Rohingya Youth Call on the International Community to Act at Landmark Conference
Young Rohingya people and other ethnic minority activists have come together at a landmark conference to demand justice and an end to human rights violations in Myanmar, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) announced today.
The first ever International Rohingya Youth Conference was held between 29 November and 1 December at Queen Mary University in London, UK. More than 45 participants from 9 countries attended, representing not just Rohingya but also Karen, Kachin, Burman, Tibetan, and Uyghur groups.
“With the survival of the Rohingya people at stake, young people are more important than ever. They are our future leaders, who can provide ideas, energy and urgency to our cause. This week’s conference was a unique opportunity not just to listen to their voices, but also to foster solidarity with other minority groups living through oppression,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“Young people are united in their calls to end all abuses against Rohingya, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. It is time for the world to listen and take action.”
At the conference, whose theme was “Cultivating and Mobilizing a Rohingya Youth Movement”, Rohingya youth leaders from around the world to discuss a range of social and political issues that affect their communities. These include how to strengthen the movement’s capacity, how to support refugee and IDP communities, and how to build solidarity and create learning opportunities with other civil society allies.
“Rohingya are oppressed in Myanmar today, just as Kachin people are oppressed. We are the same victims. It is time for us to join forces in solidarity to get justice. This youth conference was extremely encouraging. it helped build bridges between communities united in their desire for a life in dignity and safety,” said Hkanhpa Sadan, Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Kachin National Organization.
“What Rohingya are facing today, Karen people have also faced more than 60 years. Massacres, rape, burning of villages, killing of children. When the government and military say the reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya are false, we remember they said the same thing about the same human rights violations against us. That is why we are standing in solidarity with our Rohingya brothers and sisters, and we hope our combined efforts will bring positive change for all our communities.” said Nant Bwa Bwa Phan Karen activist.
China is working through bilateral mechanisms, Secretary Momen said
Bangladesh has said it keeps exploring all possible avenues through bilateral and international mechanisms to send back Rohingyas safely to their place of origin in Rakhine State.
“We want to work in all areas with the same pace with an active trilateral effort with China and Myanmar in place,”
Masud Bin Momen secretary (Asia and Pacific) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed reporters at State guesthouse Meghna after the second Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) with the Philippines on Tuesday.
He said it will be a very difficult proposition if the Rohingya issue is left with the bilateral front only considering past experiences, reports UNB.
Secretary Momen said Bangladesh, China and Myanmar are moving ahead trilaterally as China is working as a sort of guarantor to send Rohingyas back through bilateral mechanisms.
Responding to a question, he said the issue of “accountability and justice” is a matter of high moral grounds as genocidal acts had taken place; and the international community has a responsibility to address the issue.
On November 14, pre-trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court had authorized the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation will seek to uncover the truth. “My office will now focus on ensuring the success of its independent and impartial investigation.”
Suu Kyi is among several top Myanmar officials named in a case filed in Argentina for crimes against Rohingya Muslims and it shows the Nobel Laureate, for the first time, has been legally targeted over the crisis.
On Nov. 11, the Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice for the southeast asian country’s atrocities against the Rohingya population.
Over the past years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh for refuge, sparking one of the more dire refugee crises of the decade. They continue to remain in camps in Bangladesh, where they are vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of violence.
Even though the crisis has been ongoing for decades, it’s a crucial time for the lawsuit to be filed, advocates say. And the Rohingya people’s continuing refusal to go back is only testament to the lack of security for them in Myanmar.
“No one has been held accountable,” Akila Radhakrishnan, President of Global Justice Center (GJC), told IPS. “It’s the same forces [that] remain in Rakhine state, they remain kind of [as a] part of the military with no punishment. There’s no feeling that there’s safety and security to go back to Myanmar.”
Radhakrishnan pointed out that even though the lawsuit may be “far away” from when the crisis began, the continued fear of Rohingyas to return to their home shows how deeply the crisis persists.
“I think there’s a recognition of the impossibility of the return of the Rohingya, a solution to the humanitarian crisis,” she said, adding that the lawsuit will push for the Myanmar government to take actions that focus on changing the laws and policies that enabled the genocide.
The lawsuit by the Gambia is supported in large part by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and is being led by Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Gambia Abubacarr M Tambadou, who decided to pursue actions after a recent visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, a region where about 900,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has termed the world’s biggest refugee camp.
Bangladesh is blocking hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children from accessing meaningful education, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, urging authorities to lift restrictions on schooling in refugee camps.
In a report called ‘Are we not human?’, Human Rights Watch accused Bangladesh of violating the rights of 400,000 school age children who have fled Myanmar and are currently living in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps.
“Depriving an entire generation of children of education is in no one’s interest,” Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch told Reuters. “The international community needs to act and demand that Bangladesh and Myanmar change course.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which followed attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
The Human Rights Watch report said Bangladesh had banned Rohingya refugees from enrolling in schools outside the camps or taking national exams and also barred U.N. agencies and foreign aid groups from giving formal accredited education.
It accused Myanmar of not agreeing to recognize the use of its school curriculum in the camps.
Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission Chief Mahbub Alam Talukder said it was untrue that children in the camps were not being educated and that there were 4,000 learning centers in the camps.
A Rohingya group has strongly rejected a joint statement by a coalition of rebels in Myanmar in which the persecuted Muslim community was described as “Bengali”.
Mohammed Ayyub Khan, president of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), termed the joint statement as “baseless, falsification and misrepresentation of the word Rohingya”.
A coalition of rebel groups — the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — said on Thursday they are ready to provide international courts with evidence of war crimes by the Myanmar military between 2009 and 2019 against ethnic people, including “Bengali Muslims”, referring to the Rohingya Muslim community in the western Rakhine state.
“But the irony is that the statement mentioned the word Bengali instead of Rohingya,” Khan said in a statement, adding that the statement “hurts the feelings of Rohingya in particular and Muslims in general”.
He urged the rebel groups — which have been fighting against the Myanmar army in Shan and Rakhine state — to “concentrate their energies in their struggle against the Burmese [Myanmar] army instead of the concocted campaign against Rohingya”.
“We are Rohingya Muslim, not Bengali Muslim,” Khan told Anadolu Agency.
Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim community in Rakhine state of Myanmar, has long been facing systematic persecution and genocide by the military, according to several UN reports.
Amnesty International said that more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Two leading figures of the Rohingya campaign in Europe are fearing for their lives after calls for their abduction were circulated in a racist video message.
London-based Maung Zarni and Germany-based Nay San Lwin said they were targeted by Aye Ne Win, a businessman who allegedly financed the genocide against the ethnic group in Myanmar.
In a video circulated on social media, Win urged Myanmar’s intelligence service to launch an Israel-style operation to kidnap the two activists.
He can be seen as saying: “Concerning Maung Zarni and Nay San Lwin, it is high time for Myanmar military intelligence services to launch an Israeli-style kidnap operation that captured Eichmann in South America.
“These creatures should not dare to come to our country. They scream foul from abroad but they need to be tried here [In Myanmar].”
Zarni told Anadolu Agency that he was taking these threats very seriously.
“We are taking this very seriously as it came from one of the richest and most racist men in Myanmar — Aye Ne Win,” he said.
Win, the grandson of Gen. Ne Win, is widely known to be one of the key financiers of the genocidal monk group known as Ma Ba Tha, according to Zarni.
He stated that they have been targeted because he was “the whistleblower of Rohingya genocide” and along with Lwin helped the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Rohingya genocide.
“The [Myanmar’] military-intelligence-run proxy news organizations have been running extremely vitriolic attacks on us – with our pictures as ‘enemies of the state’,” he underlined.
Since August 25, 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar amid a military crackdown on the predominantly Muslim minority state Rakhine
The government is optimistic about implementing its plan to relocate Rohingyas to Bhasan Char after completing further technical assessment by an expert team, a senior government official has said.
The official said the government has not shelved its relocation plan at all on Monday, reports UNB.
He said: “We can do that. It’s [Rohingya relocation] possible.”
UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss said the UN’s first technical assessment mission was scheduled to be done from November 17 to November 19.
He said the UN and the government of Bangladesh have agreed to “postpone” the visit to make sure that the right experts, and all the necessary logistical arrangements are in place.
“We are awaiting confirmation of an alternative date, and are also submitting terms of reference to the government for these onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” the UNHCR Representative added.
Responding to another question, Corliss said the exact composition of the teams will be defined by the UN objectives and the government’s nod for the visits.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the technical team is expected to visit the Bhasan Char on December. “They want to ensure some certain issues, and the process will begin after that,” he said.
The recent case lodged by The Gambia with the International Court of Justice against Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya is the first time that rape will be prosecuted as genocide at the court, which is based in The Hague. The case has the potential to enhance feminist international law, while reinforcing the need to carry out the global women, peace and security agenda.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs, will lead Myanmar’s delegation to the International Court of Justice for the first hearings in the case, filed in November. Suu Kyi’s decision to lead the delegation, though reasonable given her position in the government, is nevertheless shocking, given both her previous stature as a woman of peace and the worldwide criticism over the treatment of the Rohingya. More than half of the population of the Muslim ethnic group fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid deadly military operations against them more than two years ago.
Because Myanmar is not a state party to the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, and the United Nations Security Council has been unable to refer the matter of the Rohingya to the ICC, justice for these crimes has remained elusive — until, perhaps, now.
The International Court of Justice case is based on breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948. The convention contains a clause giving the court jurisdiction to resolve disputes over the implementation of the convention. Myanmar continues to deny that a genocide occurred, as well as any wrongdoing by its security forces or widespread sexual violence.
The hearings, scheduled for Dec. 10-12, are to decide if the court will order provisional measures to stop potentially genocidal acts by any government forces or related organizations or the destruction of any possible evidence.
The Rakhine State of Myanmar was historically the Arakan Kingdom, a prosperous state spanning western Burma to parts of the Chattogram Division. The Arakan Court is famously known for patronising the most prominent 17th-century Bengali poet, Syed Alaol (c. 1607-1673), well-known for his masterpiece, Padmavati, a translation of a Hindi epic poem Padmavat by Malik Mohammad Jayasi.
Arakan was conquered by the Burmese Konbaung dynasty in 1784, then ceded to the British as war reparation in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burmese war. When the British annexed all of Burma in 1886, the Arakan province became part of the Province of Burma under British India. Burma, including Arakan, also known as the Rakhine province, was split off from British India in 1937. After 1948, Rakhine became part of the newly independent state of Burma.
During the Second Word War, Muslims known as the Rohingya, inhabiting Northern Rakhine, fought the Japanese on the promise of autonomy by the beleaguered British colonial rulers. Others, mostly Buddhists, supported the Japanese. At the end of colonial rule in 1948, Myanmarisation, or a push for a majoritarian nationalism, despite the existence of some 130 ethnic minority groups in the country, led to a civil war in parts of the country.
In 1973, the military rulers led by General Ne Win declared Arakan as the homeland of the Rakhine people. However, the new dispensation did not recognise the Rohingyas, the majority in Northern Rakhine, as a distinct ethnic community. The 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar barred Rohingyas from citizenship. The Muslim Rohingyas were seen, defying history and geography, as intruders from Bengal, and even the label “Rohingya” was banned from the official lexicon.
In 2012, the world watched as a wave of violence pushed at least 110,000 Rohingya people in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state from their land. Families wound up in overcrowded, flood-prone displacement camps, surrounded by armed guards, with neither the permission nor security to return home. The unmaking of their communities began. They were still waiting for permission to return and security when I met them in camps outside Sittwe town at the end of October.
Two years later, families confined to camps in Bangladesh continue to live in limbo. Despite a formal agreement signed between the two governments to repatriate the refugees, alarming developments on the ground have made this impossible. Continuing down this path will serve only to spawn another hopeless and unending refugee crisis.