News / Asia

UN Asks Asian States to Accept Burma Refugees

Burmeese displaced by recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Burmeese displaced by recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
The U.N. refugee agency is calling on countries in Southeast Asia to open their borders to people fleeing insecurity and violence in Burma. The UNHCR said it is seriously concerned by the recent drowning of Rohingya Muslims who fled by boat from Burma’s Rakhine state in search of a safe haven.

In the last two weeks, two boats reportedly sank in the Bay of Bengal with an estimated 240 people aboard. The U.N. refugee agency said Rohingyas from Burma’s Rakhine state were among them.  

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming saida Bangladeshi naval patrol and fishermen reportedly rescued 40 people from the sinking vessels. “People saw bodies floating in the water, so that does lead us to believe that the fate of those remaining 200 is not good," said Fleming.

"These two incidents mark an alarming start to the traditional sailing season … boating season in the Bay of Bengal, when a mix of asylum seekers and irregular migrants risk their lives on fishing boats in the hope of seeking safety and a better life in Southeast Asia,” she added.  

An estimated 7,000-8,000 people left Burma via the Bay of Bengal during the previous sailing season from October 2011 to March 2012. The UNHCR said it fears many more could follow in the coming weeks because of escalating tension between the Buddhist-majority Rakhine and minority Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

Inter-communal violence broke out in June. This was exacerbated in October by renewed ethnic fighting, which killed dozens of people, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced more than 110,000 people.

Fleming said the UNHCR fears that many Rohingyas, driven by desperation, hopelessness and fear, could risk their lives by crossing the Bay of Bengal in un-seaworthy craft.

“UNHCR is urging the government of Myanmar to take urgent action to address some of the main, what we call, push-factors - the factors that are driving people [to flee]," Fleming said.

"These issues are also connected with the problem of citizenship and statelessness in relation to the Rohingyas. … There is a fragile calm that has returned, but tensions remain very high and there is lots of fear that the violence could explode again,”  she added.

The Muslim Rohingyas have lived in Burma for generations, but have never been granted citizenship. They remain stateless and deprived of all rights and benefits available to Burmese citizens.

UNHCR’s Fleming calls this situation unsustainable. Burma is in the world’s spotlight right now, she says, and with the advent of a new government and the engagement of Nobel laureate Aung San Su Kyi, there is now a sense of hope that this long-standing issue could finally be resolved.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More