Sanctioning the highest levels of Myanmar’s military is an incredibly important if belated step. Although the sanctions are limited to travel restrictions, the move signifies that Washington is finally getting serious about accountability. It also acknowledges what the State Department itself has documented – that ethnic cleansing has taken place in Myanmar with virtual impunity.
The abuse of Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar continues, with hundreds more fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh in recent months.
There, they join the world's largest refugee camp of around a million other Rohingyas who fled a co-ordinated campaign of violence designed to drive them out of mostly Buddhist Myanmar.
But what will happen to these displaced people long term? Myanmar has claimed they would be able to return, but it’s clear that remains impossible.
The aid agency Refugees International says the most recent arrivals to Bangladesh paint a bleak picture of life in Myanmar for remaining Rohingyas.
Since 2016, over 1 million Rohingya Muslims have fled ethnic cleansing by Myanmar's military and taken refuge in Bangladesh, which has one of the highest population densities in the world.
Following the Foreign Minister’s announcement that it could no longer accept Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has completed some construction as part of a plan to relocate 100,000 refugees to a remote, monsoon-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
The island's name, Bhasan Char, means "floating island". Rohingya activists have criticized the decision, saying that they didn't get a chance to weigh in.
Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International, gives an update on the situation in Myanmar, and then discusses Bangladesh’s refugee relocation plan.
Regina Emilio was forced to flee her home after civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. She is one of some 200,000 people living in UN-controlled Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites across the country. As a recent peace agreement muddles forward, some are talking of closing the PoC sites. But for Regina and others, the sites remain essential as conditions at home are still unsafe.
On August 27, the UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released a devastating report concluding that the country’s military leaders should be prosecuted for the “gravest crimes under international law, against the Rohingya minority. While this aspect of the report has garnered the greatest attention, other important findings including that the crimes of the Myanmar military go far beyond those committed against the Rohingya, and that the burden of responsibility for those crimes extends beyond the military have gone largely unnoticed.
The report comes one year after the Myanmar military systematically forced more than 700,000 people from the Rohingya Muslim minority from their homes and villages across the border into Bangladesh. At least 10,000 Rohingya were killed in a targeted campaign of genocide, the UN experts say -- adding that 10,000 is a conservative estimate.
Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International, visited and interviewed Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh earlier this year and recently wrote an article called "Five Key Priorities To Address the Rohingya Crisis."
The U.N. is calling for an investigation into Myanmar’s violent crackdown last year against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. But Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are finally receiving aid, and despite repatriation discussions, many are reluctant to return to the people who brutalized them. Nick Schifrin talks to special correspondent Tania Rashid and Refugees International's Dan Sullivan.
A United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission issued a scathing report documenting Myanmar security forces' violence against the country's ethnic Rohingya Muslim population last year.
RI’s Daniel Sullivan joins NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Refugees International welcomes the announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department of new targeted sanctions on four Myanmar security officials and two military units directly involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. However, the new sanctions must be part of sustained efforts by the U.S. government at its highest levels in order to have real impact.
Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel P. Sullivan delivered testimony at a July 25, 2018, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on “Victims’ Rights in Burma,” regarding human rights abuses and the persecution of minorities in northern Myanmar, particularly in Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan States.
After surviving a state campaign of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh now face the wrath of a South Asian monsoon that aid agencies warn could spark a new catastrophe for the Muslim ethnic group.
Around 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of religious persecution, settling in camped, flood-prone camps now at risk from the seasonal monsoon and the heavy rain and landslides it has caused. Most arrived from Myanmar’s Rahkine state following a coordinated state campaign the US has described as ethnic cleansing.
Aid agencies say that around 200,000 Rohingya, more than half of them children, are threatened by the conditions. Both the UN and host government Bangladesh have received criticism for what has been viewed as an inadequate response to the impending crisis.
Heavily-populated and low-lying Bangladesh has struggled to find room for the refugees, most of whom now live in bamboo and tarpaulin shelters in sprawling hillside camps on national forest land.
As of June 14, the UN had reported one death - a young child - in the monsoon. But Myo Thant, a 25-year-old Rohingya refugee from Maungdaw in Rakhine, said a dozen refugees had been killed in landslides since rains began last week.
“People are feeling so sad and scared,” he said, speaking from Balukhali camp.
“What people were worried about is happening in front of their eyes. The international community and help from aid workers is needed urgently to help us survive this situation.”
Due to a shortage of available land, the government of Bangladesh has offered up low-lying but hilly sections of national forest for the camps.
“It’s the best they were able to offer at this time,” said Lynette Nyman, a communications delegate for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “I can’t think what other options there would have been.”
Much of the land in the camps has been deforested by refugees seeking wood for cooking fires, and rains are now washing away the sandy soil. Landslides are destroying shelters and roads and flooding latrines, creating a health risk. The monsoon rains also increase the threat of water-borne diseases such as cholera, putting the inhabitants not only at risk of displacement, but infection.
According to UNICEF, almost 900 shelters, 15 water points, over 200 latrines, two health facilities it supports and two food distribution sites have been damaged or destroyed in the camps. Most roads into the camps have been flooded.
“The land itself is the most dangerous part of this situation,” said Ms Nyman, speaking from District Camp 4 in Cox's Bazar, a town on the southeast coast of Bangladesh.
Aid agencies and the government of Bangladesh, who both had foreknowledge of the likely effects of the monsoon rains, have come under fire for not acting faster to flood-proof the vulnerable camps.
“The humanitarian response, including preparation for the monsoon season, has been significant and substantial – but it has also been hamstrung by a number of obstacles and lack of effective management and coordination by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations system,” said Daniel Sullivan of advocacy group Refugees International.
“Failure to overcome these challenges is unnecessarily putting lives at risk.”
With rains expected to continue until September, humanitarians are issuing urgent warnings for the camps to be made safe for inhabitants before disaster strikes again in the coming months.
“The problem now is not one of money, it’s one of de-congesting extremely overcrowded settlements which are well below emergency standards for camps,” said Caroline Gluck, a public information officer for the UN’s refugee agency in Bangladesh.
“The more it gets waterlogged, the more we’re going to see these problematic things become worse,” she continued. “It’s a race against time.”
This piece originally appeared here
This report warns that a humanitarian catastrophe is imminently threatening the lives of nearly one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as they now face the onset of the monsoon and cyclone seasons. The humanitarian response, including preparation for the monsoon season, has been significant and substantial – but it has also been hamstrung by obstacles and lack of effective management and coordination by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations system. Failure to overcome these challenges is unnecessarily putting lives at risk.