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Published on October 30th, 2009 | by Impunity Watch Archive

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Japan Urged to Protect Burmese Rohingya

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan –Japanese and international organizations sent a joint letter to Japan’s new justice and foreign ministers asking that the country’s new administration pressure Burma to end human rights abuses against minority groups.

The letter urged Japan to “urgently review its policies to protect the Rohingya both in Japan and Burma,” and to grant residential permits to Rohingyas in Japan.  In addition, Japanese government was asked to rescind their deportation order against Burmese asylum seekers.

The Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minority groups in Burma, and the Burmese government refuses to grant Rohingyas legal status in Burma, which leaves this minority group stateless.

Human Rights Watch reported that human rights violations against the Rohingyas include extrajudicial killings, religious persecution, forced labor, and restrictions on movement.

Kanae Doi, Tokyo director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Tokyo’s silence sends a message to Burma’s generals that their horrendous persecution of the Rohingya can continue…The Rohingyas have faced persecution…and mistreatment in the countries where they seek refuge.  The Japanese government should ensure their protection….”

In the past ten years, 110 Rohingya refugees have entered Japan and have petitioned the Japanese government for asylum.  However, although reports of forced repatriation do not exist, Rohingyas in Japan have been denied refugee status or have received deportation notices.

Japan has traditionally been reluctant to pressure Burma regarding human rights issues.  However, the signatories of the letter asked that Japan’s new government “make human rights a central pillar of Japanese foreign policy” by pressuring Burma to stop the human rights abuses and to grant Rohingyas full citizenship rights. 

Rohingya-refugees-In-Bangla Rohingya mother and child at a refugee camp by the Burma/Bangladesh border.  Courtesy of BBC.

Human Rights Watch also released a photo essay and report on the Rohingyas.  The report points to insufficient international attention to this issue and documents the exodus of Rohingyas from Burma to Bangladesh, in addition to focusing on the 20-year long persecution of Rohingyas inside Burma, especially in the Arakan state.

The drafters of the letter also held a public event in Tokyo concerning the treatment of Rohingya refugees in Japan.

For more information, please see:

Asian Tribune – The Rohingya Refugees: Victims of Exploitation – 5 October 2009

Democratic Voice of Burma – Japan ‘should protect’ Burmese Rohingya – 29 October 2009

Human Rights Watch – Japan: Protect Burmese Rohingya Seeking Asylum – 29 October 2009

Human Rights Watch – Joint letter to Japanese Justice Minister and Foreign Minister on Rohingya – 29 October 2009

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