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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs