Japan 'should protect' Burmese Rohingya

Oct 29, 2009 (DVB), The Japanese government's lack of protection for Burmese Rohingya seeking asylum in Japan is sending the wrong message to the Burmese regime, human rights organisations have warned Tokyo.

The new Japanese administration "should urgently review its policies to protect the Rohingya both in Japan and in Burma", said Kanae Doi, Tokyo director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the signatories of the letter.

The letter, signed by eight organizations, was sent to the Democratic Party of Japan's justice minister, Keiko Chiba, and foreign minister, Katsuya Okada.

The ripple of enthusiasm among Burmese pro-democracy campaigners that accompanied the party's inauguration in September appears to have dissipated somewhat, with many complaining of inaction on pressing the Burmese junta.

A letter sent by Human Rights Watch to the new government shortly after its inauguration urged the government to "make human rights a central pillar of Japanese foreign policy, and Burma is a good place to start."

Today however, the organization complained that many Rohingya seeking asylum in Japan "have been denied refugee status, detained, and issued deportation orders".

"Abuses against the Rohingya include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, religious persecution, and restrictions on movement, all exacerbated by a draconian citizenship law that leaves the Rohingya stateless," HRW said.

"Japan has long been reluctant to exert pressure on Burma’s senior leadership on human rights issues," it added.

The Muslim Rohingya are among the most persecuted groups in Burma, with the government refusing to grant them legal status in the country.

Around 1.5 million are estimated to be living in diaspora outside of Burma, with Bangladesh routinely on the opposite side of a dispute over which country they belong in.

Human Rights Watch in May criticized the international community for failing to pay adequate attention to their suffering.

"The Rohingyas have faced persecution in Burma and mistreatment in the countries where they seek refuge," Doi said. "The Japanese government should ensure their protection in Japan."

Reporting by Francis Wade

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