Arakan three months on; Violence Remains but Rohingya are still Hopeful

Despite recent news of the violence in Arakan easing, danger continues to loom over the lives of the Rohingya.  Exclusive updates from our sources in Arakan have revealed the bleak situation, showing little prospect of improvement, a summer of the worlds attention and campaigning being in vain. Our sources disclosed to us that the authorities continue to arrest, loot, torture and kill.

On September 11th the army and Natala villagers of the Mawra Wadi village looted homes and the land of Haws Sara village, including 22 oxen. Four people were unjustly arrested and detained, one man managed to luckily escape; the villagers were told that those who had been arrested will be killed

The names of the arrested men are as follows:

  • Jawlil Noor Hosin – escaped
  • MD Saber Aabu
  • Abdu Rawn
  • MD Baser, Roshid Ayaaz

On September 12th at 11:30pm, the army and Natala villagers looted Mohammed Zafor's sister's home in Nurulla Fara village, the army had also set the area on  fire killing one Rohingya man.

Two days later on September 14th, the authority and a group of Buddhists tortured two shopkeepers in front of Shwe Zar Bridge.
The next day, the police group ‘Aung Kyaw Kan’ arrested Noor Mamed, Noor Islam (28 years old), Mamed Ayub (f) Abadullah (30 years old) of Ba Gone Nar village and Aamir Mamed (51 years old -one of the religious leaders of Sammonna village and Myo Thu Gyi village).  All the men were arrested as they returned from the market after closing their shops. The police group had been heard exclaiming: "Tell everyone, where you can, that I will arrest every person who says that they are Rohingya!

Today, our source tells us how the Rohingya community have had to go to the Immigration Department in order for the authorities to ascertain which members of the community have fled to Bangladesh. Previously, this task was the sole responsibility of the NaSaKa, who would take photos of the Rohingya families at different stages, a type of population check repeated every year; a method to determine which members of the community had fled to Bangladesh. However, it is deemed to be a positive step that the Immigration Department have now taken over the task of population checks and enlistments. This is because the Rohingya will now have two family list cards which certifies the number of Rohingya who still live in Arakan,  though negatively, those who have fled will be liable to being cancelled from the list, being termed as ‘FLED TO BANGLADESH’. However, the process is now deemed to be much safer in the hands of the Immigration Department rather than the NaSaKa.

The International Response

This week, the world continues to act upon the situation in Arakan and bring to light the endless torture of the Rohingya. In the UK, Lord Ashworth had called a parliamentary session on Tuesday 11th September highlighting the main problems of the situation in Arakan. The debate was well attended and had representatives of all political strands including the Minister of State for the Foreign Office, Hugo Swire. There was quite evidently widespread support in the chamber for the British Government to put additional pressure on Burma to seek an end to the decades of persecution and the reformation of discriminatory laws that not only excludes the Rohingya from civil society but also a number of other ethnic groups who lack the most basic of human rights.

There still remains a major humanitarian crisis that requires urgent attention and the refusal of the Burmese authorities to allow the safe passage of international aid further reinforces their complicity in perpetuating the suffering of the Rohingya community. This narrative was echoed by multiple speakers including Rushanara Ali, MP for Bow and Bethnal Green, who questioned the seriousness of the Burmese government in seeking a long term and sustainable solution. She went further and called upon the government of Bangladesh to show compassion to those fleeing the violence "it's crucial the government of Bangladesh lives up to its moral and legal responsibilities to the Rohingya communities that have sought refuge in their country". Furthermore, on Wednesday the UN special envoy to Burma, Vijay Nambiar had visited President Thein Sein in Burma, urging that the UN and Burma should co-operate to ensure that aid is being delivered to the victims of Arakan.

Notably, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Burmese government to provide humanitarian aid for the victims in Burma, for both Rakhine and Rohingya people. It is now hoped that such agreements are fulfilled and can go ahead practically.

One of the focal points of the mornings session in Parliament, was on the 1982 citizenship law which effectively rendered the Rohingya a stateless people, marginalising them and excluding them from participating in Burmese civil society. Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, described the law as "completely unacceptable" and called for its reformation as being part of a long term sustainable solution.

The Immigration and Population Minister of Burma, Minister Khin Yi, has recently stated that the Rohingya (though he referred to them as Bengali’s) have the right to apply for citizenship in Burma, provided that two generations had lived in Burma. This is somewhat positive as it acknowledges amendments required to the 1982 constitution which refuse to recognize the Rohingya as citizens.

Since the start of the recent political reforms, the UK along with many countries have been building strong links with the authorities in Burma, a country that has a significant untapped market in natural resources. There are obvious pressures from UK based corporations for the British government to build greater commercial links that provide access to new markets, however government policy designed for greater commercial involvement must not drown out the calls to respect international law and human rights.

It seems that little of the great movements being made in the world have an effect on the true, unchanging and grim reality in Arakan and the suffering inflicted upon the Rohingya. Despite this somewhat negative, yet realistic opinion, signs of improvement do certainly give a glimmer of hope that agreements and work from different institutions will inevitably be felt on the ground in Arakan. The goal now must be to continue to put pressure on our elected representatives and our government so they are compelled to turn sympathetic rhetoric into action that leads to genuine tangible change.

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