Friday, June 12, 2015

Oscar-nominated actor Matt Dillon compares Rohingya camps with "Polish ghetto under the Nazis"

The news below is from KUNA:

WASHINGTON, June 11 (KUNA) -- Hollywood actor Matt Dillon has lent his name to the cause of the Rohingya Muslims in Southeast Asia, after becoming the first Western celebrity and human rights advocate to visit the refugee camps in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.

The Oscar-nominated actor told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday that conditions for the stateless Rohingya in Myanmar - particularly close to the border with Bangladesh - are akin to "a Polish ghetto under the Nazis." "The first impression when you visit these camps right away is that nobody would live there if they had the choice," he said, adding that "young men's spirits were broken. You could see it in their eyes." "There were signs of malnutrition among the children. We met people who tried to escape unsuccessfully and spent several months at sea, starved and beaten, only to return for ransom - they had to pay a ransom," he said. Thousands of Rohingya migrants who fled Rakhine state by boat this year - and many who were forced onto the overcrowded vessels by Buddhist gunmen and traffickers - were left stranded at sea for up to two months before Malaysian and Indonesian officials agreed to accept some of them as refugees late last month.

Dillon stressed this has "taken heat off the Myanmar government," as the issue is framed by the media as a crisis of refugees at sea, rather than as a crisis of long-term violent persecution of a stateless people. Only in recent weeks has the issue received mainstream media attention in the US. The Rohingya have had their homes torched, endured beatings, and died at the hands of extremist Buddhist monks since ethnic and religious tensions in Myanmar flared in 2012.

The government there has prohibited the use of the term Rohingya, forcing the Muslims to identify themselves as Bengali, because their "distant ancestors" were originally from Bangladesh, Dillon said.

Bangladesh, however, does not recognize them.

 Michel Gabaudan, the President of Refugees International, said the Myanmar government has done nothing to counter the "anti-Muslim hysteria" perpetrated by "radical Buddhist monks" well beyond Rakhine state.

 "I think it is the problem of Myanmar ... they won't be helped if they don't change," he said in response to a question about responsibility for the Rohingya's plight.

The US Department of State's "diplomatic messaging has had no effect," Gabaudan added, but did not specify what action - if any - the Obama Administration can take to step up the pressure on Myanmar to recognize, accept, and treat the Muslim minority equally.

"Things are getting worse," he warned. Dillon said he did not encounter any non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Rakhine state during his visit last month. "

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The news below is from the US News & World Report:
“I decided to go under the radar,” Dillon said, connecting with journalist friends already in the region. What he saw over two days around the town of Sittwe stunned him. The Muslim Rohingya are a minority in the mostly Buddhist country, the government of which refuses to formally recognize them. “It really seems as if nobody wants them,” Dillon explained.
The neighborhood of Aung Mingalar is one striking example. It’s within Sittwe's city limits, but its Muslim residents can’t come or go freely. It’s closed off with barbed wire. When Dillon tried to get in he was met by a police officer who tried to block his camera. He left when more police officers showed up with guns.
He offered a dramatic comparison: “It’s literally like the Polish ghetto under the Nazis.”
He also visited four refugee camps and one Rohingya village near the sea. “There are clear signs of ethnic cleansing,” Dillon suggested, pointing to policies like one the government enacted recently, which says Rohingya children have to be born three years apart.
This type of population control is considered an early sign of genocide, a point underscored by an analysis by the Early Warning Project, which says Myanmar has the highest probability of seeing genocide compared to everywhere else in the world.
There’s not really a good option for them either. The Rohingya have the choice to live in camps, behind barbed wire, or take the chance on crowded ships to find a better life in countries that also don’t want them. “They are damned if they do, they’re damned if they don’t,” Dillon pointed out. When asked where they'd even want to go, the actor didn't know. 
“I think they just want to go anywhere where they have a better shot, a better shot at living,” Dillon said.

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