Posted: April 26th, 2013 | Author: Tingdong Lu | Filed under: Governmental Policies, Human Rights, International Relations | Tags: Arakan Project, Burma, human rights, Rohingya
Rohingya refugees’ shelter in Bangladesh (1997)
Rohingya, a Muslim minority mainly living in the northern Rakhine state of Burma, are considered one of the most persecuted and oppressed groups in the world by the UN. Due to the historical ethnic conflict between Muslim and Buddhist and Rohingya helped British for colonial domination during the World War Two, they are not recognized by the military-backed government in Burma based on the “Burma Civil Law” since 1982. “Death would be better than this life”, Nasima, a Rohingya refugee said. They do not have any human rights, land rights, marriage rights, and even no nationality. The domestic Arakan in Rakhine state considers the Rohingya immigrated to Burma during the colonial domination period by British, but the Rohingya do not think so. The Burmese government treats them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Hence, the domestic citizens are generally hostile to the Rohingya and call them Bengalese. Meanwhile, the interesting point is that Bangladesh government considers the Rohingya Burmese. Thanks to the historical and ethnic origin’s reasons, Rohingya have been suffering more agony than any other ethnic minority the world. The future of Rohingya should be paid attention to by the international community. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: February 13th, 2013 | Author: Malte | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: government, human rights, Thailand
Aftermath of an explosion in Yala
Fire fighters, policemen and security forces trying to control the damage caused by an explosion and on top of all many people being killed or injured. These have become typical images in the South of Thailand and occur on a regular basis.
The South of Thailand, in particular the three provinces Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, is an area of conflict between Muslims and Buddhist Thais and this already for many years. Although now this is a known fact the actual problems have not been addressed properly until January 2004. Only then did the Thai government recognize the terrorist acts as such and a year later declared the region being in state of emergency.
Two of our fellow bloggers, Lisa and Diane have addressed some of the events in the region last year. But what could have possibly caused this situation? We are trying to look into some of the reasons that lead to this problematic situation. We are going one step back and look at the combination of factors that made the situation escalate in the last few years, the way it did.
When we take a look at the early 20th century when England had colonies in Malaysia, back then called British Malaysia, we see that the South of Thailand originally belonged to the Muslim neighbor country and became part of the country because of territorial negotiations between the Thai and the British government. Today 80% of the roughly 4 mln. Muslims in Thailand live in the South. Whereas the Thai government considers the population to be Thais, the people themselves see the Thai government as oppressors. Most resisted becoming Thai speaking Muslims and therefore rejected anything Thai, including schools and education. And while the people wanted to have the region become a part of Malaysia again this was never an option. Neither the Thai nor the Malay government took these demands into consideration. The Muslim population suffered lack of education and the gap between the two populations widened. It should be mentioned at this point that the Thai government in 2004 actually condemned the Muslim schooling system “a hotbed of radicalism” and while the state took full control it prohibited any kind of financial support from outside the country.
It has become clear to us that if one wants to find a solution for a problem one must first recognize the problem. One problem was that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, back in 2002, said the killings had only to do with drug trafficking and denied religion being a reason for the attacks. Today we know the situation is much more complex than simply a few “bandits and drug runners” causing unrests in the region. Fact is the violent acts have started to increase tremendously as a reaction to Thaksin’s aggressive anti-narcotics campaign in 2003; many people were killed in the South that had no relations to drugs. It was only in 2004 that Thaksin came forward after 18 schools burned down and two empty police posts were vandalized that he called the incidents acts of terror and declared the three provinces being in the state of emergency.
Muslim uproar against the Thai government
A factor leading to blowing up the problem was that the situation increasingly became worse over the years and yet later Prime Minister Abhisit (2008-2011) refused any kind of dialogue which might have reduced conflict on some level. Then again if he would have tried to, there was still the problem of whom to address. “A striking aspect of the Southern Thailand insurgency is the anonymity of the people behind it and the absence of concrete demands.“ It was a conflict that was existing already for so long and developing over the decades that it was impossible to point at one person or group that would stimulate the situation but rather an inherited clash with the government. This complicated constellation makes it clear that a solution would as well have to be complex and well thought through. We also believe the general unstable situation of the Thai government has prevented efficient dealing with the entire conflict, as different governments had different opinion about how to address the issue.
Another crucial reason for the ongoing turmoil was the mere neglect of human rights on both sides. While the Muslim terrorists, referred to as insurgents, killed innocent bystanders including women as well as children, the Thai officials on the other hand used inhumane measures themselves. One incident was reported when 80 peaceful protesters were locked up in trucks without ventilation, 78 of them died as a consequence. Other reports tell of people, including a Muslim human rights lawyer, disappearing while being investigated by government officials.
For a long time the Muslim population experienced disrespect from the Buddhist Thai population which constantly fueled conflict in the area; which is why Thaksin’s comment, religion cannot have anything to do with it since Muslim police officers also were killed was only blurring the actual problem. People do not stop in a middle of a fight to check one’s faith to make sure not to kill the wrong person. At that time it was Muslims from the South against Thai officials, Muslim or not.
On 3rd of January 2013 something remarkable has happened: Thailand’s first Malay-language TV channel “TV Malayu” has been started to be broadcasted. So far there is half an hour of news programme per day which by next year is supposed to be 24 hours of broadcasting. This is an important development and one of the first crucial signs of willingness to communicate. Since not one person or instance can be addressed, the Muslim population as a whole has to be included in the dialogue. This has to happen before any kind of peaceful resolution is in sight and a stabilization of the situation in the South will be possible. Showing acceptance and respect to the Muslim population is crucial. Another aspect of course is that the Thai government becomes more stable itself. As our fellow blogger Angela already wrote we believe it is necessary for the Thai government to resolve the internal conflict between parties to resolve the conflict in the South. Since the roots of the conflict go back several decades, resolving the conflict will take the investment of time and money as well as the effort of both sides, Muslim and the government, to find a mutual resolution.
Posted: May 29th, 2012 | Author: Tom van der Made | Filed under: Asia-Pacific, Economics, Governmental Policies, Human Rights, Indonesia, Military | Tags: budget, crisis, defence, eignty, ethics, Euro, Germany, government, human, human rights, Indonesia, Leopard, Military, ministry, negotiations, Netherlands, of, Papua, rebels, rights, separatists, sover, Tanks
In January of 2012, an Indonesian delegation, led by Army chief of staff general Edhie Widowo, visited the Netherlands to have a closer look at Dutch Leopard tanks. These tanks have been for sale since last year’s strict measures when it comes to budget cuts, necessary because of the tough financial situation the Netherlands finds itself in, as part of the broader Euro-crisis. At first only a few details emerged, and what may seemed a “normal” arms sale at first sight, now months later became a major complicated controversy balancing money versus human rights, in both Indonesia and the Netherlands.
Leopard tanks that are up for sale by the Dutch
It has become such a major debate since the Dutch government could certainly use the money it would obtain from selling the tanks. The government has cut the budget of the Ministry of Defence particularly hard in order to reach the required budget cuts. In addition, it does not violate any of the European rules for weapons export and various defence experts have argued that “If the Netherlands won’t, Germany will” as the Jakarta Post mentioned that Military chief Widowo said “we will not beg them”, adding that he would soon meet representatives from Germany to discuss possibilities. On the other hand, the Dutch realise with the Indonesia’s human rights record that the concern is certainly there regarding the actual purpose of these tanks. An ethical dilemma, especially since the often quoted words of the Norwegian minister Jan Egeland, although in early 2000, say “The Netherlands has probably become the most effective human rights advocate today”.
Motivations from Indonesia however also have its contradictions as the heavy tanks are argued not to be suitable due to lack of infrastructure in Indonesia. Not to forget, for a country with far greater sea than land mass, it would seem to have more benefits investing in for example, patrol ships to guard the country’s maritime borders. Alternatively, as argued by the Dutch Newspaper de Volkskrant, maybe it is more an attempt to mirror neighbouring countries’ inventories and status, as the army chief Wibowo, is also president Yudhoyono’s brother-in-law.
So why, despite the mixed arguments, are there negotiations in the first place? From the Dutch side the driving force could be Minister of Defence Hans Hillen, as he has to cut one billion euros from the budget, which makes the total worth of the tanks, an estimated 200 million Euro, an attractive figure. A Dutch website against arms trafficking even stated that Mr Hillen mentioned that ethics are not a problem: “As Minister of Defence I look at the sale of material that we dispose from the idea that I want to see money, and therefore I don’t have morals”. Ethical questions are the exclusive responsibility of the Ministers of Economic and Foreign Affairs, he argues.
West Papua’s location indicated in Indonesia
For Indonesia, as external threats seem off the table, it might have to do with keeping protesters away from the streets in major cities. As the reason could be that the tanks would later be used to deal with what Jakarta branded as the “separatists”. This is where the sovereignty, given by the Dutch in 1961, of the Papua province comes in to play. Since the situation in Papua is again on-going, Indonesia might be taking measures against the supposed rebels in Papua-New-Guinea. According to Judge Bahabol, who fought for the sovereignty of Papua, “Who’s flying the Papuan flag now, gets threatened with 15 years in prison”. However, current Indonesian ambassador and senior military expert, Dr Salim said, “the reason for human rights violations in Indonesia should not be the reason for rejecting the sale of tanks. That’s the past. Even now it is no longer as serious as the past because the army was not involved.” Nevertheless, the biggest issue in this is that Irian Jaya (Papua and West Papua Provinces) was a consequence off an incomplete process of decolonization of the Netherlands East Indies. Therefore, there is the possibility of the Dutch selling arms that might be used against a province that they are responsible for existing. A situation destined for critique.
In the Dutch context the government needs parliamentary approval for a sale like this, an unlikely outcome. With such strong criticism due to historical events and contradicting reasons for both the Indonesian and Dutch Parliaments against the transfer of the Leopard tanks, why would either democratic government continue negotiating a deal that lacks necessary support? Hopefully it will become clear that money is not everything, and that the Dutch keep their reputation in considering human rights before other concerns.