BBC News – Rohingya crisis: Are Suu Kyi’s Rohingya claims correct?

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been speaking about the violence and refugee crisis in Rakhine State.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, who has been covering the story of the Rohingya people from both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, assesses her claims.

Rangoon, 19 September 2017. Aung San Suu Kyi: “There have been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations.”

On 7 September, I was on a government-organised media trip in the town of Alel Than Kyaw, where we heard automatic weapons fire in the distance and saw four large columns of smoke, indicating villages being burned.

Later that same day, we came across the Rohingya village of Gaw Du Thar Ya being set alight by Rakhine Buddhist men, in front of armed policemen and close to a police barracks.

Now, from Bangladesh, we have seen columns of smoke on the other side of the Naf River large enough to suggest villages being burned.

Aung SanSuu Kyi may not term these “clearance” operations, but given the heavy military and police presence in these areas, close to the riverbank, it is difficult to believe they do not have at least tacit approval from the authorities there.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “Action will be taken against all people’s regardless of their religion, race or political position who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community.”

In more than 70 years of recorded abuses by the Burmese armed forces, there are almost no records of military officers being disciplined in Rakhine State or in the many other areas where armed conflicts continue inside the country.

It is hard to see that happening now, with the military insisting all of the more than 400,000 Rohingyas who have fled did so because of their involvement in the attacks by the militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

One colonel in Maungdaw told me the many allegations of rape made by Rohingya refugees could not be true because his men were too busy fighting to rape and would find the Rohingya women too unattractive.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and health care services without discrimination.”

This is patently untrue. Rohingyas have been subjected to discriminatory restrictions for many years barring them from moving, even getting married, without official permission, which often involves paying bribes.

Since the 2012 communal violence, Rohingyas have had even tighter restrictions imposed on them.

Many in the displacement camps within Myanmar are confined to those areas unless they have special permission to leave, which is hard to get.

I know students inside the camps whose education has been halted for the past five years.

Four years ago, I visited the Rohingya village of Ah Nauk Pyin, south of Rathedaung, where the inhabitants were unable to leave even for medical treatment because of the hostility of the surrounding Rakhine Buddhist communities.

On Monday, in Bangladesh, I met Abdulmajid, from Gaw Du Thar Ya – the village I saw being burnt.

He told me for “the last five years, we couldn’t go outside our village for work”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41312931

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The Times of India – Convince Myanmar to end violence against Rohingyas, Bangla Desh urges India

Indrani Bagchi

New Delhi, 12 September 2017. “India has good relations with Myanmar, we are both members of BIMSTEC. India must emphasize to Myanmar that conditions must be created so that these refugees can return to their country.

India can call for the immediate implementation of the Kofi Annan report,” said Syed Muazzem Ali, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India as Bangladesh grapples with a huge influx of refugees, which now total 6,70,000, in the midst of one of the worst floods in recent years.

The Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali proposed a plan of action to tackle the crisis. This includes asking Myanmar to stop the violence in Rakhine province, create safe zones to protect civilians “irrespective of ethnicity and religion”.

“Myanmar must engage with Bangladesh to ensure repatriation of all of its nationals living in Bangladesh through international joint verification as also proposed by the Kofi Annan Commission,” the Bangla envoy said.

Muazzem Ali conveyed Bangladesh’s concerns regarding what they saw as India’s unhelpful stand on the issue during PM’s visit to Myanmar. “I explained to the foreign secretary that we have no hesitation in decrying the terrorist attack that was launched against the security forces of Mynamar.

We condemned in the strongest possible terms. My prime minister has emphasized that Bangladesh would show zero tolerance to any acts of terrorism and Bangladesh could not be allowed to be used by anyone for any terrorist acts.”

Bangladesh’s response coincides with the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, roundly criticizing Myanmar, calling the ongoing violence “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” saying “another brutal security operation is underway in Rakhine state this time, apparently on a far greater scale.”

Unconfirmed reports also said the biggest militant group, ARSA, has announced a month-long ceasefire for aid agencies to access people in Rakhine.

He said “Bangladesh had offered to Myanmar if necessary joint patrols on our border. But we did not get any response from Myanmar.” In the weeks before the August 25 terror attack, “security agencies of both India and Bangladesh had alerted Myanmar about an impending attack, because we saw some activities in this area, and intercepted some telephone calls.”

India had stood by Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar leadership criticizing the August 25 violence as a terrorist attack, at a time when Suu Kyi has come under widespread international condemnation, including calls to rescind her Nobel peace prize.

But this stand played very badly in Bangladesh, India’s other strategic ally, which has borne the brunt of the Rohingya exodus. India changed its stance on Saturday evening acknowledging Bangladesh’s position on the issue.

“I believe we have seen in the past that the security concerns of this issue must be given due consideration,” Muazzem Ali said. Myanmar, “must distinguish between terrorist suspects and civilian population.

It has led to a mass exodus, 270,000 have taken shelter with us, and I am sure they will go to various other countries as well. I am given to understand by very high officials here that a very large number of them have also entered your country.”

The issue of Rohingya refugees is a problem in BJP-ruled India, but it comes directly in conflict with India’s position as a leading power in the region. India has found some 40,000 Rohingyas who have settled in different parts of India, but worryingly for the government, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Some ministers have spoken of deporting them, but Myanmar does not want them, neither does anyone else. Indian officials say the security implications of this influx cannot be overstated given reports that Rohingyas have been infiltrated and radicalized by terror groups in Pakistan.

The Bangladesh foreign minister also put out a set of proposals for the international community. “The root of the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar. Therefore the ultimate solution has to be found in Myanmar,” Ali said.

“The international community must pressure Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Commission and help Bangladesh with urgent humanitarian assistance to address the current crisis as well as for temporary relocation of Rohingyas that entered Bangladesh to Bhashan Char.”

The resolution of the Rohingya crisis, Ali said, had to be political. “Otherwise, wittingly or unwittingly we get involved in a security problem, where certain parties, which are interested in destabilizing the region, will set foot in our neighbourhood.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-must-work-to-change-myanmars-approach-to-rohingya-problem-bangladesh/articleshow/60471145.cms

The Hindustan Times – Rohingyas must be deported: RSS ideologue Govindacharya to SC

The Supreme Court will on September 11 hear a plea seeking a direction to the central government not to deport about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar

New Delhi, 8 September 2017. Former BJP leader and RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya on Friday filed a petition in the Supreme Court urging deportation of Rohingya Muslim refugees as allowing them to stay in the country may lead to another partition.

In an impleadment application filed in the apex court, he said the “population explosion” is taking a heavy toll on the already strained resources of the country.

“People are dying in Delhi under heaps of garbage and Rohingyas’ demand to the government to provide them with basic amenities violate the fundamental rights of Indians,” he said in the petition.

The Supreme Court will on September 11 hear a plea seeking a direction to the central government not to deport about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar.

Govindacharya said that if the Rohingyas’ plea is entertained then it may lead to another partition of the country.

“It has also become known that Al-Qaeda is trying to use the Rohingya community for terror and Jihad and if the Rohingyas’ plea is entertained then it may lead to another partition of the country.

The Union Home Ministry has also issued an advisory to all states asking them to identify and deport all illegally staying immigrants as they pose a threat to national security,” he said.

The petition said that the decision by the government to deport Rohingyas was not taken in haste. Its decision to consult the National Security Advisor, Intelligence Bureau Director, besides other top officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and other intelligence agencies shows that the “threat is credible”.

“Rohingyas have no constitutional right to stay in India and their deportation would be in consonance with the exercise of the sovereign power vested with the central government and their deportation does not violate international law,” it said.

Citing the Supreme Court’s earlier direction to the central government to put a check on cross-border influx of illegal immigrants, the applicant urged the apex court not to make an exception for the Rohingyas as the interest of the Indian citizens were paramount.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rohingyas-must-be-deported-rss-ideologue-govindacharya-to-sc/story-9Y4Y017nFJcrqu8Yv2NPFO.html

 

The Hindu – Bali action puts India on other side of the Rohingya debate

Other neighbours call for restraint on Rohingya issue

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi, 9 September 2017. India’s decision to reject a joint statement by the World Parliamentary Forum in Indonesia, that included references to human rights in Myanmar in its ‘Bali declaration’, was a major show of support for the Suu Kyi government just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended his bilateral visit there.

The move, however, has put India on the other side of the Rohingya refugee debate from Myanmar’s other neighbours and countries in the region.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were all among countries that joined the Bali declaration at Nusa Dua on Thursday, that India disassociated from, according to Indonesian officials.

In their explanation, the Indian delegation headed by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said the reference to Myanmar had been “proposed at the eleventh hour” and was unjustified as the Parliamentary forum was meant to focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not a particular country.

“At the drafting committee India raised its objections, especially after Turkey inserted clauses specific to one country (Myanmar), which Bangladesh supported. But the host country went ahead and adopted the declaration despite our objections,” an MEA official told The Hindu on the telephone from Indonesia.

In two separate paragraphs, the Bali Declaration that was eventually made by 49 countries, expressed concern about the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the UN says at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, and 2,70,000 have fled, mainly to Bangladesh, in the past two weeks.

The statement “called on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity,” as “there can be no sustainable development without peace”.

India’s statement followed PM Modi’s visit to Naypyitaw where he expressed his support for the NLD government’s crackdown on terror groups in the Rakhine.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bali-action-puts-india-on-other-side-of-the-rohingya-debate/article19646341.ece?homepage=true

The Statesman – Rohingyas are illegal migrants, they need to be deported: Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi, 5 September 2017. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday defended the government’s decision to deport Rohingyas, saying they were illegal migrants who did not have same rights as any ordinary Indian.

He said that international organisations and human rights bodies were unfairly accusing the government of being harsh towards the Rohingyas.

“Let me make it very clear. Rohingyas are illegal migrants and not Indian citizens… So they are not entitled to anything that any ordinary Indian citizen is entitled to,” Rijiju told a press conference.

He said his statement in the Parliament regarding deportation of Rohingyas was based “completely on a legal position”.

“They are illegal migrants and as per law, they stand to be deported. So we have instructed all state governments to constitute task force to identify Rohingyas and start the process of deporting them.

“It’s a completely legal process,” Rijiju said.

However, he added, India is a nation with democratic tradition.

“We are not going to throw them in the middle of the ocean or going to shoot them. Why are we being accused of being very inhuman,” he asked adding that international human rights organisations were unnecessarily targeting the central government.

“India has absorbed maximum number of refugees in the world. So no one should teach India the lesson on how to deal with refugees,” he said.

Rijiju had earlier told Parliament that the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas.

http://www.thestatesman.com/india/rohingyas-illegal-migrants-need-deported-kiren-rijiju-1502487936.html

The Hindu – Human Rights activists stage protest near consulate in Kolkata

Staff Reporter

Kolkata, 5 September 2017. Rights activists staged a protest near the Myanmar Consulate in south Kolkata on Monday against the alleged killing of Rohingyas.

They raised slogans against State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and burnt her effigy.

“The silence of Aung San Suu Kyi is condemnable and India’s plan to deport the Rohingyas who have taken shelter in the country is inhuman,” said Ranjit Sur, vice-president of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Arnab Saha, another activist, said: “Aung San Suu Kyi is tacitly supporting the perpetrators of the genocide of Rohingyas.”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 16,500 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are registered with it in India. A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court to stop their deportation.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rights-activists-stage-protest-near-consulate-in-kolkata/article19621442.ece

Dawn – Camps reach capacity as Rohingya Muslims pour into Bangladesh

Dhaka, 3 September 2017. Aid officials said relief camps were reaching full capacity as thousands of Rohingya refugees continued to pour into Bangladesh on Sunday fleeing violence in western Myanmar.

Some 73,000 people have crossed the border since violence erupted on August 25 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Vivian Tan.

The violence and the exodus began after Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts in what they said was an effort to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by security forces in the majority Buddhist country. In response, the military unleashed what it called “clearance operations” to root out the insurgents.

Another aid official said on Saturday that more than 50 refugees had arrived with bullet injuries and were moved to hospitals in Cox’s Bazar, on the border with Myanmar.

Refugees reaching the Bangladeshi fishing village of Shah Porir Dwip described bombs exploding near their homes and Rohingya being burned alive.

Both Myanmar’s security officials and Rohingya insurgents are accusing each other of atrocities. The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes.

Aid workers said that large numbers of refugees required immediate medical attention as they were suffering from respiratory diseases, infection and malnutrition. The existing medical facilities in the border area were insufficient to cope up with the influx and more aid and paramedics were needed, aid workers said.

“We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives,” said a man who only gave his first name, Karim. “The military and extremist Rakhine are burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire.”

He said on Saturday he paid 12,000 Bangladeshi taka, or about $150, for each of his family members to be smuggled on a wooden boat to Bangladesh after soldiers killed 110 Rohingya in their village of Kunnapara, near the coastal town of Maungdaw.

“The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops,” he said. “We have a baby who is 8 days only, and an old woman who is 105.”

Satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch shows hundreds of buildings had been destroyed in at least 17 sites across Rakhine state since August 25, including some 700 structures that appeared to have been burned down in just the village of Chein Khar Li, the rights watchdog said.

The government blames the insurgents for burning their own homes and killing Buddhists in Rakhine.

Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012, forcing more than 100,000 Rohingya into displacement camps, where many still live.

Bangladeshi police said Thursday that three boats carrying refugees had capsized in the Naf River, killing at least 26, including women and children.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1355575/camps-reach-capacity-as-rohingya-muslims-pour-into-bangladesh

The Hindu – Myanmar to bar UN human rights investigators from entering

Yangon-Myanmar-(Burma), 30 June 2017. Myanmar’s government said on Thursday it will instruct its embassies around the world to bar members of a UN-approved fact-finding mission from entering the country to investigate alleged human rights violations by security forces against the Muslim Rohingya minority and other groups.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Tin told parliament that the government will not cooperate with the mission, reiterating the position taken by the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, that its work would be counterproductive.

The UN Human Rights Council approved the mission by consensus in March in response to international pressure, and in May, it appointed three legal experts and human rights advocates to lead it.

Last October, the army launched counterinsurgency operations in Rohingya areas in the western state of Rakhine after the killing of nine border guards. UN human rights investigators and independent rights organizations charge that soldiers and police killed and raped civilians and burned down more than 1,000 homes during the operations.

The Rohingya face severe discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and were the targets of inter-communal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people predominantly Rohingya from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.

Myanmar officials insist their own efforts to deal with the problem are adequate. Mr Kyaw Tin said the government is complying with and implementing recommendations made by an advisory committee appointed by Ms Suu Kyi and led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Critics charge the government’s initiatives cannot come up with a fair solution because some of the people involved are biased.

The government’s position was applauded by Than Tun, a senior leader of the Rakhine Buddhist community, which has generally promoted confrontations with its Rohingya neighbors and sought to exclude third party observers and mediators.

“I think the government is doing what they should do,” he said. “We have disagreed since the beginning with the formation of Kofi Annan’s Rakhine Advisory Committee, because this is our country and we have the right to solve the problems under the sovereignty of our country and there shouldn’t be any outsiders’ interference in our issues.

That’s why we accept and support the Myanmar government’s decision on rejecting the fact-finding mission.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/myanmar-to-bar-un-human-rights-investigators-from-entering/article19188600.ece?homepage=true

BBC News – Myanmar says ‘no evidence’ of Rohingya genocide

Myamar, 4 January 2017. A commission set up by Myanmar’s government says it has so far found no evidence of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

In its interim report, the commission also said there was not enough evidence to support widespread rape allegations.

It did not mention claims that security forces had been killing people.

There have been repeated allegations of abuses of Rohingya people since a military counter-insurgency campaign was launched in Rakhine in October.

Some have even said the state’s actions amount to ethnic cleansing, and Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has faced international criticism.

The commission, set up by the Myanmar government and led by a former general, Myint Swe, is due to make its final conclusions before the end of January.

But, in its interim findings, it dismissed allegations of genocide on the basis that there are still Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine and that Islamic religious buildings have not been destroyed.

It said it had so far found “insufficient evidence” that anyone had been raped by security forces, despite widespread claims. Accusations of arson, arbitrary arrest and torture are still being investigated.

Strangely, the commission made no mention of the most serious claim – that Burmese security forces have been killing civilians as collective punishment for attacks by Rohingya militants, the BBC’s Myanmar correspondent Jonah Fisher reports.

Three months since this crisis began, little progress appears to have been made to solve it, he notes. The report says hundreds of Rohingya have been arrested but armed militants are still moving around easily and that looted weapons have yet to be recovered.

Earlier in the week, several police were detained after a video surfaced appearing to show officers beating Rohingya Muslims during a security operation in November.

The admission that security forces may have carried out abuses is an unusual development, as leaders have previously insisted they are following the rule of law.

Rakhine state is closed to journalists and investigators, making it difficult to independently verify any allegations.

Who are the Rohingya?

The estimated one million Muslim Rohingya are seen by many in mainly Buddhist Myanmar as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. They are denied citizenship by the government despite tracing their ancestry back generations.

Communal violence in Rakhine state in 2012 left scores dead and displaced more than 100,000 people, with many Rohingya still remaining in decrepit camps.

They face widespread discrimination and mistreatment.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Rohingya are estimated to live in Bangladesh, having fled Myanmar over decades.

Bangladesh says around 50,000 Rohingya have crossed its border over the past two months.

The situation has drawn global condemnation. Over a dozen Nobel laureates wrote to the UN Security Council demanding action to stop the “human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” in northern Rakhine.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38505228

The Hindu – In Cox’s Bazaar, Rohingyas huddle together in shacks in a harsh winter

Suvojit Bagchi

Kolkata, 1 January 2017. The Bangladesh district struggles to provide amenities to the refugees from Myanmar.

Describing the influx of refugees from Myanmar to southeast Bangladesh as a “forgotten crisis”, Sarat Dash, chief of mission of the International Organisation for Migration in Bangladesh, has said the crisis is worsening in the Rohingya refugee camps.

Mr. Dash, who visited the camps in Cox’s Bazaar district with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Bangladesh, said “34,000 refugees” had moved from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the recent spate of ethnic violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar.

While at least half-a-dozen international humanitarian agencies were working in the area, the situation was worsening with the advent of winter, Mr. Dash said.

Difficult times

“With severe crisis of shelter and food as the winter is approaching, there is a serious need of winter clothes; also an urgent need of medical assistance and psycho-social help,” Mr. Dash said. He said a “lot of the refugees are visibly depressed as they had traumatic experiences”.

Since the beginning of an anti-Rohingya cleansing drive in parts of Myanmar from the early 1990s, three lakh to five lakh refugees have settled in southeastern Bangladesh, according to the National Strategy on Myanmar Refugees report by the Bangladesh Government in 2013.

Besides the 32,000 officially registered refugees, there are nearly 50,000 in the makeshift settlements near the camps, says the Prime Minister’s National Strategy report.

The report also says that another three lakh to five lakh “undocumented Myanmar nationals” are living across Cox’s Bazaar. They are mainly settled in the upazilas (sub-districts) along the 62-km western bank of the Naaf river.

The Foreign Ministers and Mr. Dash visited these sub-districts and the IOM has concluded that 34,000 more refugees have arrived since early October.

Influx on

“The condition of the refugees already settled is not any good. But since they are staying over a period of time, they have managed to somewhat put together their lives.

But these new people came empty-handed and without resources and thus their living condition is worse than pavement dwellers in Kolkata. Unlike the pavement dwellers, they are living in forest land or uninhabited land,” Mr. Dash said.

As the Rohingya refugees, many of whom speak Bengali, are pouring in large numbers, on an average of 500 a day, the sub-districts are getting crowded by the hour, increasing pressure on hygiene, sanitation and security.

“But do we have an option other than to give them shelter in our tiny plastic thatched boxes,” asked Mahmudulla, a schoolteacher. Mr. Mahmudulla came to Cox’s Bazaar in the early 1990s and speaks urban Bengali.

He has documented the violence on the Rohingyas in Rakhine state on the other side of the Naaf river.

“The villages on the other side, at least 20, are decimated and we could only see the smoke, hear them screaming for help. It is gut-wrenching as I had experienced similar attacks a quarter century ago,” Mr. Mahmudulla told The Hindu on the phone from Cox’s Bazaar.

The photographs, mutilated bodies, charred corpses covered with banana leaves and burning villages, that Mr. Mahmudulla received on his mobile phone, describe the trauma that the Rohingyas are experiencing. Nearly 90 people are officially killed till last week.

While the killings are denied by the Myanmar government, Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh said they had now “stopped counting the bodies” of their family members.

Horrible stories

“Two of my family were killed and my daughter was raped in front of her mother,” said Arshad (name changed), a farmer from Khawar Bil village near Muang Daw town in Rakhine. Mr. Arshad checked in to his cousin’s house in the Nayapara refugee camp in Ukhia sub-district.

Mr. Dash said the refugees were staying with their distant relatives or acquaintances.

Fifteen to a room

“It is locally called “doubling” as the refugees are entering the semi-permanent shack of another refugee family, which perhaps arrived few years ago,” Mr. Dash said. The space shortage was acute. “Fifteen or 16 persons living in a tiny room which has only plastic on all sides.”

At night, the men take their turn to rest in the local mosque.

“The temperature is dropping and there is an immediate need to provide some basic comfort, especially to children,” Mr. Dash said. One in every three children was severely malnourished.

The IOM has set up medical camps, provided drinking water and set up toilets in the camps.

Yet Mr. Dash called it a crisis which has been “forgotten”.

He expects the situation to improve in the New Year.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/In-Cox%E2%80%99s-Bazaar-Rohingyas-huddle-together-in-shacks-in-a-harsh-winter/article16974395.ece