KUALA LUMPUR: 2017 as a year of “international solidarity” for the Rohingyas, in an effort to alleviate the suffering of the Muslim minority in western Myanmar, long the target of violence and persecution by the Burmese army and central government .
The ASEAN Rohingya Centre (ARC) hosted a forum to discuss the plight of the Rohingya people at the Malaysia Institute of Integrity. An appeal accompanied by the singing of a choir from a school that welcomed children from the Rohingya refugee families.
At the center of discussion the last cases of abuse that have raised indignation and protests within the international community; human rights activists and organizations have pointed the finger at the Naypyidaw government, accusing it of “cleansing” the traces of violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
ARC executive director, Dr Mohd Helmi Ibrahim, said that the declaration is supported by various non-governmental organisations (NGOs). “The purpose of the declaration is to increase regional awareness and the urgent need to end the abuse of human rights, discrimination and violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state,” he said.
In recent months the violence between the Tatmadaw (government army) and what soldiers call “a militant group of Muslim Rohingya” in Rakhine State has increased exponentially. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority – of just over one million people – originally from Bangladesh, who Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and whose members live in refugee camps scattered in several parts of the country.
Since the beginning of October, the death toll is of at least 90 people killed and about 34 thousand people displaced. The Tatmadaw continues to go from village to village cleansing the territory of rebel elements. The calls for peace made by Card. Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and other local and international personalities have been to no avail.
The Rohingya population speaks of summary executions, arbitrary arrests, rapes, houses torched in the context of a campaign “government” cleansing campaign, intended to strike those who launched attacks against the Burmese military. Naypyidaw continues to vigorously deny the rumors of abuse and genocide, but also continues to prevent access to the area to independent journalists and aid workers.
The forum was inaugurated by former Malaysian cabinet minister and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar with an opening speech. Syed Hamid said: “These people, Rohingya, do not pose any threats to Buddhism in Myanmar. But I have learned through my experiences as an OIC Envoy to Myanmar that some Burmese monks and most of the Burmese Buddhists view that they would take over the country if they are given freedom.
“There is a common hatred against Rohingya in Myanmar, unlike other ethnic groups persecuted by the government such as Kachin and Karen. No one wants to take the name of the Rohingya. This is a result of the state instilling fears and racial hatred in the hearts of the common people.”
Syed Hamid continued his speech by stressing that today, more than ever, you need to “be inclusive and embrace all religions, practicing pluralism.” And that goes for Myanmar. He did not spare criticism even of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor, at the center of controversy for failing to defend the Muslim minority. He added: “When Aung San Suu Kyi was under house-arrests, we campaigned for her release. We went to Myanmar especially for that. However, she is now letting the persecution of the Rohingya continue, and this is unacceptable because she won the Nobel Peace Prize as a defender of the human rights.”
The panelists who participated in the forum included Sri Sayed Hamid, SUHAKAM Commissioner, Jerald Joseph; ABIM Vice President & CEO Global Peace Mission Malaysia, Fahmi Shamsudin; Dato K. Sri Dhammaratana, Malaysia Buddhist Highest Priest (Temple Maha Vihara, Brickfields); Dr Heman Shastri, General Secretary, Council of Churches of Malaysia (Protestant Umbrella); and M.S. Anwar, Editor of Rohingya Vision TV. Meanwhile, in a statement, The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) has urged the government to recognise and address the plight of tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. The council, speaking in concert with leaders of other religious bodies and civil groups, said the churches deplored the lack of concrete measures to grant formal status to the refugee population in the country despite regularly expressing sympathy for them. Reverend Herman Shastri, CCM secretary-general, said the government has to face the responsibility of taking care for these vulnerable people and not leave them languishing in detention centers or to eke out a living on the margins of society.–Asia News