Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burmese Monk Suffering After UNHCR Rejection - U Thuriya

Dhaka (Narinjara): A Burmese monk, U Thuriya, who was involved in the Saffron Revolution protests in 2007, has been suffering mentally after the UNHCR Dhaka office rejected his application for refugee status, said an abbot who accepted him to stay at his monastery.

"I am really worried about his health because sometimes he refuses to take his food and medicine. He has been staying along in the monastery without talking after returning from Dhaka," the abbot said.

U Thuriya, who is 25 years old, was wanted to arrest by the Burmese military authority for his involvement in the many protests during 2007's Saffron Revolution in Sittwe. At the time, the monk was a student from Pathein monastery located in Kon Dan Ward in Sittwe.

"I am all Burmese people here know about U Thuriya and why he came from Burma. He escaped from Burma to Bangladesh out of fear of arrest by the Burmese military authority. But we are unable to understand the decision of the UNHCR on his case," the abbot said.

U Thuriya fled from Sittwe to Bangladesh through his native border town of Buthidaung in northern Arakan soon after the Burmese military authority began an armed crackdown on the monk movement in Burma in 2007.

U Thuriya once told Narinjara that he had crossed many dangerous places in the border area on his way to Bangladesh, but he luckily escaped Burma with the help of local tribes people in the border area.

After he arrived, he came to Dhaka to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR, but the UNHCR rejected his claim for asylum after only one interview. U Thuriya's register Number was 393-08C-00044, and he was given notice of rejection on 22 October, 2008.

The abbot said, "U Thuriya is now a helpless monk and he has no future. All monasteries in Bangladesh have refused him shelter because he is a Burmese citizen. It is impossible for them to accept such a foreigner for studying in a monastery in Bangladesh without permission of the authorities."

U Thuriya is now staying at a small monastery in a remote village in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tract and is suffering from malaria, but is not getting medical treatment.

According to Burmese refugees, the UNHCR Dhaka office not only denied U Thuriya's claims for asylum, but also other monks such as U Rakha Wanta and Wiraw Zana, who played leading roles in the Saffron Revolution in Arakan State.

There is a joke among Burmese refugees in Bangladesh that if you want recognition as a refugee by the UNHCR in Dhaka, you must be a mountain cultivator. The joke emerged after some cultivators were recognized as refugees while many other monks and citizens who were victims of the junta had their claims rejected.

Many Burmese refugees believe that such decisions are mistakes that occur in the UNHCR Dhaka office because of weak interpreters who are unable to understand modern words or usages of spoken Burmese and Arakanese.

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