Evidence of Rohingya massacre by security forces deepens crisis in Myanmar
- The Associated Press uncovered evidence of a military-led mass killing of a Rohingya community in late August that left at least 75 and as many as 400 dead.
- The report detailed documentary evidence of at least five mass graves in and near the village of Gu Dar Pyin along with videos and survivor reports of acid use to attempt to cover up the massacre.
- While the Burmese government insists it is only targeting “terrorists” and denies mass killings, the international community is facing growing pressure to declare ongoing state violence against the Rohingya a genocide.
“AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar” (The Associated Press | February 2018)
“Evidence of Rohingya mass graves uncovered in Myanmar” (Al Jazeera | February 2018)
“Myanmar denies report of new mass graves in Rakhine” (Reuters | February 2018)
Reporters arrested in Myanmar following Rohingya coverage
- Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the outskirts of Yangon after working on stories related to the military crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine state.
- The Ministry of Information said the reporters faced charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for having “illegally acquired information” for dissemination to foreign media.
- The event has prompted international condemnation, including by the United Nations, foreign governments, international journalism organizations, and press freedom advocates.
“Factbox: International reaction to arrest of Reuters reporters in Myanmar” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Analysis: Government Turning Back the Clock on Press Freedom” (The Irrawaddy | December 2017)
“UN chief calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists” (CNN | December 2017)
More than a half-million Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar
- Since August, nearly 520,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from their homes in Myanmar into Bangladesh, and dozens—many of them children—have died attempting to reach Bangladesh by boat.
- Refugees spoke of attacks by the military and Buddhist vigilantes, including the burning of villages and physical assaults throughout the state of Rakhine.
- The U.N. has condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Burmese state, which targeted Rohingya communities following an attack by Rohingya militants on a military outpost.
“‘I can’t take this any more:’ Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar in new surge” (Reuters | October 2017)
“Rohingya crisis: Children die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh” (BBC News | October 2017)
“Bangladesh to build one of world’s largest refugee camps for 800,000 Rohingya” (The Guardian | October 2017)
Christmas for the Vulnerable Christians of the World
Source: Al Jazeera YouTube
One of the most important days in the Christian holiday canon, Christmas is celebrated by the devout, the lapsed, and the unbelieving alike as a time of gift-giving, decorating, and shared cheer. However, many of the worlds Christians, minorities in their communities, continue to face persecution as religious-extremist, nationalist, and other reactionary forces gain footholds around the world. From Indonesia to Egypt, religiously diverse societies have experienced increased sectarian tensions as parallel forces—anti-Christian sentiment and Islamophobia—have disrupted what was once stable co-existence. This roundup takes a look at recent developments in the plight faced by some of the most vulnerable Christians around the world. Continue reading Global Event | Christmas
The Radical Intolerance of Fake News in Myanmar’s Internet Debut
The debate over fake news and disinformation took center stage in the post-election analysis in the U.S. Facebook in particular has come to stand as an avatar of disinformation tactics, with the rapid spread of factually incorrect stories on the social media platform having contributed, some analysts argue, to the outcome of the election. On the other side of the planet, Myanmar has seen its own struggles with digital information culture as it has begun rapidly digitizing in the wake of its transition to civic government in 2015. As conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in the majority-Buddhist nation has deepened in recent months, false and sensationalist stories masquerading as news have contributed to anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, further inflaming tensions.BuzzFeed News examines how Myanmar is integrating online information culture into both civic and everyday life as its complicated relationship to diversity, inclusion, and free expression is being challenged in countries with longer histories of online engagement.
“How Facebook Spreads Fake News And Anti-Muslim Views In Myanmar” (BuzzFeed News)
(Image Credit: Minzayar Oo/BuzzFeed News)
Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar for Bangladesh as violence spreads
- Clashes between government forces and militants have left at least 130 dead and sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.
- Some reports indicated those attempting to cross the border were gunned down or had their boats pushed away.
- The district at the border has been locked down by Burmese soldiers, cutting off aid agencies and independent observers as reports of mass rape and looting have trickled out.
“Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar army crackdown to Bangladesh: sources” (Reuters)
“Hundreds of Rohingya try to escape Myanmar crackdown” (BBC News)
“Violence in Burma Has Sent Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims Fleeing to Bangladesh” (TIME)
Women report mass rapes and looting by military as violence against Rohingya explodes in northwest Myanmar
- Locals from U Shey Kya village allege that soldiers stormed their homes, committed mass rape, stole valuables, and burned homes, accusations dismissed as “illogical” and “propaganda” by governmental spokespeople.
- The raids in northern Rakhine State follow coordinated attacks by an emergent group of Rohingya militants on multiple border patrol posts, leading to nine police officers’ and five soldiers’ deaths.
- Many homes in the village were left with only women after men evacuated from fear of being indiscriminately identified as insurgents, with many fearing disregard of recently imposed political constraints on the Burmese military.
“Exclusive: Rohingya women say Myanmar soldiers raped them amid crackdown on militants” (Reuters)
“Dozens of rapes reported in northern Rakhine State” (The Myanmar Times)
“Calls Grow for Access to Western Myanmar in Face of Military Lockdown” (The New York Times)
(Image Credit: Ye Aung Thu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)
Anti-Muslim protests in Myanmar increase following new government installation
- Hundreds of Buddhist nationalists staged anti-Muslim protests ahead of a visit from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who took up the issue of the persecution of Myanmar’s Muslim minority with state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
- “No Muslims allowed” signs and anti-Muslim patrols have popped up in villages like Thaungtan, with those even suspected of being Muslim harassed and assaulted.
- State counselor Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly instructed U.S. diplomats not to use the term “Rohingya,” echoing Buddhist nationalists who consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants and Muslims and Hindus “associate citizens.”
“‘No Muslims allowed’: how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar” (The Guardian)
“Myanmar Nationalists Stage Protest in Mandalay Against Use of Term ‘Rohingya’ by U.S.” (Radio Free Asia)
“‘No Rohingya’: Behind the US Embassy Protest in Myanmar” (The Diplomat)
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters, via The Guardian)
More than 70 arrested in Myanmar after labor demonstration
- Police reportedly detained 71 protesters and charged 51 after they attempted to march from their wood-processing factory in Sagaing State to Naypyitaw, the capital.
- Protesters organized to call for organizing rights and the re-hiring of terminated factory workers.
- Myanmar’s government has come under fire from rights groups for a proposal to retain junta-era restrictions on assembly and free speech, including the exclusion of non-citizens (including the Rohingya minority) from demonstration rights.
“More than 50 people charged in Myanmar after protest: police” (Reuters)
“New Myanmar government proposes keeping some junta curbs on protests” (Reuters)
“Protest law changes fail international standards: Amnesty” (Frontier Myanmar)
New Myanmar government pardons almost 200 imprisoned activists
- Among the 113 released so far were 69 student activists, many of whom had been charged and convicted following major student protests in March 2015.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the National League for Democracy (NLD) party to victory, had herself been under house arrest for 15 years of the military’s rule.
- Of the remaining 345 facing political charges, 298 are on bail and 47 on remand in jail.
“New Myanmar government frees scores of jailed activists” (Reuters)
“Myanmar Court Drops Charges Against Student Detainees” (Radio Free Asia)
“Myanmar drops charges against nearly 200 political activists” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
Ethnic health groups in Myanmar call for government recognition as new president sworn in
- The Health Convergence Core Group (HCCG), a coalition eight ethnic and community health organizations, has led the effort to see local health organizations recognized under the new Burmese government.
- At a conference that brought together 110 people from 21 organizations ahead of the swearing in of Myanmar’s new president, healthcare leaders called for the decentralization of public health services to be more inclusive of healthcare provided by community organizations.
- Ethnic health groups provide a broad range of services, from reproductive healthcare to health education, that are shaped by the cultural and health specificities of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities.
“Ethnic health organizations call for Burmese government’s recognition of community-based health services” (Burma News International)
“Community health: We care for our own” (The Myanmar Times)
(Image Credit: EPA via The Myanmar Times)
Burmese, LGBT, and at the Threshold of a New Era
With a non-military political party now leading Myanmar for the first time in decades, Burmese citizens are looking forward to democratic reforms to make the political process more inclusive of its diverse population. Historically, LGBT security in Myanmar has been minimal to nonexistent: colonial-era anti-homosexuality laws are still on the books and arbitrarily exercised, police extortion is rampant, trans individuals are targeted for violence and fetishization, and widespread conservative attitudes promote anti-LGBT discrimination. But now that newly empowered politicians have made promising (if vague) expressions of support for diversity and burgeoning advocacy groups have begun generating visibility and awareness, the LGBT Burmese community has expressed hope that the first signs of a more secure future have appeared.
“Snapshot: LGBTI rights in Myanmar” (The Star Observer)
“The brutal reality transgender women face under Myanmar’s ‘darkness law’” (Mashable)
“Gay People In Myanmar Can’t Live Openly. Here’s Why” (The World Post)
“Myanmar’s transgender people not just chasing rainbows in fight for equality” (The Guardian)
“LGBT group to battle homophobia in Myanmar with information” (mizzima.com via Gay Asia News)
“Myanmar LGBT film festival raises visibility, challenges taboos” (Washington Blade)
(Image Credit: Joshua Carroll/Mashable)
Ethnic minorities in Myanmar nominated for top government spots under new government
- Under Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), politicians from the country’s largest ethnic minorities including the Kachin, Karen, and Rakhine were nominated for top positions.
- Four MPs were nominated to speaker positions in the new parliament, which convened at the beginning of February.
- The nominations come as leaders of ethnic rebel factions prepare to meet with government negotiators to address ongoing ethnic conflict in the country.
“Myanmar ethnic minority MPs receive Suu Kyi boost” (Channel NewsAsia)
“Myanmar’s Suu Kyi lauds choice of ethnic and army-backed parliamentary speakers” (Reuters)
“Myanmar ethnic groups place faith in Suu Kyi govt for peace” (AFP, via Channel NewsAsia)
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities organize as landmark elections near
- Groups of ethnic minorities across Myanmar have worried as Aung Saan Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, favored to lead in the Nov. 8 elections, have run candidates in ethnic strongholds favored by the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD).
- Ethnic parties seek to establish a presence in the Burmese parliament to counteract longstanding persecution of minorities in the country, particularly in the border state of Shan.
- The NLD has prioritized defeating the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), while ethnic parties hope to use to their advantage the winning party’s need for their support to form a government.
“Burma’s Ethnic Minorities Seek Equality and Greater Autonomy in Landmark Elections” (TIME)
“Myanmar’s Ethnic Parliamentarians May Be 2016’s ‘Kingmakers’” (The Diplomat)
“Myanmar’s ethnic minorities pin hopes on election to end decades of bloodshed” (AP via Fox News)
(Image Credit: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
Leader of spring student protests arrested in Myanmar after months in hiding
- Kyaw Ko Ko was reportedly arrested and held in Yangon after evading authorities since last spring’s student protests.
- The head of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) had organized protests in Yangon against a bill students viewed as anti-student union and anti-academic freedom.
- The number of political prisoners in Myanmar has increased dramatically from 29 in 2014 to 466 in September 2015, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
“Myanmar student leader arrested amid signs of crackdown” (Reuters)
“Myanmar Student Leader Arrested After Seven Months in Hiding” (Radio Free Asia)
“Kyaw Ko Ko, fugitive student leader, arrested in Yangon” (Frontier Myanmar)
(Image Credit: Radio Free Asia)