UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar welcomes Amnesty report on Rohingya

Rohingya refugee Suray Khatun, 70, is carried by her son Said-A-Lam, 38, as they enter Kutupalong refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh a day after crossing the Myanmar border, on November 20, 2017. (REUTERS/Susana Vera)
Updated 21 November 2017
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UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar welcomes Amnesty report on Rohingya

JAKARTA: The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said Tuesday it welcomes a new Amnesty International (AI) report describing widespread and systematic discrimination against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that amounts to apartheid.

The head of the mission, Marzuki Darusman, said the report is helpful to the mission, whose mandate has been extended until September 2018. It was originally scheduled to conclude its work in March 2018, a year after its establishment.

“We only have a year to work, while AI has worked on the report for two years,” Darusman told Arab News.

“We hope to continue meeting with AI to further study its findings. We’re open to receiving information from all parties, even from the Myanmar government,” he said.

“Until now, they (the government) still seem unprepared to meet us, but we’re sure we’ll eventually get the opportunity to talk to them,” he added.

Being barred from entering Myanmar to investigate the situation is not an issue for the mission’s work since it can gather facts from reports produced by UN agencies and human rights watchdogs, Darusman said.

“The Myanmar government can have its own account included in our report if it wants to meet us. Otherwise we’ll just stick to the facts we’ve gathered so far,” he added.

Elise Tilet, a member of the AI team on Myanmar, said what the team found during its investigation is that Rohingya life has been restricted in every aspect by Myanmar authorities since 2012.

“This discrimination is so institutionalized and systematic that we concluded it amounts to the crime of apartheid,” Tilet told Arab News.

“What that means is they’re restricted in their freedom of movement and religion, access to health, education, livelihoods and nationality, and their right to participate in public life.”

She said during her visit to some areas in Rakhine, she met villagers who have been confined to their village since 2012, and the only way they are allowed to leave is by using waterways, and only to go to another Muslim village.

The AI report said Myanmar authorities have imposed a curfew on the Rohingya community that prevents them from gathering to practice their religion, and from seeking medical care. The authorities have also refused since 2016 to issue birth certificates to newborns.

“Crimes against humanity are happening on a daily basis in Rakhine,” Tilet said, adding that systematic discrimination is taking place at all levels of government still tightly controlled by the military.

“What needs to happen now for a solution to the situation in Rakhine is that the Myanmar government must immediately start dismantling this system,” she said.

“It must ensure that economic development in Rakhine benefits all communities, and that perpetrators of crimes against humanity are held to account.”


Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

Updated 15 July 2018
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Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

  • The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal
  • Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday

CHIANG RAI, Thailand: The 12 boys and their coach rescued from a Thai cave mourned the death of an ex-Navy SEAL who died while taking part in the mission, the health ministry said Sunday.
The “Wild Boars” football team are recovering in hospital following 18 days spent inside the Tham Luang cave after entering on June 23 and getting trapped by monsoon floodwaters.
Doctors say they are in good health following a successful three-day operation which ended July 10 when teams of Thai Navy SEALs and international cave diving experts hauled the last five members of the team to safety.
But the lead-up to the final phase of the mission was met with tragedy when volunteer and former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan died on July 6 while installing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of the cave.
Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday after a medical team said they were strong enough mentally to handle the news, though many wept after hearing it.
“All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lt. Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said in the statement.
Photos released show the youngsters crowded around a sketch of Saman scrawling messages on it and bowing their heads in commemoration.
“They also thanked him and promised to be good boys,” the statement said.
Tributes from Thailand and around the world have poured in for Saman, a triathlete and diver who retired from the military in 2006 and worked at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport before volunteering to help with the rescue in northern Thailand.
Specialists who took part in the risky mission to bring the Wild Boars home have expressed shock and surprise that they were able to pull it off, with some fearing that there could have been more casualties.
The unprecedented and daring final push to bring the boys out saw them sedated and carried through waterlogged and partially dry corridors with the help of military stretchers and nearly 100 divers.
Health officials have conveyed a largely positive picture of the boys’ recovery. All are expected to leave hospital on Thursday.
The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal, though many are still on a course of antibiotics.
Despite the positive assessments so far experts have said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest.
They spent nine days in the dark, dank cave before being located by two British divers.
The boys — and their parents — have been advised to spend time with friends and family and not to give media interviews as that could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
But the interest in their story is unlikely to evaporate overnight, as Hollywood producers are already jockeying to make a film version of the saga.