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Indigenous no-state people

Rice Cultivation in Assam
Photograph by Rihaana Akhtar
In Assam, rice is the most significant crop. It covers 2.54 million ha of the state’s gross cropped area of 4.16 million ha and accounts for 96% of the state’s total food grain production. Assam is well-known for its extensive rice genetic diversity. Rice cultivation under a variety of agro-ecological settings has resulted in the formation of a variety of strains with specialized adaptations over time, thanks to natural selection and farmers’ discretion.

The state’s physical characteristics, geographical position, and historical reality have resulted in ethnic mobility and immigration, which has resulted in the introduction of several types of rice genetic stock over time.

The state has three rice-growing seasons due to agro-climatic variance, seasonal variations in temperature and rainfall, and agriculture’s reliance on natural precipitation.

Based on six zones namely Upper Brahmaputra Valley Zone, North Bank Plain Zone, Lower Brahmaputra Valley Zone, Hill Zone, Central Brahmaputra Valley Zone and Barak Valley Zone.

Rice Varieties:
Flood Tolerant Rice Varieties include BINA Dhan 11, Ranjit-Sub1, Bahadur-Sub1 and Swarna-Sub1.

Drought Tolerant Varieties include DRR Dhan 44 and DRR Dhan 46.

Premium Quality Rice Varieties include DRR Dhan 45, Bokul Joha, Keteki Joha (IET – 14390), Kola Joha, Joha (aromatic) rice, CR Dhan 909, CR Dhan310, RNR 15048 and Zinco Rice by Chintu Das

Human Rights, Indigenous People

Chief Minister Of Myanmar State, 9,000 Others Take Refuge In Mizoram
—Sources said Salai Lian Luai crossed over to India on Monday night via the border town of Champai, which is around 185 km from state capital Aizwal—
The Chief Minister of Myanmar’s Chin state – Salai Lian Luai – has taken shelter in Mizoram following the military coup in that country, sources in the state Home Department said Wednesday.
Sources said Salai Lian Luai, who was appointed to his post in 2016, crossed over to India on Monday night via the border town of Champai, which is around 185 km from state capital Aizwal.

The Chin state in western Myanmar shares a 510 km western border with six districts in Mizoram Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual. It also shares its northern with Manipur and its southwest with Bangladesh.

Since the coup – which took place early February – 9,247 Myanmar nationals have entered Mizoram in search of shelter.

They include Salai Lian Luai and 23 other lawmakers from the NLD, or National League for Democracy, which is former State Counsellor and Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

A Home Department official, on condition of anonymity, said the 24 lawmakers had taken shelter in different districts of the state, specially those on the Myanmar border.

According to available data, 1,633 people have taken refuge in Aizawl, 1,297 in Lawngtlai district, 633 in Siaha district, 478 in Hnahthial district, 167 in Lunglei district, 143 in Serchhip district, 112 in Saitual district, 36 in Kolasib district and 28 in Khawzawl district.

The official also said they were being provided with shelter and food by civil society, student and youth organisations, and NGOs. Many have also been offered sheltered by locals, the official added.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga said Tuesday that his government had also sanctioned money to provide relief to those who had taken refuge in his state. The money will be released very soon, he said, according to news agency PTI.

A majority of those who have sought shelter in Mizoram belong to the Chin community, which is also known as Zo and they share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos of Mizoram.

With input from PTI

Human Rights

The politics and history behind France seeking ‘forgiveness’ from Rwanda for 1994 genocide
France’s partial admission of guilt is seen as part of an effort to mend ties with its former colonies and sphere of influence in Africa, where many still have painful memories of their subjugation, and continue to see French actions with suspicion.

Skulls of some of those who were slaughtered as they sought refuge in the church sit in a glass case next to photographs of some of them, kept as a memorial to the thousands who were killed in and around the Catholic church during the 1994 genocide, inside the church in Ntarama, Rwanda. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday acknowledged his country’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but stopped short of a clear public apology.

“France has a role, a story and a political responsibility to Rwanda. She has a duty: to face history head-on and recognise the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth,” Macron said in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of 2.5 lakh victims of the genocide are interred.

“Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities”.

The remarks were welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame – a fierce critic of France ever since the genocide– who called them “more valuable than an apology” and “an act of tremendous courage”.

France’s partial admission of guilt is seen as part of an effort to mend ties with its former colonies and sphere of influence in Africa,
many still have painful memories of their subjugation, and continue to see French actions with suspicion.

What has Macron said?

In an address that is expected to go a long way in repairing long-fraught relations with Rwanda, Macron went much further than his predecessors in admitting France’s role in the genocide, saying, “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness.”

“France did not understand that, while trying to prevent a regional conflict, or a civil war, it was in fact standing by the side of a genocidal regime,” Macron said, “By doing so, it endorsed an overwhelming responsibility”.

In what appeared to be an explanation for not delivering a clear apology, the French leader said, “A genocide cannot be excused, one lives with it”. He did, however, promised efforts to bring genocide suspects to justice.

The Rwandan genocide

The Rwandan genocide of April-July 1994 was the culmination of long-running ethnic tensions between the minority Tutsi community, who had controlled power since colonial rule by Germany and Belgium, and the majority Hutu. Over the course of 100 days, the tragedy took the lives of over 8 lakh people, estimated to amount up to 20% of Rwanda’s population.

Hutu militias systematically targeted the Tutsi ethnic group, and used the nation’s public broadcaster, Rwanda Radio, for spreading propaganda. Military and political leaders encouraged sexual violence as a means of warfare, leading to around 5 lakh women and children being raped, sexually mutilated or murdered. Some 20 lakh fled the country.

The conflict ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front seized control of the country in July, and its leader Paul Kagame assumed power. Kagame, who has led Rwanda ever since, has been credited for bringing stability and development to the mineral-rich nation, but blamed for cultivating an environment of fear for his political opponents both at home and abroad.

What role did France play during these events?

During the genocide, Western powers including the United States were blamed for their inaction which abetted the atrocities. France, which was then led by Socialist President François Mitterrand, gained notoriety after being accused of acting as a staunch ally of the Hutu-led government that ordered the killings.

In June 1994, France deployed a much-delayed UN-backed military force in southwest Rwanda called Operation Turquoise– which was able to save some people, but was accused of sheltering some of the genocide’s perpetrators. Kagame’s RPF opposed the French mission.

How did France and Rwanda get along after the conflict?

Bilateral relations nosedived after the genocide, as leaders in Rwanda as well as elsewhere in Africa were infuriated by the role of France. Kagame drew his country – whose official language had been French ever since Belgian rule – away from France, and brought it closer to the US, China and the Middle East. Kagame also broke off relations with France at one point.

In 2009, Rwanda also joined the Commonwealth of Nations, despite having no historical relations with the UK. Interestingly, even as Kagame praised Macron’s remarks on Thursday, he did so in English and not French.

In 2010, conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first head of state to visit Rwanda since the genocide, but relations continued to deteriorate despite Sarkozy admitting to “serious mistakes” and a “form of blindness” by the French government during the blood-soaked turmoil.

What changed under Macron?

Macron has presented himself as part of a new generation that is willing to revisit the painful parts of France’s legacy as a colonial power in Africa and of later supporting ruthless dictators in the post-colonial period.

During his election campaign in 2017, Macron had called the French colonisation of Algeria a “crime against humanity” and the country’s actions “genuinely barbaric”. In March this year, Macron admitted that French soldiers tortured and killed the Algerian lawyer and freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel, whose death in 1957 had been covered up as a suicide.

To counter allegations of paternalism in French-speaking Africa, Macron has also sought to engage with English-speaking countries of the continent. Sure enough, even on his current visit to Africa, Macron is going to English-speaking South Africa immediately after Rwanda.

So, what led to a thaw in France-Rwanda relations?

In March and April this year, two reports came out examining France’s role in the conflict. The first report, which was commissioned by Macron, gave a scathing account of French actions during the genocide, accusing the then-French government of being “blind” to preparations by the Hutu militia, and said that the European power bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility, according to France24. The report, however, did not find proof of France being complicit in the killings.

The Macron government accepted the findings of the report, marking a game-changer in France-Rwanda relations. Kagame visited France last week, and said that the report enabled the two countries to have “a good relationship”. Before Macron’s reciprocal visit to Rwanda this week, the two sides spoke of a “normalisation” of relations.

What have been the reactions to Macron’s admission?

While Macron did speak of “forgiveness”, some were dismayed by France not delivering a clear apology on the lines of Belgium, whose Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in 2000 publicly apologised for failing to prevent the genocide, or the United Nations, whose Secretary-General Kofi Annan did the same in 1999.

Still, Rwandan President Kagame welcomed Macron’s remarks, saying, “His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth”.

Macron’s stopping short of a full apology is being interpreted as an attempt to not rile up conservatives back home in France, who see French actions in Africa over the years as a relatively benign influence. Less than a year remains until the 2021 presidential race, when Macron is expected to face the ultra-right Marine Le Pen, who was also his opponent in the last election.

The French President, however, will face a considerably more formidable challenge walking the tightrope in March next year, barely a month before the polls, when Algeria, a prized former colony, will celebrate 60 years of independence. In January this year, Macron said that there would be “no repentance nor apologies” but “symbolic acts”, yet many are expecting matters to get heated over the polarising topic.

Indigenous no-state people

China’s dam-building over Brahmaputra risks water war with India
Hong Kong: China is planning to construct a mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbao River, which flows through Tibet and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra when it enters India.
india china dispute
Photo Credit: FacebookYarlung Zangbao RiverHong Kong: China’s plan to dam the Yarlung Zangbao, the world’s highest river, threatens to spark conflict with downstream India, reported Asia Times.China is planning to construct a mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbao River, which flows through Tibet and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra when it enters India.

The Yarlung Zangbao Dam plan is moving ahead without China discussing or entering into water-sharing agreements with downstream India or Bangladesh.Bangladesh, which maintains cordial relations with China, too protested over the Yarlung Zangbao Dam, reported Asia Times.

Bertil Linter in an opinion piece in Asia Times wrote that precise technical details regarding the mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River are lacking, but regional media reports indicate it will likely dwarf the massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River and generate three times as much electricity for distribution in China.Both Brahmaputra and the glaciers that feed Ganga originate in China. As an upstream riparian region, China maintains an advantageous position and can build infrastructure to intentionally prevent water from flowing downstream.

Owing to previous tendencies where the Chinese have been reluctant to provide details of its hydropower projects, there is a trust deficit between the two neighbours.China’s dam-building and water division plans along the Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Zangbao in China) is a source of tension between the two neighbours.

Not only India but other nations of Southeast Asia are affected due to China’s lack of consultations with downstream neighbours and has sparked controversy with them.China has built eleven mega-dams on the Mekong River, causing water levels there to fluctuate widely without prior notice in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, reported Asia Times.As per reports, in late December, China reduced water discharge from a dam to test its equipment near the town of Jinghong in southern Yunnan province from 1,904 cubic meters to 1,000 cubic meters per second.It took almost a week for China to inform the downstream countries of the move, which wasn’t enough time for downstream countries to prepare, resulting in disruptions in shipping and commerce. Water levels had already dropped a meter at Thailand’s Chiang Saen, where the Mekong forms the border with Laos, wrote Linter.China’s announcement was made only after the Washington-based Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program’s Mekong Dam Monitor, which uses satellite imagery to keep tabs on water levels along the river, notified the Mekong River Commission, a regional cooperation organization of which China is not a member.Some analysts believe China is using its leverage over water flows as a stick to win concessions from downstream Southeast Asian states on other issues, including in regard to its Belt and Road Initiative.China is using the same tactics with India with its Yarlung Zangbao Dam designs. Earlier, China clashed with India in Ladakh in June last year and a 2017 border stand-off near the border with Bhutan has angered both nations over China’s unilaterally decided hydroelectric power scheme.The Himalayan water war will affect India and Bangladesh as both rely on the Brahmaputra’s water for agriculture. Both India and Bangladesh worry that these dams will give Beijing the ability to divert or store water in times of political crisis.Everyday policy concerns like water sharing and usage often receive less attention, are combined with larger security or border concerns, or are dealt with only when natural disasters occur. Yet water politics has far-reaching consequences for the prosperity and security of countries. Courtesy: SCMP

Indigenous no-state people

Indian-Origin Couple In UK Among 1st In World who Get Covid Vaccine

Hari Shukla from Tyne and Wear said he feels it is his duty to receive his first of the two-dose vaccine, a moment UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as a “huge step forward”

London: An 87-year-old man and his 83-year-old wife from the north east of England on Tuesday became the first Indian-origin couple in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19, after they got injected with their first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a hospital in Newcastle.
Dr Hari Shukla, a race relations campaigner based in Tyne and Wear, had been contacted by the National Health Service (NHS) based on the criteria set for the world’s first vaccine to receive regulatory approvals in the UK last week.

His wife, Ranjan, then volunteered for the jab as she also falls within the first phase of people aged 80 and over, care home workers as well as NHS workers at high risk eligible to receive the “life-saving jab”.

“Hari Shukla and his wife Ranjan have become the first two patients at Newcastle Hospitals – and two of the first people in the world – to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said.

They join 90-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Keenan from Coventry as the very first in the world to receive her shot, followed by 81-year-old William Shakespeare in Warwickshire as the second.

“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help,” said Shukla, who was born in Kenya and whose father was from Mumbai.

“Having been in contact with the NHS [National Health Service], I know how hard they all work and the greatest respect for them – they have a heart of gold and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic,” he said.

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Shukla, who has been honoured with an MBE, OBE and CBE for his work as the Director of the Tyne and Wear Race Equality Council over the years, was notified by the NHS based on the criteria set by the UK”s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as part of a phased rollout plan based on those at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus.

“Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country. I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout,” said British Prime Minister Prime Johnson.

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However, he struck a note of caution to warn that mass vaccination will take time and urged the public to remain “clear-eyed” and continue to follow the lockdown rules over the winter months ahead.

The NHS said it is undertaking the biggest and most highly anticipated immunisation campaign in history at 50 hospital hubs, with more starting vaccinations over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up after the first set of doses arrived from Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium.

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“We will look back on today, V-day, as a key moment in our fight back against this terrible disease, and I am proud our health services across the United Kingdom are about to embark on our largest ever vaccination programme,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who got teary eyed during television interviews on Tuesday as he declared he felt “proud to be British”.

Since the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got the green light from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week, the NHS said its workers have been working around the clock to manage the large-scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.

“Coronavirus is the greatest health challenge in NHS history, taking loved ones from us and disrupting every part of our lives,” said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive.

“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio, and smallpox, now turn their focus to coronavirus. NHS staff are proud to be leading the way as the first health service in the world to begin vaccination with this COVID jab,” he said.

The MHRA has stressed that the vaccine has been cleared for mass rollout only after “rigorous” safety tests despite the process being speeded up due to the urgency of finding an effective vaccine against a pandemic which has been raging around the world.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, has warned that the roll out of a vaccine will be a “marathon” not a sprint.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used. General Practitioners (GPs) and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering the jab on a phased basis.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently start up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, with a bulk of the rollout expected in the early part of the New Year.

Indigenous no-state people

Bangladesh’s aquaculture success story

by Megan Howell:

A recent review in Aquaculture and Fisheries has tracked two decades of expansion in Bangladesh’s fishery and aquaculture industries and linked it to the country’s overall economic growth, suggesting that additional investment could boost Bangladesh’s economy.

The researchers reviewed data from Bangladesh’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to quantify the country’s fish production and import and export volumes for the last 20 years.

Two men working at an outdoor fish pond
Researchers have linked the growth of Bangladesh's fishery and aquaculture sectors to the country's overall economic growth
© Kazi Ahmed Kabir

Initial analysis showed that fish production has increased dramatically in the past two decades, starting from 1.781 million metric tonnes in 2000-2001 and reaching 4.134 million metric tonnes in 2016-2017. Employment opportunities in the sector are a boon as well – official statistics show that the fisheries and aquaculture sectors (directly and indirectly) support more than 18 million people. It also showed that Bangladesh is becoming less reliant on capture fisheries and is embracing aquaculture to meet domestic and export demand.
Though the data suggests that the industry has been a runaway success, there are some obstacles Bangladesh must overcome to maintain its position as a top aquaculture producer. Fish and shrimp quality, as well as low food and worker safety standards, remain pressing concerns for the aquaculture sector. If these concerns aren’t addressed, the industry’s growth could quickly stagnate. The researchers suggest that policymakers prioritise product safety and sustainability as part of Bangladesh’s wider “blue growth” plan for aquaculture. This will allow the current growth trajectory to continue, while improving the quality of farmed fish and shellfish.

Why aquaculture works in Bangladesh
Though Bangladesh is largely agrarian, analysts have identified the fish and seafood sector as a core component of the country’s economic development. The fishery and aquaculture industries play a decisive role in the Bangladeshi economy, supporting millions of jobs and providing reliable foreign export earnings. In 2018, Bangladesh was the fifth largest global aquaculture producer and the sector is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Economists expect Bangladesh to come out of the low-income country category and move into the lower-middle income category within the next seven years – aquaculture exports will play an instrumental role in the transition.

Other elements have contributed to the success of Bangladesh’s aquaculture sector. The country already had vast and diverse stocks of fish at the start of the millennium. Fish is also the primary source of animal protein for Bangladesh, so generating domestic demand for cultured fish and shrimp wasn’t an issue. Official data shows that aquaculture production has increased threefold since the year 2000, largely thanks to technological innovations and regulations that are producer friendly.

The story behind the data
The researchers highlighted the general growth trend of the aquaculture sector but explained that the 20 years of growth reflects the rapid changes in fish farming. Over the course of the study, Bangladesh became self-sufficient in fish production (utilising both fishery and aquaculture resources) and gained global recognition as a leading fish producer. The country’s aquaculture industry has shown sustained growth and has become a key part of its macroeconomic framework.

In terms of aquaculture exports, frozen shrimp has emerged as Bangladesh’s main commodity. Much of the frozen shrimp produced in Bangladesh heads to the European Union – making the country one of the few low-income nations to export food products to the trading bloc.

Though the rise of frozen shrimp is a story of growth, official data indicates that total aquaculture exports are mixed. Though they have grown in volume and earnings, the researchers could not identify any reliable trends. In the last years of the study, 2016-2017, the Bureau of Statistics logged a decline in aquaculture exports. The researchers believe that the dip can be attributed to poor quality and safety standards in fish and shrimp – something that could threaten the long-term growth of export commodities.

The researchers stress that the industry must boost its production standards to achieve the benchmarks imposed by its trading partners. This is the only way Bangladesh’s exports will remain competitive and viable.

Conclusions
When viewing Bangladesh’s entire aquaculture sector, the data indicate that the industry has plenty of scope for development and is well-positioned for growth. Fish farming plays a pivotal role in the nation’s food security and generates significant employment and foreign exchange earnings. Policymakers need to harness this potential to strengthen the national economy.

The researchers stress that the government’s blue growth agenda should continue. The eco-friendly programmes that stimulate production could be modified to include improved safety and quality standards for farmed shrimp and fish. This will not only keep Bangladesh’s exports competitive but will also keep the country on its current growth trajectory.

Read the full analysis in Aquaculture and Fisheries.

Human Rights

Manipur: Sedition case against political activist for allegedly making Facebook posts

The police in Manipur have filed a sedition case against political activist Erendro Leichombam, the chief of Imphal East police station Jogeshchandra Haobijam confirmed to Scroll.in on Tuesday.

The police have also invoked Section 153 (causing provocation to riot) and 505 (public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code against Leichombam. The activist is the convenor of a Manipur-based political party, People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance, which he had co-founded with Irom Sharmila in 2016 after she ended her 16-year-old fast for the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur. He had contested the 2016 Manipur Assembly elections, but lost.

The police have refused to divulge more details about the case, but Leichombam said when officers visited his home in Imphal on July 26, presumably to arrest him, his family members were told that the charges stemmed from his Facebook posts. Leichombam’s family claimed that the police referred to a particular picture he had posted on July 24 about Sanajaoba Leishemba, a newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP and the titular king of the state.

In the image, Leishemba, who was elected on a BJP ticket, is seen bowing down with his hands folded in front of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The picture has been captioned “Minai macha”, which roughly translates to “son of a servant”.

Leichombam, who has a postgraduate degree in economic policy from Harvard University, is a vocal critic of the current BJP dispensation in Manipur. He was arrested in 2018 for posting a video on Facebook that the police said amounted to “promoting enmity between different groups and criminal intimidation”. “I have been targeted because I am a long-time critic of the BJP government in Manipur,” Leichombam said.

The political activist said he was scared of going back to Manipur because he feared the state government would file more serious charges against him even if the court were to dismiss the sedition case. “This is what the government did to a journalist after the court said sedition charges don’t hold,” he said, referring to Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a Manipuri journalist who was charged under the National Security Act in 2018 after he posted a Facebook video critical of Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In addition to Wangkhem, several Manipuri civil society activists and political activists have been detained or arrested over the last couple of months for allegedly criticising the BJP government on social media.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, the political activist posted: “I have been charged with sedition by the government for exercising my freedom of speech. To protect Kangleipak from a forceful assimilation is a duty. I will not stop writing. You can’t gag all your critics. Some of us still love our homeland. You can imprison my body, but how will you imprison my mind?”

On July 14, Leichombam had also written a post on the “serious allegations against the chief minister of Manipur” levelled by Thounaojam Brinda, a police officer from the state. In an affidavit to the court, Thounaojam has alleged that Chief Minister Biren Singh had tried to foil a police investigation against a fellow party member accused of smuggling drugs.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Human Rights

Gross violation of Human Rights in Rakhain state of Myanmar

by Param-Preet Singh:

In August 2017, the desperate plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims grabbed headlines when the military’s brutal campaign of murder, rape and other abuses forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. In 2019, the United Nations-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar warned that the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar’s Rakhine state faced a greater than ever threat of genocide because of the government’s attempts to “erase their identity and remove them from the country.”

Despite repeated resolutions from the U.N. Human Rights Council and General Assembly condemning these atrocities, Myanmar faced few consequences. That bleak reality changed in November 2019 when Gambia filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine state violated various provisions of the Genocide Convention. Myanmar must now answer for its brutal treatment of the Rohingya before a credible international tribunal.

The court has already signaled how serious it is about its scrutiny. In its January 2020 unanimous order on provisional measures, the ICJ found that Myanmar had not presented “concrete measures aimed specifically at recognizing and ensuring the right of the Rohingya to exist as a protected group under the Genocide Convention.” The court directed Myanmar not to commit and to prevent genocide, and to preserve any evidence of allegedly genocidal acts committed against the Rohingya.

Myanmar, as a party to the Genocide Convention, is legally bound to comply with the court’s order, and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has acknowledged the court’s role as a “vital refuge of international justice” in settling this dispute.

But what does compliance with the court’s order look like?

What Myanmar is Doing

Prior to its first report to the ICJ on the implementation of the order, submitted in late May of this year, the Myanmar government issued presidential directives to ensure that officials do not commit genocide, to prohibit the destruction or removal of evidence of abuses, and to denounce and to prevent the proliferation of hate speech.

The impact of these directives on the ground, however, has been nonexistent. The government has a long history of failing to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes and rights abuses by its security forces. For example, rather than serving as a stepping stone toward meaningful accountability, Myanmar’s recent court-martial conviction of three military personnel for crimes against ethnic Rohingya victims in actuality, is merely one aspect of ongoing government efforts to evade meaningful accountability, by scapegoating a few soldiers rather than seriously investigating the military leadership who oversaw the atrocity crimes.

In reality, the situation for civilians in Rakhine state has actually worsened over the past year, as the armed conflict between the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine armed group, and Myanmar’s military has increased insecurity across the state and displaced as many as 160,000 civilians. Hundreds of ethnic Rakhine and dozens of Rohingya civilians have been killed in the fighting. Myanmar’s announcement of new military clearance operations raises concerns of further risks to civilians.

Preventing genocide is also not just about preventing further violence. The Rohingya in Rakhine state are subject to “oppressive and systemic restrictions” on freedom of movement and access to food, health care, and humanitarian assistance, all of which may be indicative of the Myanmar government’s intent to destroy the group in whole or in part. And these conditions are only getting worse.

The Rohingya trapped in refugee and displaced persons camps and villages face growing threats from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research at Human Rights Watch has found that Myanmar authorities are using Covid-19 response measures as yet another pretext to harass and extort Rohingya in central Rakhine detention camps, doubling down on a system in which they are already effectively incarcerating the population.

What Myanmar Should be Doing

There are plenty of concrete measures Myanmar’s government could take to protect the vulnerable Rohingya remaining in Rakhine state and, in doing so, demonstrate actual compliance with the ICJ’s order.

For instance, the Myanmar government continues to severely restrict Rohingyas’ access to health facilities, with life-threatening consequences. Last month the government reported that from September to December 2019, at Sittwe General Hospital – the main health facility in Rakhine state and the only hospital most Rohingya can access – fewer than a thousand patients treated were Rohingya, suggesting that many Rohingya are unable to secure needed hospital care. The government could and should urgently lift the restrictions that prevent Rohingya from accessing equitable health care – such as eliminating a medical referral system, removing financial barriers, and increasing ambulance services.

Further, a slew of discriminatory laws isolate the Rohingya in their own country and legitimize discrimination, including the 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively prevents Rohingya from obtaining Myanmar citizenship, and leaves many Rohingya, including children, stateless. The government should repeal the discriminatory legal framework that targets the Rohingya, including the 1982 Citizenship Law, and establish a procedure that ensures that Rohingya are able to obtain full citizenship without discrimination.

Government restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine state remain pervasive and insidious.
Myanmar authorities have responded to the Arakan Army conflict by imposing new restrictions on aid, movement, media, and the internet since January 2019. Humanitarian access has been restricted in eight of Rakhine state’s 17 townships, leading to shortages of food, medicine, and shelter for the Rohingya, ethnic Rakhine and others living in affected areas, and making it difficult or impossible to deliver lifesaving supplies. The government should lift these blanket restrictions on aid delivery and grant humanitarian groups and U.N. agencies immediate, unrestricted, and sustained access to all conflict-affected civilians, including Rohingya.

These are only a few of the steps Myanmar could take to protect the Rohingya if it was serious about implementing the ICJ’s provisional measures order. But Myanmar’s non-compliance is not necessarily set in stone, especially in the face of persistent diplomatic pressure to change course.

While a final determination by the ICJ is most likely years away, the court’s provisional measures order has already unlocked a vital framework to meaningfully assess what Myanmar is – and isn’t – doing to protect the Rohingya in Rakhine state from genocide.

Ultimately, it’s up to individual governments, both in their bilateral dealings with Myanmar and collectively through the U.N., to raise the political cost of Myanmar’s continuing non-compliance.

While diplomacy – often driven by consensus about what the political market will bear despite the ugliest of facts – is needed to push for enforcement, the ICJ’s judges are not subject to these forces. Instead, they are bound by the law’s application to the facts presented.

Regardless of what enforcement measures are ultimately taken, Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar means that the rights of the Rohingya and the atrocities they have suffered cannot be easily forgotten in the face of the latest crisis or political discomfort. As the Rohingya poet Ali Mayuu eloquently puts it, “the gate of justice is just opened.” (Editors Note: This article is part of a special Just Security forum on the ongoing Gambia v. Myanmar litigation at the International Court of Justice and ways forward.)

Human Rights, Indigenous People

Civilian Who Died in Custody in Myanmar’s Rakhine State Killed Himself, Military Says

SITTWE, Rakhine State—One of six residents of Alel Chaung Village in Rakhine State’s Yanbye Township detained by Myanmar army troops on Saturday killed himself while being held for interrogation, according to the military.

Alel Chaung Village administrator U Myint Lwin told The Irrawaddy that Yanbye (formerly Ramree) Township Police Station told him to pick up the body of U Soe Myint Tun on Tuesday.

“Yanbye Township Police Station phoned me and told me that he killed himself by hanging. So, together with his family members, we brought the body from Ma-Ei Hospital,” he said.

Many Rakhine people have expressed doubts about the claim that the 37-year-old man took his own life. His relatives asked in vain for a postmortem examination report from the hospital. His funeral was held on Wednesday.

According to local residents, Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops, including some from Kyaukphyu-based Light Infantry Battalion No. 34, arrived in Alel Chaung Village on Saturday and detained six men, arresting them at their homes or at the farms where they worked, U Myint Lwin said.

“[The troops] didn’t tell me why they arrested them that day. They only said they had things to ask them, and would release them after interrogation, and that we would be informed,” he said.

The soldiers reportedly arrested U Soe Myint Tun while he was working on his farm. Still in detention are U Maung Tun Win, 44; U Zaw Lwin, 35; U Maung Myint Tun, 37; Ko Myet Wun, 25; and Maung Nyein Chan, 20.

All the detainees are farmers, and they are not involved in unlawful activities, local villagers said. Family members of the five other detainees have not been allowed to visit them.

The head of the Yanbye Township Police Force, Police Major Zaw Win, said he did not know about the case, other than being asked by Taungup Police Station to inform U Soe Myint Tun’s relatives of his death.

“We were not involved in the arrests. And we were not told about it, and we therefore do not know about the case. We just informed [the relatives] because Taungup Police Station asked me to do so,” Police Maj. Zaw Win told The Irrawaddy.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Myanmar military-run Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the military kept each of the six detainees in isolation at Ma-Ei Police Station. It said U Soe Myint Tun was found dead at around 6.30 p.m. on Monday, having untied his restraining rope and used it to hang himself.

The military said that according to security personnel, two suspicious men had arrived in Alel Chaung Village on a motorbike via the Minchaung Bridge at around 8 p.m. on June 23. It was confirmed that the two men are members of the Arakan Army (AA), according to the statement. Based on the accounts of the two, the Myanmar military arrested the six from Alel Chaung Village for interrogation, it added.

During the Tatmadaw’s conflict with the AA in Rakhine State, 18 civilians have died during interrogation by the Myanmar military in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Rathedaung townships.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko