Call to Put Rohingya in Refugee Camps
Publisher: Radio Free Asia
Story date: 12/07/2012
Language: English

In the wake of ethnic violence in Rakhine state, Burma's leader says members of the persecuted ethnic group are not welcome.

Burma's President Thein Sein has asked the U.N. refugee agency to place ethnic Rohingyas living in the country in refugee camps or send them abroad, a stunning proposal rejected immediately by the agency.

In a statement posted on the government Thursday following deadly ethnic violence between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines in western Burma last month, Thein Sein said that the Rohingya are not welcome in his country.

"We will take care of our own ethnic nationalities, but Rohingyas who came to Burma illegally are not of our ethnic nationalities and we cannot accept them here," he said.

The statement said Thein Sein told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a meeting Wednesday that the Rohingyas should be placed in U.N.-sponsored refugee camps.

"The solution to this problem is that they can be settled in refugee camps managed by UNHCR, and UNHCR provides for them. If there are countries that would accept them, they could be sent there," he said.

Guterres rejected the proposal, telling reporters that resettling or taking care of the Rohingyas in camps is not the refugee agency's job.

The U.N. says Rohingyas in Burma are displaced within their own country and insists they be treated as citizens. It considers Rohingya a stateless people and one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

Some 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma, nearly all of them in Rakhine state. They live alongside ethnic Rakhines, one of Burma's seven recognized minority nationalities.

The Burmese government considers the Rohingyas illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many of them have lived in Burma for generations.

Distinctions

In his statement, Thein Sein outlined the legal distinction between those who came to Burma before the country's independence in 1948—often called "Bengalis"—and those who came after.

"In Rakhine state now, there are two distinct generation groups. The first group is those born from the pre-1948 Bengalis. Another generation group, under the name Rohingya, came to Burma later."

He said those who were brought over to Burma during British rule between 1824 and 1948 were welcome in the country.

"Before 1948, the British brought Bengalis to work on the farms, and since there were ample opportunities to make a living here compared to where they came from, they didn't leave," he said.

"According to our laws, those descended from [the Bengalis] who came to Burma before 1948, the 'Third Generation,' can be considered Burmese citizens," he said.

He added that current situation involving the Rohingyas living in Rakhine illegally was "threatening the country's stability."

Violence

The violence between Rohingyas and the Rakhines that flared in June has left some 78 people dead and 90,000 displaced and living in camps, according to government statistics.

The clashes were sparked after an ethnic Rakhine woman was allegedly raped and killed by three Rohingya men in late May. On June 3, a group of Rakhine vigilantes attacked and killed 10 Rohingyas on a bus they believed were responsible for the woman's death.

On June 8, thousands of Rohingyas rioted in Maungdaw, destroying Rakhine property, burning homes, and causing an unknown number of deaths. In the aftermath, Rohingyas carried out similar attacks on Rakhines elsewhere around the state.

Hundreds of Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh, though many have been forced back to Burma.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of responding with mass arrests and "unlawful force" against the Rohingya.

"The Burmese government needs to put an immediate end to the abusive sweeps by the security forces against Rohingya communities," Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW, said in the statement.

Reported by RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Ko Win Naing. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
 

Rohingyas face deportation or refugee camps in Myanmar
Publisher: Oman Tribune
Story date: 12/07/2012
Language: English

YANGON Myanmar's president on Thursday told the UN that refugee camps or deportation was the "solution" for nearly a million Rohingya Muslims in the wake of communal unrest in the west of the country.

Thein Sein, who had previously struck a more conciliatory tone during fighting that left at least 80 people dead in Rakhine state last month, told the chief of the United Nations refugee agency the Rohingya were not welcome.

"We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity," he told UN High Commissioner for Refu-gees Antonio Guterres, according to the president's official website.

The former junta general said the "only solution" was to send the Rohingyas — which number around 800,000 in Myanmar and are considered to be some of the world's most persecuted minorities — to refugee camps run by UNHCR.

"We will send them away if any third country would accept them," he added. "This is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue."

Communal violence between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and local Muslims, including the Rohingya, swept the state in June, forcing tens of thousands to flee as homes were torched and communities ripped apart.

Decades of discrimination have left the Rohingya stateless, with army-dominated Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movements, and withholding land rights, education and public services, the UN says.

Unwanted in Myanmar and Bangladesh Rohingya migrants have undertaken dangerous voyages by boat towards Malaysia or Thailand in recent years.

According to UNHCR around one million Rohingya are now thought to live outside Myanmar, but they have not been welcomed by a third country.
 

UN Refugee Chief Rejects Call to Resettle Rohingya
Publisher: AP, Associated Press
Story date: 12/07/2012
Language: English

YANGON, Myanmar July 12, 2012
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday rejected a suggestion by Myanmar's president that the world body resettle or take care of ethnic Rohingyas who have settled in the Southeast Asian country.

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres told reporters it was not his agency's job to resettle the Rohingya, who live in western Myanmar but without Myanmar citizenship.

On his website, President Thein Sein said he told Guterres in a meeting Wednesday that the solution to ethnic enmity in Myanmar's western Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingya to a third country or have the UNHCR look after them.

Clashes last month between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslin Rohingya left at least 78 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. The Rakhine consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Thein Sein described the violence at the time as a threat to the democratic and economic reforms his government launched after decades of repressive rule by a military junta.

"The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it's not related to this situation," said Guterres.

Thein Sein's reported suggestion to Guterres left unclear exactly how many people he had in mind. The U.N. estimates there are about 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar. The count includes people of Bengali heritage who settled centuries ago, as well as people who may have entered the country in recent decades.

Many people in Myanmar don't recognize as legitimate settlers even those of Bengali heritage who came in the 19th century, when Myanmar was under British rule and called Burma.

Large exoduses of Rohingya to Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s because of persecution, and their subsequent return, also add to the confusion over who is an illegal immigrant.

Thein Sein told Guterres that according to Myanmar law, those Bengalis who settled in Myanmar before the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and their children are regarded as citizens. However, post-independence immigrants are officially considered illegal and threatening to the country's stability.

In practice, it is difficult for many people of Bengali heritage to obtain citizenship, and they face discriminatory legal restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.

"We will take responsibility of our ethnic nationals but it is impossible to accept those Rohingyas who are not our ethnic nationals who had entered the country illegally. The only solution is to hand those illegal Rohingyas to the UNHCR or to send them to any third country that would accept them," Thein Sein told Guterres, according to his website.
 

Myanmar coordinating with UN body for refugee issue settlement
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Story date: 12/07/2012
Language: English

YANGON, July 13 (Xinhua) – Myanmar is coordinating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the settlement of refugee issue in Rakhine ethnic state, tasking the Minister of Border Affairs to made the coordination with the UN

organization, according to the website of the President's Office Friday.

Meeting with the UNHCR Antonio Guterres in Nay Pyi Taw, President U Thein Sein said, bringing in by British colonialists for doing farming work, Bengali Muslims entered Myanmar before its independence in 1948 and have settled there ever since according to history. Under Myanmar's Immigration Law, the country accepts only the third generation of the immigrants born of parents who had resided in Rakhine before independence as Myanmar citizens.

Afterwards, he said, the illegal entry of other Bengali immigrants under the name of Rohingyas has complicated the issue which is tantamount to threaten peace and stability in the state.

He denied the possibility to accept the illegally-entered Rohingya immigrants who are not Myanmar nationalities, saying that these Rohingyas are to be handed over to the UNHCR and placed in refugee camps or sent to the third country if it accepts as another way of settlement.

During the visit, Myanmar Vice President Sai Mauk Kham and speaker of the parliamentary House of Representatives U Shwe Mann also met Guterres and touched on the immigrant issues.
 

UNHCR constructs protective covers around tents in Jalozai camp
Publisher: The Baluchistan Times
Story date: 12/07/2012
Language: English

NOWSHERA: As scorching heat grips large areas of Pakistan, the UN refugee agency is working to make living in a canvas tent more bearable for 40,000 displaced people.

With assistance from the European Commission, UNHCR has been constructing protective covers around tents in the Jalozai camp near Peshawar that offer shade and lower temperatures in a barren area where the thermometer regularly reaches 45 degrees.

A pilot phase of the project launched last month provided some 120 families with tent shelters. The project will go on to build covers around 8,000 family tents, bringing relief from the heat to more than 40,000 internally displaced people. The shelters will remain up year round and will provide additional insulation in the winter, when temperatures plummet, says a press release issued here Wednesday.

"My children couldn't sleep in the tent at night and during the day would look for shade under a tree," said Lal Khan, 45, one of the beneficiaries of the new shelters.

In constructing the shelters, a bamboo frame is first assembled around the family's tent. Plastic sheeting is then suspended over the roof of the frame while netting surrounds the structure to allow for air circulation while serving as a purda or privacy screen. The shelters have the added benefit of extending the family's living area.

"The tent shelters provide a simple solution to a number of issues," said Zelalem Mengistu, a UNHCR shelter expert. "They offer relief from hot and cold weather, protect the tents from high winds and allow the families to eat and socialize outside their tents while maintaining their privacy."

Some 12,900 displaced families live in the Jalozai camp. Nearly all of them – 12,700 families – are from Khyber Agency while the remaining 200 families are from Bajaur Agency.

"Now that they have a roof over their heads and are more comfortable my children are better able to focus on their studies," said Lal Khan who arrived at Jalozai four months ago with his wife and four children.
 

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