April 24-30, 2015
Compiled by Kate McFarland
Myanmar Times, April 24: “Myanmar under pressure over human trafficking in Rakhine”
- Thai-based NGO Fortify Rights is lobbying the United States to rank Myanmar among the worst human trafficking offenders in the world for “driving” ethnic minorities into the slave trade.
- During a panel hearing, Fortify Rights lobbied Congress to downgrade the nation to “tier three” – the lowest possible – on the US State Department’s forthcoming Trafficking in Persons Report. It was formerly in the tier three class for a decade before being upgraded a notch to the tier two “watch list” in 2012.
- Due out in June, the State Department’s annual report assesses 187 countries’ efforts to battle modern-day slavery. The worst offenders can be subject to presidential sanctions.
- Myanmar officials yesterday denied Fortify Right’s accusations.“We have never heard about any trafficking in Rakhine State, although our anti-human trafficking police are deployed in the area,” said Police Lieutenant Colonel Thet Naung.
Myanmar Times, April 29: “Human smuggling set to become even bigger plight”
- Already a $2 billion industry, Southeast Asia’s deadly human smuggling trade stands to grow even larger under the enhanced transportation and increasingly porous borders of an integrated ASEAN, according to a new report by the UN.
- The report is entitled Migrant Smuggling in Asia 2015: Current Trends and Related Challenges. It says that Southeast Asia’s migrants turn to human smugglers when the formal “regular labour migration channels” fail them.
- It predicts that the trend could be at the cusp of a new boom as the region integrates and border controls ease.
- Myanmar provides one of the region’s largest outflows of smuggled migrants. The emigrees are predominantly headed to Thailand and Malaysia, though the country is one of two in the region with migrants destined for outside of Southeast Asia; the other is Vietnam.
BDNews24.com, April 24: “UN tells Myanmar to solve Rohingya status”
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Myanmar government to address the citizenship status of Rohingya Muslims ahead of elections planned for later this year.
- Ban told regional officials in a meeting at the United Nations office that the ongoing communal tensions in the country's western Rakhine state could be "seriously destabilizing."
** This story was also covered in Mizzima, Voice of America, ABC News and other international outlets.
Benar News, April 25: “Report slams Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh over Plight of Rohingya”
- Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar must do more to protect vulnerable refugees – particularly Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya Muslims – from being victimized by human traffickers, says Fortify Rights, a U.S.-based human rights advocacy group.
- A year-long investigation by the group documented how huge numbers of Rohingya Muslims, driven from Myanmar by deprivation and state-sponsored violence, fall into the hands of traffickers, then are arrested, deported, enslaved or incarcerated in neighboring and nearby countries.
- Rohingya Muslims who were “fleeing state-sponsored violence and attacks in Myanmar” lacked basic protections in neighboring Bangladesh and Thailand, and in Malaysia, said Matthew Smith, the group’s executive director.
- “These governments have failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute acts of trafficking that took place wholly or partly within their territories.”
The Star Online, April 25: “Rohingya issue now for ASEAN to solve, says Anifah”
- Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee problem should be resolved within Asean, said Malay Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
- He said that since refugees had fled to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, this issue could no longer be considered as Myanmar’s internal issue.
- The 10 Asean leaders are expected to raise their concerns during their retreat in Langkawi.
- According to records, there are more than 140,000 asylum seekers and refugees from Myanmar living in Malaysia temporarily under United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Arab News, April 26: “Myanmar stability at risk if Rohingya issue not solved, says UN”
- Stability in Myanmar’s most sensitive region can’t be achieved unless it addresses the issue of citizenship for minority Rohingya Muslims, the United Nations secretary-general warned its authorities Friday.
- Ban Ki-moon told a delegation from the Southeast Asian country that the UN has seen “already troubling signs of ethnic and religious differences being exploited” as elections approach later this year.
- The UN chief called the upcoming elections an important milestone in the country’s transition but stressed that they must be inclusive. He said he asked Thein Sein to take urgent action to address the identification issue before the election.
BDNews24.com, April 27: “Rohingya solution lies within Myanmar, Swedish ambassador to Bangladesh says”
- The Swedish ambassador to Bangladesh has said that the best solution to Rohingya refugees lies in Myanmar government creating a condition for the community to live “peacefully” in their own country.
- “If the conditions were much better, not only would the remaining Rohyinga population stay (in Myanmar), that it could also conduce conditions for those in Bangladesh to return,” he said
- He said he did not see any solution through a third country resettlement. “The global resettlement scheme is too short to accommodate the large number of Myanmar nationals,” Frisell said.
- He said vast majority were living in Bangladesh as informal migrants as they had not been given the refugee status.
Irrawaddy, April 24: “Kaman IDPs in Arakan State ask Government to Rebuild Homes”
- More than 4,000 ethnic Kaman Muslims in Arakan State remain in need of new houses after their homes were destroyed during intercommunal violence in 2012, according to the Kaman National Development Party, which is working to get government support for a rebuilding effort.
- About 500 Kaman houses were burned down in Sittwe, Yanbye and Kyaukphyu townships during the violence, which pitted Buddhists against Muslims and left more than 100 dead in the western state.
- Some of the displaced now live in nearby camps set up by the government, while others went to live with relatives in Rangoon or elsewhere
- The state’s chief minister has scheduled to meet with representatives from the Kaman party on April 28 to discuss possible resettlement plans.
Myanmar Times, April 27: “Myanmar politician gives cold shoulder to refugee seekers”
- Speaking at the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum in Kuala Lumpur on April 23, Datuk Paul Low from the Prime Minister’s Department said Myanmar refugee seekers without proper documentation should be shown the door.
- Mr Low suggested only Myanmar migrants with documentation could “stay and work” in Malaysia, while the irregular Myanmar population, including a large number of Rohingya, should be fined and repatriated.
- Better jobs should be made available to them at home to discourage them from leaving, he said, seemingly conflating economic migration and asylum seekers fleeing persecution.
- “My angle is that if we want to [solve the issue] we need to drive the economy of Rakhine State to make more opportunities,” he said, before acknowledging that Malaysia’s burgeoning Myanmar population includes trafficking victims, whose cases should be investigated.
Myanmar Times, April 29: “More than 300,000 white cards collected: government”
- Rakhine State immigration officers have collected more than 300,000 white cards in the past four weeks, according to the state immigration department.
- The department director said that figure represented half of all of the white-card holders in Rakhine.
- More than 83 percent of white-card holders live in Rakhine State, and most are held by Muslims who identify as Rohingya.
- “As of today, we have received 300,432 white cards, nearly half the 660,000 issued in Rakhine State. We believe we can recover them all by the end of May,” U Khin Soe said yesterday.
- “In some camps, they are still afraid of surrendering their cards. But as soon as they clearly understand that the current white cards are useless, I am sure they will give them up,” he added.
- It is not yet clear what document, if any, will eventually be given to the former white-card holders. The issue may again become contentious in the context of the referendum to be held on amendments to the constitution, as well as the November election.