Calling on Canada to help end Myanmar Genocide of Rohingya at Toronto City Council on 23 Nov 2017

Saying "Sorry!" to a Rohingya brother who survived Myanmar Genocide, Kutupalong Camp, Bangladesh, 7 Nov 2017.

Speaking on the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas in Burma, with Professor Amartya Sen, Harvard University, Nov 2014

N. Ireland peace activist Mairead Maguire presenting Zarni with the Cultivation of Harmony Award on behalf of the Parliament of the World's Religions, Salt Lake City, USA 18 Oct 2015

Meeting with The Minister of Foreign Affairs Rt. Honourable Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, M.P., State Guest House, Dhaka, 4 Nov 2017

"National Traitor and Enemy of the State" for his opposition to Rohingya Genocide. Sun Rays, 16/9/17

Kachin and Rohingya activists in diaspora launch an international opinion tribunal on Myanmar's atrocity crimes against their communities at home

Kachin and Rohingya activists in diaspora launch an international opinion tribunal on Myanmar's atrocity crimes against their communities at home

Kachin and Rohingya activists in diaspora launch an international opinion tribunal on Myanmar's atrocity crimes against their communities at home 

Media Advisory, February 23, 2017

The Rome-based Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) will be holding the inaugural session of its first-ever Tribunal on Myanmar at Queen Mary University of London International State Crime Initiative on 6 and 7 March. (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/permanent-peoples-tribunal-myanmar-state-crimes-against-rohingya-and-other-ethnic-minorities-tickets-31967250908)

The establishment of this people’s tribunal is in response to the requests made by Myanmar’s Rohingya and Kachin victims who have made credible allegations that their respective ethnic communities have suffered international crimes at the hands of Myanmar government troops, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Subsequent tribunal hearings are envisaged in in USA and Malaysia before the jury reach the verdict later this year.

The PPT includes renowned genocide scholars such as Daniel Feierstein, past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, Dr Helen Jarvis, former Public Affairs Officer at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Dennis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary of the UN and winner of Gandhi International Peace Award (2003). The Tribunal is in the process of selecting members of the Panel of Jury from amongst a list of public figures whose nominations are based on their established personal integrity, professional competence and concerns for the victims. 

Among the experts who will appear before the PPT will be Dr Mandy Sadan, Associate Dean of Research at School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London & author of Being & Becoming Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Borderworlds of Burma (Oxford University Press, 2013), Professor Penny Green of the International State Crime Initiative, and Azril Mohammad Amin of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), Malaysia.

“The gravity of Myanmar’s alleged mistreatment of these ethnic communities has been a concern for us at the PPT for a number of years. My colleagues and I are glad to be able to respond positively to the victims’ request for a credible moral tribunal on what appear to be international crimes being committed by the government of Myanmar,” said Dr Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General of Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.

The People’s Tribunal has a long history as an effective means of transforming communities marred by state sponsored crimes. It has convened forty-three times to deliver judgements that have guided societies through such struggles as post-colonialism, globalization, war, and economic injustice. It is renowned for its rigorous selection criteria for its jury members.

Hkanhpa Sadan, the General Secretary of the Kachin National Organization (KNO), representing many in the Kachin diaspora, said, “Our Kachin people have been crying out for justice and accountability since Myanmar government unilaterally ended the 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization nearly 6 years ago. While talking up democratic transition in the media, Myanmar government has been bombing – even using fighter jets and gunship helicopters – our communities in Northern Myanmar, displacing thousands of our people, including women, elderly, children and infants from their own homes.” He pointed out that Myanmar is blocking humanitarian assistance and supplies to Kachin war refugees while refusing to permit the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Yanghee Lee access to the area last month to travel to the internally displaced people (IDP) camps where IDP thousands of families are freezing in make-shift camps in the high altitude mountainous, with little food or medical supplies.



Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Association UK, a participating organization, expresses his appreciation for the PPT staff for the tribunal. “We Rohingyas are grateful that this tribunal effort is materializing at this crucial juncture. Generations of us Rohingya have suffered what we experience as a genocide in our own ancestral lands.” He continues, “my grandfather was a proud Rohingya parliamentary secretary in democratic Burma in the 1950’s, and in 2017, my family and I are refugees in UK now. We are subject to Myanmar’s policy of extermination because of our religion and ethnicity.”

On the western frontier region of Rakhine, Myanmar troops have been accused of “very likely” committing crimes against humanity by the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner’s team. On 3 February the UN Office of High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a 43-page report of interviews with 200+ persecution-fleeing Rohingya men and women in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, which detailed harrowing accounts of rape, gang-rape, wanton killings, arson, helicopter and rocket launcher attacks and other numerous forms of inhumane atrocities against unarmed, peaceful Rohingyas.

The UN report states,” “The testimonies gathered by the team – the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food – speak volumes of the apparent disregard by Tatmadaw and BGP officers that operate in the lockdown zone for international human rights law, in particular the total disdain for the right to life of Rohingyas.”

For decades, the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma have suffered state crimes that many human rights investigators and scholars conclude amount to crimes against humanity and even a “slow genocide” as stated by Amartya Sen. They have been stripped of their citizenship and rendered stateless; prohibited from travelling even between villages; forbidden from obtaining education or gainful employment; forced into labour; physically brutalized including extrajudicial killings, rape,
and torture; driven from their burning homes and villages; and dehumanized because of their faith & skin colour.

In addition to Rohingya and Kachin organizations in diaspora, International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, Burma Task Force USA, JUST and the Centre for Human Rights
Research and Advocacy (Centhra) from Malaysia, USA-based Genocide Watch, South Africa’s Protect the Rohingya and Burmese Muslim Association are supporting the tribunal. Cambodia Genocide survivor and genocide prevention campaigner Youk Chhang and Burmese genocide scholar Dr Maung Zarni are also among the tribunal’s individual supporters.

Within the United Nations, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has reportedly said that she will be recommending a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Rohingyas in her official Mission report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which she is scheduled to present on 13 March.

Myanmar’s hybrid government of Aung San Suu Kyi and the military has responded to these serious international crimes allegations first by dismissing them as “fake news” and later setting up its own “national investigation commission” headed by ex-general and Vice President Myint Swe. UN Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention Adama Dieng has officially dismissed Myanmar’s national commission as “not a credible option” while Ms Yanghee Lee said, “it doesn’t even have the methodology” to investigate the atrocity crimes. Dr Maung Zarni said “Myanmar’s own investigation would be like wolves figuring out who ate the chickens.”

There has been a concerted activist campaign worldwide for UN member states to adopt a resolution to establish a UN inquiry. UK government has come under strong criticism from human rights campaign groups for privileging its business interests in Burma while ignoring serious allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar Security troops which the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) says the British Armed Forces are training on human rights and accountability.

//end text//

Media Contacts:

Dr Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General of Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, Rome, Italy
Email: giantogn@gmail.com

Tun Khin, President, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK
Email: tunkhin80@gmail.com

Hkun Htoi Layang, Deputy Secretary, Kachin National Organization 
Email: hkunhtoi@gmail.com

Myanmar Government invited to attend the tribunal and present its version of truths

(Photo: Reuters)


To:

Vice President Myint Swe
Chair of Myanmar Presidential Investigation Commission on Rakhine
Former Lt-General and former chief of
Military Intelligence

c/o

H.E. Kyaw Zwa Myint
The Embassy of Myanmar
19A Charles Street
London, W1J 5DZ

Dear Sir,

please, find attached the letter of invitation from the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal for the Opening Session on the accusation of state crimes committed against the Rohingyas, Kachins and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, which will take place in London, on 6 and 7 March.

This letter is a formal invitation to be officially present in the hearings in the form you esteem most suitable to represent your interest and point of view.

We are ready to provide you with all the supplementary information you could need and request.

Looking forward to your answer, and, hopefully to receive a positive response to the request of having your presence.

Thank you for your attention.

Regards,

Gianni Tognoni
PPT Secretary General








“Rohingyas would be eliminated from Myanmar.”: A detailed emerging picture of Myanmar Genocidal Violence as extracted from the UNOCHR Flash Report



“Rohingyas would be eliminated from Myanmar.”

“Now is the worst it has ever been. We have heard from our grandparents that there were bad things happening in the past too, but never like this.” 

- A Rohingya victim from Pwint Hpye Chaung

“(C)all your Allah to come and save you”, “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?”

- A typical taunt by perpetrating Myanmar soldiers and officers while beating, torturing, raping and killing Rohingyas

THE POLICY AND STRATEGY

The “calculated policy of terror” that the Tatmadaw has implemented in nRS since 9 October cannot be seen as an isolated event. It must be read against the long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in nRS, as described in the HC’s report to the HRC (A/HRC/32/18). Even before 9 October, widespread discriminatory policies and/or practices targeting them on the basis of their ethnic and/or religious identity had led to an acute deprivation of fundamental rights. The information gathered by OHCHR indicates that the victims of killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, torture, beatings and other violations outlined in this report, were targeted based on their belonging to a particular ethnicity and religion. Many victims mentioned that soldiers and officers taunted them by saying that Islam is not the religion of Myanmar; that Rohingyas are Muslim Bengalis; and that Rohingyas would be eliminated from Myanmar.

GENOCIDAL ACTS 

“The testimonies gathered by the team – the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food – speak volumes of the apparent disregard by Tatmadaw and BGP officers that operate in the lockdown zone for international human rights law, in particular the total disdain for the right to life of Rohingyas.”

WHO ARE THE PERPETRATORS?

All of the eyewitness testimonies the team gathered referred to violations allegedly perpetrated by either the Myanmar security forces (Tatmadaw, Border Guard Police and/or the regular police force, operating both separately and through joint operations) or by Rakhine villagers (either acting jointly with security forces or at least with their acceptance). Worryingly, the team gathered several testimonies indicating that Rakhine villagers from the area have recently been given both weapons and uniforms, which bodes ill for the future relation and trust between the two communities.

What does a typical Myanmar Government’s “area clearance operation” look like? 

“When the team analysed the 111 testimonies gathered from the most affected villages - Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son, Kyet Yoe Pyin, Pwint Hpyu Chaung, Dar Gyi Zar and Wa Peik - a clear picture emerges of how the Myanmar security forces’ so called “area clearance operations” are conducted, as well as of the violations they generate:

Interviewees from these villages, as can be seen also in previous chapters, typically reported that large numbers of armed men (often from both the Tatmadaw and the police, sometimes accompanied by Rakhine villagers) would arrive at once in the village. As is confirmed by satellite imagery analysis, they would proceed to destroy many houses, mosques, schools and shops, typically by RPGs (that interviewees call “launchers”) but also by simply using petrol and matches as detailed above. Fields, livestock, food stocks would also be deliberately burned, destroyed or looted.

They would separate the women from the men. Men who did not manage to flee would be severely beaten, often with their hands tied to their back, often with rifle butts or bamboo sticks, or kicked with boots. Many men, especially those in a specific age range (teenage to middle age) would also be taken away, with their hands still tied, by military or police vehicles and not heard of again.

Women would be rounded up, and either told to stay inside a school or other building or outside in the burning sun. Many would be raped or experienced others forms of sexual violence, often during strip searches, either during round-ups or in homes.

Simultaneously, those fleeing would be shot at with rifles and RPGs, and in Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son, Dar Gyi Zar and in Kyar Gaung Taung, also from helicopters.

There were also many reports of summary executions, either by shooting at point blank range or by knife, including of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly people.

In some villages, only very few houses are reportedly still standing. According to testimonies, there are no or few men of working age left, and the women and children who could flee have done so. According to the testimonies the team gathered, some who were too old or too poor to flee are still trying to survive among the ashes and the wreckage, lacking food.

Interviewees who were still in touch with relatives in their home villages reported that the “area clearance operations” continue, with continued regular presence of the security forces in the villages (although the burning of homes seems to have ceased since December, replaced in some cases by destruction by other means).”

From p.38, 3 Feb 2017 UNOCHR Flash Report

This testimony from a woman from Pwint Hpyu Chaung is indicative of what the residents of the hardest hit villages experienced:

“While we were sleeping, it was 2 or 3 a.m., I did not notice that the military surrounded my whole house. They suddenly entered. They carried both rifles and knives. One used a knife to cut some rope in my house. My brother and my sister-in-law’s husband had their hands tied behind their backs with that rope. They were first beaten with rifle butts. They were beaten so harshly that my brother was about to die, it was so horrible to watch. When they were beating my brother and my sister-in-law’s husband, we were close to them, we were also lying down. Whenever they were crying we were also crying. My oldest son and my (11-year old) daughter were beaten too.

And then they shot and killed my brother and my brother-in-law. This happened just outside our house. When they were shooting, a bullet grazed my daughter’s skin too. Then they dragged their bodies away. We never found their bodies.

I cannot tell you what I am feeling inside. The military was kicking us with their boots, my husband was lying down as if he was dead, spreading his hands wide. The military thought he was dead, so they brought bamboo sticks and threw them on top of him.

We were very scared. We fled to my father’s house which is located just next door. But by this time another group of military came and they set the house on fire. All of us were trying to flee, but then they called my father out from all us women and children. We told our father, please don’t go, they will kill you. They asked us women and children to go away, so we left, and then they took our father from us. They took him, his hands were tied with a rope. Then they set the house on fire.

Then we fled into the forest, by this time the house was burning. When we came back we were looking for our father, and then we found his body totally burned, together with three other bodies. It was my other brother who is alive and who is here in Bangladesh, he was the one who went to the house, and he found our father and our uncle lying on his shoulder, his uncle’s son was also there, burned. Maybe they held each other tight, that could be why they seemed to be hugging in their death, my brother said (p.40).”

- A mother of 8 and 11 year old children from Pwint Hpyu Chaung village

The aforementioned excerpts are from UNOCHR Flash Report released on 3 Feb 2017, which detailed systematic and unprecedented atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Northern Rakhine State by Myanmar government’s troops (and armed local Rakhine). 

SOURCE: Report of OHCHR mission to Bangladesh -- Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016




UN Human Rights Chief Zeid: Report on Myanmar's Rohingya

(Photo: Reuters)

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?” - UN Human Rights Chief Zeid. Learn about the new report: http://ow.ly/6Nkd308ENJt

Devastating cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men detailed in UN human rights report




By OHCHR
February 3, 2017

GENEVA – Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh.

Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.

Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.” In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?” High Commissioner Zeid said, noting the report suggests the recent level of violence to be unprecedented.

“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”

After the repeated failure of the Government of Myanmar to grant the UN Human Rights Office unfettered access to the worst-affected areas of northern Rakhine State, High Commissioner Zeid deployed a team of human rights officers to the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, where an estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled since 9 October 2016.

All the individuals interviewed by the team had fled Myanmar after the 9 October attacks against three border guard posts, which had prompted intense military operations and a lockdown in north Maungdaw. The military indicated that it was conducting “area clearance operations” in the region.

The report cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock. 

“Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses,” the report states. “Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.”

Several people were killed in indiscriminate and random shooting, many while fleeing for safety. Those who suffered serious physical injuries had almost no access to emergency medical care, and many of the people interviewed remained visibly traumatized by the human rights violations they survived or witnessed. People who did not know the fate of loved ones who had been rounded up by the army or separated while fleeing were particularly distressed.

Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?” The violence since 9 October follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine State, the report notes.*

Reports suggest that operations by security forces in the area have continued into January 2017, although their intensity and frequency may have reduced. 

“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”

The report concludes that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.

ENDS

Full report here:



PM assures Myanmar’s President Kyaw that Kingdom will stay silent on Rohingya

Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Saturday. Facebook


By Erin Handley
February 6, 2017

Prime Minister Hun Sen has reassured his Burmese counterpart that the Kingdom will not interfere in the escalating “Rohingya issue”, a day after a damning UN report revealed widespread gang rape and murder allegedly committed against the Muslim ethnic minority by Myanmar security forces. 

During talks at the Peace Palace on Saturday, the premier told President Htin Kyaw that “Cambodia disagrees with the attempt to internationalise the Rohingya issue, considering it as an internal issue of Myanmar, and the ASEAN Charter prohibits the interference in the internal affairs of each Member State,” according to a Facebook post from Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith. 

Reached yesterday for clarification, Kanharith said Cambodia could not condemn Myanmar’s actions and that “the government of each country has to settle their own issues”, though Prime Minister Najib Razak of fellow ASEAN state Malaysia recently called for the world to act to end what he characterised as “genocide”. 

Hun Sen’s comments came barely a day after the UN released a harrowing report in which 204 interviewees who had fled to Bangladesh testified they had seen homes burned, people killed, and women and girls raped in Rakhine state (see page 12 for more information on the report).

“They held me tight, and I was raped by one of them. My 5-year old daughter tried to protect me, she was screaming, one of the men took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat,” a mother of three from Kyet Yoe Pyin told UN investigators. 

Another described how her 8-month-old baby was slaughtered with a knife before her eyes as five men raped her. More than half of the 101 women interviewed reported they were raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence. 

In stark contrast to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on the international community to urge Myanmar to end the atrocities. “The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community,” he said in a statement on Friday. 

Dr Maung Zarni, Burmese co-author of the Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingyas and non-resident fellow at the Sleuk Rith Institute in Cambodia, said the parallels between the human rights abuses committed in Myanmar and those which ravaged Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge should prompt the premier to be more compassionate.

Prime Minister Hun Sen talks with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw at the Peace Palace on Saturday. Facebook
“Myanmar’s decades-long persecution and extreme mistreatment of Rohingyas have been causing periodic and voluminous flows of persecution-fleeing refugees . . . across both South and Southeast Asia, who are in turn preyed upon by the ruthless human-trafficking criminal gangs,” Dr Zarni said. 

“A population having been halved as a matter of provable national policy based on extreme racism against an ethnic group is deeply troubling. This is where the international concern comes in,” he said, adding the crimes amounted to “ethnic cleansing”.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, said the prime minister’s assurances were a form of “mutual back-scratching among rights-abusing leaders”. 

“The real reason [Prime Minister] Hun Sen said that is [because] he doesn’t want anyone interfering in his own rapidly intensifying crackdown on opposition party members and civil society activists.”

While the ASEAN Charter outlines respect for a country’s sovereignty, it also calls on member states to respond effectively to all forms of threats and to ensure that people live in peace in a just and harmonious environment in those member states.

The OHCHR’s acting regional representative for Southeast Asia, Laurent Meillan, said in an email yesterday that the report called for stronger engagement from ASEAN to address the plight of the Rohingyas. 

“The ASEAN principle of non-interference should be interpreted with flexibility when significant humanitarian and human rights crises occur in the region,” he said. 

Mohammed Rashid, a Rohingya refugee living in Cambodia, said while it was nearly impossible to reach those being persecuted in the closed-off zone, Cambodia should do anything it could to assist. 

“Yes, yes they should help,” he said. 

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOUCH SOKHA