Archive for February 2007

Burma’s Lost Citizens and Refugee Crisis (Part-II)

February 28, 2007

Since long Burma’s refugee situation has remained at alarming proportions under military rule. The lost citizens of Burma from various ethnic communities like – Chin, Karen, Rakhaine, Mron, Kamein, Dainuk or Daingnet, Mro, Maramagyi, Thauk (Chakma), Rohingya etc. has been suffering and struggling for dignified livelihood in large numbers not only in Asian continent but in significant numbers at North American, European and Australian shores. According to the recent Chin National Council reports, about 50,000 Chin people had left their homeland and took refuge in foreign countries to escape unabated exploitation by military in Burma. (6) Even recent reliable media reports indicate that hundreds of Chin refugees arrived in January 2007 at Battle Creek office of Lutheran Social Services at Michigan Refugee Centre in USA and the lost citizens’ exodus continues in different safe heavens across Globe. (7) Apart from Chin’s, Rakhaing indigenous people have sought asylum in their neighbouring countries like – India, Bangladesh and Thailand to escape from human rights violation by the Burmese military regime. And January 2001 reports of Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) suggests that, at present there are 3,000 Rakhaing refugees suffering in India, 4000 in Bangladesh and 20,000 in Thailand. However unfortunately for them, surprisingly only 30 Rakhaing refugees are under UNHCR protection in India, 25 in Bangladesh and only 10 Rakhaing refugees are listed in UNHCR data of Thailand. (8)

The United Nations announcement on 7th February 2007 related with the allocation of Central Emergency Response Fund to Burma around US $ 1.35 million for humanitarian aids and growing Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh is a significant and timely effort by international body. Although it is unfortunate and sad for any civic institutions that among more than 30,000 Rohingya refugees living in servile condition in Bangladesh, about one third are not registered with UNHCR. (9)

However for Burma’s lost citizens, the recent announcement by Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration – Diana Finley, that, Canada will welcome an additional 2,000 Karen refugees from Burma over the next two years is a message of great relief & welcome step by civilized nation of world community and important message for others to follow the example of Canada’s efforts. It is noteworthy that already in 2006; Canada accepted a first batch of 810 Karen refugees for resettlement to lead civic life. (10) In addition one Asian country, Thailand’s change of attitude in October 2006 to improve the lives of the 140,000 refugees living in miserable conditions in the nine camps along the Thai-Burmese borders is a welcome long expected initiative by Junta’s ASEAN partner. (11) But what is more required from Thailand has to work seriously more for realization of democracy in Burma in ASEAN forums to solve floods of Burmese refugee crisis in their country.

Moreover, it is important for the world community to continue with their efforts for UN Security Council resolution to bring incorrigible military junta into a negotiating table to break democratic impasse and lasting solution for the lost citizens of Burma for dignified life.

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Endnotes:

6. Chin People for Political Dialogue with Junta, Hindustan Times.com (website of Hindustan Times Daily Newspaper of India) , 23 February 2007, New Delhi.
7. Stephaine Antonian Rutherford, Burma Refugees Coming to Town, The Enquirer, 26 January 2007.
8. The Rakhaing, Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) Publication, Vikaspuri, New Delhi, Year 2001, p.22.
9. Burma Receives Part of UN Emergency Fund, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Oslo. February 8, 2007.
10. Canada to Welcome 2,000 more Karen Refugees, Dept. of Citizenship and Immigration, Govt. of Canada, London, February 9, 2007.
11. Thailand: UNHCR Encouraged by New Administration’s Commitments on Myanmar Camp Conditions, UNHCR Briefing Notes, UNHCR, Geneva, 17 October 2006.

Burma’s Lost Citizens and Refugee Crisis (Part-1)

February 15, 2007

In the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 5619th meeting debate on 12th of January 2007, Burma’s military dictatorship has been defended & projected by Russian and Chinese representative as a region of peace and the junta’s rule doesn’t pose any threat to regional stability to justify their Veto. However the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country operations plan report of 2007 related with Burma has different story to tell about the lost citizens of golden land. Recent UNHCR report clearly states that, “Burma remains the largest refugee producing country in the region and its economy is largely run, and strictly controlled, by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and a significant share of the national budget is spent on military.” It also reveals strikingly that, country’s health expenditure per capita is at USD 30, which is lowest in Asia. And population of concern are politically and socially excluded from the mainstream (in the case of Northern Rakhine State); and socially and economically marginalized (in the case of the Southeast region). (1) Although UNHCR is not aware, that, if they would continue to produce such glorifying accounts of truth about SPDC rule in Burma, they might be also branded soon as an agency working as stooges and lackeys of western cohorts (particularly US & Britain), inventing slanderous accusations against their rule with the intention of interfering in and manipulating Burma’s affairs.

For Burma’s silent neighbour’s – China and some ASEAN partners, the plight of Burma’s lost citizen is a case of drawing-room debate and situation to be fully utilized for their lead in economic fields of bleeding nation. Interestingly, Malaysia, which is one of the General’s favourite destinations of investments response on 24th January 2007, was reflected in the case of extension of detention of deputy leader of opposition – Mr Tin Oo on 13th of February 2007 by SPDC against human rights norms and the spirit of United Nations Charter. As Malaysian Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar reacting late on UNSC Burma resolution, predicted on 24th January, that, it had hardened the resolve of authorities in the military-ruled state and “closed the window of opportunity” and UNSC is not an appropriate venue and Burma is not a security threat to international peace (responding like China & Russia). (2) Probably, Mr. Syed Hamid Albar’s has forgotten or intentionally trying to forget, that, the other appropriate venue of UN agency like- General Assembly’s third committee of Disarmament and International Security, Human Rights Council, World Health Organization and other institutions of UN and beyond together with their leader Razali Ismail’s efforts (2000-2006) has been already exhausted with their valuable time and energy since more than one decade to persuade SPDC to solve democratic impasse; and it is now only UNSC which can solve Burma’s flaming questions. In addition, Mr. Albar is also trying to escape the report of UNHCR 2007 country operations plan on Burma, that, even this highly esteemed UN agency admits that, “the protection situation in the border areas in which UNHCR are operational remains generally difficult. And the legal and procedural standards which UNHCR advocates for the protection of returnees, other stateless persons in NRS, and communities affected by displacement in the Southeast, are not immediately apparent to, or acknowledged by, the authorities on the ground.” (3)

Mr. Albar’s statement also tries to negate the conditions of persecuted and tortured Chin refugees of Burma who lives in a constant risk of harassment, arrest, detention and deportation in Malaysia. As on 5th of October 2006, Malaysian enforcement agency – RELA personnel’s raid at Jalan Imbi near Kuala Lumpur, Forty-five men and seven women from Chin community have been taken to the Lenggeng detention camp in Selangor State. According to the recent reports, as of 4th October 2006, over 16,863 Chins are living in Malaysia without any security, as Malaysian government refuses to recognize or provide any protection to these lost citizens of Burma, who faces constant threat of arrest, detention, and deportation from the authorities. (4)

The plight of Burma’s lost citizen could be also ascertained on 2nd of February 2007 UN Newswire that, eight asylum-seekers from Burma remain in Nauru after being transferred there last year when they were found on an Australian offshore reef. (5)

Moreover, for Burma’s General’s, it has become a trend to project in their official media – “The New Light of Myanmar” about the development miracles achieved under military dictatorship rather than giving some space to the hard truth about lost citizens of Burma. Military junta’s mouthpiece – The New Light of Myanmar had news story on 13th and 14th February 2007, to show to the world; that, “Senior General Than Shwe and wife Daw Kyaing host Union Day reception and dinner (13 Feb, p.1) / Dengue Fever Kills 252 in Indonesia (13 Feb., p.6), 25 injured as bus crashes into commercial building in Bangkok (13 Feb, p.12), Prime Minister General Soe Win inspects hydel power projects, Khabaung Multi-purpose Dam Project (14th Feb, p.1), Lightning Kills two in north India (14 Feb., p.11), Two Italian Women murdered in Cape Verde (14 Feb., p. 11) etc. but it didn’t bother to cover even the small news of Burma’s much loved and respected leader of opposition – Mr. Tin Oo’s extension of detention, who along with Daw Suu Kyi, suffering since long under the military rule of Burma. And it is also an early warning for India, Italy, Indonesia and Thailand that, if they would not go with SPDC, then many more news like Killing by Lightning, Dengue fever deaths, Bus crashes etc. would re-surfaces in future in the official New Light of Myanmar.

(Continued…)

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Endnotes:

1. UNHCR Country Operations Plan 2007 – Myanmar, UNHCR Publications, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Case Postale 2500, CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Suisse. p.2
2. Failed UN Resolution has hardened Burma, says Malaysia, Democratic Voice of Burma, January 24, 2007.
3. Note-1, p.4
4. Amy Alexander, Chin Asylum Seekers Detained in Rela Raid, 24 January 2007, from Aliran.com
5. UN Refugee Agency welcomes Australian Visa for Long-Term Iraqi Refugee, UN News Service, 02nd February 2007.

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