Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three Rohingya couples flee to Bangladesh for fear of torture and imprisonment

Maungdaw, Arakan State (Kaladan Press): Three couples recently fled to Bangladesh for fear of torture and imprisonment, since they married without permission from the concerned authorities, a school teacher from a refugee camp said on condition of anonymity.

The three couples were identified as (1) Minara Begum (20) and Zakaria (30), (2) Elema Khatoon (27) and Habi Rahaman (30) and (3) Anwara Begum (25) and Md. Noor (25). All of them belong to Phur Wut Chaung village of Maungdaw town.

The three couples had submitted three applications to the Nasaka, but they did not get permission for marriage, as they were unable to bribe the Nasaka authorities. They did not get permission though a year had passed since their application.

The three couples tied the knot recently, without getting any permission from the concerned authorities. However, this information reached the Nasaka, so the Nasaka has been trying to arrest them. As a result, the three couples secretly crossed the Burma-Bangladesh border on January 23, and are currently living near the Nayapara refugee camp.

According to one of the couples, "If we are arrested by the Nasaka, we will be tortured and sentenced to at least 5 years in jail. Besides, my wife will be physically tortured and insulted."

Another couple said, "We fled to Bangladesh, fearing torture, imprisonment and physical abuse in custody."

Earlier, the concerned authorities ordered the Rohingya community not to marry without taking permission from them. To get permission, a couple has to bribe the Nasaka. Some couples are unable to pay huge amounts to the Nasaka. Therefore, they are barred from marrying.

In order to get permission for marriage, the bridegroom will have to be 24 years and the bride will have to be 18.

Besides, serious restrictions are imposed on the Rohingyas on their marriage. They are not allowed to marry without official permission which takes some two years to obtain from the authority and again no permission is granted without signing a commitment not to have more than two children. Couples caught getting married or sleeping together without this approval can be arrested. And there are innumerable cases where Rohingyas have been jailed for even seven years for not complying with the requirements of the marriage rules which are only applicable to Rohingyas in Burma.

However, the stories of groaning Rohingyas which has started since long are still continuing. They have been bleeding and their tears have been rolling down their cheeks generation after generation. Sometimes they die in silence or perish in the deep sea beyond the notice and sometimes they cry in the corner. Nobody knows when the stories of their bloods and tears will come to an end, said Faroog from Norway.

READ MORE---> Three Rohingya couples flee to Bangladesh for fear of torture and imprisonment...

Prison terms commuted for two political prisoners

By Than Htike Oo

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Two political prisoners put in prison for having contact with a Thai based opposition organization had their sentences commuted by 16 years each by a divisional court.

The authorities accused Kaythi Aung and Wei Myo Htoo of attending a training conducted by 'Forum for Democracy in Burma' (FDB) in April last year and they were sentenced and are now serving their terms in Oboe prison, Mandalay. Now they have to serve the remaining 10 years each.

"The divisional court commuted their prison terms in keeping with the law. Moreover these two pleaded guilty at the trial court and it was difficult to acquit them. They had no access to legal counsel during the court proceedings and we could not get chance to re-examine the prosecution witnesses. So we are trying to get their current prison terms commuted to lenient ones", their legal counsel Myint Thwin told Mizzima.

These two were arrested from their homes in Mandalay in September 2008. First they were held in Oboe prison and then sentenced to 26 years each on 24 November last year.

They were handed out 16 years prison term each in two cases under Unlawful Associations Act and another 10 years each in two cases charged under the Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act.

"According to the provisions in the Criminal Procedural Code (CrPC) and court rulings, their sentences could be commuted. For instance, in four cases of Kaythi Aung, all the alleged crimes were committed on the same date and same time. And the course of events was the same too. According to the law, in such a case, if the course of crime is the same, the prison terms must be served concurrently", he said.

The news of commuting sentences of some political prisoners coincided with the ongoing visit of UN rights envoy and human rights expert Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana to Burma.

The famous comedian and film director Zargana a.k.a. Thura was first sentenced to 59 years in prison for disaffection to State and Government allegedly committed through internet and was charged under Electronic Law. However, the Rangoon Division bench commuted his prison sentence by 24 years on 13 February.

The Thailand based 'Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners in Burma' (AAPPB) Joint GS Bo Kyi said that the ongoing visit of UN right expert's to Burma has nothing to do with commuting prison sentences of some political prisoners.

"The commuting of sentences is not because of Mr. Quintana's visit to Burma. Even arresting these people is going too far. And they are not only arresting these innocent people, they are even handing out harsh prison sentences to them. And now they are commuting some of these prison sentences. I don't think it is because of Mr. Quintana's visit to Burma," he said.

READ MORE---> Prison terms commuted for two political prisoners...

Rohingya boatpeople's fate hangs in balance

By Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima)– The fate of Rohingya boatpeople, who in recent months were stranded in Indonesia, India and Thailand, is still hanging in balance as authorities continue discussing what to do with them.

An official in India's Andaman Island told Mizzima on Wednesday that they are still waiting for representatives from the government of Bangladesh to be able to deport the Rohingya boat people.

"Their [Bangladesh government] representatives will be coming here within this week," the official said. "The representative will come and take them."

The Indian official said the boatpeople were rescued from the Andaman Sea after they were found to be adrift in boats without engines and were given necessary medical treatment.

Since December 2008, different batches of Rohingya boatpeople were rescued from the sea by India and Indonesia. Survivors said they boarded boats from Bangladesh and were first caught by the Thai Navy, who then towed them off to the sea and set them adrift.

Thailand also arrested some of the boatpeople who had arrived on their coast, saying they will be tried in a court for illegally entering the country.

Kitty Mckinsey, spokesperson of UNHCR in Thailand said, "We are trying to find a solution for them [boatpeople]. We are talking with the Thai government on what will be the best solution for them."

Thailand has detained 78 Rohingya at the Immigration detention centre in Ranong, southern Thailand while three of them are still in hospital. The UNHCR said it is still uncertain whether they will be recognized as refugees.

"That is [giving refugee status] very premature we are not discussing this right now," said Mckinsey. "There is really not much going on right now."

The UNHCR in Indonesia also said they are waiting for permission from the government to get access to the nearly 400 boat-people in Sabang Island in Ache province.

Anita Restu, spokesperson of the UNHCR in Jakarta said, "the UNHCR doesn't yet have access to the group of Rohingya. Though Indonesia has announced that it has agreed in principle to give UNHCR access but till now we are still waiting to hear about the detail of the access."

She said the UNHCR is still into discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since last week. But it is sill not certain as to whether they will be given refugee status.

"We have not decided yet on the plan of access because we are still discussing. We hope to get it this week," said Restu.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross in Indonesia said they are providing food and other necessities to the boat-people in Sabang Island.

"We have been providing them relief since January 7," said an official of the Red Cross in Indonesia.

The official said about 400 Rohingya are living in three tents set up by the Red Cross and one is under medical care in the hospital for Tuberculosis (TB).

READ MORE---> Rohingya boatpeople's fate hangs in balance...

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