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March 27 - April 2, 2015

Weekly Media Monitoring report for Burma
Posted on April 7, 2015

Contents

Compiled by Kate McFarland

  1. Rakhine chief takes tough line on UN request to move IDPs
  2. State government urging Rohingyas to demonstrate 
  3. 969 spreads rumours of ISIL presence in Arakan
  4. Government accuses EU of infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty
  5. Government withdraws white card from 2014 riot village, no receipt given
  6. Terror charges against 24 activists
  7. Muted protest as rights council raps Myanmar – again
  8. Rohingya Muslims defiant as ‘white card’ deadline arrives
  9. Thailand detains 76 migrants found on train, including Rohingya

1. Rakhine chief takes tough line on UN request to move IDPs
State-owned Media:

Myanmar Times, March 27: “Rakhine chief takes tough line on UN request to move IDPs”

  • A United Nations request to move more than 10,000 “highly vulnerable” displaced Muslims out of two camps in Rakhine State before the onset of the monsoon season has met with a tough response from the chief minister, who said they must first comply with the citizenship verification process.
  • U Maung Maung Ohn told The Myanmar Times that the authorities would support the provision of aid, education and health to the camps, but baulked at allowing them to move unless they went through the process of applying for Myanmar citizenship.
  • “If they do not cooperate with us in the process, the moving of the camps cannot be possible,” he said.
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more than 6000 displaced people in low-lying Nget Chaung camp and more than 4,000 people in Ah Nauk Ywe – both close to the sea and east of the state capital Sittwe – were at a high risk from flooding, storm surges and winds. 
  • They are among some 140,000 Rohingya living in what the UN has described as “abysmal” conditions in camps set up in the wake of communal violence that erupted between Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhist majority in June 2012.
2. State government urging Rohingyas to demonstrate
Private Media:

Burma Times, March 27: “State government urging Rohingyas to demonstrate”

  • The state government has been urging Muslims to fight for their rights by organising mass demonstrations against the government order to withdraw white cards, according to Burma Times correspondents.
  • Government collaborators have been telling Rohingya Muslims throughout Maungdaw that the state government will guarantee their rights only if they fight for it by organising demonstrations. They also said that they spreading this message on behest of the state government.
  • The state government is saying that if the 969 and RNP can organise mass demonstrations, Rohingya Muslims should do the same. 
  • Informed locals say that the state government wants Rohingya demonstrations because it will give them an excuse to crack down on the Muslim populace while at the same time claiming that the Muslims have started the violence.
3. 969 spreads rumours of ISIL presence in Arakan
Private Media:

Burma Times, March 28: “969 spreads rumours of ISIL presence in Arakan”

  • Members of the 969 movement have been telling Rakhines that the international terror group Islamic State has entered Arakan.
  • The propaganda by 969 has increased tensions among the Rakhines
4. Government accuses EU of infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty
Private Media:

Mizzima, March 29: “Govt accuses EU of infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty”

  • The Burmese government has criticised a European Union resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 27, saying it amounts to an infringement of Myanmar’s sovereignty and interference in its affairs.
  • It said the resolution had criticised and prejudged the holding and the outcome of the general election due later this year and had ignored efforts to ensure the vote is free, fair and transparent.
  • The resolution was also criticised for containing “a terminology which is not accepted by the nation and its entire people”, though the news release did not make clear if it was referring to the use of the term “Rohingya”.
  • “At this critical juncture, only constructive contributions and advices (sic) should be made for further progress towards reaching the goal of the whole [reform] process rather than focusing on and criticising some incidents,” the news release said. “In so doing, cooperation with friendly nations and the international organisations which support Myanmar with constructive views will be continued,” it said. 
5. Government withdraws white card from 2014 riot village, no receipt given
Private Media:

Burma Times, March 29: “Government withdraws white card from 2014 riot village, no receipt given”

  • Government officials in Maungdaw South have collected the white cards from local Rohingyas well before the due date of handover.
  • Contrary to earlier announcements, the Rohingyas handing over the white card did not receive any token or documents that can serve as an alternative. This has created the fear that the government intends to withdraw all documents from Rohingyas and deprive them of evidence that they are residents of Burma.
6. Terror charges against 24 activists
Private Media:

Burma Times, March 29: Terror charges against 24 activists”

  • Police have pressed terror charges against 24 Rohingya Muslims in Mamra, Kyaukpyu, according to a Burma Times correspondent.
  • The 24 men are known in the neighbourhood for their commitment to uphold the rights of Muslims.
7. Muted protest as rights council raps Myanmar – again
State-owned Media:

Myanmar Times, March 30: “Muted protest as rights council raps Myanmar – again”

  • Myanmar has been rapped again by the United Nations Human Rights Council in a resolution that extends the mandate of the UN special rapporteur for another year, following a debate that once more highlighted divisions between Western governments and Asia. 
  • The report refers to the “increase in nationalist-based intolerance of religious and ethnic minorities”. In an apparent reference to U Wirathu, the council urges the government to publicly condemn threatening language directed at the UN and other international humanitarian organisations.
  • The worsening rights situation meant human rights organisations had not needed to lobby as hard to keep the mandate of the special rapporteur. And in contrast to recent years, Myanmar made seemingly little effort to argue against the resolution.
8. Rohingya Muslims defiant as ‘white card’ deadline arrives
State-owned Media:

Myanmar Times, April 1: “Rakhine State prepares to collect expired white cards”

  • Leaders of camps for displaced people have agreed to cooperate with local authorities in collecting expired white cards and starting the citizenship application process.
  • While many Rohingya have said they will hold on to their cards and refuse to be labelled as Bengali, which could imply that they are illegal immigrants, others told The Myanmar Times that they had finally decided to give up the claim to being Rohingya so that their offspring will be recognised by the government.
  • After the May 31 deadline for surrendering the temporary documents, the application for citizenship will begin and the scrutiny board at different levels of townships and states will decide whether to award applicants citizenship or not.

Myanmar Times, April 1: “Uncertain future for hundreds of thousands as white cards are revoked”

  • A presidential order revoking temporary identity papers came into effect last night despite widespread criticism by the international community of the government’s move that mostly affects Rohingya Muslims and leaves an estimated 1 million “white card” holders across Myanmar facing an uncertain future.
  • President U Thein Sein ordered the invalidation of the temporary ID papers on February 11, setting March 31 as the date for their expiry. Holders were given until May 31 to hand in their papers – commonly known as white cards – and undergo a citizen verification process carried out by local authorities to determine their status.
  • Uncertainties surrounding the new verification process, which human rights groups fear could lead to widespread denial of citizens’ rights, including health and education, have raised tensions in Rakhine State, where communal violence erupted in 2012. Many among the 140,000 Rohingya living in camps the UN describes as “abysmal” say they will refuse to hand in their cards.
Private Media:

Irrawaddy, April 1: “White Cards Expire, Rohingya to Enter Citizenship Verification Process”

  • Hundreds of thousands of temporary identity cardholders, most of whom are stateless Rohingya Muslims, saw their official identification papers expire on Wednesday as a result of a controversial government decision taken in February aimed at revoking their voting rights.
  • Hundreds of so-called white cards were voluntarily returned on Wednesday, but local Muslim leaders said many would refuse to give up their only remaining form of official identification.
  • The card holders lack official citizenship and are effectively stateless. There are believed to be between 600,000 to 800,000 white card holders, most of who are Rohingya, a Muslim minority of around 1 million people who live in northern Arakan State.

Burma Times, April 2: “Receipts given in exchange of white cards in some areas, others without any document”

  • Rohingyas are receiving an official government receipt in exchange for their white cards. The receipt contains personal details that were inscribed in the white card. It is also mentioned that the document is temporary and it must be shown to the authorities when they ask for it. 
  • Others, however, are not – leaving them without any official documents.
International Media:

UCA News, March 31: “Rohingya Muslims defiant as ‘white card’ deadline arrives”

  • White cards become meaningless on March 31 – they must be handed over to authorities. Yet many Rohingya are refusing to hand them over. 
  • The article features human interest case stories, and background to the ethnic conflict.
  • In the past, White Cards enabled Rohingya to move freely between villages, access some education and health services, and offered a crumb of hope that they may one day gain citizenship.
  • But the more than one million Rohingya in Rakhine state do not now have much opportunity to use identification. In most of the state, segregation is enforced by security forces who restrict their movements.

Strait Times, April 2: “Myanmar collects temporary ID cards from Rohingya: State official”

  • Myanmar authorities have begun collecting temporary identification cards from displaced Rohingya Muslims in unrest-torn Rakhine state, an official said on Wednesday, a move that the UN has warned could strip them of all documentation. 
  • Officials, backed by security forces, visited almost a dozen camps for people displaced by violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state.

 ** Also reported in the Bangkok Post, Elevan Myanmar and others.

9. Thailand detains 76 migrants found on train, including Rohingya
International Media:

Reuters, March 31: “Thailand detains 76 migrants found on train, including Rohingya”

  • Thai authorities said on Monday they had found a group of 76 migrants from neighboring Myanmar, including six suspected Rohingya, in a sign that one of Asia's busiest smuggling routes is still thriving despite Bangkok's vow to stamp out trafficking.
  • Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2012, when violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed hundreds. Many head to Malaysia but often end up in smuggling camps in southern Thailand where they are held captive until relatives pay the ransom to traffickers to release them. 

** Also reported by The Daily Star, Bangkok Post and others.

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