Even when the parliamentary democracy was nominally in control, the Tatmadaw still maintained control over foreign relations, domestic security, and many other policies. The military also has significant holdings in major national companies, so their control extends far into both the economic and political spheres.

That being said, the strength of the military junta is currently being questioned given their struggle to crush the opposition movement and their lack of recognition internationally, as both the UN and ASEAN have refused to recognize the junta as the official government of Myanmar. But regardless, the military is so entrenched in Myanmar's systems and bent on holding power that replacing them with a democratic government is a task no nation wants to take on.

As such, the status quo of limited international intervention will likely remain. Western nations may continue to send hopes, prayers, and sanctions, but not much more. China and Russia will likely continue to support Myanmar's military but fall short of dedicating their forces to the fight. But not all is lost for democracy in Myanmar. The Tatmadaw has promised to eventually return to democratic elections, a promise that does look admittedly questionable now but could be acted upon in the future. The opposition movement has also managed to put up an impressive fight against the Tatmadaw, with the military regularly losing battles to opposition forces. At the present moment, then, the military's victory is not a foregone conclusion; but it does seem that Myanmar's future is in no one's hands, but those of its people.

Rohingya plight needs innovative solutions developed by themselves

Source Arab News, 24 June

The Rohingya have been oppressed for decades by their own country, Myanmar, where successive governments have violated their rights to identity, nationality, and security through systemic discrimination, violence, and repression.

Myanmar's military, which again seized power from a temporary civilian government in a February 2021 coup, continues to commit atrocities against the Rohingya as part of its systematic denial of their right to live in peace and dignity as full citizens.

When some of the Rohingya sought refuge in neighboring countries, the welcome they received also often fell well below international standards of human rights law. While the international community has rightly condemned the atrocities against the Rohingya in Myanmar— including the recent genocide determination by the US — and provided them with substantial humanitarian assistance, long-term sustainable remedies for the destroyed lives of so many individuals and communities remain elusive.

I have spent almost a decade researching the Rohingya crisis, and wrote the first book on the Rohingya genocide, and it seems to me that even though most of the Rohingya have finally escaped the genocidal terror of the Myanmar army, their situation and prospects are, if anything, worsening. The concrete problems of how they are to live safe and free from the looming threat of extermination seem to be becoming more intractable, and long-term solutions more elusive by the year.

As things stand, we may reasonably expect the Rohingya identity to disappear completely within one generation. Their language, culture, history, their way of life, will all have been diluted to extinction in the multitude of refugee camps that are now home to the majority of people who call themselves by the centuries-old name, Rohingya.

And if we continue to limit ourselves to the bare minimum of measures to which the international community so often defaults in refugee crises, this future may already be a foregone conclusion. It is for this reason that the old, staid measures and the old approaches will not suffice. Innovative policy thinking is now desperately needed.

That is why the New Lines Institute is launching the Global Rohingya Initiative, a coordinated international effort to address this crisis in a more universal and inventive way, crafted in cooperation with, and centered entirely on the needs and aspirations of, the Rohingya themselves. Rohingya community leaders are obviously much better placed to understand the myriad complex problems facing their own people in exile, and a partnership between such community leaders and the major stakeholders in the aid efforts is the only realistic way to effectively tackle at least some of the existential threats that these communities face.

The Rohingya must be empowered to speak for themselves, represent themselves and develop solutions to their own problems in the manner best suited to them.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Though this may depart from the current norms of providing basic material assistance to refugee camps on the limited assumption that their situation is temporary and easily reversible, the objective here is clear, and clearly necessary: to provide a platform for the Rohingya to address both the short-term material needs of individuals and communities in exile, but also, crucially, to help the Rohingya navigate through the continuing genocide as a common cultural group, and develop innovative policy ideas and solutions for the short, medium and long term.

The initiative will focus on three essential issues in the task of keeping the Rohingya together as a coherent cultural group: policy and politics, humanitarian issues, and accountability.

In policy and politics, we will aim to explore decades-old underlying political issues within the Myanmar civic and political structure, including identity, belonging, and security, which continue to support the marginalization and violent exclusion of Rohingya people from the body politic of the country of their birth. The initiative will help the Rohingya develop realistic solutions, and address the lack of meaningful policy and political mechanisms from the international community to support them.

The humanitarian focus will address the issues of resettlement, integration and the longer-term plans for the return of Rohingya refugees to their ancestral homeland in Myanmar. The initiative will explore the necessary conditions for a safe, voluntary, and durable return to their native Rakhine state in western Myanmar, and how the international community can support these efforts. This may not happen all at once, and it may not even start for some time. But the obstacles for the eventual return of the Rohingya have to be studied in detail, and solutions developed and implemented systematically.

Finally, the issue of accountability for the perpetrators of the crimes against the Rohingya will also be given due attention, because there can be no long lasting peace without justice. This initiative will discuss the role and responsibilities of nation states and international organizations in pursuing accountability for the Rohingya genocide and the intersection between accountability efforts and broader efforts to address impunity in Myanmar. It will examine ways in which current accountability mechanisms can be supported, and where necessary new mechanisms developed.

Overall the ambition of this project is to empower the Rohingya so they can take their destiny into their own hands. It is no longer acceptable for others to speak for them. The Rohingya must be empowered to speak for themselves, represent themselves and develop solutions to their own problems in the manner best suited to them. New Lines Institute simply aims to be the facilitator to these efforts, the ideas factory, the secretariat, and the platform by which the Rohingya address the international community in this endeavor.

Major stakeholders have already expressed their interest in supporting the initiative. So far, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the foreign ministry of Bangladesh, senior UN, US and UK officials and others have signaled their intent to do so.

Inevitably, however, addressing such complex historical problems always needs more innovative thinking and solution-building. We are therefore issuing a call for papers from innovative thinkers and experienced practitioners from around the world, to volunteer ideas and help us develop new lines of thinking for these complex problems.

  • Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is the director of special initiatives at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington D.C. and author of "The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Genocide" (Hurst, 2017). Twitter: @AzeemIbrahim
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

In six months, more than 600 Muslims were arrested across the country

Source RFA, 10 June

In six months, more than 600 Muslims were arrested across the country2022 On May 21st, I saw the survivors of a boat capsized near Shwe Saingyan Beach, Pathein Township, Irrawaddy Division

From December 2021 to early June this year, more than 600 Muslims have been arrested throughout Myanmar, including Rakhine State.

According to data collected by RFA based on statements from the Rakhine State Military Council and reports from local media, last December 270 Muslims, 24 in January 135 in February 14 in March 35 in April In May, 124 people were arrested for a total of 602 people.

Muslims to Malaysia by waterways, Trying to travel illegally by land, Rakhine sea, Ann Township Checkpoint, Yangon, He was arrested in places like Irrawaddy.

A Muslim from Maungdaw Township, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said that he tried to sell everything he owned to send his daughter to Malaysia, but was arrested on the way and almost lost his life.

"Because our family can't afford it, we have agreed that I will marry a man who is in Malaysia. Will I take my daughter? Will I take it? Will you pay half of the travel expenses? I will send it. I don't have fifty hundred thousand. I will sell my farm. I will sell my house. I will sell what I have and let her go. I ran out of property and was arrested. I have died. Now I have reached the end of my life."

On November 29th, his daughter was stranded on a boat with 228 people in the sea 17 miles northwest of Mayu Island near Sittwe. They were arrested en masse.

109 of them were sentenced on December 14 by the Maungdaw District Court to the maximum penalty of five years in prison under Section-13(1) of the 1947 Immigration Recent Provisions Act. The rest of the minors were released.

Muslims are finding it difficult to live in the refugee camps and villages, so they sell what they have as mortgages and travel to Malaysia.

They also said that if a person goes from Maungdaw Township to Malaysia, it costs 90,000,000 and if it goes from Sittwe Township, it costs 70,000,000.

I don't have to pay that money all at once, but when I get from Maungdaw to Sittong, 20,000,000 kyats. 30,000,000 if you come to Yangon from the war. 10 lakhs from Yangon to Myawati 10,000,000 from Myawady to Thailand. When you arrive at the Malaysian border from Thailand, you have to pay 20,000,000 in one step. He also said that if he is arrested on the road, he will not get the money back.

A Muslim from Kyauk Phyu Township who did not want to be named said that there are few jobs for Muslims in Rakhine State and they do not have the right to move freely.

"It's easy for people to be trafficked because our livelihood is difficult. The problem in Rakhine is that there is no freedom of movement. Economically, there are few employment opportunities when looking for food. I live in the refugee camp, so I can't go outside. Because of that, they ended up sacrificing their lives. If you die, the earth If you live, they will leave as Shwe Hyo."

He said that there are people who have been arrested on the road while taking such a risk and have gone missing without any information or even died.

Last May 21, a boat capsized near Shwe Sainyan Beach in Pathein Township, Ayeyarwady Region, and many Muslims drowned as a result of heavy rain and wind while leaving Rakhine from Rakhine State. There were about 90 Muslims in the boat. Of these, 17 Muslim corpses and more than 20 survivors, including a broker, were found on May 22 at the Shwe Taingyan beach. May 24 On the 25th, eight Muslim bodies were found on the beach in Gu Township, Rakhine State. RFA has not been able to independently confirm the whereabouts of the 40 missing Muslims.

arrested-rohingya-thai.jpg2022 Seeing the Rohingya who were arrested in Khotaung Island, southern Thailand on June 4 (Photo: HANDOUT / ROYAL THAI NAVY / AFP)

In addition, 59 Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh were arrested on June 4 by Thai authorities on Khotaung Island in Sattun District, southern Thailand. The Thai authorities discovered that the Muslims had arrived in Malaysia after they were put off the boat. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the Thai government to help them as refugees.

U Tin Hlaing, a Muslim from Sakkyen Pyin village in Sittwe Township, who works to prevent human trafficking, told RFA that there are also victims of human trafficking who try to leave for other countries.

"I made a video of the traffickers beating the children to see how pitiful some of the children are. And that's their mother, I sent it to my father. If you want your son to live, the remaining money to pay is 30,000,000. 50 20 10 Send the money, There are such types of typos. The parents are also in the refugee camp. There is no money to pay. If there is no more, what do they do? I sold the food production book. Finally, they have no place to stay. There will be no more food. Because their children don't die. We have seen such situations."

In the midst of these conditions, young Muslims are fleeing and leaving abroad.

RFA tried to contact the Rakhine Military Council regarding the situation of Muslims in Rakhine State, but they did not answer the phone.

In addition to this, RFA contacted General Zaw Min Tun, who is allowed to speak on the Military Council, to ask about this by phone several times from June 8th to 10th, but he has not yet received an answer.

"In the entire country of Myanmar, all other people have the right to travel by road, water, etc., but the Rohingyas do not even have the right to use ordinary land or water. "

Ko Ne San Lwin, the co-founder of the Rohingya Liberation Coalition, pointed out that these events are the consequence of the violation of Rohingya's basic rights in the region.

"If you can work and eat freely in your area, If it was peaceful, no one would be moving. In the whole of Myanmar, all other people use land, road, They have the right to travel by waterways, but the Rohingyas have the right to travel by land. They don't even have access to waterways. The right to work and eat in Rakhine, the homeland of the Rohingya. The fact that basic rights such as the right to move around are being prevented is a major violation of human rights."

In Rakhine State, since 2012, the war, forest Due to ethnic conflicts in townships such as Kyauk Phyu, many Muslims have fled to refugee camps.

In 2017, Buthidaung, More than 700,000 Muslims had to flee to Bangladesh due to the army's clearing of Maungdaw townships.