Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
The nationwide ceasefire agreement, this year’s general election, and land disputes dominated discussions Monday, 18 May, when President U Thein Sein met with representatives of political parties, reported The Global New Light of Myanmar.
At the meeting, President Thein Sein expressed his willingness to begin political dialogue before the upcoming elections, to be held in late October or early November, and he pledged that any constitutional amendments prior to the election would be carried out through such dialogue.He also urged political parties to participate in the process of the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation, which was signed on 12 February, and to make efforts towards conducting a political dialogue.
In addition, a number of participants called on the Government to speed up its efforts to settle land disputes in its remaining term.
Nearly 130 politicians from 68 parties attended the meeting. Some also suggested a timeframe for holding political dialogue.
Geulumpang, Indonesia | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 09:47 GMT
by Gianrigo Marletta
Fisherman Muchtar Ali broke down in tears when he set eyes on the overcrowded boat carrying desperate, starving Rohingya off the coast of Indonesia before going to the rescue of a vessel that has become emblematic of Asia's human-trafficking crisis.
"I was speechless," Ali told AFP, recalling the moment he saw the boatload of more than 400 Muslim migrants who are fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. "Looking at these people, me and my friends cried because they looked so hungry, so skinny."
The fisherman from staunchly Islamic Aceh province, where there has been an outpouring of sympathy as Rohingya and Bangladeshis have come ashore in recent days, said that he also felt compelled to help due to their shared religion.
"We must help fellow Muslims, how can we not help destitute people like this? It would be a big sin," he said.
The wooden green boat had drawn global attention after harrowing scenes emerged of the migrants pleading for help off Thailand last week. They were rescued by fishermen early Wednesday and brought to shore, and AFP journalists boarded the vessel soon afterwards and confirmed it was the same boat.
For the migrants, who had not been heard from for over three days, the rescue marked the end of a harrowing, four-month journey.
The Rohingya, who included 140 women and children, were "totally exhausted" after being repeatedly towed out of Thai waters and then forced at gunpoint to leave Malaysian waters, said Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project monitors migrant journeys across the Bay of Bengal.
"The worst were the Malaysians who pushed them out twice. They said the second time the Malaysians came with guns and said they’d shoot at the boat if they came back again," said Lewa, whose researchers had talked to two of the migrants.
It is the latest grim tale to emerge from the region's migrant crisis, which has seen thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis arrive in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent days after being abandoned after a Thai crackdown disrupted people-smuggling and -trafficking routes.
The three nations have also sparked outrage by turning away seaworthy vessels, although Malaysia and Indonesia relented on Wednesday and said they would take in migrants provided they could be resettled or repatriated within a year.
As migrants have made it to shore, often malnourished after months at sea, they have recounted tales of being abused by smugglers and of deadly fights breaking out between rival groups armed with axes and knives.
The group rescued off Indonesia's Aceh early Wednesday, who join another 1,300 Rohingya and Bangladeshis who recently arrived in the province, suffered the same fate as others, pushed for days between Southeast Asian countries who were unwilling to accept them.
After last week's harrowing scenes drew global attention, the Thai navy simply reprovisioned the boat and took the vessel out to international waters with authorities insisting the migrants wanted to travel south to Malaysia.
The boat lost contact late Saturday, raising fears for the welfare of the hundreds on board.
The trawler was finally spotted late Tuesday by fishermen off the coast of Aceh. The migrants were rescued from the boat in two batches, with both brought ashore in the early hours of Wednesday.
AFP journalists later reached the boat, after setting off from the port of Geulumpang. The 30-metre (100-foot) long boat was abandoned not far from the coast, and was littered with abandoned water bottles, food containers and clothes, they said.
Fisherman Ali described how he heard from others about the stranded boat late Tuesday and arrived to help in the early hours of Wednesday.
"They came close to us, they were shouting, calling for help," he said. "We looked at the boat and -- wow -- there were so many people aboard."
He said several fishing vessels in the area were called in to help and the migrant boat was initially towed closer to shore. Fishermen then loaded the migrants into their trawlers and brought them to land.
Ali, who transported about 100 of the Rohingya, said the Acehnese and migrants could not understand each other but managed to work out they shared the same religion.
"If we said 'Islam', they would answer 'Islam, Muslim'. Those were the only two words that we exchanged," he said.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Myanmar: Myanmar: Rakhine State - All Projects Under Implementation (Village Tract Level) March 25, 2015
Note: This map represents information as reported by organisations contributing to the MIMU 3W. Inclusion of an organisation on this map does not imply endorsement by the United Nations or its projects. Note that this map shows presence of an organisation and does not indicate the volume of assistance, the number of beneficiaries, or the extent to which needs are met or unmet.
Teknaf, Bangladesh: Seven Bangladeshis were rescued yesterday off Burma coast after they were thrown from a fishing trawler crowded with migrants heading to Malaysia, said Coast guard commander Dickson Chowdhury from Saint Martin.
“The seven men were plucked from the water in the Bay of Bengal by a boat of Burmese fishermen and handed over to local Bangladeshi fishermen.”
A Thai fishing trawler threw them into the Bay of Bengal. They are now under our custody, Dickson said.
The seven rescued Bangladeshi had informed, three boats crowded with Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingyas in the area, Dickson added.
The three boats were parked five miles south of Burma’s Sitaparokia Coast of Maungdaw Township. 68 people were in one boat and the two others have more than 100 people each,” he more added.
The outflow of trafficked migrants to Malaysia through risky sea routes seems unstoppable despite an international outcry and the ongoing anti-trafficking crackdown by law-enforcers, said a local elder named Rofique from Cox’s Bazar.
Organized human traffickers continued to smuggle Bangladeshis and Rohingyas into Malaysia by sea, security force sources said.
Meanwhile, BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) Chief Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed of 42 Battalion of Teknaf said they have intensified surveillance on different bordering points in the country to check human trafficking and smuggling deadly drug like Yaba and Phensidyl.
At present, BGB is more serious to arrest human traffickers and drug smugglers in the frontiers areas, said a trader from Teknaf.
Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangladesh has been invited to join a regional meeting on human trafficking and people smuggling issues to begin in Thailand on May 29, according to May 15, Financial Express of Bangladesh.
The special meeting will discuss the fast increasing exodus of migrants through the Bay of Bengal and the people drifting in boats without food and water in Malacca Strait and the coast of the South-East Asian countries.
The Thai foreign ministry said high official from 15 countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, hosts Thailand as well as Australia, and the USA will sit in Bangkok in May 29 to deal with human trafficking crisis.
The Thai government will host an international conference on “unusual” migration in the Indian Ocean on May 29 in Bangkok, Thailand and to be invited such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh and etc, the deputy government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
“The special meeting is an urgent call for the region to work together to address the unprecedented increase of irregular migration,” the ministry said in a statement, according to the Bangkok Post.
It is now urgent for Bangladesh to hold talks immediately with Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia to bust the regional trafficking Syndicates operating in this human trade, the Financial Express stated.
It is not understandable how they could evade the watchful eyes of the Coast Guards, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), and other security forces in Cox’s Bazar and other Coastal areas and go on journeys only to meet disasters.
Furthermore, massive mass awareness programs in the Coastal districts of Bangladesh need to be carried out so that people are no more deceived by traffickers.
It is caused by unquestionable, this crisis caused by the Burmese Government and its appalling treatment of segment and its own population whom it treats as intruders.
However, Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar's presidential office, said his leaders would not attend if the word "Rohingya" was used in the invitation, as they did not recognize the term.
“We are not ignoring the migrant problem, but our leaders will decide whether to attend the meeting based on what is going to be discussed,” said Major Zaw Htay, director of the office of Myanmar’s president. “We will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem,” Zaw Htay told the Associated Press news agency (AP).
"It is international organizations which have to talk with Myanmar, rather than put pressure on Thailand to shoulder the sole responsibility of looking after migrants," said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, responding to a report that Myanmar may snub the regional meeting to be held in Bangkok on May 29 to address the "root causes" of the flow of migrants, according to Bangkok post.
"We cannot force any country to attend. Every country is equal in dignity. Thailand is only in the middle of the [migrants'] route. We only hope to bring peace to the region," Gen Prayu said.
"The root cause [of the crisis] is increasing human trafficking. The problem of the migrant graves is not a Myanmar problem. It's because of the weakness of human-trafficking prevention and the rule of law in Thailand," presidential office director Zaw Htay said.
"However, international organisations must find out where the migrants come from and what hardships they face, and why they have to migrate. If they are poor, should this be fixed?," Gen Prayut more added according to Bangkok post.
Tun Khin, the President of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK), explained deteriorating situation of Rohingya - threat of a new genocide and population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities, mass graves issue in Thailand and White card issue - to international communities and urged an urgent action need to slove Rohingya issues on May 6 at 6th annual European Parliament edition of the One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival took placed in European Parliament – Yehudi Menuhin Space: Rue Wiertz, B-1047 Brussels, according to BROUK information.
The event – Panel discussion and debate featuring –was start after screening of Open Sky and Article 18, base on Burma, was organized by the European Parliament in cooperation with the Christian Solidarity Worldwide and People in Need. In the Burma panel discussion, Ben Rogers, Head of East Asia Team of Christian Solidarity Worldwide led as moderator and the speakers were Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Ranieri Sabatucci, EEAS, Head of the South-East Asia Division, Barbara Lochbihler Director General of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights from EEAS, the BROUK information added.
BROUK President Tun Khin discussed about the Burmese Authorities action and continued supporting the anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya hates speech in Burma and seriously raised tragic Rohingya mass graves issue in Thailand, White card issue and International investigation required on mass graves in Thailand and daily Crimes a Perpetrating by Burmese Government security forces in Arakan, Jarmal, the BROUK General Secretary.
“It is a good timing to raise urgent Rohingya mass graves issue in Thailand. I am glad to see EU Officials shown their willingness to cooperate with ASEAN to solve Rohingya issue and white card issue. EU Officials have mentioned ASEAN will not consider anymore Rohingya issue as Burma raised the isuues is Burma’s internal issue. I and urgeing Euofficials and other international bodies to call international investigation on Rohingya mass graves and appealed to resettle Rohingya refugees from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,Bangladesh and other countries to European union countries as a matter of urgency,” Tun Khin said at the panel discussion.
Ranieri Sabatucci, EEAS, Head of the South-East Asia Division and Barbara Lochbihler Director General of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights from EEAS pinpointed their recent visit to Arakan State. Both EU Top Officials also pinpointed their recent discussion with Burmese Ministers about Rohingya white card issue, Aid issue and hate speech issue, said Tun Khin.
Between 5-7 and 11 May 2015, the 6th edition of the One World Human Rights film festival has been taking place at the European Parliament. For the second consecutive year, the EP Sakharov Prize Network collaborates with festival organisers People in Need (PIN), a Czech human rights and development NGO. This year the festival will be joined by Sakharov laureates Dr Denis Mukwege (2014), Ali Ferzat (2011), and Reporters without Borders (2005), according to European Parliment Sakharov Prize Network website.
The festival brings to Brussels documentary films from different parts of the world, five of which will be shown at the European Parliament, followed by panel discussions. Every year, the festival days at the European Parliament bring together a very diverse and passionate audience of film directors, NGO representatives and civil rights activists, journalists, and members of the diplomatic corps. Joined by the members of the European Parliament, they will debate on the topics of this year's films which include radicalization, human rights and the change in Burma, the war in Syria, and child education, the website more said.
Maungdaw, Arakan State: Burmese army seized 25 guns from hidden place of Myara Waddy Rakhine village of Maungdaw south on May 7, according to a source of army from Maungdaw Township.
The said village is situated nearby Duche Yadan village (Rohingya village) under the BGP area No.7 of Maungdaw Township. Earlier, this village (Mayra Waddy) has only 25 Rakhine houses, now it has over 220 houses. After the 2012 clashes, between Rakhine and Rohingya communities the concerned authority invited Bangladeshi Buddhist Rakhines and Sakma to Arakan and settled them in this village, said an ex-village Admin officer of Maungdaw south.
The Myara Waddy villagers actively participated in attacking and destroying Duche Yadan village along with police after the accident of police and villagers on January 9, 2014.
After recovering the said guns from the village, and the army interrogated with many villagers and arrested 25 Rakhine villagers on the same day.
After fighting in Kyauktaw between Burmese army and Arakan army (AA), many Rakhines were arrested across the Arakan state, mostly from Kyauktaw Township, said a trader from Maungdaw Town.
According to Rohingya villagers, every Rakhine village of Maungdaw Township has guns and ammunition and keep it in secret.
Another Rohingya villager from Maungdaw said on condition of anonymity that a primary school headmaster U Kyaw Too of Pwet Chaung village of Maungdaw north has many guns and ammunition. He is respected by all Rakhine villagers.
Banda Aceh, Indonesia | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 05:27 GMT
by Nurdin Hasan
Hundreds of starving boatpeople were rescued off Indonesia on Wednesday as Myanmar for the first time offered to help ease a regional migrant crisis blamed in part on its treatment of the ethnic Rohingya minority.
The change of tune from Yangon came as the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand -- facing global criticism for turning away rickety boats packed with starving migrants -- gathered for talks on the issue.
Following appeals by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Washington last week for the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants to be rescued, Pope Francis issued his first comments on the issue Tuesday.
"We think of the poor Rohingya of Myanmar. As they leave their land to escape persecution they do not know what will happen to them," he said in a mass at the Vatican, likening the plight of the Rohingya to that of Christian and ethnic Yazidi people brutalised by the Islamic State group.
Nearly 3,000 boatpeople already have swum to shore or been rescued off Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand over the past 10 days after a Thai crackdown disrupted long-established smuggling routes, prompting some of the gangs responsible to abandon their human cargo at sea.
A total of 433 migrants believed to be from Myanmar were rescued in the early hours of Wednesday off Aceh in Indonesia, local officials and fisherman said.
"Their condition is very weak. Many are sick, they told me that some of their friends died from starvation," said Teuku Nyak Idrus, a local fishermen involved in the rescue.
Those rescued included 30 children and 26 women, search and rescue officials said.
With food and water supplies running low, some boats have drifted back and forth as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand refused to accept them, drawing international condemnation.
Myanmar also has come under growing pressure to help stem the outflow of Muslim Rohingya, who are fleeing their homes in the country's western Rakhine state after years of violence and discrimination at the hands of the Buddhist majority. Most head for Muslim-majority Malaysia.
- Myanmar softens hard line -
US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski said Myanmar must change its Rohingya policy.
"They need to be treated as citizens with dignity and with human rights," he told CNN.
The Myanmar government's "relationship with the international community is never going to be completely right and normal as long as this crisis continues".
Myanmar state media quoted a foreign ministry statement on Wednesday saying the government "shares concerns" expressed by the international community and is "ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea".
That marked the most conciliatory statement yet from the Myanmar government, which considers Rohingya to be foreigners from neighbouring Bangladesh and disavows all responsibility for them.
Myanmar has previously said it may snub Thailand's call for a regional summit on the issue, and was not present at Wednesday's meeting of foreign ministers in Malaysia.
The UN's refugee agency told AFP on Tuesday it had received reports that at least 2,000 migrants had been stranded for weeks on boats off the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts.
They are being held on board amid horrid conditions by human-traffickers who are demanding payment from the passengers to release them, a spokeswoman said.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman went into the talks Wednesday morning with his counterparts Retno Marsudi of Indonesia, and Thailand's Tanasak Patimapragorn in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya.
The UN's human rights and refugee chiefs have called on all three countries to launch search-and-rescue operations, bring boatpeople to land and begin procedures for assessing any refugee claims.
Anifah called Sunday on Myanmar to engage in talks on the crisis, warning that Malaysia, as this year's chair of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), may call an emergency regional meeting.
Myanmar is an ASEAN member.
While many Rohingya flee systematic persecution in Myanmar, the Bangladeshis are believed to be mainly economic migrants.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Putrajaya, Malaysia | AFP | Wednesday 5/20/2015 - 21:06 GMT
by M JEGATHESAN
Malaysia and Indonesia said Wednesday they would no longer turn away migrants, a breakthrough in the region's crisis that came just hours after hundreds more starving people were rescued at sea.
Earlier, Myanmar, whose policies toward its ethnic Rohingya minority are widely blamed for fuelling the human flow, also softened its line by offering to provide humanitarian aid to stricken migrants.
Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand had sparked growing international outrage by driving off boats overloaded with exhausted and dying Rohingya as well as Bangladeshis.
But Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, in a joint press appearance with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, announced that "the towing and the shooing (away of boats) is not going to happen" any more.
"We also agreed to offer them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community," Anifah said.
The pair spoke after talks with Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn.
Thailand did not sign on to the offer, however.
A Thai foreign ministry statement later said officials would not "push back migrants stranded in Thai waters".
It called on southeast Asian nations and the international community to "work collectively to solve this problem, which should not be left to any country alone".
The United States said it was ready to help the region "bear the burden" of the refugees.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf welcomed the agreement and said the United States would help the UN set up protection centres, and would consider requests to resettle some refugees.
"The US stands ready to help the countries of the region bear the burden and save lives today. We have a common obligation to answer the call of these migrants who have risked their lives at sea," she told reporters.
Gambia meanwhile said Wednesday it would take in all Rohingya migrants as part of its "sacred duty" to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims, saying it would place them in refugee camps.
Nearly 3,000 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off the three countries over the past 10 days after a Thai crackdown on human-trafficking threw the illicit trade into chaos, with some of the syndicates involved abandoning their helpless human cargo at sea.
Anifah said Malaysian intelligence estimates that about 7,000 people are still stranded at sea.
The office of the UN refugee agency said Wednesday's announcement by Malaysia and Indonesia was "an important initial step in the search for solutions to this issue, and vital for the purpose of saving lives".
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called for migrants to be brought ashore "without delay" and for countries in the region to address the root causes of the large-scale migration.
Joe Lowry, a Bangkok-based spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental body, called the move "brave and timely".
- Myanmar softens line -
In the latest drama involving incoming migrants, 433 starving people were rescued from their rickety boat off Indonesia by local fishing vessels earlier Wednesday, officials and fisherman said.
AFP journalists confirmed it was the same boat that had earlier bounced between Thailand and Malaysia in recent days as images of its emaciated Rohingya passengers -- shot by AFP and other media -- shocked observers worldwide.
Indonesian fisherman Muchtar Ali said he broke down in tears when he saw the passengers.
"I was speechless. Looking at these people, me and my friends cried because they looked so hungry, so skinny," he told AFP.
A local official said 70 children were among those saved -- including some babies -- and 70 women.
Myanmar state media on Wednesday quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying the government "shares concerns" expressed by the international community and is "ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea".
That marked the most conciliatory statement yet from Myanmar's Buddhist-dominated government, which considers the Muslim Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and had earlier hit back at calls for it to help address the situation.
Rohingya flee western Myanmar by the thousands annually to escape years of violence and discrimination at the hands of the Buddhist majority.
Most head for Muslim-majority Malaysia.
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a stop in Jakarta, said he would push Myanmar to improve conditions for Rohingya when he visits the country on Thursday.
"The only sustainable solution to the problem is changing the conditions that led (Rohingya) to put their lives at risk in the first place, and that is one of the things that we will be talking about tomorrow with the government of Myanmar," he said.
The Bangladeshi migrants are largely seeking to escape poverty at home.
The UNHCR believes at least 2,000 migrants may be stranded on boats off the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts, held in horrific conditions for weeks by traffickers who are demanding that passengers pay to be released, a spokeswoman said.
Anifah and Marsudi said the reasons behind the migrant exodus must be addressed but did not single out any country.
They recommended convening an emergency meeting of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which Malaysia currently chairs. Myanmar is also a member.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | AFP | Tuesday 5/19/2015 - 21:05 GMT
Malaysia's foreign minister was to host his Indonesian and Thai counterparts on Wednesday for urgent talks on Southeast Asia's boatpeople crisis, with pressure mounting on them to help thousands of starving migrants.
The three nations have sparked outrage by turning away vessels overloaded with migrants from Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya minority and with poor Bangladeshis.
Nearly 3,000 such migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand over the past week after a Thai crackdown prompted some people-traffickers to abandon their human cargo at sea.
The three-way meeting comes as Myanmar -- a fellow member of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- also has come under global criticism for its poor treatment of the Muslim Rohingya, which is blamed for helping to fuel the mass migration.
Malaysia's Anifah Aman, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and their Thai counterpart Tanasak Patimapragorn will meet starting at 9 am (0100 GMT) near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's government said.
The UN's refugee agency told AFP on Tuesday it had received reports that at least 2,000 migrants had been stranded on at least five boats controlled by human-traffickers near the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts for more than 40 days.
Traffickers were holding the people captive on boats amid "food shortages, dehydration and violence" unless they paid for their release, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
The agency has said a total of nearly 4,000 people from Myanmar and Bangladesh may be stranded at sea.
The UN's human rights and refugee chiefs joined others in calling on Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand on Tuesday to launch search and rescue operations, bring boat people to land and launch procedures for assessing any refugee claims.
Last week UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon and the US State Department called for action to help the boatpeople.
The Bangladeshis are believed to be mainly economic migrants.
But many Rohingya are fleeing their homes in western Myanmar after years of violence and discrimination at the hands of the Buddhist majority. Most head for Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Each spring, boats stream southward out of the Bay of Bengal, trying to beat seasonal monsoon storms.
Anifah called Sunday on Myanmar -- which fiercely disavows any responsibility for the Rohingya -- to engage in talks on the crisis.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
The MIMU 3W gathers inputs from participating agencies on Who is doing What, Where in Myanmar. It is currently conducted every 6 months.
205 agencies participated in the April 15 3W, providing information on their activities in 19 sectors and 145 sub-sectors which have been defined by technical/sector working groups. There is still likely to be under-reporting of the specific activities of field-based local NGOs and CBOs.
This overview of the reported 3W results in Kayah describes projects under implementation as of March 25, 2015. Further information on planned and recently completed projects is available from the 3W dataset, published on the MIMU website or available through our offices.
Statement Attributable to UNHCR Spokesperson in Malaysia
18 May 2015
UNHCR is deeply concerned about the continuing humanitarian crisis involving the arrival of boats to Malaysia and other countries in the region, carrying Rohingyas from Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals. Over the last week, alarming unconfirmed reports emerged suggesting that boats carrying vulnerable people from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been pushed away, raising concern for the welfare of the men, women, and children on board who may be in need of urgent medical and welfare assistance.
UNHCR is appreciative that over 1,100 persons have been permitted to disembark on Malaysian territory, and are now being held at the Immigration Department detention centres.
UNHCR has offered its assistance to the Government in its efforts to support those arrived. This includes medical and other provisions, and technical advice on how to process the group.
UNHCR has also offered its expertise in interviewing the different groups to determine who are in need of international protection, and who are not, as those being rescued are likely to be a mix of refugees and economic migrants.
UNHCR understands that the group includes some 700 persons from Bangladesh who may not need refugee protection and who, with the cooperation of their Government, may be able to return home without delay.
UNHCR’s concern is for the relatively small number of Rohingyas from Myanmar in the group, who are likely to need international protection and cannot be returned to Myanmar.
At this time, UNHCR has not received a formal response from the Government asking it to participate in any operational way, but stands ready to do so if required.
As it has done for many years, UNHCR will support the Malaysian Government in conducting all matters related to the processing of refugees, including registration and status determination, and providing welfare assistance including health, education, and other social support. Since 2005, UNHCR has facilitated the resettlement of over 100,000 refugees from Malaysia to third countries. It stands ready to continue supporting the Malaysian Government in managing this current humanitarian crisis.
Clearly, this serious humanitarian crisis requires a comprehensive regional response, which UNHCR fully supports. Efforts must be directed towards finding and disrupting the networks of unscrupulous smuggling and trafficking agents, and also to giving life-saving protection to their victims at sea.
Iraq: Islamic State have taken control of Ramadi. 500 died and 42,840 people fled fighting in the city over 16–17 May, adding to the 180,000 displaced in Anbar since early April. Access to new IDPs in Habbaniyah, Khadiyah district, is limited due to insecurity, and health concerns are growing.
Sudan: Fighting between Southern Reizeigat and Maaliya tribes in Abu Karinka, East Darfur, has reportedly displaced up to 24,000 households – 168,000 people. Those who remain have been cut off from water, food, and fuel aid. Measles cases have climbed to 4,127 so far this year, with West Darfur the worst-affected state.
Burundi: Displacement has increased sharply with the worsening political crisis. 105,000 people are seeking asylum in neighbouring countries, including 78,000 in Tanzania, where living conditions are worsening rapidly. Political protests continue in Burundi, despite the President warning that protesters will be considered accomplices of perpetrators of the attempted coup.
Myanmar: 6,000–8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis – most from Myanmar – are thought to be at sea and unable to reach shore. Many are adrift and in severe need of water and food.
Updated: 19/05/2015. Next update: 27/05/2015
Search and rescue at sea, disembarkation, and protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants now imperative to save lives in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea
We, the undersigned*, strongly urge the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, to protect migrants and refugees stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, to facilitate safe disembarkation, and to give priority to saving lives, protecting rights, and respecting human dignity.
Grave events in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in recent days involving migrants and refugees – Rohingya and others – from Bangladesh and Myanmar confirm that vulnerable people around the world are moving in search of safety and dignity, fleeing persecution, abject poverty, deprivation, discrimination, and abuse. Such perilous journeys, whether by land, sea, or air, have become a global phenomenon.
In Southeast Asia, more than 88,000 people have made the dangerous voyage by sea since 2014, including 25,000 who arrived in the first quarter of this year alone. Nearly 1,000 are believed to have perished at sea due to the precarious conditions of the voyage, and an equal number because of mistreatment and privation at the hands of traffickers and abusive smugglers. In the Bay of Bengal, migrants and refugees are fed only white rice and are subjected to violence, including sexual violence. Women are raped. Children are separated from their families and abused. Men are beaten and thrown overboard.
We are deeply concerned at reports that boats full of vulnerable women, men and children are unable to land and are stranded at sea without access to urgently needed food, water, and medical assistance. We urge States in the region to protect the lives of all aboard by allowing the passengers on these overcrowded boats to disembark safely.
We urgently call on leaders, with the support of ASEAN, to:
Make saving lives the top priority by inter alia significantly strengthening Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations.
Stop boat push-backs and measures to ‘help on’ boats to leave territorial waters, while ensuring that all measures taken are in strict accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and other fundamental human rights standards.
Provide for effective, predictable disembarkation to a place of safety with adequate and humane reception conditions.
Avoid the use of immigration detention and other punitive measures, and ensure that the human rights of all migrants and refugees are protected, and that all actions in regard to children are guided by the best interests of the child.
Set in place screening procedures staffed jointly by government and relevant international organization personnel to identify the individual circumstances of all those arriving, including a) individuals in need of protection as refugees, asylum-seekers, or stateless persons, b) victims of trafficking or persons at risk of torture or other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment if returned to their country of origin, c) migrants with health conditions in need of emergency medical care and first aid assistance, and d) migrants or others interested in voluntary return home.
Expand avenues for safe and legal migration, including for labour migration at all skills levels.
Expand efforts to prosecute traffickers and smugglers for their crimes in full accordance with international standards for human rights, while fully respecting the rights of victims.
Redouble efforts, nationally and through strengthened international cooperation, to address ‘push factors’ and the root causes of refugee and migrants flows, including discrimination, deprivation, persecution, and violations of human rights.
Put in place dedicated measures to combat xenophobia and discrimination against any group on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, ethnicity, nationality and national origin, or other status.
*António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; William L. Swing, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration; and Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development
For more information on this topic, please contact for UNHCR: In Bangkok, Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280 In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106 In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
Manila, Philippines | AFP | Tuesday 5/19/2015 - 06:41 GMT
The Philippines said Tuesday it was ready to help Rohingya and Bangladeshi boatpeople, as its Southeast Asian neighbours faced outrage for turning them away.
The Philippines is obliged to help the migrants, many of whom are fleeing persecution, because it is party to the 1951 United Nations convention on refugees, foreign affairs department spokesman Charles Jose said.
"We have the commitment and the obligation to extend humanitarian assistance to these asylum seekers," Jose told ANC television.
Jose and other senior government officials would not elaborate on the kind of help the Philippines would give to the Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis, whose plight has been described as a humanitarian catastrophe.
"We can't go into much detail yet. We are not yet into that point. What we are saying now is our broad policy statement regarding this issue," he said.
Nearly 3,000 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the past week, with thousands more believed to be drifting on boats without food or water.
The three governments have sparked international outrage for driving away some of the migrant boats, who are believed to have been deserted by human trafficking rings after a Thai crackdown.
Describing a precedent to the current situation, Jose pointed to the example of the Philippines accepting Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
In that case, the Philippines accepted boatpeople who arrived directly on its shores but also others who had originally landed in other countries.
About 400,000 Vietnamese refugees went through Philippine camps and were eventually relocated to other countries, according to a government website.
President Benigno Aquino's spokesman also said the Philippines was open to helping the refugees, as he cited the values of mercy and compassion found in the nation's dominant Catholic religion.
"As the only predominantly Catholic nation in Southeast Asia, it is our duty to provide succour to those in need," presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma told AFP.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, where they have no legal rights, making them a target for human traffickers. Up to 1.3 million live in the western Rakhine state.
Malaysia and Thailand have called on Myanmar to stem the flow of the Rohingya but Myanmar has refused to take responsiblity, claiming the group is composed of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
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angon, Myanmar | AFP | Tuesday 5/19/2015 - 13:44 GMT
by Kelly MACNAMARA
At least 2,000 migrants stalked by hunger and violence have been trapped for weeks on boats off Myanmar, the UN said Tuesday, as Indonesia called for a regional effort to tackle the crisis.
People-trafficking gangs have either dumped their human cargos from Myanmar and Bangladesh off Southeast Asia's shores or left them stranded at sea since a recent Thai crackdown disrupted the trade's normal routes.
Nearly 3,000 Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants have made it ashore in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in recent days after being abandoned.
Thousands more victims are believed to be stranded at sea with scant food or water.
International pressure is growing for Southeast Asian nations to open their ports to the vessels rather than reprovisioning them and pushing them back to sea. The United Nations and the US have both called for swift action.
The focus shifted Tuesday to the Bay of Bengal where ships off Myanmar are believed to be packed with Rohingya and Bangladeshis who have yet to sail across the Andaman Sea because of the crackdown.
Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency the UNHCR, told AFP they had received reports that at least 2,000 migrants had been "stranded on at least five boats near the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts for more than 40 days".
Reports of "food shortages, dehydration and violence" were a cause of "great concern", she added saying passengers should be allowed to disembark.
But the boats are still controlled by people-traffickers who will only let passengers return to land after they have paid between $180 and $270 each, she added.
- Timid diplomacy -
Southeast Asian nations have faced criticism for their timid diplomacy, particularly the failure to curb what is seen as Buddhist-majority Myanmar's systematic abuse of its unwanted Rohingya people.
This has sent masses of the Muslim ethnic minority fleeing abroad.
Myanmar insists the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, for whom it is not responsible.
In recent years an increasing number of Bangladeshis have also joined the Rohingya exodus across the Bay of Bengal, seeking to escape grinding poverty in their homeland.
Ahead of talks with her Malaysian and Thai counterparts in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the crisis was the responsibility of the whole region.
Around half the new migrant arrivals have been in Indonesia's western province of Aceh, and horrific tales have emerged of smugglers abusing migrants and deadly fights erupting on board overcrowded, abandoned vessels.
"The migrant issue is not a problem of one or two countries but a regional one," she told reporters in Jakarta. "It happens in other places as well, it is actually an international issue."
Marsudi noted that Indonesia was currently hosting 12,000 migrants from more than 40 countries awaiting resettlement, adding: "What Indonesia has done is more than we should have... done".
Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to a UN convention that would oblige it to resettle a certain number of refugees.
- Philippines ready to help -
But asked whether Indonesia would press Myanmar to take more responsibility, she said there would only be "constructive engagement" with it on the issue, highlighting the region's reluctance to take a harder line with the former army-run nation.
Relatively prosperous and mainly Muslim Malaysia, the favoured destination of most migrants, pressed Myanmar at the weekend to engage in talks on the issue.
Myanmar on Monday acknowledged international concern about the boatpeople but denied it is solely to blame. It has yet to say whether it will attend an upcoming regional summit in Thailand on the issue.
The Philippines said it was ready to help the boatpeople, offering hopes of a potential solution as its neighbours push the migrants away.
Manila is obliged to help the migrants, many of whom are fleeing persecution, because it is party to the UN refugee convention, foreign affairs department spokesman Charles Jose said. The government did not elaborate on what help might be extended.
In a bid to spur greater action, the UNHCR, the UN chief's special representative for international migration and development, and the head of the International Organization for Migration issued a joint plea.
"We strongly urge the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to protect migrants and refugees stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, to facilitate safe disembarkation, and to give priority to saving lives, protecting rights, and respecting human dignity," they said.
Pak Bara, Thailand | AFP | Tuesday 5/19/2015 - 06:07 GMT
Fears grew Tuesday for the welfare of hundreds of Rohingya migrants on a boat bounced between waters off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia that has not been heard from in more than 60 hours.
Around 300 men, women and children were found pleading for help Thursday on the drifting trawler which has become emblematic of Southeast Asia's growing migrant crisis and the region's reluctance to offer sanctuary to the passengers.
The Thai navy said it had repaired the engine and provided visibly thin passengers with food, water and medicine on both Thursday and Saturday before "escorting" the vessel into international waters.
But its location is now unknown.
Thai authorities insist the passengers wanted to travel southwards onto Malaysia and say they have had no news of the vessel since around 9 pm Saturday.
"We don't have any information on that boat," Thai navy official Veerapong Nakprasit told AFP Tuesday morning.
Indonesian and Malaysian officials have declined to comment on the status of a vessel which has been subject to what one rights group has coined "maritime ping-pong".
Chris Lewa of The Arakan Project, a Rohingya rights group that monitors boat crossings, said her team were last in contact with the ship by telephone on Saturday evening.
Since then the phones have gone unanswered.
"It's very worrying," she told AFP.
"They had told us that the men were taking all the food and that the women could not get the food. They were only getting little bits left over. That was the last we heard from them."
Survivors from another vessel that washed up in Indonesia on Friday said at least 100 people had died in fighting between Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants over meagre rations.
"These boat people have been at sea for weeks and months, without adequate food or any sort of medical care, and they are in a greatly weakened state," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
Calling on Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia "to end their cruel game of push backs, and treat these people's lives as if they matter," Robertson said "anything else is just empty talk."
Nearly 3,000 Myanmar Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have swum to the shore or been rescued off Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the past week while others have been turned back to sea in moves triggering international outrage.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar, have fled the country in barely sea-worthy boats across the Bay of Bengal.
In recent years they have been joined by growing numbers of economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh looking to escape poverty.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Approximately forty representatives from various disabilty groups living in the Yangon region attended a two-day training session from 29-30 April, 2015, organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Association of Myanmar Disabled Women’s Affaires (AWDWA) to exchange and learn about the upcoming release of the main Myanmar census results at the end of May.
For many of the participants, who live with with a disability that ranged from impaired speech, hearing, vision or difficulty in walking or using their hands, this was the first time for them to openly and freely share their views on their expectations of the census process. “Before I was very much afraid of the census, as I do not have the required identity information for my daughter, who suffers from autism, and to friends and neigbours, even to families whom also have relatives with autism…The workshop focused on the urgent and obvious need to promote the rights of people with disabilities. We need to raise awareness, so that we can prevent further discrimination,” said Daw Than Than Aye, mother of a 17 year old autistic girl whom both attended the two day training.
Daw Khin Zar Naing, UNFPA Senior Programme Officer gave a detailed overview of the census process, starting with the enumeration count which took place from 29th March to 10 April 2014, to the various data processing and analysing stages. She took the participants right up to the upcoming expected release of the main census data. “The main census results will give us a precise figure of the number of the population of Myanmar that has a disability and the results will tell us in which part of the country they live,” said Daw Khin Zar Naing.
Based on the 1983 census, the Myanmar population was previously projected to be approximately 60 million, however, with the release of the provisional results in August of last year, the count was put at 51.4 million. Many of the learning sessions were followed by a lively questions and answers.
U Kyaw Yu, 48 years old and the Chairman of the Yangon Deaf Association said that prior to the training he had only limited knowledge of the enumeration count. “When the enumerator came to my house, it was not made clear to me what was going on, as she did not know how to explain the questionnaire form to us. At the two day training we had an interpreter who was able to explain everything to us using sign language. So even though the census count is now over, we now understand it better,” said U Kyaw Yu. He also stressed that he would use his new found knowledge on the census and share it with his family and local community. When asked what he thought the benefit of the census data would be, he said that it could help with providing disabled persons with more possibilites in the future.
Another participant of the census training was 29 year-old Ma Moe Thidar Lin, who lives in a semi-urban squatting community in the west of Yangon. She has weak limb and this makes it hard for her to walk. She said that every day she faces discrimination. “My sister and I live in a squatter neighbourhood and people look down on us. I know it and I can feel it.” However after having attended the census training, she said she felt uplifted as before she was very afraid of the census because she did not have the required identity card. But now she felt that she could go back to her neighbourhood with her head held high. “At the training I was treated as an equal. I was listened to and the trainers discussed things with me. I shall never forget this,” she added.
The two-day training were part of a country-wide effort that is underway, involving 32 different civil society organisations (CSOs) and 5 UNFPA implementing partners. They are undertaking dialogues and orientation trainings to help highlight the importance of the results of Myanmar’s census data. They constitute of a mixed group of local organisations, such as youth and women groups, ethnic groups and faith groups. It will be the first time in over three decades that the country has access to solid data. The census process provides credible and reliable data that is needed for development planning and policy making . The results, once analysed, will show how and where services need to be improved, such as health care, education and utilities. This will be for the benefit of all the people of Myanmar and help spur on the on-going reform process.
I. Latest Progress in Thailand’s Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts
1. Updated statistics and notable current cases
The Royal Thai Government’s substantial new measures to combat human trafficking have already begun to yield concrete dividends. This section will provide some key updates on the results of the enhanced law enforcement processes.
In 2014, there were arrests of eight officials: 4 police officers, 1 navy officer, 2 local-level officials and 1 social and human development officer. Currently, there are five active prosecutions of public officials ongoing, the details of which can be found in Table 5.
Other key statistics include:
**A. Report of case results in 2014 (Additional detail available in Table 1) **
A total of 280 human trafficking cases were arrested in 2014 alone. Out of these 280 cases,
Police filed charges for 205 cases, did not file charges for 2 cases and 73 cases were pending under investigation
Prosecutors filed charges for 155 cases, did not file charges for 5 cases, and 47 cases were pending under investigation1
Courts rendered decisions for 47 cases, while 108 cases were pending
B. The investigation on extended networks of human trafficking in 2014 (Additional information available in Table 2)
- 2 networks of trafficking for prostitution
- 3 networks of trafficking for forced labor
- 1 network of trafficking/smuggling Rohingya and money laundering (Hua Sai case, Nakhon si Thammarat province, under the jurisdiction of the Royal Thai Police Region 8) (See more in Table 3)
Langsa, Indonesia | AFP | Tuesday 5/19/2015 - 06:55 GMT
by Gianrigo Marletta
Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants on board a foundering vessel off Indonesia fought with axes, knives and metal bars in vicious clashes that left at least 100 dead, survivors said as they recovered from their ordeal.
Both groups described bloody, nightmarish scenes after the overcrowded vessel was abandoned by its crew last week, with desperate migrants "slaughtering" each other in fierce battles over dwindling supplies.
Exhausted survivors, many bearing bruises and cuts, told AFP from camps in Aceh province they believed between 100 and 200 people were killed in the fighting that erupted Thursday on the boat, which was carrying hundreds of migrants.
They are among nearly 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis who have come ashore in the past week in Southeast Asia, after a Thai crackdown disrupted long-established human-trafficking routes.
While many were hacked to death on board, others jumped from the ship as they sought to escape the carnage, and those that survived were rescued by local fishermen and brought to shore. Both sides blamed the other for starting the fighting.
"Suddenly the Bangladeshis came out of the deck, and they attacked all of us who were on the top of the boat," said Rohingya migrant Asina Begun, 22, speaking to AFP from Langsa, an Aceh town where most of the migrants were taken.
"Those who wanted to save their lives had to jump in the sea, but my brother could not. When they found him, they beat him and then they slaughtered him. After that they threw him into the sea."
However the Bangladeshis said the Rohingya, a Muslim minority fleeing persecution in Myanmar, had been favoured by the boat captain, who only spoke a Myanmar language and gave them all the food and water. They said they were attacked after begging the Rohingya for supplies.
- 'We realised we would die' -
Mohammad Murad Hussein, a Bangladeshi, told how the Rohingya were on the top deck of the boat and the Bangladeshis, who made up the bulk of passengers, were on a lower deck.
As fighting erupted, the Rohingya sought to stop the Bangladeshis coming onto the upper deck by attacking them with axes and spraying water at them that was laced with pepper, he said.
"From the upper deck they were spraying hot water, pepper water at us, anyone who went up was hacked at with a cleaver," said the 30-year-old, whose body was covered with many scars.
"In the end we realised we would die. Then we decided to fight them and bring them down with us."
The boat started leaking and sinking as the violence escalated, at which point many people started jumping into the water, he said.
However, Rohingya refugee Mohammad Amih said the Bangladeshis attacked the Rohingya, after they insisted the remaining water on board should be saved for the children.
Amih said that he had told the Bangladeshis: "We should keep it for the children because they cannot survive without water."
As the Bangladeshis -- most of whom are seeking to escape from grinding poverty back home -- came on to them, Amih said that he tried to hide among the women on board but was soon discovered.
"They hit me on the head and then threw me overboard. After that I swam towards the local fishermen's boats," he said.
As the migrants recovered from the ordeal, their thoughts turned to their families back home. Many have been out of contact with their loved ones for two months, since embarking on the sea voyage.
"We cannot call our families back home, they don't know whether we are alive or not. They probably think we are all dead," said Bangladeshi migrant Mohammad Meshar Ali.
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