|Wai Wai, Debbie, Denison, Saifuddin & Kuthubul at the April 17, 2014 RTD|
ASEAN must give serious consideration to the plight of Rohingya in Myanmar especially as ASEAN heads of state and leaders will gather at Nay Pyi Taw on May 10th &11th, 2014 for the 24th ASEAN Summit
It is also an appropriate time as Myanmar serves as the Chair of ASEAN for 2014 and the theme is “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community”.
Resolving inter-ethnic, inter-religious conflict especially being experienced by minorities across ASEAN requires some formal mechanism of reconciliation based on moderation. This must become a major task of the ASEAN body in order to build a people centred ASEAN where all communities irrespective of majority or minority can experience peace and prosperity. This must be the ASEAN way.
Recently on April 17, 2014 the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), Asian Muslim Action Network-AMAN) and PROHAM hosted a Roundtable Discussion entitled “Human Rights Violations & remedies: The Rohingya Case” at the GMM Conference Room.
About 50 people participated. We had a panel of speakers who had direct experience and data on the challenges, suffering and injustice faced by the Rohingya.
Among the panel were Ms Wai Wai Nu, the Founder of Women’s Peace Network (Arakan from Myanmar), Ms Debbie Stothard (Coordinator for Alternative Asean Network on Burma (ALTASEAN), Mr Suthep Kristanavarian (photo journalist and author of the publication Stateless Rohingya… Running on Empty and Mr Eraj Sabur (AMAN)
Also participating were Datin Marina Mahathir (Sisters in Islam), Mr Andrew Khoo (Bar Council), Ms Josie Fernandez, Dr Lin Mui Kiang (Proham) Mr Jamal Ibrahaim (Founder, Media Durian ASEAN), Dr Nora E. Rowley (Burma Human Rights), Mr Zafar Ahmed (Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia-MEHROM).
There were representatives from a number of organisations including ABIM, Tenaganita, Institute Kerjasama Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (IKIAM), Union of the World Rohingya Organisations (UWRO) and Rohingya National Development Organisation.
The RTD was moderated jointly by Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria with Datuk Kuthubul Zaman providing a historico-legal overview and setting the agenda for the discussion.
Findings of the RTD
In the course of the presentations and discussions we identified five major concerns which must be at the heart of ASEAN seeking to find an immediate solution to the Rohingya crisis.
FIRST, we recognise that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a universal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights for all communities. This is especially so for both minorities and dominant-majority communities.
ASEAN demography presents a diversity of majority-minority human rights issues and concerns. Religious majorities in one country find themselves as minorities in another and vice versa. The UDHR and UN instruments such as the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) provides rights for all with a strong obligation of the State to protect those whose rights are being denied or violated.
This is very relevant in Myanmar especially in the context of the dominant Buddhist majority and Muslim minority Rohingya. Interlinked with ethnicity and religion are other social issues pertaining to poverty, gender inequality and citizenship rights.
We also heard of the many difficulties and sufferings of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia whose basic rights as stated in Convention of the Rights of Children (CRC) are being denied especially in terms of access to education and health care.
SECOND, during the RTD we heard from both panel speakers and participants about major human rights violations being faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar. We were briefed about the Al Jazeera documentary entitled “The Hidden Genocide” which chronicles the 2012 horrific violence in Arakan States between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhines.
We heard stories of systematic oppression of the people including ethnic cleaning and violence against the Rohingya. We noted the politicization of the issues and State sponsored religious extremism. We were told of Rohingya being denied their identify and citizenship. In addition there is the confiscation of lands and property. There are many allegations of blatant disregard for human rights and claims that Rohingya are not treated as human beings.
THIRD, we adopted the three points highlighted by Ms Wai Wai Nu (Women Peace Network Arakan) in her presentation with regards to the role of Myanmar Authorities. These are:-
- To protect Rohingya from violence and ensure that there is no denial of basic human needs.
- To recognise and include Rohingya as one of the recognised ethnic groups as they are not listed as one of the 135 code numbers in the National Census.
- To restore full citizenship and equal rights to Rohingya communities
FOURTH, we adopt the additional points highlighted by Ms Wai Wai Nu (Women Peace Network Arakan) in her presentation concerning the role of Malaysian government. These are:-
- To provide access to education and health care facilities for Rohingya children currently in Malaysia as either undocumented people or as refugees base on the CRC.
- To create space during the 2015 ASEAN chairmanship for ASEAN leaders and ASEAN civil society to talk about, deliberate on and resolve the human rights violations of Rohingyas.
FIFTH, that the ASEAN community especially the ASEAN Inter Governmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) and the international community takes the violations very seriously as there is strong evidence that another Rwanda or another atrocity such as the Killing fields of Cambodia in the making.
Prompt and concrete initiatives are urgently needed to solve the Rohingya crisis. This is the least we can do as human rights defenders and advocates.
Jointly issued by GMM & Proham:
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (GMM-CEO), Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham-Chair) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (proham Secretary-General)May 5, 2014