Everyone Has the Right to Seek Asylum

Hundreds of Myanmar's Rohingya refugees arrived in Indonesia on May 15, 2015. Thousands more are believed to still be stranded at sea reportedly with no country in the region willing to take them in. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Rohingya refugees arrived in Indonesia on May 15, 2015. Thousands more are believed to still be stranded at sea reportedly with no country willing to take them in. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

We all have an obligation to help

The right to flee from danger and seek safe haven ought to be something we all innately understand. And yet, one need only turn on the television, browse the Internet or pick up a paper to find arguments against it. Under international law, states have an obligation to help people fleeing persecution by not sending them back in to danger. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why are the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar?

Khaleda, 15, a refugee in Bangaldesh, 17 November 2008. Khaleda is one of 10 children, she was born a refugee. “I have spent my whole life in a camp,” she says. (c) UNHCR / S. Kritsanavarin

The specter of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea off mainland Southeast Asia will loom over Friday’s Regional Summit on Irregular Migration in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. The roots of this crisis lie in Myanmar, where the Rohingya have faced institutionalized discrimination for decades.

In the past three years, tens of thousands of Rohingya have boarded ships to flee abroad, to escape persecution in Myanmar. However, the issues they face are not new.

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Journalists Silenced in Myanmar: Free the Unity Five

myanmar

By Laura Haigh, Amnesty International Myanmar team

Journalists critical of the authorities in Myanmar pay dearly for their stories. Five journalists at the Unity newspaper paid with their freedom. On World Press Freedom Day we remind the government of their promises to foster a free press and demand freedom for the ‘Unity Five’.

“What I want is more media freedom.” These are the words of Tint San, Chief Executive Officer at the Unity newspaper in Myanmar during his trial. His crime? Doing his job. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

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Real vs. Fake: How To Authenticate YouTube Videos

Citizen Footage

During crises or disasters, YouTube is widely used to share footage – including a host of videos that are old or, in some cases, staged or faked. An enormous challenge for human rights workers, journalists or first responders alike is to separate fact from fiction. Now, there’s a website that can help.

The Citizen Evidence Lab – launched today – is the first dedicated verification resource for human rights workers, providing tools for speedy checks on YouTube videos as well as for more advanced assessment.

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Arrested for Opening Up Monasteries?

Plus ça change (plus c’est la même chose).  For those who were lulled into believing that the government of Myanmar is new and improved, and that reforms are taking place with unsurpassed speed, the rearrest of former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience U Gambira is a much-needed wake-up call.  The human rights situation in that country is still precarious, and we need to be vigilant lest they slip back into their old ways.

Ashin Gambira (aka Nyi Nyi Lwin) was arrested on December 1, 2012 – his third arrest since his ”release” in January.  Under the general prisoner amnesty, prisoners’ sentences were merely suspended, rather than expunged. That means the time that remained on U Gambira’s original sentence of 63 years when he was released in January would be added back if he is convicted of these new charges.

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Time for a Full Court Press on Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma)

US President Barack Obama sits near Myanmar President Thein Sein as they participate in the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in 2011. Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

On the eve of President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar (Burma), the first ever by a U.S. President, his host, President Thein Sein, has released 450 prisoners, a move surely calculated to curry favor with the United States. A smaller amnesty announced in September, just before the UN General Assembly convened, included about 60 political prisoners.

It remains to be seen whether any of an estimated 300 remaining political prisoners will be scattered among the latest batch of parolees. Nonetheless, the prisoner release is, by any measurement, an encouraging step. It says something important about the power and influence of the United States, and the desire of the new government of Myanmar to kiss up to President Obama and bask in the economic possibilities of a post-sanctions environment.

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Snapshot Of The Surging Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Rakhine, Myanmar

Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the city of Kyaukphyu, Rakhine state. This Digital Globe satellite image from October 25th captures the aftermath. (c) DigitalGlobe 2012

In the Rakhine state (also called “Arakan” by some) of Myanmar, the unfortunate evolution of discrimination, unequal application of the law, and forced displacement into violence and humanitarian crisis has come to bear. Since June, fits of violence between Buddhist and Muslim Rakhine, and Muslim Rohingya communities have likely left tens of thousands displaced and scores dead.

In the most recent incident of ethnic clashes, thousands of Rohingya muslim, but also Rakhine Buddhist, homes have reportedly been burned down. Part of the destruction was captured by a satellite image (courtesy of Digital Globe): The image of Kyaukphyu from October 25 shows a cindery scar on the face of the earth where hundreds of homes used to be (see the area before the destruction here). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3 Ongoing Human Rights Concerns in Myanmar

aung san suu kyi myanmar burma

Aung San Suu Kyi  © AFP/GettyImages

Some superstars take pride in being known by just one name, but Amnesty International USA’s star guest on September 20th goes by five: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A town hall event aimed at the next generation of activists had young people on busses at 4 AM to make the trip to Washington, DC. The venue was perfect — the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the First Amendment.

Addressing the Rights Generation, Amnesty’s Frank Jannuzi asked the audience to keep their phones and electronic devices on during the event. Hashtags and suggested messages scrolled on the large screen as students found their networks and tweeted the story. Mid-Atlantic student leader Stephanie Viggiano was on Facebook with a video she created that day with her phone.

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