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Rohingya activists accuse ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of failing to protect the Rohingya because it hasn't condemned Myanmar’s violence against the ethnic minority as genocide. Is ASEAN protecting Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's generals from international criminal prosecution? 


Maung Zarni 
Coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition 

Tom Villarin 
Member of Philippines’ Congress and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Maung Zarni, a coordinator at the Free Rohingya Coalition ( Ahmet Gürhan Kartal - Anadolu Ajansı )

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
August 29, 2018

Buddhist activist Maung Zarni denounces atrocities targeting Rohingya in his country

LONDON -- The atrocities targeting Myanmar’s Rohingya minority are similar to those committed by Nazi Germany, according to a prominent Buddhist human rights activist.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in Kent, the UK, Maung Zarni, a coordinator at the Free Rohingya Coalition, said the international community should act against his country of origin.

Zarni’s remarks come after the UN released a report earlier this week documenting mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In its report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

“We have a situation wherein a UN member state run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her partners in power, Burmese military generals…is found by the [most] credible and highest body of human rights authorities in the world to be like Nazi Germany,” Zarni said.

“Genocide is what the Nazis did. Genocide is what happened in Rwanda, in Cambodia, or to the Bosnian Muslims.”

Zarni underlined that when a case is determined to be “genocidal”, the responsibility for dealing with it lies with all UN member states.

“The highest political and moral obligation rests with the [UN] Security Council,” he added.

He said setting up an international criminal court as was done for Rwanda or Bosnia would not be enough; the Rohingya minority needs “a protected region where they can live safely and as normal, decent human beings”.

The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has called on Myanmar’s top military officials, including army commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to be tried at the International Criminal Court for genocide committed against Rohingya Muslims.

“My expectation, in an ideal world…[is that] the UN Security Council will authorize some form of intervention so that the atrocities can be stopped and the Rohingya can be given their land back and allowed to live in dignity and in safety,” Zarni said.

- Sanctions

Zarni said there are now more Rohingya living outside Myanmar than those who are left in the country following decades of violence but especially after a full-scale attack was launched against them in August last year.

Underlining that the international community should impose sanctions on Myanmar’s government and army, Zarni pointed out that the exclusion policy against the Rohingya must end.

Rohingya Muslims “are being purged,” and the ultimate goal in introducing sanctions against Myanmar should be “to fundamentally change the Burmese state’s policies and change the structures [which] have been mobilized by the Burmese military and public opinion makers to repress and persecute and essentially annihilate this population,” Zarni added.

The ultimate goal of multiple sanctions should be providing Rohingya “international protection” and creating “an autonomous region where the Burmese military would not be allowed to continue the atrocities,” he said. 

- Solution

Zarni said Myanmar has four major pillars: the military, the Buddhist order, political parties, and the public.

“All four of these major institutions…have categorically rejected the Rohingya. We are telling them they don’t belong to Burma, we don’t want them in Burma.”

Zarni said the solution to the problem does not lie in the country but has to be formulated internationally and within the UN institutions.

- Call for Turkey's assistance

Zarni added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government “have been extremely vocal and supportive of the Rohingya people”.

“This is the time for Turkey to show serious moral and political leadership,” he said.

Pointing out that the UN Security Council is in a “coma” and “paralyzed” as it cannot resolve the problems, Zarni emphasized that Turkey can really help in Myanmar’s case by “leading to form a coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim governments that accept that this is genocide and [say] we must not be bystanders to genocide”.

He said there are more than 500,000 Rohingya trapped in Myanmar and they can be driven out any time, adding it is the time to act and to form a coalition.

“My appeal is not to the Burmese people. My appeal is to the Islamic world as well as non-Islamic communities to help the Rohingya.

“Because this is not just about Muslim people. They are human beings. But we, Burmese, in my country treat them like [they are] less than animals.”

On Aug. 25, 2017, Myanmar launched a major military crackdown on the Muslim ethnic minority, killing almost 24,000 civilians and forcing 750,000 others, including women and children, to flee to Bangladesh, according to the Ontario International Development Agency.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Published by The Global New Light of Myanmar on June 10, 2018

Myanmar’s leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sat down for her first one-on-one interview with NHK in 5 years. In the interview, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told NHK World correspondent Orie Sugimoto that deep-rooted communal sentiment in Rakhine State cannot be resolved overnight.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, right, interviewed by NHK World correspondent Orie Sugimoto. Photo: MNA

Q: The Myanmar government has agreed to have UN Agencies assist with the repatriation process of the so-called Rohingya people in Rakhine State, and to set up an independent committee to investigate human rights violations. These actions have been long required by the refugees themselves and international communities as well. Why did Myanmar take these actions at this time at this point?
A: I don’t think it’s quite this time at this point. It’s a process. Perhaps, people are unaware of the fact that we have been negotiating with UN Agencies, as sure kind of MoU we can agree to and this goes back to quite some time ago to the recommendations of Dr. Kofi Annan’s commission. And, of course, with the regard to the national latest investigation team, this is something that was advised by our advisory board. And we take very seriously that advice because after all, we appointed them because we believe they will be able to give us a valuable perception of the situation.

Q: As we cannot see that, may I ask you why it took such a long time for Myanmar to come out with these actions? What’s the difficulty in taking these actions?
A: Well, I don’t think you can say that it took us a long time because if you remember the advisory board made their recommendations just a few months back. So, I don’t think you can say we have taken a long time over the national investigation team. With regard to the UNDP and the UNHCR MoU, we’ve been negotiating and to negotiate and come to an agreement on MoU, we need to look into all the implications, both sides. There are some things that we agreed to immediately and there are some things over which we had to trash out a few obstacles. So, if we want to have a MoU that is meaningful and also at the same time, truly implementable, I think it’s worthwhile to take a bit of time.

Q: What was the difficult point for Myanmar to comply with?
A: I don’t think there was one difficult point as such either for us or UN Agencies. I think it was a question of many points. But none of them really is inseparable, which is why we’ve come to an agreement now.

Q: Myanmar has been criticized for alleged violence against so-called Rohingya Muslims. I also heard the Myanmar government saying that this issue is very complicated, complex, sometimes it’s not right for the international community to intervene in this issue. Could you explain why this issue is so complicated and difficult for Myanmar, and why sometimes it’s not right for the international community to intervene in this issue?
A: First of all, of course, it’s a long standing issue. People forget that it goes back a couple of centuries. It’s not something that happened yesterday. You cannot resolve a problem that has been existing for such a long time in a few months. And our government took over the responsibility of that administration just 2 years ago. And you cannot resolve a problem like that overnight. And very few people outside of Myanmar and even very few people in Myanmar are aware of all the historical issues that are involved. So, it’s not just for the world outside. It’s also for our people inside the country to understand what’s going on and why we take the steps that we take. It’s most important that our people should understand. Because we are the one who must in the long run preserve the stability and security of our country.

Q: Is it too risky for Myanmar not to wait for or not to take enough time to explain to the people of Myanmar and to explain the international community how complex this issue is?
A: I think it’s risky for anybody to go head long into a problem without considering all the various aspects involved.

Q: Can you please explain what the risk for Myanmar is in doing things more quickly?
A: You cannot hurry over everything. The things that require time have to be given time. You cannot force issues. You cannot say to people, for example, “Now forget about the problem and start a new page.” You can’t just order them. You have to create a situation which will enable them to understand why they have to find different ways of resolving all the problems.
Q: Can you talk more about the independent committee to investigate the human rights violation in Rakhine State such as the members of the committee? Are you sure that it will be reliable and independent and will explain to the international community that the Myanmar government is trying to follow the rule of law?
A: We cannot at the moment tell you exactly who is going to be in the commission. But we will only appoint people in whose integrity and whose ability we have full confidence.

Q: Do you believe that having an investigation committee which is independent will improve the situation and gain the understanding of the international community as well?
A: The advisory board believes that this is something that should be done. And as for the full confidence, and in the goodwill as well as the wisdom of the advisory board, we think that this will be a positive move that will help the situation.

Q: Why did you choose this national initiative, rather than an international initiative such as the UN fact-finding mission?
A: We’ve explained repeatedly why we cannot accept the UN fact-finding mission with regard to this initiative as I’ve been explaining earlier. This is something that is recommended by the advisory board and they have been in the situation to study what’s happening in Rakhine. And since they recommended it very seriously, we take it very seriously as well.

Q: In Cox Bazaar, many refugees are hesitating to return to Myanmar because they are afraid of facing violence if they come back to Myanmar. This fact is making it even more difficult to start voluntary repatriation. So, how will Myanmar restore trust with the refugees and also with the international community?
A: Trust is a 2-way business. I don’t think it’s just up to just Myanmar to establish trust. I think the other side also has to take necessary steps in order to establish trust.
For example, we understand that the forms that are required to fill in in accordance with the MoU agreed between Myanmar and Bangladesh have not been distributed widely to the refugees.
Unless these forms been distributed and unless the refugees know that there’s a legal and safe way for them to return to Rakhine. Then we will not be able to make quick progress. So I think, it’s a 2-way process. MoU is agreed to by 2 or more parties, and it’s competent on all parties involved to implement their responsibilities.

Q: I understand that all parties have a lot of work to do to restore and establish mutual trust. For the Myanmar side, what can you do?
A: We have carried out all our responsibilities in line with the MoU. If you study the MoU, if you look at what we’ve been doing, I think you’ll find that we have carried out all our responsibilities. But trust is not something that you can create just by signing a piece of paper and it’s the people who have to take a risk on whether or not the situation is trustworthy. If you’re not prepared to try out a situation, you can never tell for sure whether it’s acceptable or not.

Q: I understand that Myanmar has taken all possible actions to restore the trust. But from now on, what kind of actions do you plan to take?
A: Trust is not something that you establish within a limited amount of time. You cannot say, well, trust has been established to Degree A, and now. And the next 4 months we go to Degree B. It doesn’t work like that. It’s an ongoing process. And as I said, everybody concerned must be positive and committed to the process of reestablishing trust.

Q: Recent actions by the Myanmar government like the agreement with the UN, establishment of the independent committee to restore mutual trust and with other parties… can we understand it in that way?
A: Are you saying that did we undertake to sign the MoU with the UNDP and UNHCR and to form the investigation team in order to create trust?

Q: I don’t mean to say it’s the only purpose. But is it in line with Myanmar…?
A: I think I’ve explained several times now that it’s in line with the recommendations that were made by Dr. Kofi Annan’s commission and by our advisory board. The commission and the board both were formed at our initiative and obviously, we put people whose wisdom and goodwill we believe, so their recommendations have to be taken very seriously indeed.

Q: I know it’s very difficult for you to clarify but can I ask when do you expect the actual return of the refugees will start?
A: That depends much on us as but also on Bangladesh. It’s a 2-way business. Until the refugees have been given the forms, until they’ve been informed fully of all the steps they need to take to come back to Rakhine, we will not be able to carry forward the process very quickly. As you know, some have come back but not through the official channels. And the ones who came back, said that they were not aware of the need to fill in forms and to follow a certain procedure.

Q: Inside Myanmar, among many Myanmar citizens, there is deep rooted discrimination or hatred against so-called Rohingya people or Rohingya Muslims or sometimes Bengali. As a leader of this country, and as a leader of democracy do you have messages for those people of this country?
A: We have been working on it ever since our government took over the administration. One of the first things we did after we came into the administration on the 1st of April was to form a committee for the rule of law and development in Rakhine. Because we realized that the animosity, the distrust and if you like, the fear and hate in Rakhine were rooted in the fact that it’s a region where there’s very little prosperity and very little security. Which is why we formed the committee for the rule of law and development. Since then, we were looking to the long term solution of the Rakhine problem, if you like. We’d like to see it as a challenge, rather than a problem. So as I said, it’s ongoing. You cannot wipe out what has happened in history for more than a century within a few months, not even within a few years. It is something that you have to work on consistently. If you look at other countries, you’ll find that, often, even long standing democracies have problems. Making sure that all the different communities are at peace, and I have learned to trust and like each other.

Q: Just recently, Japan Ambassador Mr. Maruyama was invited to Maungdaw and Sittwe to observe the situation. How do you evaluate the role of Japan in this issue?
A: Japan has been very positive and practical in its contribution of aid and assistance to the resolution of the situation in Rakhine. We appreciate it very much. It’s also our policy to make sure that those countries that are providing aid and assistance in that part of our country can go there frequently to see how we are carrying out the projects of which we agreed.

Q: Do you feel that the Japanese stance is a bit different from other countries?
A: Each country’s stance is different. Of course, some countries tend to stick together and some countries act individually. But I think, basically, there are no 2 countries which have taken exactly the same stand. There are always nuances.
Q: What do you believe is the specialty of the Myanmar-Japan relationship?
A: I would not like to put it as a specialty on Japan-Myanmar relations. Because then, it will imply that we don’t have good relations with other countries. But, I think we can say that we have always valued the deep friendship between Japan and Myanmar, which is based on the friendship and understanding between our peoples. I always say that it all comes down to that. There’s nothing that can replace friendship and understanding between people. Government comes and government goes. People go on forever. I think part of our special relationship as you call it with Japan is very much rooted in the fact that there’s a deep friendship between our people.

Q: Moving on to the democracy and development of Myanmar. Two years after the establishment of the new government, can you please describe achievements in percentages and numbers?
A: Absolutely impossible to explain in percentage and number. Actually, I’ve never thought of it that way. I have to go back to the work “process.” The development of a country is a process. It never comes to an end. And even the very-well developed democracies have challenges that they have to overcome time and again. And new challenges arrive as the world changes. So, we cannot fix the kind of ideal, you said, for democracy. It has to change all the time. But, basically for us, we think that the most important thing is for our people to be aware of their part of the responsibility for establishing democracy in the country. It’s not just the responsibility of the government. I think in fact, that’s the contradiction. If you want democracy, to say that the success of democracy is totally in the hands of government is totally oxymoronic because democracy is people-based. People have to be very much part of the process. And I can hardly calculate how many of the people considered themselves as part of the process and to what extent. But if we go back to the election of 2015, you will remember that a good proportion of our electorates went to the poll. Myanmar, as a country, has suffered from poor education and still suffers from poor education and poor communication including just ordinary roads. I think it’s a great achievement that a high percentage went to the poll to carry out their responsibilities as citizens of a democratic society. We are certainly not a wholly democratic country. If we look at the legislature you can see very clearly that we are only 75% democratic. Because only 75% of our representatives are elected by the people. But I don’t think that’s the percentage by which we can judge the degree to which we have democracy. I think our people are a lot less frightened than they used to be before the election. I think you’ll notice that there is much more open criticisms of their government and those connected to the government than they ever used to be in the past. That’s an indication of the fact that democratic freedom has progressed. But we all have to be aware of the fact that the freedom brings with it the responsibility. And we have yet to know for sure how much the responsible part of this process has increased.

Q: As you mentioned, democracy is people-based. Do you feel the mindset of the people has changed compared to 2 years ago?
A: I said earlier that they are less frightened. That means their mindset is changing and we make it a point of repeating again and again, reiterating the fact that they have responsibility as well. Our government uses the word “responsibility” a lot. And I think it’s important.

Q: As you mentioned, Myanmar is not fully democratic because you still have that influence of the military in politics as well. Is this fact making it more difficult to combat the challenging issues such as the Rakhine issue or reconciliation of ethnic minorities?
A: Let’s say that it is an added dimension to the challenges that we have to face. And that’s quite normal. Because as you said, and as I have explained, we are not a wholly democratic society yet because our constitution is not wholly democratic.

Q: We haven’t seen physical progress in the amendment of the constitution. Do you have any roadmap to achieve that goal of amendment of the constitution?
A: We do have a roadmap, which is not going to be made public. But, at the same time, I think you will understand that in 2014, when we had a debate in the legislature with regard to the amendment of the constitution, we made it quite clear we want to bring about the amendment through peaceful negotiation and within the framework of the law, because we want to establish sound and healthy principles for the democratic machinery in our country.

Q: Do you sometimes find difficulty in balancing the actual situation of Rakhine State or regarding national reconciliation and the power of the military? Are you finding such a dilemma?
A: I don’t quite know what you mean. Because I don’t think that is the strength of the military that has any direct effect on what’s happening in Rakhine. I know that, and I’m sure you know that according to the constitution, elected government cannot direct military operations. So of course, we do not have the kind of overall control that will be exercised by a wholly democratic government.

Q: Recently, 2 Reuters journalists were arrested when covering the Rakhine issue. Myanmar is criticized for limiting the freedom of speech and being undemocratic. The journalists were arrested when they are covering human rights issue in Rakhine state. How do you respond to these criticisms? Is democracy in Myanmar different from that in which the international community believes?
A: They weren’t arrested for covering the Rakhine issue. They were arrested because they broke the Official Secret Act. And I think you are aware of the fact that everybody has free access to the court proceedings. Now, all of this is in accordance with due process. I’m sure the NHK correspondent attends the court proceedings regularly. What is important is that we should be working in accordance with due process and rule of law. They were arrested because they broke the Official Secret Act. We cannot say now whether they were guilty or not. That will be up to judiciary. It is for the judiciary to decide. They were not arrested for covering the Rakhine issue.

Q: They were not arrested for covering the issue. But, while they were covering the issue…
A: And other issues. I think if you’ve been following the court proceedings, you will understand that there were other issues involved in breaking of the Official Secret Act.

Q: Many parties from the international community are demanding that Myanmar free those 2 journalists immediately. How do you see those voices from international community?
A: As I said, we follow the due process and everybody is free to follow the court proceedings to find out whether or not they are fair, whether or not they are in accordance with the rule of law.

Q: Regarding Myanmar-Japan relations, what kind of role do you expect Japan to play for democratization and the development of Myanmar as a whole, and for economic relations?
A: We expect Japan to play the role of understanding and a longstanding friend.

Q: Many Japanese companies are really willing to come to Myanmar, and to join the Myanmar economy. But they are concerned about the infrastructure, especially the electricity. Can we expect a better environment for those companies?
A: They should study what we have done in the way of infrastructure over the last couple of years. I think they will see that we’ve made considerable progress. Mind you, over the last 2 years, we have concentrated more on political needs than our economic needs. Meaning to say, that we have given priority to the construction of roads and provision of electricity for regions for politically necessity rather than for reasons where it is economically profitable. But, we can now concentrate more on economically profitable areas because we can handle the first priority quite adequately so far.

Q: Do you believe the economic relations of Myanmar and Japan will contribute to the future of Myanmar?
A: I hope it will contribute to the future of Japan as well.

Q: But what about Myanmar?
A: Of course, it will contribute to the future of both countries, if it’s carried out in the right way. As I said, we should be fair. We have to look to each other’s needs and each other’s benefits. Not just our side.

May 31, 2018

We speak to Maung Zarni, a human rights campaigner, academic and co-author of "The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya". He joins us on set a week after Amnesty International published a report detailing a massacre carried out by Rohingya militants last August in Myanmar's Rakhine state, where nearly 100 Hindus were killed. Zarni vocally criticises Amnesty, saying the report whips up anti-Rohingya sentiment, not just in Myanmar but across Southeast Asia.

April 27, 2018

Extended conversation with Rohingya activist Tun Khin, who visited the world’s most densely populated refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, earlier this month. The UN Security Council is visiting Burma and Bangladesh starting this week to assess the state of the Rohingya. Hundreds of thousands of registered Rohingya refugees now live in the Cox’s Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh after fleeing a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder and arson that the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Now Aid agencies are scrambling to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from crowded camps in Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon season in June. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says at least 150,000 people are at “high risk from mudslides and floods” from the heavy rain in the next few months. This comes as more refugees are still crossing over from Burma. Last week, Burma’s Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye said Burma will start repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon. But Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and a member of the Free Rohingya Coalition, says repatriation without international protection will have devastating effects. We are joined in our New York studio by Tun Khin. He was born in Burma, but in 1982 he was rendered effectively stateless along with a million other ethnic Rohingya under a nationality law.

April 27, 2018

Aid agencies are scrambling to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from crowded camps in Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon season in June. Hundreds of thousands of registered Rohingya refugees now live in the Cox’s Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh after fleeing a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder and arson that the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Now the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says at least 150,000 people are at “high risk from mudslides and floods” from the heavy rain in the next few months. Some could be moved to a recently formed island at the mouth of the Meghna River. This comes as more refugees are still crossing over from Burma. We are joined in our New York studio by Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and a member of the Free Rohingya Coalition. He was born in Burma, but in 1982 he was rendered effectively stateless along with a million other ethnic Rohingya under a nationality law.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show looking at how aid agencies are scrambling to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from crowded camps in Bangladesh ahead of the monsoon season in June. More than a million registered Rohingya refugees now live in southeastern Bangladesh after they fled in 2017 amid a Burmese military campaign of rape, murder, and arson that the U.N. has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Now the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says at least 150,000 people are at “high risk from mudslides and floods” from the heavy rain in the next few months. Some could be moved to a recently formed island at the mouth of the Meghna River. This comes as more refugees are still crossing over from Burma.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we are joined in our New York studio by Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, a member of the Free Rohingya Coalition. Born in Burma, but in 1982, he was rendered effectively stateless along with a million other ethnic Rohingya under a new nationality law. Welcome back to Democracy Now! You were just in the area. You have just returned. Tell us what you saw and your deep concerns about the moving of the Rohingya in Bangladesh who have fled what many are calling genocide, in Burma.

TUN KHIN: Yes. These are victims of genocide. They fled because they’re facing serious mass atrocities in their homeland. That’s why they fled. What I have seen—there is many Rohingyas—women are not getting proper medical aid. At least 30,000 Rohingya women are pregnant. There are some rape victims there, raped women also. At least 25,000 unaccompanied children there.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Cox’s Bazar, where you were—

TUN KHIN: [inaudible]

AMY GOODMAN: —home to the most densely populated refugee camp in the world?

TUN KHIN: Yes. So the challenge in here is now coming after a few weeks, when heavy rain comes up. Half million population will—their lives will be in danger because of flood and because of heavy rain. That is what happens normally in that area. So it is very important international community must focus on that to protect these people. Because I worry there will be next another natural disaster these Rohingya people will face. Last year, they faced man-made disaster, what we have seen as genocide, completely. Completely their atrocities against Rohingya has been going [inaudible] of genocide, I should say.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Can you talk about what plans are in place to relocate the Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar?

TUN KHIN: As far as what I learned from international NGOs, they’re trying to relocate. They’ve mapped up the—some places and they’re trying to relocate some Rohingyas. But we still do not know when and how they will do that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what about the question of repatriation? Have any of the Rohingya returned to Burma?

TUN KHIN: For me, there is—it cannot be happening, repatriation. Because the Burmese military and government systematically driven them out from their homeland. So they created—the Burmese military and government created impossible situation for the Rohingyas. When I was there, last three weeks, the people are still fleeing from Burma to Bangladesh. And last two days ago, I received five families fled. Every day, Rohingya families are fleeing. At least one week, 10 to 15 families are fleeing, because Burmese military and government is arresting many Rohingyas with false allegation, threatening them. “We do not want to see you in this country.”

AMY GOODMAN: Tun Khin, the UN Security Council is going to Bangladesh this weekend. What do you want to come out of this visit?

TUN KHIN: Firstly, as I met also the victims, they told me they want to see justice before they are returned. They want see these perpetrators where their children been burned alive, where their daughters been raped in front of them, where their sons been slaughtered in front of them. They want justice. They want to see these perpetrators in international criminal court. So this is important we bring them international criminal court, firstly.

Secondly, when we talk about repatriation, we want to return our homeland. That’s what a refugee told me. But they want protection. That is why we are calling here protected return to protected homeland, in Myanmar. So that international protection is needed. In Burma as a whole country—USDP party, NLD party, military, security forces, Buddhist monk—they do not want to see Rohingya as citizens. They’re saying illegal immigrants. So any time mass atrocity we will face again—before this happen, protection is needed when you return these refugees.

AMY GOODMAN: Tun Khin, we want to thank you for being with us. President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. And this breaking news—Presidents Trump’s nominee to head the VA, Dr. Ronny Jackson, has withdrawn from consideration. Democracy Now! is accepting applications for our year-long paid social media fellowship. Check it out at I’m Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh.

Famous Burmese dissident Dr. Maung Zarni speaks to Anadolu Agency on heartrending plight of Rohingya Muslims and what can be done to resolve it, in Istanbul, Turkey on April 24, 2018. ( Selin Çalık Muhasiloviç - Anadolu Agency)

Famous Burmese dissident Dr. Maung Zarni speaks to Anadolu Agency on heartrending plight of Rohingya Muslims and what can be done to resolve it

By Selin Calik Muhasilovic
April 26, 2018

ISTANBUL -- In a rare exclusive interview, Myanmarese scholar and democracy advocate Dr. Maung Zarni spoke to Anadolu Agency on the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and persecution in the Rakhine state and Turkey’s important role specifically to help them return to the ‘Protected Homeland’. 

- ‘The Rohingya are misframed as a proxy for terrorists’ 

You are a Buddhist academic but you support the Rohingya Muslims. How did the genocide take place? Why do you oppose the genocide as a Buddhist? 

Well, I am not supporting Rohingya Muslims because they are Muslims. 

I am supporting that they are fellow humans from my country and they are oppressed not because they take up arms, not because they are trying to gain independence or separate from Burma, but because they are Rohingya and they are misframed as a threat to national security. 

As you know, they are misframed as a proxy for the terrorists in the Middle East. They are also seen and misperceived basically as local proxies for Bangladesh, if Bangladesh were ever to decide to take the Rohingya region. 

So, essentially the Rohingya are innocent and they have a small number of radical or young angry Rohingya who want to fight back because they do not have any option because they have lost everything. 

But, that does not justify what the Burmese military has been doing, which is essentially “genocide”. 

If I do not speak out and oppose, I would be less than a human being, because this kind of genocide can destroy our community and poses a threat to the territorial integrity of Burma. 

In the case of the Rohingya, we have been engaged in different ways of killings since 1978 when the Burmese military decided that this community must not be allowed to exist as Rohingya or their numbers must be reduced by terrorizing them so that they would run away to Bangladesh or other places. 

So, on the religious or philosophical ground, the killings must not be condoned, especially given that I know that the Burmese military destroys their livelihood, food systems, and restrict their access to farms where they can raise or harvest food crops like rice.

If I do not speak out, then it is my responsibility, then I am complicit. 

In this kind of situation when you keep your mouth shut, you know that a large number of human beings are being slaughtered; then I am complicit. 

Similar to the situation in the Nazi Germany, when some decent and good Germans kept their mouth shut as they were afraid for their lives.

But, there were also a very small number of Germans who said Nazism was bad for everybody, including the Germans. 

So, they opposed when a lot of people were executed by the SS, or the Hitler regime. In my case, I have been declared the top enemy of the state and a national threat.

But, if you do not want your children to be raped and killed, you should not want any other people’s families to be hurt either. 

The Rohingya are not small in number. We are talking about 800.000 Rohingya who have run away from their lands. 

They are someone else’s wife, husband, brother, teacher... They are human beings like us. I personally know some of the people that rewrote the citizenship law against the Rohingya in 1982.

I also know the top leader of the military that organized the genocide. As a researcher, I know. So, on these grounds, I have no choice but to oppose these inhumane acts. 

That’s why I am the first Buddhist who publicly says this is wrong. I named these acts as crimes as early as 2013 when everybody basically ridiculed me, saying that I was exaggerating because they did not see the large numbers of people being killed. 

The government has often restricted access to the northern Rakhine State for journalists and aid workers. What kind of restrictions have you experienced as an academic and activist? What kind of price have you paid? Has this price been worth paying?

Firstly, let me tell you that I have been active for 30 years in different campaigns or movements to try to stop the military government in Burma and to introduce the principles of human rights, women’s rights, environmental protection etc. 

Rohingya is the latest issue that I want to do something about, to end the genocide. In the last 30 years, I haven’t suffered in the form of imprisonment, torture, or restrictions as I come from a privileged, urban, and educated family. 

But I do get some “treats” from time to time. When I was living in Brunei and teaching there, the Burmese Embassy tried to have me fired from the Brunei University because the Brunei government wanted to do business with the Burmese government. 

Brunei is a Muslim country but they are more interested in making money with the Buddhist government. So, unfortunately I resigned from my position under pressure because I had written a number of articles in support of the Rohingya Muslims. 

- ‘Kofi Annan Commission is a failure’

In September 2016, an advisory commission headed by Kofi Annan was established to sustain the peace and stop the massacre of the Rohingya Muslims. Do you think that this commission has been successful in its efforts? 

The Kofi Annan Commission is a huge international shield to protect the Burmese government because Kofi Annan is seen as a credible individual. 

I have never held Kofi Annan in any high regard particularly because Kofi Annan was the man on whose watch two genocides took place.

The first genocide was that of the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, who were slaughtered in 1995 when Kofi Annan was the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in New York.

The second one was Rwanda. 800.000 people were slaughtered and Kofi Annan concealed the telegram that had come from the head of the peacekeeping mission in Rwanda to his office in New York.

Additionally, Kofi Annan did nothing in South Sudan when the South Sudanese were being killed by the regime. Nonetheless, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the UN. 

His commission had two other foreign members; the former Dutch ambassador and the former Lebanese minister of culture. 

On this issue, their mandate was not to document the human rights abuses or decide whether a genocide is being committed in Burma. Their mandate was to look at the situation from our conflict-mediation perspective. 

His commission’s framework is fundamentally flawed because the nature of the Rohingya persecution is not a conflict; it is a genocide. Genocides are not conflicts. 

Genocide is essentially the destruction of an ethnic or religious or racial group of people by the political state that is controlled by the majority ethnic or religious group. 

In our case, the Buddhist majority that controls the arm forces and the Rakhine state wanted to get rid of all the Rohingya or a large number of Rohingya who happen to be Muslims from their own homeland. 

In ignoring the international criminal nature of the Burmese state and its policies and then taking a “conflict resolution” or “conflict management” approach, the Kofi Annan commission is deeply flawed conceptually. 

But even with that conceptual flaw, I would say that maybe some of the recommendations are worthy, like granting the Rohingya citizenships. The Kofi Annan Commission was never ever accepted by the Burmese military anyway. 

We have a situation in Burma, where the government is kind of hybrid; there is the military and the Aung San Suu Kyi government. They jointly run the country depending on the issues. 

On the Rohingya issue, the military never accepted Kofi Annan’s involvement, because he was widely seen within the military leadership as someone connected with the responsibility to promote an intervention, although our responsibility to protect has never been mentioned and used by the UN to stop the mass atrocities. 

So, his commission had absolutely no chance of succeeding from day one. The military attempted to derail his commission within the parliament by introducing a motion that would oppose Kofi Annan’s involvement. 

The military worked with the Rakhine nationalists to stage protests whenever Kofi Annan and his commission came to the Rakhine state. The military also encouraged the Rakhine people not to collaborate with Kofi Annan. So, this commission is a complete failure. 

- ‘Serious leadership from a powerful state like Turkey is needed’ 

According to a Turkish government statement, President Erdogan was the first to manage to get permission for humanitarian aid to enter Myanmar. The Burmese government had, at the peak of the violence, blocked all UN aid for the Rohingya. How does Turkey support the oppressed Rohingya? 

On the issue of Rohingya, Turkey has been extremely good. Turkey apparently highly prioritized the oppression of the Rohingya people.

Turkey’s first lady (Emine Erdogan) visited Rohingya and Cox’s Bazaar and met with the Rohingya. Turkey has provided humanitarian aid by the help of TIKA, AFAD and other NGO’s of Turkey. 

I think the support that the Turkish leadership has shown towards Rohingya Muslims seems to be genuine and that is very commendable from a human rights perspective. 

I think there are two things Turkey can do: one is to increase the level of humanitarian assistance to Rohingya very significantly. There are about one million Rohingya in Bangladesh alone, 200,000 Rohingyas are in the IDP (internally displaced person) camps. 

The other is that Turkey can mobilize the political opinions among the governments within Muslim blocs, the 57-country OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and Western blocs such as Canada, France, Germany and others with the purpose of holding high-level international conferences to discuss the future of the Rohingya people and what they need to rebuild their communities.

They were expelled from the region where they were born and raised in. There is a 100-km stretch of land where the Rohingya people used to live. 

They were driven out violently, a massive number of the Rohingya were slaughtered and women raped. We are looking at the killing fields of the northern Arakan, a stretch of a hundred kilometers. 

Turkey and other governments around the world should mount a serious opposition against the Burmese government’s plan to turn the killing fields of northern Arakan to economic zones. 

Turkey’s leadership and role would be the most important contribution; Turkey can do more than feed the Rohingya and give them medicine. 

In reality, no one can keep feeding one million people forever. What the Rohingya need is essentially their homeland, where they can grow their own rice or they can set up little shops. Their area is also not landlocked. They can do cross-border trade. 

So, what is needed is serious leadership from a powerful state like Turkey. Western governments are not showing any commitment to address the issue. 

They keep framing this as a conflict but there is actually a genocide being committed by a state against a people who just want to simply live in peace in that country.

That’s why Turkey needs to step in more to stop the hegemony of the Western governments on the Rohingya issue.

April 26, 2018

Boston, United States -- During a recent visit to the United States, Dave Eubank spoke with PRI’s The World regarding the Rohingya crisis, ARSA, and what the future may hold for Rohingya refugees. To listen to the interview, click the clip below.

American aid worker and former special forces officer David Eubank recently returned from Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh where he met with the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. Eubank tells The World’s Marco Werman the group is poorly trained and funded but determined to offer armed resistance to Myanmar’s government.

Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin

By Tarek Mahmud
March 24, 2018

London-based renowned Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin, also a regular contributor to Rohingya community blog, speaks with the Dhaka Tribune’s Tarek Mahmud to discuss the issues of racial discrimination against Rohingyas in detail

How have Rohingyas faced discrimination in the Rakhine state of Myanmar?

Rohingyas have been subject to racial discrimination since the military coup in 1962.

In 1965, a radio program broadcasted in Rohingya language was shut down.

Then in 1974, the Burmese junta launched ‘Operation Jasmine’, locally known as “Operation Sabae”, through which they confiscated many identity cards from the Rohingyas while they were traveling from one state to another.

1978 saw another large scale operation, ‘Dragon King’, to wipe out Rohingyas, which resulted in more than 250,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh. But soon after, although they had been expelled as illegal Bangladeshis, they were repatriated as Rohingyas.

Since then, Rohingyas have lost many basic rights. In 1982, Rohingyas became stateless within their own country after the enactment of the new citizenship law. 10 years later in 1992, the military junta imposed severe restrictions against us, forcing us to live in open-air prisons.

Do the Myanmar authorities impose such restrictions only against the Rohingyas? Why has the Myanmar government acted this way?

Myanmar authorities are targeting the Rohingya population specifically because the Rohingyas are confined within one particular area. But they are not only targeting Rohingyas, they are antagonistic against other Muslim minorities across the country as well.

However, there is a difference between the policies concerning Rohingyas and other Muslim minorities. Myanmar’s policy towards the Rohingya is to simply wipe them off Myanmar’s map through genocide. They do not want the Rohingya population in the country.

They are very well aware of Rohingyas’ lineage and history, but they still continue to propagate the claim that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. With the help of this propaganda campaign, the Myanmar government has garnered the support of the Buddhist majority, which made it easier for them to kill thousands of Rohingyas and drive them out to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.

How do you think the Rohingyas can be repatriated properly?

Firstly, the repatriation agreement should be held up, and the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state must be protected. Secondly, the United Nations and the international community should oversee the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas back to Rakhine.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will only go back if a safe repatriation process is ensured.

How can the Rohingya diaspora play a role in the repatriation process and in rooting out this racial discrimination?

Rohingya diasporas are trying to help as much as they can, but it is very important that the UN and the international community intervene in the repatriation process.

Most of the countries have agreed with it, with the exception of China and Russia. Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing need to be produced before the International Criminal Court. Only then will the genocide against Rohingyas stop.

China and Russia are obstacles in the process, but we will not give up. There must be justice for all the atrocities the Myanmar government has been committing for almost four decades.

How is the Rohingya crisis affecting the Asian countries in different arenas such as security, health, migration, and others?

The refugee camps in Bangladesh act as a black market for traffickers. I think, after the monsoon season, many traffickers will try to smuggle genocide survivors residing in Bangladesh. But if the Bangladeshi government is vigilant, this might not occur.

Do you think the Bangladeshi government is tackling the Rohingya crisis in a diplomatic manner? If not, then what do you think Bangladesh should do?

We appreciate the fact that Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees. I think they are doing their best, but it is also true that we will not like all of their activities since they have to be diplomatic at the same time.

As a result, I think countries like the US, the UK, and organizations like the EU and OIC need to stand beside Bangladesh and pressurize the Myanmar government to accept the demands of the Rohingya survivors.

Bangladesh has to be firm with Myanmar about the repatriation process. It must urge the Myanmar military to stop calling Rohingyas ‘extremist Bangladeshi terrorists’ and start recognizing them as their own citizens.

As Bangladesh is a state party of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it has the capacity to refer Burmese criminals to the court.

Bangladesh has been suffering the Rohingya crisis for 40 years. The exodus continues to repeat, again and again. The time has come to take strong action against Myanmar so it stops the ongoing genocide.

How has the international community addressed the Rohingya crisis? What more do you think it should do?

The UN has termed Rohingyas as the most persecuted minority since 1992. But no solutions have been provided yet.

Many rights organizations and countries are calling the persecution against the Rohingyas ‘ethnic cleansing’. But this is not the right term. Scholars and experts have called it a genocide. I believe if the international community starts using the correct term, it will help in stopping the genocide, and actions against the Burmese criminals will be taken faster.

The Rohingyas have been displaced by their government several times already. What is the future of the Rohingyas?

In short, if the repatriation of Rohingyas is not protected, if the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state is not protected, the exodus and genocide will continue. That is why we are demanding the safe return of the Rohingyas back to Myanmar.

Myanmar State Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her role in the crisis. How far do you think she is responsible? What she can do, now?

As a Nobel peace laureate, she at least has a moral authority and obligation to speak out against any injustice. But unfortunately, she has put her support behind the genocidal campaign against Rohingyas. She has sided with military criminals.

As the de facto leader of Myanmar, she is fully responsible for stopping all atrocities against Rohingyas. The military has claimed that they inform the government about everything, and have to get permission before acting. Since she is not willing to do anything for the Rohingyas, except lying to the international community about the Myanmar military’s actions, she should be brought to the International Criminal Court.

Bringing criminals like her to the International Criminal Court is a huge challenge for us, but we will not stop trying. Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be punished.

Rohingya Exodus