Monday 29 January 2018

The Slow-Burning Genocide in Myanmar Continues. We Cannot Be Passive

Source Rightsinfo, 26 Jan

As we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January) and remember the millions of people murdered by the Nazi regime, we must also pause and reflect.

When we say never again, what we really mean is: hopefully, it won't happen again. We hoped and hoped, and, in the meantime, theCambodian genocide happened, Rwanda happened, Bosnia happened, and Darfur happened. We repeatedly failed to prevent mass atrocities and let down those who have relied on us, both on our voices and our actions.

Not that long ago we were presented with another challenge, "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" as the situation in Myanmar was referred to by the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. On one hand, we saw Myanmar rejecting all allegations of ethnic cleansing or genocide, on the other hand, many academics,  have clearly labelled the situation as "genocide".

Slow-Burning Genocide

                                Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in 2014. Image Credit: United Against Genocide / Flickr
Speaking at a panel last weekDr Maung Zarni, a British-Burmese scholar and human rights activist, spoke wholeheartedly about how those who made it from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh were "survivors". By labelling them merely as "displaced people", we automaticallydiminish the horrors and suffering the Rohingya have been subjected to.

This choice of language may seem insignificant to some, but as Dr Zarni explained, this "slow-burning genocide" is the first many of will have watched in real-time, whether it be through Facebook or Twitter, or on our TV screens. It's therefore vital that we don't numb ourselves into inertia.

Long-Term Policy of Extermination

Image Credit: DFID / Wikimedia
When questioned about the history of the Rohingya, Dr Zarni explained to the audience at SOAS and STAND UK that: "What the Rohingya people have been subjected to is nothing less than full-scale genocide since 1978. There is no communal conflict that has to put Rohingya in this situation. The Rohingyas are not fighting back, they are not trying to secede from Burma and become part of Bangladesh or they are not trying to establish a new Muslim country just for themselves."
"What the Rogingya people have been subjected to is nothing less than full-scale genocide since 1978. It is very similar to that of the Jewish community across Nazi-occupied Europe."
Drawing a stark parallel, he added: "The situation of Rohingya is very similar to the situation that the Jewish community across the Nazi-occupied Europe faced in late 1930s and early 1940s. They are being persecuted because of their identity, because of who they are. The Burmese military has misframed them as a threat to national security. They have adopted an essentially long-term policy of extermination against these people. This is a genocide that has been in slow-motion for 40 years."

Proven Long-Term Roots

                                           Image Credit: United Against Genocide / Flickr
Prof Michael Charney, a military and imperial historian specialising in South East Asia, also spoke at the Lawyers Without Borders event, highlighting how British colonial rule had uniquely impacted the Rakhine state differently to other areas of Myanmar. According to Prof Charney, and maybe surprisingly to many, there is even considerable evidence that Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar had been getting along considerably well in the past.
"Rohingya have long-term roots in the area – and we can support that with documentation."
When asked about the biggest thing people should know about the Rohingya, Prof Charney said that:

"Rohingya have long-term roots in the area and they aren't the foreigners that the Burmese government pretends they are – and we can support that with documentation. It's the same documentation that people often deny just because of their political beliefs, not because of any other legitimate reasons." Prof Charney also called for more academic research into the region but warned that this must be done with an open mind.

A Complex and Multilayered Situation

Image Credit: John Owens / Wikimedia
According to Dr Mandy Satan, a lecturer at SOAS, there are currently more than 120,000 internally-displaced people in the north of Myanmar, yet there has been very limited, if any, coverage of the situation.

"Is there a scale? And if there is, where is the tipping point?" she asked the audience. Whether it be the Rohingya, or the internally-placed people in the Kachin state in the north of Myanmar, or the Burmese refugee camps in Thailand, which have been there for more than 20 years – Dr Sadan sees a rather common structural issue, which is the Burmese army.

According to Dr Sadan, racism is deeply rooted and runs through many sectors of the Burmese society, hinting at the complexity and multilayeredness of the situation. Dr Sadan also called for important changes in education, which could transform Burmese education to reflect its multi-cultural society and allows students to study different kinds of history.

Questioning Our Humanity

                                              Image Credit: European Commission / Flickr
Towards the end of the panel discussion, Dr Zarni raised the most poignant issue – our own failures. He explained that all the atrocities post-WWII are not just failures of the international community, but that we must also call into question our shared humanity.

In order to truly make sure genocides never happen again, we can't just echo empty sentiments or dispassionately soul search. Instead, we must do everything we can to act and to make our voices heard.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

French position on Rohingya issue ‘clear’ as President Macron calls it 'genocide', says Pascal Lamy

Source bdnews, 7 Jan

French government's Special Envoy Pascal Lamy says that Paris's position on the Rohingya
refugee crisis has 'clearly' been expressed by President Emmanuel Macron who has termed
the attacks on Myanmar's minority in Rakhine State as "genocide".
"France's position is absolutely clear cut," he said, adding that Paris is also active at all international level to put political pressure on Myanmar to stop the atrocities in the Rakhine State.

Lamy, two times former Director General of the World Trade Organisation or WTO, was speaking before the press at the French embassy in Dhaka on Sunday to seek Bangladesh's support for the France's candidature in the World Expo-2025.

Two close friends of Bangladesh, Japan and Russia, and another country Azerbaijan are also competing for the Expo which will be held just five years before the ending of the global agenda SDGs-2030.

Lamy, while briefing "comparative advantages" if Paris is voted for the Expo, said there are political and diplomatic aspects apart from economic benefits if Paris can host the Expo.

He said Bangladesh and France have excellent bilateral relations now and both countries are working closely at the international level.
The decades-old Rohingya crisis has taken an appalling turn since August 25 when Burmese military began crackdown in the Rakhine State following insurgents' attacks on the police outposts.

Over 1 million Rohingyas are now living in Bangladesh. Both countries have signed a deal to start the repatriation process though Rohingyas are still coming to Cox's Bazar where they took shelter from Rakhine State.

"We clearly said what we believe is that this is a terrible genocide and this should be ceased," Lamy said, referring to the president of France.

World Expos, known officially as International Registered Exhibitions, are organised every five years. They can last up to six months, and international participants can build their own pavilions on the Expo site.

The most recent World Expo was held in the city of Milan, Italy, in 2015, under the theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life".

The next World Expo will take place in Dubai (UAE) between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021 under the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future".

The themes of World Expos are designed to raise awareness of and find responses to universal challenges of our time.

France's theme is 'knowledge to share, planet to care' through which Lamy earlier told in an interview that Paris wants "to discuss how more efficiently we can address the climate change challenges through science and technology".

"This is very much in line with medium and long-term strategies of Bangladesh which is also coping with environmental challenges," he had said.

At the press briefing on Sunday, he said participation in Paris would be cost-effective for every country.

They are expecting to draw 40 million visitors which is much more than other countries bidding for the Expo.

"We offer larger visibility for a lower price," he said.

He said the concept of global village is also a low cost concept and after the expo those will be used as university campus.

It will be located at Paris-Saclay, a research-intensive and business cluster currently under construction south of Paris.

He said the pavilion Bangladesh for the expo, can later be turned into a residence of Bangladesh students who will study in the university.

France has also selected a Bangladeshi student as one of the 100 global young ambassadors who will campaign for Paris throughout the period.

Md Monibur Rahman, a student of BBA, during the press briefing urged Bangladesh government to support France's candidature.
"This will also benefit Bangladeshi students studying in Europe," he said.

"Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change, as a Bangladeshi I want Bangladesh to participate in the event and to vote for France so that France can host the Expo.

"Thus Bangladesh can discover how together we can protect our country from climate change," he said.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Dr Maung Zarni testifies before the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal on Myanmar

Najib: Malaysia will continue to help its Muslim brothers

Source Staronline, 1 Jan

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will continue to help its Muslim brothers in Palestine and Myanmar, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic). However, he said, Muslims in Malaysia, as well as worldwide, should unite to end the suffering and oppression against their brothers in the two countries.

"May Allah unite our hearts and continuously shower us blessings of peace and stability on Malaysian soil, so that we can continue to use our influence as a model Islamic country to defend Muslims who are oppressed, wherever in the world, Insya-Allah," he said in his blog on Monday.

The Prime Minister said throughout 2017, Malaysia continued to be blessed by Allah, remained prosperous, peaceful and harmonious, as well as continued to be a model Islamic country that was influential and vocal in defending Islam and Muslims worldwide.

On the Jerusalem issue, he said Malaysia strongly condemned and would never agree with efforts by the United States to recognise it as the capital of Israel.

"I have stressed this matter repeatedly, at the Umno general assembly, the extraordinary summit of the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation) in Istanbul and also at the Solidarity Rally: Save Jerusalem," he said.

Apart from that, Najib said the suffering and oppression faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar also touched the hearts of Muslims in the country and Malaysia strongly criticised and had brought the issue not only at the Asean level, but also globally.

He said Malaysia continued to provide aid to ease the suffering of the Rohingya community, apart from opening its doors for them to share the peace and stability enjoyed by Malaysians in the country, as well as sending aid to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

"In February 2017, Malaysia, through a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Yayasan Ikhlas sent a financial aid of RM172,500 though a Bangladeshi NGO for Rohingya refugees staying at the Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Bangladesh.

"Subsequently, in September 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi coordinated the sending of humanitarian aid, worth RM4mil, comprising goods and equipment, also for the Rohingya refugees in the border of Bangladesh," he said.

Najib said 12 tonnes of food aid and essential items, such as disposable napkins, towel, rice and biscuits were sent to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh through the humanitarian aid mission by the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Prime Minister's office and iM4U voluntary organisation.

He said the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisation (MAPIM) and several Islamic organisations from Malaysia also sent aid, in the form of food and medicine, worth RM200,000, to 140,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Apart from that, he said, the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) also opened a mobile clinic at the Rohingya refugee settlement at Thangkhali and Kutupalong camps, and also provided food aid.

"Besides the sending of humanitarian aid, the government also set up a field hospital, costing RM3.5mil, which has 50 beds and can accommodate 150 patients at a single time, as well as equipped with surgery room, X-Ray room and special room for mothers and children at the Rohingya refugee camp at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

"This field hospital is built to enable the Rohingya refugees to obtain medical treatment, including postnatal checks for pregnant women," he added. - Bernama