Friday, November 2, 2012

International support needed to protect Rohingyas from persecution

Written by Human Security Alliance, Asian Muslim Action Network and Odhikar   
Posted: 02 November 2012 14:48
For Immediate Release
Dated: October 26, 2012
Joint Statement from Human Security Alliance, Asian Muslim Action Network and Odhikar

International support needed to protect Rohingyas from persecution

We, the undersigned organizations are deeply concerned at the recent reports in the international media that scores of Rohingyas were killed in the fresh outbreak of violence in the northern Arakan state.
We are also alarmed by the reports that hundreds of Rohinyga homes were burnt by a vengeful Rakhine community, that in turn has led to the displacement of thousands of people. This is in addition to the 75,000 people who are still languishing in overcrowded camps set up by the Myanmar authorities with very little basic amenities. Observers have noted that the recent outbreak of violence against the Rohinygas is in line with the long-term plan of the Arakani Rakhine community to eliminate Rohingyas from all the townships where they are a minority. We, the undersigned, notes that the local Myanmar authorities in connivance with the central government is pursuing a policy of apartheid under which tens of thousands of Rohinygas are housed in camps beyond the city limits under barbed wire fencing with armed guards placed at the entrances.

The present violence is inextricably linked to the decade-long discriminatory and racist policies of the Myanmar government towards the Rohingya Muslims. The systematic persecution by the authorities includes denial of citizenship under Myanmars 1982 Citizenship Act, which renders Rohingya stateless and utterly without protection. In addition to public vilification by the state media and state officials, Rohingyas have been subjected to restrictions on marriage, domestic travel and observation of religious ceremonies. They are also not allowed to join the army or police. The Rohingyas have also been particularly vulnerable to other serious human rights violations faced by the general population in Myanmar.

We further note with deep concern the media reports that 3000 people of Rohingya origin are floating in 42 trawlers in the Bay of Bengal. They are fleeing the violence torn Arakan state and are trying to enter Bangladesh to seek asylum. We are deeply distressed that instead of providing shelter to the incoming Rohingyas, Bangladesh authorities have geared up its efforts to stop them in the high seas and placed high security in the land border to deny entry to the hapless Rohingyas.

Since the 1960s there have been multiple campaigns led by the Myanmar authorities to expel the Rohingya from Myanmar, resulting in a series of human rights violations leading to the persecution of Rohingyas. There are an estimated 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar, and approximately 300,000 live in Bangladesh, of which 30,000 live in squalid refugee camps. Given the fact that Rohingyas were excluded from the last Myanmar government census in 1983; are widely discriminated as ˜Kalas" or blacks or as ˜Bengalis" (people from Bangladesh) and are subject to racial attacks, we are afraid that the present persecution is aimed to push them into Bangladesh. This will cause serious political instability in this region.

The ongoing violence in the Rakhine State shows that despite the democratic progress of recent months, there are still formidable challenges for human rights in Myanmar. Many areas populated by ethnic minorities have seen few benefits from the reform process. International journalists and aid workers still face restricted access to large parts of the country. Even at this crucial moment, the political leadership of the Myanmar democratic movement and the main stream leaders within the civil society could not come forward to defend the persecuted Rohingyas, due to long drawn practice of massive racism.

Under the circumstances, WE, the undersigned demand that the Myanmar authorities allow unhindered access to the Rohingya settlements to ensure that the physical safety and dignity of Rohginyas are ensured. We demand that free and unfettered access to international humanitarian agencies to provide relief and support to the members of both communities who are affected by violence. We further call on the Myanmar government to allow an independent international fact finding mission to probe into the causes of recent spate of violence and identify perpetrators of the heinous acts against the members of the Rohingya community.

We regret that UN and ASEAN have been unable to exert their influence on the Myanmar government to refrain from pursuing their long term agenda of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community. We call on both agencies to shore up their efforts so that Myanmar authorities are forced to abandon such a project.

We appeal to the Bangladesh Government as well as to the people of Bangladesh to immediately respond to the humanitarian need in such dark hours and allow the Rohingyas to enter into the country. We hope that the government will honour its commitment to uphold basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties such as the Child Rights Convention and Convention against Torture that uphold the principle of non-refoulement of people to their places of origin if their life and liberty are at stake.

1) Altafur Rahman, Executive Director, Human Security Alliance
2) Abdus Sabur, Secretary General, Asian Muslim Action Network
3) Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary, Odhikar

Source: here

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