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“US - Burma Relation & the Plight of the Rohingya” at School of International Studies at the American University in Washington

RB News
April 26, 2014

Washington, DC. -- The Centre for Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs of the School of International Studies at the American University in Washington convened the event, “US - Burma Relation & the Plight of the Rohingya” on April 24, 2014. The event was presided by Dr. Jeff Bachman, Director of the Centre for Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs. The panelists were Dr. Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union, Jennifer Quigley, Executive Director of U.S. Campaign for Burma, Daniel Sullivan of United to End Genocide, and Benjamin Zawacki, Visiting Fellow at Harvard University Human Rights Program. Members of Burmese Rohingya refugee community gave the first accounts of their arduous journey to safety after escaping the violence by Buddhist Rakhine mobs and Burmese armed forces.

Benjamin Zawacki spoke via Skype from Bangkok on how indigenous Rohingya people of Arakan were made stateless through a systematic and institutionalized discrimination and violation of the basic human rights of the Rohingya people, and becoming victims to human smugglers and traffickers.

Ms. Jennifer Quigley spoke on the revocation of citizenship and deprivation of their basic human rights during the reigns of Dictator Gen. Ne Win, which eventually materialized into the 1982 Citizenship Law, stripping the Rohingya of their citizenship. Ms. Quigley further described how the post Ne Win military regime further intensified its discriminatory policy against Rohingya ethnic minority.

Daniel Sullivan provided extensive coverage on their work on prevention of genocide. Mr. Sullivan provided their accounts of what he and Congressman Tom Andrews witnessed in Arakan during their recent trip to Burma. Mr. Sullivan stated that among all their trips to different parts of the world the warning signs of genocide were prevalent and stronger in the state of Arakan, Burma, in comparison to other parts of the world. Mr. Sullivan provided compelling evidence of dehumanization of Rohingya by monk Wirathu and the radical Buddhists through hate speech and distribution of hate literature, flyers, CDs, and DVDs. Mr. Sullivan also explained the well orchestrated scheme of getting rid of witnesses (the INGOs) to the atrocities and violence in Arakan by the Burmese government.

Dr. Wakar Uddin recapped the briefings by the previous three panel members, with additional topics, including the indigeneity of Rohingya, the evidence of their presence in Burma as an ethnic minority until the reign of dictator General Ne Win, why and how the discrimination has risen to institutionalized human right violations and ethnic cleansing, eventually reaching the level with precursor of genocide. Dr. Uddin appealed the audience and the organizers of the event to mobilize the international community through public awareness, and reaching out to the American public, legislators, and the Government to use all the possible avenues to pressure the Burmese Government to protect Rohingya and return their citizenship with all basic human rights.

There were photo exhibition of ethnic cleansing and violence against Rohingya in Burma and audio/video play session of hate speech by Buddhist monk Wirathu.

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