Monthly Archives: April 2018

Almost 700,000 Muslim people from the self-identified Rohingya community have fled into Bangladesh since August last year, when Myanmar’s armed forces launched a massive counter-terrorist operation against a small group of Rohingya radicals who had attacked some 30 military and police outposts with knives and bamboo spears. Myanmar has been widely criticised for the military action. The United Nations has said the crackdown appears to be a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”. It has triggered one of the fastest refugee exoduses in modern times. In addition to the barely imaginable human suffering, the crisis has transformed Myanmar’s domestic politics and international relations and will have a huge impact on the regional security landscape. The exodus will likely soon reach its tragic end point: the complete depopulation of Rohingya from northern Rakhine state. As the world struggles to define a response, the crisis is entering a new, fraught and highly uncertain phase. The speeches and actions of the nation’s leader and celebrated Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi highlight the views of many in Myanmar. To her, the Rohingya are Bengalis – Bengali-speaking illegal migrants from the land to the west now split into Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. Bengal has experienced economic cycles of prosperity and poverty over the centuries. About one third of the population perished in the famine of 1770, as the Mughal Empire lay in ruins and the British Empire had not yet risen to replace it. Once-flourishing rural towns and villages were reclaimed by jungle as the residents fled or starved. Over the centuries the ever-present spectre of poverty has spurred Bengalis to migrate in their millions. Most Myanmarese believe that the Rohingya are seeking to convert their Buddhist-majority country into a Muslim nation. As a result, international sanctions aimed at protecting the Muslim minority are viewed by many within Myanmar as an external attack on their nation. Since last August, nationalist sentiment in Myanmar has moved in favour of the military and against the Suu Kyi government with whom it shares power. The Rohingya influx has meanwhile posed tremendous challenges for Bangladesh. The Dhaka government is struggling to shelter and feed the refugees, as well as ensure they have access to basic health services. Another challenge is keeping them confined in the camps. Bangladesh is now eagerly pushing for their safe return to Myanmar. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and will probably require more than a generation of good governance to catch up with its neighbours. The country only recently began its faltering journey to democracy and the road ahead is strewn with obstacles. One obstacle is the fact that Myanmar is clearly not a stable secular state, and is home to 100 different ethnic and religious minorities. Though its statistics are notoriously unreliable, Burmans are believed to constitute 70 per cent of the population. Sunni Muslim residents and the less numerous Shia often have grandparents who were born in South Asia, while the great majority of Myanmar’s Chinese Muslims are of Yunnanese descent. According to both Burmese and non-Burmese sources, Islam reached Arakan (now Rakhine state) as early as the 8th century. The conversion of local inhabitants to the newly arrived Islam was more by choice – their ruler’s or their own – than by force. “Rohingya” or “Rowangya” is assumed to be derived from Rohang, or Ram, the ancient Arabic name for Arakan. The Rohingya crisis has re-ignited the interests of Myanmar’s neighbours and foreign investors. Myanmar’s top nine trading partners last year were all from Asia, with the US coming in 10th behind Vietnam. Thailand is the country’s second-largest trading partner after China, with natural gas imports from Myanmar accounting for a large chunk of trade. Tough criteria in the newly forged Rohingya repatriation deal will make it difficult for the Myanmar nationals to return to their homes in Rakhine from Bangladesh, say experts. The verification process will require Rohingya refugees to submit documents to prove their past residency in Myanmar. The documents include “old and expired citizenship identity cards” or national registration cards or temporary registration cards, according to the "Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State" signed between Dhaka and Nay Pyi Taw in November. Once repatriated to Rakhine, the Rohingya will primarily be kept at temporary shelters for a “limited time” with restrictions on their freedom of movement as per existing laws in Myanmar. Rohingya who have taken shelter in Bangladesh to escape persecution in Myanmar say they will fall foul of the verification process since only a few of them have residency cards. Also, it is still unclear whether they would be granted the same citizenship and rights enjoyed by Buddhists in Myanmar. As with other regional crises, the role of international organisations like the United Nations is under scrutiny. A recent UN commission led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan called for promoting investment and community-directed growth to alleviate poverty in Rakhine, which Myanmar officials have supported. But it also called for Myanmar to grant citizenship and other rights to the Rohingya. Members of the Muslim minority were stripped of citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless. Their freedom of movement and religious practice is restricted in Myanmar, where they also have limited access to medical care, food or education. The role of the UN is crucial to the successful resolution of this regional crisis. Much now depends on its success in integrating security and justice in the measures it takes to alleviate the problem. Failure will mean that this latest Rohingya crisis may not be the last one. Mokbul Morshed Ahmad is associate professor of Regional and Rural Development Planning at the School of Environment Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Rohingya crisis: Looking backwards and forwards

Almost 700,000 Muslim people from the self-identified Rohingya community have fled into Bangladesh since August last year, when Myanmar’s armed forces launched a massive counter-terrorist operation against a small group of Rohingya radicals who...
This picture taken on Apr. 5 in Banda Aceh shows a small boat (front) from which five Rohingya Muslims were rescued by Indonesian fishermen after they were stranded at sea for almost almost three weeks. (Agence France -Presse/Ilyas Ismail)

AICHR reps call for regional approach to Rohingya crisis

Indonesian and Malaysian representatives at the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) have called on ASEAN member countries to identify more effective measures and practical steps to fulfil its commitment to bring peace...
Pools of water cover part of a refugee camp for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh last week. DAPHNEE COOK/GETTY IMAGES

Freeland expected to travel to Bangladesh, visit Rohingya refugee camp in May

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to travel to Bangladesh at the beginning of May, where she is hoping to visit a Rohingya refugee camp and witness firsthand the effects of the displacement...
Myanmar minister says conditions in Rohingya refugee camps 'very poor'

Myanmar minister says conditions in Rohingya refugee camps ‘very poor’

Minister Win Myat Aye talks as State Counsellor Office Minister Kyaw Tint Swe looks on during a press conference in Yangon, April 19, 2018. YANGON (REUTERS) - A Myanmar minister expressed concerns on Thursday (April...
ASSESSING FACEBOOK'S ROLE IN THE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE ROHINGYA

ASSESSING FACEBOOK’S ROLE IN THE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE ROHINGYA

While Facebook must improve its policies in curtailing the spread of hate speech against Muslims in Myanmar, those steps won't address the fundamental drivers of persecution and violence in the region. Rohingya refugees walk after...
German parliament condemns violence against Rohingya

German parliament condemns violence against Rohingya

Resolution calls on Myanmar authorities to stop human rights violations in restive Rakhine State German parliament on Friday condemned the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. In a voting held in the parliament,...
Religious tolerance: Living in peace to avoid living in pieces

Religious tolerance: Living in peace to avoid living in pieces

Nigeria is gradually degenerating from a multi-ethnic and religious but united nation to a competition ground for dominant Abrahamic religious groupings. The intense struggle for theological supremacy between the two dominant religious groupings in...
Myanmar

Myanmar — time for a legal reckoning

The wheels of international justice turn slowly, but have begun to move Many Rohingya Muslims remain in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh after over 750,000 have fled Myanmar since late 2016. © Reuters Nearly 18 months after...
This picture taken on April 5, 2018 shows a small boat (front) on which five Rohingya Muslims were rescued by Indonesian fishermen after they were stranded at sea for almost almost three weeks, in Banda Aceh. (Agence France -Presse/Ilyas Ismail)

Dozens of Rohingya come ashore in Indonesia

  This picture taken on April 5, 2018 shows a small boat (front) on which five Rohingya Muslims were rescued by Indonesian fishermen after they were stranded at sea for almost almost three weeks, in...
Citing Rohingya Massacre, Myanmar Army Chief Urges Soldiers to Obey Law

Citing Rohingya Massacre, Myanmar Army Chief Urges Soldiers to Obey Law

Myanmar Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing arrives at the presidential palace at Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 30, 2018. / Reuters YANGON — Myanmar Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing has told military personnel in the...
Dhaka, Ottawa and The Hague: Rohingya Convergence

Dhaka, Ottawa and The Hague: Rohingya Convergence

On April 4, 2018, the Canadian prime minister's special envoy to Myanmar, Bob Rae, released a report entitled “Tell them we're human: What Canada and the world can do about the Rohingya crisis.” The...
‘Not my concern'

‘Not my concern’

In an interview with Star, top Myanmar official downplays ethnic cleansing allegation, but admits Rohingya torture A top Myanmar official has admitted Rohingyas were tortured but played down the global concern over its ethnic cleansing,...

Latest News

Hundreds of Rohingya families flee India for fear of deportation, persecution

Hundreds of Rohingya families flee India for fear of deportation, persecution Some 2,000 Rohingya Muslims, who had fled to India from death and violence...

Myanmar army kills 13 in attack on Rakhine rebels

Myanmar’s Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, Major General Soe Naing Oo, and Major General Tun Tun Nyi say the army hit back at...

From India to Bangladesh: 1,300 Rohingya fear repatriation to Myanmar

The refugees are from far away Indian Kashmir. To reach south-east Bangladesh, refugees cross the Indian states of Assam, Tripura or West Bengal. On...

31 Rohingyas waiting to make border crossings to Bangladesh from India

More Rohingyas are waiting to enter Bangladesh through Brahmanbaria’s Kasba border from India amid fears of deportation to Myanmar. “As many as 31 Rohingya women,...

Speakers: Bangladesh needs to intensify action to resolve Rohingya crisis

It should move to deportation issues rather than genocide for international prosecution Speakers at a symposium have said Bangladesh’s diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives...