Former MP Ro Shwe Maung's Speaking Notes At Oxford Rohingya Conference
Former MP Ro Shwe Maung's Speaking Notes for the Conference on “Myanmar democratic transition and persecuted Rohingya” at the Wolfson College, University of Oxford on 11 May 2016.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to speak at this important event via Skype.
Let me introduce myself. This before my name was U Shwe Maung. On 8 May 2016, I changed my name to Ro Shwe Maung. It means Rohingya Shwe Maung. I am a Rohingya. Please call me Ro Shwe Maung. I am a former Member of Parliament in Myanmar from 2010 to 2015. Authority denied my right to run for office again in 2015 General Election although I was a sitting MP. I was denied the right to contest the election because authority falsely claimed my parents were not citizens of Myanmar when I was born. I would like to say this is the most laughable joke in the 21st Century. I am not only one. All Rohingya candidates were targeted for exclusion. Dozens of Burmese Muslims candidates had also been rejected by election authorities. And make no mistake: it is because of our ethnicity and religion.
On 10 June 2012, I saw face of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Rohingya from helicopter in Sittwe city of Arakan. I saw blaze of Rohingya and Kaman Muslim houses. I felt I was seeing a holocaust from the sky. On July 16, 2012, I went to Sittwe and talked to relatives of victims of violence, which caused 140,000 IDPs. A mother saw her 11 years old daughter was being burnt. A father saw his son was beheaded by the Rakhine terrorists and there were so many horrible stories.
I changed my name to “Ro Shwe Maung”. Because, denial of Rohingya identity is at maximum now although we have an elected civilian government, led by State Counsellor, President’s Office Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. The Foreign Affairs Ministry advised US Embassy to avoid using the term “Rohingya” in the future after a large demonstration backed by the nationalist activists and monks against US Embassy Rangoon and US Government for the use of the term “Rohingya” on April 28, 2016.
Now State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is trying her best to reform the country’s old system with a momentum. We appreciate her steps for a new system for the good of Myanmar people. But she has been constantly silent about the plight of Rohingya. She and governing party NLD have been denying existence of Rohingya people in Myanmar. In the context of Rohingya and Muslim issues, USDP Party and NLD Party have been exercising with same political pattern although they have a huge number of differences in other areas. Rohingya issue becomes a political toy among the players of political game in Myanmar. We Rohingya become political victims of Burma and persecuted in various forms in daily life.
Therefore, I would like to suggest the international community to press the Myanmar government in four key areas: 1) access to citizenship, 2) access to rights and livelihoods, 3) combating extremism, and 4) political reconciliation. In this regard, international actors should call on State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw and Myanmar Military Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to do followings immediately:
1) Access to Citizenship
a. Amend 1982 Citizenship Law to provide Rohingya with equal access to full citizenship, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
b. Recognize Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group of Myanmar and ensuring our right to self-identification
2) Access to Rights and Livelihoods
a. End freedom of movement restrictions on Rohingya in Rakhine State and beyond
b. Ensure Rohingya in Rakhine State have access to basic services, including education and healthcare
c. Release all Rohingya political prisoners, falsely imprisoned after the 2012 violence
d. Facilitate the resettlement and reintegration of Rohingya into their original homes in Rakhine State
3) Combating Extremism
a. Punish, through proper legal channels, individuals who promote hate speech and incite violence
b. Promote pluralism and inclusiveness in political decision-making and society more broadly
4) Political Reconciliation
a. Include Rohingya representatives at the forthcoming 21st Century Pinlone Conference
b. Work with all groups in Rakhine State to formulate an inclusive roadmap to a durable solution to the state’s challenges
c. Amend the 2008 constitution to move toward true democracy
Ro Shwe Maung
Former Rohingya MP in Myanmar (2010 - 2015)
Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarian for Human Rights (www.aseanmp.org)
Founding Member of International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (www.ippforb.com)
President, Arakan Institute for Peace and Development (AiPAD)