The attention of Genocide on Rohingya in Burma through US Holocaust Memorial Museum

By Tin Soe

Tun Khin – a Rohingya activist and President of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK) – brought the attention of Genocide on Rohingya in Burma to US key policy makers and Americans through US Holocaust Memorial Museum while he was attending opening program “Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya” on November 4 featured a discussion on the current situation of the Rohingya and increasing violence against Muslims elsewhere in Burma.

Tun Khin brought the attention of Genocide on Rohingya in Burma through US Holocaust Memorial Museum
“It is historic record and proofing that Genocide is happening on Rohingyas. The Burmese government is trying to push all Rohingyas into camps or out of the country. In a few years, there will be no more Rohingya in the country,” Tun Khin stressed at the event.

“We are not saying that genocide is taking place in Burma,” said Michael Abramowitz, director of the museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “We are not trying to equate these different situations. The Holocaust was a unique event in human history. But what we do want to do is use our assets to try to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening to others in the future.”

Ye Lwin, minister-counselor at the Myanmar Embassy in Washington, said by email that the Myanmar government has given priority to maintenance of law and order in Arakan (Rakhine) State, and is working closely with U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, on the issue. It has also hosted many foreign delegations there.

“It is not appropriate that the Holocaust Museum should conduct such an exhibition depicting the situation in Myanmar as the Rohingya issue is not related to genocide,” Ye Lwin said.

It is very encouraging more than 400 audience joined at the event including US State Department Officials, U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom, U.S Department of State Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S State Department US Bauru of population, refugees and Migrations, U.S Congressional staffs, Tun Khin told Kaladan Press.

Burma-brundi meeting at humanity united Washington

BROUK President Tun Khin join along with Greg Constantine, the exhibition photographer and author of Exiled to Nowhere: Burma’s Rohingya; Holly Atkinson, MD, director of the Human Rights Program at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, and past president of Physicians for Human Rights in the discussion event of “Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya”, a photo exhibition.

The exhibition was produced by the Museum in association with FotoWeek DC 2013. Generous support was provided by the National Endowment for Democracy. Additional support was provided by the Open Society Foundations and Physicians for Human Rights. The opening program was made possible in part by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

The Holocaust museum primarily commemorates the genocide against the Jews by the Nazis. But it also documents the mass killings that have blighted Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan, and seeks to spotlight situations where it sees a repeat of such atrocities. The museum has previously projected images on its walls of Holocaust survivors and from South Sudan and the Darfur region of Sudan. Now, stark, black-and-white images of Rohingya by American photographer Greg Constantine, are projected at night on the museum’s external walls which show the Rohingya were forced to flee, 240,000 forced to flee their home and authority reported only 240 people-Rohingya only – killed, but the actual number of killed persons were more and more. They are denied citizenship in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and are typically regarded there as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Many thousands of Rohingya have fled by sea. More than 70 died recently when their boat capsized.

“It was disturbing to see and feel the complete and total absence of any Muslim presence in Sittwe (Akyab),” Constantine said, who last visited in March. “There was no call to prayer going on. All the mosques were empty or destroyed or Burmese troops were living in them. Every single Muslim shop was boarded up.”

Similarly, all the mosques and religious building from Maungdaw district are closed and no one can able to pray inside the building, according to Tun khin.

BROUK President Tun Khin briefed current situation of Rohingya jointly with Physician Human Rights ,Refuges International  to  US Congressman James P.Mcgovern, Congressman staffs, US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee,  Asia Development Bank, Burma/Burundi comparative briefing at Humanity United during the Washington Trip.

Tun Khine calls immediate actions to include Rohingya ethnic group code in census 2014 which was supported by US, UK, EU governments and urge the following actions to take US Government on Burma.

An Independent International Investigation

The commission established by the government of Burma did not address issues of accountability and justice. It is clear that the government of Burma is not willing to conduct a genuine investigation into the cause of the violence, to establish who was responsible for inciting and organizing the violence, and to hold those who organized and took part in the attacks to account. An independent international investigation will not only help establish the truth, but also help prevent further attacks as for the first time those responsible will fear being held accountable. Recommendations can also be made to prevent further violence.

International observers will improve security situation

Rohingya in Rakhine State are living in constant fear of attack. An increase in international observers on the ground will help prevent further attacks, and can act as an early warning system if new violent attacks seem imminent. Their mandate should be widened to include making public reports.

More aid and increased humanitarian access

Although aid access has improved, there is still not enough aid reaching the people internally displaced by violence. As a result, conditions are dire and unnecessary additional suffering is caused. There needs to be a significant increase in aid to IDPs, in particular medical assistance. Humanitarian aid also needs to be increased to Rohingya villagers who are isolated and unable to leave to trade and buy food because of fear of attack.

Stop Hate Speech

Those inciting hatred and violence are well known in Burma, but no action has been taken against them. President Thein Sein has encouraged those inciting violence. He asked the UN for assistance in deporting all Rohingya, giving apparent legitimacy to their view that Rohingya don’t belong in Burma. He also publicly defended the anti-Muslim Monk Wirathu. Pressure must be placed on the government to take action against those inciting hatred and violence against Muslims. MPs from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, which is linked with incitement and violence, should be refused visas to the USA and ineligible for international training and support.

This lack of accountability has likely contributed to the outpouring of anti-Muslim hate speech that since March has been accompanied by sporadic violence targeting Muslim Burmese citizens residing in other parts of the country.  While Buddhist monks have been among the most visible instigators, there is ample evidence of security forces’ complicity in the violence, which has claimed scores of lives and destroyed thousands of properties.  The Buddhist “969” movement uses anti-Muslim hate speech and intimidation to force boycotts of Muslim businesses and is now seeking to criminalize marriage between Muslim men and Buddhist women.  The escalating segregation and discrimination against Burma’s Muslims, who comprise about 5% of the population, leave them in well-founded fear for their safety and livelihoods.

Repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law
The 1982 Citizenship Laws needs to be repealed or revised. It legally underpins much of the discrimination against the Rohingya. President Thein Sein has repeatedly ruled out changing this law. No further relaxation of sanctions or closer relations with the government of Burma should take place until Thein Sein ensures this law is repealed or reformed. In line with the recommendation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, the new law should be in line with international human rights standards, and not be race based, and; “ensure that all persons in Myanmar have equal access to citizenship and are not discriminated in such access on grounds of ethnicity or religion.” The US government should ask the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to request from Burma information relevant to the implementation of Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, relating to the 1982 Citizenship Law, to assess if Burma is complying with its treaty obligations.

Free political prisoners and stop torture

Information gathered by BROUK, and also by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, details the widespread use of torture against many of the 1,000 plus Rohingya arrested since violence began in June 2012. The Special Rapporteur has said that arrests have been arbitrary and that mass trails which are not fair have taken place. Community leaders appear to have been targeted for arrest, for example Dr Tun Aung.

Reconciliation between Rohingya and Rakhine

Burma’s political leadership has been unwilling to address issues of communal violence, religious intolerance and hate-speech. We appeal to the US government for advice and support in building a process in Burma whereby we can build communal understanding and tolerance, and respect for each other.

Similarly, the situation of Rohingya in Arakan, Burma and Muslim was described in the event.

The Plight of the Rohingya

The Rohingya of Burma are the world’s most persecuted and vulnerable ethnic minority peoples, have no legal status in Burma and face severe discrimination, abuse and escalating violence. They are treated not only as aliens, but also as morden-day slaves in their ancestral homeland of Arakan. In 2012, violent attacks, fanned by a campaign of virulent anti-Muslim hate speech that continues today, destroyed numerous Rohingya communities and displaced more than 240,000. Today, the Rohingya in Burma are forcibly isolated, cut off from nearly all goods and services and unable to provide for themselves.  According to the United Nations, crimes against humanity have been, and continue to be, perpetrated against the Rohingya.  Their treatment, combined with statements by government, political and religious leaders indicate that the Rohingya are being subjected to ethnic cleansing.

While the Burmese government has signaled its intention to alleviate the plight of the Rohingya, little has as yet been done to address the fundamental causes of their suffering. Burma’s democracy movement has been largely silent about the treatment of the Rohingya.

A Persecuted minority

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Rakhine (also called Arakan) State, which borders Bangladesh and has a Buddhist majority that is ethnically Rakhine. Although Rohingya have resided in Arakan for at least several centuries, Burma’s 1982 citizenship law does not include them among the country’s officially recognized ethnic groups, effectively denying them any right to citizenship. The Burmese government classifies the approximately 800,000 Rohingya as “Bengalis” and insists that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But, the “Stateless Rohingya…running on empty” documents stated, “The official population of Arakan State was recorded as 3.74million in 2007, rising to 3.83 million by 2010.The government estimates, 1,033,212 Rohingya reside in northern Arakan state where the state is primarily inhabited by two major ethnic groups – Rakhine and Rohingya.

Restrictions on the right to marry and bear children

Rohingya must obtain official permission to marry and in some areas have been prohibited from having more than two children.  As a result, some 60,000 Rohingya children born in violation of these restrictions cannot be registered and are thus ineligible for all government services, including education.

Restrictions on movement, education and civil service

Rohingya must obtain official permission to travel even to a neighboring village. Applications for travel permits require long waits, payment of fees and bribes, and intrusive scrutiny. The travel restrictions effectively deny the Rohingya access to post-primary education, markets, employment opportunities and health care.

Forced labor

Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State have regularly been required to work without pay for government and military authorities.  Children frequently perform this labor, which is required exclusively of the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

Denial of due process
Rohingya are routinely subjected to confiscation of property, arbitrary arrest and detention, physical and sexual violence, and even torture at the hands of authorities.

Segregation

Rohingya are barred from the teaching, medical and engineering professions.  Many health care facilities will not treat them and few businesses will hire them other than for manual labor.

The Rakhine are recognized official minority in Burma, enjoy rights and opportunities denied to the Rohingya, who are universally reviled in Burma. Poverty exacerbates Rakhine animosities toward the Rohingya, whom the Rakhine view as alien competitors for scarce resources.  These animosities erupted into communal violence between Rohingya and Rakhine between June and October 2012 that left hundreds dead and more than 140,000 displaced, the vast majority Rohingya. The deadliest violence consisted of Rakhine attacks against Rohingya communities. According to both Rakhine and Rohingya witnesses, Buddhist monks and local Rakhine politicians incited and led many of the attacks, with state security forces failing or refusing to stop the violence and sometimes participating in it. The violence forced the Rohingya to abandon many of their communities, where anything left standing after the attacks was subsequently razed by the government.

The displaced Rohingya now live in official and unofficial IDP camps under conditions that the UN’s emergency relief coordinator has called among the worst she has ever seen.  Humanitarian aid workers have frequently been prevented from accessing these camps.

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