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Indigenous no-state people

PM places three proposals for durable use of aquatic sources

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has placed a three-point proposal for boosting global cooperation for durable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, urging the world community to renew their commitments for ocean action.

“For sustainable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, we need increased international cooperation, especially in securing technology and market access for our resources and products,” she told “Virtual Ocean Dialogues” being held in Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.

“Ocean action is critical to nourishing future generations. So, let’s join hands to renew our commitments for ocean action,” she also said in Wednesday’s session of the dialogue titled Nourishing Billions, reports BSS.

The premier in her first proposal called for assisting developing countries with critically required resources, capabilities, and technologies for leveraging full potential of marine resources.

In the second proposal, she put emphasis on conducting joint research on fisheries development with a view to significantly increasing regional fish production and eliminating Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

In the third proposal, Sheikh Hasina underscored mapping and management of resource identification and critical coastal habitat and biodiversity protection.

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action.

The theme of the event is “Connecting Communities for Ocean Resilience, Innovation and Action”.

Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Hasina said the meeting is being held at a time when the entire world is battling the lethal virus.

“This pandemic makes all rethink the linkage between the health of the ocean and the health of humankind as ocean offers a great source to combat illness,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina pointed out that ocean contributes to a wide range of goals of the Agenda 2030, from poverty eradication, food security, and climate change to the provision of energy, employment creation and improved health.

In this connection, she stressed implementation of Goal 14 of Agenda 2030, saying it is more critical now than ever.

Noting that a healthy ocean is a vast source of food and nutrition, the prime minister said oceans can provide six times more food than it does today and help meet the nutrition supply.

Quoting the Global Nutrition Report 2020, she said almost a quarter of all children under-5 years of age are stunted.

Placing emphasis on striking the critical balance for sustainability, Sheikh Hasina said there is already considerable pressure on land and oceanic ecosystems.

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“The impact of climate change on fish stocks is also a serious concern. So, we have to strike the critical balance for sustainability,” she said.

The prime minister elaborated Bangladesh’s magnificent success in ensuring food security for its nearly 165 million people.

“Improved nutrition and safe food production are our priority. Our National Nutrition Program-NNP aims to improve the nutritional status of all citizens, especially of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said proportion of under-5 moderately or severely stunted children has reduced to a great extent thanks to her government’s efforts.

Saying that Bangladesh is the fourth largest inland water fish producer globally, she said fish accounts for more than half of the country’s animal-source protein.

“As many as 17 million people, including 1.4 million women in Bangladesh, depend on the fisheries sector for livelihood. Fish production has increased over the years considerably, and our efforts continue to increase fish production,” she said.

The prime minister said her government is prioritizing marine fisheries as part of its “Blue Economy” initiative.

“Yet, due to urbanization, inland water bodies are shrinking. So, we are prioritizing marine fisheries as part of our Blue Economy initiative,” she said.

Pointing out the 2017 Ocean Conference, Sheikh Hasina said: We’ve made some voluntary commitments and taken legislative measures to protect, and conserve the fishery resources and the environment from all types of pollution, including plastic debris.”

Agnes Matilda Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), David Nabarro, Director, 4SD and Shakuntala Thilsted, Research Programme Leader, Value Chains and Nutrition, WorldFish also addressed the same session.

Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau also delivered a pre-recoded address in another session titled “The High Seas: Operating within the Global Commons.”

Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg will deliver video message on Thursday in a session titled “Sustainable Ocean Economy”.

The five-day event commenced with a video message of Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama on June 1.

Other participants of the Ocean Dialogues include Queen Noor of Kingdom of Jordan, Isabella Lovin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Climate, Ministry of the Environment of Sweden, a good number of ministers (both running and former) from various countries, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, United Nations, and experts from international organizations including World Economic Forum, Ocean Unite, Friends of Ocean Action etc. ( Dhaka Tribune)

Indigenous no-state people

Tigress found dead in Kaziranga National Park

A tigress was found dead on Sunday in Kaziranga National Park.

The carcass was recovered in the bank of Bhalukjan Beel in the Bagori range of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

Sources said it is suspected that the tigress died in a fight with other tiger.

In the afternoon, the post-mortem of the tigress was conducted in presence of a high-level team of forest officials of the state and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was led by Kaziranga National Park director P Shivkumar to the spot.

The post-mortem of the tigress was conducted by veterinarian Dr Pranjit Basumatary of Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari near Kaziranga National Park.

It is suspected that the tigress died around 7 days back.

There are marks of attacks by other tiger on the carcass of the tigress.

The tigress has been identified as Kazi-83 of Kairanga National Park by the national park’s research officer, Rabindra Sarma.

After conducting the post-mortem, the carcass of the tigress was cremated at the spot in the forest in presence of all.

This year, a total of three tigers have died in the Kaziranga National Park.

On April 15, 2020, forest officials recovered a carcass of a Royal Bengal Tiger at the national park.

The carcass of the tiger was recovered from the bank of Mihibali under Kohora range.

Sources informed that the tiger might have died around three days back.

Forest officials also said the back portion of the dead tiger was already eaten by some other big cats.

Forest guards on Wednesday evening discovered the carcass while taking the elephants for a stroll.

Indigenous no-state people

Meet the Nepal youth who wooed ‘American Idol’ judges at audition

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel, 21, impresses judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan & Lionel Richie with smokey voice; wins golden ticket at audition round of 18th season of American Idol

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

New Delhi: American Idol‘s next big discovery seems to be a rockstar from Nepal Dibesh Pokharel who goes by the stage name ‘Arthur Gunn’.

The 21-year-old Kathmandu-born youth moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago. He has been singing ever since he was a kid and took it seriously only a year before shifting base to the US.

In the 18th season reboot of the popular reality television series, Gunn performed in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan during the audition round on Sunday. He sang Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country, leaving the judges impressed. However, he lacked eye contact, so the mentors asked him to go ahead with another performance, but this time maintaining eye contact. He then opted for Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The trio was more than impressed with his smokey voice, and Luke Bryan even asked Gunn to open for him in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Richie came and hugged the young music sensation who already has a few originals to his name on YouTube.

The Nepalese boy who said that American Idol might be his chance at his American Dream was given the Golden Ticket in unison. (Source: Eastmojo)

Indigenous no-state people

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA

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Bengaluru: 

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, violates constitutional provisions. “The CAA law that has been passed in my judgment should be turned down by the Supreme Court on the grounds of it being unconstitutional because you cannot have certain types of fundamental human rights linking citizenship with religious differences,” Mr Sen told reporters at the Infosys Science Foundation’s Infosys Prize 2019 in Bengaluru.

The Nobel laureate said what really should matter for deciding citizenship is the place a person was born, and where the person has lived.

“My reading of the (amended) law is that it violates the provision of the Constitution,” he said, adding that citizenship on the basis of religion had been a matter of discussion in the constituent assembly where it was decided that “using religion for the purpose of discrimination of this kind will not be acceptable.”

Mr Sen, however, agreed that a Hindu who is persecuted in a country outside India deserves sympathy and his or her case must be taken into account.

“It (consideration for citizenship) has to be independent of religion but take cognisance of the sufferings and other issues into account,” Mr Sen said.

On the mob attack at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Mr Sen noted the university administration could not stop outsiders from coming to the campus to lead the attack.

“The communication between the university administration and the police got delayed due to which ill treatment of students went on without being prevented by the law enforcement agencies,” he added.

Indigenous no-state people

How Thai forces killing minorities: the story of Billy and a Karen village

Billy, Muenoor and their child
An oil barrel discovered at the bottom of a reservoir in a nature reserve in Thailand in April 2019 has cast a light on a story some would rather stayed hidden. It is a tale of powerful men and the lengths they will allegedly go to keep their crimes covered up. But it is also the story of one woman’s determination to get justice for the man she loved and the community he was fighting for.

Pinnapa “Muenoor” Prueksapan remembers the words that her husband told her back in 2014 as if it happened yesterday.

“He told me: ‘The people involved in this aren’t happy with me. They say that if they find me they’ll kill me. If I do disappear, don’t come looking for me. Don’t wonder where I’ve gone. They’ll probably have killed me’.

“So I said to him: ‘If you know you’re in danger like this, why can’t you stop helping your grandfather and the village?’.

“And he said to me: ‘When you’re doing the right thing, you have to keep fighting, even if it means you may lose your life.’.

“And after he said that, I couldn’t ask him to stop,” she recalls.

When Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen left for work on 15 April that same year, Muenoor didn’t ask any questions. He left just like any other day, grabbing the overnight bag his wife packed for him and walking out the door without saying goodbye.

He told Muenoor that he was going to meet with people in his role as a locally elected official – but that wasn’t the whole truth. In fact, Billy had gone to meet his grandfather and members of his village to collect evidence to take to lawyers in Bangkok – evidence he hoped would prove once and for all local authorities in this remote part of southern Thailand were illegally evicting indigenous communities.

Three days later, Muenoor got a phone call from Billy’s brother asking if he had arrived home safely. But he still wasn’t home. Suddenly she remembered Billy’s words.

Perhaps that phone call would never had happened had it not been for another tragedy three years earlier.

Billy came from a forest on the Thai-Myanmar border
In July 2011, three military helicopters crashed in a remote part of Kaeng Krachan National Park, near Thailand’s southern border with Myanmar. They went down one after the other in a series of accidents blamed on bad weather.

The tragedy was further compounded by the fact the last two helicopters had been sent to collect the remains of the first.

Seventeen people lost their lives in the three accidents: 16 soldiers and one member of Bangkok’s press.

The crashes drew the attention of the country’s media. Soon journalists from all over Thailand were descending on the area, which meant, for the first time, all eyes were focused on this quiet, rural region – and the dark secrets it hid.

In the end, a tip-off led the journalists to a remote location, far into the dense green jungle of the country’s biggest national park, and to the very secret the soldiers had seemingly died trying to protect.

Because there, deep in the forest, were the charred remains of a village.

The village had once been home to a small indigenous community, made up of about 100 families from the Karen minority. They were farmers, living a simple life, in balance with their surroundings.

It was where Billy had grown up with his grandfather, Karen spiritual leader Ko-ee Mimee.

Their existence, in some ways, sounded idyllic. But the 352,000 Karen people who live in Thailand are seen as outsiders. The majority of the world’s five million Karen people live in neighbouring Myanmar.

But decades of persecution and a long-running civil war with the government in Myanmar have forced thousands of Karen civilians to cross the border, where the Thai authorities have labelled them a foreign threat, said to be associated with drug smuggling and militant insurgencies.

And that is apparently why locals say national park rangers turned up, evacuated the village and burnt everything to the ground weeks before the doomed helicopter flights.

The military helicopter is understood to have been on its way to the village to ensure it had been completely and utterly destroyed.

Park rangers arrived in May 2011, villagers say
Billy wasn’t there the night the park rangers arrived in 2011. He had married Muenoor and moved away to a village nearer her family.

But his grandfather, a spiritual leader and a well-respected member of the village, was at home, and allowed the rangers to stay the night in his hut.

“On that day, there were three helicopters flying above the village,” a Karen man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the BBC.

“That first day there were 15 park rangers. They went into Billy’s grandfather’s house. They spoke to him and asked to stay for the night.”

Image copyright HANDOUT A hut begins to burn
Image caption The village was evacuated, and the rangers set light to the homes
Ko-ee Mimee had no idea what was about to happen.

“The park rangers didn’t say or do anything that felt threatening, except for the fact they came with guns. The following day, at 9am, the helicopters returned. The village chief told Billy’s grandfather to pack his clothes and walk with the park rangers to the helicopters,” the Karen man recalls.

Even when the villagers were told to get into the helicopters, there was no panicking: they still didn’t understand what was happening.

It was only as they rose up above the trees that the enormity of what was taking place finally became clear.

“As we took off I started to see smoke and I could hear the crackling of the wood from the fire,” the villager tells the BBC. “When the helicopter was high above the village I looked down and saw my whole house in flames.

“Everything inside Billy’s grandfather’s house was burned. All he had was one bag with his hat and a shirt inside. The rest of the villagers weren’t able to bring any of their possessions.

“Everything we had ever owned was burned down along with our homes.”

The farmer who fought back

Chaiwat Limlikidacsorn, then the national park chief, would later tell journalists the families were invaders, and that the village was used as a transit point for Karen drug smugglers coming over the border from Myanmar.

Under Thai law, he would argue, permanent structures could not be built inside protected national parks, and that year Chaiwat’s team of rangers were applying for Kaeng Krachan to become a Unesco World Heritage site.

Billy’s community denied the allegations. They said military maps dating from 1912 even showed their village had existed in the same location for at least a hundred years, and long before the forest became a national park in 1981.

“The way we lived and farmed was in harmony with the forest,” Abisit “Jawree” Charoensuk, a local Karen from the village, tells the BBC. “We Karens respect nature as our God. We worship a water God, a forest God and every living thing in the forest. Our farming technique is environmentally friendly. And we grow things we can consume all year round.

“We catch fish in the river, we catch small animals in the forest and we grow rotation crops. We grow rice to sell and the women weave clothes to sell.”

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But after the village was burned, when park authorities moved the community to the outskirts of Kaeng Krachan, things were very different.

“There is no rice for us to harvest because there is no land for us to grow rice on. The land they moved us onto is all rock,” Billy told journalists in 2011. “Since we cannot make a living, we don’t know how to survive. Some of us don’t have Thai citizenship so we can’t look for jobs in the city.

“Many are afraid if they leave the area they’ll be arrested by the police. We can’t make a living down here; we need to go back to where we were.”

The destruction of his village was a turning point for Billy, transforming the young farmer into a human rights activist. He and his grandfather got in contact with lawyers in the capital, Bangkok, some two and a half hours drive away.

A map showing the national park
But it was the helicopter crash which finally gave their plight the attention it needed.

Billy became more and more passionate about getting justice. He organised seminars about Karen community rights, and travelled the country explaining what had happened to his village. He spearheaded attempts to sue the park rangers for compensation.

“Billy acted as an assistant to the lawyer representing the villagers,” Muenoor explains. “He collected evidence for them, spoke to the villagers and found out what happened and what exactly they lost. He took his grandfather to the administrative court so he could sue the national park rangers who burned down their village.”

The disappearance

The last time Billy was seen alive, he was being arrested for taking wild honey out of the forest.

The arrest itself was not unusual: it is illegal to take anything from the forest, but most people pay a fine and are let go.

But Billy had more than just wild honey on him that day. He also had the evidence from the Karen villagers and his grandfather – the same documents he hoped to use in court to sue the park rangers.

When Muenoor tried to report her husband’s disappearance to local police, she says they dismissed her concerns. But she knew in her heart what had happened.

“I thought he was dead because if he was still alive or in hiding he would have found a way to contact me or his family because that’s what he was like – he was a smart guy. He would have found a way to contact me that first day he went missing.”

Billy had been, as the saying goes in Thailand, “carried away”. Human rights groups say thousands of activists have disappeared like this over the decades, although the United Nations puts the number at just 82. Many families are too afraid to go to the police to report their loved ones are missing.

Muenoor, however, was not scared. In the months and years that followed, with the help of lawyers in Bangkok, she launched repeated requests for a judicial investigation into Billy’s unlawful detention.

But time and time again they were rejected on the grounds of a lack of evidence – even though police couldn’t find any record of Billy’s release from custody.

Muenoor was forced to dedicate herself to finding out what happened to her husband
And although traces of human blood were found in a vehicle belonging to the park office, it wasn’t possible to verify if the blood belonged to Billy because the vehicle was cleaned before forensic experts could examine it.

But then again, without a body, there was not much anyone could do: no one has ever been brought to justice for making someone disappear, for carrying them away. In fact, the crime of enforced disappearance doesn’t exist in Thailand.

Muenoor’s fight for justice suffered a further blow when Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which looks into high profile cases like those involving government officials, said they wouldn’t be taking up Billy’s case.

Meanwhile, Chaiwat, the national park chief, was promoted and moved out of the area.

The oil drum and the reservoir

But then, in an unexpected development, the DSI, under pressure from international human rights groups, suddenly announced they would start investigating Billy’s disappearance in June 2018.

Less than a year later, Muenoor received a strange phone call: investigating officers asked her to go to the reservoir in Kaeng Krachan National Park. They told her to bring incense, the smoke of which Karen people believe connects this world to the next.

When she arrived, they asked Muenoor to pray next to the water.

“Billy, if you are here under the bridge, please reveal yourself or show me a sign so that I and everyone here trying to help can bring you justice and find evidence,” she prayed. “Then we can take your case to the next step to reveal the truth about what really happened.”

With the help of an underwater robot, a team of divers set about searching the reservoir.

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES A bridge going over a reservoir in the national park
Image caption Eventually, police brought her back to the park, and to a resevoir
What they found was a rusty, 200-litre oil drum. Inside were burnt fragments of bone. That in itself was unsurprising: oil drums have been used since World War Two to torture and burn alive those who defy the government. They have become symbolic of a culture of impunity.

A DNA test indicated it was Billy inside the drum.

Afterwards, officials sent Muenoor a picture of a skull fragment – burnt, cracked and shrunken after being exposed to heat as high as 300 degrees Celsius. Whoever did this, it seemed, had tried to conceal the crime.

“What kind of person could do something like this to another person?” Muenoor asks. “It’s not human. I was devastated that he had to go through something like that. Whoever did this never thought about Billy’s family or how this would affect us. If this had happened to the killer’s family, how would he have felt?”

The game changer

In November 2019, the DSI issued an arrest warrant. It was for Kaeng Krachan National Park’s former chief, Chaiwat Limlikidacsorn, and three other park rangers. They deny any wrongdoing.

The arrest came as a shock for many in Thailand. It is unusual for someone in a senior role working for the state to be arrested on such serious charges.

And Chaiwat has made his feelings clear.

“Ever since it happened, the DSI and the media have depicted me in a negative way,” Chaiwat has complained to reporters. “It’s ruined my simple life as a government official, along with my three junior colleagues. They’ve also destroyed my family.

“Instead of being an honest government official and protecting the forest I am forced to stand in front of all of you here today. I’ve devoted my entire life, strength and energy to help this nation.”

Chaiwat and the three park rangers are charged with six offences, including premeditated murder, unlawful detention and the concealment of Billy’s body.

Enforced disappearance is not one of them.

Even so, if Chaiwat and the other park rangers are found guilty of Billy’s murder, it will be the first time one of the so-called disappeared gets justice.

Muenoor and a photo of her family
Image caption Muenoor says it has turned her world upside down
People like prominent human rights lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk believe enough pressure will be generated to force the Thai government to pass an enforced disappearance law.

“Patterns have emerged in these disappearance cases,” Mr Surapong tells the BBC. “In most cases, people disappear in broad daylight. And a lot of people are around as witnesses. But the bodies are never found, so they can’t prosecute.

“If we can find justice for Billy, this will be a game changer for Thailand.”

But while Billy’s death may change Thai law, the reason he is said to have lost his life – the fight for his village – has not been won. Even though the Karen villagers won the case against the Department of National Parks and got compensation of 50,000 baht ($1,600; £1,200) for each family, they haven’t been allowed back.

And years of struggle have taken their toll on Muenoor as well. She admits it’s been hard for the whole family to lose Billy, especially the children.

“His case was on the news so much that one day they asked me how come the person who did this to our dad isn’t in jail? What did dad do to him? Why did he have to kill dad?” Muenoor says.

“It’s been difficult. I’ve had to stay strong. I have to take care of everything at home. I have to work to earn a living, and on top of that I’m still trying to get justice for Billy. When he was still here, he supported me.

“My life has turned upside down, from day into night.                                                   —-  

Human Rights

Myanmar: Defending genocide at the ICJ

With facts on the ground established, the Myanmar government’s defence against the genocide charge can hardly stand.

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi attends a hearing of the genocide case against the Rohingya minority at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on December 11, 2019 [Reuters/Yves Herman]
Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi attends a hearing of the genocide case against the Rohingya minority at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on December 11, 2019 [Reuters/Yves Herman]

On December 9, the world marked the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention: a covenant signed in the wake of the Holocaust not only to punish genocide but to prevent it.

And yet, the tatters of the shredded promise of “never again” were on display the very next day at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which from December 10 to 12 held its first hearings in the case against Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya.

The case was brought by The Gambia, under a provision of the Genocide Convention that permits state parties to bring a case against any other party for violations, even if they themselves are not directly affected – a reflection of the extreme gravity of the crime.

The hearings – in which The Gambia requested “provisional measures” to mitigate further deterioration of the Rohingya’s situation while the wheels of justice grind slowly forward – were just the preliminary stage of a long process which will take several more years to determine whether Myanmar bears state responsibility for genocide.

It has been 41 years since Operation King Dragon, the Myanmar military’s first campaign of mass expulsion and terror against the Rohingya; 37 years since the Rohingya were stripped of citizenship, despite being recognised as indigenous to Myanmar by Prime Minister U Nu in 1948; 31 years since military leaders developed the plan to supplant Muslim-majority Rohingya communities in Rakhine State with “model villages” for Buddhist settlers.

It has been seven years since the mass caging of Rohingya in detention camps, prompting US-based NGO Genocide Watch to issue a Genocide Emergency Alert; four years since the promulgation of “race and religion protection laws” restricting Rohingya from marrying and having children; and more than two years since the vicious, discriminatory military “clearance operations” of 2017 that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar and into Bangladesh – a continuation of “unfinished business”, in the words of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

The Rohingya have endured massacres, apartheid, gang rape, torture, deliberate starvation, forced labour, and the targeted destruction of their homes and villages. And now, after years of international denialism, delay and indifference, they are finally having their day in court.

In responding to the accusations against it at the ICJ, Myanmar demonstrated the same callousness, cynicism, and chutzpah that characterises the output of its genocide propaganda machine. It has previously, for example, claimed that the Rohingya set their own homes on fire, that their confinement in camps surrounded by barbed wire is for their own “protection“, and that the accounts of widespread military sexual violence were inconceivable because Rohingya women are too “dirty” to rape.

The paucity and moral bankruptcy of the legal arguments in which Myanmar attempted to cloak its crimes at the ICJ only served to highlight their naked indefensibility.

For instance, Myanmar’s lawyer William Schabas critiqued the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the main source for the allegation of genocide, for failing to “point to any evidence of mass graves”. Of course, the primary barrier impeding the compilation of such evidence has been Myanmar’s penchant for blocking investigators and  bulldozing  over atrocity sites. Despite this, the mission’s September 2018 report did, in fact, document several mass Rohingya graves, for example at Maung Nu, Gu Dar Pyin, and Inn Din.

Schabas also argued that the fact that only a portion – 10,000 – of the Rohingya population has actually been eliminated by the regime so far contradicted the inference of genocide – reducing genocide to a gross numbers game contra international law. He completely omitted to mention the unquantified thousands more who have been raped,  tortured , and starved, all of which are also acts of genocide when conducted with an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

Far from disproving the genocidal nature of the state’s project against the Rohingya, Myanmar’s submissions confirmed the regime’s utter disdain for its victims.

State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, representing Myanmar as its agent in the case, refused to even use the word Rohingya except when referring to the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – itself a sign of the genocidal desire to delete the Rohingya off the social, linguistic and conceptual map.

Myanmar’s official policy of erasing Rohingya identity continues through the very same refugee repatriation process repeatedly cited by Myanmar at the ICJ as proof of its good intentions. The National Verification Cards central to the repatriation scheme function as “tools of genocide” by effectively identifying the Rohingya as “foreigners”, as a recent report from human rights organisation Fortify Rights concluded.

Even as Myanmar stood before the international court denying genocidal practices, 93 Rohingya, including 23 children, were on trial in the city of Pathein for the crime of “illegally travelling” to flee what one Rohingya blogger describes as the “open concentration cell” of Rakhine.

According to Suu Kyi, however, the overwhelming state violence inflicted upon the Rohingya is nothing more than a legitimate “counter-terrorism” response to Muslim fighters linked to “Afghan and Pakistani militants”.  Myanmar’s ICJ submission claims the army launched “clearance operations” after attacks on police stations and villages by the armed group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on August 25, 2017.

In reality, the influx of troops and various other preparations for the 2017 “clearance operations” began before the Rohingya attacks that supposedly triggered them. And an International Crisis Group report cited as Myanmar’s sole source for the connection to “Afghan and Pakistani militants” contains nothing about Afghanistan and only one passing reference to Pakistan. This report does, however, make clear that what Myanmar portrays as the Rohingya menace – the provocation for its military brutality – has consisted mostly of “ordinary villagers [armed] with farm tools”.

Just like the Uighurs languishing in the world’s largest system of concentration camps, the Kashmiris suffering under the world’s largest military occupation and the Palestinians suffocating in the world’s largest open-air prison, the Rohingya have refused to go quietly like “lambs to the slaughter“. And that refusal has been presented by their persecutors as “terrorism” justifying the butcher’s knife.

Even the paradigmatically non-violent effort to seek justice through the UN’s judicial organ, the ICJ, was depicted by Myanmar as a shadowy Islamic plot, with The Gambia accused of acting as a front for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The argument is based on neither law nor logic; The Gambia has every right – and arguably even a duty – to bring the case as a party to the Genocide Convention, and the case is supported by Canada and the Netherlands as well as the OIC. Rather, it appeals to Islamophobic conspiracy theories such as those espoused by Suu Kyi about “global Muslim power,” reminiscent of old anti-Semitic myths of Jewish world control.

Suu Kyi concluded Myanmar’s presentations to the court with two pictures of diverse ethnic groups “proud, enthusiastic, and laughing” together at a football match in Rakhine. It was the photographic equivalent of the gulag and  ghetto  tours staged by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, which presented a Potemkin facade of normalcy  – complete with vignettes of the condemned playing  football  – to conceal the horrors lying beneath.

The spectacle of a Nobel peace prize laureate covering up a genocide has transfixed the world. But the grotesque bathos of Suu Kyi emblematises the shame of the international community writ large, which poses as the guardian of peace and civilisation while allowing mass atrocities to unfold in plain sight.

There is the shame of the vast constellation of governments and corporations that continued to arm, fund and collaborate with the genocidal Myanmar military, as documented by the UN Fact-Finding Mission in a report released in September.

There is the shame of the international organisations whose “years of secrecy, self-censorship and silent compliance with government policies of abuse” in Myanmar made them “complicit in a process of preparation for ethnic cleansing”, according to a comprehensive review by veteran human rights fieldworker Liam Mahony.

And there is the shame of all the states that deferred recognising the situation as genocide to avoid activating their duty to prevent.

The present ICJ process is not a panacea for the international community’s abdication of responsibility.

The ICJ in this case only has jurisdiction over genocide – a restriction exploited by Myanmar in its submissions, which proffered the extraordinary defence that its actions may have constituted “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity” but not genocide, and therefore lie beyond the remit of the court.

Moreover, the ICJ lacks any coercive mechanism to enforce its judgements, as devastatingly demonstrated by the execution of the Srebrenica massacre two years after provisional measures were imposed in the Bosnia v Serbia case.

As international law professor Frederic Megret observes, perhaps “the best hope of averting or limiting the consequences of genocide lie with an infinity of small, local acts of resistance rather than a univocal focus on big, structural and international solutions to the problem”.

The fact that the Myanmar case has made it to the ICJ is a testament to the enduring and determined resistance of the Rohingya people and to the tireless, often perilous work of Rohingya writers, lawyers, activists and organisations, and their allies, whose efforts for justice continue both inside and beyond the court.

The Free Rohingya Coalition, for example, is currently seeking international civil society support for a boycott campaign targeting corporations complicit with Myanmar’s crimes.

With the Rohingya genocide finally on trial, now is not the time for international self-satisfaction, but reinvigorated solidarity with the victims of the world’s violated promise of “never again”.

by

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

Indigenous no-state people

Over 120 Chinese arrested for illegally staying in Nepal

Kathmandu: Over 120 Chinese nationals were arrested from Kathmandu for staying in the country without proper working permit and visa.

Raids to apprehend Chinese nationals illegally staying in Nepal were launched by a joint team of Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD) and Metropolitan Police Range apprehended 122 Chinese from various locations around the capital of Kathmandu. The raids were conducted over a period of three days from Saturday to Monday.

“We have arrested them from Gongabu, Thamel and other locations. They are found to be involved in various professions including hospitality, agriculture and ICT to name some. They do not have a working permit and have overstayed in the nation as their tourist visa has already expired,” Chief at MPCD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sahakul Thapa confirmed.

The arrested Chinese are currently held inside Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, for further investigation. Apart from their illegal stay in the nation, they also are being probed for various criminal activities in recent days.

The crackdown over the illegal stay of Sino nationals started from Sunday afternoon at 1 pm as the police got into action over it working on the tip-off it received about it.

In the first raid, around 72 Chinese nationals were arrested.

Sino nationals were time and again detained in Nepal for carrying out various illegal activities. On September 2, Nepal Police rounded up six Chinese nationals in capital Kathmandu for allegedly system hacking and withdrawing millions of rupees from various ATM booths. (ANI)

Indigenous no-state people

Changes coming to the land of Brahmis

Aum Dema, 84, in the traditional attire

Neten Dorji | 

Trashigang:

The people of Thongrong Village in Phongmey Gewog, Trashigang are called Dakpas or Brahmis. Their origins are linked to the northern part of Arunachal Pradesh, India and they dress like the highlanders of Sakteng and Merak.

This once remote community is now connected with road and changes have come with it.

Sangla, 87, has a story to tell about the community. He said their ancestors were from Mon Tawang. They came and settled here to avoid huge tax burden. “There could have been only about three households then. People were cattle herders mostly,” he said.

Their interaction in the olden day was only with the highlanders, mostly with Dakpas. People practised subsistence farming. The clear evidence of the community having undergone change is that their Chupa, Shingkha, Pishu, Toedung and Zhamu are being replaced by gho, jeans and kira.

Only 15 to 20 percent the population, mainly the elders still communicates in Dakpakha. They do not even speak or understand Tshangla, the language widely speak in the east. Apart from Thongrong, Dakpakha or Brahmilo (the language of the Brahmis) is also spoken in places Chaling, Tokshimang and parts of Shongphu in Trashigang.

Thongrong Tshogpa Sangay Wangchuk said that only a few elders wore Dakpa dress today. And, that too, only during special occasions.

Every household had a minimum of 20 sheep back then and the community was largely self-sufficient. With decreasing , the practice of rearing sheep is waning fast. They now have to buy clothes from Merak and Sakteng.

Tashi Chophel, 58, said it was a sad reality but the Dakpas could do little to save their language and culture. “The young are increasingly leaving the village.”

Human Rights

Common documents enough to prove citizenship: Home Ministry

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday said guidelines for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) were yet to be drafted but Citizenship of India may be proved by giving any document relating to date of birth or place of birth or both.

“Such a list is likely to include a lot of common documents to ensure that no Indian citizen is unduly harassed or put to inconvenience,” a Ministry spokesperson said.

Indian citizens do not have to prove any ancestry by presenting documents such as identity card, birth certificate etc of parents/grandparents dating back to pre-1971 situation. March 24, 1971 was the cut-off date for Assam’s NRC conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court as per the Assam Accord, 1985, and was not related to countrywide citizens’ register. According to the Citizenship Act, anyone born on or after 26 January, 1950, but before 1 July, 1987 was an Indian citizen by birth. “The people born between these years are naturalised citizens by now and would be having some kind of document as a proof of their birth here,” the spokesperson said.

Nineteen lakh people, out of 3.29 crore applicants, were excluded from Assam’s NRC that was published on August 31.

The spokesperson said, “For illiterate citizens, who may not have any documents, the authorities may allow them to produce witnesses or local proofs supported by members of the community. A well laid out procedure will be followed.”

A senior Home Ministry official said each application received online under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) would be checked and enquired by officials, as the final decision to grant citizenship rested with the Centre. There would be no time restriction to apply under the CAA. Though the rules for the CAA were yet to be framed, it could not override legislation passed by Parliament on December 11, which did not have any provision of fixing a window to apply.

The CAA allows citizenship on the basis of religion to undocumented non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. There are apprehensions that the Act, followed by a country-wide NRC would benefit non-Muslims excluded from the citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.

On being asked as to how the authorities would prove that these people fled the three countries due to religious persecution, the official said, “that is a cause of concern. There is no such proof, we will see.”

NPR to be compiled next year

No separate legislation was required to compile the NRC, as the provision existed under the Citizenship Act when it was amended in December 2004. The NRC’s precursor- the National Population Register (NPR) would be compiled next year, he said.

The third phase of the NPR, a register of usual residents of the country who had been staying at a particular place for the past six months, would be conducted in September 2020 along with the Census exercise. The NPR database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars. The exercise was conducted in two phases, in 2010 and 2015. It was mandatory for every usual resident of India to register with the NPR.

The NRC was the next step of the NPR. After the NRC ended, citizens would be given unique cards, the official said.

The State governments, he noted, have no powers to reject the implementation of the CAA, the NPR or the NRC. Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have announced that the CAA was “unconstitutional” and had no place in their States. The West Bengal government stopped the NPR exercise through an order this week.

“The power to grant citizenship to district collectors has been delegated by the Centre. The CAA changes the provision and it can be vested back with Central authorities like the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). This is not to minimise the role of the district collectors but the process is anyway online,” the official said. (The Hindu)