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The Speech of Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Hello. This is Jose Ramos-Horta speaking from New York. I regret not being able to be in Oslo at this time of this very timely, extremely important gathering as Myanmar moves towards elections and hopefully consolidation of democracy, freedoms, rule of law.

I'm very familiar with Myanmar, although I could not claim to be an expert. For those of you who might not know much about my past activities or background, I first went to Burma then when hardly anyone paid much attention to Myanmar in July of 1994. I went there crossing the border from Chiang Mai and I went to Manipur. There with some colleagues I conducted an international human rights and diplomacy training program for students, activists, many of whom I know today are back in their home country in Yangon, very much engaged in this process in Myanmar.

If today we can talk about one of the most neglected people in the world, one of the most forgotten, I would say it would be the Rohingya of Myanmar. We are all human beings in this planet. Myanmar is a mosaic of ethnic groups. It is a mosaic of cultures, of values, of different experiences. A crossroad from Asia, with many influences. 

The Rohingya seem to have the least of rights, the least of privileges as citizens of Myanmar, as human beings. There have been extraordinary abuses, humiliation, killings, expulsion of Rohingyas from their ancestral land. Whether they have been there for thousands of years or a few hundred years or if they were there only some generations ago, they still have rights as people of Myanmar because they were born there in Myanmar. They have been living there for generations regardless of how long; thousands of centuries they have been there. 

I do not wish to lecture any group in Myanmar. I do not wish to lecture authorities in Myanmar. I know the process of transition from dictatorship to democracy is a complex, tortuous, unpredictable long one. We must all contribute to create a climate of dialogue, mutual acceptance, and maybe move towards a road map leading to a Myanmar that is politically open, pluralistic, and that is embracing of all its ethnic and religious communities.

However, I know that this is easier said than done because there are suspicions, there are prejudices. That's what leaders are all about. Leaders at the community level, leaders at the national level who must embrace each other; who must act with compassion, with wisdom; who embrace everyone including the Rohingyas so that Myanmar can be a shining example in Southeast Asia and in Asia in general.

Again, I wish to pay tribute to all those in Myanmar who for generations have struggled for freedom, for democracy, until today when you are on the eve of free general elections. I'm hopeful that all will be able to participate; the Rohingyas, the Muslim communities and everyone, in an atmosphere of freedom, of no question, of no threats. When the election results come it will be a new promising beginning for Myanmar, a further step in the consolidation of democracy in your beautiful country.

I wish you all success in this conference and as always I pray to God Almighty and the Merciful to continue to bless the great people of Myanmar with wisdom, happiness, and prosperity.

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Rohingya Exodus