A programme prepared by Patrick Lovett and Gaëlle Essoo.
Thursday, 14 June 2018
Wednesday, 6 June 2018
A photograph of Ma Hla Phyu's National Verification Card which has circulated online.
By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — A Muslim woman living in an internally displaced persons' camp in Rakhine State has been sentenced to a year in prison, for attempting to travel to Yangon without permission, an indication of the travel restrictions placed on Muslims living in the state.
Ma Hla Phyu, 26, was arrested on May 23 in Taungup Township, Rakhine State. She had been attempting to travel from the Kyauktalone IDP camp in Kyaukphyu Township to the commercial capital, U Shwe Hla Aung, the Kyaukphyu township administrator told Frontier by telephone on May 31.
Following a swift trial, she has been found guilty under Section 6(3) of the 1949 Residents of Burma Registration Act, which prohibits false representation, loan or forgery of a registration card. She has been sentenced to one year in Thandwe Prison with hard labour.
Hla Phyu had been living with her family at the Kyauktalone IDP camp since violence flared in Rakhine State in 2012, leaving hundreds of thousands — including Rohingya and Kaman, the latter among Myanmar's official "national races" — living in camps with limited access to healthcare, education and livelihoods.
Shwe Hla Aung said that Hla Phyu worked as a teacher at the camp, and collected a government salary at the end of the school year.
"She did not apply for travel permission as far as I know," said Shwe Hla Aung.
He said that people from the camp could only travel to Yangon if they provided information about where they were staying in the commercial capital.
While the Kaman hold National Registration Cards, which are issued to citizens, Hla Phyu's family is not Kaman, he said, so she carried a National Verification Card.
The government has insisted that Muslims in Rakhine State who do not have citizenship should apply for a NVC. If they qualify, they can begin the process of applying for citizenship.
However, U Phyu Chay, a camp leader at Kyauktalone said that many people in Rakhine reject the process because they are "not illegal immigrants".
"We are ethnic people. We do not want this process," he said.
He said Hla Phyu was arrested because she was Muslim. "That is the only reason they arrested her," he told Frontier.
He said that she had applied twice, including in January, for permission to travel to Yangon but the application had been rejected on both occasions. She had wanted to travel to the commercial capital to find work so she could send money home to her family, he said.
"She was not given a reason for why she was not allowed to travel," Phyu Chay said of her earlier attempts.
Hla Phyu completed her high school studies before the 2012 violence, he added. Since finishing high school she has been hoping to study Burmese language at university.
Her younger sister, Ma Hla Hla Phyu, 19, said that her parents didn't know she had left the camp because they were fasting for Ramadan.
"We found out about her arrest from the township administrator. I want to see my sister as soon as possible," Hla Hla Phyu told Frontier, adding that the administrator has said he will help the family visit her at Thandwe.
Hla Phyu's cause has garnered support from internet users.
Dr Min Swe, who has more than 5,000 followers on Facebook, blamed the arrest on the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs.
"It is only the Home Affairs [ministry] that creates such kind of systematic problem," he wrote.
Immigration officials in Nay Pyi Taw and Kyaukphyu refused to comment on the case when contacted by Frontier.
Thursday, 31 May 2018
After spending three years saving thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, the millionaire couple Regina and Christopher Catrambone now want to help Rohingyas. Their boat, the Phoenix, is sailing off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia in order to rescue Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar by sea. Here, our correspondents report.
Monday, 21 May 2018
The Rohingyas will be relocated there before August, Secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal says
100,000 Rohingyas, who have taken shelter in Bangladesh amid persecution in Myanmar, will be relocated to Bhashan Char of Hatiya upazila in Noakhali.
Disaster Management and Relief secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal came up with the information at a programme at Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar's Ukhiya upazila.
The secretary said that all the preparations have been completed and the Rohingyas will be relocated there before August.
Earlier on November 14, 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk2,312.15 crore project for giving temporary shelter to Rohingyas at Bhashan Char.
The Ecnec approved the project titled "Ashrayan-3" for construction of necessary infrastructure for the housing of 100,000 displaced Myanmar citizens, and construction of island infrastructure at Bhashan Char.
Displaced: More than 700 000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh, but monsoon season is coming, and now severe weather threatens their makeshift shelters (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
While the international community fences over whether to name the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide, the killing reportedly continues — and 700 000 refugees in Bangladesh batten down to face what could prove to be an equally deadly monsoon season.
The massacres, mass rapes, village-razing, forced famine and expulsions were recognised as bearing "the hallmarks of genocide" on by Yanghee Lee, the United Nation's human rights rapporteur on Myanmar. This came on the heels of a report by the Myanmar military that exonerated all but 10 security force members of any crimes against the Rohingya. Yanghee's statement is the strongest affirmation by the UN of the gravity of the crisis since its human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, warned days earlier that what he suspected were "acts of genocide" were ongoing in Rakhine State, albeit with lower intensity.
Most diplomats such as former United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson have referred to the crisis as "ethnic cleansing". But the term has no grounding in international law — unlike "genocide" and "crimes against humanity". An official UN Security Council designation such as genocide is critical to activate the 1948 Genocide Convention to which Myanmar is a signatory, but the UN has very rarely done so, as in Bosnia and Darfur — and as China is a significant supplier of arms to Myanmar, it would be hard to secure.
The desire of most Rohingya to return to their ancestral lands is thwarted by the influence in the military of Myanmar's ultra-right Buddhist monks, rendering Myanmar's Nelson Mandela figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, powerless. Some Myanmar experts, such as Politico magazine's Nahal Toosi, have argued that her inaction on the genocide, and flat refusal to use the word "Rohingya", and in so doing risk alienating her ethnic support base, reveals her to be a Burman nationalist.
Near the Myanmar border and close to the epicentre of the genocide, Kutupalong is a vast, ersatz camp of 150 000 Rohingya refugees, distinguishable from Bangladeshi Muslims by their dress, language and customs dating back to the mediaeval kingdom of Arakan, which straddled contemporary Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Perched on a hillside overlooking a Red Crescent compound, Abdul Rahim is barely 18, but he carries a laminated card around his neck indicating he is a majhi, a Rohingya community leader, recognised by the camp authorities. Most elders, too weak to escape, were slaughtered by Buddhist and Myanmar army deathsquads.
Rahim's 60-year-old father, Mohamed Ali, was among them: the man was "locked in his house by the army and a mob [acting] together, and the house was burned"; Rahim's 23-year-old brother Osil Haman was shot; his mother, six other brothers and two sisters managed to escape.
"At the time of the attack, I was visiting Kulsumar Akter, a beautiful girl of 16 who I was friends with in a neighbouring village. The army raped her and killed her in front of me. Ten or 12 very beautiful girls were gathered in a house, raped and killed by the army."
Another young majhi is Mohamed Islam (22) from Maungdaw in Rakhine State, a town that was 80% Rohingya before 120 000 Rohingyas were relocated between 2012 and 2016, supposedly for their protection from hostile neighbours, to de facto concentration camps. He tells of the assault on his community by a force of the Myanmar army acting alongside a local vigilante group.
"It was in the afternoon on . Suddenly they attacked. The [vigilante militia] was wearing army uniforms. They were shooting everyone and burning the houses; these were the targets of the Myanmar government. I was running in the yard of my house from the army but an army sniper shot me in the foot and I fell down; the army thought that I had died so they left me. When I opened my eyes, I saw lots of dead bodies; my friend Shokil, who was 27 years old, was killed."
Moved during the night by two fellow survivors, who carried the wounded Islam on a wooden pole between them, he said they encountered village after village where corpses were strewn about. It took the trio two terrifying days to cover the 70km to the Naf River, which marks the border with Bangladesh, and cross to safety.
On arrival in the forest reserve on the outskirts of the southern Bangladeshi town of Ukhia, the tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees initially had to live under the stars, taking their chances with snakes and elephants that killed several. Of the 700 000 survivors who settled in three big refugee camps such as Kutupalong and 10 smaller ones, Unicef estimates that 60% are children.
The camp is dotted with "child-friendly spaces". I visit one, where perhaps 50 children squat on the floor in clusters. Among the scattered smiles there are hard eyes and faraway stares. Everyone here seems to have scarred hearts or bodies.
One of the few elders in the camp, Noor Bashir (56) had a narrow escape: he lifts his bazu shirt and longyi to show me the machete wounds on his legs and right hip.
An August 2017 documentary by Al Jazeera correspondent Salam Hindawi, who managed to get inside one of the concentration camps in Rakhine State, shows Rohingya women gang-rape survivors in tears as they recount witnessing their husbands being taken away by the military to an uncertain fate.
Days earlier and 330km north-northwest, I had been sitting in the modest office of Bangladesh's deputy director general of immigration. She plied me with tea and mishti sweetmeats as her minions processed my visa extension application. Stacked high on the desks of offices below were applications from hundreds of Chinese and Indians as well as Belarussians and many other nationalities, but no Rohingyas. Bangladesh has not granted them refugee status. Even the pre-genocide community of 400 000 who fled repression two decades ago is unassimilated, disallowed from travelling, schooling or marrying Bengalis.
Now the monsoon season threatens the lives of an estimated 100 000 survivors: though the aid organisations have built concrete stairs, water tanks and woven-bamboo, plastic and corrugated iron shelters for the Rohingya, these are unlikely to withstand cyclone-force winds and mudslides.
That my interviews take place on the 70th anniversary of the still unresolved dispossession of 700 000 other Muslims — those of Palestine in 1948 — make the Rohingyas' appeals for the full reinstatement of their citizenship and homes that much more poignant — and desperate.