Myanmar probes into Muslim deaths amid tensions with Buddhists

June 7, 2012

(Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to Myanmar Muslims leaders at the National League for Democracy head office in Yangon June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

Myanmar’s government has appointed a minister and senior police chief to head an investigation into the killing of 10 Muslims by a Buddhist mob that has stoked communal tensions in the country’s Westernmost state.

The government has been quick to respond to Sunday’s killings by a group of vigilantes who were angered by reports of a recent gang rape and murder of a local woman, allegedly by Muslims in predominantly Buddhist Rakhine state.

The new reformist, civilian-led administration says national reconciliation and unity is one of its top priorities and its success in striking ceasefires with all but one of the country’s ethnic minority rebel groups may have played a part in the recent suspension of most Western sanctions.

It took the unusual step of announcing the probe on the front pages of several state-controlled newspapers on Thursday after a protest by Burmese Muslims in the biggest city, Yangon and anger on social media about the brutal killings and the media’s reporting of the incident.

Read the full story by Aung Hla Tun here.
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Demands of the Rohingya refugees

1. Background

Recently, bilateral talk has been taken placed in between the government of Burma and Bangladesh regarding refugee repatriation. However, the situation in Arakan, after the election, becomes worst than ever. The persecution and the human rights violation accelerated than before. It is too early to repatriate refugees to Arakan without changing any situations in Arakan. Premature repatriation will repeat mass refugee exodus again as we have witnessed the second mass refugee exodus in 1992, after 14 years time from the first mass refugee exodus in 1978. In order to gain long lasting solution, hosting countries and international bodies need to find out the root causes of the problems.

2. Root Causes of the Rohingya Refugees

The Rohingya, who have been living with distinct socio-cultural entity, are not tolerated in Burma, and they have long been oppressed and persecuted in a planned way in order to transform the Arakan into a purely Burmanized Buddhist Arakan. Apparently, the successive military government of Burma with the aid of ultra racist Rakhine (Magh) have been pursuing the policies of de-Muslimization and Burmanization in Arakan applying various kind of inhuman polices to drive them out from the soil of Arakan. Indeed it is a problem of religious intolerance and political persecution and is a systematic eradication of an ethnic Muslim minority from their ancestral land; periodically, armed operations were conducted against unarmed Rohingya civilians since her independence on Jan 4, 1948.

2.1 The armed operations against Rohingyas

01. Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment) November 1948
02. Burma Territorial Force (BTF) Operation 1949-50
03. Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin regiment) March 1951-52
04. Mayu Operation October 1952-53
05. Mone-thone Operation October 1954
06. Combined Immigration and Army Operation January 1955
07. Union Military Police (UMP) Operation 1955-58
08. Captain Htin Kyaw Operation 1959
09. Shwe Kyi Operation October 1966
10. Kyi Gan Operation October-December 1966
11. Ngazinka Operation 1967-69
12. Myat Mon Operation February 1969-71
13. Major Aung Than Operation 1973
14. Sabe Operation February 1974-78
15. Nagamin Operation February 1978-79
16. Shwe Hintha Operation August 1978-80
17. Galone Operation 1979
18. Pyi Thaya Operation 1991-92
19. Na-Sa-Ka Operation (presently going on) 1992
Out of 19 operations, 18 were carried out within 43 (1948-1991) years time, it means every 2 ½ years there was one operation for Rohingya. Obviously, Rohingyas are constantly and gradually migrated to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arabs Emirate, Thailand and Malaysia to escape from the persecution. However, the junta and the racist Rakhine (Magh) are still not satisfied and the Na-Sa-Ka operation was started in 1992.

2.2 The Na-Sa-Ka Operation (1992-presently going on)
It was the longest and the worst ever operation in the history of Rohingya. It was a new extermination design, with long-term plans and programmes under the command of ex- Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the Chief of the Directorate of the Defence Service Intelligence (DDSI) and the Secretary No. 1 of the SPDC then. Through this operation, the Rohingyas are made educationally backward, economically crippled, socially and culturally de-generated. Many mosques have been destroyed and closed down. Arbitrary killing, confiscation of land, forced labours, forced relocation, forced ration collection for army, extortion of money and raping of women are the tactics used in this operation.
2.3 The Citizenship Law of 1982
1982 Burma citizenship law (Pyithu Hluttaw law No.1982-87) supersedes the 1948 Constitution Nationality Laws. According to the 982 law, there are citizens, associate citizens, and naturalized citizens. Under this law, citizens by birth are Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine and Shan ethnic groups.
The new citizenship law was purposely formulated to target the Rohingya Muslims and denying their rights to nationality and thus rendered them to the status of stateless people.
This particular law will continue to create outflow of refugees which overburden other countries and create threats to peace and tranquillity within the region.
The Rohingya problem is a man-made tragedy recurring in cycle. The neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh, are over burdened with the Rohingya influxes. It creates regional instability posing serious threat to the world peace.
2.4 Racial and religious intolerance
The present situation of the Rohingyas are the result of join oppressions by the ultra-racist Rakhine and Burmese military government through forcible expulsion from their homeland by means of persecution, genocidal massacres, torture and harassment in the most inhuman manner.
Therefore, prior to any refugee repatriation process, the government of Burma (Myanmar) should accept the following pre-requisites and fully implement them in Arakan.

3. Pre-requisites for repatriation

Recognition of Rohingyas as an indigenous ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar).
Issuance of national securitization cards to all Rohingyas.
To lift all form of restrictions and harassments such as travel ban, marriage restriction, land and property confiscation, extortion, arbitrary arrest, forced ration collection for army etc.
To stop building model villages and sent back all model villagers to their origin.
To return all confiscated lands and properties to the original owner.
To give assurance for religious freedom.
To give access for higher education and to provide enough hospitals and medical facilities in northern Arakan

As all above-mentioned factors are the main elements that directly contribute to uproot and displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from Arakan, unless and until developing the situation in Arakan, the repatriation of refugee will not fulfill its primary objective that is the durable solution.

4. Creating conducive environment for returnees

Instead of passively waiting for conditions to be changed Burma, refugee agencies, must work actively to create conditions conducive to their safe return. It should emphasize on:

The right of all persons to return to their country
The prime responsibility of countries of origin to establish conditions for safe and dignified return
The obligation of Burma to accept the return of their nationals
Calls on Burma to promote conditions conducive to the return of refugees and to support their sustainable reintegration

5. Welfare of voluntary returnees

It is essential to maintain an image of truly voluntary repatriation. Voluntary repatriation requires asylum, it respects the refugees, and allows them to make unpressured decisions. The returnees should have the following:

1. Overall peace and security
2. Provision of agricultural settlement land or creating job opportunities
3. Improving infrastructures
4. Strong funding support from donors
6. The repatriation dialogues
Apart from UNHCR, the hosting country (Bangladesh) and the country of origin (Burma) there should have representatives of the refugees or community leaders in the repatriation dialogues.
7. Conclusion
Rohingyas had become refugees to two times, portions of them had been repatriated to Arakan, through bilateral repatriation agreement between Rangoon and Dhaka in 1978 and 1992, but it does not provide adequate safeguards to the refugees upon their return and yet their problem still remains unsolved.
Sad to mentioned, in both agreements (1978 and 1992), the refugees were not accepted as citizens of Burma, instead, the technical word Myanmar residents was used. Apparently, the Rohingyas were fallen prey again and again to the atrocities of the junta.
After the election, there are no changes at all in Arakan, and rather the situation is further deteriorating.

Therefore, we would like to the government of Bangladesh, UNHCR, US, EU, OIC, and ASEAN to give pressure to the government of Burma to accept Rohingya as an ethnic minority and to grant full citizenship rights before any refugee repatriation process.

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