Myanmar under immense strain to stop violence

Updated 19 November 2012
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Myanmar under immense strain to stop violence

PHNOM PENH: Myanmar is under immense pressure to stop unabated violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims, which is allegedly being orchestrated by security forces in tandem with a political party supporting the radical nationalists.
Taking the issue under consideration, Southeast Asian leaders attending the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has decided to put pressure on Myanmar to resolve violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims, a senior regional official said yesterday. The unrest has left scores dead and as many as 100,000 people displaced since June.
Myanmar President Thein Sein has blamed nationalist and religious extremists for unrest in June and October that killed at least 167 people, but has faced criticism for failing to address underlying tensions in Rakhine State, where an estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are not recognized as citizens.
At least “800,000 people are now under tremendous pressure,” the AEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on the sidelines of the summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
“If that issue is not handled well and effectively, there is a risk of extremism,” he said.
Surin said he expected ASEAN leaders to raise the issue with Myanmar, which is a member of the bloc, during bilateral talks.
The ASEAN chief admitted the Rohingya Muslims were the victims of “disturbing” ethnic violence, but stopped short of calling the bloodshed genocide. He did not agree with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which on Saturday had called the Rohingya victims of “genocide”.
A Reuters investigation painted a troubling picture of organized attacks led by Rakhine nationalists tied to a powerful political party in the state, incited by Buddhist monks and, some witnesses said, abetted by local security forces.
US President Barack Obama is expected to raise the issue of ethnic tensions today, when he travels to Myanmar and meets Thein Sein. Obama will be the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma.
“In addition to the democratic reforms, we’ve been concerned about the continued ethnic conflicts in Burma,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters accompanying Obama aboard Air Force One.
“I think the president will be underscoring that national reconciliation is also going to be a part of Burma’s democratic transition,” he said.
The United Nations said yesterday Thein Sein had sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promising action to tackle the problems.
In a statement, Ban’s office said Thein Sein had promised that “once emotions subside on all sides”, his government was prepared to “address contentious political dimensions, ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship”.
Many Rohingyas are subject to travel and work restrictions.
Rohingyas have lived for generations in Rakhine State, but Rakhines and other Burmese view them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh who deserve neither rights nor sympathy.
A leading international rights group yesterday accused Myanmar security forces of supporting some of the brutal anti-Muslim violence last month that forced 35,000 people from torched homes. The government rejected the allegations, which came one day before President Barack Obama’s visit to the Southeast Asian nation after a year and a half of unprecedented democratic reforms there.
Human Rights Watch said soldiers in some parts of western Rakhine state also tried to stop Buddhist attacks and protect Muslim civilians, known as Rohingya. But the group said the government needs to do much more to protect the stateless minority, who are denied
citizenship because they are considered foreigners from Bangladesh.
The New York-based rights group also released new satellite imagery detailing the extensive destruction of several Muslim areas, including a village attacked by Buddhist mobs armed with spears and bows and arrows where adults were beheaded and women and children killed.
“The satellite images and eyewitness accounts reveal that local mobs, at times with official support, sought to finish the job of removing Rohingya from these areas,” said Brad Adams, the watchdog’s Asia director.
He urged US President Barack Obama to press Myanmar’s reformist leader Thein Sein on the issue when he makes a historic visit to Yangon on Monday following sweeping political changes in the former pariah state.


Pupils as young as 10 to be drug-tested in the Philippines

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Updated 47 min 23 sec ago
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Pupils as young as 10 to be drug-tested in the Philippines

  • Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said it would push for drug tests in schools, which will cover teachers and pupils from Grade 4 upward.
  • The PDEA chief came out with the proposal following the recent arrest of a 10-year-old Grade 4 pupil allegedly using drugs, and of three teachers for committing drug-related offenses. 

MANILA: Critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s methods in his war on drugs now include the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which on Thursday rejected a proposal to subject pupils as young as 10 to mandatory drug testing.

“We should not permit this to happen. Schools are no playground for 'tokhang,' said Raymond Basilio, ACT Philippines Secretary-General. 

“Tokhang” means to knock and plead, and it has been associated with Duterte’s allegedly “bloody drug war,” where policemen knock at the homes of known drug personalities and persuade them to surrender and stop their illegal activities.

Basilio made the statement after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said it would push for drug tests in schools. This will cover teachers and pupils from Grade 4 upward.

Aquino, however, said that the plan was still at “the study level,” adding that it also had to coordinate with the Department of Education (DepEd) and other government agencies.

The PDEA chief came out with the proposal following the recent arrest of a 10-year-old Grade 4 pupil allegedly using drugs, and of three teachers for committing drug-related offenses. 

PDEA’s proposal was met with criticisms from different groups.

In an email sent by ACT to Arab News, Basilio said that drug-testing would sow terror in schools, disturb the students and destroy the sanctity of schools as safe places for learning. Mandatory drug testing was also a violation of the rights of children and teachers, he said.

According to Basilio the government’s line of thinking is “very dangerous,” as apart from the drug test of nine- or ten-year-olds, a bill to decrease the age of criminal liability to the same level is pending in Congress.

“The state, which has the responsibility to protect our youth, apparently wants to make criminals out of them,” said Basilio. He said that the PDEA chief’s proposal was also an insult to teachers.

“This government should disabuse itself of its belief that we are a nation of drug addicts. What we are is a nation deep in economic crisis. It is where they should focus,” Basilio said.

Basilio said that the government will be wasting people’s money to test 20 million pupils and 700,000 teachers for drug use. “It should be dedicated instead to uplifting the quality of education and upgrading teachers’ salaries,” Basilio said.

Dr. Leticia Penano-Ho, a clinical psychologist and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Education, also opposed the idea, saying it would be traumatic for children subjected to drug testing at a  young age.

Instead of suggesting drug tests for pupils, Penano-Ho told Arab News that the government should instead strengthen awareness and prevention in schools.

“They can do it in other ways instead of drug testing, which could be very traumatic for a child, aside from being unconstitutional. For employment purposes it’s OK but not for elementary pupils. Maybe for high school students, they can do it,” said Penano-Ho, former director of the ASEAN Training Center for Preventive Drug Education.

“There are ways by which teachers can identify (those using drugs). That’s why what PDEA should do with DDB really, is intensify drug awareness and drug prevention programs,” Penano-Ho said.

“They will be fearful, they will be suspicious. They don’t understand it, and they will not understand. How old is grade 4, 8 or 9? It’s going to be traumatic.”

She said that it could also affect children’s self-esteem because at an early age they were being suspected of committing a crime.

What the government could do, Penano-Ho said, is help teachers to develop more skills in being aware of what the indicators of drug use were. 

“So what we should do is do drug prevention in elementary schools instead of doing drug testing.”

“This government, they’re doing so much on the killing of the addicts. They’re not doing anything to prevent the young ones from becoming addicts. It’s what they should be doing,” Penano-Ho said.

Decoder

What is Tokhang?

“Tokhang” means to knock and plead, and it has been associated with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s allegedly “bloody drug war,” where policemen knock at the homes of known drug users and persuade them to surrender and stop their illegal activities.