Myanmar’s first openly gay candidate to run for a parliamentary seat in the conservative Buddhist country’s November elections wants to put an end to the abuse that members of the LGBT community say they suffer at the hands of the police. Myo Min Tun, 39, has stepped up as a People’s Pioneer Party (PPP) candidate for a seat in the regional parliament in Mandalay representing a constituency in the local capital of the same name. Mandalay is Myanmar’s second-largest city with a population of 1.2 million people. The florist and wedding planner says he wants to protect the rights of the LGBT community in the city, where gay men, transgender people, and same-sex couples have complained of wrongful arrests on trumped-up charges and physical assaults by police officers. In 2013, a group of gay men and transgender women accused police of arbitrarily arresting them, and then beating them, verbally abusing them, and forcing them into humiliating positions. Police officials denied the allegations. “This is not lawful,” Myo Min Tun said about the incidents. “As a LGBT member of parliament, I think I could help protect them,” he added. The PPP, a relatively new party started by a lawmaker formerly affiliated with but later dismissed by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was registered with election authorities in October 2019. More than 200 PPP candidates are running for dozens of parliamentary seats in state and regional elections. Myo Min Tun is among the nearly 7,000 candidates from more than 90 parties running for legislative seats in the Nov. 8 elections. The parties have until Nov. 6 to present their platforms and programs and drum up support among voters. In past election campaigns, political parties have not taken a stance on the LGBT community or issues that affect it. But this election cycle is different. ‘We are more attentive to these issues’ The NLD and other political parties have included mentions of the LGBT community in their election campaign statements, though they have not paid much attention to the community in the past. “[Because] their lifestyles are different from those of the majority, some of them have been mocked or looked down upon,” said NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt. “Now, we are more attentive to these issues, so we’ve added them as one of the party’s goal to address in future.” A campaign speech by Than Htay, chairman of the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), outlining the party’s policies and programs via state-owned radio and television on Sept. 15 did not address LGBT issues. Nevertheless, USDP spokesman Nandar Hla Myint told RFA that the party does not discriminate against Myanmar citizens on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), one of the country’s largest ethnic minority parties, has indicated that it will listen to the voices of people with different sexual preferences and prevent discrimination as part of its youth policy. However, SNLD Central Executive Committee member Sai Tun Aye did not mention the LGBT community in his televised speech on the party’s platform The Myanmar National Congress Party (MNCP) also said it will support LGBT issues. “Every person must have the freedom to express their gender orientation, feelings, desires and beliefs,” said MNCP chairman Kaung Myint Htut in a televised election campaign speech outlining the party’s platform. “Same-sex orientation is not a deficiency of moral character,” he said. “We need to respect the integrity and job opportunities of all gender orientations in society. We need to respect the integrity and job opportunities of all gender orientations in society.” “[The] Myanmar National Congress Party stands for all gender orientations [and] … will respect and protect the rights of all gender orientations,” Kaung Myint Htut said. Myo Min Tun, a candidate from the People's Pioneer Party who is running for a regional parliamentary seat in Myanmar's 2020 elections, visits supporters in Mandalay in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Myo Min Tun/Facebook Same-sex sexual activity criminalized The MNCP, which supports State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, wants to amend the 2008 constitution to strip Myanmar’s powerful military of its political power. The military controls three defense and security ministries, and its officers are appointed to a quarter of the seats in national, regional, and states legislatures. Its legislative block in the national parliament can wield a crucial veto over proposed constitutional amendments. It remains to be seen whether the political parties will live up to their stances on support for the LGBT community once their candidates are elected lawmakers, given deeply ingrained homophobic social attitudes and discrimination against LGBT people in the conservative, Buddhist-majority country of 54 million people, activists say. LGBT rights groups have long demanded changes to Section 377 of the Myanmar’s Penal Code and to Sections 30 and 35 of the Police Act, said Aung Myo Min, a well-known LGBT activist and executive director of the human rights group Equality Myanmar. Under the laws, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people can be harassed, arrested, and subject to violence and other abuse by authorities with impunity. Section 377 of Myanmar’s colonial-era Penal Code criminalizes same-sex sexual activity regardless of whether it is consensual or done in private, and carries a penalty of imprisonment from 10 years to life, though such sentences are rare. The section also contributes to a culture of impunity for police who infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people through physical brutality or extortion, activists say. The two sections of the 1945 Police Act, which pertain to the powers of special police and reserve officers and the apprehension and punishment of reputed thieves, are widely used by authorities to target LGBT people under concocted charges as a form of harassment and persecution. Ma Htet, a transgender makeup artist and Facebook celebrity who lives in Yangon, said members of the LGBT community have no means of recourse when their rights are infringed upon. “The laws should be aiding them,” she said. “The punishments should fit the crime. Only then will their lives be safe, and they will feel encouraged.” Visibility and acceptance grows Though Myanmar does not recognize the gender identity of transgender people or same-sex unions, the LGBT community gained visibility and the beginnings of acceptance amid political reforms under the previous quasi-civilian government that was in power from 2011 to 2015. Seven years ago, Aung San Suu Kyi, then Myanmar’s opposition leader, called for the decriminalization of homosexuality in a speech at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. She said that the criminalization of homosexuality was hindering efforts to treat HIV-infected gay men in the country. Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party pledged to improve Myanmar’s human rights record in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Her government published a National Youth Policy in 2018 mandating the end of discrimination against youth on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but it has done nothing to change anti-LGBT laws during its five years in power. Since then, there has been a growing climate of acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community consistent with global trends. In the countdown to the 2020 vote, the NLD has called for the elimination of discrimination against LGBT people in its 34-page election manifesto released on Sept. 1. Aung Myo Min of Equality Myanmar suggested that the political parties are paying lip service to the LGBT community in the countdown to the elections to try to win more votes. “The political parties never made remarks about LGBT issues before, but now they are including them in their [election] manifestos,” he said. “I appeal to them to keep fighting for LGBT issues when they are actually elected to parliament,” Aung Myo Min said. Reported by Soe San Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region are forbidding practice by ethnic Uyghurs of the daily prayers required of observant Muslims, allowing only those 65 years of age and older to fulfill their religious obligations, sources say.The move further tightens restrictions on Islamic practice that has already seen restrictions placed on the annual Ramadan fast and the banning of religious instruction for Uyghur children under 18, who are also barred from entering mosques.Enacted in 2017, the ban on the daily prayer called namaz has been reported in three separate jurisdictions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and is being enforced by village police officers who enter private homes to command compliance, sources said.Those found in violation of the rules are reported to local authorities and face penalties including possible incarceration in Xinjiang’s network of political re-education camps, where as many as 1.8 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims accused of “religious extremism” and of harboring “politically incorrect ideas” have been held since 2017.Uyghur households examined by police are told that only older men can now go to the mosques to pray, a village police officer in Atush city told RFA’s Uyghur Service, adding that officers visiting the homes “of course” recommend to all others that they abandon their prayers.“We don’t do things like let younger people into the mosques,” she said. “But it’s fine if they’re 65 or older.”Officers enforcing the ban introduce themselves to Uyghur families as representatives of the mosque administrative committees, the officer said, adding, “We tell them not to take part in any religious activities, and just to live in peace.”Faced with strict orders from the police, people willingly go along with the new restrictions, she said. “This is the government’s work.”Turned over to enforcersA second police officer in Atush confirmed that it has been a part of his job since 2017 to watch for Uyghurs performing namaz or other religious activities, saying that if someone is found to have broken the law, they are handed over to local enforcement groups.“We tell the offenders that they have violated the law, and we turn them over to the village brigade,” he said “The village brigade takes them for re-education, and we then inform their family about what happened. That’s how it goes.”Reached for comment, a Religious Affairs Committee worker in Turpan prefecture declined to answer a reporter’s questions, saying, “Well, in this case you need to come to our office rather than talking about this on the phone.”But a member of a “work group” in Xinjiang’s Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture confirmed that before the new regulation went into effect in 2017, only Communist Party members and children under the age of 18 were forbidden to pray.“[Now], we tell people that they have to be part of the work of eliminating religious extremism and terrorism and promoting stability -- that we all must work toward the safety and security of our region.”“For the sake of all of us, we’re ruling the country by law, controlling the country by law,” he said.Neighbors spy on neighborsReports by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets have found that Uyghurs who undertake simple religious practices, such as prayer, are regularly accused of religious extremism, and that authorities rely on neighbors monitoring one another to determine whether anyone is “guilty.”Over the past three or so years, regulations on the “ten-household system,” a means of neighbors spying and reporting on one another, have become more encompassing.According to the regulations, neighbors are expected to keep watch day and night, to note down any “mistakes” they discover their neighbors committing, and then to drop written records of those “mistakes” into a box each Monday, after which they’re collected by local leaders.Anyone who does not report a “mistake” within a given week is labeled "has ideological problems” and taken into the village cadre’s office for questioning—a threat which has effectively compelled neighbors to find fault in their neighbors’ smallest, most innocuous everyday actions.Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson. Written in English by Richard Finney.
The rebel Arakan Army has released a video showing three Myanmar security officers captured in the war in Rakhine state appealing for talks to win their freedom, a move that has divided experts over whether displaying the captives violates international laws on prisoners of war. Some observers saw the video release as a way to inform family members that the captives are still alive that also could prompt negotiations on a prisoner exchange. Others said making the captured men talk violated their privacy — if not Geneva Convention rules on the questioning of war captives. The Arakan Army (AA) released a video on Sept. 19 in which the three POWs — a battalion commander, a captain, and a police captain — tell their family members not to worry about them and urge senior military commanders to secure their release via negotiations. The AA did not say when the interviews were recorded. Major Thet Naing Oo, an army officer captured during combat in Kyauktaw township’s Meewa village on March 10, says in the video that the AA has treated its captives well and not tortured them. He asks the Myanmar army to enter talks for their release and urges his family not to worry about him. “There are some comrades, including myself, who were detained for various reasons, while on duty,” he says. “Because we are all part of a national brotherhood, I’d like to appeal for our rescue by using the approach of negotiations between top leaders, without harming the civilians.” The AA has been engaged in hostilities with Myanmar forces since late 2018 as the rebels fight for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine people in what they consider to be its historic homeland on the Bay of Bengal coast. The war has killed nearly 300 civilians and injured more than 640 while displacing more than 220,000 civilians. Both the AA and Myanmar military have detained soldiers from each other’s forces during the armed conflict as well as civilians suspected of supporting or aiding the enemy. Another POW in the video, Captain Shane Htet Linn, also appealed for his release and said he had not surrendered to the AA. “I want to appeal to the military and other leaders not to label me as traitor and give up on me,” he says in the video. “I want them to have sympathy for me and take care of us.” He also expressed hope that he would see his elderly parents again and be able to take care of them. Police officer Kyi Soe, who has been held by the AA for nearly 11 months, said on the video that he was captured while on duty. “I want to appeal to [my superiors] not to abandon me, considering the fact that I have served in the position to which I was assigned,” he said. “I want to appeal to my superiors to find a way for my release.” Video prompts appeals AA soldiers detained Kyi Soe in late October 2019 near Yey Myat village in Buthidaung township as he was departing on a river ferry to Rakhine’s capital Sittwe to report for his assignment to a police border outpost. The AA has said that it is holding 17 members of the police force, including Kyi Soe, and more than 30 members of the Myanmar military, including Major Thet Naing Oo. The ethnic army said it has released 16 transportation department workers and two older Myanmar soldiers who were captured in January. The airing of the video, which was seen by 1.7 million people on social media as of Wednesday, prompted appeals from relatives of other detainees who were not shown in the video. Suang Thida, the mother of missing immigration officer Myo Swe Oo, said she hasn’t received news about her son — her only relative — and that the government stopped paying his salary after December, when he was snatched by the AA with two coworkers from a boat on the Mayu River in Buthidaung township. “I want to appeal to the AA to release my son on humanitarian grounds,” said the woman, who lives in Hsi Hseng Town in Shan state, after contacting RFA hoping to get information about Myo Swe Oo. Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun would not confirm whether the men in the video were government soldiers, but he said that that the military has not abandoned detainees held by the AA. “With regards to the detained soldiers and government employees, I want to say to their family members that we are constantly working on military operations to get the latest information on them and secure their release,” he said. But he added that the military would not negotiate with the AA because of its status as a terrorist group — a label the government applied in March. RFA could not independently confirm the identities and ranks of the men in the video or determine whether their comments were recorded under duress. The AA said it respected the privacy rights and safety of the POWs and that it released the video to inform their families that the men are alive and healthy. AA spokesman Khine Thukha said all captives held by the rebel army are in good health and will be released if the Myanmar military frees AA soldiers that it is detaining. An Arakan Army soldier participates in a drill at an undisclosed location in an undated photo. Credit: RFA Opportunity for negotiations? Ann Thar Gyi, chairman of the local civil society organization Thingaha Kanlat Rakhita Aid Association, called on the AA to negotiate with Myanmar forces for the release of all soldiers, policemen, and immigration officers. “We’d like to see them returned to their family members,” he told RFA. Min Lwin Oo, an attorney who used to work with the Asia Human Rights Commission, said he believes the AA issued the video to in an effort to spark negotiations with the Myamar military. “I think they know they should not broadcast such videos on social media, but the chances for negotiations between the two armed forces are null,” he told RFA. “That’s why they have issued the video — to initiate an opportunity for negotiations,” he added. “They intend to create a situation where the United Nations or International Committee of the Red Cross will intervene and serve as a third party for negotiations.” On Wednesday, local rights experts and veteran journalists raised questions over whether the AA’s release of a video of POWs violated the Geneva Convention, a series of international laws governing the treatment of wounded or captive military personnel during armed conflict. Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar, a human rights education group based in Yangon, pointed out that Article 17 of the Geneva Convention, which pertains to the questioning of war captives, says POWs are only bound to give their surnames when questioned. “Nothing else can be asked,” he said. “Now, we have seen the interrogations on additional information from the POWs. This constitutes a violation of the Geneva Convention agreement.” Revealing the personal information of POWs could result in risks for their family members, coercing them into taking certain actions, even if the detained soldiers are safe, he said. Protect the POWs But former Myanmar information minister Ye Htut disagreed, arguing that international law does not prevent the release of video recordings of POWs in civil wars. He said he had seen similar recordings during armed conflicts in other countries. “With regard to detained civilians captured in domestic armed conflicts, the Geneva Convention agreements required the armed forces not to violate their human rights,” he said. “There are no rules preventing the broadcast of interviews of detained persons.” Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, concurred with Ye Htut. “I don’t think it violates anything ethically,” he said. Rights activist Nickey Diamond from Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights said the issue is disputable given the stated intention of was to inform others about the well-being of the war captives, though the AA should have adhered to certain ethical principles. “For the sake of their security and privacy, the faces of the POWs in the video should have been blurred,” he said. “It is good that the family members of these POWs got to learn that their loved ones are still alive, but whether it is appropriate or not under the international law still needs to be debated,” Diamond said. Earlier this month, Fortify Rights obtained an AA video with the recorded confessions of two Myanmar privates who admitted to taking part in a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state in 2017 that included torture, mass rape, indiscriminate killings, and arson. The soldiers had deserted the government army and contacted the AA for assistance. They later showed up on the Bangladesh border and asked authorities for help, but were turned over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. The ICC, which tries individuals, in November authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated by Myanmar soldiers against the Rohingya. RFA did not see the video interviews and could not independently verify the soldiers’ accounts. Reported and translated by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Creative workers overseas have hit out at Hollywood over what they say is the movie industry’s long-running failure to stand up to China over human rights abuses, which include the mass incarceration and persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.Following Disney’s release last month of the live-action remake of Mulan, the media empire sparked an international outcry after it thanked Xinjiang branches of China’s feared state security police, who are closely linked with a network of internment camps, a program of cultural genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups, and the regionwide monitoring, harassment, and surveillance of residents.U.K.-based writer Ma Jian said Disney’s unapologetic use of locations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) just a few miles away from incarceration camps was a scandal, and showed that Disney was only too happy to collude with China’s repressive regime.“It’s truly disgusting that China built concentration camps and that the Disney production team just passed close by and even thanks [the authorities],” Ma told RFA. “All those people had lost their liberty, locked up in concentration camps, while they were making a movie right there.”“Disney clearly had no concern for what was going on in the background. What were they thinking, shooting there?” he said.Disney released its U.S. $200 million live-action version of the popular 1998 animated film “Mulan” about a young woman who pretends to be a man so that she can join the military on behalf of her sick father on its streaming platform Disney+ on Sept. 4.In the credits, the company thanks several entities known to have contributed to Beijing’s repressive rule in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.Among those thanked in the credits are the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda commission in the XUAR, which has sought to justify the camps as voluntary “vocational centers,” despite reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.Disney also thanked the Turpan (in Chinese, Tulufan) prefectural branch of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which in July was sanctioned by the Trump administration for its role in abuses in the region.A longstanding problemAccording to Ma, the problem of filmmakers kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party is a longstanding one for Hollywood.“Disney aren’t the only ones to betray the values of their country of origin by welcoming the Chinese Communist Party, even laying out the red carpet for them.”Actress and former Miss Canada Anastasia Lin, who has been outspokenly critical of China’s human rights abuses in the past, said little appears to have changed in Tinseltown."Nobody puts a gun to the heads of Hollywood screenwriters and asks them to produce work that will please Beijing, but they still do it,” Lin told RFA.“Although they are free to speak out on behalf of the Chinese people, they choose not to do that, which is very disappointing,” she said.Lin said her own career in Hollywood has been negatively affected by her human rights activism, as major Hollywood studios continue to form joint ventures with state-owned Chinese companies that are entirely controlled by the Communist Party."This has created an economic incentive for self-censorship,” Lin said. “You can be pretty sure that no project that is critical of the Chinese Communist Party will see the light of day.”Lawmakers demand answersOn Sept. 11, the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts led 17 other U.S. lawmakers in writing an open letter to Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek, demanding clarification on the company’s cooperation with XUAR agencies.You Ziwei, director and producer of the Hollywood production company Light & Shadow Pictures, said the letter had likely had little impact in Hollywood, however."In the entertainment industry, everything is still all about commercial success." You told RFA. “People generally avoid talking about social justice in case it has an impact on commercial value.”The exile group World Uyghur Congress told RFA that the Turpan police department has been directly involved in the running of internment camps for Uyghurs.“The Mulan credits publicly thank a violent organization in China,” group spokesman Dilshat Rashit told RFA. “The search for profit has blunted any sense of ethics at many companies, and helped to spread China’s genocidal propaganda against Uyghurs.”“We call on people who care about human rights to publicly boycott Mulan, and call on moviegoers not to ally themselves with organizations involved in extreme forms of persecution,” he said.U.S. movie director Judd Apatow recently chimed in with criticism of Hollywood in comments made to a chat show on MSNBC.“Instead of us doing business with China and China becoming more free, what has happened is a place like China has bought our silence with their money,” Apatow told the network’s Mavericks with Ari Melber show.“As a result of that, we never wake up our country or the world through art or satire that people are being mistreated in our country or other countries. So that’s very dangerous,” he said.A local official told RFA earlier this month that detainees at an internment camp in an area of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where Disney shot part of Mulan, are being subjected to forced labor making socks and crushing gravel.Turpan, where the film was shot in part, is a prefecture-level city in eastern Xinjiang whose population of around 650,000 people is some 75 percent Uyghur. The ancient Silk Road city is known as being one of the earliest to have rolled out a campaign of “transformation through education” of Muslims, beginning in August 2013.RFA recently learned from local police officers that as many as eight camps are in operation within the prefecture’s boundaries, despite claims in Paris earlier this month by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that all those sent to camps in the XUAR have been released and placed in employment.Reported by Mia Chieh-ping Chen for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.m
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to that would block imports from in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) unless proof can be shown that they are not linked to forced labor. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was introduced in March, amid growing evidence that internment camps in the region have increasingly transitioned from political indoctrination to forced labor, with detainees being sent to work in cotton and textile factories. The House vote of 406-3 for the bill, which requires the Secretary of State to determine if imposing forced labor on Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic groups constitutes crimes against humanity or genocide under U.S. law, clears the way for a vote in the Senate. The bill follows a year of heightened U.S. scrutiny of Beijing’s sprawling network of camps in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017. Washington is also taking measures to block imports of suspect goods and to sanction and hold to account Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations in the XUAR. The U.S. has warned U.S. firms to ensure supply chains in China do not involve forced labor. The legislation says that supplier vetting in the XUAR is “unreliable due to the extent forced labor has been integrated into the regional economy, the mixing of involuntary labor with voluntary labor, the inability of witnesses to speak freely about working conditions given government surveillance and coercion, and the incentive of government officials to conceal government-sponsored forced labor.” The bill notes that goods made by forced labor are illegal under the Tariff Act of 1930, which rules that such products are “subject to exclusion or seizure and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer.” The bill would ban as products of forced labor “all goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China,” the legislation says. Exceptions for XUAR goods will be made when the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection “determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that any specific goods, wares, articles, or merchandise … were not produced wholly or in part by convict labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions,” it said. Tuesday’s vote follows the announcement on Sept. 14 of new customs actions to block imports of Chinese products believed to be produced with forced labor. The Withhold Release Orders, measures intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the United States, targeted a vocational school and three hair, apparel and fabric entities from Xinjiang, as well as a computer parts firm from Anhui province in eastern China. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) welcomed Tuesday’s approval of what it called the “the first national legislation anywhere in the world enforcing human-rights standards to end the import of goods made with Uyghur forced labor.” “Americans do not want to be complicit in buying products made by Uyghurs locked in Chinese forced-labor factories,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat in a statement. “The Senate must also act, and all governments must enact measures to counter the Chinese government’s mass atrocities, committed on a scale not seen since World War II,” added Kanat. From Germany, World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Issa called the vote a “historic day for the Uyghur people” and urged swift follow-up. “I hope the US Senate pass the Act in a speedy manner and President Trump to sign it into law,” he told RFA. Reported by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert
The intensifying war in Rakhine state between Myanmar government troops and rebel Arakan Army soldiers, often fought in populated civilian areas, is killing and maiming increasing numbers of children, international and domestic NGOs say. A recent rise in child casualties in northern Rakhine state comes as U.N. observers note an increased use of airstrikes and heavy artillery attacks on civilian communities by the Myanmar military in its 21-month-old conflict with the Arakan Army (AA), which says it fights for autonomy for ethnic Rakhine people who live in the coastal region. Forty-two children under the age of 18 have died and 135 have been injured since December 2018 by artillery shelling, gunshots, and landmine explosions, according to groups that advocate for children. They are among nearly 300 civilians killed, and more than 640 injured in northern Rakhine state and in Paletwa township of next-door Chin state, according to an RFA tally. In a conflict exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that has resurged in Rakhine, some 200,000 civilians have fled their homes to escape fighting and now live in official or makeshift displacement camps or in the homes of relatives, according to an estimate by the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, a local NGO. On Monday, as the U.N.’s human rights chief issued a report in Geneva warning that the army’s actions in Rakhine could constitute war crimes, two teenagers were seriously injured by mortar shells that fell onto their village amid what witnesses said was an exchange of artillery fire by a Myanmar Navy vessel in the Mayu River and AA soldiers on land. Residents of Rathedaung township’s U Gar village said Myanmar soldiers on the boat and troops in Rathedaung town fired artillery for more than an hour. AA spokesman Khine Thukha said his army’s troops did not engage in combat with Myanmar forces along the Mayu River that day, and accused two navy vessels of intentionally firing artillery at the civilian villages. A Myanmar military spokesman, however, said the troops were responding to 107-millimeter rockets and rocket-propelled grenades fired at the navy boat by the AAin a clash that lasted 30 minutes. “Regarding the civilians who got injured, you can’t say it for sure it was caused by the military’s artillery. You can’t assume the military is responsible whenever there are artillery blasts,” he said. A child injured by mortar shell explosions in western Myanmar's war-ravaged Rakhine state arrives at a hospital in Sittwe, Oct. 3, 2019. Credit: RFA Civilians ‘directly targeted’ The report on Myanmar presented Monday by Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, based on interviews with more than 80 victims and witnesses whose accounts were verified, said that it was frequently the case that villages were attacked by the army without any AA provocation or presence. “Tatmadaw tactics have shifted, with periodic reliance on airpower against the Arakan Army, but in some instances it appears that civilians may have been directly targeted,” the report said, using the Burmese name for the military, Myanmar’s most powerful institution. The report went on to say that there had been a significant increase in the number of airstrikes by fighter jets, helicopter and heavy artillery attacks, and ground battles in more densely populated civilian areas. “For the most part, however, it appears that the Arakan Army was not active or present in the areas where these attacks took place and no armed clashes were reported to have been ongoing at that time,” the report said. Hardly a week goes by without reports of new Rakhine child casualties in conflict-affected areas. On Sept. 11, a six-year-old boy was transferred from a regional hospital to Sittwe General Hospital’s emergency room after sustaining serious injuries from an artillery blast in Rathedaung’s Aung Si Kone village. Cho Cho, the boy’s mother, told RFA that the child was injured while the family was hiding in a bomb shelter under their house as a military boat patrolling the Mayu River approached their village and passed. They waited until the boat was far from the village and then left the bomb shelter though they were still under the house, she said. “At that time, we heard the blast,” Cho Cho said. “It shattered a ceramic pot, house fences, and a door. Artillery fragments from the blast came under the house [and] penetrated the child’s left shoulder to the bone.” Myanmar woman and children who fled armed conflict in Rathedaung township, northern Rakhine state, find temporary shelter in Rakhine's capital Sittwwe, July 1, 2020. Credit: RFA Bomb shelters On Sept. 8, four civilians, including two five-year-olds, were killed, and a child was among several others injured by artillery blasts in Nyaung Khat Kan village in Rakhine’s Myebon township, drawing condemnation from UNICEF. “Children should never be targeted during armed conflicts,” said UNICEF in a statement issued the following day. “They are being killed in crossfire between parties to the conflict or even deliberately shot. They are being killed and maimed by landmines and explosive remnants of war in different parts of the country,” the U.N. agency said, referring to other conflicts in Myanmar, a multiethnic country of 54 million people. Adults have become inured to exchanges of artillery fire between AA troops and military vessels patrolling the rivers of Rakhine state. Everyone hides in bomb shelters as a precaution whenever Myanmar navy vessels are on the river, villagers said. Life during conflict is stressful for children, experts said. “Children in Rakhine state are insecure, both physically and mentally,” said Oo Khin Thein from Sittwe-based Arakan Youth New Generation Network, referring to minors in “dire conditions” in both internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and in towns and villages. “I found children in towns and villages in conflict areas who were physically injured by the armed conflict,” she said. “They are also emotionally impacted by trauma and fear of getting injured in artillery blasts. We see more and more children living in fear. ” Intensifying hostilities mean that nowhere in northern Rakhine is safe for anyone, said Oo Tun Win, a lawmaker from Kyauktaw township “Many people have been killed by artillery blasts while they are at home,” he told RFA. “They also have been killed by stray bullets as they fled from the blasts. People have been killed in their sleep. So, Rakhine society as a whole is not safe anywhere, not to mention the safety of the children.” Myanmar children who fled fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in northern Rakhine state find temporary shelter at the Mittaparami Buddhist Monastery in Rakhine's capital Sittwe, April 11, 2020. Credit: RFA ‘Senseless’ shelling of a school Myanmar forces also have detained a few minors on suspicion of having connections to the AA and charged them under the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law, said Myo Myat Hein, the director of the Thazin Legal Aid Group in Sittwe. “In these cases, the accused children have not been given their rights under the Child Rights Law, [which] guarantees detainees immediate access to legal representations though this is often not the case,” he said. “In many cases, the lawyers meet the detained children only when they are brought to trial.” Those held in custody are sometimes subject to torture by authorities or disappear after their detentions, their family members have reported, according to Myo Myat Hein, who is also known as Nyein Chan. The annual report by the U.N.’s human right chief noted that schools, religious sites, and civilian homes in Rakhine have been targeted in attacks and damaged by heavy artillery and by Myanmar military patrols. In February, at least 17 schoolchildren ranging in age from five to 12 were wounded when a mortar shell hit their primary school in Khamwe Chaung village in Buthidaung township, the report said. The following month, soldiers set houses and a school ablaze and destroyed a local monastery with a rocket-propelled grenade in Minbya township’s Pha Bro village, it noted. Save the Children called the injuries “senseless” and pointed out that they occurred on the same day that the U.N. expressed concern over the continuing humanitarian impact of conflict in western Myanmar and urged parties to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians. “Many children are among these victims, and the actual number of casualties is likely to be higher due to limited monitoring and reporting in the conflict-affected areas,” the statement by Save the Children said. UNICEF said the children of Rakhine face long-term repercussions because “their education is being hampered by attacks against schools and the use of schools by parties to the conflict.” Myanmar has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that “governments must do everything they can to protect and care for children affected by war and armed conflicts.” In 2019, the country also ratified the Optional Protocol on Children and Armed Conflict, whereby states agree to protect children from military recruitment and use in hostilities. Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
The U.N. human rights chief on Monday said the Myanmar military’s brutal tactics in its 21-month-long war in Rakhine state were producing possible war crimes, and said Naypyidaw had made no progress in resolving an earlier crisis sparked by the army’s expulsion of Rohingya Muslims. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that hostilities since between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) had led to disappearances, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, deaths in custody, and the destruction of property. “Civilian casualties have also been increasing,” she said. “In some cases, they appear to have been targeted or attacked indiscriminately, which may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity.” Bachelet made the comments as she presented a report to the 47-member Council that provided detailed accounts of military actions in Rakhine state — “conduct which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] in Chin and Rakhine states,” she said. “Tatmadaw units have undertaken widespread arbitrary arrests and detention of civilians. Use of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment against detainees has also been alleged,” said the report, using the Burmese name for the powerful military. Following Bachelet’s statement, Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N., said in prerecorded remarks that the Rakhine issue is “complex and delicate” and that the government has placed priority on finding a sustainable solution to it. He went on to say that “terrorist attacks” in Rakhine were to blame for the current humanitarian crisis there, which has been complicated by fighting between the government army and the AA. Kyaw Moe Tun also said that Myanmar is willing and able to address the issue of accountability” and that the government has been taking necessary action based on the recommendations of the Myanmar government-appointed Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) set up to probe the military-led crackdown on the Rohingya in 2017. The ICOE said it its final report, which it submitted to Myanmar President Win Myint, that war crimes and serious human rights violations had occurred in Rakhine but did not have “genocidal intent.” Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in prerecorded remarks, Sept. 14, 2020. Credit: UN Web TV screenshot ‘A terrible human rights crisis’ The new U.N. report noted that since last year “a significant increase in incidents of airstrikes by fighter jets, and helicopter and heavy artillery attacks, and in ground battles in more densely populated civilian areas.” “For the most part, however, it appears that the Arakan Army was not active or present in the areas where these attacks took place and no armed clashes were reported to have been ongoing at that time,” it said. “The destruction of villages and civilian homes has caused suffering for civilians. Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law,” said the report, a follow-on to the U.N.-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar, set up after the 2017 military campaign expelled Rohingya to Bangladesh. Myanmar has made limited progress on the FFM’s recommendations to conduct independent and impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable for human rights crimes committed not only in Rakhine but also in other parts of the country, Bachelet said. “Three years have passed since the military operations in Rakhine created a terrible human rights crisis,” she said. “The situation of many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced people remains unresolved.” A September 2019 report by a U.N.-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar found signs of genocidal intent in the 2017 crackdown and presented critical evidence that government security forces committed atrocities and serious crimes under international law. The FFM report also found that the state was responsible for other violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Though the Council and the U.N. General Assembly have called for accountability, “no concrete measures have been taken,” Bachelet said. National initiatives, including secretive and selective courts-martial and the national Commission of Enquiry, have been inadequate and fallen short of international standards,” she said. A number of satellite images and eyewitness accounts indicate that areas in northern Rakhine have been burned in recent months, she said, while noting that the Myanmar government has contested the reports. “This only underscores the need for independent, on-the-ground investigation,” added Bachelet. Lack of accountability processes In the meantime, government administrators have reclassified areas where Rohingya villages once stood, removing the communities’ names from maps and potentially altering how the land may be used, Bachelet said. She expressed concern that evidence relevant to determining legal responsibility for acts committed during military operations in Rohingya communities before and after 2017 may be destroyed. The report cast doubt about Myanmar’s pledges to hold military personnel accountable. “So far, the steps taken through its national commission and military justice processes appear to have been insufficient and to have replicated past patterns of delaying effective accountability processes and maintaining impunity,” it said. “The available findings of the national commission either deny or reject responsibility, calling into question both the willingness of authorities to ensure genuine accountability and the independence of the national commission,” the report said.
It’s coming: the second lockdown appears all but imminent. The mainstream media is now reporting that the coronavirus cases are on the rise. Brace yourself for another lockdown. COVID-19 cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average to smooth out daily reporting, in 11 states as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University, an increase from eight states on Friday. While cases are growing in 11 states, the overall daily average of new cases in the U.S. is declining. Over the past seven days, the country has reported an average of about 34,300 new cases per day, down more than 15% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data. That’s far lower than the roughly 70,000 new cases a day the U.S. was reporting weeks ago. So that means they’ll open up more, right? Doubtful. If the statistics don’t fit the aenda, they will be made to fit the agenda. It won’t be long before the “experts” start to see a rise in cases all over the country and in all states. It will not take much more than what’s already been reported to worsen to the point of another lockdown. Please take the time to prepare for what’s coming. Based in what’s being broadcasted now, that there could very well be another harsh lockdown and soon. Things that I, personally have noticed are in short supply are seeds and canning jars. If you can find either, I suggest grabbing them. If you have doubts about what else is planned for us, take note: Even if a vaccine is approved to be distributed before the end of the year, it will likely be in short supply. The vaccine will likely require two doses at varying intervals, and states still face logistical challenges such as setting up distribution sites and acquiring enough needles, syringes and bottles needed for immunizations. For now, leaders can stop new outbreaks by practicing the “basics” of public health and disease control, medical experts and officials say. –CNBC If we translate that last sentence, CNBC is saying that tyrants in government should forcibly remove basic human rights until we can all be forcibly vaccinated. Scrolling through the news today was not comforting. It’s time to make sure your preps are in order. Time is running out. Stay safe, and hopefully, you can stay alert and be fearless in the face of this New World Order attempted takeover. Are Face Masks & COVID Rituals Occultist Symbols For Submission? President Trump is Breaking Down the Neck of the Federal Reserve! He wants zero rates and QE4! You must prepare for the financial reset We are running out of time Download the Ultimate Reset Guide Now!
Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have secretly tried three non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, family members and rights groups said.Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, and Wuge Jianxiong were indicted in secret for "subversion of state power" by prosecutors in Hunan's provincial capital, Changsha, on June 24.They were tried behind closed doors at the Changsha Intermediate People's Court last week.Their families weren't informed of the trial until afterwards, they told RFA.Cheng's wife Shi Minglei said she had only discovered that the trial had already happened when she called the court on Sept. 11 for an update on her husband's case.An official said the trial had taken place, and had been "open to the public," but a second official who attempted a search of court records for the trial said it had returned no results."They confirmed that the trial was held last week. They didn't tell me the outcome," Shi told RFA."When we went to the court to ask about the outcome of the trial, they couldn't find the case at all in the system," she said. "How can they call this a public trial?"Shi rejected the charges against her husband and the other two defendants."None of the work or activities undertaken by the Changsha Three was criminal in nature," Shi said. "They have no evidence or material facts [to back them up]."Shi said government-appointed lawyers wouldn't dwell on the lack of evidence against their clients."This trial was held secretly so as to cover up the illegal methods [they are using]," she said.The three defendants have been denied meetings with attorneys hired by their families since being detained on July 22, 2019.Fired under duressThe lawyers were told in March this year that the defenders had "dismissed" them and that the government had assigned them government-funded lawyers.The families said they believe that the lawyers were fired under duress, and said they have had no contact with the government-appointed lawyers.Rights lawyer Xie Yang said that was highly likely."They must have used means we don't know about to force the defendants to dismiss the lawyers hired by their families," Xie said.He said the court may also decide to issue the verdict and sentence in secret.Authorities in China have repeatedly put pressure on political prisoners to accept government-appointed lawyers, and to achieve a more lenient sentence by "confessing" to the charges against them.In some cases, they have issued letters "firing" the defense attorneys hired by their families.Changsha Funeng founder Yang Zhanqing, who is now in the U.S., said the Changsha Three were detained as part of a general crackdown on the organization.Yang has said that the main reason the authorities had targeted the three men was the fact that their rights work had received overseas funding, which the ruling Chinese Communist Party regards as "collusion with hostile foreign forces," and a threat to its national security.Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
With the usage of satellite imagery, Buzzfeed has conducted an extensive investigation of the Chinese Communist Party. In the western province of Xinjiang, a massive number of re-education camps are being built. The camps themselves are also rather sizable, holding up to 10,000 people. Over 260 structures like these have been constructed since 2017. They have all of the hallmarks of any fortified detention compound. In this region, there is at least one camp in every county. These systems are used for the incarceration and detention of various minorities. Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities are targeted by the Chinese. The large scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities has not been seen on this scale since World War II. The Muslim communities have been being re-educated since 2018. Initially, the re-education took place at schools that had been repurposed. Now, China has constructed hundreds of structures that are designed to look like a prison. The early sites did not look nearly as foreboding as these, which have already been compared to a prison site. The structures are believed to be similar to the high security prisons that exist in other areas of China. The cavernous layouts allow for very little light to enter the buildings and each structure contains long networks of corridors that house a number of cells. Buzzfeed was able to obtain information about the layouts by taking photos of buildings without roofs. They also relied on historical satellite photos that were taken during the construction process. In order to deduce the scale of these buildings, the researchers carefully counted the windows and measured each of them. One of these camps is believed to be large enough to hold 40,000 people. This is the same size as the town of Niagara Falls. China’s official line on these camps was a predictable one, for sure. They are not going to come right out and say what they are doing. There’s no real reason to at the moment. If the world is looking in their direction at all, they are more worried about the global pandemic that they are responsible for. That’s one of the many reasons why this project has gone under the radar entirely. They are being referred to as “vocational centers” and China is claiming that they are looking to rehabilitate those with violent ideas. In all reality, the people who are sent to these camps are shipped off for a number of different reasons. China does not really have to explain themselves here if they do not want to. Those who are held in these locations are given a list of 70 crimes to choose from. After that, a “trial” takes place and they are always found guilty. Anyone who refuses to confess their “crime” is told that they are never going to leave until they make a decision. If you would like to learn more about these conditions, you’ll want to check out the Buzzfeed report in full. Part one focuses on all of the basic information. Part two is where things start to get truly chilling. This is when Buzzfeed took the time to speak with various residents of these camps who were able to escape. They were all indoctrinated while they were there and fed all sorts of communist propaganda. These are things that we have already known for years but apparently, there are still some people out there who needed to be told. The truly worrisome part is that China is looking to make these camps permanent. Of course, the Chinese media outlets are working overtime to make sure no one gets too worried. They have even released a clip from a man who spent time in one of these facilities. He claims that this time there was very helpful, as he was able to mend his ways and stop committing acts of terrorism. It all seems a bit too convenient to us but you’ll just have to read the report and watch the video for yourself. [embedded content] Post navigation Previous Article Minneapolis Protests Turn Into Shooting Gallery. More Than Two Dozen Shots Fired Next Article Smart Money Literally Betting on Trump Comeback
Indonesia should ensure that nearly 300 Rohingya migrants who landed in Aceh province this week are given adequate health care and aid, Amnesty International said Friday, as officials announced three of the new arrivals had died after suffering lung infections. The officials confirmed two women and a man had died in the town of Lhokseumawe since local fishermen helped them come ashore on Monday. “The government must move more quickly to ensure that the refugees’ health care needs are met,” Usman Hamid, Amnesty International director in Indonesia, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. Usman said his group sent a letter to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urging him to provide more support to the local government to make sure that the minority Muslim refugees’ basic needs are met in line with international human rights standards. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi this week said the government would ensure that the Rohingya arrivals got the help they need including health care while their status as refugees was being verified by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. Achsanul Habib, director of human rights and humanitarian affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the local government was caring for the Rohingya. “As far as I know, everything is being handled by the task force in Lhokseumawe,” Achsanul told BenarNews. Early Friday, Senuwara Begum, 19, died while being treated for a lung infection at the state-run hospital in the town of Lhokseumawe, said Marzuki, spokesman for a local task force tasked with aiding the refugees. Two other Rohingya – aged 22 and 21 – died on Tuesday and Thursday after suffering from similar complaints, officials said. Rapid COVID-19 tests for the 181 women, 102 men, and 14 children who arrived on Monday were all negative, Marzuki said, adding that a swab sample had been taken from the woman who died Friday in order to perform a more accurate test. The Rohingya group was the largest to arrive in Indonesia since 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Call for leadership Meanwhile, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), a Jakarta-based think tank, issued a report on the Rohingya in Aceh calling on Jokowi to show leadership by revising a presidential decree on refugees. The report filed on Wednesday called on the administration to take some of the financial burden off local governments and provide more active support. “The Acehnese have been wonderfully supportive of the refugees, but this is a problem that can’t be solved by a sympathetic local community," IPAC researcher Deka Anwar said in a news release issued with the report. “We need a collective regional response, with less focus on repatriation when repatriation is not a viable alternative, more willingness to work out regional resettlement options and more prosecutions of anyone found to be profiting from smuggling networks,” he said. Following their rescue, some of the Rohingya told U.N. officials they agreed to pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to reach Malaysia and ended up spending more than half a year at sea, adding at least 30 people had died. The refugees were being sheltered in the same building that housed the 99 Rohingya who were rescued from another boat in June. Officials have said they believe the two groups were linked. “We are extremely concerned about the health of the refugees who arrived earlier this week in poor condition,” Mitra Suryono, UNHCR spokeswoman in Indonesia, told BenarNews. “The authorities are running additional health screenings in the field and UNHCR is trying to make sure that refugees can get what they need, including nutrition,” she said. ASEAN request During an Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Retno urged member countries to address the plight of the Rohingya. “We know that we need to work together and this cooperation, among others, is to address transnational crimes including the issue of people smuggling and trafficking in persons,” Retno said. Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a prolonged conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, home to the Rohingya, “jeopardizes the security and the stability of the ASEAN region.” Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in Rakhine under the “threat of genocide” according to a United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission report from September 2019. Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
The spokeswoman for Iran’s Ministry of Health says based on the announcement of the Minister, all health services provided to the foreign nationals and immigrants suffering from the novel Coronavirus will be free of charge. Sima-Sadat Lari said due to the spread of the Coronavirus and the importance of creating sustainable health in the country, non-Iranian citizens, like the Iranians, will receive COVID-19 health services free of charge. In an interview with IRNA, she said the Islamic Republic’s belief in creating sustainable health in the country has made it possible to provide health services to non-Iranians like the Iranian citizens because the basics of human rights, religion and the dignity of human beings say such services must be given to this population. “Due to its special geographical location in the last four decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has welcomed a large number of immigrants and refugees from other countries, especially Afghanistan,” she underlined. She further maintained that in this regard, health and medical personnel have been deployed in hotels and bases providing health and medical services to refugees and non-Iranian citizens since March 2020. People at high risk are also screened and their information recorded. In this respect, expert and technical meetings have been held with the organisations responsible for screening COVID-19 in the population of refugees and non-Iranian immigrants, and guidelines for the care and management of the disease in hotels have been developed. Official statistics released by Iran’s Interior Ministry show that there are about one million refugees in the country, of which only about 4% live in official guest cities of the Ministry of Interior and 96% of other refugees, unlike other host countries, integrate with Iranians and they have settled in urban and rural areas. According to statistical estimates, about 2 to 2.5 million illegal immigrants live in the country. “Considering the health status of the refugee population in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the health needs of this population have been a priority of the Ministry of Health since the beginning and Iran has always planned to improve the health index among this population,” reiterated Lari. Subscribe
The commission’s first report fails to grapple with arguably the greatest human-rights abuse of our age.