The Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar, which has dominated the country’s politics almost since independence, has finally achieved what no one believed was still possible: It has managed to unite all the people of Myanmar, across ethnic and religious divides… against itself.
Just under five years ago, the Tatmadaw, with the explicit backing of the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, decried any criticism of its brutality against the Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine state during its “clearance operations” as “fake news.” Now, the brutality that has been aimed toward the multitude of ethnic minorities in the contested borderlands for decades has come home and is currently being dished out against Burmese Buddhists in the heartlands of Naypyidaw, Yangon and Mandalay. And it is being dished out for the same reason: Civilians are objecting to and protesting against being ruled with an iron fist by the Tatmadaw.
For decades, the borderland minorities have been brutalized for asking for some degree of autonomy and self-governance. Now, the ordinary Burmese citizens in the heartlands are asking for the same thing in the form of a democratic voice. And they are being met with the same brutality.
In some ways, it is almost a positive surprise that the military does not appear to have been discriminating along ethnic and religious lines quite like we believed it was. And an even more positive surprise to come from this is that the Burmese majority in the country has been quick to empathize with groups like the Rohingya now that they themselves have experienced the true nature of the Tatmadaw. This was something that should have happened anyway, but it was not necessarily going to happen in response to the events of the past two months. There has been an outpouring of belated, but nonetheless welcome, sympathy and remorseful outreach by ordinary Burmese on social media, apologizing to the Rohingya for not believing them when they were being attacked by the Tatmadaw.
Qatar Charity (QC) has said it is preparing to provide relief aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh during the holy month of Ramadan.The food aid will come as part of Qatar Charity’s ‘Ramadan of Hope’ drive to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and help them meet their needs during this blessed month, especially in light of the continued coronavirus pandemic, QC has said in a statement.
This assistance comes within the framework of the relief aid allocated by Qatar Charity for crisis-stricken areas. Refugees, the displaced and the poor are expected to benefit from the relief aid in 25 countries, especially in Syria and neighbouring countries, in addition to the Rohingya refugees.
This relief is expected to benefit the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char, a remote island in Noakhali district of Bangladesh.
In response to the heartbreaking situation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Qatar Charity has recently distributed urgent relief aid to 4,380 refugees in the Bhasan Char island, in the presence of local officials, the statement notes.
QC’s team in Bangladesh distributed the aid, which included daily basic foodstuffs, while taking precautionary measures against the coronavirus.
Mohamed Amin Hafiz Omar, country director of Qatar Charity’s Bangladesh office, said the Rohingya refugees are facing various humanitarian crises in the country, emphasizing that QC stands by the Rohingyas to improve their living conditions by regularly delivering relief aid that includes food and daily essentials, in addition to medical and shelter assistance.
Qatar Charity recently distributed relief aid to 4,000 fire-affected Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, which displaced nearly 50,000 refugees from their camps. The aid included clothes, safe drinking water and free medical services. In recent months, hundreds of thousands of refugees were taken to Bhasan Char from Teknaf Upazila in Cox’s Bazar.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are living in renewed fear after deadly fires broke out more than 30 times in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district in recent weeks.Rights activists said these fires are part of a “very worrying trend” in the overcrowded, sprawling shantytown that is home to dozens of interconnected makeshift refugee settlements.
“Every day and night Rohingyas across the camp are living in fear that fire will break out again somewhere in the camp,” a Cox’s Bazar-based Rohingya rights activist who goes by Hussain told VOA. Many Rohingya use only one name.
“Fires are breaking out time and again,” he said, “at least 32 times in different parts of the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar in the past 17 days, after the devastating March 22 fire.”
The rights activist said the perpetrators in recent fires were caught and turned over to authorities.
“We caught seven or eight people red-handed while they were setting ablaze some shacks,” he said. “They were all handed over to police.”
About 1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees have been living in the bamboo and tarpaulin shanties in the congested Cox’s Bazar district since fleeing military clampdowns in neighboring Myanmar in recent years, according to the United Nations. There are 34 encampments within in the district where Rohingya refugees have settled, which are collectively identified as one expansive settlement, including the Balukhali and nearby Kutupalong refugee camps, according to the International Organization for Migration.
On March 22, a fire ripped through the Balukhali area of the camp, killing at least 15 refugees, authorities said. Sanjeev Kafley, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation head in Bangladesh, told Reuters that more than 17,000 shelters were destroyed, and thousands of people were displaced in the area because of the fire. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that the fire injured around 550 refugees and left more than 48,000 homeless.
South Korea has decided to provide emergency support of $1.0 million to the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to support the Rohingya community in Cox’s Bazar.These funds will contribute to the massive humanitarian efforts required to respond to the devastating fire that broke out on March 22 in several Rohingya refugee camps, said a press statement of IOM on Sunday.
IOM is implementing its emergency response in affected camps in close collaboration with the government of Bangladesh, the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), other UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs.
Moving forward, IOM’s response is focused on both critical life-saving interventions as well as long-term recovery efforts.
Through its interventions, IOM aims to provide safe and dignified living conditions for those affected by using a participatory site planning approach and environmentally conscious and sustainable construction.
IOM will also focus on the rehabilitation and construction of vital water points, latrines and shower areas, which will ensure that the most basic human rights of the affected population are respected.
The construction of shelters will employ a community-led approach, which will include the participation of affected families and Cash-for-Work activities related to distributions, porter support and construction works.
New liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders will be provided to replace those that were destroyed in the fire as well as refills for all the affected families. LPG enables families to be self-reliant and cook for themselves according to their likes and needs, the statement continued.
“We are extremely grateful for the support received today from the Government of the Republic of Korea,” declared IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh Manuel Marques Pereira. “This assistance will be vital for our efforts to rebuild these camps from the ground up and to ensure that those most vulnerable have access to crucial services.”
Democracy must be restored in Myanmar to ease the Rohingya refugee burden on Bangladesh, U.S. special envoy John Kerry said Friday during a lightning visit to the South Asian nation to drum up support for a Washington-hosted climate summit.
The American diplomat heaped praise on Bangladesh for its “extraordinary” generosity in sheltering the refugees from Myanmar, and even mentioned Dhaka’s controversial decision to relocate thousands to a flood-prone island.
He called the current situation in Myanmar “one of the great moral challenges of the planet today,” in referring to a coup and deadly violence against civilians by the same military that caused hundreds of thousands of traumatized Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh in 2017.
“Bangladesh has been one of the greatest helping hands, you’ve given them an island. You’ve helped people to be able to find a future, but that’s not a long-term future, and that doesn’t resolve the issue,” Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for the climate, told reporters in Dhaka.
“So the new administration, Secretary [of State] Tony Blinken, is very cognizant of this issue, and very focused on it, and I know that he and the administration are going to do everything in their power to try to restore democracy to Myanmar, and in the doing of that, to try to be able to help relieve the pressure and the challenges that the Rohingya represent,” Kerry said in responding to a question from a BenarNews correspondent.Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen, who appeared at a press conference with Kerry, asked Washington’s special envoy for help in repatriating the Rohingya – about 1 million of whom are sheltering at densely crowded refugee camps in southeastern Cox’s Bazar district.
The vast majority crossed the border into Bangladesh while escaping a brutal military offensive in their home state of Rakhine in 2017.
“We hope that the U.S.’s proactive initiative can help with a safe and dignified return,” Momen said.
Staff Correspondent: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged the D-8 leaders to come forward for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis and address the challenges posed by climate change alongside laying emphasis on trade, investment, cooperation and harnessing the power of youth.
“I would like to urge you (D-8 leaders) to put pressure on Myanmar for taking back the Rohingyas,” she said, expressing her concern that if the crisis is not resolved, it may create security concerns in the region and beyond.
She mentioned the Rohingya crisis as an urgent issue for Bangladesh as it is causing severe impact on the country’s environment, society and the economy. The premier was addressing the 10th D-8 Summit virtually as chair. Bangladesh hosted and chaired this summit at a unique time when the country is celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of its independence.
Shikh Hasina said Bangladesh gave shelter to 1.1 million Rohingyas of Myanmar on humanitarian grounds, but it insisted from the beginning that they (Rohingya) have to go back to the Rakhine State in Myanmar in a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable manner.
“Unfortunately, it has been more than three years after their influx into Bangladesh, and the repatriation process is yet to be started,” she noted.
On the outset of the summit, Bangladesh took over the term chairmanship of D-8 from Turkey for the second time.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered the opening remark and then handed over the Chairmanship to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
was also in the Chair when Bangladesh hosted the 2nd D-8 Summit in Dhaka in 1999.
In the summit, Sheikh Hasina made an urgent call to the leaders for a meaningful cooperation among the D-8 member countries for adaptation and mitigation measures, referring to Bangladesh’s experiences regarding the issues of climate changes.
She made the call while addressing the 10th Summit of D-8 Organization of Economic Cooperation hosted by Bangladesh via video link from Ganabhaban on Thursday. On the Rohingya crisis, Hasina said that the crisis is having a serious impact on the environment, society and economy of Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh has sheltered 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar out of humanitarian considerations. From the beginning, Bangladesh has been striving for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya people. Unfortunately, more than three years have passed but the repatriation process has yet to start.”
“If this crisis is not resolved, it could become a threat to regional security,” she warned.
Leaders from Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey attended the virtual conference.Hasina called on the D-8 member states to enhance cooperation in various fields, including trade and commerce, youth development and information technology.
She stressed the need to utilise the youth by developing their skills, making full use of IT potential, creating the necessary legal, institutional and infrastructural framework, while bolstering connectivity and increasing cooperation to increase trade and commerce between the member countries.
Hasina said the ‘strength and potential’ of the youth is very important in formulating business ideas, models, innovation and technology.
The plea by Mohammad Salimullah has sought an urgent intervention by the apex court since those detained in Jammu could at any time be deported to Myanmar from where they fled because of persecution .The Supreme Court will on Thursday deliver its order on a plea seeking the release of at least 150 Rohingya refugees detained in a Jammu sub-jail and stalling their deportation.The plea has sought an urgent intervention by the apex court since those detained in Jammu could at any time be deported to Myanmar from where they fled because of persecution.
A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian reserved its order on the plea on March 26.
The Centre on March 26 opposed the plea by Mohammad Salimullah while emphasising that India cannot become “the international capital of illegal immigrants”.
The government called the Rohingya “absolutely illegal immigrants” who posed “serious threats to the national security” and also contended that the right to settle in India could not be asserted by illegal immigrants under the garb of the Constitution’s Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
On March 6, on the instructions of the Union ministry of home affairs, the Jammu & Kashmir administration started a verification drive of the Rohingya, and moved some of them to a holding centre, pending their potential deportation.
There are close to 7,000 Rohingya refugees in Jammu & Kashmir, numbers that have increased since the late 2000s when they first arrived in the region after escaping from Myanmar, where they were facing religious persecution. India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on March 26 submitted that a similar application to stop the deportation of Rohingya from Assam was dismissed by the top court in 2018 and that the present application must meet the same fate.
Last month, a massive fire swept through the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees live. The fire took 15 lives and burned down thousands of shelters and health facilities, leaving more than 45,0000 people displaced.
Our teams met Ismael, 35, in the middle of the crowds and confusion. Ashes and burned debris are all we could see. His eyes fixed on the horizon, Ismael told one of Action Against Hunger’s psychosocial workers: “I was in the tea shop when I heard a fire broke out. How many more times I may witness my shelter being burnt down to ashes…”
For Ismael and his neighbors, the fire brings painful memories of their flight to Bangladesh in 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya saw their homes burned and communities razed, forcing them to flee Rakhine State nearly four years ago. “They burned my house and all that I had in it,” recalls Ismael.
Today, living in overcrowded camps, the plight of the displaced Rohingya remains extremely fragile. “In the light of raging fires, my future is still obscure,” says Ismael.
The fire destroyed homes, belongings, and important documents, including identification and data cards, that allow Rohingya refugees to work and access food and essential services in Cox’s Bazar. Many people, particularly children, were separated from their families as they ran to find safety amidst extreme chaos and confusion.
Repeated shocks and stresses have caused a spike in mental health needs. Action Against Hunger teams are on the ground, working tirelessly to provide psychological first aid, in addition to serving meals, rehabilitating facilities and water points, and reconnecting families.
When they fled Myanmar, Ismael stepped up to serve as a community leader known as a Majhi. “Helping people gives me hope,” he says. “It keeps me going.”
As Majhi, he feels a great responsibility to care for his community. In the wake of the fire, he has not been able to stop thinking about the victims trapped in the blaze – and what more he could have done to help them: “I could have acted promptly…I was sure that the fire would not reach our block.”
KUALA LUMPUR: Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, a Rohingya Muslim refugee and activist who fled persecution and ethnic strife in Myanmar, has called Malaysia home for nearly three decades.Zafar, 51, has not left his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur for nearly a year, after misinformation spread online that he had demanded Malaysian citizenship, triggering a wave of hate speech and death threats against him and his family.
“I’m still scared. For a year, I’ve not set foot outside. I’ve not seen the earth outside,” said the father of three.
Zafar has reported the false accusations and online attacks to the police, but to his knowledge, no charges have been filed. He has denied making any demand for citizenship or the same rights as citizens for Rohingya in Malaysia.
More than 100,000 Rohingya live in Muslim-majority Malaysia, long seen as friendly to the persecuted minority even though they are not officially recognised as refugees.
The welcoming sentiment soured a year ago as people started saying Rohingya were spreading COVID-19.
Hate speech calling for violence against Rohingya and other undocumented migrants spread widely online. A significant portion of the volume targeted Zafar, who heads a prominent Rohingya refugee rights organisation.
Zafar still receives abusive calls and messages on his phone and social media accounts daily, and details and photos of his family have been circulated online, according to screenshots shown to Reuters.
His Malaysian wife, Maslina Abu Hassan, said the attacks have taken a heavy toll. Their children no longer attend school due to safety concerns, and last year, Zafar was diagnosed with depression and began taking medication to cope, she said.
Zafar, who is registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), applied to be moved to another country but his request was rejected after the agency said he did not meet its criteria for resettlement.
A UNHCR spokeswoman in Kuala Lumpur said in an email the agency could not comment on individual cases. Resettlement decisions depend on various factors, she said, but ultimately lie with any potential host countries.
Zafar said he hopes the agency will reconsider his case because he no longer feels safe in Malaysia.