|News Headlines - July 16, 2012|
July 16, 2012
KIA and Burmese soldiers killed after a two-day battle
Former KIA Lung Rawk post which has been controlled under Burma Army since 2004.
Intense fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese military near a rubber plantation in Nalung in Bhamo (Manmaw in Kachin) District from June 28 -29 has resulted in several death and injuries from both sides.
One hundred and fifty KIA soldiers attacked Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 320 and 383 while they were delivering rations to Lung Rawk Burmese military post in Laja Yang, near Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) headquarters in Laiza, according to frontline soldiers.
“The Burmese troops were bringing rations on foot. But now the battle has stopped and they have already gone back,” said one KIA frontline soldier.
An officer from Laiza Military Headquarters confirmed four KIA soldiers were killed and seven were injured in the two-day battle. Fourteen Burmese soldiers and several others were injured.
“We went back to check. Some (Burmese soldiers) were already buried. We buried the others who died in the field. Altogether, it was fourteen soldiers not counting those who were injured,” said the frontline soldier.
Fighting between the KIA and Burmese military continued to rage in other areas.
According to a KIA 4th brigade officer, KIA battalion 36 ambushed a Burmese battalion on July 1, killing and injuring many government soldiers near Yi Hku village, Pangsai town in northern Shan State.
In response to the successful KIA ambush the Burmese military has reinforced their troops around KIA positions in the area. Fighting is reported to be ongoing.
Two dead, six wounded following KIA assault in N.Shan state
KIA captured some weapon from a Burma Army column in the battle at Yu Hku near Pangsai (Kyukok) in N.Shan state on July 1. Photo: Kachin News Group
An attack by Kachin resistance forces against a Burma army convoy left two soldiers dead and wounded six others in northern Shan state on July 8. The raid by troops from the 4th Brigade of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) took place along the road between Nam Hkam (or Nam Kham) and Muse.
According to an official from the KIA's 4th Brigade two trucks were also destroyed in the attack. The wounded survivors appeared to have been sent to hospital in Muse for treatment.
On July 6 four government police officers were killed when KIA troops opened fire on a police station, according to a KIA official also from the group's 4th Brigade. The attack occurred at Hka Lum village near Pangsai, also Kyukok in Northern Shan state.
According to the KIA officer the rest of the police escaped to China during the attack. The KIA troops who launched the raid seized four guns and ammunition, the officer said.
Talks between government negotiators and representatives from the Kachin Independence Organization are supposed to happen later this month. Earlier this week the KIO however declined the government's request to meet in government territory.
Pakistani stance over Burma killings... By Hassam
13 July, 2012
According to unofficial reports, more than 20,000 Muslims have been killed, tortured and displaced by the extremist Buddhists in Burma's Rakhine province, the worst sectarian killing in this part of the world for many years. The violence had killed 29 people in a day and displaced more than 30,000, said Htein Lin, Secretary of the Ministry for Border Affairs.
Around 2,500 houses have been burnt down, Reuters reported on June 14. Meanwhile, The Telegraph reported on June 21that more than 80 have been killed in Burma this month.
No serious concern over the killings of Muslims by the Pakistani government has resulted in much disappointment, added with the disease of nationalism by Bangladesh authorities who did not allow the frightened Burmese Muslims to enter the territory of Bangladesh to save their lives. This is such a pity.
International organisations, NGOs, human rights organisations, major countries have proposed a solution for the 800,000 Rohingya, who live in desperate conditions that resemble refugee camps and make up one of the largest groups of stateless people in Asia. The biggest distress comes from the attitude of the Pakistan government, which has not even condemned the killings of Muslim brothers; helping them is a tough ask for such a government.
We urge the electronic and print media of our country to report sincerely the most horrible situation. Muslims must pay heed to the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims and rescue them from oppression.
SYED HASSAM AHMED Karachi
Burma’s bumpy march toward prosperity
Published on Saturday July 14, 2012
RANGOON, BURMA—Just across the Rangoon River, a bumpy hour’s ride from downtown Rangoon on a cramped, rickety bus, the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone is a subtropical shanty town of factories employing tens of thousands.
The nearly 2,000 employees at the South Korean-owned Hi-Mo High Art factory, which produces wigs for export, earn just 8,000 kyat ($9.25) ar month.
These women, their faces painted with a paste of tree bark called thanakha, have mostly migrated from across this impoverished Southeast Asian country for among the lowest wages in Asia, if not the world. In return they have worked 13 hours a day, six days a week.
On May 9, they staged a hunger strike.
Ya Min Lwin, a slender but forceful labour representative bundled in long-sleeved cotton work clothes in the sweltering midday heat, said the factory workers would not return to work unless pay and living conditions improved — even if it meant losing their jobs.
“Korean companies and others (such as Japanese and Chinese firms) don’t pay us fair wages,” she said through a translator, as hundreds of young women gathered in support.
“More jobs will be created if Canada and other foreign countries come here to open factories and know about our working conditions.”
The women urged reporters to relay their story to the international community using the few English words they knew: “Save us. Help us.”
Help is coming.
With harsh military rule easing and the recent suspension of sanctions by Canada, the United States and the European Union, Western firms are rushing to set up businesses in Burma.
Oil giants Total and Chevron are already here, as are companies from China, the country’s largest outside investor. Foreign businessmen throng Rangoon’s few hotels, some of which have quadrupled their prices. Coca-Cola has announced plans to re-enter the country, while General Electric has also shown interest in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
The flurry of activity follows the April 1 election of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, making her a member of Burma’s fledgling, military-dominated parliament.
The country is still largely undeveloped thanks to two decades of repression, cronyism and underinvestment. Electricity is notoriously unreliable, Internet connections operate at a snail’s pace and cellphones are rare outside main cities.
However, Burma is blessed with natural resources — oil, gold, tungsten, timber and copper. It borders China and India, engines of international economic growth that are both hungry for raw materials.
Burma is ripe for a gold rush.
But will the expected wave of investment make a difference for people like Ya Min Lwin? And can Western companies turn a profit in a country that does not even use credit cards?
Kyaw Tin , the Burmese ambassador in Ottawa, said Canadian firms are already joining the rush. They have expressed interest in “gold, tin and tungsten mining and fibre-optic cables or equipment for oil and gas pipeline activities.”
One of those is Toronto-based Northquest Ltd., which announced on June 6 that it had applied to explore for gold at a 180-square-kilometre site in central Burma.
Engineering firm SNC-Lavalin is already providing studies, advice and expertise in a supporting role on projects in Burma. But a “more sophisticated investment” in the country’s woefully inadequate national power grid would require further legal and economic reforms, said Ronald Denom, president of SNC-Lavalin International.
Some Canadian firms have been conducting small, private fact-finding trips. There will be a first official visit to Burma by the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok, which would include about 30 companies, later this quarter.
“We’re going to have to turn people away,” TCCC president Peter van Haren said in an interview.
“It would be pretty naïve of us to come in and think we could do business as we do in the Western world,” he added. “But I think a lot of Canadian companies are going to see that there is good opportunity”
Amid political and economic reforms, there are numerous investment positives in this country of 60 million people, not least of which is a growth rate the International Monetary Fund expects to reach 5.5 per cent this year.
Other pluses include underdeveloped markets in everything from mobile phones to banking, a recent float of the currency — from 6 kyat to the U.S. dollar to 880 kyat — a rising flood of incoming aid money, a highly literate workforce and, of course, very low wages.
Although a new investment law has been delayed, it is expected to pass by August. It will exempt foreign companies from taxes for five years, extendable for another five years with a 50-per-cent reduction on rates.
Still, Tin Maung Htoo, the director of the Ottawa-based campaign group Canadian Friends of Burma, warned of the dangers of investing in extractive industries during a committee hearing on Burma in the House of Commons.
“It would be better for us to stay away from mining operations until and unless there are regulations put in place that are in accordance with social responsibility and environmental standards,” he said.
Dave Van Kesteren, Conservative MP for Chatham-Kent-Essex, disagreed.
“Quite frankly, your investment will come where there is a return, and we know extraction is where your greatest return is going to be,” he told human rights committee members. “My suggestion to you is to welcome that, embrace that, especially when it comes from Western countries that have proven they have a strong, what we call, social conscience.”
Wayne Marston, NDP critic for human rights and MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, said the problem with Canada’s new policy on Burma was the loss of leverage generated by sanctions.
“I believe that investment in Burma is a risky business at this point,” he said in an interview.
The two people representing Burma’s rapidly narrowing political divide, new reformist President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, appear much closer on what the country needs in terms of investments.
Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum in Bangkok, Suu Kyi’s first foreign trip in nearly two decades, she said investors should create jobs rather than strip wealth from the country. At the same event, Burmese Energy Minister Than Htay said almost the same thing.
Suu Kyi called on foreign investors to use “healthy skepticism.” She also highlighted a major concern for foreign investors looking beyond the hype: rule of law. While the proposed investment laws promise market value if assets are expropriated, Suu Kyi warned these laws “would be no use whatsoever” due to Burma’s shoddy standards of justice.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre warned in a report this month that although Burma’s politics and economy is changing rapidly, there is little evidence the legal system is keeping pace.
“Judges in Myanmar (Burma) lack political or corporate power with which to fight other parts of the state apparatus, and are an easy target for blame-laying,” it said in a statement.
James Finch, a partner at the Southeast Asian law firm DFDL-Mekong’s Rangoon office, said that in recent meetings with Burmese government officials he had “been given the impression that they are eager to develop a reputation as a country that respects the assets of foreign investors.”
Burma’s legal difficulties are one reason SNC-Lavalin is remaining cautious, said Denom.
“That being said, urgent measures to alleviate electricity shortages in Rangoon and elsewhere in the country are clearly needed and we stand ready to participate in Canadian or international initiatives to address this issue if called upon.”
Scheduled blackouts in Burma have gotten so bad that demonstrators recently took to the streets in Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities. In response, the New Light of Myanmar ran advertisements calling for foreign investment in power generation.
“The government should have a Plan B,” says Wai Muu Thwin, a protester who joined about 2,000 others holding candles in front of the gold-leafed dome of Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon.
Sitting crossed-legged on the floor of his sparse living room dressed in a longyi, a traditional Burmese sarong, he explained how his apartment in central Rangoon only receives 10 to 12 hours of electricity a day. A sleek, black flat-screen television and a battered DVD player, imported from Japan and China respectively, are wired up to a car battery and a voltage regulator.
“If business owners have to use generators, it pushes prices up — this also affects the people,” he says.
For many Burmese , jobs remain as elusive as reliable electricity.
At the Hi-Mo wig factory, things are looking up.
On June 5, after a month of striking there and at four other factories in the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, the South Korean owner of Hi-Mo agreed to the workers’ salary demands, local media reported. Salaries in the new deal are to range from 27,000 kyat (about $31) for trainees to about 83,000 kyat (about $96) for experienced workers. But the changes have yet to take effect.
Things are slow to change for Zayar Myo, too.
The 27-year-old left Burma in 2009 for Malaysia, where he found work in a seat-belt factory. He returned to Burma five months ago, hoping the new openness would mean more opportunity.
Looking bored as he reads a comic book, Myo waits as his application is processed at a busy employment agency on the ninth floor of a tower block on the outskirts of Rangoon.
Employees scuttle around him handling stapled forms as they receive 5,000 kyat from young job applicants. Agency manager Nwe Yoe says that in return they will get interviews with prospective employers — but jobs are not guaranteed.
“Three years ago there were no jobs under the military government,” says Myo. “Now there is democracy, I think there could be more prospects.
“I’ll take anything I can get.”
For Ivanhoe, Burma’s a no-go
Canadian resource firms are eagerly eyeing expansion into Burma — but not Ivanhoe Mines, one of Canada’s biggest mining companies and a former investor in the country.
The company says it has “no plans to invest in Burma,” perhaps not surprising given the ethical and commercial difficulties it encountered last time round.
After starting operations in Burma in 1992, the Vancouver-based firm set up a 50-50 joint venture with state-owned Mining Enterprise. That enterprise soured for many reasons: Ivanhoe was criticized for working with a government accused of human rights abuses, and the mines were plagued by power shortages, government bureaucracy and financial restrictions due to sanctions by the West.
In February 2007, Ivanhoe announced it had sold its 50-per-cent stake in the mining venture.
U.S. is moving too fast on Burma
By Michael Green and Daniel Twining, Monday, July 16, 4:37 AM
Michael Green was senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. He is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an associate professor at Georgetown University. Daniel Twining, a member of the secretary of state’s policy planning staff during the Bush administration, is senior fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“The heart of our [Asia] strategy, the piece that binds all the rest of it together, is our support for democracy and human rights,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last Monday. Two days later, the Obama administration lifted prohibitions on U.S. investment in Burma . American companies are now free to partner with the state-owned energy conglomerate — the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) — whose revenue has underwritten the military regime’s repression of its people and ongoing wars against ethnic dissidents.
Why now? Burma (also known as Myanmar) is undergoing a managed political opening designed to legitimize its regime, transform its growth prospects and enlist Western partners as a hedge against China. U.S. policy has encouraged this through graduated engagement: As Clinton said this year, Washington would pursue the “targeted easing” of U.S. sanctions over time to retain leverage while incentivizing genuine political reform. The administration did this because officials know that despite measurable progress, Burma’s political opening is fragile and reversible. The military retains firm control over parliament, stands ready to repress organized dissent and continues military campaigns against ethnic minorities. The administration also remained, as President Obama put it on Wednesday, “deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in Burma’s investment environment and the military’s role in the economy.”
Tom Toles goes global: A collection of cartoons about international news.
Lifting elements of the investment ban is a sensible part of a U.S. strategy to encourage Burma’s progress toward greater openness and help make life better for its long-suffering people. The human and geopolitical stakes are high for both countries. But such an approach must be premised on creating greater economic and political space outside the control of the regime — or at least improving transparency and accountability by entities controlled by the regime. And the new U.S. policy does not do that.
Until now, the Obama administration has marched in lock step with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, winner of Burma’s last free national election and leader of a party that won 95 percent of open seats in recent parliamentary elections. The administration’s graduated approach to easing sanctions had chimed with her warnings not to make an all-or-nothing bet on Burma’s permanent and irreversible democratization. That was smart policy, as she remains the most effective lever for positive change within Burma. It also ensured that there would be congressional support for engagement of Burma, something that has been difficult to achieve in the past. Aung San Suu Kyi was never opposed to easing sanctions, but she explicitly warned foreign governments against investment in state-owned energy until Burma adopted internationally accepted measures of transparency and accountability. “Other countries could help by not allowing their own companies to partner [with] MOGE unless it was signed up to such codes,” she said last month.
With its recent decision to lift broad elements of the investment ban on energy, the Obama administration has ignored this appeal, insisting only on weak reporting requirements for U.S. companies operating in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi, a clever politician who realizes that she cannot afford to be isolated from Washington, said Thursday that the end of investment restrictions was “nothing significant” — while reiterating her call for the international community to press MOGE to adopt the International Monetary Fund’s code of conduct.
Those who advocate lifting the investment ban maintain that U.S. companies will set higher standards on transparency and corporate social responsibility. This is true — though less clear is whether that will have an impact on non-U.S. investors or the Burmese regime. U.S. business and government leaders’ argument that nearly unconstrained investment in Burma’s natural resource sector will promote human rights and welfare will face skepticism from Burmese democrats who have committed their lives to this cause, and who believe it will not.
The Obama administration reportedly rushed this decision through a divided deputies committee of the National Security Council, and ignored strong opposition from key members of Congress opposed to a full-scale repeal of the investment ban, to have something ready for Clinton’s visit to the region this week. By publicly splitting with Burma’s democratic opposition on such an important issue, the administration will find that Aung San Suu Kyi no longer provides political cover for U.S. policies. The White House will find itself held more accountable for the Burmese military’s continued violence against ethnic minorities, as well as any nuclear ties with North Korea and the Burmese people’s dashed expectations for lasting political change.
Burma investments touted
SIEM REAP, Cambodia — Two days after President Obama formally lifted prohibitions on U.S. investment in Burma, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Burmese President Thein Sein, marking another step in the administration’s rapid normalization of relations with the formerly isolated country.
The meeting on Friday was held as Clinton was in Cambodia leading a delegation of more than 70 U.S. business leaders to a conference on U.S. investment in Southeast Asia — and where she announced new initiatives aimed at strengthening economic ties with a region that represents a market of 580 million people. The delegation, which includes representatives from Google, General Electric and FedEx, is heading to the Burmese capital this weekend.
Clinton’s trip also has taken her to Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos. Cambodia is hosting the annual conference of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Although she has devoted much of the trip to the subject of economic investment in the region, Clinton also spoke on Friday about the “mutually reinforcing” roles of economics and human rights, which she called a “moral imperative.”
“Standing up for workers’ rights and high labor standards is not just the right and moral thing to do, it’s also the smart and strategic thing,” she told a group called the Lower Mekong Initiative Women’s Dialogue on Friday. She also talked about empowering women as a way to boost economic growth.
Human rights groups and Burmese democracy activists have remained wary as the United States normalizes relations with the country just emerging from half a century of repressive military rule.
The Lady maliciously mum on Myanmar Muslim cleansing: Analyst
A prominent political analyst says that Myanmar President’s proposal to expel Rohingya Muslims from the country is an “ethnic cleansing” and the country’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate is “criminally silent” about it.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - “This is ethnic cleansing…. the government and even this Nobel prize winner, the lady [Aung San Suu Kyi] is so criminally silent about the problems of this minority in Myanmar,” Professor Ghulam Taqi Bangash at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) said.
The remarks come after Myanmar’s President Thein Sein said that Rohingya Muslims must be expelled from the country and sent to refugee camps run by the United Nations.
The government refuses to recognize nearly-one-million-strong Rohingya Muslims community, which the UN calls one of the world’s most prosecuted people.
Myanmar claims the Rohingya are not native and classify them as illegal migrants although they have lived in the country for generations.
Myanmar’s opposition and National League for Democracy party (NLD) leader Aung Suu Kyi was elected to parliament after she was released from house arrest earlier this year.
However, many people are disappointed at the way she has been avoiding the issue.
Last Month at a press conference in Geneva, Suu Kyi said she 'didn't know' if Rohingya Muslims were Myanmar's citizens.
Bangash said Washington is also criminally silent over the issue as the US tries to coax the countries in the Southeast Asia region to stop them from having better relations with the People’s Republic of China.
“Southeast Asia is becoming much more inconspicuous on the economic map for the United States of America,” he added.
“They should rather strengthen the sanctions against Myanmar until this problem should be solved but they are not doing that,” Bangash added.
Myanmar's current government is run by military figures, which have been accused of rights abuse.
Over a dozen Muslims were killed on June 3 when a mob of ethnic Rakhines, who are mostly Buddhist, attacked a passenger bus in the Rakhine state in the west of the country that borders Bangladesh.
Over the past two years, throngs of ethnic Muslims have attempted to flee by boats in the face of systematic oppression by the government.
Myanmar at 'critical juncture'
Published: 13/07/2012 at 10:04 PM
Myanmar President Thein Sien told a large gathering of American business leaders Friday that his country was facing a "critical juncture'' as he moves to implement reforms.
Thein Sein was speaking at a meeting in Cambodia hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathering some 200 business leaders from top US companies, just days after the United States eased sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation.
The Myanmar president said his country was seeking a "sustainable peace as it moves towards a democratic era.
"We are hoping to attract more investment into our country,'' Thein Sein told leaders from such companies as Coca Cola, Caterpillar, Goldman Sachs and Ford General Motors.
"We are confident based on mutual respect... we will be able to establish mutually beneficial cooperation,'' he said.
"Myanmar has been left behind in development for the past 60 years.''
A delegation of about 70 business leaders was due to leave Saturday for Myanmar to scout out opportunities for investment.
Shallow 5.6 quake hits India-Myanmar border region
July 15, 2012 7:58am
NEW DELHI — A shallow 5.6-magnitude quake jolted the India-Myanmar border region early Sunday, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck at a depth of one kilometer at about 1.30 am (2000 GMT), with its epicenter about 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland in India's northeast.
India's seven northeastern states, joined to the rest of the country by a narrow sliver of land, are located in an area of frequent seismic activity.
In September last year, a powerful 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the border of India's northeastern state of Sikkim and Nepal, killing more than 100 people.
The quake wrought destruction in towns and villages on both sides of the Indian and Nepal border as well as in southern Tibet and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. — AFP
Myanmar brings charges against detained UN staff
GENEVA: Myanmar has charged at least three UN staff who were among 10 aid workers detained last month during a period of unrest in Rakhine province, the United Nations said on Friday.
All three are all Myanmar nationals working for the UN refugee agency UNHCR. All the detained aid workers were arrested in the northwesterly Rakhine state, where long-simmering tension between mostly stateless Rohingya Muslims and majority Buddhists flared into violence that killed at least 80 people.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said criminal charges had been brought against the three, but it was not yet clear what the charges were.
UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres visited Myanmar this week but failed to win their release. He said in Yangon on Thursday that UNHCR had asked to be informed of the charges and given access to the detainees, but so far to no effect.
It was not immediately clear if charges had been brought against the other seven detainees, three of whom work for the World Food Programme. A UN official said the other four worked for Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Meanwhile, Myanmar President Thein Sien told a large gathering of American business leaders on Friday that his country was facing a ‘critical juncture’ as he moves to implement reforms.
Thein Sein was speaking at a meeting in Cambodia hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathering some 200 business leaders from top US companies, just days after the United States eased sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation.
The Myanmar president said his country was seeking a “sustainable peace as it moves towards a democratic era. “We are hoping to attract more investment into our country,” Thein Sein told leaders from such companies as Coca Cola, Caterpillar, Goldman Sachs and Ford General Motors.
“We are confident based on mutual respect... we will be able to establish mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said. “Myanmar has been left behind in development for the past 60 years.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Myanmar President Thein Sein on Friday for landmark discussions days after Washington eased its sanctions on the once-pariah state.
The pair held talks in the Cambodian tourist town Siem Reap on the sidelines of a US business conference, after the US on Wednesday gave the green light to firms to invest in Myanmar, including in oil and gas, in its greatest loosening of tough sanctions so far.
It is Clinton’s second meeting with Thein Sein after she became the first US secretary of state to visit Myanmar in half a century during a trip to the country late last year, as reforms took hold in the long military-dominated nation.
Washington has faced criticism from rights groups concerned it is moving too fast in its eagerness to cash in on Myanmar’s vast business potential. But the decision will please US firms eager not to miss out on what some economists expect to be a gold rush in the resource-rich nation. agencies
UN refugee chief rejects call to resettle Rohingya
By AP News Jul 13, 2012 11:28AM UTC
YANGON, Burma (AP) — The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday rejected a suggestion by Burma’s president that the world body resettle or take care of ethnic Rohingyas who have settled in the Southeast Asian country.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference in Yangon, Burma, Thursday, July. 12, 2012. Pic: AP
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres told reporters it was not his agency’s job to resettle the Rohingya, who live in western Burma but without Burma citizenship.
On his website, President Thein Sein said he told Guterres in a meeting Wednesday that the solution to ethnic enmity in Burma’s western Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingya to a third country or have the UNHCR look after them.
Clashes last month between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslin Rohingya left at least 78 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. The Rakhine consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
Thein Sein described the violence at the time as a threat to the democratic and economic reforms his government launched after decades of repressive rule by a military junta.
“The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it’s not related to this situation,” said Guterres.
Thein Sein’s reported suggestion to Guterres left unclear exactly how many people he had in mind. The U.N. estimates there are about 800,000 Rohingya in Burma. The count includes people of Bengali heritage who settled centuries ago, as well as people who may have entered the country in recent decades.
Many people in Burma don’t recognize as legitimate settlers even those of Bengali heritage who came in the 19th century, when the country was under British rule.
Large exoduses of Rohingya to Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s because of persecution, and their subsequent return, also add to the confusion over who is an illegal immigrant.
Thein Sein told Guterres that according to Burma law, those Bengalis who settled in Burma before the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and their children are regarded as citizens. However, post-independence immigrants are officially considered illegal and threatening to the country’s stability.
In practice, it is difficult for many people of Bengali heritage to obtain citizenship, and they face discriminatory legal restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.
“We will take responsibility of our ethnic nationals but it is impossible to accept those Rohingyas who are not our ethnic nationals who had entered the country illegally. The only solution is to hand those illegal Rohingyas to the UNHCR or to send them to any third country that would accept them,” Thein Sein told Guterres, according to his website.
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Release All Political Prisoners and Stop War in Burma
Lifting Sanctions on Burma's Regime would be a Mistake
Mr. Sa Long
New Delhi, India