Sunday, December 2, 2012

Palestine & Israel "Let the two-state solution become a reality" -Pope

[Vatican City, 30 November 2012 (VIS)]

"The Holy See has followed actively the steps which have led to this important decision, while striving to remain neutral between the Parties, and to act in accordance with its particular religious nature and universal mission, and in consideration also of its specific attention to the ethical dimension of international problems.

"The Holy See considers, moreover, that today’s vote should be placed within the context of the efforts of giving a definitive solution, with the support of the international community, to the question already dealt with by Resolution 181 of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 29 November 1947. That document is the juridical basis for the existence of two States, one of which has not been constituted in the successive sixty-five years, while the other has already seen the light."

On 15 May 2009, while departing from 'Ben Gurion' International Airport, Tel Aviv, at the conclusion of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the following: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."




Vatican City, 30 November 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the Holy See's declaration on the majority approval by the General Assembly of the United Nations to the Resolution by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the UN Organisation.

"The Holy See has followed actively the steps which have led to this important decision, while striving to remain neutral between the Parties, and to act in accordance with its particular religious nature and universal mission, and in consideration also of its specific attention to the ethical dimension of international problems.

"The Holy See considers, moreover, that today’s vote should be placed within the context of the efforts of giving a definitive solution, with the support of the international community, to the question already dealt with by Resolution 181 of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 29 November 1947. That document is the juridical basis for the existence of two States, one of which has not been constituted in the successive sixty-five years, while the other has already seen the light."

On 15 May 2009, while departing from 'Ben Gurion' International Airport, Tel Aviv, at the conclusion of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the following: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."

In the wake of that appeal, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, speaking before the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011, expressed the hope that the competent Bodies of the United Nations would adopt a decision which would help give concrete implementation to that goal.

"Today’s vote manifests the sentiment of the majority of the international community and recognises a more significant presence to Palestinians within the United Nations. At the same time, it is the conviction of the Holy See that this result does not constitute, per se, a sufficient solution to the existing problems in the Region: which, in fact, can only find an adequate response through the effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians.

"Therefore, the Holy See, at various times, has invited the leaders of the two Peoples to restart the negotiations in good faith and to avoid actions, or the placing of conditions, which would contradict the declarations of goodwill and the sincere search for solutions which could become secure foundations for a lasting peace. Moreover, the Holy See has made a pressing appeal to the International Community to increase its commitment and to encourage its creativity, through the adoption of suitable initiatives which may help to achieve a lasting peace, that respects the rights of Israelis and of Palestinians. Peace needs courageous decisions!

"Considering the outcome of today’s vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to encourage the International Community, and in particular the Parties directly concerned, towards concrete action in view of the aforementioned objectives – the Holy See welcomes with favour the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a non-member Observer State of the United Nations. It is a propitious occasion to recall also the common position that the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation expressed in the Basic Agreement of 15 February 2000, intended to support the recognition of a internationally guaranteed special statute for the City of Jerusalem, and aimed, in particular, to safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, respect for and freedom of access to its Holy Places".

Sunday, July 22, 2012

বেহেস্ত হক, দোযখ হক, পুনরুত্থান হক.. হে আল্লাহ তুমি হক, তোমার কথা হক

বেহেস্ত হক, দোযখ হক, সিরাত হক, মিজান হক, পুনরুত্থান হক, শাফায়াত হক, রুইয়াত হক, হে আল্লাহ তুমি হক, তোমার কথা হক, তোমার কাজ হক, বেহেস্তে তোমার সাক্ষাত হক। “কিয়ামতের মুহূর্তটি অবশ্যই আসবে, এতে কোন প্রকারের সন্দেহের অবকাশ নাই। আর আল্লাহ সে লোকদেরকে অবশ্যই উঠাবেন যারা কবরে অন্তর্হিত হয়েছে।।“ –(সুরা হজ্জ - ৭)

“সাবধান, তোমরা নামাজ কায়েম কর দিনের দুই প্রান্ত সময় এবং কিছুটা রাত হওয়ার পর। আসলে ন্যায় কাজসমূহ সকল অন্যায় কাজকে দূর করে দেয়। বস্তুতঃ ইহা এক মহা স্মারক সে লোকদের জন্য যারা আল্লাহকে স্মরণ করতে অভ্যস্ত।“-(সুরা হুদ - ১১৪)

“এখন কি সে ব্যক্তি যার বক্ষদেশ আল্লাহ ইসলামের জন্য উন্মুক্ত করে দিয়েছেন এবং সে তার আল্লাহর নিকট হতে পাওয়া একটি আলো অনুসারে চলছে (সে কি তার মত হতে পারে যে এসব কথা হতে কিছুমাত্র  শিক্ষা গ্রহন করেনি?) ধ্বংস সে লোকদের জন্য যাদের অন্তর আল্লাহর নছীহতে  আরো অধিক শক্ত হয়ে গেল।“-(সুরা যুমার – ২২)

“যারা ক্রোধকে হযম করে এবং অন্যান্য লোকদের অপরাধ ক্ষমা করে দেয়, এসব নেককার লোকদের আল্লাহ খুব ভাল বাসেন।“-(সুরা আল-ইমরাণ – ১৩৪)

“ধৈর্য্য ধারণ কর, আল্লাহ নেককার লোকদের প্রতিফল অবশ্যই বিনষ্ট করবেন না।“-(সুরা হুদ – ১১৫)

“নামাজ কায়েম কর  সূর্য পশ্চিমে ঢলে পড়ার সময় হতে রাত্রির অন্ধকার আচ্ছন্ন হোয়ার সময় পর্যন্ত। আর ফজরের ক্বোরাণ পাঠের স্থায়ী নীতি অবলম্বন কর, কেননা ফজরের ক্বোরাণে উপস্থিত থাকা হয়।“-(সুরা বনি-ইসরাইল – ৭৮)

“এতদ সত্বেও এ লোকেরা যদি তোমার দিক হতে মুখ ফিরায়, তবে হে নবী তাদেরকে বলুনঃ আল্লাহই  আমার জন্য যথেষ্ট,  তিনি ছাড়া কেহই মা’বুদ নাই। তাঁরই উপর আমি ভরসা করেছি এবং তিনিই মহান আরশের মালিক।“-(সুরা তওবা – ১২৯)

                                               বিরাহমাতিকা ইয়া আরহামার  রা-হিমীন।।

[বুজুর্গ দরবেশ হযরত কাজী দেলোয়ার হোসেন (রঃ)-এর মাধ্যমে প্রাপ্ত কাদেরীয়া তরিকার সাজারা শরীফের শেষাংশ]

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Rohingya – Look for a durable Solution


Arakan, the homeland of the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhaing Buddhists, had been an independent Kingdom until 1784 when it was conquered by the Burmese King Budawpaya.  Due to oppression and maltreatment by Burmese soldiers, large number of inhabitants of Arakan, both Rohingya Muslims & Rakhaing Buddhists, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Historically this may be called the First Exodus of Arakanese.

Burmese King Budawpaya died in 1819. In 1825-26 British East India Company defeated Burmese military and occupied Arakan. After British occupation of Arakan many of the Rohingya and the Rakhaing returned to their homeland in Arakan. Others preferred to settle in Bangladesh, mainly in adjacent Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, coastal areas of Noakhali & Barisal. It may be noted that Rakhaing Buddhists are usually known as Magh. It is also important to mention that the vernacular of Arakan since time immemorial has been similar to Chitagongian dialect of Bengali Language.

Under British Colonial rule religious communalism and the culture of hatred flourished throughout the sub-continent and Arakan was no exception. Burmese nationalists exploited Buddhism to instigate communal violence against the Muslims of Arakan. In 1942, a section of Arakanese Buddhists with the help of Burmese nationalists carried out brutal mass killing of Muslims of Arakan. As a result about 100,000 of Muslims were killed and about 500,000 rendered homeless. About 80,000 fled to Bengal and many of them took shelter in the Refugee camps of Chittagong and Rangpur. This may be called the Second Exodus of Arakanese.

            Soon after the independence of Burma on 4th January 1948, the Burma Territorial Force (BTF) went on a rampage against Muslim villages. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were made homeless and nearly 50,000 were forced to leave and take shelter in the then East Pakistan. This may be called the Third Exodus of Arakanese.

The Rohingyas once again faced repression and mass eviction in 1962 after General Ne Win overthrew the Prime Minister U Nu and declared Burma a socialist state to be ruled by the Burma Socialist Programme Party composed of the army officers. Arakan was made a Buddhist-ruled federal state. General Ne Win's sectarian policy made the conflict between the Buddhist Maghs and Muslim ethnic groups even more acute. His racial discrimination and strong Burmese chauvinist policy to suppress ethnic movements compelled several hundred thousand Rohingyas to take refuge in the then East Pakistan. This may be called the Fourth Exodus of Arakanese.

In the past three decades, there have been significant migrations, forced and voluntary, of Arakanese Rohingyas to neighboring Bangladesh. The Fifth Exodus took place in 1978 when over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the ‘Nagamin’ (‘Dragon King’) operation of the Burmese army. Officially this campaign aimed at “scrutinising each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally”.[1] This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution. After international pressure the Burmese government allowed most of the Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh to return. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had a presence in the refugee camps in Bangladesh but not in the Rakhine State, nor was it involved in the repatriation process. The Roghinya refugees after being repatriated to Arakan faced same situation that had forced them to flee. Meanwhile Burmese government enacted the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law which was specifically designed effectively to deny Rohingyas the right to a nationality.  So most of those who were repatriated and many more had no option but to silently flee Arakan and managed to migrate to the Middle East, Pakistan and South East Asia through Bangladesh.

During 1991-92 a new wave of over a quarter of as million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh which may be called the Sixth Exodus of Arakanese Rohingyas. They reported widespread forced labour, as well  as summary executions, torture, and rape.  Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Burmese army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labour of Rohingya civilians by the security forces.

From the end of 1992 until early 1994 the Bangladeshi authorities, after an understanding had been reached with the Burmese government, forcibly repatriated some 50,000 Rohingyas across the border. After a formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UNHCR and the Burmese government in November 1993, UNHCR established a presence on the ground in Arakan to implement the reintegration programme and to provide protection for the returnees. UNHCR initiated a voluntary mass repatriation and reintegration programme for the Rohingyas in April 1994. At the time international aid agencies expressed concerns about whether this repatriation process was in fact voluntary.

Despite the presence of UNHCR, Rohingyas continue to suffer from discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity, and various restrictions and abuses at the hands of the local Myanmar authorities. UNHCR has only two expatriate staff in Arakan based in the townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung. Rohingya far away from these areas can not reach them due to travel restrictions, and the agency’s local staff face intimidation from the Burmese authorities and thus are generally not in a position to assist people facing violations. A Rohingya man who was repatriated to Burma in 2003 and returned to Bangladesh two years later to escape an arbitrary case told Refugees International, “I believe that if I could reach UNHCR’s expatriate staff, and have them investigate the problem I had been facing, local authorities would have stopped harassing me and I would not have to leave everything behind and flee to Bangladesh."

Although forced labour decreased since the UNHCR established a protection role in Arakan, Rohingyas have been obliged to flee to other countries through bordering Bangladesh since they continue to be denied of nationality and essential civil rights in Myanmar and often subjected to various forms of persecution and abuses by Myanmar security forces. The exact number of new arrivals since 1996 is not clear, but is believed to be in the tens of thousands. The Government of Bangladesh has denied these new arrivals access to the refugee camps and has not permitted UNHCR to extend protection to them.

The mass repatriation of Rohingyas to Arakan by UNHCR took place from April 1994 to December 1995.  Since that time repatriation has slowed down.  To date a total of 236,000 Rohingyas have returned to Arakan from Bangladesh. Almost 24,000 Rohingyas are still in Kutapalong and Nayapara, the two remaining refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, southern Bangladesh.  During 2003 some 3,000 Rohingyas were repatriated to Burma amid reports of the Bangladesh authorities coercing some of them to return. Medecins sans Frontières (MSF) Holland received 550 complaints from Rohingya families varying from intimidation to direct threats of violence if they did not agree to return to Burma.

Citizenship of the Rohingyas in Burma

Although the Rohingya people were not recognised as one of the native peoples of Burma by the 1947 Constitution, they were nonetheless granted citizenship.

A citizen of the Union was defined as:

   “every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding 1 January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently therein and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and with the time prescribed by law.”

Worried about Indian immigration to Burma, the Burmese government had quickly changed its mind and promulgated a new law on citizenship in 1948, restraining the definition given in the Constitution. Individuals who did not belong to native peoples recognised as national, had to be “from ancestors who for two generations at least have all made any of the territories included within the Union their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any such territories.” According to the law, all the country’s residents had to register within twelve months in order to obtain an identity card. Many Rohingyas obtained citizenship then, which enabled them to vote during the decade of democracy (1950-62). However, after the coup d’état, the recognition of Rohingya children as Burmese citizens became harder and harder. With “the Burmese way to socialism”, Ne Win took a nationalist turn, affirming in particular that ethnic minorities – even the non-rebel ones – represented a danger to Burmese unity. It was thus within a somewhat difficult context that a new Constitution was proclaimed in 1974. Twenty-seven articles detailed the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, and served as the starting point for the future law on citizenship, promulgated in 1982. Meanwhile, the authorities had launched the Nagamin Operation. Terrorised by an identity control which turned into a manhunt, more than 200,000 Rohingyas found refuge in Bangladesh. The new law on citizenship was to be promulgated soon after the refugees’ return.

The current 1982 Burma Citizenship Law unlike the preceding 1948 Act, which conferred equal rights on all citizens, creates three classes of citizens: full citizens, associate citizens and naturalized citizens.

The 1982 Law also establishes a government-controlled “Central Body”, with wide powers to determine specific citizenship issues.[2] For example, it is at liberty to determine what rights associate and naturalized citizens may or may not enjoy (Sec. 53) , and has wide discretion to revoke such citizenship on grounds that include “disaffection or disloyalty to the state by any act or speech or otherwise” (Sec. 35(d), 58(d)) or “moral turpitude” (Sec. 35(f), 58 (f)). Appeals may be made to the Council of Ministers (Sec.71), but there is no appeal to and independent appellate body. There is no requirement for reasons to be given by either the Central Body or the Council of Ministers for their decisions.

            Even though the SPDC has stated that in the government’s official records the Rohingya “are recognized as permanent residents within Myanmar”,[3] the vast majority of Rohingyas fail to qualify for any of the three categories of citizenship:

1. The Rohingya are not considered to be a national ethnic group as provided by sec. 3 of the 1982 law, and members of the Rohingya population are therefore ineligible for full citizenship.   

2. Few Rohingya who were eligible for citizenship under the 1948 Act and had applied for citizenship under that Act, as required for the grant of associate citizenship under the 1982 law. Most were reportedly unaware of the Act or did not understand its importance at the time.

3. As to eligibility for naturalized citizenship, few Rohingyas are in possession of the necessary documents that would provide “conclusive evidence” of entry and residence prior to 4 January 1948 or could establish the necessary bloodlines as required by the law.  While to prove their residence they can use their family list, which names each member of the household, the family list only indicates names of family members and date of birth.  It does not indicate place of birth, which in effect prevents people from “furnishing conclusive evidence” of birth in Myanmar as required by the 1982 law. In any case, the wide powers conferred on the Central Body mean that any theoretical entitlement to citizenship may not be realised in practice.

Although the 1982 law is also discriminatory towards the vast majority of the Indian and Chinese population of Myanmar,[4] as the promulgation of this law took place soon after the Rohingyas who fled during 1978 had been repatriated, some observers have suggested that this law was specifically designed effectively to deny Rohingyas the right to a nationality. 

The 1982 Citizenship law has had the effect of rendering the vast majority of Rohingyas ineligible to be Myanmar citizens. The law also makes no provision in relation to stateless persons.

Under the 1982 law, very few Rohingyas can become citizens, even naturalised or associate, notably because of the material difficulty of providing legal proof of their
past residence in the country. Both its content and its coincidence with the return of the refugees after the 1978 exodus tend to indicate that the 1982 law was actually designed as a legal tool for the exclusion of the Rohingyas. With the new law, all the inhabitants of the country had to apply or re-apply for identity papers. The Rohingyas who had obtained an identity card (National Registration Card, NRC) after 1948, were forced to hand it back in order to be issued with new document under the new law. Yet, a great many of them did not receive anything in return, nor did they get their former cards back.  To make matters worse, for the Rohingyas who still had
a document, the identity cards handed out by the government in 1989 not only indicated the name and place of residence of the holders, with a picture, but also mentioned their religion and ethnic origin. Three colours for the cards categorise the citizens: pink for the citizens, blue for the associate citizens and green for the naturalised citizens. The Foreigners Registration Cards, FRC, are white. Contrary to other «foreigners» in Burma (such as the Chinese), the Rohingyas could not even obtain an FRC. In effect, the 1982 law makes the Rohingyas stateless. Deprived of any status, they are no longer legally recognised by the Burmese authorities. It is a statelessness which obviously has many consequences:  inter alia, the Rohingyas are not allowed to travel freely in the country, and can no longer enter the public service; their access to higher education is limited. And in conformity with the 1974 Constitution, as foreigners, they can not resort to the judicial system (article 101 - f) and have no freedom of association (article 158). The Rohingyas have lost all rights based on racial and religious grounds.

It was agreed in the MoU that “after the necessary verification the Government of Union of Myanmar will, with the assistance of the UNHCR, issue to all returnees the appropriate identification papers” (point 4) - a clause so vague as to carry no obligation whatsoever for the Burmese authorities to grant citizenship to the Rohingyas. The only document the Rohingyas were issued with was a family list, with an IMPD (later to become IPD) heading, merely listing family members. It does not entitle them to any rights and on the contrary, represents yet another means of controlling the population.

Buthidaung inhabitant explains:
“Once a year, there is a census of the population. In our village, it happens each year
between October and November after the rainyseason. The Nasaka warns us a few days in advance of the control and checks if all family members registered on the list are present. They [The Nasaka officers] also take a picture of each family every year in order to control us better. Names of the persons absent during the census are struck off the list. They then are no longer allowed back in the village.”

In June 1995, the immigration department (IPD) finally agreed to provide Temporary Registration Certificates (TRC) to all the Rohingya population due to pressure from the UNHCR, who were rightly convinced that the denial of citizenship represents the stumbling block to the integration of Rohingyas into Burmese society.

These TRCs, though strangely based on two laws on residence dating back to 1949 and 1951 which had been invalidated by the 1982 Law, were granted to the population with no distinction between returnees and Rohingyas who had remained in the country; according to the UNHCR, the TRCs are to be considered as a first step towards citizenship. A barely noticeable first step, though, since the TRC is clearly marked “not an evidence of citizenship”.

In 1998, General Khin Nyunt, First Secretary of the SPDC, definitely put an end to the hopes the UNHCR had - rightly or wrongly - fostered. On 5 February, in a letter to the High Commissioner, Ms. Sadako Ogata, he wrote:

“Suffice it to say that the issue is essentially one of migration, of people seeking greener pastures. These people are not originally from Myanmar but have illegally migrated to Myanmar because of population pressures in their own country. There may have been younger children who were born in Myanmar, but the previous generations had crossed over to our country during the past decades. They are racially, ethnically, culturally different from the other national races in our country. Their language as well as religion is also different.”

Rohingyas still have no citizenship and still lack the freedom of movement. As a direct consequence of the 1982 Law and the Foreigners’ Act (1940), whether they have a TRC or not, the Rohingyas do not enjoy any freedom of movement outside their own villages. In order to leave their village, they have to ask for a license (section 10, Foreigners’ Act) and “every such license shall state the name of the person to whom the license is granted, the nation to which he belongs, the district or districts through which he is authorized to travel, and the period, if any, during which the license is intended to have effect” (section 11).  In order to move around in their township, the Rohingyas have to ask the VPDC for a license. In order to go beyond their township, they have to apply to the TPDC and, outside the district, to the DPDC. Lastly, in order to get out of Arakan and go to the rest of the Union, they need an SPDC license. On the VPDC local level as well as beyond, the demand is always passed on to the different administrations in charge of the control of the population (Nasaka, Military Intelligence, police, IPD...) each one of which has to give its agreement.

A North Buthidaung villager details the cost of his trip:
“To go to Sittwe, you have to get a license, valid for fifteen days only and costing 3,000 Kyats. Once the head of the VPDC gives his authorisation, you have to go to the Nasaka of Taung Bazar, and that’s another 1,500 Kyats, then you go to the Immigration department of Buthidaung – another 1,500 Kyats. On board, you will have to give 500 Kyats to the police – a «tax» reserved for Muslims. Not to mention the price of the ticket - much more expensive for us than for the Buddhists. Once you’re off the boat, on the quay of Sittwe, you have to pay several hundreds of Kyats to the Immigration staff or to police officers. Because of all these «extra charges» to
pay, the villagers have stopped taking the boat. We prefer to go down the river in small boats, even if it takes much longer.”

One of the main consequences of the absence of the freedom of movement is the impoverishment of the population, whose economic activity is directly and seriously affected, as the following testimonies from North Arakan attest.

A Buthidaung inhabitant stated that:
“If we were able to circulate freely, we would be able to sell our farming products at a much higher price in Maungdaw than in our village. Such a restriction is a big problem for those who rely on trade. For instance, a hen sold 400 Kyats in our village would be worth twice that price in Maungdaw. Only a small rich elite can afford a license to go to Maungdaw. Without freedom of movement, we cannot look for a job in another village or in another township either. For example, there are carpenters in the village who cannot find any opportunity to work here. It is just as difficult for the fishermen. Before 1990, we were free to leave the village and work elsewhere. We used to go to other townships outside Buthidaung, even to Bangladesh, in order to earn money. Then everything changed and after two very difficult years, we decided to leave the country. If we don’t go back to Bangladesh now, it is because of the Nasaka - we are constantly being watched.”

For many villagers, the Nasaka is to blame.

An inhabitant from North Maungdaw says:
“Our situation in 1991–92 was far better. Today, it feels just like being in jail. Even carrying the rice to eat is difficult. Everything has become worse with the arrival of the Nasaka. The authorities control people much more than before. Before, if we wanted to carry rice from a village tract up north, it was possible; today, it no longer is - everything is in the hands of the Nasaka. Before the Nasaka came at the end of 1992, we were able to do some small trade: for instance, we could go to Maungdaw to buy cheap goods, sell them back to Maungdaw to sell our vegetables. Today, even when we pay we can’t go to Maungdaw to trade. The problem today is freedom of movement.”

Another Maungdaw villager:
“Today, we are not allowed to travel in order to find a job. The head of the VPDC has to report every third day about the absent villagers. Anyone who has left the village without authorisation is crossed off the list, and can no longer come back to the village.”

The repression and discrimination against the Rohingyas is at the heart of an ethnic and religious cleansing in northern Arakan, one essential means of which is a policy of colonisation. The goal of the Burmese government is to progressively empty Arakan of its Rohingya population, and replace it by Buddhists – Arakanese Buddhists originally, Burman ones today. In the northern part of the State, where the Rohingyas represent 90% of the population, the Burmese authorities intensified at the beginning of the 1990s their policy of territorial, human and religious conquest, which had already been going on for several decades.

The colonisation proceeds through «model villages» built in the richest parts of Maungdaw and Buthidaung. The settlers do not always move of their own free will to a region where they are culturally and religiously a tiny minority. The construction of model villages entails forced relocations of Rohingyas, relegated to the poorest and most isolated areas of the region, as well as the confiscation of their land, which is then allocated to the newcomers. Other Rohingya families living in the East or South of Maungdaw and Buthidaung are also forcibly displaced to the north of these township already overpopulated so as to «clean» Arakan as much as possible of its Muslim population. The colonisation of northern Arakan relies heavily on the army: the growing militarization of the region entails extra forced  relocations of the population and additional land confiscation.

The policy of conquest has also taken on a religious aspect, with the authorities launching a religious offensive aimed at increasing the Buddhist influence by constructing pagodas, stupas and other meditation centres. Lastly, the Rohingyas have a minimal access to education. Both colonisation and military occupation further accelerate the breakdown of an already weakened Rohingya society. The only solution left for the most vulnerable sections of the population is the exile to Bangladesh.

The policy of colonisation through the construction of model villages started very soon after the independence. From 1948 to 1978, most of these model villages were situated on the border in order to ensure the presence of loyal populations in a sensitive area, and to weaken any rebel movement. The two following decades saw a multiplication of model villages in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung districts. According to the UNHCR, fourteen were built in the area between 1991 and 1996. According to an international NGO, over 100 arakanese villages have been set up around Maungdaw and Buthidaung since 1950, compared to only 15 before then. The central administration in charge of the colonisation is the Natala, the policies of which are supervised in Arakan by the West Commander in Sittwe. Model villages are designed for 100 families, each allocated on average two acres of land, livestock, farm tools and a house. In some cases, the newcomers even get food assistance. In spite of this material support, some prefer to leave again, generally because of unemployment and because of a cultural and religious environment where they represent a minority. The negative repercussions of such a policy are numerous for the Rohingyas. Each new settlement means land confiscation (see below), forced relocations, and consequently important economic losses.

A villager from North Maungdaw says:
“There were 700 acres in the village tract. We already gave 135 of them for the model village built in 1989. Most of the new families arrived in 1991. The ten first families were retired army officers and their families.”

In a South Maungdaw village:
“The land was confiscated seven years ago, in 1992. Around 200 acres were confiscated for the new Inn Din model village – they took 30 acres just from our hamlet.”

Amnesty International in its 2004 report recorded following testimonies:

A 28 year old Rohingya man from northern Maungdaw explained the situation in his area:

Over the last year [2003], the NaSaKa have imposed strict restrictions on our movement. We used to travel almost everywhere in Maungdaw with a [local travel pass] from the Chairman. But now, we cannot leave our village without permission of the NaSaKa. Each NaSaKa sector has its own laws. It all depends on their respective commanders… It is easier for us to visit Bangladesh then Maungdaw. To go to Maungdaw town, you must get a [ local travel pass] from the SPDC office and pay 1,000 kyat - 500 kyat for the form and 500 kyat to get the signature and the stamp on it. You must then bring this [pass] to the Immigration officer inside the NaSaKa camp and give one gallon of diesel or 2,000 kyat. Then they will issue a Form 4.”

An extremely elderly Rohingya man from southern Buthidaung gave a historical perspective to restrictions on travel:

In the old days, I used to visit Yangon [the capital] and many other places. But now I cannot even go to Sittwe. Muslims now live inside a cage. They cannot move from one place to another. Every time they must get permission from the VPDC Chairman and from the NaSaKa.”

A 40 year old Rohingya man from northern Maungdaw explained the drastic consequences of his inability to travel:

Six months ago [mid 2003] my elder son aged 18 died from a gall bladder infection. I took him to the village health centre where a Burmese doctor examined him and told me to take him immediately to Sittwe  hospital or to a hospital in Bangladesh. I took my son to the NaSaKa camp, showed them the doctor’s referral and begged them to give me immediate permission to go to Sittwe hospital or to Bangladesh. But they told me to go to Maungdaw hospital. In Maungdaw the doctor said he could do nothing for him. So, I returned to my village and again I applied for travel permission. By then it was too late and my son died without any treatment.

Another 40 year old Rohingya man from northern Maungdaw reported his inability to earn a living as a result of travel restrictions:

Life has become very difficult now. I became landless and there are no jobs. Since our movements are restricted, I cannot even go to another village to find a job. I am a carpenter and the daily wage of a carpenter is 2,500 kyat, but in my village I can hardly find work for eight or 10 days a month.”

Amnesty International expressed deep concern about the official restrictions on travel for the Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State. Their inability to travel freely greatly inhibits the Rohingyas’ ability to earn a living and obtain proper health care.  Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right, upon which other human rights are contingent.  Article 13 of the UDHR states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”  Restrictions on the right to freedom of movement and the right to work may only be imposed if they are based on law, pursue a legitimate objective, such as protecting public order, and are strictly necessary.

The sweeping restrictions on the movement of Rohingyas are disproportionate and discriminatory; they are imposed on all Rohingyas because they are Rohingyas, and not on members of other ethnic nationalities in Rakhine State.

Burma Denies Existence of any Community named Rohingya

Burma’s military rulers are ultra-nationalist and trying to abolish the past and re-write everything as per their ultra-natinalist design.  They have changed the name Akyab to Sittwe, Rangoon to Yangon, Arakan to Rakhine, Burma to Myanmar, etc. The centuries old name of ethnic Rohingya has however been branded as a name created by “anti-state elements” in post-independent Burma.

The military rulers of Burma continue to deny the truth that the Rohingya is one of the indigenous races of Arakan. Burmese rulers are ultra-nationalist as well as anti-Muslim. Because the Rohingyas are Muslims, Burmese junta is adamantly bent on refusing the existence of any race in the name “Rohingya”. They have been funding a hate campaign against the Rohingya even inside Bangladesh to distort the image of the Rohingyas so that the Rohigyas are afraid to be identified as Rohingyas and ultimately abandon their Rohigya identity and thus the Rohigya race become non-existent. The Burmese authorities and their writers call the Rohingyas nothing but “Chittagongian” or “Bangali”. 

Both Burmese and Bangladesh Authorities
are Denying Rohingys’ Basic Rights

In the words of UN-HABITAT, the UN Human Settlements Programme, “the requisite imperative of housing for personal security, privacy, health, safety, protection from the elements and many other attributes of a shared humanity, has led the international community to recognize adequate housing as a basic and fundamental human right.”   This right is enshrined in Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

According to the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, forced eviction is the “permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to appropriate forms of legal or other protections.”   In its resolution on Forced Evictions in 1993, the UN Human Rights Commission stated that: “the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing” and urged governments to “confer legal security of tenure on all persons currently threatened with forced eviction and to adopt all necessary measures giving full protection against forced eviction, based upon effective participation, consultation and negotiation with affected persons or groups.”

The right of children to adequate housing is enshrined in Principle 4 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959). Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), the obligation of states parties, in cases of need, to provide material assistance and support programmes to families and children, particularly with regard to housing, is set out in Article 27(3).  The obligation of states to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure that they enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, is provided for in Article 14(2)(h) of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1981).  Both Myanmar Government and Bangladesh Government are a state parties to both the CRC and CEDAW.

In violation of  above rights the Burmese authorities have driven the Rohingya men women and children from their homesteads and Bangladesh authorities are resisting international efforts to build houses for the registered and unregistered Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh.

Rohingya women and children in Arakan and Rohingya Refugee women and children in Bangladesh are denied of their due rights to education, nutrition and re-productive health. In both the countries these unfortunate people are living like in a cage or concentration camp denied of the essential freedom of movement and livelihood.

Possible Solutions

Serious efforts are necessary to support a reconciliation of the Rakhaing and the Rohingya in Arakan. The international community should support and do wherever possible to facilitate an Arakanese reconciliation process. It is necessary that representatives of both Rohingya Muslims and Rakhaning Buddhists recognize and respect each other and try to move forward.  As long as the current political and human rights problems in Burma/Arakan continue, the responsibility of the Government  of Bangladesh and UNHCR remains to protect the refugees from Burma and guarantee them protection and a bearable life.

Presence of expatriate staff of UNHCR, international NGOs and international media in Arakan should be increased. Many Rohingyas inside Arakan insist that such presence can become key element in their protection against Burmese authorities.

It is guessed that about one and half a million Rohingys fled Arakan due to persecution by Burmese rulers. To determine the correct figure, an international survey may be conducted. Many of them are now in the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Australia, Europe and America. Most of them were obliged to use bordering Bangladesh as a transit and went to those countries with Bangladeshi Passports.  These Roghinyas should be given the opportunity to obtain legal Identity Card and Travel Document as Roghinya Refugee.

About 28,000 inmates of Nayapara and Kutupalang Burmese Refugee Camps in Bangladesh are now in inhuman condition like in concentration camps. Warehousing of refugees is inhuman, unfair, unethical and thus illegal. They should be given Identity Card and Freedom of Movement. Their shelters and sanitation should be rebuilt. Their women and children must have access not only to primary education, but also to higher education. Those who want to work to earn for improved life, should be provided with possible support.

Rohingyas displaced from Arakan who have taken shelter in Bangladesh outside above 2 camps should be protected from harassment and intimidation of authorities and local goons. Survey by international humanitarian body/bodies should determine their identity and correct figure.

It is evident that a section of media in Bangladesh and elsewhere are trying to depict the Rohingyas as an evil community.  Proper investigation should be made and  actions should be taken against those who are instigating and campaigning hatred against the Roghingya Community. Every community is composed of good as well bad people. To instigate hatred against any community is a crime against humanity. 

Efforts should be taken to heighten the image of the Rohingya community. Last year Mr. Nurul Islam, a prominent Rohingya leader in exile, telephoned me from London to communicate to me of his anxiety that if the Rohingya is depicted as a criminal community then even after civil rights are restored Burma, the new authorities in Burma may use it as pretext to bar Rohingyas from returning to their homeland.

Both the Registered and Unregistered Rohingya Refugees should be given Identity Card and Travel Document to facilitate their freedom of movement, livelihood and access to health care and education including higher education. 

It is necessary to note that until there is positive change in Burmese Citizenship Law Rohingya Refugees are stateless.  Survival of the stateless people depends on developing their manpower in quality and skill through higher education and training so that other nations and societies welcome them as invaluable assets.


On Refoulment
[Forced Return to Burma]

No contracting State shall expel or return (”refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
-Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, Article 33, § 1.

As early as April 1992, the Bangladeshi and Burmese governments signed a bilateral agreement on the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Despite being mentioned in the agreement, the UNHCR was de facto excluded and had to confine its help to the refugees within the camps. The “voluntary and safe” return, which according to the agreement was supposed to start in May 1992, became an operation of forced return to Burma. The first departures did not actually take place before the autumn, because of a strong resistance from the refugees, coupled with international protests concerning the danger of repatriation in such conditions. Camp authorities nonetheless increased the pressure through violence or by confiscating the ration cards (necessary to obtain food or to get healthcare), in order to encourage refugees to “volunteer”. When refugees dared to protest, the clampdown came immediately – and violently: 15 people were killed, 40 injured and 119 imprisoned during a riot.


A Maungdaw inhabitant testifies:     
“We went to Bangladesh to find refuge but they hated us over there. The Bangladeshi authorities started to send the refugees back to Burma. Anybody who refused to leave was locked up in a dark room, worse than a jail. I stayed there for eight days. We did not receive any protection because the Bangladeshi authorities prevented us from having any contact with the UNHCR. Those of us who managed to speak to the UNHCR were arrested afterwards. We got  information that the situation had worsened in Burma, because of the Nasaka. We therefore tried to stay, but the Bangladeshi authorities forced us to leave.”

Another Maungdaw villager evokes the pressures he endured:

“We left because the Bangladeshi authorities forced us to do so. At first, they told us that the situation had become safer in Burma, as they wanted to convince us to leave. Then, they confiscated our ration cards to prevent us from getting food: this was blackmail aimed at urging us to leave. When the UNHCR came to visit the camp, we told them about our situation and they promised that we would get the ration cards back. After the UNHCR left, the camp authorities looked for the spokesmen who had talked to the UNHCR and they were beaten. The next time the UNHCR came to visit the camp, we told them about the violence. Once again, those who spoke were beaten. The Bangladeshi authorities threatened us: “You’ll get into big trouble if you do not go back to your country. Nobody can protect you here”.”

An inhabitant of Maungdaw says:

“The UNHCR organised meetings to explain that they had now set up bases in Burma so that they could take care of us as they currently did in the camps. The UNHCR told us: “We have an agreement with the Burmese government, you will not be forced to work anymore, no more problems, you will be given the same freedom of movement as the other “nationalities”, everything will be all right. The UNHCR will pay for the
reconstruction of your house. We will give you food and other basic products for ten years.” The UNHCR promised us that if the Burmese authorities brought us troubles as in 1991, we could ask them for their protection. Lastly, the UNHCR said: “We will not leave Burma as long as you consider you need us”.”

A villager from North Buthidaung testified:

“UNHCR expatriates organised a meeting to announce that the situation was now safe in Burma and that we had to go home. They told us: “We will protect and help you as we do today during ten years, in particular with food supplies. If you stay here you will be as Palestinians, without land, so you should rather go home”. After this  meeting, we received negative information from Burma, so we preferred to refuse. The UNHCR did not come back, but the Bangladeshi authorities did - actually, it was the police, who beat up several refugees. [A man shows his arm, handicapped since he was beaten up.] Then, when we wanted to take our food share, the camp guards confiscated our ration cards. We could no longer have access to food – we only had drinking water. We remained more than a week without eating and finally accepted to leave.”

Other refugees, like this Buthidaung villager, were even never in contact with the UNHCR:

“We have been forced to go back home. The Bangladeshi authorities asserted that the
situation was all right in Burma and that we could go back home. We knew that nothing had changed, so we refused to leave the camps. But then, they beat us up. Some families no longer got the same food shares. The UNHCR used to come quite often in the camps but we were not allowed to talk with its representatives. We have never talked to anyone from the UNHCR. The ones who tried have been arrested and imprisoned. The UNHCR representatives, all of whom were expatriates always came with the Bangladeshi heads of camp. We left the camp in UNHCR trucks. The Bangladeshi police fired into the air to frighten the refugees who refused to get on. There were no UNHCR representatives but only their trucks. We saw the first representatives of the UNHCR once we arrived at the Naf River, just at the border. But we could not really talk to them. When we finally managed to get near one of them, the Bangladeshi translator did not translate correctly: he explained that we wanted to go back to Burma… The few “educated” persons of the camp often got imprisoned because they could represent the refugees to the UNHCR. Some persons are still imprisoned in Bangladesh, some others have been released and gone back to the village.”

A villager from North Buthidaung:
“We stayed a night in the Buthidaung transit camp. We received 2,000 Kyats per person from the UNHCR [20 dollars at the time, 6 dollars in 1999] and food for fifteen days. The Burmese authorities took a picture of each family. We also received a family list. In order to go back home, we had to take a local ferry which had an agreement with the immigration department. The man on the ferry collected the family lists and each person, even the children, had to pay 200 Kyats. Usually, we only pay a few dozens Kyats to get from Buthidaung to our village...”

A woman in a village situated in the south of Maungdaw testified:

“The UNHCR promised us we would get everything back, our houses and our fields, and that we would be given help and protection for ten years. When I arrived in the village, got my compound back, but my house had been destroyed by the Nasaka which used the wood for their camp. The few land acres I had left got confiscated for a model village. I did not receive any compensation.”

In another fishing village south of Maungdaw:
“When we got back, we got our compounds back but not the houses which were destroyed. Most of them, especially the bigger ones, had been destroyed by the Nasaka, and the smaller ones sometimes by the bad weather. We lost the 16 field acres in the village. Today, the village has no fields left.”

In another village in Buthidaung district, a returnee said:
“When we left for Bangladesh, we left everything behind – when we got back, our houses were destroyed. We managed to rebuild them with the UNHCR money; but it wasn’t enough, so we sold the mosquito nets, the plates and the other things the UNHCR had given us. Everything but the food. We also got our fields back – mainly small surfaces. About thirty families had less than an acre. But in 1997, we were forced to sell our fields to villagers who were  not returnees. The year had been a bad one and we could not afford all the expenses.”

Restrictions of the freedom of movement and new taxes made for an unbearable situation for many returnees.

A Maungdaw inhabitant:
“In the village, only the compounds were left, houses had been destroyed and the coconut palms cut. I had thirty mango trees and none of them were left when I got back. For the first month, we did not have forced labour. But freedom of movement was limited as soon as we arrived. Then forced labour resumed: we had to build roofs, cut and transport bamboo for the military. As well as guarding the village at night.”

Almost all the returnees interviewed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung reported that the situation was “no better” when they got back. On top of the difficulties inherent in reinstallation, they were faced with the same restrictions and discriminations as before. Forced labour was imposed anew; they were not allowed to travel about in order to look for a work or trade outside of their villages; prices increased greatly and taxes crippled their slim budgets more than ever.

A villager from South Maungdaw:
“We did not ask the UNHCR for any particular help because we knew it was working hand in hand with the authorities, particularly with the Nasaka. The UNHCR support was limited to the widows who continued to receive a material help. The rest of the population did not receive anything in spite of the promises.”

The feeling of deception is pervasive, as a villager of South Maungdaw expresses it:
“We are grateful to the UNHCR for a certain help they gave us, but there were too many false promises. That’s why people hate the UNHCR.”

For the Rohingyas who dared to complain to the UNHCR about the repression they endured, or ask for help, the reception was certainly not always up to the UNHCR’s
stated principles, as illustrated by the following words of a Maungdaw inhabitant:
“The UNHCR promised us that if we encountered problems with the Burmese authorities as in 1991, we could go to them and they would protect us. The UNHCR even said: “We will not leave Burma as long as you think you still need us”. After my return to Burma, I went to the UNHCR and complained about forced labour and problems of freedom of movement. They answered: “We cannot do anything!” I went to the Maungdaw UNHCR office twice to complain but never got any answer. I met an expatriate, who merely listened and said: “We will see what we can do…”. I haven’t heard from them since.”


Burma Center Netherlands : Report of the fact-finding mission - April/May 2003

The core problem of the Rohingya people is still the discriminatory and repressive policy of the Burmese junta (SPDC) in Arakan State. Because of the continuation of forced labour, restrictions on the freedom of movement, discriminatory taxes, confiscation of land etc. Rohingyas continue to flee to Bangladesh. Many refugees nowadays living in Bangladesh refuse to repatriate to Burma voluntarily because of their fear of repression.

 At the same time, Rohingyas are on a constant pressure by the Bangladeshi authorities to repatriate to Burma. This pressure has significantly increased in recent weeks and months. Camp authorities in the two remaining official Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh use different methods to press refugees, who are increasingly threatened by this.

UNHCR has made plans to stimulate self-sufficiency for these recognized refugees. Although all involved parties accept the relevance of this plan, there are serious concerns about the lack of communication and consultation about this plan by UNHCR. The same concerns are felt by UNHCRs second plan to ‘streamline’ its health care in the camps. There are serious doubts about the time-frame of the plan and the impact of an eventual withdrawing of international organizations (as ‘nightwatchers’) from the camps. There are also concerns about the (lack of) possibilities and maybe even willingness of the Government of Bangladesh (and for example its Ministry of Health) to agree with UNHCRs plans and to actively support it. 

Except of the recognized Rohingya refugees, there are 100,000 – 300,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They survive without any rights and are in vulnerable condition. The current policy of the Bangladeshi authorities (and UNHCR) which denies any involvement and humanitarian support is not humane. The Bangladeshi authorities and UNHCR have no sufficient information how many undocumented Rohingyas exactly live in Bangladesh and their reasons for fleeing to Bangladesh. Because these refugees are officially denied any kind of (humanitarian) aid, they often live in unbearable conditions. An extreme example is the newly established Teknaf ‘makeshift camp’, where 4,000 refugees are hiding now, and which will possibly be swept away by the monsoon rains.

As long as the current political and human rights problems in Burma/Arakan continue, the responsibility of the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR remains to protect the refugees from Burma and to guarantee them protection and a bearable life. Because the conditions In the camps are deteriorating, there is now for them an even more urgent need to increase their efforts.




By Burma Center Netherlands (BCN)

Report of the fact-finding mission - April/May 2003  

We call upon the international (donor) community, including EU, EU-Member States, Japan and US, to:

1.                  Request the Government of Bangladesh to urgently allow UNHCR and INGOs to prevent a human disaster by giving practical assistance to the refugees in Teknaf ‘makeshift camp’ (Tal) as soon as possible;

2.                  Increase their financial and logistical support to UNHCR and WFP-programmes to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as long as there is no significant positive change in Arakan/Burma. The safety of the Rohingyas in the refugee camps should be guaranteed;

3.                  Request UNHCR, regarding its ‘self-sufficiency plan’ for recognized refugees, to start serious communications with all involved actors (like WFP, MSF and Concern) about it, start a real consultation process which should especially include the refugees involved, guarantee a ‘safety net’ during the transition period and continue to allow international organizations to support the refugees and to play a ‘nightwatchers role’;

4.                  Request UNHCR, with regard to its plan to ‘streamline’ the health care in the camps, to seriously consult all involved actors (especially Concern and MSF), to actively cooperate with them for the actual implementation of any new plans;

5.                  Request UNHCR to extend its current language teachings and skill training programs for Rakhine-Buddhist refugees, and to recognize as refugees all politically involved Rakhine-Buddhists who are currently mainly in the Bangladesh-Burma border regions;

6.                  Approach the Bangladeshi authorities and raise the following issues:

a.       To halt the current pressure on the refugees to repatriate and forced repatriation by the camp authorities in the two official refugee camps;

b.      To agree with UNHCRs ‘self-sufficiency plan’ and to assist it in actively cooperating with UNHCR and the other involved international organizations to implement it with safety guarantees for the refugees;

c.       To allow a new and independent investigation into the exact reasons why the 100,000 – 300,000 non-registered Rohingyas in Bangladesh fled from Burma and give implementation to the outcome of this independent research;
d.      To immediately release all non-criminal refugees from detention, to release all refugees which have finished their term and to give legal assistance to all other refugees in detention;

7.                  Call upon the Government of Burma to stop its repression (including forced labour, lack of religious freedoms and lack of freedom of movement) and discriminatory policy towards the peoples in Arakan in general and the Rohingya-Muslims particularly;

All parties involved, including the international community, the Burmese democratic and ethnic opposition, Rohingya-Muslim and Rakhine-Buddhist representatives (of armed organizations, intellectuals, politicians etc.) should:

8.                Actively support an ‘All Arakanese Reconciliation Process’, with relevant representatives of both Rohingya-Muslims and Rakhine-Buddhists. This includes recognition of Rohingya-Muslims and their representatives by all involved parties;

By Amnesty International

Myanmar : The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied
May 2004

AI Index: ASA 16/005/2004

Amnesty International is concerned that the local Myanmar authorities’ policies regarding the Rohingya population in the northern Rakhine State result in violations of a wide range of their basic human rights.  While the general human rights situation in Myanmar is far from satisfactory,[5] the Rohingyas suffer from specific deeply discriminatory polices targeting them.  The vast majority of Rohingyas are effectively denied Myanmar citizenship; subjected to severe restrictions on freedom of movement; forced labour; forced evictions; and extortion and arbitrary taxation.  Other ethnic nationalities in the northern Rakhine State are not subjected to the same extent to such restrictions and human rights violations.  The combination of all these practices makes it almost impossible for Rohingyas to enjoy their right to an adequate standard of living.  In order to ensure that the fundamental rights of Rohingyas are respected, Amnesty International makes the following recommendations to the Myanmar Government:

Freedom of Movement

i.                    Put an end to the harsh regime of  permits and travel bans currently imposed on Rohingyas in
the Rakhine State.

ii.   Ensure that any restrictions on movement are only imposed if they are absolutely necessary, are related to a specific security threat and are non-discriminatory and proportionate in terms of their impact and their duration.

Forced Eviction and  House Destruction

i.          All outstanding orders for forced evictions and demolitions should be cancelled and a moratorium should be placed on future forced evictions and demolitions until such time as the relevant  laws are amended in a manner that complies with international standards.

ii.         Relevant laws and policies governing the zoning and allocation of land must be amended immediately. Provisions which are discriminatory must be repealed or amended. Laws and policies must be implemented in a manner that both respects the prohibition on discrimination on grounds including race, religion, national or ethnic origin and descent, as well as the right of all people to an adequate standard of living.

Forced labour

i.          The SPDC should ensure that no local security forces take civilians for forced labour duties.

ii.         The SPDC should fully cooperate with the International Labour Office’s recommendations and technical assistance with regard to the total elimination of forced labour.


Recommendations to the Myanmar Government

Amnesty International recommends that the Myanmar Government amend or repeal its citizenship laws in order to bring them into line with international standards.  In particular, the citizenship laws should ensure:

i.                    that all legal provisions and all decisions regarding citizenship are free of
any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnic origin, sex, language or religion;

ii.   the grant of nationality with full citizenship rights, without discrimination of any kind, to   persons born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless, including in particular children;

iii. the grant of nationality to persons not born in its territory but able to establish a genuine and effective link to Myanmar;

iv.  that any decision to deny citizenship be properly motivated and that written reasons for such a decision are given, and communicated in a language the applicant for citizenship understands;

v.   that persons denied citizenship are entitled to appeal against such a decision, and that the appeal be heard by an independent and impartial review body;

vi.  that the powers to revoke citizenship be reviewed to ensure that an individual cannot be arbitrarily deprived of his/her citizenship.

Amnesty International further recommends that the Myanmar Government accede to and implement the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Recommendations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Amnesty International recommends that UNHCR, consistent with its mandate in relation to stateless persons, and recognising the close link between statelessness and the creation of refugees and protracted refugee situations, should:

i.                    actively promote accession to the 1954 and 1961 Conventions on Statelessness;

ii.                  Provide technical and advisory services to the Myanmar government on necessary measures to bring the government’s law, policy and practice into line with international legal standards;

iii.                Engage in training and confidence-building measures in local communities, including with local officials dealing with the Rohingya population on a day-to-day basis.


Recommendations to the International Community

Recognising the important responsibility it has in reducing statelessness and minimising the human rights abuses perpetrated against stateless persons, Amnesty International recommends that the international community should:

i.          ensure that UNHCR is adequately resourced to give priority and effect to its mandate
in relation to persons who have been rendered effectively stateless in Myanmar;

ii.         bring pressure to bear on the Myanmar government to bring its law, policy and practice in relation to citizenship and the right to nationality into line with international standards.

Amnesty International further recommends that the SPDC accede to the following international human rights treaties:  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and its Optional Protocol.  In addition, the organization urges the SPDC to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  These treaties should become incorporated into the domestic law in Myanmar, obligating its government and justiciable in its courts.

5th  JULY 2004 at Bangladesh National Press Club

Recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh and to the International Community

1.         It is recommended that the Rohingya Refugees should not be sent back to Myanmar until the Myanmar Government recognizes the Rohingya Nationality as one of the nationalities of that country and agrees to the full nationality & citizenship right of Rohingyas, and until Human Rights situation inside Myanmar improves significantly.

2.         It is recommended that the Rohingya Refugees, who are staying outside Myanmar, should not be sent back to Myanmar against their will and until causes of insecurity exist in that country. It is also recommended that all programs for necessities and maintenance of refugees be continued.

3.         It is reminded that Rohingya Refugees can not be a burden only of Bangladesh. This is a burden of international community.

4.         Call is made to international community to put pressure on Myanmar Government to return to the Rohingyas their homesteads, land and properties unfairly confiscated by the Myanmar authorities.

5.         It is recommended that appropriate facilities for education of the Rohingya children and youth staying in Bangladesh as Refugees be made and that the level of education they received in Myanmar be identified and recognized and hindrances in the way of their admission in educational institutions in Bangladesh be removed.  Further they be offered opportunities for higher education.

6.         It is recommended that Specific Health and Educational programs be implemented for the Rohingya females staying in Bangladesh as Refugees.

7.         It is recommended that international voluntary organizations experienced in providing specialized services to the refugees, particularly those who in past served the Rohingya Refugees, be re-engaged in the services of the Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh.

8.         The participants of this Seminar recommend to the Government of Bangladesh that a specific national refugee law be enacted under the provision of the Constitution of Bangladesh.

Recommendations to the Myanmar Government

1.         Participants of this Seminar expressing their concern that the Myanmar Government's move to abolished the age-old name Arakan and re-name the territory as Rakhine State, is indicative of their intention to replace the Rohingya nationality by re-settling the Rakhine nationality.  Therefore, the participants of this seminar call the Myanmar Government to reinstate the name of the Arakan state and recognize the Rohingya nationality.

2.         Participants of this Seminar are calling to the Myanmar Government for removing all governmental obstructions in Rohingyas' practicing their faith, and calling for removing restrictions in maintenance, reconstruction and construction of Rohingyas' prayer places and religious institutions.

3.         Participants of this Seminar are calling to the Myanmar Government for ensuring unhindered equal opportunities for education and higher education of the Rohingya Children and Youth and for this purpose all restrictions on their travel from village to town and to foreign countries be removed.

4.         Participants of this Seminar are calling to the Myanmar Government for ensuring unhindered movement of Rohingyas from village to village, village to town and to foreign countries for the purpose of employment, business, treatment and other reasonable needs.

5.         Information received from various sources indicates that due to Governmental oppression and deprivation Rohingyas had to leave Myanmanr and take shelter in various countries.  The number of such Rohingyas staying outside Myanmar seems to be as follows:-
(a) In Bangladesh                 600,000+
(b) In Saudi Arabia              400,000+
(c) In Pakistan                       350,000+
(d) Other countries              200,000+

Participants of this Seminar are calling to the Myanmar Government to recognize the right of above ethnic Rohingya to return to their homeland.

            8th August 2005 at Bangladesh National Press Club

1.      Reached unanimous and conclusive resolution that the law enforcing agencies and their officials are not above law and not beyond the jurisdiction of legal actions. The field officials are not obliged to carry out the unlawful instructions of their higher authority.

2.      Reminds the Government about its responsibility to impart appropriate training to the officials of law enforcing agencies regarding the standards of national and international laws pertaining to human rights.

3.      Notes with concern that, in spite of being inherently Muslims, the Arakani Rohingyas are treated as minority community and deprived of all civic and human rights in a predominantly Muslim country like Bangladesh. It is evident that, the tendency prevailing in our country about identifying ethnic minority in the name of religion is not actually due to religious differences, rather owing to age old prejudices and selfish narrow-mindedness.

4.      Advises the Rohingya and Rakhain communities of Arakan to forge a strong and solid unity so as to be able to collectively realize their civil liberties and human rights and attain freedom from the unlawful actions and ruthless atrocities of despotic rulers.
5.      Extends unequivocal supports to the fundamental freedom and universal human rights of the entire mankind irrespective of nationality, religion and color. Especially pleads for ensuring comprehensive human rights and security of minority communities throughout the world.

6.      Calls upon the government of Bangladesh to collect funds committed by European Union for Rohingya and Rakhain refugees and immediately undertake necessary interventions to alleviate disgraceful miseries of the refugees.
7.      Requests the government to register all unregistered Rakhain and Rohingya refugees and provide the necessary support and assistances to them.

8.      Strongly urges the government to provide identity cards and necessary travel documents to the Rohingya and Rakhain refugees in order to facilitate their legal migration within Bangladesh and abroad. The international community including UNHCR is requested to extend generous support to this endeavor.

9.      Expresses strong resolute to remain engaged in its continued struggles to the pursuit of ensuring comprehensive and universal human rights of different religious and ethnic minority communities at different places of Bangladesh, in the neighboring countries and throughout the world.

Justice M.A. Wahab
Excerpts from his Welcome Speech at Dhaka Seminar 2005

The issue of minority is a sensitive issue. It is universally agreed that “Special attention should be given to the protection of human rights of members of potentially vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, women, refugees, displaced persons and members of minority groups.” [UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Articles 1,2,5; Beijing Declaration and Platform for Actions , paragraph 22.4]. 

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh are Minority Ethnic Hill People who have been displaced by military rulers of neighboring country.  So they deserve our extra compassion.  ..They are being ignored. Rather some quarters are trying to run a “hate campaign against Rohingya Minority”.  .... serious efforts are necessary  in order to support a reconciliation of Rakhanie and Rohingya in Arakan.      The international community  should  support and do wherever possible to facilitate an Arakanese reconciliation process. It is necessary that representative of both Rohingya Muslims and Rakhanie Buddhists recognize and respect each other and try to move forward.  As long as the current political and human rights problems in Burma/Arakan continue, the responsibility of the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR remains to protect the refugees from Burma and guarantee them protection and a bearable life.

          Washington D.C. July 21, 2006.

To the government of Bangladesh
·         Recognize that the camp population cannot go back to Burma anytime in the near future and has a right to live with dignity in Bangladesh with complete access to basic services.
·         As a member of the UN Human Rights Council prove its commitment to the refugees’ protection by taking immediate action to end their abuse and exploitation.
·         Hold accountable those officials responsible for deaths of refugees due to denial of medicine.
·         Permit more UN agencies and international NGOs access to the camps as well as the makeshift camp population.
·         Allow international organizations to implement better facilities for the camp refugees and support the establishment of better educational and skills training programs in the camps.
·         Allow refugees to engage in income generating activities.
·         Grant refugees freedom of movement.
·         Provide UNHCR access to camps in the evenings.
·         Enable refugees, including refugee women, to become involved in the camp management and allow refugees to elect their own representatives.

·         Appoint more expatriate staff and establish more field offices in Burma’s northern Rakhine State.
·         Initiate partnerships with international NGOs and encourage them to become involved in the provision of assistance in the camps in Bangladesh.
·         Continue to seek durable solutions for the refugees in the camps.
·         Maintain existing programs and full involvement in camps until durable solutions have been agreed to by all parties.
·         Ensure the provision of complementary food and essential non-food items to the refugees.

To Other UN Agencies
·         Consider working in the camps with their own funding.
·         Seek permission to work with the makeshift camp population and the Bangladeshi local community near the camps.

To the US Government
·         Support the position of UNHCR and the European Commission in their refusal to accept a sub-agreement with unjustified overhead costs.

To Donors
·         Pressure the Government of Burma to end the repression of the Rohingya and permit more expatriate staff to be based in northern Rakhine State.
·         Allocate adequate funds for UNHCR operations in northern Rakhine State.
·         Continue to fund the Rohingya operations in Bangladesh while urging the government to control mistreatment of the refugees by local elements and authorities.
·         Provide more funding for shelters once the pilot project is concluded and shelters are replaced on a wider scale.
·         Pursue resettlement options for the camp based Rohingya, especially the most vulnerable.

To Human Rights organizations
·         Undertake efforts to highlight in international forums the human rights violations faced by the Rohingya in both Burma and Bangladesh.

            12 Sept.2006 at National Press Club, Dhaka.


Resolutions unanimously adopted at the Closing Session of the DHAKA SEMINAR-2006 are as follows:

1. This Seminar believes that Human Security and National Security are not conflicting with each other. Therefore, it is the moral and constitutional obligations of the Government to take necessary measure and ensure prevalence of a congenial atmosphere in the country to protect the refugees and minorities, from all forms and manifestations of discrimination or deprivation in the name of national security or in any other pretext.

2. This Seminar observes that it is the moral and constitutional obligations of the Government of Bangladesh to provide fundamental humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya Refugees who have been compelled to take temporary shelter in Bangladesh due to ruthless repression and ethnic cleansing in Arakan by the ruling military junta of Myanmar.

3. This seminar further believes that such essential humanitarian assistance may be extended to the Rohingya refugees without instigating any provocation to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Union of Myanmar.

4. This seminar unequivocally expresses its complete concurrence to the recommendations contained in the report of the Washington-based Refugees International published on 21 July 2006.

5. This seminar believes that the undesirable, distorted, baseless and fabricated propaganda orchestrated at home and abroad regarding so-called emergence of militancy in Bangladesh, is indirectly instigating the proliferation of militancy itself. This seminar opines that instead of attributing militancy to the dissident individuals or communities, sincere and holistic endeavor in combating militancy will solve the problem once and for all.

6. This seminar demands more effective and coordinated endeavor of the concerned Government agencies in combating militancy. Concurrently, it further emphasizes that the concerned agencies should be extra vigilant during anti-militancy operations so that ordinary and innocent people are not harassed under any circumstance.

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Need ID Card and Travel Document

1.     We have interviewed many Rohingya Refugees who said that they want to return to Myanmar as soon as their Citizenship Rights and Civil Liberties are guaranteed. Until these rights have been guaranteed in Myanmar, they want to stay, work and educate their children in other countries. They feel that Bangladesh is too poor and the elite, administration and media in Bangladesh are very unfriendly. So they usually try to go to Arab countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Europe and USA. They need ID Card as Myanmar Rohigya and want to travel by fair & genuine legal travel documents. But at present for traveling to other countries they are obliged to obtain Bangladeshi Passports with false identity as Bangladesh National.

2.    We think, the international community should find out  ways to oblige  Myanmar Junta to restore full citizenship rights and civil liberties of Rohingyas in Myanmar and expedite the process of voluntary repatriation of the Myanmar Refugees.

3.    ID Card and Travel Document should be issued to all Myanmar Refugees and asylum seekers in Bangladesh – whether documented or undocumented, Rohingya or Rakhanie.   Otherwise, on the one hand these Myanmar Refugees may permanently become State-less, and on the other hand Myanmar Junta’s cruelty & Human Rights abuses will increase and their military ambition may bolster to threaten the security of neighbors.

[1] Burma: The Rohingya  Muslims; Ending a Cycle of Exodus?, Human Rights Watch/Asia, New York, September 1996, p.10.
[2] Under sec. 67 of the law, the Central Body is to be formed by the government and comprised of the Ministers of Home Affairs, Defence and Foreign Affairs. 
[3] See the SPDC’s reply to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the second periodic report of Myanmar, CRC/C/Q/MMR/2, 6 February 2004.  The reply was submitted to the Committee in April 2004.
[4] See: Burma: The Rohingya Muslims; Ending a Cycle of Exodus?, Human Rights Watch/Asia, New York, September 1996, pp. 22-27.
[5] Myanmar:  The Administration of Justice – Grave and Abiding Concerns, Amnesty International, April 2004, AI Index 16/001/2004.