Interviews with health workers who have treated Rohingyas survivor in Bangladesh corroborate allegations of sexual violence by the Myanmar military
A new report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has documented widespread sexual violence committed by the Tatmadaw, the armed forces of Myanmar, and Myanmar security forces against the Rohingyas.
The massive campaign of violence in August 2017 drove more than 720,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Doctors, nurses, mental health experts, and other health professionals, who provided direct medical services to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps, gave accounts of the huge physical and psychological toll of sexual and gender-based violence on Rohingya women, girls, men, boys, and transgender and gender fluid people.
The research builds on PHR’s work documenting human rights violations in Myanmar for more than 15 years.
Following the August 2017 “clearance operation” carried out by Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist civilians in Rohingya villages across Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, PHR teams conducted forensic examinations of survivors in what is now the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.
The research teams gathered qualitative and quantitative data documenting the grave human rights violations committed against the Rohingya by Myanmar armed forces, including long-term disabilities resulting from the 2017 attack.
PHR’s new report, “Sexual Violence, Trauma, and Neglect: Observations of Health Care Providers Treating Rohingya Survivors in Refugee Camps in Bangladesh,” presents qualitative data gathered through interviews with 26 health care workers from a variety of humanitarian organizations — who provided direct care to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh for some period between August 2017 and August 2020.
PHR sought the perspective of health care workers in order to provide an independent corroboration of the patterns of violence sustained by the Rohingya community and to avoid potentially re-traumatizing interviews with survivors.
While Bangladesh needs more in terms of money and material help for the Rohingya refugees, that is but a temporary palliative that will do very little to redress the distress of Bangladesh or solve the problems for the Rohingyas. We deem it necessary to reiterate the timely and very appropriate call of our prime minister to the UN, and to the international community under the auspices of the UN, to assume a stronger position in dealing with and evolving a permanent solution to one of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster of this century. The prime minister’s call underpins the very fundamental issue of the problem. And the longer it takes to get the Myanmar government to accept a solution, just and equitable to the Rohingyas, the more will the issue become resistant to resolution. And the longer the Rohingyas stay in Bangladesh in the current circumstances, the sufferings of all the parties will multiply.
Thus, while we thank the UN and the international community for pledging USD 597 million in humanitarian assistance for Rohingyas in the region we all know it falls far short of the USD 1 billion needed. Apart from increasing the aid amount, what we feel is equally imperative is that the UN should do more than what it has done so far to bring about a permanent solution to the crisis. No amount of money can lessen the tremendous long-term impact created by the presence of nearly a million Rohingya refugees on our soil for more than three years.
The Rohingya issue has exerted tremendous strain on the country’s economy, its social cohesion, ecology and security. The Rohingyas have fallen victims of human traffickers; become partners of narcotics and illegal weapon traders; the area is now a handy recruiting ground for religious and political extremists, and they have become a political tool of local politicians—being used as vote banks. Bangladesh is being pressured to issue passports to thousands of Rohingyas who have managed to travel to the Mideast. The corrupt and immoral government functionaries have reaped a healthy harvest by issuing them Bangladeshi NID cards and passports. For a country heavily encumbered by the pandemic and its economic consequences, the situation is becoming untenable.
Bangladesh requested the Philippines to Global political pressure on Myanmar together with all ASEAN members to take back the Rohingyas.
He paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister Dr Momen at the State Guest House Padma.
Radical elements can take advantage of the displacement and “regional and international security would certainly be jeopardised”.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen made the request through Ambassador of the Philippines Vicente Vivencio T. Bandillo on Sunday.
At the meeting, the Forign Minister sought Philippines’ support on voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Momen noted that the Philippines enjoys close ties with Myanmar that the latter should leverage its influence to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
To allay the fear of the Rohingyas, he said, Bangladesh has long been proposing formation of an ASEAN-led nonmilitary civilian observer group.
Myanmar is not coming forward positively to implement this proposal.
The Ambassador assured the minister of doing the needful for completing the MoU soon.
He paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister Dr Momen at the State Guest House Padma.
The onset of meaningful community self-help and social support for the Rohingya people. In spite of their tragic nature and adverse effects on mental health, emergencies are also an opportunity to build better mental health systems as they are instrumental to the overall well-being, functioning and resilience of individuals and their communities, to help them recover from crisis.
WHO is the leading agency in providing technical advice on mental health in emergency situations. For an effective response to emergencies, WHO endorsed interagency mental health and psychosocial support guidelines recommending services at different levels which include psychological first aid, basic clinical mental health care, psychological interventions, protection and promotion of rights and, finally, community self-help and social support.
In August 2017 as the plight of the Rohingya people became known to the world, humanitarian assistance arrived from all parts of the world in various ways. Max Frieder, the co-founder and co-executive director of Artolution, a non-profit international organization that brings community-based public arts education to crisis-affected populations, arrived in Cox’s Bazar certain that he would find in the refugee camps skilled artists to jointly develop a meaningful project. He was the pioneer of community self-help and social support in the Rohingya camps.
“We deliver long-term public art education programs to the world’s most vulnerable children and families led by local teaching artists in refugee camps. Our Rohingya Artolution team has created scalable solutions to delivering community resilience building and psychosocial development programs for the first time in the history of the Rohingya culture”, explains Max Frieder.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partner organizations have further intensified their COVID-19 response in the Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh, following the first confirmed case of coronavirus among the refugee population yesterday. Since March, UNHCR and partners have been supporting the Government of Bangladesh primarily in COVID-19 preparation and prevention efforts. With this first confirmed case, response mechanisms have now been activated and will require additional international support.
According to the Government of Bangladesh, one Rohingya refugee has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh. In addition, one member of the local Bangladeshi host community has also tested positive. Both had approached health facilities run by humanitarian partners, where samples were taken. These were subsequently tested in the IEDCR Field Laboratory in Cox’s Bazar.
Following the laboratory confirmation, Rapid Investigation Teams have been activated to investigate both cases, initiate isolation and treatment of patients as well as tracing contacts, quarantine and testing of contacts as per WHO guidelines.
Testing began in the Cox’s Bazar District in early April. As of yesterday (14 May), 108 refugees have been tested. response
There are serious concerns about the potentially severe impact of the virus in the densely populated refugee settlements sheltering some 860,000 Rohingya refugees. Another 400,000 Bangladeshis live in the surrounding host communities. These populations are considered to be among the most at risk globally in this pandemic. No effort must be spared if higher fatality rates are to be avoided in overcrowded sites with limited health and water and sanitation infrastructure.
953,000 people of Cox’s Bazar are now eligible to receive coronavirus-related services from UN-led international community
The 2020 joint response plan (JRP) has been updated with an addendum to provide Covid-19 related services to more Bangladeshis in Cox’s Bazar, multiple sources have told Dhaka Tribune.
On March 3, United Nations agencies and NGO partners launched the 2020 JRP for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.
The appeal aimed to raise US$877 million to respond to the needs of approximately 855,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and over 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis in the communities generously hosting them.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, a necessity was felt to update the JRP to fight the virus in order to protect the Rohingyas living in 34 congested camps and the vulnerable host communities, said the sources, adding that an addendum was then added to the JRP to make it worth $1.06 billion from $877 million.
The updated JRP will enable the provision of Covid-19 related services to 509,000 people from Cox’s Bazar in addition to 444,000 people from the host communities included in the original JRP.
An official of the Inter-Sector Coordination Group, which coordinates the humanitarian activities with respect to the Rohingya crisis, made it clear that the additional 509,000 Bangladeshis are only eligible for services related to Covid-19.
“Under the 2020 JRP, the target is to fulfill the needs of 855,000 Rohingyas. It also aims to meet the needs of 444,000 people belonging to the host communities. The people of the host communities will get support in accordance with their necessities,” he said.
However, he added: “The additional 509,000 considered by the addendum will only receive services related to Covid-19.”
“Undoubtedly, it has been a great help for the people of Cox’s Bazar. With this addendum, more than one third of the population of Cox’s Bazar district can receive quality health care,” said another official.
Bangladesh will bring the unresolved Rohingya crisis before the world leaders today (Saturday) apparently reminding everybody of the failure to find a durable solution to the crisis amid Myanmar’s non-fulfilment of repatriation pledge, officials said, reports UNB.
Bangladesh will also seek genuine efforts from the global community to help Rohingyas return to their place of origin in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, they said.
The global leaders are staying home and joining the various sessions of the UNGA virtually due to Covid-19.
“Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue in the 75th UNGA. Bangladesh will seek continuation of world efforts to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had placed a five-point proposal in the 72nd UNGA seeking a solution to the Rohingya problem immediately after starting ethnic atrocities against Rohingyas in Myanmar since August 25, 2017 but the proposal remains largely unaddressed.
The international community appreciated the proposal placed by the Prime Minister, a senior official said adding that Bangladesh still sticks to the proposal.
This year, Bangladesh will also highlight the accountability issue, especially the ongoing legal procedures at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Bangladesh says the Rohingya problem has been created by Myanmar and the solution also lies with Myanmar, and Myanmar’s stability and economic growth could be negatively affected if the Rohingya problem is not resolved.
Not a single Rohingya has gone back to Myanmar for lack of confidence and trust deficit between the persecuted Rohingya and the Myanmar government.
To improve the confidence, Bangladesh suggested Myanmar many options, for example, ‘go and visit’, allowing Rohingya leaders to visit Rakhine province or allowing non-military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries like ASEAN+, or China, Russia or India or any country of their choice so that Rohingya feel assured of their safety and security, DrMomen said.
Myanmar’s alleged continued targeting of civilians in its Rakhine and Chin states could constitute additional war crimes and crimes against humanity, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said.
Michelle Bachelet on Monday demanded action to remedy the serious rights violations suffered by Myanmar’s Rohingya minority in particular.
Military operations in 2017 forced some 750,000 Rohingya to flee from conflict-torn Rakhine state to Bangladesh in violence that now sees Myanmar facing genocide charges at the UN’s top court.
Speaking at the opening of the 45th Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet decried that the abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities in the country were continuing.
“People from the Rakhine, Chin, Mro, Daignet and Rohingya communities are increasingly affected by the armed conflict in Rakhine and Chin States,” Bachelet said.
She pointed to “disappearances and extrajudicial killings of civilians; massive civilian displacement; arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths in custody; and the destruction of civilian property”.
Bachelet said government administrators were now reclassifying areas where Rohingya villages were previously located, removing the names of villages from official maps and potentially altering how the land may be used.
“This should end immediately, and the prior situation should be restored,” she said.
Satellite images and witness accounts indicate that areas in northern Rakhine have been burned in recent months – something contested by the Myanmar government.
“This only underscores the need for independent, on-the-ground investigation,” she said.
A spokesman for the Myanmar military did not answer phone calls from Reuters news agency, seeking comment.
Myanmar’s military has justified its 2017 operations as a means to root out Rohingya fighters after attacks against about a dozen security posts and police stations.
The Rohingya are widely seen as “illegal immigrants” in Myanmar, denied citizenship and rights.
Bachelet highlighted that most Rohingya will not be able to vote in the forthcoming November elections, branding the situation as “disappointing”.
Take a walk, watch television, or use the subway. Do any of these activities in Japan and you will likely come across a Kirin advertisement. Since its inception in 1885 as Japan Brewery, Kirin has grown into a household name in Japan, and arguably one of the world’s best-known Japanese brands.
The beverage giant offers everything from soft drinks to plum wine to yogurt. But its beer is the company’s trademark product, available in more than 40 countries. Its distinctive label depicts the legendary kirin, a magical creature “believed to be a harbinger of good luck.”
However, Kirin’s partnership with the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, has brought anything but luck to Myanmar’s ethnic minority populations. For decades, the Tatmadaw has been responsible for grave abuses against the country’s minorities, including the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
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In August and September 2017, the Tatmadaw intensified its campaign of ethnic cleansing, committing widespread killings, sexual violence, and torching of villages against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state that sent more than 740,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, where they now live in the world’s largest refugee camp.
A United Nations–backed Fact-Finding Mission reported in 2018 that atrocities by Myanmar’s armed forces against ethnic minorities “rise to the level of both war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in late 2019 warned that the Rohingya faced an increased risk of genocide.
Thai authorities should allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) unhindered access to Rohingya from Myanmar to determine whether they qualify for refugee status, Human Rights Watch said today. The government’s inhumane policy of holding Rohingya arriving in Thailand in indefinite detention should be immediately repealed.
The latest group of Rohingya arrived in Thailand by land, crossing from Myanmar into Mae Sot district of Tak province on May 20, 2020. Thai authorities arrested at least 12 Rohingya and sent them to the Mae Sot immigration detention facility. Approximately 200 Rohingya are being held in immigration detention and other facilities across Thailand.
“The Thai government should scrap its policy of summarily locking up Rohingya and throwing away the key, condemning them to indefinite detention in cramped and unhygienic detention centers now susceptible to a Covid-19 outbreak,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Rohingya have been brutally persecuted in Myanmar. Thailand should permit the UN refugee agency to screen all Rohingya arriving in Thailand to identify and assist those seeking refugee status.”
Refugee screening is crucial for protecting Rohingya asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said. The Myanmar government and military have long persecuted the Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority group who have lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for generations. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, who have been effectively denied citizenship in Myanmar, have fled repression and dire poverty. Human trafficking gangs have abused and exploited many of those who eluded death during their dangerous journey.
The situation has significantly worsened since August 2017, when the Myanmar military committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, driving as many as 740,000 into exile in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Responsibility for the security of the Rohingya rests primarily with the Myanmar government, but extends to the countries where they seek refuge, Human Rights Watch said. Like its predecessors, the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has treated Rohingya arriving at the border as illegal immigrants, subject to detention in squalid immigration lockups. The government has not permitted UNHCR to conduct refugee status determinations for them. Thailand also discriminates against Rohingya by refusing to allow them to register as legally documented migrant workers, unlike other people coming from Myanmar.