Amnesty accuses Myanmar of imposing ‘apartheid’ on Rohingya

Rohingya refugees walk through water at Thankhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on November 17, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2017
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Amnesty accuses Myanmar of imposing ‘apartheid’ on Rohingya

YANGON: Myanmar’s suffocating control of its Rohingya population amounts to “apartheid,” Amnesty International said Tuesday in a probe into the root causes of a crisis that has sent 620,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.
Distressing scenes of dispossessed Rohingya in Bangladeshi camps have provoked outrage around the world, as people who have escaped Rakhine state since August recount tales of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar troops.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed in principle to repatriate some Rohingya but disagree over the details, with Myanmar’s army chief saying last week that it was “not possible” to accept the number of refugees proposed by Dhaka.
The Amnesty report, published Tuesday, details how years of persecution have curated the current crisis.
A “state-sponsored” campaign has restricted virtually all aspects of Rohingyas’ lives, the Amnesty study says, confining them to what amounts to a “ghetto-like” existence in the mainly Buddhist country.
The 100-page report, based on two years of research, says the web of controls meet the legal standard of the “crime against humanity of apartheid.”
“Rakhine State is a crime scene. This was the case long before the vicious campaign of military violence of the last three months,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty’s Senior Director for Research.
Myanmar’s authorities “are keeping Rohingya women, men and children segregated and cowed in a dehumanizing system of apartheid,” she added.
The bedrock for the widespread hatred toward the Muslim group comes from a contentious 1982 Citizenship law.
Enacted by the then junta, the law effectively rendered hundreds of thousands of Rohingya stateless.
Since then, Amnesty says a “deliberate campaign” has been waged to erase Rohingya rights to live in Myanmar, where they are denigrated as “Bengalis” or illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
A system of identification cards is central to those bureaucratic controls, and likely to form the basis of the decision on who will be allowed to return from Bangladesh.
The latest wave of persecution has pushed more than half of the 1.1-million strong minority out of the country, with those left behind sequestered in increasingly isolated and vulnerable villages.
Although the Rohingya have been victims of discrimination for decades, the report details how repression intensified after the outbreak of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities in 2012.
Long before the recent mass exodus of Rohingya from northern Rakhine state — now a virtual ghostland of torched villages and unharvested paddy fields — they were unable to travel freely, requiring special permits and facing arrest, abuse and harassment at numerous checkpoints.
In central Rakhine state, Rohingya Muslims were driven out of urban areas after the 2012 violence.
They remain completely segregated from the Buddhist community, confined by barbed wire and police checkpoints to camps that Amnesty calls an “open-air prison.”
The Muslim community is widely denied access to medical care, their children are unable to attend government schools while many mosques have been sealed off.
“Restoring the rights and legal status of Rohingya, and amending the country’s discriminatory citizenship laws is urgently needed,” said Anna Neistat.
“Rohingya who have fled persecution in Myanmar cannot be asked to return to a system of apartheid.”


India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Updated 2 min 3 sec ago
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India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

  • Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
  • Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”

DELHI: India’s prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. Hollande was quoted as saying Narendra Modi’s government had influenced the choice of a local partner.
Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
The opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, spent the past year alleging that the deal is a scam, in which India is overpaying for jets and the government is allowing a private company — billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense — to benefit instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.
“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fueling a political storm in India.
The Indian government, however, has insisted all along that it had nothing to do with Dassault’s decision to work with Reliance Defense.
Under Indian defense procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip the Reliance Defense procured the contract .
“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to ...Anil Ambani,” said Mr. Gandhi in a tweet.
Gandhi further tweeted: “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a ... SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defense forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul.”
Gandhi repeated the charge in a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
The BJP, however, says that there is no corruption.
“The fact that two sovereign heads of States negotiated a deal means that there is no room for corruption,” said Sudesh Verma, BJP spokesperson.
Talking to Arab News Verma emphasized that “the highest integrity was maintained in the deal. Now the Congress is not talking of corruption but favoritism. Merely by saying that Reliance Defense was favored by us would not cut any ice. These are insinuations and are irresponsible.”
Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”
“No matter what the indian government says that perception is that the Indian government gave the offset contract to Anil Ambani, a guy who has no history of producing defense equipment,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi based political analyst.
He added: “The halo around Modi has been severely diminished after the recent revelations. This is something which it would be very difficult to live it down now.”