Saturday, January 21, 2017

Eight People Own as Much as Half the World by Pete Dolack


Just when it seemed we might be running out of superlatives to demonstrate the monstrous inequality of today’s capitalism, Oxfam has provided the most dramatic example yet: Eight individuals, all men, possess as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of humanity.
Eight people have as much as 3.7 billion people.
How could this be? Oxfam calculated that 85 people had as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity in 2014, a staggering finding that researchers with the anti-poverty organization discovered through crunching numbers provided by Forbes magazine in its rich list and by the investment bank Credit Suisse in its global wealth distribution report. Oxfam found wealth distribution to be even more unequal than did Credit Suisse, which calculated that the top one percent equaled the bottom 50 percent. Oxfam, in its report, “An Economy for the 99%,” released this month, explains:
“This year we find that the wealth of the bottom 50% of the global population was lower than previously estimated, and it takes just eight individuals to equal their total wealth holdings. Every year, Credit Suisse acquires new and better data sources with which to estimate the global wealth distribution: its latest report shows both that there is more debt in the very poorest group and fewer assets in the 30–50% percentiles of the global population. Last year it was estimated that the cumulative share of wealth of the poorest 50% was 0.7%; this year it is 0.2%.” [page 11]
Because Oxfam includes among the bottom 50 percent people in the advanced capitalist countries of the Global North who have a net worth of less than zero due to debt, some critics might argue that these people are nonetheless “income-rich” because they have credit available to them and thus distort the inequality outcome. Oxfam, however, says that almost three-quarters of those among the bottom 50 percent live in low-income countries, and excluding those from the North with negative wealth would make little difference in aggregate inequality. That total debt is equal to only 0.4 percent of overall global wealth. The Oxfam report says:
“At the very top, this year’s data finds that collectively the richest eight individuals have a net wealth of $426 bn, which is the same as the net wealth of the bottom half of humanity. …  [E]stimates from Credit Suisse find that collectively the poorest 50% of people have less than a quarter of 1% of global net wealth. Nine percent of the people in this group have negative wealth, and most of these people live in richer countries where student debt and other credit facilities are available. But even if we discount the debts of people living in Europe and North America, the total wealth of the bottom 50% is still less than 1%.” [page 10]
Profiting from cheap labor and forced labor
We are accustomed to hearing that chief executive officers in U.S.-based corporations earn hundreds of times more than their average employee, but this dynamic can be found in the developing world as well. No matter where the CEO lives, brutal and relenting exploitation of working people is the motor force of inequality. Oxfam reports:
“The CEO of India’s top information firm earns 416 times the salary of a typical employee in his company. In the 1980s, cocoa farmers received 18% of the value of a chocolate bar — today they get just 6%. In extreme cases, forced labour or slavery can be used to keep corporate costs down. The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are forced labourers, generating an estimated $150 bn in profits each year. The world’s largest garment companies have all been linked to cotton-spinning mills in India, which routinely use the forced labour of girls.” [page 3]
People become sweatshop workers out of desperation; often these are men and women driven off the land their families had farmed for generations. Land, even small plots that provide only subsidence for those who work it, represents wealth taken away when those subsidence farmers are forced into migrating into urban slums. Displacement from global warming is also a factor.
“[M]any people experiencing poverty around the world are seeing an erosion of their main source of wealth — namely land, natural resources and homes — as a consequence of insecure land rights, land grabbing, land fragmentation and erosion, climate change, urban eviction and forced displacement. While total farmland has increased globally, small family farms operate a declining share of this land. Ownership of land among the poorest wealth quintile fell by 7.3% between the 1990s and 2000s. Change in land ownership in developing countries is commonly driven by large-scale acquisitions, which see the transfer of land from small-scale farmers to large investors and the conversion of land from subsistence to commercial use. Up to 59% of land deals cover communal lands claimed by indigenous peoples and small communities, which translates to the potential displacement of millions of people. Yet only 14% of deals have involved a proper process to obtain ‘free prior and informed consent.’ Distribution of land is most unequal in Latin America, where 64% of the total wealth is related to non-financial assets like land and housing and 1% of ‘super farms’ in Latin America now control more productive land than the other 99%.” [page 10]
As entire areas of the world like Latin America have been plundered for the benefit of multi-national corporations based in the Global North, with those benefits flowing to the executives and financiers who control those corporations, it is no surprise that most of the wealth remains concentrated in the advanced capitalist countries. Although steering well clear of so much as a hint of the imperial nature of uneven development, the Credit Suisse report that Oxfam drew upon does note that North America and Europe together account for 65% of total household wealth with only 18% of the world’s adult population.
The sociologist James Petras estimates that the corporations and banks of the North took US$950 billion of wealth out of Latin America for the period 1975 to 2005. Thus it is no surprise that global inequality, when measured by the standard statistical measure of income distribution, the gini coefficient, is greater than inequality in any single country.
More programs on the way to make inequality still worse
Few countries of the Global North are more unequal than the United States, the imperial center of the world capitalist system that seeks to impose its ways and culture on the rest of the world. The new Trump administration is determined to make U.S. inequality even more extreme. Not only through intentions of cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, but via many less obvious routes.
For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the repeal of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a process already in motion, would result in tax cuts of $2.8 billion per year for the country’s 400 highest-income taxpayers. Special Medicare taxes that fund subsidies for low-income United Statesians to buy insurance under the act are assessed only on those with annual incomes higher than $200,000. Conversely, the loss of tax credits to buy health insurance would lead to a tax increase for about seven million low- and moderate-income families.
Through the end of 2016, the central banks of Britain, the European Union, Japan and the United States have shoveled a colossal total of US$8 trillion (€7.4 trillion) into their “quantitative easing” programs — that is, programs that buy government bonds and other debt in an effort to boost the economy but in reality does little other than fuel stock-market bubbles and, secondarily, real estate bubbles. Vast rebuilding of crumbling infrastructure — a program that would actually put people to work — would have cost less.
Standard economic ideology insists that the real problem is that wages have not fallen enough! Consistent with that, the Federal Reserve released a paper in 2015 claiming that “rigidities” “prevent businesses from reducing wages as much as they would like” during economic downturns.
Oh yes, falling wages instead of stagnant wages will bring happy times! Never mind that productivity has soared over the past four decades, while wages have consistently not kept pace. The average Canadian and U.S. household would earn hundreds of dollars per week more if wages had kept up with rising productivity, while wages in Britain and many other countries are also lagging.
What to do? The Oxfam report, in its conclusions, advocates a switch to a “human economy,” one in which governments are “accountable to the 99%,” businesses would be oriented toward policies that “increase prosperity for all,” and sustainability and equality would be paramount.
“Oxfam firmly believes humanity can do better,” its report concludes. Surely we can do better. But not under capitalism. Does anyone believe that the world’s elites, who profit so enormously and believe they can build a wall high enough to keep the world’s environmental and social problems away, are going to suddenly accept business as usual can no longer go on and willingly give up their enormous privileges?

Israel’s shadowy role in Guatemala’s dirty war


Last year was a busy one for Guatemala’s criminal justice system.
January 2016 saw the arrests of 18 former military officers for their alleged part in the country’s dirty war of the 1980s. In February last year, two ex-soldiers were convicted in an unprecedented wartime sexual slavery case from the same era.
Such legal proceedings represent further openings in the judicial system following the 2013 trial and conviction of former head of state General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. Although the Guatemalan Constitutional Court very quickly annulled the trial (finally restarted in March after fitful stops and starts, but currently stalled again), a global precedent has been set for holding national leaders accountable in the country where their crimes took place.
And in November, a Guatemalan judge allowed a separate case against Ríos Montt to proceed. The case relates to the 1982 massacre in the village of Dos Erres.
Ríos Montt was president from 1982 to 1983, a period marked by intense state violence against the indigenous Mayan peoples. The violence included the destruction of entire villages, resulting in mass displacement.
Mayans were repeatedly targeted during the period of repression that lasted from 1954 – when the US engineered a military coup – to 1996. More than 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala during that period, 83 percent of whom were Mayans.
The crimes committed by the Guatemalan state were carried out with foreign – particularly US – assistance. One key party to these crimes has so far eluded any mention inside the courts: Israel.

Proxy for US

From the 1980s to today, Israel’s extensive military role in Guatemala remains an open secret that is well-documented but receives scant criticism.
Discussing the military coup which installed him as president in 1982, Ríos Montt told an ABC News reporter that his regime takeover went so smoothly “because many of our soldiers were trained by Israelis.” In Israel, the press reported that 300 Israeli advisers were on the ground training Ríos Montt’s soldiers.
One Israeli adviser in Guatemala at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Amatzia Shuali, said: “I don’t care what the Gentiles do with the arms. The main thing is that the Jews profit,” as recounted in Dangerous Liaison by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.
Some years earlier, when Congressional restrictions under the Carter administration limited US military aid to Guatemala due to human rights violations, Israeli economic and military technology leaders saw a golden opportunity to enter the market.
Yaakov Meridor, then an Israeli minister of economy, indicated in the early 1980s that Israel wished to be a proxy for the US in countries where it had decided not to openly sell weapons. Meridor said: “We will say to the Americans: Don’t compete with us in Taiwan; don’t compete with us in South Africa; don’t compete with us in the Caribbean or in other places where you cannot sell arms directly. Let us do it … Israel will be your intermediary.”
The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather program attempted to explain the source of Israel’s global expertise by noting in 1983 that the advanced weaponry and methods Israel peddled in Guatemala had been successfully “tried and tested on the West Bank and Gaza, designed simply to beat the guerrilla.”
Israel’s selling points for its weapons relied not only on their use in the occupied West Bank and Gaza but also in the wider region. Journalist George Black reported that Guatemalan military circles admired the Israeli army’s performance during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Their overseas admiration was so unabashed that rightists in Guatemala “spoke openly of the ‘Palestinianization’ of the nation’s rebellious Mayan Indians,” according to Black.
Military cooperation between Israel and Guatemala has been traced back to the 1960s. By the time of Ríos Montt’s rule, Israel had become Guatemala’s main provider of weapons, military training, surveillance technology and other vital assistance in the state’s war on urban leftists and rural indigenous Mayans.
In turn, many Guatemalans suffered the results of this special relationship and have connected Israel to their national tragedy.

Man of integrity?

One of the most haunting massacres committed during this period was the destruction of the El Petén district village named Dos Erres. Ríos Montt’s Israeli-trained soldiers burned Dos Erres to the ground. First, however, its inhabitants were shot. Those who survived the initial attack on the village had their skulls smashed with sledgehammers. The bodies of the dead were stuffed down the village well.
During a court-ordered exhumation in the village, investigators working for the 1999 UN Truth Commission cited the following in their forensics report: “All the ballistic evidence recovered corresponded to bullet fragments from firearms and pods of Galil rifles, made in Israel.”
Then US President Ronald Reagan – whose administration would later be implicated in the “Iran-Contra” scandal for running guns to Iran through Israel, in part to fund a paramilitary force aiming to topple Nicaragua’s Marxist government – visited Ríos Montt just days before the massacre.
Reagan praised Ríos Montt as “a man of great personal integrity” who “wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.” Reagan also assured the Guatemalan president that “the United States is committed to support his efforts to restore democracy and to address the root causes of this violent insurgency.” At one point in their conversation, Reagan is reported to have embraced Ríos Montt and told the Guatemalan president he was getting “a bum rap” on human rights.
In November 2016, however, judge Claudette Dominguez accepted the Guatemalan attorney general’s request to prosecute Ríos Montt as intellectual author of the Dos Erres massacre, pressing him with charges of aggravated homicide, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Among the 18 arrested this year was Benedicto Lucas García, former army chief of staff under his brother Romeo Lucas García’s military presidency. Benedicto, who was seen by some of his soldiers as an innovator of torture techniques for use on children, described “the Israeli soldier [as] a model and an example to us.”
In 1981, Benedicto headed the inauguration ceremony of an Israeli-designed and financed electronics school in Guatemala. Its purpose was to train the Guatemalan military on using so-called counterinsurgency technologies. Benedicto lauded the school’s establishment as a “positive step” in advancing the Guatemalan regime to world-class military efficiency “thanks to [Israel’s] advice and transfer of electronic technology.”
In its inaugural year alone, the school enabled the regime’s secret police, known as the G-2, to raid some 30 safe houses of the Revolutionary Organization of People in Arms (ORPA).
The G-2 coordinated the assassination, “disappearance” and torture of opponents to the Guatemalan government.
While Guatemalan governments frequently changed hands – through both coups and elections – during the 1980s, Israel remained Guatemala’s main source of weapons and military advice.

Belligerence at the border

The Israeli military-security complex casts a long, intercontinental shadow over Guatemalans who are still fleeing the consequences of the dirty war.
In some areas along the US-Mexico border, such as in Texas, the numbers of migrants hailing today from Central America (but only from the countries combusted by US intervention – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) – has begun to outpace the number coming from Mexico.
According to information provided to this author by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office in Arizona, many Guatemalans who have perished while crossing these desert borderlands originated from among the indigenous Mayan areas hit hardest by the 1980s genocide: El Quiché, Huehuetenango, Chimaltenango.
Southern Arizona has also seen a spike in undocumented Guatemalan migration. US firms and institutions have been collaborating with Israeli security companies to up-armor Southern Arizona’s border zone.
The Israeli weapons firm Elbit won a major government contract to provide 52 surveillance towers in Southern Arizona’s desert borderlands, beginning with the pilot program of seven towers currently placed among the hills and valleys surrounding Nogales, a border town split by the wall.
More towers are slated to surround the Tohono O’odham Nation, the second largest Native American reservation in the US. Already the number of federal forces occupying permanent positions on Tohono O’odham lands is the largest in US history.
Alan Bersin, a senior figure in the US Department of Homeland Security, described Guatemala’s border with Chiapas, Mexico, as “now our southern border” in 2012. That “southern border” was heavily militarized during Barack Obama’s eight years as US president.
We can safely expect that militarization to continue during Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric during the presidential election campaign suggests it is likely to be intensified.
During the dirty war, tens of thousands of Guatemalans fled over this border into Southern Mexico. Today, Israel assists the Mexican authorities in Chiapas with “counterinsurgency” activities largely targeting the indigenous Maya community.
Though media reporting on Guatemala’s connection with Israel has dissipated, Israel’s enterprising efforts in the country have never diminished. Today, Israel’s presence in Guatemala is especially pronounced in the private security industry which proliferated in the years following the so-called Guatemalan peace process of the mid-1990s.
Ohad Steinhart, an Israeli, relocated to Guatemala at this opportune moment, originally working as a weapons instructor. Roughly two years after his 1994 move to Guatemala, he founded his own security firm, Decision Ejecutiva.
Steinhart’s modest 300-employee company is small compared with the colossal Golan Group, Israel’s largest and oldest private security conglomerate in Guatemala.
Founded by ex-Israeli special forces officers, the Golan Group has also trained Department of Homeland Security immigration agents along the US-Mexico border. The Golan Group has employed thousands of agents in Guatemala, some of whom have been involved in repressing environmental and land rights protests against mining operations by Canadian firms. The company was named in a 2014 lawsuit by six Guatemalan farmers and a student who were all shot at close range by security agents during a protest the previous year.
Guatemala’s use of Israeli military trainers and advisers, just as in the 1980s, continues. Israeli advisers have, in recent years, been assisting the current “remilitarization” of Guatemala. Journalist Dawn Paley has reported that Israeli military trainers have shown up once again at an active military base in Coban, which is the site of mass graves from the 1980s. The remains of several hundred people have so far been uncovered there.
The mass graves at Coban serve as the legal basis for the January arrests of 14 former military officers. This past June a Guatemalan judge ruled that the evidence is sufficient for eight of those arrested to stand trial. Future arrests and trials are likely to follow.
Scholars Milton H. Jamail and Margo Gutierrez documented the Israeli arms trade in Central America, notably in Guatemala, in their 1986 book It’s No Secret: Israel’s Military Involvement in Latin America. They worded the title that way because the bulk of the information in the book came from mainstream media sources.
For now, Israel’s well-documented role in Guatemala’s dirty wars passes largely without comment. But Guatemalans know better than most that the long road to accountability begins with acknowledgment.
Yet it is unclear how long it will be before we hear of Israeli officials being called to Guatemala to be tried for the shadowy part they played in the country’s darkest hours.
Gabriel Schivone is writing a book on US policy towards Guatemala.

U.N. rights expert criticizes Myanmar over Rohingya crackdown


YANGON: A United Nations human rights investigator on Friday criticized Myanmar's crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority and urged the military to respect the law and human rights.

Authorities say the military launched a security sweep in response to what they say was an attack in October by Rohingya insurgents on border posts near Myanmar's border with Bangladesh in which nine police officers were killed.

Since then, at least 86 people have been killed and the United Nations says at least 65,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.

Residents and refugees accuse the military of killing, raping and detaining civilians while burning villages in northwestern Rakhine State.
The government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, denies the accusations and insists a lawful counter-insurgency operation is underway.
"It would be particularly important for the security forces to always act within the parameters of the rule of law and in compliance with human rights," Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, said at the end of a visit to the country.
Lee said she found government claims that the Rohingya have burned their own houses "quite incredible" and suggested that a recent footage of police beating Rohingya villagers could be "not an isolated incident, but a more common practice".
Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner and champion of democracy in then military-ruled Myanmar, came to power last April after a landslide election win, installing her confidant, Htin Kyaw, as president.
However, violence in border regions has raised questions about her commitment to human rights and ability to rein in the military, which retains a major political role.
Suu Kyi's government has restricted aid to northern Rakhine, where most people are Rohingya Muslims denied citizenship in Myanmar, and prevented independent journalists from visiting.
Lee said the attacks on border posts happened within the "context of decades of systematic and institutionalized discrimination against" the Muslim minority.
"Desperate individuals take desperate actions," said Lee.
She said that if the affected population had felt the new government would address their problems, then militants would not be able to "hijack their cause".
Lee visited the north of Rakhine, where the military operation is taking place, the commercial hub Yangon, the capital Naypyitaw and Kachin State in the north, where government forces are battling ethnic Kachin guerrillas.
In Rakhine, Lee visited four villages and a prison where the government has detained about 450 people suspected of aiding the October attacks without legal representation, contact with families or explanation of the charges.
"Many families are unaware and uninformed of this detention, fearing that they will never see their loved ones again," Lee said.
(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

India's Richest 1 %

In signs of rising income inequality, India's richest 1 per cent now hold a huge 58 per cent of the country's total wealth -- higher than the global figure of about 50 per cent, a new study showed on Monday.
The study, released by rights group Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting here attended by rich and powerful from across the world, showed that just 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth (USD 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of the country.
Globally, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population.
The study said there are 84 billionaires in India, with a collective wealth of USD 248 billion, led by Mukesh Ambani (USD 19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi (USD 16.7 billion) and Azim Premji (USD 15 billion). The total Indian wealth in the country stood at USD 3.1 trillion.
The total global wealth in the year was USD 255.7 trillion, of which about USD 6.5 trillion was held by billionaires, led by Bill Gates (USD 75 billion), Amancio Ortega (USD 67 billion) and Warren Buffett (USD 60.8 billion).
In the report titled 'An economy for the 99 per cent', Oxfam said it is time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few.
It said that since 2015, the richest 1 per cent has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet.
"Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over USD 2.1 trillion to their heirs –- a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people," Oxfam said.
The study findings showed that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought while over the last two decades, the richest 10 per cent of the population in China, Indonesia, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15 per cent.
On the other hand, the poorest 10 per cent have seen their share of income fall by more than 15 per cent.
"Due to a combination of discrimination and working in low-pay sectors, women's wages across Asia are between 70-90 per cent of men's," it said.
Referring to the Global Wage Report 2016-17 of Indian Labour Organisation, the study said India suffers from huge gender pay gap and has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity -- men earning more than women in similar jobs -- with the gap exceeding 30 per cent.
In India, women form 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners. It means that in India women are not only poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, but also experience wide gender pay gap at the bottom.
It also said that more than 40 per cent of the 400 million women who live in rural India are involved in agriculture and related activities. However, as women are not recognised as farmers and do not own land, they have limited access to government schemes and credit, restricting their agricultural productivity.

Rohingya Cleric Tortured to Death in Buthidaung

The report below is from Rohingya Vision:
Buthidaung — A Rohingya Cleric was tortured to death by the Myanmar military in Buthidaung Township last Sunday (on Jan 15), a reliable source has reported. 
The victim cleric is identified as Mv. Badullah (60) from the village of ‘Ngaran Chaung’ in ‘Taung Bazaar’ area in Northern Buthidaung. 
Last Friday (on Jan 13), approximately 30 military personnel from the ‘Battalion 552’ raided the house of Mv. Badullah and arrested him was along with his son Hala Bodiya apparently with the accusation of possessing weapons. 
The cleric was inhumanely tortured for two days leading him to an unfortunate demise on Sunday. 
On Monday (Jan 16) morning, the military took the dead body of the cleric to Taung Bazaar hospital for autopsy. Afterwards, the military summoned the remaining family members of the cleric and some elderly persons from his (the deceased’s) neighborhood and forced them to give statement and sign (on papers) that he was an asthma patient and died because of the disease.
After that, the military handed over the dead body to the family members for funeral and he was buried in the evening. 
Earlier, the military arrested three more villagers of Ngaran Chaung on January 9 on arbitrary allegation of involving in the raids on the three Border Guard Police (BGP) posts in Maungdaw on October 9, 2016. They were publicly tortured after the arrests and taken to the Battalion 552. From there, they were transferred to the Buthidaung Prison in the evening on January 9 without any trial. 
They are:
1) Abu Sufyan
2) and his son Burshah
3) Sultan Ahmed
The Myanmar military have since recently started conducting sporadic raids on Rohingya villages in ‘Taung Bazaar’ area on pretext of searching weapons hidden in the region. The military have ordered the villagers of ‘Ngaran Chaung’ through the village administrator, U Maung Lone, to stay home and also threatened them (the villagers) to be shot dead in case of fleeing from homes (in fear of arrests) during raids.

Plea from Rohingy associations to OIC to support UN Commission of Inquiry


We, the undersigned organisations, representing Rohingya communities around the world, would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Government of Malaysia with Honourable Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for holding an Emergency Meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers on Rohingya crisis on 19 January in Kuala Lumpur. 
 
The longstanding Rohingya problem of ethnic, religious and political problem has been going on for over seven decades from 1942 Muslim Massacre in Arakan. Particularly the successive military regimes from 1962 have been making all out efforts to annihilate the Rohingya people from their ancestral homeland of Arakan, by means of frequent armed operations and oppressive laws under consistent state policies of discrimination, exclusion and extermination against them. In violation of the customary international law the military had enacted the world’s most oppressive Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982 criminally depriving the Rohingya of their right to nationality as well as their human rights and freedom. 
 
Due to mass atrocity crimes, more than half of the Rohingya population has had left the country. Those who are still in Arakan are being systematically destroyed since 1978. From June 2012 state-sponsored genocidal onslaughts occurred and reoccurred in Arakan and about 3000 Rohingya were killed, drowned and missing in addition to large-scale destruction of their villages, mosques and madarassas and properties. More than 140,000 displaced Rohingya were herded to squalid semi-concentration camps while over 100,000 escaped persecution to take refuge in foreign countries. 
 
From 9 October 2016, under the pretext of hunting down the assailants of the police outposts, the military, security forces and Buddhist Rakhine militias have been carrying mass atrocity crimes creating the Maungdaw district a “killing zone”, unobserved by the outside world due to sealing off the area in Northern Arakan. An estimated 500 people were killed or burned down; at least 300 women and girls were raped, unknown number of people arrested, about 2500 houses torched, valuables and properties looted and foodstuff destroyed forcing about 65,000 people to cross over to Bangladesh. These crimes are still on-going. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been protecting the criminal military, is morally and officially responsible for the crimes against Rohingya that amount to genocide and crimes against humanity as per Articles 6 and 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998). The UN Human Rights Commission stated that violation of human rights of Rohingya may constitute crimes against humanity.   
 
 
The Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD-led government has manifestly failed or is unwilling to conduct any credible investigation into atrocity crimes against Rohingya. Instead the government with the military is shamelessly denying any human rights violations against them. Thus the defenceless Rohingya continue to be subjected to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. In the absence of national protection, the international community has a responsibility to intervene into Arakan in order to end the violations and protect the civilian population.
 
We therefore call upon the OIC and its member states to officially support the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into the totality of the situation in Rakhine State, where most Rohingya live.
 
We further call upon the OIC to endeavour utmost for ensuring that the establishment of such a Commission is included in the Burma/Myanmar resolution at the next session of the Human Rights Council.
 
We believe that the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry is a crucial first step to start to address the cycle of discrimination, persecution and violence our people face.  The Commission must investigate human rights violations which have taken place in order to establish the truth, investigate government laws and policies used against the Rohingya, and make recommendations to the government of Burma/Myanmar and the international community on how to address the situation, ensuring strict compliance with international law and human rights standards.
 
Our existence as a race is under threat. Failure to act now will prolong our suffering and create greater regional problems and insecurity in the future, and hence we look to you for help in our most desperate hour.

Signatories;
 
1.     Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

  1. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  2. British Rohingya Community in UK
  3. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
  4. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan
  5. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia
  6. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
  7. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
  8. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia (MERHROM)
  9. Rohingya American Society
  10. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
  11. Rohingya Community in Germany
  12. Rohingya Community in Switzerland
  13. Rohingya Community in Finland
  14. Rohingya Community in Italy
  15. Rohingya Community in Sweden
  16. Rohingya Organisation Norway
  17. Rohingya Society Malaysia
  18. Rohingya Society Netherlands

Mass Graves Reveal Massacre in Northern Maungdaw

The report below with pictures are from the Rohingya Vision:
Maungdaw — Two exhumed mass graves at the village of ‘Dar Gyi Zar’ in Northern Maungdaw have revealed decomposed dead bodies of at least a dozen of people, reliable sources have reported.
The gruesome scenes of the skulls and skeletons found in the mass graves in ‘Dar Gyi Zar’ locally known as ‘Bor Gozi Bil’ (as shown in the pictures below) show the shocking scale of the local Rohingya Muslims massacred by the joint forces of Myanmar’s military and Border Guard Police (BGP) reported between 12th-14th November 2016.
A local in Northern Maungdaw (as his identity can’t be disclosed for security reasons) said “we unearthed the mass graves on January 10 in the hope that we would show them to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, as a proof of how the Myanmar military and BGP have committed massacres of our people. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to visit ‘Bor Gozi Bil’ during her visit that has left us disgruntled.
However, we are still hopeful and want to show the pictures of the mass-graves to the world and Ms. Yanghee Lee through media.”
According to the accounts of the surviving victims in the locality, at least 31 civilians were massacred by the Myanmar armed forces at the Dar Gyi Zar village alone in mid November 2016.
Human Rights groups backed with satellite images, accounts of the survivors in Bangladesh (who fled from Maungdaw to escape from killings) , reliable reports from the ground (in Maungdaw) and other credible sources, firmly claim that the atrocities and crimes being committed against the Rohingya ethnic group in Northern Maungdaw since October 9, 2016, amount to ethnic cleansing or genocide. However, the office of Myanmar’s State Counsellor, Suu Kyi, have always been quick to dismiss the reports and claims of the ethnic cleansing or genocide as Fake, while successfully sealing off the northern Maungdaw region from humanitarians, international media and international investigation teams and keeping the international community in dark.

[Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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