Myanmar violence may have killed more than 1,000: UN rapporteur

Myanmar violence may have killed more than 1,000: UN rapporteur
Rohingya refugees living in Malaysia shout slogans during a protest against the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017

Myanmar violence may have killed more than 1,000: UN rapporteur

Myanmar violence may have killed more than 1,000: UN rapporteur

SEOUL: More than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Myanmar, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims — more than twice the government’s total — a senior United Nations representative told AFP on Friday, urging Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out.
In the last two weeks alone 164,000 mostly Rohingya civilians have fled to Bangladesh, overwhelming refugee camps that were already bursting at the seams.
Others have died trying to flee the fighting in Rakhine state, where witnesses say entire villages have been burned since Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on August 25, prompting a military-led crackdown.
On the basis of witness testimonies and the pattern of previous outbreaks of violence, said Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, “perhaps about a thousand or more are already dead.”
“This might be from both sides but it would be heavily concentrated on the Rohingya population.”
The Rohingya have long been subjected to discrimination in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, which denies them citizenship and regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even if they have lived in the country for generations.
The figures given by Lee, a South Korean academic, are far higher than official tolls, which total 432.
Myanmar’s army has previously said it has killed 387 Rohingya militants. Authorities say they have lost 15 security personnel since the August attacks.
In updated figures released by the authorities on Thursday, Myanmar said 6,600 Rohingya homes and 201 non-Muslim homes had been burned to the ground since August 25.
They added some 30 civilians had been killed — seven Rohingyas, seven Hindus and 16 Rakhine Buddhists — in the fighting.
But Lee told AFP that it was “highly possible” the government had “underestimated numbers.”
“The unfortunate thing, the serious thing is that we can’t verify that now with no access.”
Lee expressed skepticism about authorities’ claims that the Rohingya were burning their own houses, pointing out that nearby Buddhist villages were untouched — and it is the rainy season.
“If you have got people with guns and you’re running away and it’s damp, how easily can you set your own house on fire?” she asked.
In an interview at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, where she is a professor in the department of child psychology and education, she told AFP she feared “it’s going to be one of the worst disasters that the world and Myanmar has seen in recent years.”
Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest when Myanmar was a military dictatorship, is now the country’s de facto leader with the title of State Counsellor.
But she has so far failed to speak out on the violence, leaving her global reputation in tatters.
Rights groups, activists — including many who campaigned for her in the past — and her fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have condemned her.
“She needs to step up,” Lee said, and “show the world what she has really fought to achieve was a free and democratic Myanmar.”
“She really needs to show more compassion to all of the people in Myanmar.”
When it awarded Suu Kyi the 1991 Peace Prize the Nobel committee said that she “emphasises the need for conciliation between the sharply divided regions and ethnic groups in her country.”
But earlier this week, in her first statement since the violence erupted, Suu Kyi, 72, condemned a “huge iceberg of misinformation” on the crisis, without mentioning the Rohingya flocking to Bangladesh.
In a letter Tutu told his “dearly beloved younger sister” that “the images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.”
“It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain,” he added.
“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”
Under the Nobel prize statutes awards cannot be revoked, but Lee said the laureates’ statements showed “how grave the situation is.”
The Myanmar military are controlled by commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing but Suu Kyi should speak out and try to convince him to end the violence, she added. “This is where her leadership comes.”
But around 86 percent of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist, Lee pointed out.
“What we forget is that she is a politician through and through. People expect her to have that big high moral voice but she’s a politician, and what’s the most important objective if you are a politician? Getting elected,” she said.
“I think we need to delete our memories of the imprisoned democratic icon.”


Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
Updated 18 January 2021

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
  • Indonesia planning to inoculate 181 million in nationwide vaccination drive

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government’s strategy to promote coronavirus vaccination is under fire after an influencer who received a vaccine jab last week was spotted violating health guidelines just a few
hours later.

Indonesia started the nationwide vaccination drive on Wednesday to inoculate 181 million of its 276 million people, after the national drug regulator authorized the emergency use of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech and the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs approved it as halal, or permissible under Islamic law.

President Joko Widodo, who was the first Indonesian to receive the vaccine, described the campaign as a “game changer,” amid hopes that achieving herd immunity would help to revive the economy, which has been reeling from the pandemic. 

Alongside officials and religious leaders, 33-year-old soap opera star Raffi Ahmad also received the jab. Government strategists hoped he would promote vaccine acceptance with his huge social media presence of some 50 million followers on Instagram and 19 million on YouTube.

However, soon after receiving his shot Ahmad was photographed at a party, without a face mask and violating social distancing measures imposed by the government to contain the virus spread. The photos quickly made the rounds on social media, provoking a backlash to the government’s campaign and resulting in a lawsuit against the celebrity.

“He was really careless. He is tasked with promoting the vaccination drive, but he failed to behave accordingly,” said David Tobing, an independent lawyer who has filed the case against Ahmad for “violating the regulations to control the pandemic and for public indecency.”

“I demand in my lawsuit that the court order Ahmad to stay at home for 30 days after he gets his second vaccine jab and to issue a public apology in national print and broadcast media,” Tobing told Arab News on Saturday. “I filed the lawsuit after I received a lot of feedback from the public, including COVID-19 survivors and those who have lost loved ones because of the coronavirus.”

Ahmad has apologized on social media, saying that he did not want to disappoint the president and the public after getting the privilege of being vaccinated, but justified going to the party as it was held at a private home and said that he taken the mask off only to eat. The first hearing against Ahmad is scheduled to be held at a district court in Depok near Jakarta on Jan. 27, Tobing said. He added that he is aware that Ahmad had apologized but the actor “did not seem to have any regret.”

In response to a question by Arab News at a press briefing after the incident, national COVID-19 task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said that officials had reprimanded Ahmad over the blunder. He justified the involvement of celebrities in the vaccination campaign.

“When we have a major program like vaccination, we hope that a big influencer such as Raffi Ahmad can play a pivotal role to make sure young people will support the vaccination,” Adisasmito said.

Experts have criticized the government’s strategy, saying that Ahmad receiving the vaccine is unlikely to appease public concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy and possible side effects.

“Health professionals, religious figures and government officials have more credibility and integrity to promote this vaccination drive than influencers,” said Sulfikar Amir, a sociologist from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Amir, who initiated a petition in early December calling on the government to give vaccinations to all citizens when Jakarta was still planning to inoculate only selected groups, said that by appointing the celebrity influencer to promote immunization the government showed that it “has no ability to influence the public to take part in the vaccination drive.”

“This is not the same as promoting consumer goods that the influencers normally do,” he said. “It is about public health issues.”