High-level delegation visits Burmese refugee camps

Kaladan News:
Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: A four-member high level delegation of ambassadors of America and Norway in Bangladesh visited Burmese refugee camps yesterday at about 10 am to review the situation of refugees in the camps, said a refugee schoolteacher from Naryapara camp.

The delegation comprised two Americans and two Norwegians. They were accompanied by three other Bangladeshi officers.

They visited the women tailoring center, profiling center, vocational training center, and refugee schools of Nayapara refugee camp.

They entered one Abdul Malek’s shed in the camp and asked his name, when and why he left Burma, and how many children he has.

After visiting the Nayapara camp, at around noon, they left for the Kutupalong refugee camp. There, they also visited schools, other projects and observed the situation in the camp.

The aim of the visit was to oversee the refugee situation in the camps and to settle some of the refugees in a third country. They want to have some development programmes in the camp, said a refugee committee member from Nayapara camp.

Before the arrival of the delegation, the Camp-in-Charge of Nayapara camp called some of the refugee leaders for a meeting, but it was canceled by Wahid, the UNHCR officer saying that it will be held the next time, said another refugee of the camp.

However, refugees wanted to say something to the delegation about the situation of the camp, but they did not get the opportunity, said a refugee leader of the camp.

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INGO Office Attacked after Arakanese Nurse Harassed

Irrawaddy News: Following an incident with a female staffer, 500 Arakanese surrounded the local office of the French international non-governmental organization Aide Médicale Internationale (AMI) and attacked its office and vehicles in Buthidaung Township in Arakan State in Western Burma on Wednesday, according to local sources.

“A Muslim officer working for AMI harassed a female Arakanese staff nurse, who reported the accident to authorities,” said a source in the township who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“When the police went to arrest him, AMI refused to hand him over. Incensed Arakanese youths who had gathered outside then attacked the office and AMI vehicles,” the source said.

“Youths threw stones at the AMI office,” an eye-witness said. “AMI vehicles were destroyed and electricity to the building was cut off.”

The two-hour attack took place on Wednesday evening, although the quarrel between the two staffers happened earlier in the afternoon and ended when security forces arrived, NGO sources in Buthidaung said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a staffer for AMI’s country office in Rangoon said they had discussed a report from their Buthidaung office.

“The situation has returned to normal and was not as bad as first reported,” the AMI staffer said, adding that authorities had ordered NGO staff not to talk to the media about the incident.

AMI provide medicine to local people in the Buthidaung-Maungdaw area, the staffer said. Along with foreign staff, Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims work together at the INGO.

On Friday afternoon, NGOs and UN agencies operating in Burma held a meeting to discuss the incident at the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Rangoon.

Following the incident, the army in Budthidaung Township had to calm the situation. The Rohingya NGO staffer was detained, local sources reported.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy, an officer at Rangoon Police Headquarters declined to comment, saying he did not know anything about the incident.

The Buthidaung-Maungdaw area is historically sensitive. Bloody riots between Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas have periodically broken out since British colonial times. Rumors of Muslim men raping Arakanese women have sparked race riots.

In the 1990s, the Burmese military junta launched a military offensive against the Muslim minority in the area, causing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee into Bangladesh.

The junta and some scholars disagree about the use of the term Rohingya for the Muslim minority in Arakan State, saying that these people were originally “Bengali.”

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INGO Office Attacked after Arakanese Nurse Harassed

Irrawaddy News: Following an incident with a female staffer, 500 Arakanese surrounded the local office of the French international non-governmental organization Aide Médicale Internationale (AMI) and attacked its office and vehicles in Buthidaung Township in Arakan State in Western Burma on Wednesday, according to local sources.

“A Muslim officer working for AMI harassed a female Arakanese staff nurse, who reported the accident to authorities,” said a source in the township who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“When the police went to arrest him, AMI refused to hand him over. Incensed Arakanese youths who had gathered outside then attacked the office and AMI vehicles,” the source said.

“Youths threw stones at the AMI office,” an eye-witness said. “AMI vehicles were destroyed and electricity to the building was cut off.”

The two-hour attack took place on Wednesday evening, although the quarrel between the two staffers happened earlier in the afternoon and ended when security forces arrived, NGO sources in Buthidaung said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a staffer for AMI’s country office in Rangoon said they had discussed a report from their Buthidaung office.

“The situation has returned to normal and was not as bad as first reported,” the AMI staffer said, adding that authorities had ordered NGO staff not to talk to the media about the incident.

AMI provide medicine to local people in the Buthidaung-Maungdaw area, the staffer said. Along with foreign staff, Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims work together at the INGO.

On Friday afternoon, NGOs and UN agencies operating in Burma held a meeting to discuss the incident at the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Rangoon.

Following the incident, the army in Budthidaung Township had to calm the situation. The Rohingya NGO staffer was detained, local sources reported.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy, an officer at Rangoon Police Headquarters declined to comment, saying he did not know anything about the incident.

The Buthidaung-Maungdaw area is historically sensitive. Bloody riots between Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas have periodically broken out since British colonial times. Rumors of Muslim men raping Arakanese women have sparked race riots.

In the 1990s, the Burmese military junta launched a military offensive against the Muslim minority in the area, causing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee into Bangladesh.

The junta and some scholars disagree about the use of the term Rohingya for the Muslim minority in Arakan State, saying that these people were originally “Bengali.”

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Chinese energy delegation in town

by Moe Thu

Rangoon (Mizzima) – A Chinese delegation arrived in Rangoon yesterday to discuss the gas pipeline project, which is to link western Burma’s coastal area to China’s Yunnan province and the recent spate of protests against it, said a source in the energy sector.

The China National Petroleum Corporation’s delegation arrived former capital to talk about technical issues with Burmese authorities over the controversial project, which began in mid-September amid criticism by right groups, the source said.

The 980-kilometre pipeline is part of a 30-year natural gas purchase and sale deal CNPC sealed last December with a consortium of the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, South Korea’s Daewoo International, ONGC Videsh Limited and Gail (India) Limited.

The strategically important pipeline, which will transmit oil and natural gas from Africa and the Middle East, will shorten the transportation distance, and will pass through Arakan (Rakhine) State, Magwe division, Mandalay division and Yunnan in China. Currently it is transported by tankers through the Malacca strait to China.

The consortium found commercially viable gas deposits in A-1 and A-3 offshore blocks in Burma, which is also known as the Shwe gas project.

In response to the pipeline project, which is having a negative impact on the people – such as forced relocation – along the areas the pipeline is to be built, there have been vehement protests in India, Thailand, the United Kingdom and South Korea.

Shwe Gas campaigners said the project will generate about $ 29 billion over three decades for the Burmese junta.

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Detained Burma Opposition Leader Unhappy About Visitor Restrictions

RANGOON, Burma (Fox News)— Detained Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is unhappy about restrictions on the visitors she is allowed under house arrest, including members of her legal team and an architect needed to help repair her dilapidated lakeside home.

Nyan Win, one of her lawyers, said after meeting with her Thursday that she complained that the ruling military junta is infringing upon her rights.

Her complaint comes as the regime prepares for elections next year and seeks more recognition from the international community. The United States had isolated the junta with political and economic sanctions, but the Obama administration decided recently to step up engagement as a way of promoting reforms.

Suu Kyi “has asked us to send a letter to the authorities to allow all four lawyers to meet her at once and to meet the architect,” said Nyan Win, who along with fellow lawyer Kyi Win met with her to discuss an appeal of her most recent sentence of house arrest.

“She said this is her personal right and authorities had no right to limit them,” he said.

Suu Kyi said she would prefer to listen to the views of more lawyers and that she needs an architect to help repair the two-story house where she is confined, Nyan Win said.

The terms of Suu Kyi’s current detention are less strict than her previous term of house arrest, when the only outsiders she was allowed to see were her doctor and, occasionally, visiting U.N. envoys.

Under an eight-point set of rules, Suu Kyi can now receive visitors with prior permission from the junta, has the right to medical treatment by doctors and nurses, and is allowed to see state-controlled newspapers and magazines and state-run television. She recently met with several foreign ambassadors stationed in Burma.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention. In August, she was sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest for allowing an uninvited American to stay briefly at her home earlier this year.

The sentence, which ensured that she would not be able to participate in next year’s elections, drew international condemnation.

Suu Kyi’s legal team plans to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court.

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Burma’s PM ‘sees a role’ for Suu Kyi

Abhisit heartened by hope for reconciliation
CHA-AM Bangkok Post: Asia’s leaders are encouraged by comments by the Burmese prime minister that he sees a role for democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in fostering reconciliation ahead of the poll set for next year, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.

The comments yesterday by Prime Minister Thein Sein came after his government recently allowed Mrs Suu Kyi to hold a rare meeting with a government minister and the US sought to engage the regime.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, 64, was placed under a further 18 months’ house arrest in August, effectively barring her from taking part in elections promised by the ruling generals next year.

Gen Thein Sein did not mention Mrs Suu Kyi by name at the meeting of Southeast and East Asian leaders yesterday but he clearly referred to her.

“He briefed us that some of the dialogues stay in place,” Mr Abhisit said after the meeting. “And we are optimistic that she can contribute to the process of reconciliation.”

Gen Thein Sein confirmed that the election would be acceptable, and Mr Abhisit said other leaders expected to see the poll as inclusive as possible.

He did not say if Gen Thein Sein indicated whether this meant Mrs Suu Kyi would be allowed to take part in the electoral process.

The Burmese prime minister was quoted by Japanese officials as saying that the conditions of Mrs Suu Kyi’s detention could be relaxed if she behaved.

She was convicted in August over an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside house. Mr Abhisit said Asean was pleased the US, which maintains strict sanctions against Burma, was now following its lead in trying to engage the junta.

“The one thing we all agreed on is that we welcome signs of further engagement in response to some developments in Burma,” he said. “Asean has always argued that engagement is the right approach.”

Rights groups earlier criticised Asean for failing to mention Mrs Suu Kyi in its final summit declaration and for devoting just three lines to the military-ruled nation’s political situation in the nine-page document.

But Mr Abhisit denied the grouping had softened its stand on Burma, having previously issued direct appeals for Mrs Suu Kyi’s release. The group has long faced Western criticism for failing to take on the junta.

“It is not true,” Mr Abhisit said. “It was discussed. Everybody agrees that we should help Burma move forward in completing their road map.”

Burma announced a “road map to democracy” in 2008, starting with a controversial constitution that was forced through just days after a deadly cyclone and culminating in the elections.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said recent engagement between Washington and Burma’s ruling generals was encouraging.

“There was an atmosphere of hope that the Burma leadership is moving towards normalising relations with the United States, that they are working towards national reconciliation,” Mr Singh said. “That’s what we all welcome, that the next year’s elections should see the reconciliation of the various segments of Burma society.”

A US delegation is set to make a rare “fact-finding” mission to Burma later this month after the administration of President Barack Obama announced it would engage with the junta.

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Burma: Joint letter to Japanese Justice Minister and Foreign Minister on Rohingya

Source: Amnesty International (AI); Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Keiko Chiba
Justice Minister
Ministry of Justice
Kasumigaseki 1-1-1
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8977

Katsuya Okada
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Kasumigaseki 2-2-1
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8919

Re: Rohingya Asylum Seekers from Burma and Japan’s foreign policy on Burma

Dear Justice Minister and Foreign Minister,

We write to you urging prompt protection for Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma. Several aspects of Japan’s current policy on refugee protection fail to meet international standards, and therefore are in need of revision.

Burma’s ethnic Rohingya “boat people” gained the attention of international and domestic media and policy makers after images of emaciated Rohingya arriving in Thailand and Indonesia by boat were captured on camera in early 2009. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority primarily residing in Western Arakan State, and speak a dialect distinct from Burmese and Bengali. For many years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled repression by the Burmese military government to countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and in the Middle East. Some have also come to Japan.

Amidst rampant human rights abuses in Burma, the Rohingya have for decades borne the brunt of one of the most inhumane policies and campaigns by the military government. The Burmese government denies them citizenship, rendering the majority of Rohingya stateless. The military government launched several “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, particularly in 1978 and 1991, killing many in the process of expelling Rohingya to Bangladesh, where many also died from starvation and disease. In Burma, the Rohingya face brutal religious repression, forced labor and expropriation of property, and are often denied employment opportunities and access to education and trade.

Over the period of past decade, more than 110 Rohingya have made their way to Japan, mainly by air, and petitioned the Japanese government for asylum. While major state parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention have recognized Rohingya asylum seekers as refugees based on the Burmese government’s persecution of them, many Rohingya in Japan, to date, have been denied refugee status and some, therefore, are threatened with deportation to Burma. They are prevented from actually being deported, however, because the Burmese government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as its citizens and therefore refuses to accept them back. While we do not have any reports that Rohingya in Japan have been forcibly repatriated to Burma, the legal status of those subjected to the deportation orders is very unstable and leaves the threat of deportation hanging over their heads.

The Japanese government detains many Rohingya asylum seekers for more than a year while processing their asylum claims. Even those who are released are extremely vulnerable as many of them are on “temporary release status,” which enables the Japanese authorities to detain them at any time. Further, Rohingya asylum seekers face enormous economic challenges; they are barred from work authorization and denied all but limited access to social welfare, including Seikatsuhogo or Hogohi.

In light of these difficulties the Burmese Rohingya asylum seekers are facing in Japan, we urge the Japanese government to promptly take the following steps:

– Don’t forcibly return Rohingya to Burma. Rescind deportation orders to Burma and grant Special Residential Permits to the Rohingya, since they face persecution by the Burmese government and deportation is not practically possible because the Burmese government will not accept Rohingya back to the country. The Japanese government should promptly grant Special Residential Permits (such as one-year “Long Residence Permit”) to all Rohingya asylum seekers.

– Do not detain Rohingya applying for asylum and grant them work permits and full access to social welfare services including the access to Hogohi or Seikatsu Hogo. Follow the UNHCR Guidelines, which states that as a general rule, asylum seekers should not be detained and detention of asylum seekers may only be permitted under exceptional circumstances.

– Press the Burmese military government to end abuses against the Rohingya and grant them full citizenship rights.

Yours sincerely,

Amnesty International Japan

Arakan Rohingya Organization-Japan (JARO)

Lawyers’ Group for Burmese Refugee Applicants

Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan

Christian Coalition for Refugee and Migrant Workers

People’s Forum on Burma

BurmaInfo

Human Rights Watch

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