Saturday, 28 December 2013

POGROM AGAINST ROHINGYAS IN MYANMAR : A strong case for UN intervention

Source newagebd, 24 Dec
by Dr Habib Siddiqui

A fireman begins to clean up a burnt down market after riots broke out in Lashio in eastern Myanmar�s Shan state on May 30, 2013. � AFP photo/ Ye Aung ThuA fireman begins to clean up a burnt down market after riots broke out in Lashio in eastern Myanmar�s Shan state on May 30, 2013. � AFP photo/ Ye Aung Thu

THE Rohingya people, who mostly live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, are the most persecuted people in our time. The Rohingyas are denied every right in this Buddhist-majority country simply because of their Muslim faith and ethnicity which is at variance with the dominant race and religion. Not a single of the 30 clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enshrined in the United Nations, of which Myanmar is a member state, is honoured by the racist government in this den of hatred, intolerance and bigotry.
Although the ancestors of the Rohingyas have been the bhumiputras or first settlers to the silver crescent of the Arakan (now named Rakhine state to obliterate its Islamic connection), bordering Bangladesh, from time immemorial, they were declared stateless in their own country by President Ne Win. Dr Aye Kyaw (now deceased), a Rakhine Buddhist academic, who lived in New York, was behind this xenophobic law to uproot the Rohingya, the second largest ethnic community in the Rakhine state. They are wrongly portrayed as 'Bengalis' or 'Chittagonians'. The denial of citizenship rights has led to all kinds of persecution of the Rohingya people known to mankind. They are unable to obtain passports or visas, own land or hold government jobs. They cannot get access to higher education. Even to move from one part of the locality to another, they require special permission. Myanmar law prohibits them from having more than two children per family. They are also taxed for everything, even for owning chicken and goats.
In my study of ethnic and religious minorities around the world, I have not found a single community that has been suffering more than this unfortunate people — the Rohingyas of Burma. Their condition inside Myanmar has simply worsened since May 28 of last year. As amatter of fact, many of the Rohingyas would say that they were able to survive those earlier (i.e. pre-2012) practices of unfathomed inhumanity displayed by the Buddhist majority people against them. But now they have lost almost everything. They live in cages. Their homes, businesses, schools, madrassahs, orphanages, and mosques have all been systematically demolished in a planned way, all with the blessing of the government — local and central.
The United Nations and other organisations have reported atrocities against the Rohingya. An April report by the non-profit Human Rights Watch detailed what it called 'a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State since June 2012.' The report described an ongoing humanitarian crisis and the role of the Burmese government, local authorities and Buddhist monks in the terror and forced relocation of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims (that number has now grown to more than 140,000). It said that tens of thousands of displaced Muslims had been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home. They are forced to live in cages with little freedom to move around and fetch for their survival. In a 2012 report to the UN Human Rights Council, a UN-appointed independent observer said he had received 'consistent and credible allegations of a wide range of human rights violations...including "sweeps" against Muslim villages, arbitrary detentions, sexual assault and torture.'
I wish with all the media attention the situation had improved for the suffering Rohingyas. But it has not. Even the Organisation of Islamic Conferences was denied access to visit Muslim camps last year. Just as it happened during cyclone Nargis that hit the Rakhine state in 2008, relief items donated by Muslim countries and aid agencies continue to be distributed amply within the Rakhine Buddhists while the same are denied to the Rohingya Muslims by the state authorities. They are starving to death. Many of them are fed tainted food and spoiled grains. Many are risking their lives to find refuge elsewhere.
President Thein Sein has openly said he does not want the Rohingyas living in his Buddhist country. And what is so disheartening is that even when these Rohingyas are killed in genocidal campaigns inside Myanmar, their neighbours to the west and east won't accept them as refugees. Most of the Rohingyas have now settled for a life of insecurity as unwanted refugees in many parts of our world.
Who would have thought that we would witness such serious violations against a people some 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly?
Of particular concern is the unfettered role played by Wirathu, the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 anti-Muslim movements, which sanctifies eliminitionist policies against the Muslims. Despite Wirathu's outspoken propagation of violent aggression toward Muslims in Burma, government leaders have publicly called him peaceful and good. Demanding the expulsion of all Muslims from Burma, these monks urge the local population to sever all relations with not only the Muslims, but also with what are described as their 'sympathisers'. Labelled as national traitors, those Buddhists who associate with Muslims also face intimidation and violence. The hateful rhetoric of the radical monks and the '969' campaign is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathisers in the lead-up to and during the Rwandan genocide, let alone the Nazi-led holocaust more than half a century earlier.
Equally problematic is the fact that national and local security forces have been allowed to perpetuate severe human rights abuses and brutal persecution against Muslims with impunity.
In my detailed analysis of the events since last year, drawing upon field reports and eyewitness accounts from inside Myanmar, I have concluded that the Rohingyas of Myanmar are facing genocide, and nothing short of it. The elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities there has sadly become a national project enjoying widespread support within the Buddhist community — home and abroad. Deplorably, even Aung Saan Suu Kyi appears to be a party to this crime! It is high time for the world community to stop this process before it is too late.
On December 14, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, hosted the first international conference in the United States on the plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar — 'Stop Genocide and Restore Rohingyas' Citizenship Rights in Myanmar'. It was jointly hosted by the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association and the Rohingya Concern International in collaboration with the ethnic studies programme at the university. Amongst others I was invited to speak at the conference.
The conference opened with a welcome speech from BRAFA's chairman Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (MSK Jilani) and Dr Chia Vang of the ethnic studies programme at the university. The programme was conducted by Mohiuddin Yosuf, president of the RCI and chief coordinator of the conference organising committee. Amongst others, the speakers included Professor Greg Stanton of the Genocide Watch (George Mason University), Nurul Islam of ARNO (UK), Sheikh Ziad Hamdan of Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Professor Abid Bahar from Montreal (Canada), and Dr Nora Rowley of the Vulnerable Population Health and Well-Being.
In his speech, Professor Stanton discussed the obvious similarities faced by the Rohingyas of Myanmar with those of Tutsis in Rwanda. They are victims of eight stages of genocide — classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation, preparation, extermination and denial. 'The first stage of genocide is classification, where you classify a whole group of people as somehow outside the citizenship of the country,' said Stanton. 'One of the things we've learned about genocide is it's a process, not an event... And these early warning signs are ones to take very seriously.'
In her speech, Dr Rowley shared eyewitness accounts of suffering of the Rohingya people in which the government continues to play its evil role towards elimination of this persecuted people. Professor Bahar discussed history of the Rohingya people and shared his encounter with them as a field researcher in the late 1970s.
The conference participants called upon the government of Myanmar to (1) restore full citizenship rights of all the stateless Rohingya minorities living inside Burma and to all those who were forced to seek a life of unwanted refugee outside as a result of government-orchestrated violence against them; (2) stop persecution, discrimination and dehumanising of Muslims, including repealing laws and policies that enact or contribute to the persecution of Muslims and other targeted groups within Myanmar; (3) crack down on anti-Muslim violence against Rohingya and other Muslims; (4) allow an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence; (5) stop the criminal activities of Buddhist monk Wirathu and his 969 movement, and punish them for causing suffering of the Muslim victims; (6) guarantee safety and security of the Rohingya people and other minority Muslims and Christians living inside Myanmar; (7) compensate for the loss of lives and properties of all those affected by the cleansing pogroms since May 28, 2012; (8) allow for relocation of the victims to their original places; (9) allow unfettered access of the international UN agencies, non-government organisations, including the OIC, to closely monitor the violence prone Rakhine state and allow them to aid the Muslim victims.
The conference participants called upon UN Security Council to authorise armed 

 in Myanmar by a UN force under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter; the mandate must include protection of Rohingya civilians and humanitarian workers and a no-fly zone over the Rakhine state; the rules of Engagement must be robust and include aggressive prevention of killing. They urged the major military powers (e.g. the US, Russia and the UK) to provide leadership, logistics, airlift, communications, and financing. In the event that Myanmar won't permit entry, the conference called for suspension of its UN membership.
They also called upon the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute Wirathu and other instigators of crimes against humanity. They also urged the Veto powers to enforce harsh measures against the political and military leaders of Myanmar for lack of progress in matters of human rights and restoration of citizenship rights of the Rohingya people.
Dr Habib Siddiqui, a peace and rights activist, writes from Pennsylvania.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be approved soon and your email will not be published.. thanks..