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Asia Pacific

Open Letter on the Third Anniversary of the Imprisonment of SomyotPrueksakasemsuk

Scholars call for release of political prisonerSomyot

On the Occasion of the International Thai Studies Conference, Sydney, Australia, 24 April 2014

SomyotPrueksakasemsuk is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender in Thailand. Since 2007, he has been the editor of Voice of Taksin magazine. He was arrested and taken into custody on 30 April 2011, and shortly thereafter charged with two violations of Article 112, which states that "whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years." In Somyot's case, the charges were for allegedly allowing two articles with anti-monarchy content to be published in Voice of Taksin magazine.

Somyot was held for six months of pre-trial detention, and after beginning in 12 November 2011, the hearings in his trial continued until 3 May 2012. On January 23, 2012, the Criminal Court in Bangkok found Somyot guilty on both charges, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison in this case, as well as to one year in prison in relation to a prior case. At present, Somyot is appealing his verdict. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 15 bail applications being submitted. On 30 April 2014, the third anniversary of his life behind bars, Somyot's family and supporters will submit a sixteenth application for bail on his behalf.

As Thai and international scholars, journalists, activists and other observers attending gathered in Sydney for the 12th International Thai Studies Conference, we would like to take the opportunity to call attention to the third anniversary of Somyot's imprisonment and call on the Thai Government to do the following: 1. Grant SomyotPrueksakasemsuk bail while he appeals his case; 2. Grant bail to all prisoners awaiting trial, awaiting decisions, or appealing under Article 112; and 3. Abolish Article 112.

Signed: Andrew Brown, University of New England AnusornUnno, Thammasat University Bencharat Sae Chua, Mahidol University Bo KyeongSeo, Australian National University ChalitaBundhuwong, Kasetsart University Chris Baker Craig Reynolds, Australian National University David Streckfuss, Independent Scholar Eugenie Merieau, National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) Paris Ian Baird, University of Wisconsin-Madison JakkritSangkhamanee, Chulalongkorn University James L. Taylor, University of Adelaide Karin Zackari, Lund University Katsuyuki Takahashi, Waseda University Nick Cheesman, Australian National University Noah Viernes, Akita International University Peter Jackson, Australian National University Peter Vandergeest, York University Philip Hirsch, University of Sydney PinkaewLaungaramsri, Chiang Mai University PongphisootBusbarat, University of Sydney PreedeeHongsaton, Australian National University Rachel Harrison, School of Oriental and African Studies SamakKosem, Chiang Mai University Simon Creak, Kyoto University SirijitSunanta, Mahidol University ThanaviChotpradit ThongchaiWinichakul, University of Wisconsin-Madison Thorn Pitidol, Thammasat University Tyrell Haberkorn, Australian National University Vanessa Lamb, York University ViengratNethipo, Chulalongkorn University WanrugSuwanwattana, Thammasat University WanwiphangManachotphong, Thammasat University YuktiMukdawijitra, Thammasat University

THAILAND: Rights groups tell U.N. torture is still rife

Border Patrol Police (BPP) Regional HQ 3 in Mae Rim

(Hong Kong, April 25, 2014) Rights groups in Thailand have informed the U.N. of continuing, routine use of torture in the country, ahead of a review of its compliance with an international law against torture. In reports submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture as part of its review of Thailand under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, human rights defenders have pointed to inadequacies in law and practice of state agencies enabling the continued widespread use of torture in the country. A coalition of seven local rights groups on April 10 submitted a 135-page report concentrating on the use of torture in the conflict-prone south, as well as against particular targeted communities.

Detailing 92 testimonies documented between 2011 and 2013, the coalition notes that many cases of torture in the south correspond with periods of extended detention without charge or trial under martial law and emergency provisions. It adds that in most cases people were tortured to have them confess to crimes or to extract information. “Allegations of torture not only involve a broad range of perpetrators, ranging from military, police, paramilitary officials, and volunteers, but also indicate that such acts take place in various institutions,” the coalition says. “Detainees are often transferred several times to different detention facilities. Some of them not only reported having been mistreated in the different locations, but also at the time of their arrest and during their transportation,” it continues.

Methods of torture described include strangling with hands or rope, choking, face dunking, kicking, punching, beating in the stomach, beating with cloth wrapped wooden bat, head-butting against the wall, force feeding, injecting with drugs that cause unconsciousness or loss of control, hooding, and electric shock. Some detainees said they were exposed to extreme cold or heat, or to bright light or darkness for extended periods of time. Some, the torturers threatened to kill, or harm their family members. The report points out that a draft amendment to the Criminal Code of Thailand to penalize torture is not in accordance with international standards, because it restricts the offence to only certain types of physical torture, committed by only some categories of government official, for a limited number of purposes.

In a separate 12-page report, the Justice For Peace foundation told the U.N. that the emergency regulations applied in southern Thailand place police operating in the region outside the rule of law. The report also describes torture and attendant abuses in the north of Thailand, particularly in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” and in its wake. “Although the War on Narcotic Drugs was concluded at the end of 2003, the practice of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has continued until today,” the Bangkok-based group says. “State officials may arrive at the door of one’s home, claiming to search for illegal goods and order a search without a court warrant, or a fake warrant, take valuables and vehicles from the house and detain the person at an unknown, unofficial place,” it adds.

The executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Bijo Francis, noted that although Thailand had ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 2007, it still had a long way to go to comply with its terms. “Together, these reports are revealing of the extent to which state officials in Thailand continue to disregard the spirit of the Convention, to say nothing of its letter, which to this day still has no practical effect there,” Francis said. “In fact, the amount of torture described is just the tip of the iceberg. We know from years of work on Thailand that torture is routinized in policing all around the country,” he added. The Hong Kong-based human rights group has joined calls of the groups submitting reports to the U.N. for a more comprehensive, systemic and urgent programme to address torture through amendments to domestic law, the cessation of emergency regulations that enable its endemic use in some parts of the country, and systematic arrangements to provide redress to torture survivors and their families.

SRI LANKA: Under which law did the Magistrate make the order to deport the lady tourist with the Tattoo of Lord Buddha?

Apri 23, 2014

Naomi Coleman, 37, was arrested at Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka for 'hurting religious feelings' with her sleeve depicting Buddha on a lotus flower

According to reports a 37 year old British nurse who arrived in Sri Lanka this Monday (21st April 2014) was taken by a taxi driver to a nearby police station where, according to her, she was harassed by policemen who demanded money from her. She had arrived at the Airport and the immigration authorities had allowed her to enter the country. She had earlier visited Sri Lanka and several other Buddhist countries and followed meditation under the guidance of Buddhist monks.

When the police were unable to extract bribes from her she had been produced before a Magistrate who according to her did not provide to her any opportunity to speak and then made an order to immediately deport her from Sri Lanka. Subsequently she was deported to New Delhi, from where she has arrived earlier. One straightforward question that arises from this incident is as to under which law did the Magistrate make an order for deportation. In any case no person can be deported without giving an opportunity to have the charges explained and having the opportunity to answer the charges. This tourist had a right to object to the deportation order and it was the duty of the Magistrate to provide that opportunity. Further, after listening to her objections it was his duty to have an inquiry into alleged grounds on which the request for a deportation was sought. It was also the duty of the Magistrate to provide her the opportunity to retain a lawyer or provide one, by way of assignment by the Court. It does not appear from the reports that the Magistrate had followed any of these procedures.

The allegation, as it appears is, that the tattoo she had on her upper arm depicting Lord Buddha on a lotus flower could have created a public commotion and that alone was the grounds on which the police had sought a deportation order to have her removed from the country. There is no indication that there had been any complaint by any person, to the effect that the reverential exhibition of the Buddha’s image on a lotus flower could cause a commotion amongst the public. Thus, the police have brought on the allegations on their making and initiative. It was the duty of the Magistrate to question the police about the basis of the allegations and to inquire whether there were any grounds at all, to expect such a commotion to take place. If there was any possibility of such a commotion without any legitimate basis, it was the duty of the police and the Magistrate to take all steps necessary to protect her.

It seems quite clear that there appears to be a link between this taxi driver from the airport and the police for extraction of bribes from tourists arriving in Sri Lanka. It is quite possible that there had been other victims of such exercise of harassment. It was when this attempt failed that the police proceeded to make this ludicrous allegation that the exhibition of such an image could cause a public commotion in Sri Lanka. It appears quite probable that after having found no grounds to cause some fear in the tourist, and thereby to demand bribes failed, the police found flimsy grounds to charge her with, on the basis of the tattoo she had exhibited on her upper arm. What should in fact cause a commotion is the manner in which an unscrupulous taxi driver connived with the police so as to manipulate the law for harassment and thereby used that for the purposes of extracting bribes. It is this state of lawlessness that should alarm everyone. Equally the manner in which this Magistrate has acted should also be a reason for expressions of public anger. The duty of a Magistrate is to protect all who comes before him, and not to be a pawn at the hands of the police for machinations for extracting bribes.

The Magistrate and the policeman involved in this incident including the officer in charge of the relevant police station should be immediately suspended from their positions and brought to an inquiry. That is what would have happened in any country where there is some respect for the rights persons including those who are visiting as strangers to the land. To deny hospitality to a tourist and to behave in this ugly manner should not go unpunished. However an even more serious issue is the right for the respect of religious expression of any person of whichever religion it may be. It is the general and usual practice amongst many persons to make some public expression of their religious beliefs by way of various methods. Wearing ornaments with some religious symbols is quite a common practice of many persons. These are matters of private beliefs and every person deserves to have their private expressions of faith and love to be respected. This is not an area where any government has any jurisdiction. This is an area of inviolable rights of individual persons.

As this particular image has now been publicized by international media we have had the opportunity to having a look at the particular image that is depicted on the said tattoo. It is a beautiful Buddhist image and by no stretch of imagination could any reasonable person say that such an image could manifest any kind of irreverence to Lord Buddha. In fact, it manifests that the bearer of the image carries a deep respect for Buddhism. The action of the police and the Magistrate would without doubt bring tremendous disrespect to Sri Lanka. It is not unreasonable for any person to think that a country where lawful authorities could behave in the manner the in which police and the Magistrate has done, and on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka is weird and crazy. Of course all this happens in a political environment where impunity is guaranteed to all violators of human rights. It would not be a surprise if this magistrate and policemen escape without any kind of punishment for the manner in which they have violated the law and brought disrepute to the people of Sri Lanka.

Today’s papers also carry pictures of a commuter being severely assaulted by the police at the Colombo railway station; his face filled with wounds, his shirt stained with blood. This picture is now available to the public thanks to the efforts of the journalists. The police who have come to remove some obstacles put on the railway tracks by some workers who are making certain demands have assaulted this innocent commuter who has just arrived at the station to travel back home. If the police came to remove the obstacles put on the railway tracts, they should have done so and returned as there was no resistance for such removal. But that is not the style of the Sri Lanka police these days. There has to be some persons to be brutally assaulted and some blood to be shed, if they are to be satisfied. It is these matters that should be worrying the Magistrates and others concerned with the law, and not tourists and their tattoos.

Introducing Arundhati Roy and Friends

Special Contribution
By Karthik Navayan
Apr 10, 2014

Cartoon on Maya

(On 9th March, 2014, Navayana had planned to launch its 'annotated critical edition' of Dr BR Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste with an introduction by Arundhati Roy, in Hyderabad city. The event was cancelled because of distribution issues according to the publisher. But the spin put on the cancellation, especially by the corporate media, tried to pin the blame on some Dalits and others who had raised some objections to the introduction. Presented below are the reflections of the writer, who had planned to be a participant at the book launch. They follow his thoughts, on the book and its introduction, on the debates that followed in the social media, Telugu media and elsewhere, on the protests and the savarna protests against the protests. And on Arundhati Roy's seemingly endless circle of friends and supporters in the media, academia, civil society etc., who sprang up to defend her and her 'introduction') Do not allow those that have historically oppressed and continue to oppress you today to define your history, reality and interests for you. To say this is not rocket science. Nor is it racist. It is just common sense – Runoko Rashidi

Her friends in the corporate media

Without any prejudice, I feel that there was a problem with that title, "The Doctor and The Saint". Ambedkar is addressed as Doctor by Arundhati Roy simply because he is a PhD Doctorate, and certified to be a Doctor of Philosophy. So the word Philosopher is a more suitable term to address Dr Ambedkar in Telugu; but why was Gandhi addressed as a prophet, does he have any certificate to be called a prophet (in Andhra Jyothi translation)? No. The moral here is, anything that upgrades a dominant caste person will be justified, normalized and accepted. However, upgrading the position of a marginalized caste individual is unacceptable. Andhra Jyothi proved that. On the sixth of March, 2014, Andhra Jyothi, the Telugu daily, published an excerpt from Arundhati Roy's introduction, "The Doctor and The Saint" which was translated as "Oka Vaidyudu Oka Pravaktha", which actually means "The Medical Doctor and the Prophet".

The better translation in Telugu would have been the use of any of these words, signifying a philosopher, thinker, scholar etc: 1) Thathvavetta, (తత్వవేత్త ), 2) Darshanikudu (దార్శనికుడు ) 3. Vidwaansudu (విద్వాంసుడు). But none of these words were used while addressing Ambedkar. They took it for granted that no one would care. However, they put in a lot of effort to upgrade Gandhi during the translation. A better word for 'saint' in Telugu would have been: 1. Muni (ముని ) 2. Sanyansi (సన్యాసి ) 3. Sadhu (సాధువు). But none of these words were used for Gandhi, they went on calling him ప్రవక్త (Prophet), which is not relevant in any sense. Why were so much extra efforts spent in upgrading Gandhi and why so much neglect for Ambedkar? A wrong word was used to reduce Ambedkar's status and another wrong word was used to upgrade Gandhi's status. When I raised these objections, S. Anand responded and spoke to the people concerned in Andhra Jyothi. But on 7th March, they published only an explanation and not an apology. And they did not publish the corrected translation of the title in Telugu addressing Ambedkar as philosopher. On the same evening, Battula Ramprasad, a dalit activist, issued another statement demanding that the title be re-published in Telugu. Then on 8th March, Andhra Jyothi re published the title calling Ambedkar a philosopher.

Andhra Jyothi's explanation was, "Some people opined that prophet is not a suitable word for saint". How funny! When we speak facts, they turn it into our opinion, and they project their opinions as facts! Arundhati Roy says that she addressed Gandhi as a saint, because Ambedkar also addressed him in the same way in a sarcastic manner. But why is it needed in the title itself, why compare Gandhi with Ambedkar? Gandhi is not a saint like Kabir, Ravidas, Basava, Pothuluri Veerabrahmam, Gadge Baba etc., he is more like Asharam Bapu and Nityananda Swamy. Why do the translators in the Telugu media keep on saying he is a prophet? Arundhati Roy in her reply to Dalit Camera mentioned a message (an SMS), which was circulated among some activists asking them to protest against Arundhati Roy and S. Anand on 9th March. However, I had sent another message almost immediately, to the same set of people, to quell their misgivings, saying this: "Dear friends, our protest against Arundhati Roy and Anand Navayana is limited to questioning the commercialization of Ambedkar. We are not going to demand a ban on the book nor are we going to burn the book. We are preparing questions and we will just ask them. That is what our protest shall be". Why was this SMS not mentioned in her response? Why did she selectively mention only the first message sent by a stray mischief monger?

The Times of India reported that there "right wing activists and caste-based groups" involved in the proposed protest against Arundhati Roy and S. Anand. As there were no caste groups or right wing activists involved in the proposed protest, some friends wanted a democratic debate on the issue, how can they turn it into a right wing activity? S Anand also explained, "We have stated clearly that "There have been some difficulties in the distribution of the book and it is not yet available, especially in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, etc. Meanwhile, acrimonious debates have been taking place without many people getting a chance to read it. The launch is therefore postponed till such a time as the book is widely available, and a more informed conversation can take place." We mentioned no rightwing or caste-based groups. We cannot help it if media distorts and misreports. Our statement is here: I further wish to clarify that no-one from ToI called me; nor did anyone from Hindu call me when the earlier report appeared." He also tagged me to the clarification of Lamakaan, one of the conference sites where the book was to be launched, saying "I hope you saw this clarification also by Lamakaan. Rejoinder to Press news – on Lamakaan's event cancellation of the Launch of "The Annihilation of Caste". Here's Lamakaan's rejoinder:

Lamakaan vehemently objects to the spin imparted to the postponement of an event planned at our venue, the event – the launch of "The Annihilation of Caste" was postponed by Navayana for the reasons stated in their statement appended below. Lamakaan did not impute any further motives to any group with regards the cancellation or postponement of this event. That reporter, while speaking to Lamakaan attempted compare the cancellation of Kashmir event with current postponement. The Lamakaan representative insisted that two cannot be compared. No further categorization of the postponement was issued from our side. Lamakaan is an open cultural and political education space with the objective of engendering public debate and we stay committed to that goal. The book launch will happen when, as the publisher statement testifies, when more people have had a chance to read the book. So who was responsible for the news that branded Dalits as right wingers and caste groups? The Times of India reporter who filed the report said the information was given to her by the organizers.

Her friends in civil society

Here we will know a little about who could be responsible: this is a Facebook comment by Kavita Krishnan, leader of CPI(ML) Liberation: "I was in Hyderabad recently and was seriously appalled to hear that Arundhati's piece is apparently being construed by some as being demeaning of Ambedkar and 'devoting more space to Gandhi'. If this is indeed the nature of the criticism that is being made the pretext for the denial of permission, it is a travesty of reason and a deliberate, mischievous misreading of her article, not much unlike the Hindutvavadi's misreading of Doniger " Have the dominant caste media and intellectuals come to an understanding to brand Dalits as Hindutvavadis?

I asked her (on Facebook): "Who told you this story? Did you spoke to Anand Navayana before making this false statement comparing Dalits with Hindutvavadis? Know the facts. And don't put your opinions as facts". She comes up with this response, "Why get accusatory. I am happy to be corrected. I was misinformed; it's an honest mistake, not a falsehood being propagated". I wrote back: "There is no accusatory (tone) in my comment just asking you to clarify before posting. But you accused us as hindutvavadis" See... they never hesitate to call Dalits whatever they want, even if it is false - is this not caste arrogance? And power over Dalits? If Dalits are casteists, and Hindutvavadis, then show us the history, where Dalits committed atrocities and killed dominant castes.

Her friends in the academia

"Annihilation of caste" is not only a scholarly article; it is also the collective pain of a community. From 1936 till date, many people, with common concerns, emotions and a shared sense of responsibility, introduced this 60 page book to each other, without any or minimal cost. Dalit intellectuals like Bojja Tharakam published Annihilation of Caste in Telugu and distributed the copies free of charge. However, now everyone has to buy it for Rs. 525 per copy. People like Arundhati Roy have taken 80 years to read Dr.B.R.Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste. But now they ask protesting Dalits to read first, and speak. Is this not evidence of their power over Dalits? Annihilation of Caste was written by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar in 1936. It is available online for free downloads. Just type the title in Google, press enter and you will get it. Ambedkar's writings are available online for free download at the Columbia university website. None of the Indian universities touched Ambedkar's writings; they do not even think of hosting them on their websites. Ambedkar is still an untouchable for Indian universities and academicians.

This spiced up text produced by these elite leftists is meant to be consumed by savarnas and white people, who are not aware of caste. Because all their show business is over now, they have to face the truth, so they have started speaking about Annihilation of Caste and Ambedkar. Someone had written an introduction to Gandhi's Hind Swaraj, some time ago. However, they never referred to Ambedkar anywhere in the text. Why does Arundhati Roy bring in Gandhi as a Saint while introducing Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste?The title of Arundhati Roy's introduction is itself a problem. She should change the title and Gandhi should be removed from the title. Any debate with savarna intellectuals and academicians is useless, they never agree with the truth while debating with Dalits. When we tell them that they are on the wrong side; they tell us, that they are using indicator, horn and brake! Look at any philosophical debates of savarna academicians with Dalits, you will agree with me.

Her friends in the agraharas

Actually the book "Annihilation of Caste" is directly addressed to all savarnas to change their caste mindsets. It is not addressed to Dalits. They better read the book and start practicing some morals and rationales proposed by Dr Ambedkar in the book. If one wants to write on annihilation of caste, it is better to write on the modern forms of caste and how caste still controls the life of the dominant castes, instead of writing an irrelevant introduction to Annihilation of Caste. Dr Ambedkar's writings are willfully neglected by the savarna academia and intelligentsia. With one introduction by a savarna intellectual, the untouched Annihilation of Caste may get an entry into savarna academic agraharas. Will the readers who purchase the book for the sake of the introducer really read and understand Ambedkar's arguments on caste addressed to them? At least, now they agree that there are some people who don't want to read Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's Annihilation of Castewithout an introduction by some savarna. This is caste, untochability and discrimination.

Ambedkar was criticized and judged in the introduction, but when Dalits criticize Arundhati Roy and S. Anand, they are branded as Hindutvavadis. So they can criticize Ambedkar but no one should criticize them - is this not caste arrogance? As they are not accepting Dr.B.R.Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste as it is, we are not going to take their introduction as it is.You will be questioned and criticized. If they buy Annihilation of Caste just because of Arundhati Roy's introduction, what will the orthodox Brahmins do now? Will they sprinkle some gomuthra (cow urine) or ganga jal on Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Annihilation of Caste to purify it, before taking it into their homes and libraries? As it was written by an untouchable and had adorned millions of untouchable homes for the last 80 years?


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Apr 1, 2014

Burmese Polices

Dictator Watch's conflict blog, Burma Death Watch, is now three years old.The blog will continue, because of the ongoing widespread atrocitiescommitted against the people of Burma by the various arms of the country'smilitary dictatorship. The blog is not a general human rights survey. Entries, from well over adozen sources, are limited to news of armed clashes, which in almost allcases were instigated by Burma Army units, and which usually resulted inmany casualties, as well as other severe regime-committed crimes such asmurder and rape.

The indisputable observation that one can make by scrolling through theblog is of the enormous magnitude of the dictatorship's crimes againsthumanity, all the while noting that this covers only three years of thegenerals' fifty plus years reign of terror. The blog's associated textdocument is now approaching 350 pages, with 6-7 links per page. Each linkconnects to a news article or other source and many cover multipleatrocities, plus, there is little overlap - multiple links covering thesame event. Overall, the blog reveals that Burma's so-called reform is a farce. Theregime has benefitted from reduced international pressure, and isprofiting through its many new business deals with unethical multinationalcorporations, all the while the people of the country have seen minimal ifany relief. Similarly, the International Community has reaped many rewards. The UnitedStates' policy shift on Burma gave Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton asupposed foreign affairs "victory."

Europe, whose policy as always hasbeen set by the French oil company Total, can now openly court Burma'skillers, as evidenced by the many trade delegations arriving from Germany,the U.K., etc. Even NGO workers - those not directly involved in savinglives, have found a clever way to advance their careers and otherwiseprofit from the suffering in the country. The blog documents thousands if not tens of thousands of regime crimes inthe last three years, for which the victims have yet to receive justice,as well as its changing patterns of abuse. It was launched just before theBurma Army's renewed offensive against the Kachin people in June 2011. Oneparticularly heinous crime, which is now forgotten, is the bomb attack onan orphanage/school in Myitkyina in November 2011, by regime agents, whichkilled 10 residents. (The orphanage owner was later convicted of theattack in a regime kangaroo court.) Burma Death Watch is one of many sources of documentation on thedictatorship's crimes. It will hopefully prove useful when the day comesthat Burma is truly freed, and that real justice can be pursued. It alsoserves as an information storehouse not only for people who want to stayup-to-date on the conflict, but for researchers and others who sincerelywant to understand what is happening inside the country.

Portrait of a genocide

As an example of this, the following news items are a partial listing ofcrimes that have been perpetrated against the Rohingya people since June2012. Many Burma observers are aware that the ethnic group is beingoppressed, but few recognize the full extent - and fundamental nature - oftheir suffering. As this listing makes clear, it is nothing less than agenocide. You only have to read the determinants from Article 2 of theU.N. Convention. Four of the five basic actions of genocide are beingcommitted against the Rohingya. The Burma Death Watch blog therefore alsoillustrates that what the leaders of the International Community, and manyNGO workers, are really doing is ignoring and through this effectivelydiverting attention from the worst human rights abuse of all - genocide,and all because they personally are benefitting from the status quo in thecountry and don't want to rock the boat.

June 2012

Following reports of a rape against a woman from Arakan State, for whichregime police arrest 3 Rohingya men - their guilt is never proven, noreven that the crime conclusively took place - Rakhine extremists startagitating against the local Rohingya population. On June 3rd, a bus isattacked by a mob and 10 Muslim men are killed. (Though not Rohingya, theyare mistaken as such.) No one is arrested. Regime media outlets startmaking derogatory comments about Muslims. Then, on June 9th, in theMaungdaw area and accompanied by regime police, the extremists begin aseries of widespread attacks against Rohingya communities. 100 or moreRohingya villagers are reported as being killed. Their bodies are neverreturned and they presumably are buried in mass graves. Dozens of womenare raped.

This is the beginning of the first widespread Rohingya pogrom. The killing continues the next day, accompanied by the burning of Rohingyavillages and mosques. One report says that another 70 Rohingya are killed.This pattern of violence goes on for another week, during which periodmany more homes are burned and Rohingya people arrested and "disappeared."At this point, in response to international media condemnation, the regimestarts to clamp down on the violence. 32,000 new Rohingya refugees arereported. By June 20th, the number of refugees is announced by the WorldFood Program as 90,000. Reports also come in of Army helicopters shootingRohingya villagers. The deaths are now believed to be as many as 650, andwith 1,200 more missing. Thousands of Rohingya homes and businesses havebeen destroyed.

July 2012

Rakhine groups demand the right to form border guard units (supposedly forthe border with Bangladesh) and to be given guns. Regime police and othersecurity agents continue to make mass arrests of Rohingya people,especially men. Many individuals are killed. An apartheid is established,and Rohingya people are no longer seen in public areas of Arakan State.

August - September 2012

There is a renewal of large-scale attacks against the Rohingya. Many morevillages are burned. In one location, over 20 Rohingya people are reportedkilled. There are thousands of new refugees, and a report that 1,500Rohingya people are either missing or killed in Sittwe. The attacks,albeit on a smaller scale, then continue into September.

October 2012 - January 2013

Rohingya refugee camps now resemble concentration camps. Aid worker accessis limited. Rakhine extremist militia are trained and armed by the regime.Arrests and killings continue. The number of internally displaced Rohingyapeople continues to rise. Then, late in October another spasm of ethniccleansing erupts. The second widespread Rohingya pogrom begins. In the village tract of Min Bya, near Sittwe, 450 homes are burned andtwenty people killed. Many other villages are burned including in Mrauk U.Overall, 2,000 homes are destroyed and some 100 people killed. Buddhistmonks call on the Rohingya to be targeted. Deaths then rise into thehundreds, and a new refugee crisis begins. 28,000 new refugees arereported. Thousands also attempt to flee by boat, and hundreds of peopledrown. Students together with monks and 88-Generation leaders hold ananti-Rohingya demonstration in Sittwe. The entire Muslim quarter ofKyauk-Pyu is burned to the ground; also Pauk Taw. Mosques are attacked inother parts of Burma. Rohingya in camps are arrested if they refuse to saythat they are from Bangladesh. In November, President Obama visits Burma,and yet another Rohingya village is burned that day. Although the openattacks are finally stopped, the ethnic cleansing continues into 2013.

February - June 2013

All Muslim travel in Western Burma is restricted. There is forcedregistration of Rohingyas as "Bengalis." Six Rohingya fishermen aremurdered. Other mass murders continue into March. At this point, a neworchestrated campaign of attacks is initiated, as Buddhist mobs targetMuslims in Meikhtila in Central Burma. This is the beginning of the thirdwidespread anti-Muslim pogrom.

Dozens of people are killed and thousands displaced. Foreign journalistsare ordered at gunpoint to destroy their film of the atrocities. In oneinstance, a Buddhist monk puts a knife to a journalist's throat. Themonk-led anti-Muslim Burma neo-Nazi 969 movement is established. Inanother attack, 32 Muslims students are killed. The wave of violence thenexpands into surrounding villages, yielding 8,000 new refugees. The Muslimquarter in Pegu is attacked. In April, 13 more Muslim students are killed.There is a report that the Burma Army is holding 20 Rohingya women as sexslaves. At the end of April and into May, new anti-Muslim riots erupt. Thetown of Oakken is burned down. Violence then spreads to villages nearRangoon. Anti-Muslim unrest begins in Kachin and Shan states. Two hundredmore Rohingya drown in Arakan State after encountering a storm whenfleeing the country in boats. Other Rohingya are forced by the police tomove to beaches in the hopes that the storm - a cyclone - will kill them.In early June, more villages are attacked in Central Burma and there aremany new murders.

July - October 2013

There are attacks in Thandwe, Arakan State. The 969 Movement grows.Attacks occur around Sittwe in August. 42 houses and 19 businesses areburned in Sagaing Division. Anti-Muslim rapes and murders continue intoSeptember. Seventy homes are burned by extremists in Sandoway in October.Six Muslims are reportedly killed there. More attacks occur aroundRangoon. 10 Rohingya refugees die when their boat sinks.

November - December 2013

Murders of Rohingya continue. Another 70 Rohingya women and children drownwhile fleeing the ethnic cleansing, when their boat sinks. More shops areburned, and Rohingya people tortured. 1,500 Rohingya refugees are detainedin Southern Thailand, and 16 of them are killed.

January - March 2014

Police and Rakhine extremists raid villages around Duchiradan in Maungdaw.16 people are initially reported as having been killed, and one womanraped. Over 100 are missing, and a mass grave is found. Rohingya villageheads are arrested. Security forces "hunt" Rohingya IDPs. The casualtiesare later increased to 52 killed, with 330 homes destroyed. Regimesecurity agents are evacuated the night before an inquiry commissionarrives. Another Rohingya woman is gang-raped, and a father and his twosons murdered. Additional arsons and abuses occur in the area. Aninvestigative report by Fortify Rights indicts the regime for crimesagainst humanity for explicitly targeting the Rohingya. 11 Rohingya arekilled in early March, while traveling to Rangoon. 11 more homes areburned in Duchiradan; 40 other homes are burned in Dar Paing village. 113homes are burned in Maungdaw. Arson attacks are then perpetrated againsttwo more neighborhoods. 5 Rohingya women aretortured by the police to say that they started these fires. The Doe-Danvillage bazaar is burned. Meanwhile, the concentration camp treatment of the 100,000 or so Rohingyarefugees continues. Many children and elderly are dying of malnutritionand disease. Buddhist racists attack aid workers who are trying to helpthem. And finally, the dictatorship announces that Rohingya people cannotself-identify as such in the upcoming national census.

Closing note

As of the beginning of April 2014, the crimes against the Rohingya peopleof Burma have in no way ceased. Although an accurate count is impossible,it seems clear that their deaths have reached at least the low thousands.However, the International Community - and human rights icon Aung San SuuKyi - have done their best to ignore this fact. Suu Kyi won't even speakthe word "Rohingya." In conclusion, while the abuse that the Rohingyapeople have been subjected to is not identical to the actions of the Nazisor in Rwanda, it is clearly a genocide. This is what genocide in 2014looks like. Also of note, abuses against many other ethnic groupsthroughout Burma continued during the same period.

Vietnam: Blogger Pham Viet Dao sentenced to 15 months in prison

Pham Viet Dao

PARIS, 19 March 2014 (FIDH & VCHR) - FIDH and its member organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), strongly condemn the 15-month prison sentence imposed today on blogger Pham Viet Dao. A court in Hanoi sentenced him under Article 258 of the Criminal Code on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State” for posting online articles that “distorted, vilified, and smeared the senior leaders.” “The imprisonment of Pham Viet Dao once again calls into question the Vietnamese government’s stated commitment to respecting human rights. In fact, Vietnam continues to behave as an authoritarian government that perceives every freedom, including freedom of opinion and expression, as a threat to its rule,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Vietnam must end the harassment, arrest, and imprisonment of dissidents and immediately release the more than 200 political prisoners it holds,” Mr. Lahidji added.

Pham Viet Dao, 62, is a former Inspector in charge of corruption issues in the Ministry of Culture. He is also a member of the Vietnam Writers Union. After his retirement, Pham Viet Dao started an internet blog critical of Vietnamese government leaders and their policies with a focus on the ongoing territorial disputes with China. Pham Viet Dao was arrested on 13 June 2013 at his home in Hanoi. Analysts deemed his arrest, which took place six days before Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang made an official visit to China, as a gesture of friendship to Beijing. Pham Viet Dao is the latest blogger to be imprisoned under Article 258 of the Criminal Code. On 4 March, a court in Danang sentenced blogger and human rights defender Truong Duy Nhat to two years in prison under the same law for posting articles online that were critical of the government.

“Vietnam currently holds the largest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia and its press freedom ranking is the lowest in the region,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “The international community must keep the release of political prisoners and the amendment of draconian legislation as its most urgent and pressing issue whenever it interacts with the Vietnamese government,” he urged. It is estimated that there are over 200 political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam and many more are under house arrest. Those incarcerated include lawyers, bloggers, land rights activists, Buddhist monks, journalists, writers, singers, labor activists, pro-democracy campaigners and members of ethnic and religious minorities, including Buddhist Khmer Krom and Christian Hmong and Montagnards.

Press contacts Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) - Tel: +33 6 11 89 86 81 (in Paris) Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (in Paris) Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (in Paris)

Gandhian Laathi & Copy Cat Children emerge as losers in AAP-BJP street fights

Special Contribution
By Rakesh Manchanda

Arvind car attacked

Recent street protest of AAP-BJP`` has one clear qualified winner -Latthi cantered Political life style. Battlelines for Lok Sabha election are drawn on 5th. March-2014 day of declaration of Code of Conduct by the Election Commission. The flash point is Gujarat Police halting Arvind Kejriwal four-day tour of the state to expose BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi's claim of `liquor free` developing model state. This illegal detention caused massive AAP protests outside BJP `model` offices. To help make the situation peaceful and to see such hate stories do not dominate every minute the public space, we need to understand as to why there is no limit to tolerance. Why there is no serious organised counselling of Political activists before the `dharana` and protest starts. To understand the role of Volunteers in such situations allow me to revisit history of Pre-Independent India. What happened at Chauri Chaura 19 miles away from Gorakhpur on 5th. Feb-1922 ?

Around this day the Public anger was that Police was protecting the liquor shops business. Liquor was targeted for men who earn drink and do not participate in Freedom Movement. Instead of 200 people that day approx. 2000 people got angry and gathered. Anti-Liquor lobby as new agenda took over the Non Cooperative Movement. Causality score card of civilians-Police clashes? Protesters killed in police firing were three and several injured. Result ? Police Station in Chauri Chaura was set on fire and 22 Indian Policemen were trapped and burned alive.

Awareness and indiscipline of unorganised Protesters: In India, today, a law enforcing mechanism with a Danda (baton) is expected to deliver. Those who are weak and fear use the danda. Nothing has changed since Chaura Chauri incident and error. People led by Political Parties continue to protest against police and competitive political atrocities. All claim to follow Mahatma and his preaching. During religious clashes both BJP-Congress are found attacking the poor people for political gains. Sample a BJP young spokesperson Nalin Kohli who is caught in camera with a Laathi during the AAP-BJP Delhi clash. He shamefully `self certified` to the media and Police that carrying a laathi during clashes is like copying Gandhian walking stick. Political Parties who conduct `laathi drills` under the hidden mask of Culture need to rethink . In Lucknow AAP-BJP clash lathi drills were demonstrated and many are now in hospital and in Jail.

MK Gandhi in the past was deeply hurt as he felt the Congress and Khilafat Movement had not sensitized the volunteers properly. What was missed is that the local leaders allowed the Mohalla Sabha which wanted the liquor shops to get closed to dominate the local anger. Congress called out Non Cooperative Movement and Mahatma was arrested and sentenced 6 years jail with a delay to freedom of India by atleast five years. Congress had no plans to improve the Sevak Dal or volunteers response where the Hindu Maha Sabha volunteers also participated on few issues. Bach in Delhi : Kejriwal was apparently stopped and delayed for unfair questions by Gujarat Police about the number of vehicles in his convoy, and over a possible violation of the model code of conduct. The bigger question in Police Station remains when there is no AAP Jhadoo declared candidate in that place how can Gujarat Police act in such a false excuse. Late reports say that there was a meeting in Kharoi-Gujarat but a Modi supporter with a black flag hurled a stone at his car, smashing its windscreen.

What is new today with AAP Gandhian followers ? Modern Gandhi Crusaders today are different. Protest against Police is much more articulated and clever with a non violence tool. Arvind Kejriwal has some guts to atleast admit errors and say sorry for clashes. AAP 49 day Government had the courage to start by Police-Police Engagement in Delhi. Ex-CM had guts to invite the honest police persons to resign and join the movement against corruption which was beyond imagination during Pre-Independence Movement. A reward for Police martyrs of Re one crore instead of usual Rs.5 lac for fighting terrorist is also a different reforming trajectory when it was assumed that all policemen are corrupt. Modern Gandhi Crusaders today are different. Protest against Police at times is much more articulated and clever with non violence. Today AAP team unlike Modi team has a courage to a modest start by Police-Police Engagement in Delhi. Ex-CM had guts to invite the honest police persons to resign and join the movement against corruption which was beyond imagination during Pre-Independence Movement.

Possible Solutions : Strong effective laws for better police- Politicians code of conduct if delivered in time can also help. To ensure less conflicts Swaraj bill with a Mohalla Samitti is must. If laws are applied correctly then fast justice can help generate more confidence and more jobs. Only constructive participation of people, more jobs and effective laws with speed justice can stop Laathi Politics during Protest. My appeal to all Gandhian followers and my friends is to come together and help build Mohalla Samitti first. Only peoples scientifically pooling at Mohalla level can help choose whether to have a `dava` or `daru ki dookan`(medicine or liquor shop ) in the market. Till then the ineffective audience must pray to close down chai ki dookan (modi) , `daru`, ink, pepper spray, laathis, shoes,Hawaii chappals to overcome this challenge. Suggest to me a more safer peaceful route then a pending Swaraj Bill please ?

Contemporary Dalit Politics and Ambedkar’s Goal of Caste Annihilation

Special Contribution
By Ram Puniyani

Statue of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

On 28th Feb (2014) Ramvilas Paswan of Loktantantrik Jan Party joined the NDA alliance. Same Paswan had left the NDA twelve years ago with the beginning of Gujarat carnage, saying that with the violence in Gujarat he cannot be part of NDA. This time his son formulated the face saver when he said that Modi has received clean chit in the Gujarat carnage. Few days ago another dalit leader Udit Raj directly joined BJP, with the assurance of being given a ticket for forthcoming elections. In Maharashtra, Ramdas Athwaley of Republican Party of India had become part of NDA, and succeeded in being nominated for Rajya Sabha, Upper house of Parliament. There are many others dalits in the fold of BJP directly or in alliance with BJP to be in NDA, for pre poll alliance. Most of these leaders claim to be working on the path shown by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Ambedkar was committed to annihilation of caste and was totally opposed to the concept of Hindu nationalism, as propounded by RSS-BJP.

During freedom struggle when three types of nationalisms were in vogue, Indian Nationalism, Muslim Nationalism and Hindu nationalism, majority of the people of India supported and followed the path of Indian nationalism. Majority Hindus were for Indian nationalism, majority of Muslims were also for Indian nationalism. It was the elite, the landlord, Kings who began communal streams and were later joined in by a section of affluent upper castes of those religions. The British manipulation kept fuelling the fire of religious nationalism. Muslim nationalism turned in separatist direction and their demand for Pakistan came to the forefront. Hindu nationalists accepted the religion based nationalism but denied the demand of Pakistan on the ground that this had been a Hindu nation from times immemorial. This whole formulation of Hindu nation from ancient times is an invalid concept, as the very concept of nation, Nation state is a modern concepts. So in the revised edition of his book, ‘Partition of India’, Dr. Ambedkar opposed the formation of Pakistan on the following ground that formation of Pakistan may pave the way for Hindu Raj and “If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.” (Pakistan or Partition of India, Page 358). Here what Ambedkar is referring to Hinduism is Brahmanical Hinduism, the ideological ground of Hindutva, the agenda of RSS combine.

Ambedkar did lay the foundations of dalit movement, and went on to form Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) in due course; before conceptualizing the Republican Party of India. This SCF in 1951, on the eve of First General elections in 1952; which was to begin the process of adult suffrage, forged an alliance with Praja Socialist Party (PSP) led by Jaya Prakash Narayan. The manifesto of SCF ruled out “alliance with any reactionary party such as Hindu Mahasabha and Jan Sangh (Previous avatar of BJP) (quoted from Gopal Guru EPW Feb 16, 1991, citing Ambedkar Letters to Gaikwad, page 280-296). He was the one who could see the long term agenda of Jan Sangh-Hindu Mahasabha of Hindu Rashtra, the concept totally opposed to secular democratic India. His basic motto was ‘educate, organize and struggle’, for caste annihilation and for the values of substantive Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. He was aware that this process; educate and organize to struggle; is possible only in a democratic set up, so alliance with Hindutva political outfits was ruled out of hand.

Today what is happening? From last several years a new dalit leadership has emerged, which on one hand represents a faction of this group and on the other has also personal-family electoral ambitions. So in short term they, for their personal benefits have been sitting in the laps of communal parties. Namdeo Dhasal, the great poet went with Shiv Sena, which had created hell with the publication of Amdekar’s ‘Riddles of Hinduism’. Ramdas Athwaley is again with the communal forces who have given him the Rajya Sabha seat. Udit Raj has also embraced the party of Hindu raj and Ramvilas Paswan, guided more by personal political ambitions, rather than the long term benefit of the downtrodden, has shamelessly allied with BJP. In the short term these dalit politicians may benefit but at the same time they will strengthen the politics of Hindutva-Hindu raj, the system of inherent hierarchy of caste and gender.

A single example will tell us about the approach of BJP towards the dalit question. Recently a book penned by BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been withdrawn, Karma Yoga. Modi in his book wrote “I do not believe that they (Valmiki’s) have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation…At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible to believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.” (

On the same issue of scavenging, Dr. Ambedkar makes scathing critique of the social order where a section of people have to do such demeaning and humiliating jobs. While claims are made about the development and ‘concern for all communities’ the conditions of dalits in Gujarat are abysmal, temple entry is opposed at places, there is low rate of conviction for anti dalit atrocities, there is prevalence of manual scavenging still prevalent and this receives glorification from Modi. There is denial of access for water to the main sump at places. Cases of intimidation of dalits wanting to convert to Buddhism have been reported from Gujarat. These are few of the phenomenon prevalent in the Laboratory of Hindu rashtra, Gujarat. What should one say of leadership of dalits who compromise the values of Dr. Ambedkar, the values of long term goals of social justice and annihilation of caste for their short term greed for electoral power for their own self? There is a need for introspection by these leaders and their followers about the opportunism and lack of principles of such people in the positions of leadership of the communities.

Nguyen Bac Truyen after his aggression on 24 February 2014

Nguyen Bac Truyen

PARIS, 26 February 2014 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is deeply shocked by reports that dissident Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife Bui Thi Kim Phuong were brutally beaten by Police as they made their way to the Australian Embassy in Hanoi on Monday 24 February. They were invited by the Embassy to report on prior Police violence during a raid at their home in Dong Thap Province earlier in the month.

According to reports, Truyen, a lawyer and former political prisoner was in a taxi with his wife around 2.30 pm when plain clothed security agents suddenly intercepted the vehicle at the intersection of Tuan Dao and Lieu Giaistreets. They dragged them both out of the car and brutally beat them. They also beat the taxi driver. Truyen was beaten in the face and knocked to the ground. His wife was also punched in the face. The security agents continued the beatings until a crowd gathered. They then walked away, leaving the couple covered with blood. Truyen and his wife continued on to the Australian Embassy, and were taken by staff for treatment at a nearby hospital.

Nguyen Bac Truyen, aged 47, has been repeatedly detained and harassed because of his advocacy for human rights, in particular the rights and treatment of political and religious prisoners. In 2006, he was sentenced to 3 1/3 years in prison on charges of “circulating anti-Socialist propaganda”. Most recently, on 9, February 2014, when he went to the southern province of Dong Thap to prepare for his marriage with Hoa Hao Buddhist follower Bui Thi Kim Phuong, Police conducted a violent raid on their home, breaking furniture and ransacking the Hoa Hao altar. Truyen was arrested and interrogated, then forced to return to his mothers’ home in Saigon. In September 2013, Nguyen Bac Truyen sent audio testimony to a Briefing organised by the International Federation on Human Rights (FIDH) and the VCHR at the UN Human Rights Council describing Police harassments against bloggers and dissidents in Vietnam.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, deplored this act of aggression: “Just this month, at its UPR in Geneva, Vietnam told the UN Human Rights Council that: “It is always the consistent policy of Vietnam to respect and promote all fundamental human rights in all political, civil, economic, cultural and social domains””. “The brutal aggression of Nguyen Bac Truyen reveals the horrendous gulf between rhetoric and reality in Vietnam”. He called on Vietnam to “cease police violence against Nguyen Bac Truyen and all other citizens who have done nothing other than exercise the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution and in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded in 1982”.

Security Police in Hue harass and detain Buddhist Youth Leader Le Cong Cau

Buddhist youth leader Lê Công Cầu

PARIS, 20.02.2014 (IBIB) – The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) is informed that Security Police in Hue have again harassed and detained Buddhist youth leader Lê Công Cầu for interrogations and placed him under house arrest without any due process of law. He cannot leave his home without authorization except to buy food or medicine, and risks prosecution if he breaks this order.

Lê Công Cầu, who is head of the Buddhist Youth Movement, an educational organization affiliated to the non-recognized Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), was intercepted on Tuesday by Security Police at Van Xa, 15 kilometres from Hue, as he was going to the UBCV’s Secretariat at Long Quang Pagoda. Police forced him to follow them to the Truong An district Police station where he was held for questioning throughout the day. They produced no warrant nor gave any justification for his detention.

At the end of the day, Police informed him that he was under house arrest. When he asked for a written indictment, they refused. They said that his previous house arrest – begun on 1st January 2014 – was still in force, and that Police had simply allowed him a few days of respite during the Tet (Lunar New Year). From now on, he is forbidden from travelling, and may only go outside his home to buy food and basic necessities. In particular, he is forbidden to visit the UBCV Secretariat at Long Quang Pagoda and meet with members of the UBCV.

Lê Công Cầu was previously arrested on 1st January 2014 as he was boarding a plane for Saigon under suspicion of carrying “terrorist materials” . Although the charges were cleared, Police confiscated his laptop, flash drives and mobile phone and placed him under house arrest by verbal order, with no written justification. He wrote letters of protest to the Police on 20 and 25 January 2014 demanding the right to a due process of law, or to be immediately released. Police did not accept the second letter, but told its bearer “Let him go where he wants”. Lê Công Cầu therefore assumed that he was free, and on 16 February he went to Saigon to visit the UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do.

Lê Công Cầu, who is also Secretary-general of the UBCV’s Executive Institute, Viện Hóa Đạo, said that Police interrogations focused on his recent meeting with UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do and the UBCV’s plans for the coming year. “My detention is part of the authorities’ plan to incapacitate the UBCV. Their aim is to isolate me from the UBCV leadership and prevent us from organizing any activities”, he wrote.

On 4 February 2014, in an audio released at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva before Vietnam's examination under the Universal Periodic Review, Lê Công Cầu said Vietnam had launched a crack-down on the BYM last year after the movement introduced human rights education into its curriculum: “We believe that young people should learn about human rights if they are to become good citizens of Vietnam. The right to education is enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Vietnam is a state party. By repressing my members and prohibiting our activities, Vietnam is violating its binding commitments to its citizens and to the international community”.

In his message to the UN, Lê Công Cầu said he was launching a “cry of alarm” and risked imminent arrest. “I do not fear imprisonment. I take full responsibility for my legitimate and peaceful acts, and I am ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be. But I am appalled that Vietnam can treat its citizens so unfairly, and I refuse to remain silent in face of such injustice”. He says that at least 100 members of the BYM have been placed under house arrest in the recent crack-down.

The International Buddhist Information Bureau strongly denounces the arbitrary house arrest of Lê Công Cầu. Vietnam is a state party to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees the inviolability of the individual and stipulates that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention".

Vietnam must commit to measurable human rights progress at upcoming Universal Periodic Review

The Buddhist Youth

GENEVA, 3 February (Vietnam Committee) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights urges U.N. member states to press Vietnam to commit to concrete, measurable improvements when it examines the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam at the Human Rights Council on 5 February 2014. The UPR is a four-yearly human rights review which all UN member states undergo. It is based on information from three reports – Vietnam’s country report, a compilation of information from UN treaty bodies and Special Rapporteurs, and a “stakeholders’ report” of concerns raised by NGOs and civil society, and consists of an interactive discussion in which UN members may pose questions and make specific recommendations to advance human rights in Vietnam.

“The UPR process presents a rare opportunity to engage Vietnam in a constructive critical dialogue on its human rights record”, said Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR). “However, we are concerned that Vietnam is using it as a stage to play out a cynical scenario before the international community and mask its gross abuses of human rights”. Indeed, Vietnam made firm promises to improve human rights at its last UPR in 2009, accepting 93 recommendations by UN member states. In reality, however, it not only failed to uphold its pledges but, on the contrary, launched one of the most intensive crackdowns on freedom of expression, religion and assembly in recent years. In a Joint Submission to the UN Human Rights Council submitted with the FIDH (International Federation on Human Rights), the VCHR cited cases of 160 persons condemned to a total of 1,052 years in prison between May 2009 and June 2013 alone under vaguely-worded “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code.

These provisions seriously violate international human rights standards because they make no distinction between violent crimes and acts of peaceful expression. “In Vietnam today, planting a bomb or sending an E-mail abroad carries the same punishment”, deplored Vo Van Ai. “UN members should make it clear that such a situation will not be tolerated, especially for a member of the Human Rights Council such as Vietnam”. During the same period, peaceful activists and human rights defenders were subjected to unprecedented Police brutality, including beatings, sexual assaults, harassments, arbitrary arrest and “administrative detention” in labour camps and psychiatric institutions. Vietnam also introduced new legal measures to restrict the exercise of human rights, such as Decree 72 on the Internet, and Decree 92 on religion. In recent months, Vietnam has also launched a fierce crack-down on the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

To prevent the UBCV from holding a gathering at Long Quang Pagoda in Hue on 10 January 2014, Police intercepted and harassed UBCV monks, nuns and followers all over the country, and tightened controls on UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do. Today, over 100 members of the Buddhist Youth Movement remain under house arrest without charge, including their leader Le Cong Cau. In the Joint Submission, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and the FIDH also gave detailed cases of arbitrary detention, religious persecution, crack-downs on bloggers, netizens and human rights defenders, censorship of the press and Internet, abuses of worker rights, inhumane detention conditions, state confiscation of lands and the widespread use of the death penalty.

It also raised grave concerns on women’s rights, such as sex-trafficking, denial of land rights and coercive birth control policies. The VCHR and the FIDH call on UN member states to raise these urgent concerns at the UPR Review on Wednesday and recommend specific reforms for human rights protection in Vietnam, such as: - Repeal national security provisions in the Penal Code and bring domestic legislation into line with international human rights law; release all prisoners of conscience detained under national security provisions in violation of the ICCPR; - Abrogate Ordinance 44 on Administrative Detention which legalizes detention without trial under house arrest, in rehabilitation camps or in psychiatric institutions; - Re-establish the legitimate status of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and all other non-recognized religious organizations; release UBVC leader Thich Quang Do; - Cease harassments, Police brutality and surveillance of human rights defenders, bloggers and peaceful activists who take part in demonstrations or otherwise seek to exercise their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly; - Cease censorship of the press, Internet and Blogs; authorize the publication of independent newspapers; release all journalists detained unjustly for legitimate professional activities; - Repeal Article 4 of the Constitution on the mastery of the Communist Party and allow the establishment of independent political parties, as well as free trade unions and independent civil society; - Improve women’s rights by enforcing anti-trafficking legislation, ceasing coercive birth control, and implementing provisions in the Land Law that ensure women’s right to land; - Cooperate with international human rights mechanisms by extending a standing invitation to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, Freedom of Expression and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and fix a date for the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

In preparation for the UPR on Vietnam, the FIDH and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, co-sponsored by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are organizing an Information Meeting entitled “Banned Civil Society Voices”. Speakers include Mr. Vo Van Ai and Thich Giac Dang, with exclusive audio testimonies from UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do and Buddhist Youth leader Le Cong Cau, both of whom are currently under house arrest. The meeting is in Room XXIV, Palais des Nations from 1.00pm until 2.30pm on Tuesday 4 February 2014.

“Banned Civil Society Voices” at the United Nations on the eve of Vietnam’s UPR

Penelope Faulkner (VCHR), Vo Van Ai (VCHR), Nicolas Agostini (FIDH), Thich Giac Dang (UBCV)

GENEVA, 5 February 2014 (Vietnam Committee) – Civil society representatives, international human rights organizations and members of government delegations from the USA, Canada, the European Union, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Finland met at a Conference on “Banned Civil Society Voices” at the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday 4 February 2014.

Organized by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), with the support of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the event provided information and recommendations for government delegations before they examine Vietnam’ human rights record at its second Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council today.

Alongside panelists Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and Thich Giac Dang, President of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in the USA, the VCHR presented exclusive audio testimonies from two prominent dissidents under house arrest in Vietnam, the UBVC leader Thich Quang Do and Buddhist youth leader Le Cong Cau.

In his testimony, sent clandestinely from the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery where he is under de facto house arrest, Thich Quang Do addressed the governnment delegates: “Tomorrow, Vietnam will be examined at the Human Rights Council for its second Universal Periodic Review. You will hear the Vietnamese government’s report on human rights. But you will not hear the voices of the victims. I am speaking here for those whose voices are stifled in Vietnam simply because of their dissenting opinions or beliefs”. “My own case is a typical example. I have spent the past three decades under different forms of detention – ten years in internal exile, seven years in prison and the rest under house arrest without charge. What is my “crime”? That of calling on Vietnam to respect its people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, religion and belief”.

The UBCV leader, who is a nominee for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, added: “To be deprived of one’s freedom is intolerable under any circumstances. To be under house arrest without charge, isolated and never knowing when you will be released, is a most cruel form of torture, both mental and physical. In Vietnam today, hundreds of dissidents and human rights defenders are subjected to the torture of house arrest without any due process of law. Last year, Vietnam signed the UN Convention Against Torture. We hoped this was a step forward. But in reality, nothing has changed”.

He called on governments at tomorrow’s UPR to “speak out for those whose voices are stifled in Vietnam. I urge you to press for concrete improvements, such as the recognition of the legal status of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and all other non-recognized religions, the release of religious and political prisoners, and the abolition - once and for all - of the practice of arbitrary house arrest without charge”. Leader the Buddhist Youth Movement (BYM) Le Cong Cau sent an audio testimony from Hue, where he haas been under house arrest without charge since 1st January 2014. Noting that the BYM is an educational movement founded in the 1940s, and has a membership of 300,000 in Vietnam today, Le Cong Cau described the ongoing crack-dowwn on his movement:

“Recently, [the BYM] began to include human rights education as part of our activities. At a summer camp in central Vietnam this year, we held a seminar on Internet freedom to discuss the role of new technologies in expanding our knowledge. Vietnam is a signatory to United Nations instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and human rights are enshrined in our Constitution. We believe that young people should learn about human rights if they are to become good citizens of Vietnam”. “Because of this, the authorities have begun to crack-down on our movement. As I speak to you today, one hundred members of the BYM in Hue are under house arrest without any justification or charge, simply for exercising their legitimate right to association and peaceful assembly”. “I am launching this message at the United Nations today as a cry of alarm. This may be my last opportunity to speak out, as I am told that I may be arrested in the coming days. I do not fear imprisonment. I take full responsibility for my legitimate and peaceful acts, and I am ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be. But I am appalled that Vietnam can treat its citizens so unfairly, and I refuse to remain silent in face of such injustice”.

“My movement is committed to education, for we believe that knowledge and understanding form the very basis of progressive and dynamic society. The right to education is enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Vietnam is a state party. By repressing my members and prohibiting our activities, Vietnam is violating its binding commitments to its citizens and to the international community”. Le Cong Cau called on government delegations at Vietnam’s UPR to raise the plight of human rights defenders in Vietnam, in particular by calling for the repeal of vaguely-worded “national security” provisions in the Criminal Code that criminalize the right to free expression, and bring Vietnan’s domestic laws into line witth the international treaties it has ratified, in accordance with the Law on the Ratification and Implementation of International Treaties adopted by Vietnam’s National Assembly in 2005. “Human rights must be protected by the rule of law, otherwise, they are meaningless. Vietnamese human rights defenders should be entitled to pursue their activities freely, and not be forced to live in silence and slavery by the one-Party State”.

VCHR President Vo Van Ai deplored the lack of progress in Vietnam since its last UPR in 2009, despite its promises to implement 93 recommendations made by UN member states. In fact, he said, “Vietnam’s human rights performance over the past four years has been catastrophic for human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists”. The VCHR has documented cases of 160 peaceful activists sentenced under “national security” charges between May 2009 and June 2013 to a total of 1,502 years in prison, and many others have been arrested since then. He described Vietnam’s crack-down on freedom of expression, which includes Police brutality, arbitrary arrests and the adoption of new restictive laws on the Internet and press. Citing cases of blogger Dieu Cay, sentenced to 12 years for “anti-socialist propaganda”, singers Viet Khang and Tran Vu An Binh to four and six years for writing protest songs, journalist Hoang Khuong to four years prison for denouncing corruption, Vo Van Ai said: “Those who speak freely, via the Internet or traditional media, risk harassments, arrest, long prison sentences, beatings and even sexual harassments. The message is clear - keep silent, or face repression.

”Whereas Vietnam has promised at its last UPR in 2009 to improve legal protection for freedom of expression, Vo Van Ai stated that the authorities had done just the opposite: “All legislation adopted since 2009 has undermined the right to free expression and given the State greater powers to censor and control information and arbitrarily detain its critics. In a nutshell, Vietnam can censor anything and everything in total impunity”. Thich Giac Dang noted the current severe repression against the banned UBCV: “UBCV members suffer harassments and repression in every aspect of their daily lives – house arrest, police surveillance, denial of communications and the right to travel. Police threaten Buddhist followers that they will lose their jobs or their children be expelled from school if they continue to follow the “reactionary” UBCV”.

However, Thich Giac Dang stresed that he has not come to speak only about religious freedom, but about human rights defenders. “As a Buddhist monk, I believe in the practice of compassion. Under an authoritarian regime like Vietnam, where people suffer from denial of their basic rights, the only way to practice compassion is to become a human rights defender and engage in the struggle to protect and promote human rights for all”. “Human rights defenders in Vietnam pay a very high price for their ideals. They risk harassment, beatings, police surveillance. Many have been sentenced at unfair trials and are now serving long sentences in held in prisons and labor camps under the most cruel of circumstances. It is about them, the prisoners of Vietnam, and about the harsh conditions that they endure, that I wish to speak to you today, and hope you will raise their plight whilst examining Vietnam at its second Universal Periodic Review tomorrow”.

Thich Giac Dang described the harsh conditions in the camps, andd discrimination against political prisoners, which led to a recent hunger strike by prisoners in Section 2 of Z30A Camp in Xuan Loc, Dong Nai to protest inhumane detention conditions, and other riots in A 20 prison camp in Phu Yen. He raised the plight of long term prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau, Hoa Hao Buddhists Mai Thi Dung and Do Thi Minh Hanh, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and blogger Dieu Cay, who are all subjected to extremely harsh treatment and frequently denied medical caree. He urged government delegations to press Vietnam to urgently improve detention conditions at the UPR session today.

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