Table 1: Estimates of asylum seekers originating from Myanmar, April With the majority living outside UNHCR camps, they are afforded little or no protection and struggle to access basic health and education services. In Thailand, the Thai authorities have been accused on multiple occasions of criminality and brutality towards Rohingya aslyum seekers, including allegations of involvement in trafficking and smuggling, inhumane detention and shootings. In Malaysia, Rohingya asylum seekers fare somewhat better, although there have been recent reports of retaliatory violence by Muslims against Myanmar-Buddhist communities.
The report also claimed that many of these asylum seekers were seeking passage to Australia.
In April , a group of Rohingya aslyum seekers beat eight Buddhists to death in an immigration centre in Medan. The final report of the aforementioned Rakhine Inquiry Commission highlights the divergence between those advocating for the rights of Rohingya and mainstream political and societal views in Myanmar. Following the June violence, President Sein seemed to confirm that the rights of the Rohingya would not be reconciled with their continued presence in Myanmar when he stated:.
If there are countries that would accept them, they could be sent there. My administration remains determined to resolve the on-going problems in Rakhine State in a systematic and pragmatic manner. It will also undertake all necessary measures to create a harmonious society where all communities can live together peacefully. In doing so, we must heed lessons from our own history, liberate ourselves from the shackles of past memories and historical mistrust, and look ahead to finding lasting solutions. Because of our previous inability to institute proper democratic practices and establish an open society, our country has witnessed many armed conflicts, hardships, distrust between various ethnic groups, economic backwardness and underdevelopment.
We are undertaking democratic reforms to remedy these problems. In this democratization process, we must ensure that all citizens are able to enjoy freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In order for religious freedom to prevail, there must be tolerance and mutual respect among the members of different faiths. Only when there is tolerance and mutual respect, will it be possible to coexist peacefully. The government, for its part, will respect and protect the right of all citizens to worship any religion freely.
We are all citizens of our beloved Myanmar. As citizens we should take pride in the fact that we are a multiethnic, multi religious society. Diversity can be strength. As President I am determined to represent every citizen of my country, no matter their ethnicity, religion or social status. I ask all of you, my fellow countrymen, to stand up against hatred and to reach out to those of different belief and backgrounds than yourself. Find the similarities and values you share and build on them. A strong modern Myanmar depends on you and your willingness to let diversity be your strength.
A regional prize
Not our weakness. I also want to comment on the right to free speech, which is the essence of democracy. However, some people abuse this right with speech intended to provoke, cause fear and spread hatred, thereby exacerbating the conflict between different religious communities. We must be mindful that the abuse of certain rights could jeopardize the enjoyment of many other rights. Many Rohingya, their families have lived here for generations, they are not new arrivals. Will you review the law which stops many of them becoming citizens? Will you review whether the law meets international norms?
Rahkine [sic] was a kingdom ruled by a Rakhine king, and it was only the Rakhine people living in the state. But when Myanmar became a British colony, the British brought farmers from other parts of the world into Rakhine because of its climate and arable land. Most of those farmers did eventually leave after the work was done but some stayed. According to the British Gazette of , they brought in around 50, farmers to be employed in Myanmar.
Now the population of Bengalis in Rakhine who have an Islamic faith have risen to between , to , people. Some of these are the descendants of the original farmers who were brought here by the British, so these people who have been born in Myanmar will be able to take up citizenship according to the Myanmar citizenship law of But there are other illegal immigrants who came later, and they will have to be dealt with under international law.
In the case of these late comers, they may be taken care of by the UN or repatriated or sent to other countries. But those who were born in Myanmar, they will be able to become citizens here. The US has removed many of its targeted sanctions against Myanmar over the last year, but has retained some restrictions, including those which designate nationals with whom business dealings are prohibited, those linked to political prisoner releases, those outlawing the import of specific products, and an embargo on arms sales.
Internal Conflicts In Myanmar: Transnational Consequences[Hardcover]
The EU lifted all of its remaining trade and financial sanctions in April , with the exception of its arms embargo, and has recently indicated that its growing aid program in Myanmar will be its biggest in Asia. As noted, it also risks further inflaming sectarian tensions and extremism in neighbouring countries. While a coordinated regional response has been lacking, individual ASEAN countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which are majority Muslim countries, have publicly expressed their concern and urged Myanmar to find a durable solution.
While there has been little in the way of specific statements from Beijing officials, one prominent Chinese media outlet has blamed the violence in Rakhine on an excess of democracy. This pipeline has recently been the subject of local protests, unrelated to the sectarian violence. These changes followed a visit to Myanmar from 5—8 June by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, during which he made several significant announcements:.
Since the outbreak of the violence in Rakhine in mid, the Australian Government has made several announcements regarding the provision of humanitarian assistance for affected communities see Table 2. Media release. Emergency aid to provide clothing, blankets and basic supplies for around 14, people left homeless by sectarian conflict in Rakhine State. Supply tents, food, blankets, clothing, mosquito nets and cooking equipment for people who have fled their homes. The funding will also provide protection to children living in temporary shelters who have been separated from their families.
Shelter, clean water and sanitation.
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Support UNICEF to provide 40, people with safe drinking water and better facilities for hygiene and sanitation in the affected areas. This new funding includes 8, buckets and water purification kits, and hygiene kits including soap, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and 2, latrines and hand washing stations. P rovide shelter for 9, people as well as clean water points and latrines … blankets and clothes for 2, women and girls in refugee camps in Rakhine, as well as solar-charged lamps and whistles to improve safety when walking in the camps after dark.
In addition to the humanitarian assistance being provided in Myanmar, Australia provides assistance for asylum seekers from Myanmar living in Thailand, although this is focused on those living in border areas populated by minorities like the Karen and Shan. It also noted that Rohingya populations have been granted resettlement in Australia over the last several years:. Australia has been an active participant in the steering group focusing on the plight of Rohingya refugees, who have languished in camps in Bangladesh for decades … A number of strategies have been implemented to improve conditions for the Rohingya, including the provision of new housing, health and education services in the camps.
Durable solutions such as local integration and the resettlement of a small number of refugees in particular need of protection are also being explored. Australia has resettled small numbers of Rohingya refugees since — It should also be noted that these figures largely pre-date the intensification of sectarian violence in Rakhine and other parts of Myanmar from June An unsourced news report published on 14 July claimed that 1, Rohingya asylum seekers had arrived in Australia by boat in the previous year.
According to a statement released on 15 June Australia has advised the Myanmar Government of its strong concern at continuing ethnic violence in Rakhine State, which has left more than 20 people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said the events in Rakhine State demonstrated the range of challenges facing Myanmar, including the need for the effective rule of law.
I was encouraged by measures taken to resolve other ethnic tensions, but indicated we would continue to engage the Myanmar Government on human rights matters and the recognition of minorities. We would hope to use this engagement to ensure our representations are heard on issues such as these current clashes in Rakhine State. Foreign Minister Bob Carr expressed concern about ethnic unrest in parts of Myanmar. Senator Carr said he was concerned by the outbreak of violence on 20 March in Meikhtila and surrounding towns in Mandalay Region which left, according to official Myanmar Government figures, 43 people dead, 86 injured, nearly 13, displaced and caused significant loss of property.
Senator Carr welcomed the public statement made by President Thein Sein on 28 March, in which he condemned religious extremism, urged mutual respect amongst local communities, and underlined the importance of peaceful coexistence in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith societies.
Australia is a principal donor to the Myanmar peace process and is a source of humanitarian assistance to those affected by ethnic unrest in Myanmar. Speaking before a Senate Estimates Committee on 5 June , the Foreign Minister indicated that he would seek to personally assess the situation in Rakhine as part of a July visit to Myanmar. While Senator Carr did not end up not visiting Rakhine during this visit, he did raise the conflict and humanitarian situation during his meeting with President Sein. Our simple humanitarian instincts require that we go on giving aid while, with the credibility that gives us and being seen as something of a champion of Myanmar, we will continue to press with the government and with opposition leadership the plight of the Rohingya.
The Australian Greens have stated:. The Australian Government - and now the European Union - has shown inappropriate haste in pursuing business as usual, which undermines the Burmese movement for reform and turns a blind eye to the alleged complicity of Burmese officials in ethnic cleansing. The Greens have also argued that Australia should use its current temporary seat on the UN Security Council to press for a strengthened UN observer and humanitarian presence in Rakhine. Representatives of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia have called on the Government to continue to help address the humanitarian situation and human rights issues in Rakhine.
Many Rohingya populations claim their ancestry back to British colonial rule and beyond and, on this basis, would technically qualify for citizenship under current laws. Widespread discrimination, historical resentments, and the unpopularity of the Rohingya cause among mainstream politicians in Myanmar, including pro-democracy and other ethnic minority parties, are the main factors behind the current stalemate. There are two, inter-related issues that remain unresolved: first, whether Rohingya populations will be included in a national census scheduled for and, second, whether they will be entitled to vote in the national elections.
Myanmar’s foreign relations after the Rakhine State crisis (Part I) – Tea Circle
It is unclear at this stage whether the Rohingya will be included in a new census scheduled for Other minority groups, including local ethnic Rakhine parties, have been actively discussing possible coalitions and platforms on key issues such as the reform of the electoral system and revision of the constitution.
Indeed, this may have been one of the factors underpinning the recent violence. As the International Crisis Group points out:. Many Rohingya have temporary non-citizen registration certificates that under the election laws have allowed them to vote and form and join political parties, but they have been denied full citizenship and are thus ineligible — at least in principle — to stand for elected office. Some Rohingya do have full citizenship and have been elected to the local and national legislatures. Tens of thousands of otherwise poorly documented minorities, including Rohingya, were registered to vote for the election in an effort by the Union Solidarity and Development Party USDP to marginalise local ethnic parties.
Hopes were raised that the undocumented status of the Rohingya might soon end, which only stoked paranoia among the Rakhine fearing marginalisation in their own state. A pilot survey in May was said to have found that some 70 per cent of Rohingya had sufficient proof of descent to be eligible for some form of national identity documents. Fears that this election promise might be fulfilled are thought by some observers to have fuelled recent Rakhine militancy.
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Whether those Rohingya who have been granted temporary registration cards in the past will be able to vote in the election remains unclear. There has been a renewed call from some ethnic Rakhine politicians to bar Rohingya from voting. At a minimum, in order to avoid further conflict ahead of the election, there will need to be some form of understanding between parties campaigning in Rakhine aimed at avoiding incitement. This is because:. Amid this uncertainty, the default solution seems to be a dangerous policy of segregation of the Rohingya into temporary camps and shelters.
This policy has the potential to reinforce existing prejudices among the different ethnic communities in Rakhine and impedes the ability of Rohingya to live normal lives. It also seems to have inspired some of the ongoing violence against non-Rohingya Muslims in other parts of Myanmar. As the International Crisis Group has argued:. Any increased segregation of communities, particularly if accompanied by the denial of other fundamental rights to the Rohingya population, would make it exceedingly hard to address the underlying tensions and promote communal harmony.
Without such progress, the violence is likely to reignite in the future, which would be to the detriment of both communities, and of the country as a whole. The strength of these fears among mainstream Rakhine society should not be underestimated or ignored. The outlook is neither positive nor promising.
More broadly, the key danger is that the violence, which has now spread beyond Rakhine into central and eastern Myanmar, could further embolden both radical Burman-Buddhist chauvinist elements in society that are antagonistic to the claims of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as conservatives in the security forces that oppose the current reform program.