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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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
  18. DHAKA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday urged Bangladesh and Myanmar resolve the Rohingya crisis through bilateral negotiations instead of an international initiative. ?The international community should not complicate the situation,? Wang said in a press briefing at the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka. ?Actions in the United Nations Security Council must help Bangladesh-Myanmar bilateral cooperation to resolve the problem peacefully?, the minister told reporters. Wang arrived in Bangladesh on Saturday for a two-day visit and from there he will go to Myanmar to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting. (ASEM) ?China supports resolving the crisis peacefully, bilaterally with mutual consultation between Bangladesh and Myanmar,? he said. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August driven out by a military clearance operation in Buddhist majority Myanmar?s Rakhine State. ?It is a complex situation and needs a comprehensive solution. Economic development of Rakhine State is needed. China is ready to help,? Wang said. Earlier in the day Wang also met with Bangladesh?s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence in Dhaka and assured her of China?s support in solving the crisis. ?Myanmar will have to take back their nationals ensuring their safety, security and dignity for a durable solution to the crisis,? Hasina?s private secretary Ihsanul Karim quoted the prime minister as saying. ?We will not allow the land of Bangladesh to be used by any terrorist group to commit any act of insurgency in neighbouring countries,? Hasina added, according to Karim. Bangladesh?s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali told Wang that Bangladesh is trying to resolve the issue both bilaterally and internationally as it could not afford the huge burden of the refugees. A statement from Bangladesh foreign ministry said that when the issue of displaced Myanmar nationals was raised, Wang stated that China would help resolve the issue and will not be partial to any side. He acknowledged that Bangladesh is facing the brunt of continuing influx of Rohingya refugees, the Bangladeshi foreign ministry statement said. A delegation of US Congressmen is visiting Bangladesh to study the Rohingya crisis on Saturday. Sweden?s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Germany?s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kona will also visit Bangladesh this week.
  19. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to media during a press conference after he met with Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi at Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 15, 2015. ? Reuters NAYPYITAW: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Wednesday for a credible investigation into reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar?s security forces after a meeting with its civilian and military leaders. More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military operation in Buddhist-majority Myanmar?s Rakhine State. A top UN official has described the military?s actions as a textbook case of ?ethnic cleansing?. ?We?re deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar?s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine State,? Tillerson told a joint news conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a civilian administration that is less than two years old and shares power with the military. Tillerson had earlier held separate talks with Myanmar?s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces have been accused of atrocities. A senior UN official on Sunday levelled allegations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Cox?s Bazar region of neighboring Bangladesh. Tillerson called for the Myanmar government to lead a credible and impartial investigation and said those who committed abuses should be held responsible. ?The recent serious allegations of abuses in Rakhine state demand a credible and impartial investigation and those who commit human rights abuses or violations must be held accountable,? he said. ?In all my meetings, I have called on the Myanmar civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation.? He also said it was the duty of the military to help the government to meet commitments to ensure the safety and security of all people in Rakhine state. A posting on Min Aung Hlaing?s Facebook page said Myanmar?s military supremo had explained to Tillerson the ?true situation in Rakhine?, the reasons why Muslims fled, how the military was working with the government to deliver aid and the progress made for a repatriation process to be agreed with Bangladesh. The military launched its clearance operation after an army base and 30 police posts were attacked on Aug 25 by militants, killing about a dozen members of the security forces. Consequences Tillerson condemned the militant attacks, but said any response by the security forces needed to avoid to the ?maximum extent possible harming innocent civilians?. An internal investigation by the military into the allegations of atrocities that was released this week was branded a ?whitewash? by human rights groups. Back in Washington, US senators are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests. Tillerson said he would advise against any broad-based sanctions against Myanmar, as the United States wanted to see it succeed. But he said if there was credible and reliable information on abuses by individuals they could be targeted by sanctions. Tillerson said the United States would work with partners so that those responsible for any atrocities would face consequences, ?using all available mechanisms, including those available under US law?. Myanmar is undergoing a transition to democracy after decades of rule by the military, but the generals retain extensive powers over security and a veto over reform of a constitution that has barred Suu Kyi from the presidency. ?Myanmar?s response to this crisis is critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society,? Tillerson said. ?It?s a responsibility of the government and its security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so.? He said the United States would provide an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees bringing the total to $87 million since the crisis erupted in August. ?The humanitarian scale of this crisis is staggering,? Tillerson said. But he said he was encouraged by talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh to agree on a refugee repatriation process. During the news conference, Suu Kyi was asked to explain why she had not spoken out more strongly over the plight of the Rohingya, as the Nobel peace prize winner?s perceived failure to speak up has damaged her international reputation as a stateswoman. ?What I say is not supposed to be exciting,? Suu Kyi said, adding that she had aimed to keep the public informed without setting different ethnic, religious communities against each other. ?It?s important to bring peace and stability to this country and that can only be done on the basis of rule of law and everybody should understand that the role of theirs is to protect peace and stability, not to punish people.?
  20. Rohingya women cry after being restricted by members of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) to further enter into Bangladesh, in Cox?s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Files DHAKA: Myanmar soldiers "systematically targeted" Rohingya women for gang-rape during violence against the minority Muslim community which triggered an exodus to Bangladesh, a UN special envoy said Sunday. Pramila Patten, a special representative of the UN Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, made the comments after visiting Bangladesh's southeastern district of Cox's Bazar where some 610,000 Rohingya have taken refuge in the last ten weeks. Many of these atrocities "could be crimes against humanity", she said. "I heard horrific stories of rape and gang-rape, with many of the women and girls who died as a result of the rape," Patten told reporters in Dhaka. "My observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls who have been systematically targeted on account of their ethnicity and religion." The sexual violence in Myanmar's northern state of Rakhine was "commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the armed forces of Myanmar", she said. "The forms of sexual violence we consistently heard about from survivors include gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation and sexual slavery in military captivity." "One survivor described being held in captivity by the Myanmar armed forces for 45 days, during which time she was repeatedly raped. Others still bore visible scars, bruises and bite marks attesting to their ordeal," Patten added. Deadly raids by Rohingya militants on Myanmar police posts on August 25 sparked ferocious reprisals against the community by the military in the mainly Buddhist nation. The special representative said others involved in the sexual violence include Myanmar border police and militias composed of Buddhists and other ethnic groups in Rakhine. Refugees are still streaming across the border from Rakhine into Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands have settled in squalid camps. The UN now estimates the majority of the Rohingya once living in Rakhine ? previously estimated at around one million ? have fled a campaign of violence it has likened to ethnic cleansing. Patten said the sexual violence was a key reason behind the exodus and occurred in the context of "collective persecution" of the Rohingya. "The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was clearly a driver and push factor for forced displacement on a massive scale and a calculated tool of terror aimed at the extermination and the removal of the Rohingya as a group," she said. For decades the Rohingya have faced persecution in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and denigrated as illegal "Bengali" immigrants.
  21. The United Nations has denounced the violence during the past 10 weeks as a classic example of ethnic cleansing UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council urged the Myanmar government on Monday to ?ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state,? where violence has forced more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the Buddhist-majority Asian country. The United Nations has denounced the violence during the past 10 weeks as a classic example of ethnic cleansing. The Myanmar government has denied allegations of ethnic cleansing. To appease council veto powers Russia and China, Britain and France dropped a push for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the situation and the 15-member body instead unanimously agreed on a formal statement. The council expressed ?grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State, including by the Myanmar security forces, in particular against persons belonging to the Rohingya community.? ?The Security Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State, to restore civilian administration and apply the rule of law, and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights,? it said. Myanmar has been stung by international criticism for the way its security forces responded to attacks by Rohingya militants on 30 security posts. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25. ?The Security Council stresses the primary responsibility of the Government of Myanmar to protect its population including through respect for the rule of law and the respect, promotion and protection of human rights,? the statement said. It stressed the importance of transparent investigations into allegations of human rights abuses and ?in this regard, the Security Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with all relevant United Nations bodies, mechanisms and instruments.? Myanmar has refused entry to a UN panel that was tasked with investigating allegations of abuses after a smaller military counteroffensive launched in October 2016. Myanmar?s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has pledged accountability for rights abuses and says Myanmar will accept back refugees who can prove they were residents of Myanmar. The Security Council said it was alarmed by the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Rakhine state and warned that the increasing number of refugees ?has a destabilizing impact in the region.? The council demanded that the Myanmar government allow immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian aid and media access. It asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report back in 30 days on the situation.
  22. DHAKA: The US wants Myanmar to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in their own villages following their exodus from the country's violence-wracked Rakhine state for Bangladesh, a senior State Department official said Saturday in Dhaka. Simon Henshaw, acting US assistant secretary of state who visited refugee camps in southeast Bangladesh, said Myanmar should also punish those who committed atrocities in Rakhine. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August carrying accounts of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar´s powerful army during a military crackdown dubbed as "ethnic cleansing" by the UN. They have taken refuge in squalid camps in southeast Bangladesh, joining the more than 200,000 Rohingyas who had set up homes there after escaping earlier bouts of violence. "First of all, it is (Myanmar's) responsibility to return security and stability to Rakhine state. Secondly, it's their responsibility to investigate reports of atrocities and bring those who committed them to accountability," Henshaw told reporters in Dhaka. "Part of bringing people back to Rakhine state requires these people be allowed to return to their land.... And for those whose villages are burnt, quick efforts need to be made to restore their homes and their villages," he said. After weeks of intense global pressure, Myanmar agreed to take back Rohingya who meet "verification" standards. But the criteria remains vague, raising fears it will be used to restrict the number of returnees. Experts say repatriation will also be complicated by the scale of destruction in Rakhine, where hundreds of Rohingya villages have been reduced to ash. Relief workers say some refugees have expressed a reluctance to return if it would mean living in camp-like settlements or being barred from occupying the land they had before. US lawmakers on Friday proposed sanctions against Myanmar´s military, in some of the strongest efforts yet by Washington to pressure the Southeast Asian nation to end abusive treatment of the Muslim minority. Myanmar authorities say the security crackdown was in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts in late August. For decades, the Rohingya have faced discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and denigrated as illegal "Bengali" immigrants.
  23. A partially burnt poster is seen at an impromptu memorial after a protest by journalists ? in Valletta, Malta ? following the assassination of an investigative journalist, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/Files NAYPYITAW/YANGON: Myanmar police detained two journalists working for Turkey?s state broadcaster TRT and their interpreter and driver on Friday for flying a drone near the parliament compound, amid tension between the two countries over the Rohingya crisis. The journalists ? Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia ? were being questioned at a police station in Myanmar?s capital Naypyitaw after being detained in the morning, a local police officer told Reuters. About 25 police staged an evening raid on the Yangon house of their Myanmar interpreter ? well-known local reporter Aung Naing Soe ? seizing his computer memory sticks and searching his documents. More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled majority-Buddhist Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh since security forces responded to Rohingya militants? attacks on August 25 by launching a crackdown. In early September, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the death of the Rohingya in Myanmar constituted a ?genocide? aimed at Muslim communities in the region. Shwe Thaung ? an officer from the Naypyitaw police station No.1, where the four were being detained ? confirmed the basic facts of the incident but declined to elaborate, including on whether any charges had been filed, citing an ongoing investigation. ?We are still investigating and can?t say more than that,? Shwe Thaung said. Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said the journalists did not have permission to film the parliament with a drone. It showed their journalist visas and said the ministry of foreign affairs had informed the Singaporean and Malaysian embassies about the matter. Turkish state broadcaster TRT could not immediately be reached for comment. Several journalists in Myanmar have been arrested this year, leading rights groups to warn that the gains made in press freedom since the end of military rule risk being reversed under the rule of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Local journalist Aung Naing Soe has worked with numerous international media on the country?s transition to democracy after nearly five decades of military dictatorship. Thandar ? Soe's mother ? told Reuters police searched the house for computers and papers and asked for identification documents, and took Aung Naing Soe?s memory sticks. The police also tried but failed to open his computer, she said. ?I asked them to show me the search warrant. But the police said they didn?t need to do that because they were not searching for drugs,? Thandar said. Ye Win Tun ? an administrator from Yangon?s Mingalar Taung Nyunt district who took part in the raid ? confirmed that the police did not have a warrant but also said they did not need one. ?The search warrant would be necessary if they were searching for drugs or illegal card games, but in this instance, it?s OK if the local administrator is there,? said Ye Win Tun. He said the search lasted two hours and was carried out by the district police chief, township police officer, immigration officer, police special branch and several police officers, a total of about 25 people.
  24. Rohingya refugees ? who crossed the border from Myanmar a day before ? wait to receive permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue their way to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra GENEVA: The United Nations has yet to determine whether violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar meets the legal definition of genocide, Jyoti Sanghera ? Asia Pacific chief at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ? said on Wednesday. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra?ad al-Hussein has called the situation ?a textbook example of ethnic cleansing?, but has not used the word genocide. ?We are yet looking at the legal boundaries of that,? Sanghera said. ?It could meet the boundaries, but we haven?t yet made that legal determination at OHCHR.? A UN team took witness statements from Rohingya refugees last month, and another human rights mission is currently on the ground, gathering evidence from some of the 582,000 Rohingya who have fled into Bangladesh in the last two months. ?The testimony gathered by the team referred to unspeakable horrors,? Sanghera told an audience at Geneva?s Graduate Institute. ?Even as I speak this evening, the world is witnessing a horrific spectacle of massive forced displacement and suffering.? A few hundred thousand Rohingya are thought to remain in Myanmar?s northern Rakhine state, she said. The refugees described massive detention and systematic rape by Myanmar security forces, deliberate destruction of Rohingya villages so that people could not return, and deliberate targeting of cultural and religious leaders that aimed to ?diminish Rohingya history, culture, and knowledge?, she said. Imams had their beards shaved or burnt off, while women and girls were raped inside mosques. Some refugees said their non-Rohingya neighbours had been given weapons and uniforms and worked in concert with the security forces. ?Unsettled post-colonial questions and tensions fueled by colonial powers of the past have been exploited by the military junta in Myanmar to keep ethnic rivalries simmering,? Sanghera said. ?Systematic and acute discrimination of the Rohingya Muslims continues to be kept alive by the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, to a point referred to recently by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as ?ethnic cleansing? of an entire people.? Designating the Rohingya as victims of genocide under a 1948 UN convention would increase pressure on the international community to take action to protect them and could expose Myanmar officials to a greater threat of international justice. The UN convention ? passed in the wake of the Nazi holocaust ? requires countries to act to prevent and punish genocide, which it defines as any of a number of acts committed with the ?intent to destroy, in whole or in part? a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. It is one of four categories of crimes subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
  25. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States holds Myanmar´s military leadership "accountable" for the Rohingya refugee crisis, drawing a distinction with Aung San Suu Kyi´s civilian government. Photo: AFP file WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States holds Myanmar´s military leadership "accountable" for the Rohingya refugee crisis, drawing a distinction with Aung San Suu Kyi´s civilian government. Myanmar´s recent return to elected rule has given it a hybrid government in which the military still has wide powers in the security domain and in Rakhine state, where the United Nations has reported ethnic cleansing. "We´re extraordinarily concerned by what is happening with Rohingya in Burma," Tillerson said. "I´ve been in contact with Aung San Suu Kyi the leader of the civilian part of the government, as you know this is a power-sharing government. "We really hold the military leadership accountable for what´s happening," he said, warning the world won´t stand and "be witness to the atrocities that have been reported." In the last seven weeks, more than half a million Rohingya have fled Rakhine and crossed into Bangladesh. Their stories have shocked the world globe, with accounts of Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs murdering and raping civilians before torching their villages to the ground. The western region descended into chaos when Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police posts on August 25, triggering the brutal military crackdown. Tillerson said that Washington understands that Myanmar is facing "serious rebel terrorist elements" in Rakhine, but warned the military must be disciplined and "restrained." And he said Myanmar must grant fuller access to aid agencies to aid civilians and to allow the world "a fuller picture of what is going on." "Someone is going to be held to account for that and it´s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide what role do they want to play in the future of Burma," he said. "This is a real test for this power-sharing government."