Stuck Between a Rock and a Wet Place

Flooding and mudslides brought upon by the seasonal monsoon season has killed ten and displaced thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps this month, as progress towards a secure, dignified, and sustainable return of the nearly one million refugees remains stalled due to the obfuscation and intransigence of the Myanmar[1] authorities. While Bangladesh, China, and the Myanmar government are all making noises about the imminent repatriation of the Rohingya, until freedom of movement, citizenship, basic security and accountability for the grave crimes committed by the Myanmar military are guaranteed, most of the Rohingya believe they will face the same persecution and violence that forced them to flee in the first place. The current promotion of the National Verification Card (NVC) process is not a substitute for genuine efforts to restore the rights of the Rohingya.

Heavy rains, typical of this time of year in the region, have caused mudslides in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, destroying nearly 5,000 homes since April and displacing around 6,000 people in the first two weeks of July according to the International Office for Migration. Ten people have also died as a result of the weather conditions. Aid agencies are seeking extra funding to cope with the worsening conditions, that only highlights the desperate plight of the Rohingya. There continues to exist a narrative among certain circles in Myanmar that the Rohingya are making false claims about their persecution in order to receive attention, humanitarian aid, and political status while simultaneously denying their right to identify as Rohingya. With each passing monsoon season, and the deterioration of conditions in the camps resulting in death and further displacement, tin foil hats are becoming the de rigueur fashion choice for such conspiracy theory peddlers.

The Myanmar government claims that it is ready to receive Rohingya refugees and is deflecting citizenship demands by pointing to the provision of the National Verification Cards (NVC). Yet a report released on 11 July, 2019 by the Burma Human Rights Network and the Queen Mary University of London’s International State Crime Initiative, underlines how the NVC is actually a “process to further marginalize the Rohingya and that it ultimately enhances apartheid conditions in Rakhine State.” Based on research with Rohingya, including those who have already gone through the NVC process, their freedom of movement remains curtailed. Furthermore, despite claims by the Myanmar government that the NVC is a pathway to citizenship, it actually blocks this path by permanently identifying them as ‘Bengalis’ denies them the right to self-identify as Rohingya and their right to ownership of their ancestral land. It would be either extremely naive or willfully ignorant for any entities, agencies or other actors involved in the return process to believe that the NVC process will afford the Rohingya citizenship and the protections that this entails.

The recent flooding and mudslides in Rohingya refugee camps put into focus the gravity of their situation. Despite the rhetoric from the Myanmar authorities and regional neighbors such as China, nothing has changed on the ground. If the Rohingya were to return in these circumstances, they would be returning to apartheid. Until there is a process for accountability, until they can be guaranteed the security to enjoy basic freedoms to pursue their livelihoods, travel freely, and access health and education – something the NVC process will not lead to – monsoon season in Bangladesh will continue to wreak havoc on the precarious existence that Rohingya communities are living.

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[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.


Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

ေဒၚနန္ထန္သတ္ခံရသည့္အေပၚ ရွမ္းျပည္နယ္ (ေျမာက္ပိုင္း) အရပ္ဖက္ အဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ား၏ ေတာင္းဆိုခ်က္မ်ား

By 30 Civil Society Organizations

Ongoing Discrimination and Persecution Exacerbated by Fresh Military Violations in Rakhine State: Amnesty International Oral Statement at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council

By Amnesty International

Rakhine Situation Continuing to Deteriorate During Conflict

By Burma Human Rights Network

BHRN Welcomes UN Human Rights Council Statements from Yanghee Lee

By Burma Human Rights Network

Statement From EU Investors in Myanmar on the Internet Shutdown in Northern Rakhine

By The European Chambers of Commerce in Myanmar

Update on Myanmar at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council

By UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

reports

Reports

Burma Human Rights Network Slams Myanmar’s Use of Nationality Verification Card for Rohingya

By Burma Human Rights Network

Myanmar’s Child Rights Bill and the Right of a Child to Acquire a Nationality

By International Commission of Jurists

We Must Prevent a Lost Generation: Community-led Education in Rohingya Camps

By Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

တိုင္းရင္းသားအခ်င္းခ်င္း ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းစြာ အတူတကြ ယွဥ္တြဲေနထိုင္ေရးကို ဟန္႔တားေႏွာင့္ယွက္ေနေသာ လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးခ်ိဳးေဖာက္မႈမ်ား

By Ta’ang Human Rights Network


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”

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