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Found 83 results

  1. Myanmar government built a repatriation center in Taung Pyo Letwe for minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state close to Bangladesh border. -AFP MAUNGDAW: A Myanmar official in Rakhine state said Saturday that Rohingya refugees who return will not be held in newly-built camps "forever," as concerns mount over a vexed repatriation process and efforts to reshape communities in the crisis-hit state. Ye Htut, the administrator of Maungdaw district, was speaking to reporters on a government-chaperoned trip to northern Rakhine, the site of a military crackdown last August that has emptied the region of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar has been trumpeting its readiness to take back refugees, who are massed across the border in Bangladesh, and built reception centres and transit camps for returnees. But not a single Rohingya has crossed the border, with the United Nations sounding the alarm that Myanmar must do far more to ensure the safety of a minority that was targeted in an army-led campaign the UN branded "ethnic cleansing". Rights groups have also raised concerns about how Buddhist-majority Myanmar is reconstructing Rakhine in the Rohingyas' absence, with authorities bulldozing over their burned villages and building new settlements and security posts. An AFP reporter witnessed a flurry of construction in the region on Saturday, with work crews erecting prefabricated houses along a road leading to Maungdaw town. Speaking to reporters from his office, Ye Htut insisted that any Rohingya returnees would eventually be resettled close to their original villages after staying in transit camps. "I can't ask them to live (at the camps) forever...We don't have any vision or intention to keep them long," he said. The government "will return them back to their native villages or close by," he added. But a visit to one of the resettlement sites intended for Rohingya, whom a government official referred to only as Muslims, showed slow progress. Only three squat houses with concrete and brick foundations had been built in a field covered in churned up dirt and tread marks from heavy machinery. Charred ruins The site, which lies two hours north of Maungdaw town by car, was chosen for its proximity to the original village, which lay in charred ruins within view. Myint Khaing, Maungdaw township administrator, said about 100 families were supposed to live in the new site and that it would be completed in two months. Asked why its construction was not as far along as a settlement 30 minutes away intended for an internally displaced ethnic minority called the Mro, he suggested priority was given to communities that had not fled to Bangladesh. "They didn't run away," he said. Myanmar has vehemently denied accusations that is trying to erase the Rohingya's ties to Rakhine, insisting the army crackdown was a targeted assault on Muslim militants. But the UN and rights groups have pointed to the country's long history of marginalising and persecuting the Muslim minority, who are denied citizenship and loathed by the Buddhist majority. More than 100,000 are still languishing in a squalid refugee camp in southern Rakhine state after being displaced by communal violence in 2012. On Friday the head of the UN's refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said the conditions for the Rohingyas' safe return were not yet in place and that discussions with Myanmar on repatriation "have been pretty basic, not very frequent (and) not very advanced". Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal that was supposed to see repatriation begin in January. But Myanmar has so far agreed to accept only 374 of 8,000 refugees whose names have been put forward by Dhaka for the initial batch of returnees.
  2. FILE PHOTO: A girl from the Pauktaw township stands in front of her family's shelter in a Rohingya internally displaced persons (IDP) camp outside Sittwe May 15, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS GENEVA: More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state into Bangladesh since insurgent attacks sparked a security crackdown last August. Many have provided harrowing testimonies of executions and rapes by Myanmar security forces. The UN human rights chief said last week he strongly suspected acts of genocide had taken place. Myanmar´s national security adviser demanded "clear evidence". Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters that social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar. "It has substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media," he said. UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said Facebook was a huge part of public, civil and private life, and the government used it to disseminate information to the public. "Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar," she told reporters, adding that Facebook had helped the impoverished country but had also been used to spread hate speech. "It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities," she said. "I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended." The most prominent of Myanmar's hard-line nationalist monks, Wirathu, emerged from a one-year preaching ban on Saturday and said his anti-Muslim rhetoric had nothing to do with violence in Rakhine state. Facebook suspends and sometimes removes anyone that consistently shares content promoting hate, the company said last month in response to a question about Wirathu's account. "If a person consistently shares content promoting hate, we may take a range of actions such as temporarily suspending their ability to post and ultimately, removal of their account."
  3. Wirathu, a prominent face of Myanmar´s Buddhist ultra-nationalist movement, had amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on the network, using it as a platform to attack Muslims, singling out the stateless Rohingya minority-AFP YANGON: Facebook has removed the page of a Myanmar monk once dubbed the "Buddhist Bin Laden" for his incendiary posts about Muslims, the company confirmed, as it faces pressure to clamp down on hate speech. Wirathu, a prominent face of Myanmar´s Buddhist ultra-nationalist movement, had amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on the network, using it as a platform to attack Muslims, singling out the stateless Rohingya minority. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since last August following a military crackdown in Rakhine state that has been likened to ethnic cleansing by the US and the UN, but which has been applauded by Myanmar nationalists online. A Facebook spokesperson told AFP late Monday that Wirathu´s page had been removed. "Our Community Standards prohibit organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred and violence against others", a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. "If a person consistently shares content promoting hate, we may take a range of actions such as temporarily suspending their ability to post and ultimately, removal of their account." The page was taken down in late January. Wirathu could not be reached for comment, but he said in a video last year that his account had been temporarily banned for 30 days because "Facebook is occupied by the Muslims." Facebook use has grown exponentially in Myanmar since a quasi-civilian government opened up the telecoms sector in 2013, making it easier for people to access the internet in the largely Buddhist country. Hardline monks like Wirathu took to the platform as well, gaining notoriety for fanning anti-Muslim hatred through inflammatory posts. His tirades have been blamed for stoking sectarian violence, which has plagued Myanmar´s transition to democracy. After Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, the government dissolved the Ma Ba Tha group to which Wirathu belonged, and slapped the monk with a one-year speaking ban. But the man who once appeared on the cover of Time magazine as the "face of Buddhist terror" remains influential. The social media giant has faced calls to rein in hate speech on its Myanmar accounts for years, with pressure mounting during the Rohingya crisis. Thet Swe Win, a Yangon-based interfaith activist, said Facebook´s move sent a symbolic message about not tolerating hate speech. But getting rid of the page will not resolve the problem, he warned. "They remove his account but not his videos, and his religious hate speeches, they are still on Facebook and his followers are spreading it," he said.
  4. Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village, Rakhine, Myanmar, September 2, 2017. Handout via REUTERS/Files UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Tuesday described Myanmar denials of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims as ?preposterous? as it called on the UN Security Council to hold the military accountable and pressure leader Aung San Suu Kyi ?to acknowledge these horrific acts that are taking place in her country?. ?Powerful forces in the Burmese government have denied the ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State,? US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council. ?To make sure no one contradicts their preposterous denials, they are preventing access to Rakhine to anyone or any organization that might bear witness to their atrocities, including the UN Security Council,? Haley said. Haley also called for the release of Reuters news agency reporters arrested for reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. ?We strongly call for their immediate and unconditional release,? she said. In a reference to Myanmar?s reason for detaining the journalists, Haley added, ?On top of it all, they have the gall to blame the media.? The Reuters special report, published last week, lays out events leading up to the killing of 10 Rohingya men from Inn Din village in Rakhine state who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbours and soldiers. French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre also told the UNSC that a massacre of Rohingya Muslims reported by Reuters could ?constitute crimes against humanity?. Myanmar has denied that ethnic cleansing has taken place. Any push for UNSC action is likely to face resistance from council veto powers Russia and China, both of whom said Tuesday the situation in Rakhine state was stable and under control. ?Using labels and attempts to use contradictory and subjective reports of the media ... to find out who?s guilty and condemn them only move us farther away from a solution,? Russia?s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy warned. Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state and crossed into southern Bangladesh since last August when attacks on security posts by insurgents triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide. ?Conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees,? UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told the Security Council. Calls for journalists' release While Myanmar UN Ambassador Hau Do Suan said that some diplomats had been able to travel to Rakhine state but also told the UN Security Council not to visit during February because it was ?not the right time?, Kuwait?s UN Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi said this month. Myanmar?s Hau Do Suan said that an inquiry by the Myanmar military ? known as the Tatmadaw ? had found that 10 Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militants had been arrested in Inn Din and executed and buried a day later. ?Actions are being taken against 16 individuals, including army and police officers and some villagers who had acted in violation of standard operating procedures and the rules of engagement. "This action of the Tatmadaw is positive step forward in taking responsibility and deserves encouragement,? he said. With reference to Reuters journalists arrested for reporting on the Rohingya, Hau Do Suan said Myanmar recognizes freedom of the press and the journalists were not arrested in December for reporting a story but were accused of ?illegally possessing confidential government documents?. ?Every citizen is bound by the existing law of the land. It is important that the actions of the journalists must also within the bound of the law,? he said. Britain, France, the US, the Netherlands, and Kazakhstan all called for the release of the Reuters journalists during the UNSC meeting on Tuesday.
  5. US President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongside the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke by phone on Thursday, discussing topics including the political crisis in the Maldives, the war in Afghanistan, and the plight of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, the White House said. The Trump administration has launched an effort to deepen military and economic ties with India as a way to balance China?s assertive posture across Asia. The Maldives ? best known for luxury tourist resorts ? has become another arena of a contest for India and China after it signed up to Beijing?s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond. The embattled president of the Indian Ocean nation has sent envoys to friendly nations such as China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to brief them on a political crisis that spurred the imposition of a state of emergency. Trump and Modi ?expressed concern about the political crisis in the Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law?, the White House said in a statement. They repeated their commitment to Afghanistan?s security, the statement added. Washington recently cut aid to Pakistan ? India?s nuclear-armed neighbour and arch-rival ? over accusations that it failed to root out Taliban and Haqqani network militants that have contributed to the long-running war in Afghanistan. India has increased aid to Afghanistan in recent years and promised in 2016 to ship more arms, aggravating fears in Pakistan it will become wedged between two hostile nations. The two leaders also addressed the plight of more than 680,000 Muslim Rohingya who have fled Myanmar since last year to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military cracked down in northern Rakhine State, amid witness reports of killings, looting, and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces. Trump and Modi also addressed North Korea, the White House said. Washington has been leading diplomatic efforts to ramp up international pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, out of concern they may eventually enable North Korea to attack the US. Although India and North Korea maintain diplomatic offices in each other?s capitals, New Delhi has banned the trade of most goods with the country, except for food and medicine. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October in New Delhi and defended India?s ties with Pyongyang, saying some level of diplomatic presence was necessary to keep open channels of communication.
  6. A petrol bomb was thrown at the lakeside Yangon compound of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday while she was away from her home, a government spokesman said. Photo; file A petrol bomb was thrown at the lakeside Yangon compound of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday while she was away from her home, a government spokesman said. "It was a petrol bomb," spokesman Zaw Htay confirmed to AFP, without giving further details on a possible motive for a small but rare attack targeting the Myanmar democracy heroine. The petrol bomb caused minor damage. But the attack on the villa where Suu Kyi was held for long years of house arrest by the former junta is hugely symbolic. Suu Kyi has increasingly attracted the ire of the international community over her perceived failure to speak up on behalf of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim community. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled a brutal military crackdown in northern Rakhine state into refugee camps in Bangladesh since August, bringing with them testimony of murder, rape and arson. But inside Myanmar Suu Kyi, who swept elections in 2015, is still widely regarded as a heroine by the majority-Buddhist population, who fondly dub her "The Lady". Many inside Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal "Bengali" immigrants. Suu Kyi was in Naypyidaw at the time of Thursday's incident and is due to address parliament to mark the second anniversary of her NLD government coming to power.
  7. YANGON: Myanmar blamed Bangladesh on Tuesday for delays to a huge repatriation programme for Rohingya refugees, as the deadline passed for starting the return of the Muslim minority to strife-torn Rakhine state. Nearly 690,000 Rohingya escaped to Bangladesh after a brutal Myanmar army crackdown began last August, while a further 100,000 fled an earlier bout of violence in October 2016. In signs the unrest was continuing despite the repatriation plans, Bangladesh officials said Tuesday a huge fire burned and gunshots were heard in a village in Rakhine. Myanmar agreed that from January 23 it would start taking those refugees who had fled since 2016 back from the squalid camps in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh where they have sought shelter. But a Bangladeshi official said Monday the programme would not begin as planned. Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said there was much more preparatory work to be done. The complex process of registering huge numbers of the dispossessed has been further cast into doubt by the refugees themselves, who are too afraid to return to the scene of what the UN has called "ethnic cleansing". Mainly Buddhist Myanmar sees the Rohingya in Rakhine as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Myanmar has been accused of drawing out the repatriation process by agreeing to take back just 1,500 people a week. It has prepared two reception camps on its side of the border. Myanmar officials said that by Tuesday afternoon no Rohingya had crossed back into Rakhine, the scene of alleged widespread atrocities by Myanmar's army and ethnic Rakhine mobs. "We are right now ready to receive... we are completely ready to welcome them according to the agreement," Kyaw Tin, Minister of International Cooperation told reporters in Naypyidaw, Myanmar´s capital. "We have seen the news that the Bangladesh side is not ready, but we have not received any official" explanation, he added. With hundreds of Rohingya villages torched and communal tensions still at boiling point in Rakhine, rights groups say Rohingya returnees will at best be herded into long-term camps. Those who return must sign a form verifying they did so voluntarily and pledging to abide by Myanmar laws. Not going back Myanmar has sent a list of more than 1,000 "wanted" alleged Rohingya militants to Bangladesh, while headshot photos of the suspects have been widely circulated inside the country. In a sign of the tensions surrounding the issue, a second Rohingya leader was killed in Bangladesh camps on Monday - allegedly after endorsing the returns programme. Many in the camps are fearful of going back. "We won't go there if they try to send us back... kill us here, because we won't go. If we go back, the Burmese (Myanmar) will kill us," 12-year-old Mohammad Ayas said at a camp at Cox´s Bazar. Others said repatriation was a pipe dream while people were still trickling into the camps. Mohammad Amin, who arrived just last week, described villages being set ablaze and women assaulted. Backing up his claim, a senior Bangladeshi border guard at Cox's Bazar said a "big fire" was seen raging late Monday in an abandoned village in Rakhine. It is believed the homes ablaze overnight belonged to Rohingya, the official said on condition of anonymity. The border region is controlled by Myanmar´s forces, he added. Another border official said he heard several gunshots before flames were seen leaping from the village. Footage of the blaze quickly spread among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh through social media, with many quick to blame Myanmar´s security forces. "The fire is designed to destroy the last remaining traces of Rohingya homes so that none of us can return to our villages," activist Rafique bin Habib told AFP. He said without homes, those Rohingya who were repatriated would be denied access to their ancestral lands and forced to live in displacement camps. Bangladesh, one of Asia´s poorest countries, has been besieged by an influx of Rohingya since communal violence flared in 2016. It has tried to use the global outcry over the crisis to press Myanmar into taking back the refugees before they settle.
  8. YANGON: Myanmar police shot dead seven demonstrators and 12 were injured in troubled Rakhine State, after a local gathering celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent. The demonstrators gathered late on Tuesday in Mrauk U township in the northern part of Rakhine to mark the end of the Arakan kingdom, the secretary of the Rakhine state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters. The violent demonstration underscores the challenges facing Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a country where dozens of ethnic groups have been clamoring for autonomy since independence from Britain in 1947. Some 4,000 people surrounded a government building after the annual ceremony marking the demise of the Arakan kingdom over 200 years ago, Tin Maung Swe said. Organizers did not seek approval from local authorities for the gathering, he said. ?The police used rubber bullets initially but the crowd didn?t leave. Finally the security members had to shoot. The conflict happened when some people tried to seize guns from the police,? he said. Tun Ther Sein, regional MP from Mrauk U, said some of the critically injured protesters were taken to the state capital of Sittwe, a three-hour drive south of the ancient town studded with Buddhist temples. The Rakhine, also known as Arakanese, are one of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar. Their identity is closely connected to the once powerful Arakanese kingdom along the Bay of Bengal, which was conquered by the Burmese kingdom in 1784. The kingdom was once an important stop on the old silk trade route. Tensions in Rakhine have risen since a sweeping Myanmar army operation in August inflamed communal tension and triggered an exodus of over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.
  9. YANGON: Rohingya insurgents said on Saturday that 10 Rohingya found in a mass grave in Myanmar?s troubled Rakhine state last month were ?innocent civilians?, and not members of their group. Myanmar?s military said earlier this week its soldiers had killed 10 captured ?terrorists? during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the captured men into a grave the villagers had dug. It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose raids against security posts starting last August sparked sweeping military operations in the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine, said it ?whole-heartedly welcomes the admission? of ?war crimes? by the ?Burmese terrorist army?. ?We hereby declare that these ten innocent Rohingya civilians found in the said mass grave in Inn Din Village Tract were neither ARSA nor had any association with ARSA?, the group said in a statement on Twitter. A Myanmar government spokesman said in response to ARSA?s statement that sometimes ?terrorists and villagers were allied? in attacks? against security forces. ?We have already said it is very difficult to segregate who is a terrorist and who are innocent villagers,? spokesman Zaw Htay said. ?There will be an ongoing investigating process whether they are members of ARSA or not.? The Myanmar military did not immediately respond to requests for comment. ?NEW STEP? Myanmar?s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday it was ?positive? that the country?s military was taking responsibility for the actions of troops. ?It is a new step for our country,? she told a joint news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Myanmar?s capital of Naypyitaw. ?I see it that way because a country needs to take responsibility for the rule of law in the country, and this is the first step on the road of taking responsibility and it is a positive thing,? She said, according to a transcript of the news conference posted on her Facebook page. On Dec. 18, the military announced a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found at the coastal village of Inn Din, about 50 km (30 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate. A statement from the military on Wednesday said its investigation had found that members of the security forces had taken part in the killings and action would be taken against them. Some civilians wanted to kill the 10 men to avenge the death of an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist man in Inn Dinn village named Maung Ni and would face punishment, the military said. On Saturday, a lawyer for one of Maung Ni?s sons said police were seeking murder charges against the son, named Tun Aye, for taking part in the killings. Lawyer Khin Win said a murder complaint against the son was filed with local prosecutors last week in Maungdaw, the nearest town to Inn Din. Tun Aye was one of four Inn Din villagers detained by police on Dec. 15, said Khin Win. The other three had been released, he said. National police spokesman Thet Naing said he was not aware of the murder complaint. The Rohingya crisis erupted after Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 in Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.
  10. A Myanmar soldier stands near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar September 27, 2017. REUTERS/file YANGON: Myanmar security forces took part in a massacre of 10 Rohingya in September, the army chief´s office said late Wednesday, as it admitted for the first time abuses during a crackdown that sparked a mass exodus of the Muslim minority. The massacre took place on September 2 in the village of Inn Din in Rakhine state, the Facebook post said, as tensions escalated pitting Rohingya against security forces and ethnic Rakhine locals following the killing of a Rakhine man. "Some villagers from Inn Din village and security members confessed they killed 10 Bengali terrorists," the office said in its post, using a pejorative term for Rohingya and blaming militants for causing the unrest in the village. The post also gave the first confirmation of a mass Rohingya grave inside Rakhine state following an army-led crackdown on militants from the minority group in late August. Refugees who have fled in their hundreds of thousands to neighbouring Bangladesh have given consistent accounts of massacres, rape and torture by Myanmar security forces flanked by ethnic Rakhine mobs. Those allegations, which have been cross-checked by media and rights groups, have seen Myanmar accused of ethnic cleansing by the US and UN and prompted questions over whether the crackdown may have amounted to genocide. But Myanmar´s army has until now staunchly rebutted allegations of misconduct, clearing itself of any wrongdoing in an internal probe. In its account of the Inn Din massacre the army chief´s office said security forces captured 10 Rohingya militants before killing them as violence engulfed the village and its surrounding area. "Action will be taken according to the law against villagers who were involved and security members who broke the Rules of Engagement," the post added. ´Striking acknowledgement´ Myanmar´s army chief Min Aung Hlaing as well as the country´s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi have repeatedly promised to punish anyone found guilty of abuses. But until now Myanmar authorities have only blamed Rohingya militants for causing a human catastrophe that has left 655,000 of the minority in squalid camps in Bangladesh. "This is quite a striking acknowledgement by Myanmar´s military of wrongdoing," said political analyst Richard Horsey. He tweeted "it may not be a coincidence" that this admission came on the same day as two Reuters journalists were formally charged by police in court with breaching a colonial-era secrecy law. If convicted, Myanmar nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, could face up to 14 years in jail. They were arrested a month ago under the draconian Official Secrets Act after they were allegedly given classified documents by two policemen over dinner. The pair have widely covered the military campaign in Rakhine although Reuters has declined to comment on whether they were specifically reporting on the mass grave in Inn Din. The journalists´ families have suggested the pair were set up, saying the arrests took place immediately after leaving the restaurant where they dined with the two policemen. The charges against them have sparked outrage around the world with rights groups and diplomats calling for their immediate release. "These charges are a travesty of justice and should be dropped," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. The reporters will return to court on January 23, when the bench will decide whether to accept the case. Much of Myanmar´s Buddhist-majority population supports the army in what it calls a justified campaign against Rohingya militants, after their attacks on border guard police killed about a dozen people last August.
  11. YANGON: Two Reuters journalists were formally charged by police in a Myanmar court Wednesday for breaching a colonial-era secrecy law that carries up to 14 years in jail, despite calls for their immediate release. Myanmar nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested a month ago under the Official Secrets Act after they allegedly were given classified documents by two policemen over dinner. The pair had been reporting on the military campaign in the northern Rakhine state that has forced some 655,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee over the border to Bangladesh since August, violence the UN has condemned as ethnic cleansing. The issue is incendiary inside Myanmar, where authorities deny any wrongdoing during an army crackdown on militants from the Muslim minority. A police officer "filed the case to charge under the state secret (Official Secrets) act, section 3.1(c)," a district judge told the court. The section punishes anyone who "obtains, collects, records or publishes... any official document or information" which could be "useful to an enemy." The pair will return to the court on January 23 for legal arguments, when the bench will decide whether to accept the case under Myanmar's arcane legal system. Emotive scenes gripped the Yangon courthouse with the journalists' family members in tears and the reporters issuing desperate pleas before being led back to detention. "Please tell the people to protect our journalists," Kyaw Soe Oo shouted to the court. His colleague Wa Lone said his wife was pregnant adding: "I'm trying to be strong." The case has shocked Myanmar's embattled press corps. Journalists covering Wednesday's proceedings wore black in protest against their arrest, carrying banners proclaiming "Journalism is not a crime". "We applied for bail but the prosecutors rejected it," the journalists' lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP. "So we are going to give arguments in detail in the next trial." 'Legitimate work' Reuters insists its reporters have done nothing wrong, while their families have suggested the pair were set up. The US and EU have led global calls for the journalists to be freed, while Amnesty International late Tuesday repeated its appeal for their immediate release. "They have done absolutely nothing but carrying out their legitimate work as journalists," said James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. This week, former US president Bill Clinton also weighed in on the issue. "A free press is critical to a free society?the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable," he tweeted on Monday. "The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately." The case has cast a spotlight on Myanmar's troubled transition to democracy after nearly five decades of military rule. It touches on both slumping press freedom and the Rohingya crisis, two issues that have raised questions about the country's ability to shake off the legacy of junta rule. Much of the Buddhist-majority population supports the army in what it calls a justified campaign against Rohingya militants after attacks against border guard police killed about a dozen last year. The military has severely restricted access to Rakhine to reporters, aid groups and observers. A slew of legal cases against journalists have compounded disappointment among those hoping the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi would usher in a new era of freedom. Her administration shares power with an army that still controls all security policy and other key levers of government. Suu Kyi's time in office has also been dominated by the Rohingya crisis, with criticism pouring in from around the globe over her refusal to denounce the army's crackdown and allow in international investigators.
  12. Cameraman Lau Hon Meng from Singapore (L) and reporter Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia arrive for their first appearance in the court after they were detained for attempting to fly a drone near parliament in the capital, Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 10, 2017. Photo: Reuters NAYPYITAW: Myanmar on Friday freed two journalists for Turkey?s state broadcaster, their local interpreter and a driver after they completed a two-month jail sentence for violating an aircraft law by filming with a drone, a prison official said. Cameraman Lau Hon Meng from Singapore, reporter Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, Aung Naing Soe ? a local journalist who was interpreting for the pair ? and driver Hla Tin were released from a prison at Yamethin, near the capital Naypyitaw. Police detained the two journalists on assignment for the TRT World television station and the two Myanmar men on October 27, when they attempted to fly a drone near Myanmar?s parliament building. A court last month sentenced them to two months in prison under the colonial-era Anti-Aircraft Act. All four were until this week also facing an additional charge for importing the drone, and the two foreigners were also facing immigration charges. ?We released Aung Naing Soe and the crew at 7:20am today because immigration and police have dropped the charges,? said Aung Myo Chun, chief of Yamethin prison. Geo News reporters given death threats, forced to leave Myanmar A social media propaganda campaign had been started against Geo News reporters covering the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar ?They have served their two-month prison sentence under the Anti-Aircraft Act.? A police officer told Reuters on Tuesday he had been ordered to drop the charges because the four had not intended to damage national security and to improve Myanmar?s relations with the journalists? home countries, Singapore and Malaysia. A local photographer said the two foreign nationals left Yamethin prison by car but Aung Naing Soe and Hla Tin walked out of the prison compound. Later, Aung Naing Soe told Reuters by phone that the release was a surprise. ?We have been arrested unexpectedly, and now we are so glad to be unexpectedly released like this,? he said. ?We didn?t know that we would be released in the morning until last night.? Reuters journalists in Myanmar appear in court, remanded for another 14 days Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were allowed to meet their families and their lawyer for the first time since their arrest The case came amid tensions between Buddhist majority Myanmar and mostly Muslim countries like Turkey and Malaysia over Myanmar?s treatment of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority. In early September, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Myanmar of genocide in the western state of Rakhine, a charge that Myanmar denies. The United Nations has said an estimated 655,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since the military launched a crackdown on militants in the state in late August. Two Reuters journalists, who had covered events in Rakhine, were arrested on Dec 12 and are still in detention over accusations they violated the Official Secrets Act, also a hangover from British colonial rule in Myanmar. Their families said at a news conference on Thursday that the reporters, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, told them they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some documents by policemen who had invited them for a meeting.
  13. Reuters reporter Kyaw Soe Oo looks out from a police vehicle as he leaves a court in Yangon, Myanmar, December 27, 2017. REUTERS YANGON: Two Reuters journalists who have been detained in Myanmar for the past two weeks were remanded in custody for a further two weeks on Wednesday as a probe continues into allegations they breached the nation?s Official Secrets Act. Judge Ohn Myint granted the 14-day extension in the case of the journalists, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, at the request of the police, who then took them to Yangon?s Insein prison. They were previously being held in a police compound. When they appeared at the Mingaladon court for the proceedings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were allowed to meet their families and their lawyer for the first time since their arrest. The two journalists had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in the western state of Rakhine, where - according to United Nations? estimates - about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants. They were detained on Dec 12 after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner. The Ministry of Information has said they ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media? and faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The two journalists said they had not been mistreated in custody. ?The situation is okay,? Wa Lone said after the hearing. ?We will face it the best we can because we have never done anything wrong,? he said. ?We have never violated the media law nor ethics. We will continue to do our best.? A Reuters spokesperson said they should be freed. ?These two journalists are being held for simply doing their jobs and have done nothing wrong. It is time for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to be released,? the spokesperson said. About 100 journalists, lawyers and farmers held a protest in the town of Pyay, 290 km (180 miles) north of Yangon, to demand the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, one of the participants said. Members of the Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists sat draped in chains in a public square in the center of the town and wrote the names of the two arrested reporters on their palms, an often used symbol in Myanmar of solidarity with those in jail. Government officials from some of the world?s major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top U.N. officials, have previously called for their release. Families travel to prison Dozens of reporters and cameramen were outside the courthouse in a northern district of Yangon for the appearance of the two journalists. They were brought in a white van, rather than a police truck, dressed in casual clothes and were not handcuffed. Their lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, who has been retained by Reuters, also said the two had only been doing their job as journalists. ?They are being accused under this charge while doing their work as media,? he told reporters. Lieutenant Colonel Myint Htwe, a senior staff officer from the Yangon Police Division, said: ?We took action because they committed the crime. It needs to be solved in court.? Only their lawyer and the families of the two journalists, along with police and government lawyers, were allowed into the courtroom. The families were later allowed to travel in the van as the two journalists were taken to prison. ?I believe that he didn?t commit any crime,? Pan Ei Mon, Wa Lone?s wife, told Reuters. ?I would like to request the government to consider releasing them.? Nyo Nyo Aye, a sister of Kyaw Soe Oo, said her brother told her he had not committed any offense. ?I believe that he can come home soon,? she said.
  14. YANGON: Two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar will be allowed to meet their families once their first 14-day period of remand expires, according to local media reports. Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been in detention for 11 days in an undisclosed location and have had no access to their families, lawyers or colleagues. They were arrested after being invited to meet police officials over dinner on the outskirts of Myanmar?s largest city, Yangon on Dec. 12. The authorities are investigating whether they violated the country?s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which has a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. ?After the first remand (expires), they will be able to meet their families. They will be sent to the court for testimonies,? Tin Myint, permanent secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia. In Myanmar, those remanded must be brought to court within 14 days. But it?s not immediately clear when the pair was first remanded and whether the authorities will seek court approval to remand them for a second 14-day period. The Home Affairs Ministry did not responded to several requests for comments. Family members of the two journalists say they have not received any official communication about the question of remand or the investigation, and neither has Reuters. Tin Myint said the case against the two Reuters reporters will be ?transparent? and the authorities will follow the rule of law, according to Daily Eleven newspaper. Major governments, including the United States, Britain and Canada, leading international political figures and top United Nations officials are among those who have demanded the release of the Reuters reporters. The two journalists had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in the western state of Rakhine, where an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants. A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week told Reuters that the police had almost completed their investigation and the two reporters will be treated in line with the law. The Ministry of Information said last week that Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media?.
  15. Several countries, the United Nations and journalist groups are demanding the release of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from detention in Myanmar. The reporters were arrested on Dec. 12 after being invited to meet police officials on the outskirts of Yangon. They had worked on stories about a military crackdown in Rakhine state, scene of around 650,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh since late August. Myanmar?s Ministry of Information has said the reporters ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,? and released a photo of them in handcuffs. It said the reporters and two policemen faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, though officials said they have not been charged. Their exact whereabouts are not known. ?We and their families continue to be denied access to them or to the most basic information about their well-being and whereabouts,? Reuters President and Editor-In-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement calling for their immediate release. ?Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are journalists who perform a crucial role in shedding light on news of global interest, and they are innocent of any wrongdoing,? he said. Here are the comments on their detention from governments, politicians, human rights groups and press freedom advocates around the world: LATEST REACTIONS - The European Union urged Myanmar on Monday to release the two Reuters reporters ?as quickly as possible.? A spokeswoman for the EU?s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said, ?Freedom of the press and media is the foundation and a cornerstone of any democracy.? - Dutch ambassador to Myanmar Wouter Jurgens said on Monday that ?we urge the government for their immediate release or to provide clarity about their situation and what crimes they are accused of without further delay?. - Vijay Nambiar, a former special adviser on Myanmar to the UN Secretary-General, said in a statement to Reuters on Monday that the detentions had caused ?widespread disappointment within and outside the country that is likely to further damage the international reputation and image of Myanmar, already under stress as a result of its handling of the Rakhine crisis.? - The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called on Myanmar authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of the pair. ?All detainees must be allowed prompt access to a lawyer and to family members,? Frederick Rawski, the ICJ?s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, said in a statement on Monday. - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kano said in response to a question from a Reuters reporter on Tuesday: ?Freedom of the press is extremely important, including in order to protect fundamental human rights. The Japanese government would like to watch (this matter) closely.? - Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Chris Coons, the leaders of the US Senate Human Rights Caucus, said they were ?gravely concerned? about the arrests of the Reuters journalists and that freedom of the press was critical to ensuring accountability for violence against the Rohingya. Democratic congressman Ted Lieu, a member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, called the arrests ?outrageous and a direct attack on press freedom.? GOVERNMENTS, MULTILATERAL ORGANIZATIONS - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week the United States was ?demanding their immediate release or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance.? On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert reiterated the US demand for the reporters? immediate release. - British Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said, ?I absolutely strongly disapprove of the idea of journalists, going about their everyday business, being arrested. We will make it clear in the strongest possible terms that we feel that they need to be released at the earliest possible opportunity.? - Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called the arrests a ?threat to a democratic and peaceful development of Myanmar and that region.? She said, ?We do not accept that journalists are attacked or simply kidnapped or that they disappear ... To be able to send journalists to this particular area is of crucial importance.? - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said countries should do everything possible to secure the journalists? release and freedom of the press in Myanmar. Guterres said, ?It is clearly a concern in relation to the erosion of press freedom in the country.? - Canada?s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, the former managing director and editor, consumer news, at Thomson Reuters, tweeted that she was ?deeply concerned? by the reports about the arrests. Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian government department that manages its foreign and trade relations, issued a statement on Saturday calling for the reporters? release and said ?no person should ever face intimidation in the exercise of their profession.? - President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani called on Myanmar to protect media freedoms and release the two reporters. - Australia?s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said its embassy in Myanmar was registering Canberra?s concern at the arrest of the two journalists. ?A free and functioning media is an essential part of a modern democracy,? the department said in an e-mail to Reuters on Monday. - Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, information adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said, ?We strongly denounce arrests of Reuters journalists and feel that those reporters be free immediately so that they can depict the truth to the world by their reporting.? JOURNALISTS, NGOS - The Committee to Protect Journalists said the arrests were ?having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance?. - The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said there was no justification for the arrests and the charges being considered against the journalists were ?completely spurious?. - Advocacy group Fortify Rights demanded the Myanmar government immediately and unconditionally release the two Reuters journalists. ?The environment for media right now is as hostile as it?s been for years, and if adequate pressure doesn?t mount on the civilian and military leadership, we can expect it to worsen,? Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, said on Thursday. - Myanmar?s Irrawaddy online news site called on Dec. 14 for the journalists? release in an editorial headlined ?The Crackdown on the Media Must Stop.? The newspaper said that ?it is an outrage to see the Ministry of Information release a police record photo of reporters handcuffed ? as police normally do to criminals ? on its website soon after the detention. It is chilling to see that MOI has suddenly brought us back to the olden days of a repressive regime.? - The Southeast Asian Press Alliance said the two journalists were ?only doing their jobs in trying to fill the void of information on the Rohingya conflict.? - The Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, a group of local reporters who have demonstrated against past prosecutions of journalists, decried the ?unfair arrests that affect media freedom?. - The Foreign Correspondents? Club of Myanmar said it was ?appalled? by the arrests and ?gravely concerned? about the state of press freedom in Myanmar. - The Foreign Correspondents? Club in Thailand, The Foreign Correspondents? Association of the Philippines, the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents? Club, the Foreign Correspondents? Club of Hong Kong and the Editorial Committee of The Society of Publishers in Asia have also issued statements of support for the journalists.
  16. YANGON: A group of Myanmar journalists said they would begin wearing black T-shirts on Saturday in protest at the detention of two Reuters reporters accused of violating the country?s Official Secrets Act, as pressure builds on Myanmar to release the pair. The Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, a group of local reporters who have demonstrated against past prosecutions of journalists, decried the ?unfair arrests that affect media freedom?. In a statement on Facebook, the committee said its members would don black T-shirts ?to signify the dark age of media freedom? in Myanmar. They demanded the unconditional and immediate release of the two reporters, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27. ?Journalists all over the country are urged to take part in the Black Campaign,? the group said. It said it also planned to stage official protests and prayers. The group has staged several protests on behalf of arrested reporters from other media this year, including one in June in which around 100 journalists took part. It was not immediately clear how many journalists have joined the black T-shirt protest. The Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists was formed in response to the arrest in June of a newspaper editor over the publication of a cartoon that made fun of the military, said video journalist A Hla Lay Thu Zar - one of the group?s 21-member executive committee. ?A reporter must have the right to get information and write news ethically,? said A Hla Lay Thu Zar in reference to the case of the two Reuters? journalists. Myo Nyunt, deputy director for Myanmar?s Ministry of Information, told Reuters the case had nothing to do with press freedom. ?It?s related to the Official Secrets Act,? he said. ?Journalists should be able to tell what is secret and what is not... We already have press freedom. There?s freedom to write and speak... There?s press freedom if you follow the rules.? Asked about the local reporters? ?black campaign?, he said: ?Everyone can express his feelings.? Pressure from across the world The journalists were arrested on Tuesday evening after they were invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Myanmar?s largest city, Yangon. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, and government officials from Canada, Britain, Sweden, and Bangladesh, have all called for their release. The two reporters had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis that has seen an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims flee from a fierce military crackdown on militants in western Rakhine state. The Ministry of Information said the journalists had ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media?, and released a photo of the pair in handcuffs. It said they were being investigated under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Human rights advocates say press freedom is under attack in Myanmar, where the young civilian-led government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi shares power with the military that ran the country for decades. At least 11 journalists have been detained in 2017, although some have since been released. Police told Wa Lone?s wife on Thursday that the reporters were taken from Htaunt Kyant police station in north Yangon by an investigation team to an undisclosed location shortly after their arrest. They added the reporters would be brought back to the station in ?two to three days at most?. It is now four days since they were detained. Separately, police lieutenant colonel Myint Htwe of the Yangon Police Division told Reuters on Thursday the reporters? location would not be disclosed until the investigation was complete. Since then, the authorities have not provided any further information on their whereabouts.
  17. Reuters journalist Wa Lone, who is based in Myanmar, is seen in this undated picture taken in Myanmar. REUTERS TOKYO/YANGON: The arrest of two Reuters journalists in Yangon this week was a signal that press freedom is shrinking in Myanmar and the international community must do all it can to get them released, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday. Guterres said his main concern over Myanmar was the ?dramatic violations of human rights? during a military crackdown in Rakhine State that forced more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country for southern Bangladesh, and the arrest of the journalists was probably related. ?It is clearly a concern in relation to the erosion of press freedom in the country,? he told a news conference in Tokyo, referring to the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been working on stories about the strife in Rakhine State. ?And probably the reason why these journalists were arrested is because they were reporting on what they have seen in relation to this massive human tragedy,? he added. Myanmar?s Ministry of Information said in a statement on Wednesday that the Reuters journalists and two policemen faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The reporters ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media?, the ministry said in its statement, which was accompanied by a photo of the two reporters in handcuffs. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say their exodus from the mainly Buddhist nation was triggered by a military offensive in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces at the end of August. The United Nations has branded the military?s campaign in Rakhine State ?a textbook example of ethnic cleansing? of the minority Rohingya. Guterres said the international community should do everything possible to secure the journalists? release and freedom of the press in Myanmar. He called for aid to be delivered, violence contained and reconciliation promoted in Rakhine State, and for the Rohingyas? right of return to be fully respected and implemented. Location Unknown Britain has expressed ?grave concerns? to the government of Myanmar over the arrest of the two journalists, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters in London on Thursday. ?We are committed to freedom of speech and people?s ability to report the facts and bring into the public domain what is happening in Rakhine state,? he said. Canada?s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland tweeted that she was ?deeply concerned? by the reports about the arrests. ?Freedom of the press is essential for democracy and must be preserved,? she said. And the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani also called on Myanmar to protect media freedoms and release the two. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner on the outskirts of Yangon. The authorities have not confirmed where the journalists are being held and, as of Thursday evening, Reuters had not been formally contacted by officials about their detention. At Htaunt Kyant police station, where the journalists were charged, family members of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were told that the pair were being detained at another location by an investigative team. ?They are not here,? said Police Second Lieutenant Tin Htway Oo, according to Pann Ei, wife of reporter Wa Lone. ?The police investigation team took them soon after they were arrested.? He said he did not know where the journalists were, Pann Ei added, but he did tell her they would be brought back to the station in ?two to three days at most.? Reuters could not immediately reach Tin Htway Oo for comment. Police Lieutenant Colonel Myint Htwe of the Yangon Police Division told Reuters the reporters? location would not be disclosed until the investigation was complete. ?It will be known later. Please wait a while,? he said.
  18. This file photo taken on September 27, 2017 shows and aerial view of burnt villages near Maungdaw in Myanmar´s northern Rakhine state - AFP 3 YANGON: At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the first month of a Myanmar army crackdown on rebels in Rakhine state that began in late August, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday. The figure is the highest estimated death toll yet of violence that erupted on August 25 and triggered a massive refugee crisis, with more than 620,000 Rohingya fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh over a three-month period. The UN and US have described the military operation as "ethnic cleansing" of the Muslim minority, but have not released specific death tolls. "At least 6,700 Rohingya, in the most conservative estimations, are estimated to have been killed, including at least 730 children under the age of five," MSF said Thursday. The group's findings come from six surveys of more than 11,426 people in Rohingya refugee camps and cover the first month after the crisis erupted. "We met and spoke with survivors of violence in Myanmar, who are now sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary camps in Bangladesh," said the group's medical director Sidney Wong. "What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured." Rohingya refugees have told consistent stories of security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs driving them out of their homes with bullets, rape and arson that reduced hundreds of villages to ash. Earlier this month the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the military-led crackdown appeared to include "elements of genocide". The MSF survey puts a number to the horrors. Gunshot wounds were the cause of death in 69 percent of the cases, according to the survey. Another nine percent were reported burned alive inside houses, while five percent died from fatal beatings. For children under five, nearly 60 percent died after being shot, the survey found. A Rohingya Muslim refugee walks by night after crossing the border from Myanmar, on the Bangladeshi shores of the Naf river in Teknaf on September 29, 2017 - AFP 'Rohingya targeted' MSF said the peak in deaths coincided with the launch of "clearance operations" by the army and local militias in late August and showed "that Rohingya have been targeted". Myanmar's government did not respond to a request for comment. But it has consistently denied abuses in Rakhine and puts the official death toll at 400 people -- including 376 Rohingya "terrorists", according to the army. Authorities have also blocked a UN fact-finding mission from accessing the conflict zone in northern Rakhine state. The investigators visited refugee camps in Bangladesh in late October and said -- based on interviews -- that the total number of deaths was not known but "may turn out to be extremely high." The Rohingya are not recognised as an ethnic group in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and have been subject to systematic persecution for decades. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation agreement in late November saying that Rohingya refugees could start to return home in two months, but international aid groups have threatened to boycott working with the government if new camps are set up in northern Rakhine State. More than 120,000 Rohingya already live in closed-off settlements in the central part of the state since intercommunal violence erupted in 2012.
  19. Reuters journalists Wa Lone (left) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. Photo: Reuters 1 YANGON: Myanmar?s government said on Wednesday that police had arrested two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The reporters had been working on stories about a military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State that has caused almost 650,000 people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. The Ministry of Information said in a statement on its Facebook page that the journalists and two policemen face charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The reporters ?illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,? said the statement, which was accompanied by a photo of the pair in handcuffs. It said they were detained at a police station on the outskirts of Yangon, the southeast Asian nation?s main city. Geo News reporters given death threats, forced to leave Myanmar A social media propaganda campaign had been started against Geo News reporters covering the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner. Reuters? driver Myothant Tun dropped them off at Battalion 8?s compound at around 8pm and the two reporters and two police officers headed to a nearby restaurant. The journalists did not return to the car. Blatant attack The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say their exodus from the mainly Buddhist nation was triggered by a military counter-offensive in Rakhine state that the United Nations has branded ?a textbook example of ethnic cleansing?. ?Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reporting on events of global importance in Myanmar, and we learned today that they have been arrested in connection with their work,? said Stephen J Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters. ?We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately,? he said. A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi confirmed that the two journalists had been arrested. ?Not only your reporters, but also the policemen who were involved in that case,? spokesman Zaw Htay said. ?We will take action against those policemen and also the reporters.? In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert emphasised that the agency was ?following this closely.? She said that US Ambassador Scot Marciel on Wednesday had a conversation with two government officials in Myanmar who seemed ?genuinely unaware? of the situation. ?We care about the safety and security of international reporters who are simply just trying to do their jobs. So we?re going to continue to try to stay on that,? Nauert said. The US embassy in Yangon said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday it was ?deeply concerned by the highly irregular arrests of two Reuters reporters after they were invited to meet with police officials in Yangon last night?. ?For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely,? the embassy said. ?We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists.? The European Union?s mission in Yangon also voiced concern. ?The EU delegation is closely following their case and we call on the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights,? it said in a statement. ?Media freedom is the foundation of any democracy.? The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the reporters? immediate and unconditional release. ?These arrests come amid a widening crackdown which is having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance,? said Shawn Crispin, CPJ?s senior Southeast Asia representative. Texted four words Wa Lone, who joined Reuters in July 2016, has covered a range of stories, including the flight of Rohingya refugees from Rakhine in 2016 and, in much larger numbers, this year. He has written about military land grabs and the killing of ruling party lawyer Ko Ni in January. This year he jointly won an honourable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia for Reuters coverage of the Rakhine crisis in 2016. He previously worked for The Myanmar Times, where he covered Myanmar?s historic 2015 elections, and People?s Age, a local weekly newspaper, where his editor was Myanmar?s current Minister of Information Pe Myint. Kyaw Soe Oo, an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist from state capital Sittwe, has worked with Reuters since September. He has covered the impact of the Aug 25 attacks on police and army posts in the northern Rakhine, and reported from the central part of the state where local Buddhists have been enforcing segregation between Rohingya and Rakhine communities. He previously worked for Root Investigation Agency, a local news outlet focused on Rakhine issues. ?I have been arrest? were the four words that Wa Lone texted to Reuters Myanmar Bureau Chief Antoni Slodkowski on Tuesday evening to let him know what was happening. Very soon after that Wa Lone?s phone appeared to have been switched off. Over the next 24 hours, Reuters colleagues in Yangon filed a missing persons report, went to three police stations, and asked a series of government officials what had happened to the two reporters. They got no official information until Wednesday evening.
  20. Francis shakes hands with a Rohingya refugee in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Reuters DHAKA: Pope Francis referred to refugees who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh as "Rohingya" on Friday, using the politically sensitive name for the persecuted minority for the first time on his Asia tour after meeting a group of them in Dhaka. "Today the presence of God is also called Rohingya," the pope said after an emotional encounter with refugees who have fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar. "Let us continue to do the right thing and to help them. Let us continue to work to ensure that their rights are recognised," he said. "Let us not close our hearts, let us not look the other way." He made the comments after speaking to some of the refugees whose desperate plight has dominated his landmark tour of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had travelled to Dhaka from the teeming camps in southern Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands have arrived in recent months after fleeing a crackdown by the Myanmar military that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. The pope had earlier faced criticism for not using the word "Rohingya" in mainly-Buddhist Myanmar, where the stateless Muslim minority are widely reviled as illegal immigrants. The term is politically sensitive because many there refuse to see the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group.
  21. This handout picture taken and released by the Vatican press office (Osservatore Romano) on November 28, 2017 shows Pope Francis (L) and Myanmar´s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting in Naypyidaw. Photo: AFP NAYPYIDAW: Pope Francis called for respect for rights and justice in a keenly-watched address in Myanmar on Tuesday, but refrained from any mention of the Rohingya, or allegations of ethnic cleansing that has driven huge numbers of the Muslim minority from the country. Sharing a stage with Myanmar´s leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw, he did not address the Rohingya crisis head-on, instead tip-toeing around the unfolding humanitarian emergency. Peace can only be achieved through "justice and a respect for human rights", he said in a broadly-framed speech that also called for "respect for each ethnic group and its identity". The word "Rohingya", an incendiary term in a mainly Buddhist country where the Muslim minority are denied citizenship and branded illegal "Bengali" immigrants, was entirely absent from his speech. Francis has repeatedly defended the group, some 620,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh since August. Rights groups had urged him to tackle Myanmar on its treatment of the minority during his four-day visit. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been ostracised by a global rights community that once adored her but is now outraged at her tepid response to the plight of the Rohingya. She spoke of the challenges her country faces as it creeps out of the shadow of five decades of military rule, but also did not reference the Rohingya. Myanmar´s government aimed to build the nation by "protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all", she said in a short speech, that gave a nod to global concern over the "situation in the Rakhine." The pope´s peace mission is studded with pitfalls in Myanmar, where a monk-led Buddhist nationalist movement has fostered widespread loathing for the Rohingya. The Pope, The Lady and a General Late on Monday the 80-year-old pontiff received a "courtesy visit" from Myanmar´s powerful army chief -- whose troops, according to the UN and US, have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has firmly denied allegations of widespread brutality by his forces, despite the flight of hundreds of thousands of people who have recounted widespread cases of rape, murder and arson. His office said he told the pope there was "no discrimination" in Myanmar, and feted his military for maintaining "the peace and stability of the country". Early Tuesday the pontiff met leaders from Buddhist, Muslim, Baptist and Jewish faiths in Yangon. The conversation centred around themes of unity and diversity, with the pope sharing a prayer and giving a "very, very beautiful speech", according to Sammy Samuels, a representative from the small Jewish community. The Lady, as she is fondly known in Myanmar, finally came to power after elections in 2015 but has fallen from grace internationally for not doing more to stand up to the army in defence of the Rohingya -- whose name she will not publicly utter. Rights groups have clamoured for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her peace prize. Oxford, the English city she once called home, on Monday removed her Freedom of the City award for her "inaction" in the face of oppression of the Rohingya. Just days before the papal visit, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal to start repatriating Rohingya refugees within two months. But details of the agreement -- including the use of temporary shelters for returnees, many of whose homes have been burned to the ground -- raise questions for Rohingya fearful of returning without guarantees of basic rights. Francis will travel on to Bangladesh on Thursday. So far, the pontiff has received a warm welcome in Myanmar, whose Catholic community numbers just over one percent of the country´s 51 million people. But some 200,000 Catholics are pouring into the commercial capital Yangon from all corners of the country ahead of a huge, open-air mass on Wednesday morning. Zaw Sai, 52, from Kachin state, found space for himself and his family to camp out in a churchyard. "We feel very pleased because we are from different ethnicities but are one in our religion," he told AFP.
  22. Pope Francis attends a welcome ceremony with Myanmar?s President Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. Photo: Reuters YANGON: Pope Francis met leaders of several faiths in majority-Buddhist Myanmar on Tuesday, stressing the importance of ?unity in diversity? but making no mention of the Muslim Rohingya who have fled en masse to Bangladesh after a military crackdown. The pope held private talks with Myanmar?s military chief in Yangon on Monday, the first day of a visit fraught with tension after the United States accused the Southeast Asian nation of ?ethnic cleansing? against its Muslim Rohingya people. The leader of the Roman Catholic church will also travel to Bangladesh, where more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to escape what Amnesty International has dubbed ?crimes against humanity?. Myanmar?s army has denied accusations of murder, rape, torture and forced displacement that have been made against it. ?Unity is always a product of diversity,? Francis told leaders of the Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Christian faiths in Yangon, according to Vatican officials who gave a briefing on the 40-minute meeting. Catholics hope Pope talks Rohingya, climate in Bangladesh Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario said the Pope would bring 'inspiration and love' ?Everyone has their values, their riches as well as their differences, as each religion has its riches, its traditions, its riches to share. And this can only happen if we live in peace, and peace is constructed in a chorus of differences.? Aye Lwin, a prominent Muslim leader who was at the meeting, told Reuters he had asked the pope to appeal to Myanmar?s political leaders ?to rescue the religion that we cherish, which could be hijacked by a hidden agenda?. Only about 700,000 of Myanmar?s 51 million people are Roman Catholic. Thousands of them have traveled from far and wide to see him and more than 150,000 people have registered for a mass that Francis will say in Yangon on Wednesday. Tension over the word 'Rohingya' The pope was later flying to the capital, Naypyitaw, where he will meet government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and democracy champion who has faced criticism from around the globe because she has expressed doubts about the reports of rights abuses against the Rohingya and failed to condemn the military. His trip is so delicate that some papal advisers have warned Francis against even saying the word ?Rohingya?, lest he set off a diplomatic incident that could turn the country?s military and government against minority Christians. Pope begins Myanmar trip in shadow of Rohingya crisis The pope will also visit Bangladesh, to where more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled The pope is due to deliver a speech after meeting Suu Kyi. The Rohingya exodus from Rakhine state to Bangladesh began after August 25, when Rohingya militants attacked security posts and the Myanmar army launched a counter-offensive. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week called the military operation ?ethnic cleansing? and threatened targeted sanctions for ?horrendous atrocities?. Myanmar?s government has denied most of the accusations made against it, and the army says its own investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by troops. Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens nor as members of a distinct ethnic group with their own identity, and it even rejects the term ?Rohingya? and its use. Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to start Rohingya return in two months It remains unclear how many Rohingya will be allowed back and how long the process will take Many people in Myanmar instead refer to members of the Muslim minority in Rakhine state as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Francis is expected to meet a group of Rohingya refugees in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on the second leg of his trip. Vatican sources say some in the Holy See believe the trip was decided too hastily after full diplomatic ties were established in May during a visit by Suu Kyi. The pope has already used the word Rohingya in two appeals from the Vatican this year. A hardline group of Buddhist monks, previously known as Ma Ba Tha, said on Monday it welcomed the pope?s visit but warned, without elaborating, of ?a response? if he spoke openly about the Rohingya.
  23. YANGON: Pope Francis landed in Yangon on Monday, the start of a delicate visit for the world´s most prominent Christian to majority-Buddhist Myanmar, which the United States has accused of "ethnic cleansing" its Muslim Rohingya people. The pope will also visit Bangladesh, to where more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled from what Amnesty International has dubbed "crimes against humanity" by Myanmar security forces, including murder, rape, torture and forcible displacement. The Myanmar army denies the accusations. Only about 700,000 of Myanmar´s 51 million people are Roman Catholic. Thousands of them have travelled by train and bus to Yangon, the country´s main city, to catch a glimpse of the pope.
  24. YANGON: Bangladesh and Myanmar will start repatriating refugees in two months, Dhaka said Thursday, as global pressure mounts over a crisis that has forced more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee across the border. The United Nations says 620,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since August to form the world's largest refugee camp after a military crackdown in Myanmar that Washington has said clearly constitutes "ethnic cleansing". The statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the strongest US condemnation yet of the crackdown, accusing Myanmar´s security forces of perpetrating "horrendous atrocities" against the group. Following talks between Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka's Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali held after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar´s capital Naypyidaw on Thursday. In a brief statement, Dhaka said they had agreed to start returning the refugees to mainly Buddhist Myanmar in two months. It said that a working group would be set up within three weeks to agree with the arrangements for the repatriation. "This is a primary step. (They) will take back (Rohingya). Now we have to start working," Ali told reporters in Naypyidaw. Impoverished and overcrowded Bangladesh has won international praise for allowing the refugees into the country, but has imposed restrictions on their movements and said it does not want them to stay. Suu Kyi's office called Thursday's agreement a "win-win situation for both countries", saying the issue should be "resolved amicably through bilateral negotiations". However, it remains unclear how many Rohingya will be allowed back and how long the process will take. Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled after hundreds of their villages were razed, and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging. 'Won't go back' The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years. They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to basic services. Tensions erupted into bouts of bloodshed in 2012 that pushed more than 100,000 Rohingya into grim displacement camps. Despite the squalid conditions in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, many of the refugees say they are reluctant to return to Myanmar unless they are granted full citizenship. "We won't go back to Myanmar unless all Rohingya are granted citizenship with full rights like any other Myanmar nationals," said Abdur Rahim, 52, who was a teacher at a government-run school in Buthidaung in Myanmar´s Rakhine state before fleeing across the border. "We won't return to any refugee camps in Rakhine," he told AFP in Bangladesh. The signing of the deal came ahead of a highly-anticipated visit to both nations from Pope Francis, who has been outspoken about his sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya. The latest unrest occurred after Rohingya rebels attacked police posts on August 25. The army backlash rained violence across northern Rakhine, with refugees recounting nightmarish scenes of soldiers and Buddhist mobs slaughtering villagers and burning down entire communities. The military denies all allegations but has restricted access to the conflict zone. Suu Kyi´s government has blocked visas for a UN-fact finding mission tasked with probing accusations of military abuse.
  25. YANGON: Myanmar's suffocating controls over its Rohingya population amount to "apartheid", Amnesty International said Tuesday in a probe into the root causes of a crisis that has sent 620,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh. Scenes of dispossessed Rohingya in Bangladeshi camps have provoked outrage around the world, as people who have escaped Rakhine state since August recount tales of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar troops. Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed in principle to repatriate some Rohingya but disagree over the details, with Myanmar's army chief saying last week it was impossible to accept the number of refugees proposed by Dhaka. This photograph taken on November 16, 2017 shows three-years-old Rohingya refugee girl Modina, who is suffering from malnutrition, sitting inside a makeshift shelter at Thankhsli camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia - AFP2 The Amnesty report details how years of persecution have led to the current crisis. A years-long "state-sponsored" campaign has restricted virtually all aspects of Rohingyas´ lives, the Amnesty study says, confining the Muslim minority to a "ghetto-like" existence in the mainly Buddhist country. The 100-page report, based on two years of research, says the web of controls meet the legal standard of the "crime against humanity of apartheid". "Rakhine State is a crime scene. This was the case long before the vicious campaign of military violence of the last three months," said Anna Neistat, Amnesty´s senior director for research. Myanmar's authorities "are keeping Rohingya women, men and children segregated and cowed in a dehumanising system of apartheid," she added. The basis for the widespread hatred towards the Muslim group comes from a contentious 1982 Citizenship law. Enacted by the then-junta, it effectively made hundreds of thousands of Rohingya stateless. Since then, Amnesty says, a "deliberate campaign" has been waged to deny the Rohingyas´ right to live in Myanmar, where they are denigrated as "Bengalis" or illegal migrants from Bangladesh. A system of identification cards is central to those bureaucratic controls, with Rohingya routinely issued one form of ID, only to see it later rendered meaningless. "This is a system designed to make people hopeless," said Laura Haigh, Amnesty´s Myanmar researcher. She raised concerns that paperwork may be used to restrict the number of Rohingya returnees. Myanmar authorities have said they must be subject to a "verification" process. "A lot of the burden of proof is going to be put on refugees, to prove that they are from Myanmar," said Haigh. "The government has records of these people, it´s just choosing not to acknowledge them." 'Open-air prison' The latest wave of persecution has pushed more than half of the 1.1-million-strong minority out of the country, with those left behind sequestered in increasingly isolated and vulnerable villages. Although the Rohingya have been victims of discrimination for decades, the report details how repression intensified after an outbreak of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities in 2012. This photograph taken on November 16, 2017 shows a young Rohingya refugee suffering from malnutrition reacting while being measured at a center for the management of severe acute malnutrition at Balukhali camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia - AFP1 Long before the recent exodus of Rohingya from northern Rakhine state -- now a virtual ghostland of torched villages and unharvested paddy fields -- they were unable to travel freely, requiring special permits and facing arrest, abuse and harassment at numerous checkpoints, Amnesty said. In central Rakhine state, Rohingya Muslims were driven out of urban areas after the 2012 violence. They remain completely segregated from the Buddhist community, confined by barbed wire and police checkpoints to camps which Amnesty likens to an "open-air prison". The community has been widely denied access to medical care, their children cannot attend government schools and many mosques have been sealed off, the rights watchdog documented. "Restoring the rights and legal status of Rohingya and amending the country´s discriminatory citizenship laws is urgently needed," said Amnesty´s Neistat. "Rohingya who have fled persecution in Myanmar cannot be asked to return to a system of apartheid." Cover image: Rohingya refugee children play at Thankhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on November 16, 2017. More than 600,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in Myanmar in August triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country - AFP