Oslo, Norway. The European Rohingya Council (ERC) convened a conference in Oslo, Norway, on Rohingya political and human rights and their ethnic identity in Burma on February 7, 2015. The invited guest speakers were Dr. Nora Rowley, a Physician and independent humanitarian worker, Dr. Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union, Azlinariah Abdullah, Assistant Vice-President, News Editor of Astro Awani Network of Malaysia and a Ph.D. Candidate of Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya, and Dr. Ambia Parveen, a physician and a Rohingya woman activist. There were a variety of topics presented in the conference by the speakers. The conference session was moderated by Zahidul Haque, ERC Finance Secretary. Khairul Amin, the ERC Chairman, gave the opening remarks and U Hla Tin, the ERC Secretary General, delivered the closing remarks.
Nora Rowley, who dedicated her career in Rohingya relief work in Arakan for nearly 10 years and worked intermittently in Rohingya IDP camps in Arakan state, Burma, and in Malaysia for several months, reported on long standing serious alleged corruption and exploitation of Rohingya victims in IDP and refugee camps. She gave the detail accounts of prolonged process in UNHCR refugee registration, allegation of corruption, and harassment and arrests of the unregistered and UNHCR registration cardholders by Malaysia security forces. Dr. Rowley described the UNHCR Malaysia system of placing highly vulnerable new Rohingya refugees in protective care under Rohingya community leaders who have been known to be serious criminals reportedly involved in human trafficking and other exploitation of Rohingya refugees. She added that paralyzed and otherwise sick Rohingya survivors of human trafficking have been placed in successive UNHCR-funded dirty shelters with abusive caretakers, lack of appropriate treatment of their illnesses and injuries, and the UNHCR continuing to fund and place sick and other vulnerable Rohingya under the same Rohingya caretaker in the same dirty shelter.
Dr. Wakar Uddin provided a global perspective on Rohingya political and human right issues. He provided the insights to the fundamental causes of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya ethnic minority by the Government of Burma that has resulted in revocation of their citizenship, annulment of the Rohingya ethnic identity, and major human right violations against Rohingya. Dr. Uddin explained how over 50 years of hostile policy of the Government of Burma towards Rohingya people has fed into the cycles of violence by radical Buddhist monks and Rakhine mobs, which has rendered displacement of over 140,000 persons in IDP camps in Arakan and over a million Rohingya in various parts of the world. He provided the accounts of how Arakan Rohingya Union has coordinated the global advocacy for the rights of Rohingya with the international community and advanced the cause through the OIC, US Government, United Nations General Assembly, Human Right Commission and OCHA, European Union, and numerous NGOs. Dr. Uddin explained the details of the US Congress Resolution, UN General Assembly Resolution, and the UN Special Rapporteurs Report and their impacts on the Burmese Government’s handling of the Rohingya issues. He also highlighted the current obstacles and possible strategies for finding a durable solution to the issues faced by the Rohingya people.
Ms. Azlinariah Abdullah provided the views of a Malaysian journalist and researcher and experiences on Rohingya issues through her doctoral degree research focusing on displaced and refugee Rohingya community in the Southeast Asia region. For academic purposes, she found inadequate information on Rohingya issues despite their large presence in various country in the world. In the context of Southeast Asia, she pointed out that Rohingya community is rarely examined compared to other ethnic groups such as Moro in southern Philippines and Malay Muslim communities in southern Thailand. Such lack of information on Rohingya issue has warranted the important research to fill in the vacuum. Ms. Abdullah presented the humanitarian situation of the refugees in Malaysia and the issues surrounding their education, safety and protection. “the Rohingya children born and raised in Malaysia are undocumented, the future of their families is in uncertainty, the communities have crafted for themselves a life on a fringe, and determined to live their lives as decent human beings and continue to remain Muslim,” she said. Ms. Azlinariah also pointed out that Rohingya should be treated without discrimination and Malaysia should ensure their equal access to protection and entitlement of human rights.
Dr. Ambia Parveen spoke about the Rohingya women victims caught in cycles of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya by the Government of Burma and the violence committed by the Buddhist Rakhine mobs. She gave the insights of how the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya devised by the former military regime has fueled the upsurge of militancy and radical philosophy of purity of religion and race in Buddhist-dominated Burmese society. She provided a brief historical perspective on history of the indigenous Rohingya population in Arakan state in Burma, and the sequence of consecutive events that has shaped the ill-fate of Rohingya since the independence of Burma that has ended the British colonial rule. She has stressed the urgent needs for protection of Rohingya women and children who are caught in the cycles of violence against Rohingya by the radical Buddhist Rakhine and the Burmese security forces. Dr. Parveen has appealed the international community to step up its efforts in addressing the serous issues faced by the Rohingya women in Arakan such as lack of healthcare and education, deprivation of their rights to marry, need for development of professional skills, their vulnerability to human-trafficking and sex-slavery, and other security and safety issues.
The conference has resulted in greater global awareness of the Rohingya political and human right issues – a significant efforts by the ERC to keep the profile of the plight of Rohingya up in the international arena. The message from the conference to the international community and the Government of Burma conveyed.
Khairul Amin (Chairman)