Tag Archive: Rohingya of Burma


September 12, 2017

UKHIYA, Bangladesh (AP) — The Bangladeshi prime minister on Tuesday visited a struggling refugee camp that has absorbed some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled recent violence in Myanmar — a crisis she said left her speechless.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanded that Myanmar “take steps to take their nationals back,” and assured temporary aid until that happened. “We will not tolerate injustice,” she said at a rally at the Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar district.

On Monday night, she lambasted Buddhist-majority Myanmar for “atrocities” that she said had reached a level beyond description, telling lawmakers she had “no words to condemn Myanmar” and noting that Bangladesh had long been protesting the persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

At least 313,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts, prompting Myanmar’s military to retaliate with what it called “clearance operations” to root out the rebels.

The crisis has drawn sharp criticism from around the world. Germany has halted several aid projects with Myanmar in protest, and Iran’s Supreme Leader called the killing of Muslims a political disaster for Myanmar. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also urged other Muslim countries Tuesday to “increase political, economic and commercial pressures” on Myanmar to stop the violence.

The U.N. human rights chief said Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority was facing what “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” U.N. rights investigators have been barred from entering the country.

“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingya are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Monday in Geneva, calling it a “complete denial of reality.”

Meanwhile, a Rohingya villager in Myanmar said security forces had arrived Monday in the village of Pa Din village, firing guns, setting new fires to homes and driving hundreds of Rohingya to flee. “People were scared and running out of the village,” the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

Myanmar police disputed that, saying the houses were burned by terrorists they called Bengalis. That term is used derisively by many in Myanmar to describe the Rohingya, who they say migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Bangladesh has said it would free 2,000 acres (810 hectares) of land for a new camp in Cox’s Bazar district, to help shelter newly arrived Rohingya. The government was also fingerprinting and registering new arrivals.

Kutupalong and another pre-existing Rohingya camps were already beyond capacity. Other new arrivals were staying in schools, or huddling in makeshift settlements with no toilets along roadsides and in open fields.

Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid. Aid agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of Rohingya, many of whom are arriving hungry and traumatized after walking days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats in search of safety in Bangladesh.

Many tell similar stories – of Myanmar soldiers firing indiscriminately on their villages, burning their homes and warning them to leave or to die. Some say they were attacked by Buddhist mobs. In the last two weeks, the government hospital in Cox’s Bazar has been overwhelmed by Rohingya patients, with 80 arriving in the last two weeks suffering gunshot wounds as well as bad infections.

At least three Rohingya have been wounded in land mine blasts, and dozens have drowned when boats capsized during sea crossings. Myanmar’s authorities said more than a week ago that some 400 Rohingya – mostly insurgents – had died in clashes with troops, but it has offered no updated death toll since.

Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots in the Rakhine region. Before Aug. 25, Bangladesh had already been housing some 500,000 Rohingya who arrived after bloody anti-Muslim rioting in 2012 or amid earlier persecution drives in Myanmar.

AP writers Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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September 11, 2017

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh has agreed to free a plot of land for a new camp to shelter hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled recent violence in Myanmar, an official said Monday.

The new camp will help relieve some pressure on existing settlements in the Bangladeshi border district of Cox’s Bazar, where nearly 300,000 Rohingya have arrived since Aug. 25. “The two refugees camps we are in are beyond overcrowded,” said U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan.

Other new arrivals were being sheltered in schools, or were huddling in makeshift settlements with no toilets along roadsides and in open fields. Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.

Still, refugees were still arriving. An Associated Press reporter witnessed hundreds streaming into the border at Shah Puri Dwip on Monday. “Tomorrow we are expecting an airlift of relief supplies for 20,000 people,” Tan said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had offered 2 acres (.8 hectares) near the existing camp of Kutupalong “to build temporary shelters for the Rohingya newcomers,” according to a Facebook post Monday by Mohammed Shahriar Alam, a junior minister for foreign affairs.

He also said the government would begin registering the new arrivals on Monday. Hasina is scheduled to visit Rohingya refugees on Tuesday. Aid agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of Rohingya, many of whom are arriving hungry and traumatized after walking days through jungles or packing into rickety wooden boats in search of safety on the Bangladeshi side of the border.

Many tell similar stories — of Myanmar soldiers firing indiscriminately on their villages, burning their homes and warning them to leave or to die. Some say they were attacked by Buddhist mobs. The government hospital in Cox’s Bazar has been overwhelmed by Rohingya patients, with 80 arriving in the last two weeks suffering gunshot wounds as well as bad infections. At least three have been wounded in land mine blasts, and dozens have drowned when boats capsized during sea crossings.

The violence and exodus began on Aug. 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts in what they said was an effort to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by security forces in the majority Buddhist country.

In response, the military unleashed what it called “clearance operations” to root out the insurgents. Accounts from refugees show the Myanmar military is also targeting civilians with shootings and wholesale burning of Rohingya villages in an apparent attempt to purge Rakhine state of Muslims.

Bloody anti-Muslim rioting that erupted in 2012 in Rakhine state forced more than 100,000 Rohingya into displacement camps in Bangladesh, where many still live today. Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots in the Rakhine region. Myanmar denies Rohingya exist as an ethnic group and says those living in Rakhine are illegal migrants from Bangladesh

Alam reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh. AP writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.

September 10, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday urged Muslim countries to “use every means available” to stop the “cruelty” perpetrated against Myanmar’s Rohingya.

“We want to work with the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to prevent the humanitarian plight in the region,” he told the opening session of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Erdogan said Turkey had offered aid and said he expected that Bangladesh authorities admit and help Rohingya Muslims fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

“International organisations, and we as Muslim countries in particular, should fight together by using every means available to stop that cruelty,” he said. Erdogan had previously promised to raise the Rohingya issue at the annual meeting of UN General Assembly later this month.

A final statement was agreed on at Sunday’s OIC summit – the first such summit on Science and Technology. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it was thanks to the efforts of the Turkish delegation that such a statement was prepared.

OIC statement

Erdogan called on “the brothers around the table” to follow and implement the decisions.

“The meeting called upon the government of Myanmar to accept the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into all alleged violations of international human rights law and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said the statement.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Last October, following attacks on border posts in Rakhine’s Maungdaw district, Myanmar security forces launched a five-month crackdown in which, according to Rohingya groups, around 400 people were killed.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings – including infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said the human rights violations constituted crimes against humanity.Fresh violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state nearly two weeks ago when security forces launched an operation against the Rohingya community.

Bangladesh, which already hosted around 400,000 Rohingya refugees, has faced a fresh influx of refugees since the security operation was launched. On Saturday, the UN said at least 290,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh.

Erdogan arrived in the Kazakh capital on Saturday for a two-day visit, and has pledged to raise the issue of Rohingya’s at the UN.

Following the summit, the Turkish president also had a closed-door meeting with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid as well as with other leaders.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170910-erdogan-urges-muslim-countries-to-help-rohingya/.

2017-09-05

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned escalating human rights violations targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority during a phone call with Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Turkish presidential sources said.

The United Nations said 123,600 had crossed into Bangladesh in the past 11 days following an uptick in fighting between militants and Myanmar’s military in strife-torn western Rakhine state, which raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.

The latest violence, which began last October when a small Rohingya militant group ambushed border posts, is the worst Rakhine has witnessed in years, with Erdogan last week accusing Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Erdogan has stepped up diplomacy and spoke on the phone with Muslim leaders during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, seeking ways to solve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. He also spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Bangladesh on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

In the phone call with Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, Erdogan said growing human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims “deeply concerned” the entire world, sources from his office said.

Suu Kyi has come under fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military.

Erdogan said Turkey “condemns terror and operations against innocent civilians”, adding that the developments in Myanmar had turned into a “serious humanitarian crisis which caused worry and resentment.”

The Turkish leader had previously said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

Guterres on Friday said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Myanmar and called for “restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84689.

23 November 2016 Wednesday

A U.K.-based pressure group has delivered a thousands-strong petition to Myanmar’s London embassy calling on the country’s government to confront the crisis plaguing the Rohingya minority.

Burma Campaign U.K. said Tuesday it delivered 3,164 signatures on a petition calling on Myanmar’s NLD-led government to tackle hate speech, lift humanitarian aid restrictions, repeal a 1982 citizenship law and support United Nations efforts to investigate the situation.

Mark Farmaner, the group’s director, said Myanmar’s military was using the ruling party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as “a human shield against criticism and action from the international community over the human rights violations they are committing.

“A new military crackdown on the Rohingya since attacks on border guard posts on 9th October has left hundreds of Rohingya dead, and at least 30,000 displaced. Restrictions on humanitarian aid, which were already causing deaths and suffering, have been significantly increased,” Farmaner said in a statement.

He added: “The international community continues treating the Rohingya as expendable in their efforts to present the situation in Burma as one of a successful transition requiring just technical assistance.

“The human rights situation for the Rohingya is getting worse, not better, and it is time their approach matched that reality.”

Rohingya Muslims — described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide — have for years been fleeing conflict in western Myanmar, with many using Thailand as a transit point to enter Muslim Malaysia and beyond.

The camps in which many live was recently described by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as “prison-like”, while satellite images of Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State showed 820 newly-identified structures had been destroyed in the space of eight days.

Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar in droves since mid-2012 after communal violence broke out in Rakhine between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya — described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide.

The violence left around 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, some 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses razed — most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/180555/uk-group-delivers-rohingya-petition-to-myanmar-embassy.

October 31, 2016

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Just five months after her party took power, Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is facing international pressure over recent reports that soldiers have been killing, raping and burning homes of the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

The U.S. State Department joined activist and aid groups in raising concerns about new reports of rape and murder, while satellite imagery released Monday by Human Rights Watch shows that at least three villages in the western state of Rakhine have been burned.

Myanmar government officials deny the reports of attacks, and presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said Monday that United Nations representatives should visit “and see the actual situation in that region.” The government has long made access to the region a challenge, generally banning foreign aid workers and journalists.

But the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said serious violations, including torture, summary executions, arbitrary arrests and destruction of mosques and homes, threaten the country’s fledgling democracy.

“The big picture is that the government does not seem to have any influence over the military,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an advocacy group that focuses on the Rohingya. Myanmar’s widely criticized constitution was designed to give the armed forces power and independence.

A three-week surge in violence by the military was prompted by the killings of nine police officers at border posts on Oct. 9 in Rakhine, home to Myanmar’s 800,000 Rohingya. There have been no arrests, and a formerly unknown Islamist militant group has taken responsibility.

Although they’ve lived in Myanmar for generations, Rohingya are barred from citizenship in the nation of 50 million, and instead live as some of the most oppressed people in the world. Since communal violence broke out in 2012, more than 100,000 people have been driven from their homes to live in squalid camps guarded by police. Some have tried to flee by boat, but many ended up becoming victims of human trafficking or were held for ransom.

When Suu Kyi’s party was elected earlier this year after more than five decades of military rule, the political shift offered a short, tense window of peace. But that quickly ended as the former political prisoner and champion of human rights failed to clamp down on military atrocities.

The current crackdown has prompted an estimated 15,000 people in the Rakhine area to flee their homes in the past few weeks. The satellite images from Human Rights Watch show villages burning, and residents report food supplies are growing scarce as they are living under siege.

U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel has urged Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry to investigate the allegations of attacks and restore access for humanitarian groups trying to help. “We take reports of abuses very seriously,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Jamie Ravetz in Yangon, Myanmar. “We have raised concerns with senior government officials and continue to urge the government to ?be transparent, follow the rule of law, and respect the human rights of all people in responding to the original attacks and subsequent reports of abuses.”

Families in Rakhine depend largely on humanitarian aid for food and health care, but that support has been cut off for weeks by officials who will not allow outsiders into the region. A government-sponsored delegation of aid agencies and foreign diplomats was supposed to visit the region on Monday, but local officials said they hadn’t seen anyone yet, and have not been informed they were coming.

“The government should end its blanket denial of wrongdoing and blocking of aid agencies, and stop making excuses for keeping international monitors from the area,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Mendoza reported from Bangkok.

17 October 2016 Monday

Rohingya advocacy groups worldwide are continuing to express serious concerns over what they claim is a continued military and police crackdown in western Myanmar, as authorities seek those responsible for the murder of nine police officers.

The nine died along with eight armed men in three separate attacks on police outposts on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in western Rakhine State on Oct. 9.

The outposts are located in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung townships, two areas predominantly occupied by the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim population — described by United Nations as one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.

Late Sunday, a statement from the groups headlined Save Rohingya from Annihilation claimed that military and police have since been indiscriminately killing Rohingya and torching and plundering their homes and villages, under the pretext of looking for the attackers.

“Two mass graves were found, and about 100 Rohingya civilians were extra-judicially killed that included old men, women and children,” it said.

According to Myanmar media, however, since Oct. 9 no more than 33 people — including four soldiers and 29 suspected attackers — have been killed, including two women.

Monday’s statement added that at least five Rohingya villages had also been set ablaze as the army sought those responsible.

“The grave situation has caused many Rohingya to flee their villages. An estimated 5000 Rohingya have been internally displaced causing great humanitarian disaster. Due to curfew order and blockade, there is an acute shortage of food, medicine, and other essentials. The situation is exponentially worsening,” it underlined.

On Oct. 14, Myanmar’s government said that the initial raids on the police outposts were conducted by the Aqa Mul Mujahidin organization, which it described as being affiliated with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a shadowy extremist group that takes its name from the Rohingya.

It has blamed the attacks on non-Myanmar nationals, but has said they were aided by some members of the local community.

“The attacks in Maungdaw Township were systematically planned in advance over a long period of time, assisted by foreign funding and the support of members of foreign terrorist organizations,” said a president’s office statement.

Though most experts believe the RSO’s continued existence is a myth, the government has classified it as an extremist group and officials blame it for recent attacks on border areas.

While Muslim organizations in Myanmar condemned the original attacks, Sunday’s statement said that they have since been used as an excuse to attack innocent Rohingya, and then claim that the Muslim community was burning down its own homes in an effort to gain international sympathy.

“Whilst these crimes against humanity have been manifestly committed by the joint armed forces with impunity, the authorities, as a part of an evil design, are spreading lies to the media that ‘Bengalis’ — a racial slur in reference to the Rohingya people — are burning down their own houses to leave the international community in a state of confusion,” it said.

Local nationalists have long labelled Rohingya “Bengali” — a term suggesting they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and therefore have no right to Myanmar citizenship.

It called on the European Union, United Nations and other members of the international community to make an objective assessment of the situation and help the victims of human rights violations on humanitarian grounds.

“We also request the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene into the matter and put an end to the military crackdowns on the civilian population,” it added.

On Oct. 3, Suu Kyi called on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states for support in solving the “complex situation” in Rakhine, home to around 1.2 million Rohingya.

Since her party’s victory in the Nov. 8 election, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.

Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of the impoverished region’s problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn the National League for Democracy hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

Monday’s statement was signed by Rohingya organizations from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/178794/rohingya-groups-say-rakhine-deaths-now-excuse-for-purge.

September 06, 2016

SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) — More than 1,000 Buddhists in a Myanmar state wracked by religious and ethnic strife protested Tuesday’s arrival of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying the Ghanaian is meddling in the country’s affairs by leading a government-appointed commission to find solutions to the conflict.

The Southeast Asian country set up the commission last month to help find solutions to “protracted issues” in western Rakhine state, where human rights groups have documented widespread abuses by majority Rakhine Buddhists against minority Rohingya Muslims.

The state’s dominant Arakan National Party and the Rakhine Women Network led the protest about 300 meters (yards) from the airport in Sittwe, the Rakhine capital, where Annan and other members of the Rakhine Advisory Commission arrived Tuesday morning. As Annan’s car passed, the crowd shouted, “Dismiss the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission now.”

“We came here because we don’t want that foreigner coming to our state,” said May Phyu, a local Rakhine Buddhist resident. “I don’t know exactly what this group is and what they are doing, but I came here to protest as I don’t like them to come here.

“I cannot accept them talking about the Rakhine and kalar case in our state,” said protester Soe Thein. “Kalar” is a derogatory word used in Myanmar to refer to Muslims. Many Buddhists in Rakhine and across Myanmar consider Rohingya to be Bangladeshis living in the country illegally, though the ethnic group has been in Myanmar for generations. Hundreds of Rohingya were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes in 2012 unrest in Rakhine state, and many continue to be confined to squalid camps there.

“We are here to help provide ideas and advice,” Annan said at the Rakhine state government office, where he met government and police officials, community leaders and members of nongovernmental organizations.

“To build the future, the two major communities have to move beyond decades of mistrust and find ways to embrace, share values of justice, fairness and equity,” he said. “Ultimately, the people of Rakhine state must charge their own way forward.”

Before Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government created the commission, her international reputation as a Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy icon had been diminished by what some have viewed as her inaction on the Rohingya issue. Her government still does not even use the word “Rohingya.”

“You will see for yourself all the problems on the ground now,” Suu Kyi, officially Myanmar state counselor and foreign minister, told Annan and other commission members at a news conference Monday. “You will be able to assess for yourself the roots of the problems itself, not in one day, not in one week. But I am confident that you will get there, that you will find the answers because you are truly intent on looking for them.”

The commission is to address human rights, ensuring humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, establishing basic infrastructure and promoting long-term development plans. During their six-day Rakhine trip, the commission will visit the Rohingya camps and meet members of political and religious groups. But the Arakan National Party said it will not meet or work with the commission.

“Rakhine state is in Myanmar and our country has its own sovereignty and there is no way we can accept a commission that is formed by foreigners,” ANP official Aung Than Wai said Tuesday.

September 05, 2016

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed confidence Monday that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a commission he is leading to resolve religious conflict in western Rakhine state will help heal the “wounds of our people,” even as the state’s most powerful political party refused to meet with the panel.

The Southeast Asian country set up the commission last month to help find solutions to “protracted issues” in Rakhine, where human rights groups have documented widespread abuses against minority Rohingya Muslims.

Majority Buddhists in Rakhine and across Myanmar consider Rohingya to be Bangladeshis living in the country illegally, though the ethnic group has been in Myanmar for generations. Hundreds of Rohingya were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes in 2012 unrest, and many continue to be confined to squalid camps.

“You will see for yourself all the problems on the ground now,” Suu Kyi, officially Myanmar state counselor and foreign minister, told commission members at a news conference. “You will be able to assess for yourself of the roots of the problems itself, not in one day, not in one week. But I am confident that you will get there, that you will find the answers because you are truly intent on looking for them.”

The effort is separate from peace talks that began last week with the government and many ethnic groups that have been at war with it for decades. “There is a wound that hurts all of us,” Suu Kyi said. “And it is because we wish to heal all the wounds of our nation, all the wounds of our people that we look toward Kofi Annan and all the members of the commission to help us to find a way forward.”

The commission is to address human rights, ensuring humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, establishing basic infrastructure and promoting long-term development plans. Annan said he is “confident that we can assist the people of Rakhine to chart the common path to the peaceful and prosperous future.”

Annan and the commission on Tuesday begin a six-day Rakhine trip during which they will see the camps and meet members of political and religious groups. But Rakhine’s largest party, the Arakan National Party, which represents the interests of the Buddhist Rakhine majority, said it will not work with the commission.

“We don’t want this commission because we don’t want a foreigner’s human rights perspectives without actually understanding and evaluating the history of Rakhine people, and how can they know the root causes of the conflicts,” ANP secretary Tun Aung Kyaw told The Associated Press by telephone. “Whenever the United Nations’ representatives … came here, they never stood for Rakhine and didn’t do the true reports from Rakhine side.”

He said that if Annan “wants to meet us personally, not as a commission, then we can meet him to show respect.”

May 12, 2015

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger.

One vessel that reached Indonesian waters early Monday, was stopped by the Navy and given food, water and directions to Malaysia. Worried that boats will start washing to shore with dead bodies, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States and several other foreign governments and international organizations have held emergency meetings, but participants say there are no immediate plans to search for vessels in the busy Malacca Strait.

One of the concerns is what to do with the Rohingya if a rescue is launched. The minority group is denied citizenship in Myanmar, and other countries have long worried that opening their doors to a few would result in an unstemmable flow of poor, uneducated migrants.

“These are people in desperate straits,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, calling on governments to band together to help those still stranded at sea, some for two months or longer. “Time is not on their side.”

The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh even though their families have lived there for generations.

Attacks on members of the religious minority, numbering at around 1.3 million, have in the past three years left up to 280 people dead and forced 140,000 others from their homes. They now live under apartheid-like conditions in crowded camps just outside the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, where they have little access to school or adequate health care.

The conditions at home — and lack of job opportunities — have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War. Chris Lewa, director of the non-profit Arakan Project, which has been monitoring boat departures and arrivals for more than a decade, estimates more than 100,000 men, women and children have boarded ships since mid-2012.

Most are trying to reach Malaysia, but recent regional crackdowns on human trafficking networks have sent brokers and agents into hiding, making it impossible for migrants to disembark — in some cases even after family members have paid $2,000 or more for their release, she said.

Lewa believes up to 6,000 Rohingya and Bangaldeshis are still on small and large boats in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters. Tightly confined, and with limited access to food and clean water, their health is deteriorating, she said, adding that dozens of deaths have been reported.

“I’m very concerned about smugglers abandoning boatloads at sea,” said Lewa. In the last two days, 1,600 Rohingya have washed to shore in two Southeast Asian countries. After four boats carrying nearly 600 people successfully landed in western Indonesia, with some migrants jumping into the water and swimming, a fifth carrying hundreds more was turned away early Monday.

Indonesia’s Navy spokesman, First Adm. Manahan Simorangkir , said they were trying to go to Malaysia but got thrown off course. “We didn’t intend to prevent them from entering our territory, but because their destination country was not Indonesia, we asked them to continue to the country where they actually want to go,” he said.

Those who made it to shore aboard the other boats on Sunday were taken to a sports stadium in Lhoksukon, the capital of North Aceh District, to be cared for and questioned, said Lt. Col. Achmadi, chief of police in the area, who uses only one name.

Some were getting medical attention. “We had nothing to eat,” said Rashid Ahmed, a 43-year-old Rohingya man who was on one of the boats. He said he left Myanmar’s troubled state of Rakhine with his eldest son three months ago.

A Bangladeshi man, Mohamed Malik, said he felt uncertain about being stranded in Aceh, but also relieved. “Relieved to be here because we receive food, medicine. It’s altogether a relief,” the man said.

Police also found a big wooden ship late Sunday night trapped in the sand in shallow waters at a beach of Langkawi, an island off Malaysia, and have since located 865 men, 101 women and 52 children, said Jamil Ahmed, the area’s deputy police chief. He added many appeared weak and thin and that at least two other boats have not been found.

“We believe there may be more boats coming,” Jamil said. Thailand has long been considered a regional hub for human traffickers. The tactics of brokers and agents started changing in November as authorities began tightening security on land — a move apparently aimed at appeasing the U.S. government as it prepares to release its annual Trafficking in Persons report next month. Last year, Thailand was downgraded to the lowest level, putting it on par with North Korea and Syria.

Rohingya packing into ships in the Bay of Bengal have been joined in growing numbers by Bangladeshis fleeing poverty and hoping to find a better life elsewhere. Up until recently, their first stop was Thailand, where they were held in open pens in jungle camps as brokers collected “ransoms” from relatives. Those who could pay continued onward, usually to Malaysia or other countries. Those who couldn’t were sometimes beaten, killed or left to die.

Since May 1, police have unearthed two dozen bodies from shallow graves in the mountains of southern Thailand, the apparent victims of smuggling rings, they say. Thai authorities have since arrested dozens of people, including a powerful mayor and a man named Soe Naing, otherwise known as Anwar, who was accused of being one of the trafficking kingpins in southern Thailand. More than 50 police officers are also under investigation.

Spooked by the arrests, smugglers are abandoning ships, sometimes disappearing in speedboats, with rudimentary instructions to passengers as to which way to go. Vivian Tan, the U.N. refugee agency’s regional press officer in Bangkok, Thailand said there is real sense of urgency from the international community.

“At this point, I’m not sure what the concrete next steps are or should be,” she said of a string of meetings with diplomats and international organizations. “But there doesn’t seem to be a clear mechanism in this region for responding to something like this.”

McDowell reported from Yangon, Myanmar; Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Ali Kotarumalos and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.