Friday, October 19, 2018

FBR: Beyond Devastation: Suffering and Perseverance Among the Rohingya

Beyond Devastation: Suffering and Perseverance Among the Rohingya

20 October 2018

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Rohingya men jostle for a spot at the front of a line during a distribution in one of the many refugee camps.
Rohingya men jostle for a spot at the front of a line during a distribution in one of the many refugee camps.

The suffering of the Rohingya people in 2017 is beyond superlatives. The violence and brutality in the stories of those who have had opportunities to share are difficult to fathom, but as you hear one after another, they also become sadly repetitious. Masses of humanity have been uprooted from their villages in Burma, heaped into refugee camps in Bangladesh and awaiting an unknown fate. Once again, our ability to comprehend how one person suffers is overwhelmed by the scale on which the suffering is happening.

The oppression of the Rohingya people has been ongoing for years, but on August 25th, 2017, as tens of thousands of fleeing refugees turned into hundreds of thousands – it became an issue the world could no longer ignore. Displacement on this scale, happening so quickly, was an extraordinary event. The Burma Army conducted a near-eradication of Rohingya people from Burma with incredible efficiency as more than 600,000 people fled their homes in the space of three months. In the months following the initial attacks, that number would climb to 720,000 as people kept coming. The stories from the refugees paint a pretty clear picture: the Burma Army came in trucks, surrounded villages, shot indiscriminately, killing villagers as they fled and chasing them to neighboring Bangladesh. Then the soldiers burned the villages to the ground. Again and again. Satellite photos of burned villages corroborate these accounts.

Some of the difficulty in understanding what happened is because it happened so quickly, so quietly, and so efficiently. News agencies and aid groups could not get to where the Burma Army was attacking the Rohingya, so all the stories came in after the fact. And now in the aftermath, it's tempting to think it's too late to do anything about it; to think that, like a cancer that is too far progressed to treat, we can only watch in despair as a slow, painful end comes. As we stared at the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, now almost a year old and stretching as far as the eye can see, we felt this despair, felt a creeping resignation.

One of the many refugee camps that now exist in southern Bangladesh.
One of the many refugee camps that now exist in southern Bangladesh.

Five young Rohingya men were not resigned though. They were just getting started. With barely 10 days of FBR training under their belt, they had a few ranger skills and a full understanding that a ranger never surrenders. One coordinator and four rangers spent weeks trying to find a way back into Burma. The place their families and more than 700,000 people had just run away from, they were trying their best to get back to.

They wanted to see the scar that the Burma Army had left on their home and tell the world what that scar looks like. They wanted to help those who were still there. Most of all, they wanted to stand up and say, "This is our home. You can destroy our houses, kill our people, starve us, chase us – but you cannot stop us from claiming our home, you cannot stop us from loving and serving our people."

And they did. They snuck across the border around Burma Army river patrols in the bottom of a boat in the middle of the night. They landed in the dark and hiked for hours in monsoon rains. They hid in the jungle, sneaking out to take photos and find the GPS points of villages that had been destroyed by the Burma Army, even as soldiers continued to occupy and patrol these areas. And they safely returned with this information to show the world.

The world is starting to know what happened. The West has belatedly slapped its forehead and begun increasing sanctions; the UN has labeled the actions of the Burma Army genocide, recommending the generals in charge of this operation be tried in the International Criminal Court. The world has done what it can do in the aftermath, but the truth is that we missed our chance to intervene before the Burma Army conducted this genocide. And, like using a bandaid on a cancer we did not catch in time, these measures seem too little, too late.

But these young men, these rangers, do not believe it is too late. They do not want to stand back and do nothing. They act with courage, pray with faith, and never surrender.  And now they are planning and coordinating to head back in. They feel there is still a lot to do. There are still some Rohingya left over there that need help. These five young men want to go and provide that help and they know others who want to be trained in some ranger skills to also collect information and help. And that is how a movement spreads. Little acts of love, little glimpses of hope, a knowledge that they are not forgotten, and that God has a plan for them.

So maybe cancer is not the best analogy; maybe fire is. A wildfire can rage through a forest if not caught early. If ignored at the beginning it will soon grow too large to control. It will leave giant swaths of black – blackened trees, blackened ground, seemingly a lifeless landscape. But that 'seemingly' is important – for that is all it is. The seeds of life are buried deep and they often escape the fire and life will return. We see these seeds in our rangers. Their earth has been scorched – literally – but there is still life. Maybe it is buried, but it is enough to not despair.

Our rangers are pushing through the devastation. We are inspired to keep pushing with them and support them as they go.

A young girl holds her baby brother who was born in the camp. Their mother fled while she was five months pregnant and their father has been missing since the day of the attack. They presume he's dead.
A young girl holds her baby brother who was born in the camp. Their mother fled while she was five months pregnant and their father has been missing since the day of the attack. They presume he’s dead.

Love one another
Unite for freedom, justice and peace
Forgive and do not hate each other
Pray with faith, Act with courage
Never surrender

The Free Burma Rangers’ (FBR) mission is to provide hope, help and love to internally displaced people inside Burma, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Using a network of indigenous field teams, FBR reports on human rights abuses, casualties and the humanitarian needs of people who are under the oppression of the Burma Army. FBR provides medical, spiritual and educational resources for IDP communities as they struggle to survive Burmese military attacks.

For more information, please visit

© 2017 Free Burma Rangers | Contact FBR

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Boris Johnson reciting Kipling at Shwedagone, Rangoon, stopped by Brit ambassador "Come you back you British soldier," "You're on mic." 10-18-2018

Weekly Highlights: The Absence of Human Rights Protection


The Absence of Human Rights Protection

Ma Thinzar Shunlei Yi, advocacy coordinator of Action Committee for Democracy Development, talks during the Yangon launch of a report on the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission. Photo credit: Thuya Zaw/ Frontier



On 9 October 2018, 12 rights-based civil society organizations, including Progressive Voice, launched a report that lays bare the major problems with the Myanmar[1] National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), including its lack of independence and effectiveness. Given the human rights situation in Myanmar today, these problems must be addressed by the Government. As Thwin Linn Aung, Director of Genuine People's Servants, one of the report's authors, stated at the press conference to launch the report, "Myanmar is facing a critical time in its history, with various human rights crises around the country. Now more than ever we need a strong, capable, and principled human rights institution that is independent from the Government and the military."


The report, 'Return to Sender – MNHRC Enabling Law Must be Returned to Parliament for Structural Reform,' is an analysis of the MNHRC's performance in relation to the Paris Principles, the international benchmarks by which all national human rights institutions are judged. It is clear that the MNHRC falls substantially short. In particular, the lack of effective action in armed conflict-affected areas, especially when it comes to abuses committed by the Myanmar military, shows that it is still beholden to the most powerful and abusive institution in the country. This is exacerbated by the distinct lack of a human rights mindset within the commission, an issue that can be resolved through amendments to the law to make the selection process more transparent, free of executive and military influence, and to ensure greater pluralism of both commissioners and staff.


The response to the report by the MNHRC demonstrates that it is reticent to allow people with a human-rights mindset to be part of the commission. Commissioner Yu Lwin Aung, former military personnel, stated in the 7 Day Daily news outlet that pluralism was dangerous, because it could mean that 'hardliners' become part of the commission. It is clear that by 'hardliners' he is referring to people who take principled human rights stands, and do not show the same deference to the Myanmar military that the MNHRC evidently does.


Myanmar is in desperate need of better human rights protection. One of the most favored tools of the National League for Democracy-led Government to suppress criticism has been wheeled out again this month. After Eleven Media published an article criticizing the financial dealings of the Yangon Region Government, three senior editors at the publication were charged under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code, which states that "whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report…with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public…shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years..." The use of this law is a continuation of a policy by the previous government and the military regime to silence dissent. As Than Zaw Aung of the Myanmar Media Lawyers' Network stated, "It's obvious that 505(b) is being used to limit freedom of expression. The government has said it accepts media criticism; it shouldn't charge journalists under a law that provides for offenses against the state."


The above case is just the latest demonstration as to why Myanmar needs a strong human rights commission. However, human rights protection is most absent in areas of armed conflict and violence committed during military operations such as in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. This is also why Myanmar is under scrutiny at the international level, including at the current UN General Assembly (UNGA).


Domestic human rights mechanisms continue to be plagued by the lack of human rights mindset as well as the complete inability to take effective action to afford better human rights protection. Given this, it is vital that the UNGA and its member states take strong and decisive action to hold those most responsible for the decades of systematic and widespread human rights violations to account. The upcoming resolution on Myanmar, to be adopted by the Third Committee, must reflect the findings and the recommendations of the International Independent Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, which called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. If the international community is to reaffirm its commitment to the idea of "never again", it must act now to hold those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to account.


[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 acknowledgment 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.




Myanmar Needs a Genuine Peace Process

By Progressive Voice




လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးကာကြယ္လႈပ္ရွားသူ တရားလႊတ္ေတာ္ေရွ႔ေန ေဒၚခင္ခင္ေက်ာ္ႏွင့္ ဗကသမ်ားအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္ (ဗဟိုလုပ္ငန္းေကာ္မတီ၀င္ေဟာင္း) ကို�…

By 103 Civil Society Organizations


Joint Statement: Myanmar to Immediately Release Journalists

By FORUM-ASIA, Equality Myanmar and Progressive Voice


Drop Charges Against Eleven Media Journalists: Uphold Freedom of Expression, Decriminalize Defamation

By Fortify Rights


ပုပၸါးေဆြးေႏြးပြဲအေပၚ IKO ၏ အျမင္သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By International Karen Organisation


Legal Analysis Statement Regarding the Meeting to Mark the Three-year Anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement

By Legal Aid Network


The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Must Be Reinvigorated for Better Human Rights Promotion and Protection

By 12 civil society organizations


လူ႔အခြင့္အေရး ျမႇင့္တင္ကာကြယ္ေပးျခင္းကို ထိေရာက္စြာ လုပ္ေဆာင္ႏိုင္ရန္အတြက္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံအမ်ိဳးသား လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးေကာ္မရွင္အား မျဖစ္မေန ေသြးသစ္ေလာင္းရမည္

By 12 civil society organizations

About Progressive Voice


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 the same day that Progressive Voice was formally established. For further information, please see our press release "Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice."


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dr Cynthia Nominated For the UNDP'S N-PEACE AWARDS


Dr Cynthia Maung
Nominated For the

Dear friends of Mae Tao Clinic,
We are very excited that Dr Cynthia Maung is nominated for the Untold Stories Award as part of United Nation Development Program (UNDP)'s N-Peace Awards. We need your support: Vote for Dr Cynthia Maung HERE
N-Peace is annually awarded for one woman from each country (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, and Indonesia) for their work towards advancing Women, Peace and Security
We would like to share some highlights of Mae Tao Clinic. The infographic above shows how Mae Tao Clinic's services have helped the vulnerable and displaced people along the border throughout our health, education and protection programmes in the first half of 2018.
It is with deep sadness that we learned the passing of our long-term volunteer Dr Frank Green. For over 20 years, around 10,000 people regained their eyesight thanks to Dr Frank's selfless and tireless contribution to Eye department at Mae Tao clinic. 
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this sad time. We at Mae Tao Clinic will always remember his contribution.

Although the eye surgical programme, which has been implemented with the help of Dr. Frank Green, is being interrupted for the time being, our eye team continuously provides the primary eye care services and vision assessments. With very limited affordable quality eye care services available along the border, MTC's Eye Care Programme is an essential service for the population on both sides of the border. 

Learn more about our Eye Care programme HERE

On 5 October, 425 attendants from 41 Migrant Learning Centres participated in the World Teachers' Day event at Children's Development Centre to thank all of the dedicated teachers. With teachers' commitment and support to marginalised children, our students now have more opportunities for a brighter future.

Learn more about our Child Protection and Education HERE

In September, Mae Tao Clinic together with Burma Medical Association (BMA) held a Level 2 Health Worker Training opening ceremony. The training is supported by Burma Relief Center (Inter Pares). A total of 40 health workers from our partner organisations in ethnic areas in Burma participate in the training.

Level 2 Health Worker Training aims to enhance the skills and competencies of experienced community health workers. This training consists of 3 elements: anatomy; disease and bedside.

To learn more about our Training Programmes HERE

1 year and 6 months old Wint Hmoe Naing was a healthy little girl. After 3 months of separation with her mom, Wint Hmoe Naing became severely sick, couldn't eat or walk and didn't react to anything. She has wounds and scars on her whole body... [Read more]
We would like to thank all organisations and individuals that have contributed to our cause. You can continue supporting Mae Tao Clinic by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or make a donation here.
For more information, visit our website or contact 
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