Monday, 24 October 2016

A Memorandum to Burmese Embassy in Canberra, Australia

by admin, 

Today, we staged a demonstration in front of Burmese embassy in Canberra in the present of Australian Federal Police (AFP).

It was started from 9.30am and taken one hour long by reading 3 pages of statement by Habib and slogans by Min Min

Demonstration was joined by about 60 Rohingyas collectively from Melbourne and Sydney.

Usually, No staff from the embassy came out to take our memorandum but it was given to an AFP officer who will be handing over to the embassy..
our memorandum is as below:

We, ABRO would like to raise serious concern over recent arbitrary mass killing and slaughtering about 100 Rohingyans and ongoing arrests and force confession from Maungdaw township, keeping the Rakhine (Arakan) humanitarian crises alive, allowing to carry out genocidal attacks and various operations, vigilant racial attacks, continuously locking down about 150,000 Rohingyas and Kamans in ghetto type concentration camps across 42 locations and confining the rest about a million in their villages from June 2012, mass destruction of historical evidences and religious buildings, forceful expulsion, blocking aid and food supply, prohibit livelihood and compelling to die from starvation, denying their right to have rights such as medicare, education, relocation and movement, seizing and destroying residential documents and forcing to accept foreigner identity and not allowing to recourse under new citizenship act. .

After recent attacks carried out by unknown armed gangs on border police in Kyiganbyin, police outpost in Kotankauk, and local police office in Nhakhuya where equal members of causality occurred from both sides, the government forces instantly taken intentional steps of retaliation to annihilate the Maungdaw township resident Rohingyans from 9 Oct 2016 under the so call 'Land Clearing Operation' (Nay Myay Chin Linn Yay).
In this operation, about 100 Rohiongya involving women, children and elderly people from 11 different locations were closely shot dead, slaughtered in cool blood by military and security forces. Many of those taken away by security and military forces were also found in a mass grave with their hands tied that cleared how they been brutally killed. Additionally, gang rapes of teens by those taken away by authorities, looting goods and cash, extortion, expulsion from villages and blocking of food supply, are also recorded.

An estimated about 5,000 people have been displaced and now shelter-less after about 700 houses and livestocks in Wabaik hamlet of Kyiganpyin village, Kyet Yoe Pyin village tract, Nga Sa Kyu village tract and Ngan Chaung village tract, were burn down by security and military forces.
Despite the government officially denounced the armed gang insurgent for attacks and torching of houses, it actually government forces who shot civilians and torching of houses that were captured in the photos.

Despite Ms. Suu Kyi told its authorities to deal those arrestees by lawfully and requested not to compete by forces between government forces and armed groups, it is practically different on the ground. Her government does not enhance her authorities to act lawfully, nor taking action onto officials those involved in arbitrary and lawless killings, and for committing physical abuses.
Yet, Ms. Suu Kyi did not confirm the attacks but her presidential office's official statements and Burmese news agencies widely spreading reverse information by linking the attacker armed group with non-existing foreign group and fabricating false news, evidences and implicating Rohingya community.

It has been over four years now Rohingyas and Kamans of Rakhine (Arakan) state are totally excluded from Burma and trapped into the worst part of human tragic such as APARTHEID, SLAVERY & RACISM, EXTERMINATION.. For decades, Rohingyas have been oppressed, victimized and terrorized by the both government authorities and extremist Rakhine people that been recorded commonly in 1942, 1949 1967, 1978, 1991,1994/95, 2002 and the latest state sponsor genocide began from June 2012.
From 8 of June 2012, total destruction across (13) different townships of Arakan state, reached at (97) mosques, about (23,000) houses from (95) villages, killing thousands Rohingyans and Kamans and nearly 200,000 people displaced of whom about (110,000) people are in 13 to 15 camps of Sittwe (Akyab) city and the rest about (65,000) those from other 8 regions in 26 camps are in aid workers unreachable areas, and number of arbitrary detention reached at least 12,00 Rohingyas and Kaman muslims mainly from Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe townships.
In Burma there are so many organizations including Red Cross Society, Healthcare clinic but all are puppet bodies of terror government and not delivering services for Arakanese muslims. While Rakhine children are freely attending the government schools, the Rohingya youths those teaching Rohingya kids, distributing rations, Rohingyan language support workers, providing medical assistance in the camps, are instantly targeted by local authorities. So, many Rohingya youths have continued to flee into neighbouring countries. Government authorities pretend unable to interfere in local matters and also instantly blocking aid delivery and medical treatment for displaced Rohingya and Kaman victims..

The ousted Thein Sein government pretended to be uncontrollable and allowed to spread across central Burma therefore the attacks carried out in 26 locations of 8 different states that destroyed thousands of houses, killing hundreds of people, displaced more than 20,000 people.
Despite the Thein Sein government has characterized the events as 'communal violence, it was a well plan and the government’s involvement and contributions into the crisis were very obvious.
The latest target on Rohingya in Maungdaw township from 9 Oct 2016, is actually another propaganda to divert international attention on genocide and atrocities committed by government forces.

As we aware, the current central ruler of NLD has been following the same footpaths and tactics of the past regimes that keep routinely attacking of ethnic minorities such as Chin, Karen, Kachin, Shan and Rohingya.
When there are double numbers of government armed forces presenting in minority areas, and still carrying out attacks, the minorities lost hopes and the number of armed ethnic group from repression is yet to be grown in the future because it is only option to protect their respective own people and lands from aggressive military operations, tyrant abuses and genocide. However sadly, the people who are protecting own people from genocidal attacks are branded as insurgency or guerilla by central ruler government and Burmese news agencies.

Historically, the past government and now latest NLD, all of them have actually no strategy for peace, nor taken workable steps to bring peace and build trust with ethnic armed groups, But they are records of breaking ceasefire agreements and aggressive and offensive attacks thru waging wars and physical tortures over civilians that account for crimes against humanity.
The fact is that, the late NLD government's failure or not yet marched forward to achieve genuine cease fire, reconciliation with minorities and restoration of genuine federal democracy system. But, NLD re-conciliated with military and kept her military in power so that minority areas and their issues kept under military control.
NLD leader Ms. Suu Kyi forgiving military generals' the past crimes and now again favouring through achieving lifting blacklist of its generals.

We strongly urge Ms. Suu Kyi who is above the president of the country and led the NLD government and its authorities to uphold its afore said rules of laws and respect the dignity and rights of the entire population regardless of race, religion and colour and to ensure a free, fair and equal justice system is available to all.
NLD leader Ms. Suu Kyi has not yet condemns it militarily attacks on minorities, not yet achieved release of a single muslim political prisoner and yet to outline its plan on minorities.

NLD government must also install laws and orders to equally guarantee safety and security of the entire people of Burma. The NLD government must immediately halt all forms of ongoing persecution, oppression, restriction, segregation and vigilante attacks against minority groups; particularly the Rohingya and Kaman from Arakan state of western Burma.
The NLD government must take immediate action to prevent ongoing campaigns of racial hatred organised by radical groups, such as the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group MaBaTha (969) Association, which is supported by some politicians, ex-generals and their family members, along with some Yangon-based Rakhine people.

We are also disappointed to see NLD government and its authorities are forcing Rohingya and Kaman people to accept foreigner identity, seizing and destroying their residential documents and not allowing to recourse to become new citizenship even under 1982 citizenship act.
Practically, it is not the 1982-citizenship laws that stripped off citizenship but the authority who are intentionally reluctant to access the Rohingya's historical existence and ancestral evidence that prove primary evidence earlier than prior to 1824. The fact is that after British occupation of Arakan in1824, the repatriated Rohingya war victims of 1784 and 1794 Burman king invasion of Arakan, were miscounted as British era settlers by central rulers.
Like in 1978 and 1992, after drove out of Rohingyans and Kamans from their ancestral homelands, the authorities tactically started collection of data and those forcefully repatriated under bilateral agreement were branded as Bengali so it could be accounted by exclusion of Rohingya into national census as a creation official evidence for national population history.

We also would like to urge the UN and its member countries including countries those have business ties with Burma to join together in taking effective actions onto Burma's central ruler NLD government and it authorities to abide by domestic and international laws.

We, ABRO therefore demands the following:
1) UN to use force to restore peace and stability in minority areas including in Arakan state.
2) UN to use force to immediately suspend blockage of food and aid supply and grand special power to aid agencies to enable to supply food and aid on the ground freely.
3) UN to effectively pressurise onto central ruler government to immediately lift all kinds restrictions.
4) UN to monitor central ruler NLD government and its armed forces to abide by domestic and international laws.
5) To stop forcing and pressuring of Rohingya and Kaman to accept foreigner identity.
6) Immediately release of muslim political prisoners from central Burma and thousand of Rohingya prisoners mostly detained in Sittwe Central Jail, Buthidaung Jail and many other who are detained in police lock-up and military camps.


For more information, please contact;

Russel : 0438 524935 (Melbourne)
Habib: 0406 310077 (Melbourne)
Mohammed Amin: 0411 456400 (Melbourne)
Shujawuddin: 0411 378204 (Brisbane)
Sayad Kassim: 0423 764858 (Sydney)
Mohammad Sadek: +(60) 16 3094599 (Malaysia)
Maung Kyaw Nu: +(66) 98 842 0459 (Thailand)

Kyaw Soe Aung: +(1) 414 643 8001 (U.S.A)

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Melbourne Communities Donate for Displaced and Isolated Victims in Arakan State of Burma

by Habib,

Australian Burmese Rohingya Organization has received donation total amount of AUD 4967 in three occasions from Monash Uni Islamic Society thru Dr. Rizvi Mohideen and other AUD 1700 raised from Rohingya community gathering during EID prayer.  
Food distributions on the ground were done by a registered local organization- "Myittar Resources Foundation" led by Sayar Chit Ko Ko Oo. We targeted to distribute this little donation to unregsitered vulnerable families and isolated villagers only  because they do not receive any ration from any agencies since they are compelled to be unregistered by camp authorities.

The first amount of (AUD 1420) was sent for 50 families of unregistered displaced Myebon township people residing in Sintatmaw refugee camp (opposite of Sittwe city). Each family received: Rice 24 kg, Oil 2 litres, Sugar 1 viss, Condensed milk 1 tin, Traditinal bermicilli 2 packs, Ground net 0.1 viss, Onion 1 viss, Potato 1 viss, Bean 0.25 viss.

Second amount of (AUD 1292) was spent for unregistered 120 families fled from Kyaukpyu township and still living in other Sintatmaw refugee camp (opposite of Sittwe city). Food provided for each family are: Rice, Oil, Sugar, Traditinal bermicilli, Onion, Potato and Bean.

The third donation of (AUD 2255) was sent for isolated villagers of 60 families from Sintatmaw village (opposite of Sittwe city). This villagers are not displaced people but they are isolated from June 2012 and not receiving any kind of food supplies from anywhere..
Food provided for each family are: Rice 24kg, Oil 2lt, Chilli 0.5viss, Sugar 1viss, Noodle 2pks, Onion 1viss, Bean 0.5 viss, Condensed milk 2tin, Soap 4pc, Garlic 0.25viss.

The fourth amount of (AUD 1700) received from Rohingya community been sent for 300 families of isolated and displaced villagers of Apaukwa (Aafok) of Kyauktaw township. Each family received 9.25 kg of rice.

We acknowledge that there are the displaced Rohingya and Kaman people living in 42 locations across Arakan state numbering about 165,000 according to 2013 data, are ending up in systematic confinement in the hand of heavy persecutions since June 2012. Although aid supply and donation could not solve the existing problems, it is also vital to keep their daily survival while aid and food supplies are still in place with various restrictions.

Despite the democratic icon MS. Suu Kyi's NLD party led the government, there is nothing changed for Rohingya and other muslim population. Fleeing through the sea-routes therefore remains only option of escaping from such situation and or dying from starvation in home land.

We, ABRO therefore would like to encourage the Rohingya people and leaders who are in developed countries to actively look after own people who are ending up in homeland.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Burma: Rohingya abandoned by NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi

Source Greenleftweekly, July 11, 2016
By Habib
Right-wing Buddhist extremists.
The entire population of Burma supported Aung San Suu Kyi when she fought to get rid of the military dictatorship of Burma (Myanmar) during the 1990s.
She received tremendous support from all communities, including non-Buddhist ethnicities and Muslim communities. No one considered what her policy on other religions and ethnic areas was. People just wanted to get rid of the regime.
Suu Kyi campaigned all over Burma, organising and educating people living in remote areas. She formed the National League for Democracy (NLD), and issued a membership card with her signature to whoever joined the party.
Many Rohingyas, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, joined the NLD because they were the most oppressed people under the military government. Some were jailed for working with the NLD. They believed Suu Kyi to be the one to restore their livelihoods.
Today, Suu Kyi says she does not know whether the Rohingya people are citizens of Burma. Nowadays, she no longer speaks the words “unity” and “solidarity”.

No rule of law
We would like to see the government the NLD is participating in uphold the rule of law and respect the dignity and rights of the entire population regardless of race, religion and colour.
We call on the government to act in a timely and appropriate manner to ensure the safety, security and dignity of all people and to ensure a free, fair and equal justice system is available to all.
The NLD government must immediately halt all forms of ongoing persecution, oppression, restriction, segregation and vigilante attacks against minority groups; particularly the Rohingya from Arakan (Rakhine) state of western Burma.
We also call for effective action to prevent ongoing campaigns of racial hatred organised by radical groups, such as the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group MaBaTha (969) Association, which is supported by some politicians, ex-generals and their family members, along with Yangon-based Rakhine people.
MaBaTha, led by Abbot Thi Dagu and the radical monk Wira Thu, has been making wide-ranging attempts to destabilise the country's peace and harmony by preaching racial hatred. Such campaigns are illegal and contravene the current law, but authorities have taken no action.

Backing the Buddhist majority
Despite her accolades, Suu Kyi's party has not demonstrated a resolve to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people in Burma. Rather, her party has cleansed itself of all Muslim members who had been NLD members for decades.
Suu Kyi has sided with majority Buddhist opinion. She has been unwilling to address either the Rohingya crisis or other Muslim communities' plight. Conciliation began with Buddhist communities and left minority issues to be dealt with by the military.
Suu Kyi has never visited or shown her condolences to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are victims of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing pogroms. Rather she has remained silent and disregarded their plight because they are not of the Buddhist faith.
Since she was released from house arrest, Suu Kyi has picked up medals across the world, adding to her fame — but she stayed away from Muslim countries.
Before coming to power, Suu Kyi blamed the problems of her country on the lack of the rule of law. She also referred the question of the Rohingya to government, saying it is the government's responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the entire population.
Since becoming head of state, Suu Kyi has failed to uphold the same laws she once insisted upon. Suu Kyi has been reluctant to protect the Rohingya people from ongoing racist vigilante attacks. She has made no effort to ease the humanitarian crisis or to lift the restrictions across the Arakan/Rakhine state and minority areas.
Despite ample historical evidence and the recognition of past governments, Suu Kyi continues to ignore the Rohingya people. Suu Kyi, on behalf of the NLD, has even requested the United States ambassador not use the term Rohingya.
This is a manipulation against existing communities who are daily enduring the country's worst crisis. Suu Kyi's actions demonstrate that rather than standing with victims for an inclusive society, she always takes side of those sharing her Burmese ethnicity.
Suu Kyi's actions are difficult to understand. Her stance on a robust democracy has been stained.
The reasons are that, although a global icon for democracy, Suu Kyi has never believed in federalism for Burma, as she knows ethnic minorities do not want to live under the rule of the Burmese.

Backing the generals
The military regime's generals are taking advantage of her dislike of federalism and avoidance of the Rohingya issue. As a result, the generals have been able to gain much needed protection for themselves for the crimes they committed over the past 50 years.
After several meetings with generals, both sides agreed to allow the military to continue to hold three cabinet posts — defence, immigration and border affairs — and the interior ministry, in accordance with the 2008 constitution. Suu Kyi calculated the agreement was the best way to maintain the image of a democracy icon and Nobel Peace Laureate while sharing power with the military. It gives her no responsibility for the Burmese army controlling minority ethnic areas or the Rohingya issue.
Under this agreement, minorities' rights and federal democracy will no doubt be quashed by military power or languish in a parliament dominated by the Buddhist majority. This is evidenced by the recent parliamentary vote against Rohingya citizenship rights.
The Suu Kyi government's support for the military-drafted citizenship law of 1982 is an excuse to exclude the Rohingya. It has since been applied to the entire Muslim population of the country.
Despite the fact that Rohingya have become de-facto stateless people, they still have historical evidence and official documents proving themselves as native people of Arakan State.
However, the central rulers are reluctant to recognise their identities, allow admission of this evidence or provide citizenship rights. For example, the government has released Buddhist political prisoners, but gives no consideration to Muslim political prisoners from the central regions and Arakan State.
Suu Kyi has also appointed two ex-military personnel from Thein Sein's former military government. This action confused and disappointed the followers of other faiths.
Minister for Religious Affairs Ag Ko was the deputy minister of religious affairs under Thein Sein and only favoured the welfare of the majority Buddhist population. And Zaw Htay, who has spread violence across Burma since 2012 via social media, has been appointed spokesperson for the presidential office. That Suu Kyi knowingly appointed these two figures in her cabinet shows what she truly has in mind.
There is no reason for a government controlling the country not to restore and apply the rule of law. Yet today, we still see some politicians, Buddhist monks, famous icons and academics feeling confident to insult non-Buddhist minorities. For example, the Yangon-based actor of Rakhine origin Ne Toe starred in a movie called Stray Grass that openly insults non-Buddhist religions.
In another example, during the middle of the continuing humanitarian crisis in Arakan State, immigration authorities are conducting population checks in accordance with the demands of the Rakhine Buddhist people. At the same time, the government has provided complete assistance for hundreds of Bangladeshi Rakhine settling on Rohingya people's land in Arakan State.
The new NLD government is keeping the rigid policy of restrictions over Rohingya people's movement, health care, education, rations, livelihood and rights. It allows the continuation of segregation, divided law, oppression, persecution and mass killings. This has not only affected the Rohingya, but anyone of Islamic faith and other minorities. There are about 150,000 displaced people locked up inside ghetto camps across 42 locations in Arakan State and about 1 million people who have remained in systematic confinement since 2012. International aid workers are also systematically removed and threatened.
These people's rights have been taken away by the misuse of power. The actions are reminiscent of the treatment of Jewish people in Nazi Germany and are tantamount to genocide. The situation can be improved and resolved if Suu Kyi wishes.

International action needed
In this regard, the Melbourne-based Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation calls on the international community, the United Nations and its agencies, neighbouring countries and developed countries, including Australia, to pressure the current government to:
• Install equality in laws, a justice system for all regardless of race, religion and colour, and take effective action against incidents of racial attacks and hate speech;
• End all restrictions, oppression, persecution, segregation, attacks and tyrannical abuses against minorities;
• Assist in the relocation of displaced Rohingya and Kaman people of Arakan state and other displaced people from northern regions to return to their villages of origin and provide facilities to rebuild their houses. Return properties and lands seized by Rakhine people and Rakhine authorities;
• Pave the way to equal access to public services such as education, health care and other welfare services;
• Restore citizenship rights for Rohingya and Kaman people and allow for the application for citizenship using access to evidence fairly;
• Stop the relocation of Bangladeshi Rakhine people from Bangladesh into Arakan state; and
• Immediately free all Muslim prisoners including those from Arakan state and central Burma.
We also encourage countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Britain, the US and Canada to scrutinise and block the entry visas of Burmese people who actively preach racial hatred and anti-social behaviours.
[Habib blogs at Arakan Diary and works with the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation.]
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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Leaked Documents Show How the UN Failed to Protect Myanmar's Persecuted Rohingya

Source vice, 22 May
The United Nations failed to protect the human rights of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar, according to documents leaked to VICE News.
The papers also indicate that UN officials on the ground disregarded multiple recommendations on the rights and security of the group.
The Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar's western Rakhine state, have been subjected to decades of persecution in the Buddhist-majority nation, culminating in massacres in 2012. The violence of that year was described by Human Rights Watch as a campaign of "ethnic cleansing," which involved "crimes against humanity" perpetrated by local mobs, at times with the support of state agencies. A 2015 report prepared by a team at Yale Law School for the NGO Fortify Rights found "strong evidence that genocide is being committed" against the Rohingya.
Myanmar's government confines more than 140,000 Rohingya, who were rendered homeless by the violence four years ago, to squalid camps. Across the state, basic rights such as freedom of movement and access to healthcare are severely curtailed by government measures, while apartheid-like conditions further limit the prospects of the group in the highly militarized northern Rakhine region.
Stripped of their citizenship rights in 1982, the minority are among the world's largest stateless populations. Last year, their plight caught the attention of the international press when boats full of Rohingya and some Bangladeshi passengers were abandoned on the open seas by human traffickers, and mass graves of many of the same "boat people" were found in Thailand.
Perhaps the most damning charge contained in the cache of documents obtained by VICE News is found in a report commissioned by the UN to review the "human rights implications" of the world body's recent record in Rakhine state. The independent study, titled "A Slippery Slope: Helping Victims or Supporting Systems of Abuse?" and meant for an internal UN audience, concluded that the "situation in Rakhine state is forcing international institutions into complicity with systematic abuses" against the Rohingya, partly due to "excessive self-censorship" on rights.
The "current UN strategy of emphasizing development investment as the solution to the problems in Rakhine state," the study said, "fails to take into account that development initiatives carried out by discriminatory state actors through discriminatory structures will likely have a discriminatory outcome." In other words, pouring money into "development" without changing the government-imposed structures that oppress the Rohingya will not solve the problem. The paper added that such schemes are "aimed at mollifying" hostile populations that have targeted the Rohingya with acts of violence in the past.
The authors of the report, which is marked "confidential" and was prepared in late 2015, had access to a raft of internal documents, and they conducted private interviews with dozens of staffers from the UN and international NGOs. It is perhaps the most thorough internal review of the UN's Rohingya policy to date.
The findings of the paper are particularly damning in light of repeated internal warnings about the inadequacy of the UN response, contained in material seen by VICE News.
Watch the VICE News documentary Left for Dead: Myanmar's Muslim Minority:

A report produced by the Office for the High Commission for Human Rights or OHCHR, the UN's leading rights watchdog, in November 2014 observed that serious abuses such as "killings, torture, rape" were "ongoing," and called for "concrete action" to stop them, including the establishment of a UN-designed "human security" system which could prevent future atrocities.
A document from the same time, also obtained by VICE News and marked "confidential," contains the minutes of a meeting of the UN's "Senior Action Group," a high-level body including representatives from leading UN agencies and the Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson.
The 2014 memo records that Eliasson "stressed the need to prioritize preventative efforts... [and] taking a firm stance on Human Rights Up Front," while a specialist within the organization identified "some risk factors associated with genocide" with regard to the Rohingya.
The UN established the "Human Rights Up Front" initiative in response to a damning internal inquiry into its failure to prevent mass atrocities in Sri Lanka during the end of the country's civil war in 2009. Launched by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2013, the strategy "encourages staff to take a principled stance and to act with moral courage to prevent serious and large-scale violations" of human rights, and suggests a series of actions that can be taken to ensure this.
The "Slippery Slope" review paper, however, describes Myanmar as a near-rerun of the Sri Lanka crisis, albeit with very different circumstances. "[T]he dynamic of passivity and complicity with state strategies of abuse... is being repeated in Myanmar to an alarming level," it notes in its conclusions.
A section in the document that deals specifically with Human Rights Up Front lists the requirements set out by the initiative in a table, finding that the UN at the ground level had yet to properly fulfill its obligations in every single category.
An end-of-assignment report written by a veteran UN staff member who worked in Myanmar, leaked to VICE News by sources in the US, lays the blame for these failings largely at the door of the country's resident coordinator, or RC. The resident coordinator is the highest in-country role a UN official can occupy, and is comparable to a country's ambassador.
The end-of-assignment report, which takes the form of a letter directed at the author's former colleagues, notes that "I had to conclude time and time again that the RC discarded or simply ignored information that underscored the seriousness of the situation" for the Rohingya. It alleges that the coordinator instructed her staff to undermine other UN agencies that were taking a stronger line on Rohingya rights.
While the letter does not explain why the RC allegedly behaved in such a way, the "Slippery Slope" report observes that the UN country team led by the RC pursued a strategy that valued quiet diplomacy and the belief that "development investment itself will reduce tensions" in Rakhine state, an approach that drew criticism from other agencies in the organization.
The author of the end-of-assignment report goes on to allege in the letter that the Coordinator was insistent on pursuing the strategies she favored and would engage in "bullying, intimidating and discrediting people that had a different view."
'I was instructed to rewrite history'
At one point, the author claims that the RC told them "repeatedly to find out when the Head of OCHA [Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and / or OHCHR staff in the country was NOT available... so she could organize meetings at that time without having to listen to [their views]," which did not agree with hers.
The ex-employee's end-of-assignment report also claims that attempts to uphold Human Rights Up Front and the establishment of a human security system as other UN officials had requested were "put in the bottom drawer," as "the RC did not review and/or release the information and analysis provided."
This allegation is seemingly supported by broader observations contained in the "Slippery Slope" paper, which noted that there had been a "failure to implement a system-wide protection strategy," an outcome that suggests a "lack of the kind of teamwork and collaboration demanded by Human Rights Up Front."
The letter also referred to a "prevailing atmosphere of intimidation, non-accountability, and manipulation of information," which worsened in the aftermath of an alleged massacre in early 2014 near Maungdaw in Rakhine state. This event was likewise described in the "Slippery Slope" review as a turning point, which noted that "when the government disputed the facts and denied the massacre, the Resident Coordinator took a more cautious approach, no longer standing by the original allegation."
What followed this reversal, the official contends in the letter, was that OHCHR was effectively blamed for the "tense relation[ship] with the Government," due to its explosive claims of a massacre. This occurred, despite the RC's strong support for the OHCHR report which was privately retracted only after the publication came out.
"I was instructed to rewrite history," the author of the letter complained, referring to a "lesson learned" document drafted in the aftermath of the fallout over the massacre; a section of the piece which dealt with the RC's initial response was allegedly excised on the orders of the coordinator herself.
Watch the VICE News documentary Escape From Myanmar:
When the official confronted the RC about this, a threat was issued: they were told "never to raise this again with her or anyone else 'if you want to continue your career at the UN.'"
"The discrediting of OHCHR continued throughout 2014 and the truth was often distorted vis-à-vis senior officials," the former official further alleged.
Michael Shaikh, the author of an initial UN report into the alleged massacre, told VICE News that he stands by his work. In his view, the UN changed its position on the incident because it "prioritized its relationship with the government over the people that it was in the business of protecting."
Speaking to VICE News, Renata Lok-Dessalien, the resident coordinator referred to in the end-of-assignment report, denied allegations that the UN was failing to uphold human rights. "I don't think anyone has spoken out as loudly as the UN on rights violations," she said. In response to allegations of complicity in abuses, she added that there had been "absolutely no complicity whatsoever."
However, the claim on outspokenness over rights is contradicted by the testimony of a former senior-level UN representative. Tomas Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar until last year, recalled that Lok-Dessalien had asked him personally not to be so vocal on the issue of Rohingya rights, and even not to visit Rohingya displacement camps.
'Everyone became engaged with the crisis, but no one took overall responsibility to come up with a common vision of what needed to be done.'
"She advocated for another approach, which did not include a big focus on human rights but more on development and so on... her advice was not to be so outspoken or to visit Rakhine state," he recalled.
Other UN veterans feel that a critical focus on the actions of the in-country team is misplaced, and view failures at the central level in New York as far more significant. Charles Petrie, whose 2011 report into Sri Lanka helped spur Human Rights Up Front, and who was himself Myanmar's resident coordinator between 2003 and 2007, is among them.
"I see a lot of parallels with what happened in Sri Lanka," he said. "One of the the major problems then was the dysfunctionality of the UN system at the level of headquarters in New York. Everyone became engaged with the crisis, but no one took overall responsibility to come up with a common vision of what needed to be done. The same thing is happening in Myanmar."
A spokesperson for the office of the Secretary General of the UN in New York told VICE News that, contrary to some of the allegations above, "[t]he UN has systems in place that aim to respond effectively to serious human rights violations, as well as to prevent them," and that Rohingya rights abuses were a serious concern, adding "we have proactively spoken up on this issue both publicly and in our official contacts."
However, sources within the NGO community close to events, who wish to remain anonymous due to the risk to their careers, maintain that deep divisions remain over how best to deal with the crisis in Rakhine state.
Those sources also said that the organization has initiated what they called an internal "witch hunt" in response to the VICE News documentary Left For Dead: Myanmar's Muslim Minority, which featured some of the material cited in this story.
Follow Emanuel Stoakes on Twitter: @EmanuelStoakes

Monday, 2 May 2016

Turnbull rejects New Zealand offer to take 150 refugees from detention

Source Theguardian,
The prime minister says settlement in New Zealand would be used by people smugglers as a ‘marketing opportunity’
Malcolm Turnbull has again rejected an offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres saying: “Settlement in a country like New Zealand would be used by the people smugglers as a marketing opportunity.”
A spokeswoman for the New Zealand immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse,said on Thursday that an old offer to take 150 asylum seekers a year remained on the table, but he had not been approached by the Australian government.
Turnbull said the two governments were in discussions.
On Friday the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said the proposal would do nothing but encourage people smugglers to “get back into business” because people with New Zealand citizenship can settle in Australia.
“What we know of Julia Gillard’s deal with New Zealand was that it’s a back-door way to get into Australia, and would have been a green light to people smugglers,” he said in Sydney.
The Papua New Guinea government has declared the Manus Island centre would close after the PNG supreme court ruled it unconstitutional, but has hit an impasse with the Australian government over responsibility for hundreds of asylum seekers who cannot be legally detained.
Both Turnbull and Dutton have couched the debate in terms of national security.
“We can’t afford to let the empathy that we feel for the desperate circumstances many people find themselves in to cloud our judgment,” Turnbull told radio station 3AW on Friday morning.
“Our national security has to come first.”
Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Dutton said national security was an important issue “particularly in this day and age” and: “We’re going to make sure that our borders remain secure so that we can keep our community in Australia as safe as possible.”
Anna Burke, Labor MP and former speaker in federal parliament, said the asylum seekers were not a security risk.
“The uncertainty these people have been living in is for four years now,” she told the ABC. “These are people.
“This is unsustainable. The current situation the current government has placed these people in is appalling.
“This is not detention, this is not looking after a situation trying to stop this is deaths at sea. This is indefinite detention and it’s causing great harm to these individuals.”
Burke, who has joined Labor MPs Melissa Parke, Lisa Singh and Sue Lines in speaking out against offshore processing, denied she was speaking out against Labor’s position.
“You can talk about Labor policy all you like,” she said. “We haven’t been in government for three years. What are they doing?”
Turnbull said Labor was “driven by the left” in the Labor party, and the MPs who had broken ranks were driven by competing with the Greens party.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, described Labor as being on a “unity ticket” with the Coalition on ensuring the detainees were not brought to Australia, but said the situation was “a train wreck”.
“It was amazing when Mr Dutton said yesterday morning that he and Mr Turnbull had known that this problem had been coming for months,” he said in Melbourne.
“A Labor government is supportive of regional processing. We will not allow the people smugglers to get back in business.
“What we won’t do if we’re elected into government on July 2 is allow a situation of indefinite detention of people on Manus and Nauru.”
PNG leaders and diplomats have repeatedly claimed it was up to Australia to find alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers and refugees who did not return to their home country, go to a third country, or resettle in PNG.
Dutton has held firm that the memorandum of understanding between the two countries left the responsibility for the asylum seekers squarely with PNG.
The former Nauruan president, Sprent Dabwido, has lent his support to Dutton’s suggestion that Nauru could house the extra 400 to 500 men.
In the meantime, detainees on Manus Island reported internal doors were temporarily opened on Thursday night, and guards had stopped performing searches on them.
Free movement was allowed between compounds before it was later restricted on Friday afternoon. From then detainees were only allowed to move between compounds where people had the same refugee determination.
“We can say that we got freedom inside our prison tonight,” said Behrouz Bouchani, a Kurdish-Iranian detainee on Manus Island, after the gates were opened.
“Some of the people are singing and the young boys have a lot of positive energy, they are active,” he said.
“The torturing system completely collapsed today and officers and case managers are only watching. I saw some officers say congratulations to refugees and get them in a hug. All people are happy, this is a big moment to forget the past three years.”
Bouchani said people were discussing where they would now go, with many hoping for New Zealand.