Solidarity activists urge Burma’s Thein Sein to restore Rohingyas citizenship and ethnic rights; ask UN, ASEAN to probe sectarian violence in Arakan State

“The continued refusal of the government of Burma to recognize the ethnic rights, civil and political freedoms, and citizenship of the Rohingyas are clear violations of international law. Advertising reforms while violating the human rights of another section of your society is a complete paradox. Unless the regime of Burma corrects its past mistakes, all its efforts will just become an epic failure.”

Thus said Gus Miclat, convenor of the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-P) in response to the continuing humanitarian crisis and sectarian violence in Arakan State in Burma.

The recently reported sectarian-violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the State of Arakan in western Burma violence erupted on June 3, 2012, when an estimated 300 Arakan Buddhists attacked a bus of traveling Muslims, killing 10 passengers. On June 10, President Thein Sein of Burma declared a state of emergency in the area, authorizing the military with significant and sweeping administrative powers.
Reports said that over the past three decades, the Burma’s Rohingya Muslim citizens have been subjected to gross violation of human rights including ethnic cleansing, killings, rape, and forced displacement by Burma’s security forces.

The United Nations declaration clearly states that the Rohingya is an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority from western Burma, and historical facts show that Rohingyas have been present in the territory of Burma centuries before the British colonization era and after they left and before the formation of the current state of Burma . In spite of this, according to previous reports, the government of Burma at the height of military dictatorship continues to persecute and discriminate the Rohingya minority, under the Citizenship Law of 1982, which strips Rohingyas of their citizenship rights.

Miclat added, “This is very alarming and desperately merits the attention of the international community. The president of Burma instead of addressing the root causes of the conflict simply declared a state of emergency and deployed hundreds of military troops in the area of Arakan. Bangladesh on the other hand, reneged to its international legal obligations, closed its borders and pushed back fleeing Rohingya refugees.”

APSOC and FBC-P suggested that the ASEAN and UN should immediately conduct an investigation on the case of Rohingyas to help find a lasting solution to the inter-communal unrest in Arakan state. The groups likewise urged the government of Burma to allow smooth and safe entry of humanitarian aid in the areas of conflict.
Recent reports confirm that aid has struggled to reach those affected by sectarian unrest in early June. The UN announced last week that 10 aid workers in Arakan state have been arrested, five were UN staff. Some have been charged, but details until now remain unclear.

Miclat concluded, “Burma’s previous laws and policies gave birth to this conflict in Arakan. Restoring the citizenship and ethnic rights of the Rohingyas by reviewing the Citizenship Law of 1982 is a major step that the current government must not hesitate to consider. For the nth time, we remind the Burmese government that adhering to existing international laws is an obligation by all democratic states, not a choice.”

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