Rohingya: A stalled confidence-building process

Recent instance of violence in Rakhine state is the sign that process for re-integration of 'stateless' Rohingyas has been stalled. The majority of these stateless Rohingyas are the returnees who have been repatriated under 1993 MOU, signed by the Burmese Government and UNHCR. Burmese parliament and government, now a days, have the power and capacity to grant full citizenship status to at least those children born in Burma. I recently have written a letter to Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr about these children.

In relation to the statelessness of Rohingyas, many human rights groups have often requested Burmese government to rescind the 1982 Citizenship Laws. Whilst revoking this law may have been justifiable action, I do not think Burmese government will alter that law, atleast anytime soon. Taken the Burmese political history a guide, a change of this nature would require generations.

Keeping Rohingyas in a state of limbo for extended period will not leads to a good outcome. The encamped Rohingya population have already grown anxiety and anger about the current situation. Needless to say, the groups like RNDP would like to push further on this situation, until many Rohingyas grow desperation and leave. The U Thein Sein government must resist those pressures and start re-integrating those Rohingyas.

With regards to genuineness of greater reforms under U Thein Sein government, the case of stateless Rohingyas is set to become a litmus test. In otherwords, the way how the case of Rohingyas is handled by Burmese politicians individually and the government as a whole will determine their fitness for the offices.

From the activists part, it is time to renew calling the United Nations, U Thein Sein government and those Burmese politicians regarding with the citizenship of those young Rohingyas.

In Solidarity, U Ne Oo.

AFP - UN calls for talks after clash in Myanmar region
AFP News – Tue, Aug 13, 2013

The United Nations has called for dialogue after another violent clash in a camp for dispossessed Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, as its human rights envoy toured the strife-torn area Tuesday.

At least one person was killed and around 10 injured last Friday in the latest violence in Rakhine state, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said.

Conflict between local Buddhist and Muslim communities in the state last year left some 200 dead and 140,000 homeless.

"UNHCR is reiterating its call for peaceful dialogue and confidence-building between the (internally displaced persons) and government. We believe this is key to avoiding further violence," spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.

The statement coincides with a visit by the UN's outspoken human rights envoy for Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana, who has made Rakhine his first stop in a ten-day trip to the country.

In March, after anti-Muslim violence spread into central Myanmar and left dozens dead, Quintana said the reluctance of security forces to crack down on the unrest suggested a possible state link to the fighting -- a claim rejected by the government.

Attacks against Muslims -- who make up an estimated four percent of Myanmar's population -- have exposed deep fractures in the Buddhist-majority nation and cast a shadow over its emergence from army rule.

Quintana has visited several areas in Rakhine, including a Rohingya-majority area and a camp for Muslims left homeless in the violence, according to Win Myaing, spokesman for the Rakhine state government.

Tensions in Rakhine have remained high since two outbreaks of violence in June and October last year left around 200 people dead, mainly Rohingya who are seen by many in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Communities were torn apart in the fighting, with whole neighbourhoods reduced to ashes, and a sense of deep distrust between Muslims, Buddhists and the security forces pervades.

In June, five Muslims including three Rohingya women were killed by security forces who opened fire during disputes in two separate incidents in camps in Rakhine.

UNHCR said the latest conflict broke out at a camp for displaced Muslims on Friday when a body was found in a waterway near Sittwe.

An argument between camp residents and local police over the cause of death and handling of the corpse is thought to have led to a violent confrontation in which four Muslims sustained gunshot wounds, with one later dying.

Edwards said in a statement that humanitarian workers were unable to access the area over the weekend, but had been able to re-enter the camp as tensions eased on Monday.

A police source said two people had died of their injuries.

Win Myaing put the number of wounded at 10 and told AFP that "the situation is calm now".

Reformist President Thein Sein last month denied accusations by Human Rights Watch of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. They are denied citizenship by Myanmar, leaving them effectively stateless.

Thousands have fled the camps in Rakhine, with many taking to the seas in flimsy boats and some later drowning.

Malaysian Digest - Unending Plight Of Myanmar's Rakhine State
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 09:21

SITTWE: The Rakhine state in Western Myanmar is home to over 150,000 internally displaced people.

Among them, the Rohingyas, who are not considered citizens, are perhaps the most vulnerable. However, they aren't the only ones suffering.

Myanmar's former border affairs minister Lieutenant General Thein Htay once described Sittwe in Rakhine State as a place where "lines can't be crossed."

This city of about 200,000 people is a patchwork of divided communities along religious lines, separated by checkpoints and razor wire.

Every day, students from Sittwe University - a mostly Buddhist student body - must pass through camps of displaced people made up of mostly Muslims to attend school.

Some have described the situation here as a form of apartheid.

Most of the incidents of sectarian violence have taken place here in Rakhine state, where over 80,000 Rohingya Muslims currently reside, according to the United Nations.

It is not the only community that was affected. Over the past two years, over 200 people have been killed and 150,000 are displaced across the country.

Camps for the internally displaced people have been set up to help those who have lost their homes in the violence.

Aung Win, a Rohingya man living in a community that includes non-Rohingya Muslims, believes the government has "no intention to solve the problem".

He said: "I think the government will take this problem to the 2015 election. Maybe during this period, they will not settle this problem and they will keep this Rohingya people separated from the downtown Sittwe. They are segregating (the population) and proceeding with ethnic cleaning."

Human Rights Watch has described the Rohingyas situation as ethnic cleansing, especially given the poor sanitary conditions of pregnant women in the camps, along with a two child limit only for Rohingya families.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein has called this a "smear campaign" and threatened zero tolerance for those who foment ethnic hatred.

For now, the government's policy of forced segregation continues.

The most isolated and squalid camp is on Kyi Ni Pyin Island in the Bay of Bengal - about an hour speedboat ride away from Sittwe.

Here, Rohingya women cook over open fires under flimsy tarps while security forces watch the camp from above. There is no school and no medical care.

Some men were willing to speak to Channel NewsAsia despite the risk to their own security. They claimed this thatch pavilion is used as an open air jail.

Some Rakhines believe the Rohingyas want to create their own Islamic state called Arkistan.

The Rohingyas have rejected the claims. In fact, their only objective is to become Myanmar citizens.

The citizenship issue is at the heart of the problem. There is no clear or easy path for the Rohingyas to become citizens under Myanmar's law.

Ironically, during the elections, they have been issued temporary residence IDs and were permitted to vote which has angered local Rakhine parties.

Khaing Kyaw Moe, secretary of external affairs at the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said: "Most of the Muslim people voted USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) in 2010. That is why I am talking about my people who voted us in 2010. We need to listen to the people's voices if they want those people or not. Pragmatically, we understand that politically, we can't avoid that, we can't avoid those people. We can't kick them out."

The only thing everyone agrees on is that the government will only take action when there are votes to be gained.

Myanmar's next general elections are slated for 2015.