Rohingya Update: 9th -16th February, 2013
It seems the authorities in Arakan are still seeming to oppress the Rohingya by any means possible, despite combined international efforts.
Rohingya used as scapegoats
Reports of many more lives being lost, including those of infants in the Pauk Taw refugee camp due to the horrific living conditions further corroborate the fears that many camps are still without access to food and aid.
Our sources in Arakan explained that Rohingyas are continually used as scapegoats for many types of crimes. Java Tablets or ‘Yaba tablets’; a type of drug that is produced in Myanmar itself and then trafficked to other neighbouring countries, has been at the brunt of the quarrels amongst the Buddhist communities in Arakan. On February 9th in Northern Maungdaw, in the region of Nya Khu Ya, Rakhine Buddhists had been arguing amongst each other over money which was owed for the Java tablets. The argument escalated so much that the NaSaKa had to step in and contain the clash by firing at them, which resulted in the death of one Buddhist man with another 3 injured.
In consequence of this internal quarrel amongst the Rakhine Buddhists, the NaSaKa are now continuing to arrest Rohingya from villages nearby the area, falsely blaming them for the dealership of this drug. It has been confirmed that 42 Rohingyas have been arrested already.
This week also saw United Nations Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana return to Myanmar. on February 11th. During his 5-day trip, he revisited Arakan to monitor the situation. In his report which was released today, he detailed what he saw during his visits to the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Sittwe, Myaybon and Pauk Taw, outlining the concerns over health care in these camps; especially in the larger Muslim Camps where the need for health care is even more apparent. He also highlighted the need for the safe passage of humanitarian access to the camps needs to be ensured to minimize the threats from Rakhine Buddhist communities. Furthermore he emphasized the need to amend the 1982 Citizenship act and particularly mentioned the need to include the Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar too. Though at the same time, in his report Quintana took the time to acknowledge the improvements that Myanmar has made towards democratization.
Earlier this week, (12th February) Human Rights Activist and Speaker Aung Win was arrested for a day. The international media is heavily reliant on Aung Win to relay information from Arakan and to support them with interpretation. Aung Win was scheduled to see Quintana but was detained for a day – reports alluded to the fact that the timing of his arrest was intentional. Though Quintana’s visit has once again put the situation in Arakan high on the UN agenda, only time will tell whether or not it has any impact to improve the still simmering tension against the Rohingya.
On the international front, the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and discussed the matters of Arakan – Secretary General Ihsanoglu stressed the need for protection of the Rohingyas and to work towards ending the violence between both communities.
Refuge in Thailand
Thailand has long been an area of refuge for Rohingya fleeing the tyranny in Arakan. According to Immigration Police Bureau in Thailand between January 9th and February 13th 1,772 Rohingyas were found illegally entering Thailand shores. The Thai government, however, have only committed to take care of the Rohingya for 6 months – after which they would have to relocate themselves. Asylum has been granted to 1400 Rohingyas out of the 6000 who have illegally migrated to Thailand since the clashes began.
This week however, UNICEF have given assistance to women and children in southern Thailand in the area of Cheraburra; UNICEF delivered toys and other supplies to eight Ministry of Social Development and Human Security shelters.
Helping with health and hygiene, reconnecting displaced families and strengthening registration – this is seen as a highly positive sign, however it is a temporary condition which after 6 months the Rohingyas will find themselves once again in limbo and homelessness.
The last week has seen some steps towards ending the violence in Arakan, yet the state appears to be protected by an impenetrable bubble that continues to allow the violence, extortion and discrimination against the Rohingya.
With Myanmar’s President Thein Sein scheduled to visit the UK next month, the situation in Arakan will be highlighted, however it is hoped that it will not be sidelined in favour of promotion of the democratisation process of Myanmar.