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Briefing Report on Rohingyas at the MAS-ICNA Annual Convention in ChicagoSalem-News.com
(MAS-ICNA Convention held on December 21st to 25th, 2012)
(CHICAGO) - First of all, I would like to thank the organizing Committee members of this 11th Annual Convention of MAS-ICNA for giving me an ample opportunity to present the plights of Burmese Rohingya ethnic minority of Arakan-Burma with current update information.
Before briefing the situation of Burmese Rohingya people, I want to introduce all of you about myself and our organization called “The Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association. My name is Shaukhat (aka) MSK Jilani and currently, I am carrying the duty as a Chairman in the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association.
The Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin State and it was formed by the Burmese Rohingya residents and citizens of America living in Milwaukee area to advocate the suffering cause of ethnic Rohingya minority people of Arakan-Burma who are the worst victims of a pre-planned controlled genocide and ethnic cleansing at the hands of Burmese government security forces and law enforcing agencies with the active collaboration of extremist, racist and xenophobic Rakhine Buddhist people led by Buddhist Rakhine National political forces such as Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), some NLD members, Rakhine academicians and intellectuals, Buddhist monks, Rakhine Youth Association and other members of Arakan Liberation Party (ALP). The Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association is a non-profit community based organization working together with all American communities and societies, NGOs, human rights organizations including the US Government administration for the prevention and protection of Arakan Muslim population from the Burmese Government’s controlled genocide and ethnic cleansing in Burma.
Now, I want to continue to tell you about the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan and its national status in Burma. Burma is a home country to numerous ethnic groups and about 60% of the area is inhabited by nearly 140 ethnic races and Rohingya is one of them. Currently, Burma has a population of about 60 million of which nearly 8 million are Muslims. Of the Muslim population about 3.5 million (both at home and in exile) are Rohingyas of Arakan. The Rohingyas are a majority community in Arakan.
Rohingyas are Muslims who have been living in Arakan from time immemorial. They trace their ancestry to Arabs, Moors, Pathans, Moghuls, Bengalis and some other Indo-Mongoloid people. Muslim Rohingyas are living in Arakan generation after generation for centuries after centuries and their arrival in Arakan has predated the arrival of many other peoples and races now residing in Arakan and other parts of Burma. Early Muslim settlement in Arakan dates back to 7th century A.D. while Muslims merchants and missionary teams used to travel to China and Indochina peninsula. Muslim Rohingyas are much more than a national minority with a population of 3.5 million (both home and abroad) having strong and supporting history, separate culture, civilization, language and literature, historically, settled territory and reasonable size of population and area. Rohingya people consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the society. They are determined not only to preserve and develop their ancestral history and their ethnic identity, but also to transmit to future generations as the basis of their continued existence as an ethnic people, in accordance with their own cultural pattern, social institution and legal system. By history, by tradition, by culture and civilization, the Muslim Rohingyas are as much citizens of Burma as anyone else in the country. They are equal in every way with other national communities in Burma.
During the colonial period from 1824 to 1947, the British recognized the separate identity of the Rohingya people and declared Northern Arakan as the Muslim region. Again, the previous democratic government from 1948 to 1962, the Prime Minister U Nu, Prime Minister U Ba Swe, other ministers and high-ranking civil and military officials stated that Rohingya people are like the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon, and Rakhine. They have the same rights and privileges as the other nationals of Burma regardless of their religious belief or ethnic background.
The Rohingya people have a long historical and national status in Arakan-Burma. According to 1947 Constitution, 1947 Burmese Residence and Registration Act, 1948 Burmese citizenship law, and 1974 Burmese Constitution, Rohingyas are the citizens of Burma and no anyone can deny these historical and constitutional facts. Being an integral part of the Burma citizenry, Rohingya people had exercised the right of franchise in all general public elections held in Burma during the later colonial period from 1935 to 1948, parliamentary democratic period from 1948 to 1962, Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) period from 1974 to 1988, 1990 multi-party general election held by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and finally, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)’s 2010 elections, including its constitutional referendum held in 2008. In their exercise of franchise, The Rohingya people elected their representatives to the Legislative Assembly, to the Constituent Assembly, to the Parliament, to the People’s Assembly and People’s Councils of different levels. Rohingyas representatives were appointed as Cabinet ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and in high government positions. As an indigenous race and community group of Burma, Rohingya had their own political, cultural, and social organizations as well as they had a program in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BBS) and also Rohingyas’ participation in the official “ Union Day” celebration in Burma’s capital, Rangoon, every year.
In Burma, the ethnic Rohingya minority people have been systematically deprived of their political and social status after the military take over the power in March 1962 from the civilian democratic government. With the promulgation of the most controversial and discriminatory citizenship law of 1982 which is against the international customary law and standards, the Rohingya people who had inhabited in Arakan as early as 788, were now legally considered as non-nationals or illegal immigrants in their own country-Burma. In spite of their indigenous status recognized by the previous parliamentary governments, the Rohingyas were not listed among the so-called 135 ethnic nationalities of the country recorded by the Burmese Successive military regimes with an ulterior motive to make them “stateless people” within the country.
Due to widespread persecution through ethnic cleansing, prejudice and genocidal action against the innocent Rohingya people since the Burma independence in 1948, the majority of Rohingya population almost 2 million has been compelled to live in exile, particularly, in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Recently, few thousands Rohingya people were resettled in US, EU countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan under the refugee resettlement program. Now, there are 1.5 million Rohingyas are left in Burma.
In continuation, I would like to high light some following important points of the suffering ethnic Rohingya minority under the name-sake democratic Burmese Buddhist Government Administration led by President Thein Sein.
(1) Violence against Islam and Muslims of Arakan,Burma From June to October 2012 of brutal violence, the Burmese security forces have barred the Muslim Rohingyas from worshipping in mosques across Rakhine (Arakan) State. The authorities have shut down almost all mosques in northern Arakan while prohibiting the daily 5 time congregational prayers. Even during the last holy month of Ramadan the clampdown intensified and on the Annual Eid Festival Days- 2012 the Muslims have to remain inside their homes without congregating for Eid- prayer.
Uncountable copies of holy Quran, Hadith books and other religious books have been burnt down or destroyed while many mosques and religious schools with libraries were devastated. The destruction still continues. The Central mosque known as Jamei Masjid of Akyab was burned as well as many other masjids and Madrasas were burned down in Akyab, Maungdaw, Ratheydaung, Buthidaung, Pauktaw, Minbra, Mrohaung, Kyauktaw, Mreybone, Kyaukpru townships in Arakan State.
(2) Pre-planned Massacre and violence
This violence is directed against the Muslim Rohingyas in Arakan. The government did nothing to prevent it. The army, police and security forces have become killer forces. The popular slogan of the Buddhist Rakhines under the leadership of RNDP (Rakhine Nationalities Development Party) is “Arakan is for Rakhine Buddhist people. Muslim Rohingya has no rights to live in Arakan and needed to be kicked out of the country.
In fact, it is a government sponsored pre-planned massacre, and it is a state terrorism against unarmed and peaceful living ethnic Rohingyas. Silent extermination with sporadic killing, arrest, rape, destruction and extortion continue unabated today. Unfortunately, the news media has been quoting the highly controversial government’s statement giving the number of deaths as few hundreds whereas at least 2500 Rohingyas were killed and thousands of people disappeared that were presumably killed. Unknown numbers of Muslim girls and women have been raped by the Burmese security forces and Rakhine Buddhist youth and more than 135,000 Rohingyas and Arakan Muslims become refugees and internally displaced persons in Arakan due to violence and ethnic cleansing conducted by the Buddhist Rakhine political forces backed by the Burmese government authorities.
Ethnic cleansing on Arakan Rohingya Muslim population have been continued effectively while world medias and world leaders keep continuing their role but still there is no positive sign have reached for a concrete solution.
(3) President Thein Sein’s Attitude towards Rohingyas
President Thein Sein said there is no place for Rohingyas in Burma who are foreigners and he himself has disowned the Rohingya People asking the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to take care of them in refugee camps until resettlement in third countries. It affirms that the Rohingyas have no domestic or national protection.
During President Thein Sein's UN General Assembly Speech in September29, 2012, he pledged to take care of the Rohingya problem when he returns home, however, he did nothing and a second more violent attack in October 2012 was engineered against all Muslim population in the southern part of Arakan state, no action was taken yet against the criminal masterminds of the violence by the Burmese Government.
(4) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Attitude towards the Rohingya people
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize winner and who is regarded by the world peace-loving people as an example of democracy icon in Burma and moral code of conduct worldwide has remained uncharacteristically silent on the persecution of Rohingyas making the situation more appalling while leaving them friendless within Burma and overseas.
(5) The Face Saving Inquiry Commission to show the world
The Inquiry Commission formed by the President Thein Sein government to show the world for Face saving is not credible as it consists of controversial figures like Dr. Aye Maung, Chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), U Aye Tha Aung, Chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy, U Khin Maung Swe, Chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF) and 88 Generation Student leader Ko Ko Gyi who were either involved in the violence or have been proved to have preconceived idea or deep ill will against the Rohingya people.
(6) Crimes against Humanity
What is happening in Burma against Muslim population of Arakan is in fact crimes against humanity as human rights are universal and human concern is international concern. The systematic grave violations of human rights of Rohingya by both state agency and Arakan ruling Rakhine party is an ethnic cleansing, and they cannot be pleaded as domestic affairs of Arakan and Burma. The world has become a small global village and all peace-loving people of the world, UN and world veto power countries have moral responsibility to protect and prevent controlled genocide against the Rohingyas by all available means. The human rights of the Rohingya people were violated and Rohingyas were made the victims of Government sponsored controlled genocide.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948 prohibited all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, torture remains unacceptably common. Recent times have witnessed an especially, disturbing trend of countries claiming exceptions to the prohibition on torture based on their own national security perceptions.
Unfortunately, today, the Burmese quasi –civilian Government led by President Thein Sein mis-using the word democracy, peace, and development for the people of Burma is in total violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
So, from this MAS-ICNA Annual Convention, we call upon the United States Government Administration, the Veto power countries and the international communities and societies to take action jointly putting strong pressure to the Government of Burma through United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to save the people of Burma particularly, the Rohingyas and other helpless and voiceless ethnic minorities who cannot resist except suffering leading to extinction.
There is a very systematic, organized, concerted and
criminal design by the Burmese Buddhist authorities, which can
appropriately be termed as ethnic cleansing, genocide
and socio-cultural degradation of the Rohingya people
in Arakan state of Burma (Myanmar). If the process of
marginalization and gross violations of human rights
against the Rohingya people are allowed to continue
there won’t be a single Rohingya left in Arakan within
the next fifty years. They will be an extinct
community, much like the fate of the native population
Since 1999, the USA has designated Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe
violations of religious freedom. However, after the democratic reforms in Burma by President Thein Sein, US Government has lifted all sanctions. Though changes are taking place in Burma since the year 2011, the plights of Rohingya people remains unchanged, and they have been facing continuous discrimination on religious, as well as racial grounds. It is high time that the world body take appropriate measures so that the basic human rights of the Rohingya people are protected and guaranteed under the UN supervision.
In conclusion, on behalf of Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) and all Rohingya people scattered all over the world and those who are living in Arakan and Burma in subhuman condition, I would like to fervently appeal all brothers and sisters who are here to provide moral support to the cause of suffering Muslim Rohingyas of Burma and to advocate their rightful citizenship status in Burma by all available peaceful means as they are a part and parcel of Muslim Ummah. We have brotherly responsibilities to work for the suffering Rohingya Muslim brothers and we do hope that you all will do the best level within your capacity for those suffering humanity.
Thanking you very much.
Shaukhat (aka) MSK Jilani
On Behalf of the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA)