Emily Adair
The La Grande Observer

More resources needed; US dollar goes a long way

Parhez Sattar, who recently helped organize a fundraiser in La Grande to benefit Rohingya refugees, said there is more work to be done.

“That camp is in a deep forest,” he said. “There’s no infrastructure, just tents and bamboo huts. There are no sanitary facilities.”

He said establishing the much-needed infrastructure would normally take at least $15,000 to establish, but labor in Bangladesh is cheap. This kind of work only costs $450.

The $3,000 raised by the La Grande Community went a long way, Sattar said.

Reza Uddin, founder of Friends of Rohingya USA, said $60 could feed a family of six people for a month.

“I think it’s important to show how much people can benefit with a little donation,” Uddin said.

Sattar agreed, saying people shouldn’t be worried that they won’t be able to make a difference.

“People ask, ‘Can we really do something from remote La Grande? We’re half the world away. We don’t have much money. Can we make a difference?’ We have proven that we can,” Sattar said.

Sattar said he hopes he and Uddin can make a push for more donations in the future to establish other wells from La Grande. He said he’d like to challenge people to donate $450 to fund another well and shower. The name of the individual or group that donates will appear on a sign at the camp.

For those who want to help but cannot donate much, Uddin encourages people to visit www.friendsofrohingya.org/donate.

— Emily Adair, The Observer

One of two journalists formally charged in Myanmar Wednesday said the charges are to “stop us (from) finding the truth” about what is happening in the southeast Asian country.

Wa Lone made the remarks after he and Kyaw Soe Oo were formally indicted for obtaining “important secret papers” from former Rakhine State police officers, according to a Jan. 10 story from the Associated Press. The Reuters journalists face up to 14 years in prison if they are convicted, the AP story reported.

The indictment is the latest story to come out of Myanmar (formerly Burma) since the government cracked down even further on Rohingya Muslims in August, but the persecution dates back several decades.

A brief look at history

Many Rohingya Muslims came to live and work in British-controlled Burma as cheap labor in the 17th century, according to a September 2017 article published by The Conversation. After Burma achieved independence from the British in 1948, violent conflicts broke out among many groups.

Rohingya sought an autonomous state they were promised by the British, but the newly independent government denied the request along with Rohingya citizenship, The Conversation reported.

Tensions between the ruling government and the stateless Rohingya continued to climb for several decades. Reza Uddin, a former Eastern Oregon University student who is Rohingya and was raised in Burma, said he recognized some restrictions as a child.

“We saw discrimination since we were young,” Uddin said. “You’d mostly see it in the big cities or if you wanted to go to the airport and you needed a special form for permission.”

Uddin said as he grew up, he became more aware of the discrimination.

“In middle school and high school, they would not recruit Rohingya teachers,” he said. “There were only Buddhist teachers.”

Burma changed its name to Myanmar in 1989. The army, The Conversation reported, saw the Rohingya minority as a threat to the nationalists and “killed, tortured and raped” them.

“Eventually, Rohingya were growing up without having ever gone to school,” Uddin said, noting that without citizenship, education was not permitted.

“Rohingya are not allowed to be married or to move freely,” Uddin said, nor can they worship freely or seek health care or employment opportunities.

Uddin left Myanmar in 1992, about the same time more than 250,000 Rohingya attempted to flee the violence.

See complete story in Friday's Observer