Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Speeches from the Oslo Conference to stop persecution of the Rohingyas of Myanmar

Here below are some of the speeches, courtesy of Dr. Maung Zarni's website:
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Special Address on the Rohingya issue for Oslo Conferene by OIC Special Envoy to Myanmar, Dr. Syed Hamid Albar

  

   
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to the organizer of the conference for giving me an opportunity to represent OIC and talk about the Rohingya issue. After undertaking the responsibility as the OIC Special Envoy for Myanmar then I realized how complex and daunting the task is. InshaAllah, with Allah SWT guidance and continuous support from all parties, I am confident there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Rohingya issue especially the crisis at the sea in South East Asia is so urgent that more must be said, more thought must be given and most importantly, short, mid and long term actions are taken and formulated. 

Those I have interacted or engaged with agree that the situation in Myanmar is serious and needs urgent attention. Let me at the outset say that the ongoing problem is not only about religion or ethnicity but human rights and identity crisis that the government had refused to address or admit.

I like all of us to remember, today we can sleep sheltered and safe tonight without the threat of a mob breaking down our doors or burning our homes. However, the Rohingya who also share this world with us are denied these fundamental rights, and suffer on a scale that no human must be allowed to suffer, especially children, women and elderly people. They are no different from us except for the circumstances of their birth. In these difficult moments it is our shared responsibility to reach our open hands to them.

This intolerance is not irreparable as prior to this the different communities had lived in peace and harmony. It is with patience, tolerance, kindness, that we can break this cycle. In the intelligence as well as diplomatic world we must be able to read the minds of the people we are negotiating with and devise our strategies accordingly. 

The argument that the Rohingyas are not indigenes but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is unacceptable because who in his or her rightful mind would like to illegally migrate from a third world country to another third world place where they will face persecution as well. 

As we know the Rohingyas are indigenes ethnic community of Myanmar who has been there for generations and were excluded from the list in 1982, thus becoming stateless all of a sudden.

The list of ethnic groups of 1982 is not by an ‘Act of Parliament’ but rather an ‘Executive Order’ by the President of the Union at that time. If the Union Government is sincere in resolving the issue now, they can do it by another ‘Executive Order’. But it will require a strong political will which we feel is lacking at this time. They are adopting the ‘Wait and See’ policy for the time being. Or at least until the next general elections. 

This whole drama of excluding the Rohingya and other Muslim communities form the list is to push the Muslims out of the political scene of Myanmar and make Myanmar purely a Buddhist state, but how an entire population can be exterminated altogether, which according to some estimates is almost one third of the total population of Myanmar. There is hardly any ‘Purist’ state on the entire planet consisting of only one race or religion. 

Besides that, the solution they are considering to segregate the Rohingyas, put them in Camps and get them to agree to register themselves as Bengalis is in in fact not a solution. The problem, though may not be seen as such by Myanmar Government is that it may be the best way for the government to indirectly encourage them to migrate somewhere else. 

Against the background of political and social changes in Myanmar since 2011 and sectarian conflicts in Rakhine in 2012 and other parts of Myanmar in 2013, religious movements which the state tightly controlled in previous decades have become prominent and more vocal against the minorities. Among them, the most prominent one is the Buddhist nationalist movement led by “Ma-Ba-Tha”. Both Ma-Ba-Tha and 969, which is a constituent association of the former, have widely popularized the claim that Buddhism is under threat from Islam and Islamization.

These trends have caused and contributed to human rights crises, gender-based discrimination, statelessness, segregation, refugee flows and other threats to security, posing challenges to Myanmar’s transition to democracy and upcoming elections. Moreover, these trends threaten regional stability and could exacerbate violence and polarisation along religious and ethnic fault-lines. Such pattern could seriously undermine the establishment, sustainability and credibility of the ASEAN Community, including economic integration and regional economic development. This unwanted home environment has forced many Rohingyas flee Myanmar to find a basic living environment elsewhere.

Since then, more than one million Rohingya who remain in Myanmar have seen their situation deteriorate to the point that over the last two years, as many as 100,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state on unseaworthy boats with hopes of reaching Malaysia or Thailand but often put them in the hands of vicious human traffickers including death. These people are not migrants seeking job or economic opportunity but leaving their motherland due to suppression, fearing abuses and killings. 

Largely unwanted at home and by Bangladesh and faced with increasingly precarious conditions in Rakhine, the Rohingya boat people have changed their destination from Bangladesh to other neighboring countries in the 2000s and have often fallen prey to regional human trafficking networks. However, unfortunately, the Bangladeshi joined the Rohingyas and created immigration threat to those countries. Likewise, the “new boat people” are not really welcomed in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Moreover, whenever those neighboring countries urged the Myanmar Government to take responsible of these boat people, Myanmar officials expediently respond by claiming that those so-called Rohingya who land on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are not from Myanmar or that their Myanmar citizenship must be scrutinized first before Myanmar take responsibility for them. This has effectively created a dilemma for Myanmar’s neighbors and ASEAN. Increasingly precarious conditions of Rohingya in Rakhine and complete rejection of them as fellow Myanmar citizens by the majority of the people in Myanmar will likely mean an ongoing influx in the number of Rohingya boatpeople seeking asylum in neighboring countries over the coming years. 

The Government of Myanmar should be held responsible and to undertake concrete and positive steps to put an end to all acts of violence, human rights violations and discriminatory policies against the Rohingya, such actions will only tarnish Myanmar’s image and acceptability in the region and internationally. 

The plight of the Rohingya warrants serious attention and action as they continue to suffer under the current circumstances which could pose a security problem for the region.

I also think with cautious optimism, patience and perseverance there is a fair chance of resolving the issue.

To conclude, given the complexities of the ongoing problem in Myanmar, it is only natural that we weigh all options carefully and in a pragmatic manner to achieve the desired outcomes. We need to strategize the best approach to correct negative perceptions through regular contacts and engagements. In this respect, a closer collaboration with state and non-state actors is definitely necessary. We need both “soft” and “constructive” approach to connect all parties for an amicable solution.

I strongly believe that it is a delicate balance that we are searching for: we must continue to respect the principle of sovereignty and at the same time fulfill our responsibility to protect and give the help and support to those thousands who have made pleas to the international community and who are losing hope as they wait on our decisions. 

Thank you. 
  
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The Speech of Maired Maguire at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   


May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

I would like to send a message of solidarity and support for the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Rohingyas are indigenous people of Burma, living in their ancestral homes. All they ask is to restore their citizenship that was taken away by the military government. It is morally wrong to treat them as non-citizens on their own lands.

The plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar has worsened since 2012. Right now they feel they have 2 equally risky options- to stay and die in Myanmar or leave by boat. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Approximately 53,000 Rohingyas including women and children left Myanmar and Bangladesh by boats bound for Thailand and Malaysia in 2014.

The international community needs to support the delivery of basic humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas. Right now, that humanitarian aid is not reaching them. The Rohingya are the only ethnic group in Burma whose struggle is peaceful, without any arms, and it’s time the international community recognized and supported their nonviolence struggle for their basic human rights.

We want the European Union, ASEAN, and the International Community to recognize the suffering of the Rohingya people, and the fact that they're experiencing crimes against humanity at the hands of their own government. We want the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people to end. This is an important basis for any real peace talks and engagement with the Myanmar government.

I am joining with other leaders in making this call, including my dear friend and colleague Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We as the International Community have a responsibility to stand for the rights of the Rohingya people and to speak out to save their lives. We hope that action will be taken so that they can find their place in their country, in their society and that Burma will move forward to find real peace for all its people. 

Thank you very much. Maired Maguire. Thank you
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The Speech of Archbishop Desmond Tutu at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Hello peace lovers, colleagues, and friends. I'm sorry to have to address you electronically. One of the pitfalls of old age is that travel becomes somewhat tricky. Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words of encouragement and solidarity as you settle down to apply your minds to solving one of the most enduring human rights crises on earth. 

The credit that is due to the government of Myanmar for reforms undertaken over the past couple of years does not blind us to the ongoing disavowal and repression of its ethnic minorities, the Rohingya population in particular. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country. Freedom is indivisible. All must be invited. All, a part. 

The Rohingya people were not consulted when the British drew the Burmese border on the map. With those strokes of a pen, they became a borderland people; people whose ancestral land traverses political boundaries. Burma's post colonial government elected in 1948 officially recognized the Rohingya as an indigenous community, as did its first military government that ruled from 1962 to 1974. 

Manipulation by the military of ethnic minorities in the west of the country dates back to the late 1950s. At first, the military sought to co-opt the Muslim Rohingya to quell the Buddhist Rakhine after Rakhine separatists had been crushed. The military turned only Rohingya. In 1978, the Far Eastern Economic review described the Rohingya as the victims of Burmese apartheid. 

A few years later, a citizenship law left the Rohingya off the list of indigenous people, describing them as Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. In the context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, many Buddhists, particularly in Rakhine State regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. More than 100,000 Rohingya are trapped in internment camps. They may not leave “for their own protection.” They hold only temporary identity cards. In February, they lost all voting rights. 

The government of Myanmar has sought to absolve itself of responsibility for the conflict between the Rakhine and the Rohingya, projecting it as sectarian or communal violence. I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people. There's evidence they say that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. 

Human beings may look and behave differently to one another, but ultimately none of us can claim any kind of supremacy. We are all the same. There are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims. It is possible to transplant a Christian heart into a Hindu chest and for a citizen of Israel to donate a kidney to a Palestinian. We're born to love-- without prejudice, without distrust. Members of one family, the human family-- made for each other and for goodness. All of us! 

We are taught to discriminate, to dislike, and to hate. As lovers of peace and believers in the right of all members of the family to dignity and security, we have particular responsibilities to the Rohingya. 

2015 is a big year for Myanmar with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election on its calendar. Even as we seek to encourage the country to build on the reforms it has started, we have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost. We have a responsibility to hold to account those of our governments and corporations that seek to profit from new relationships with Myanmar to ensure their relationships are established on sound ethical basis. 

We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya. 

Over to you. Thank you and God bless you all.
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The Speech of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo Norway

I feel much saddened by the events taking place in Myanmar today. I was very instrumental in getting Myanmar to become a member of the ASEAN, the regional grouping of Southeast Asian countries. Myanmar, geographically, is definitely a part of Southeast Asia, and its exclusion would be contrary to the idea of South East Asian unity. But now, we find that Myanmar is not treating its own people the way we treat Myanmar.

We did not want Myanmar to be excluded but Myanmar today is taking action to expel the Rohingyas, the Muslim part of this population who have been there for the past 800 years or so. They have always been regarded as citizens of Burma before, and since Myanmar is a continuation of Burma it should accept these people as its citizens. 

Now Malaysia also has a lot of people from other countries who have settled here in the last 200 years or so. We decided that they have a right to be citizens of Malaysia, to be given political rights, and to be allowed to train and carry out business in Malaysia. We regard them as our citizens.

Unlike Malaysia, we find that Myanmar does not even want to recognize the Rohingyas who have been there all this while as its citizens. This is grossly unjust on the part of the government of Myanmar. I had expected that those who benefited from our struggle to get Myanmar to release (for example Aung San Suu Kyi) that they would realize that oppression by the government is something that is intolerable; and yet few people from Myanmar have risen to the occasion to defend the rights of the Rohingyas who after all are citizens of Myanmar.

I hope that the international community would focus its attention on the problem of the Rohingyas who are Muslims, but they are citizens of this Buddhist dominated country. They should live and be allowed to live in Myanmar without oppression. There should be tolerance of peoples of other religions.

Again I would like to mention that in Malaysia, although the majority of the people are Muslims, we have treated people with other faiths with consideration and we have given them rights to become citizens of Malaysia and to benefit from the laws of this country. I hope that the international community would focus on the problem of the Rohingyas who today are being forced to flee in ships to other countries and many of them drown in the sea because they were not able to get good ships to carry them to other countries.

This is a human tragedy and I do hope that the international community would help these unfortunate people of Myanmar who have been discriminated against in a way that is not becoming of a country that aspires to become a democratic country. I thank you.
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The Speech of Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
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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The Speech of George Soros at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Greetings, everybody. I regret I can't be there in person. I have been a supporter of Burma's democracy movement since 1993. For most of that time, the prospect of change seemed remote, and I felt increasingly discouraged. Then, in 2010, quite suddenly, or so it seemed, the ruling military junta decided to abandon absolute authoritarian rule. The world was stunned. My engagement in Burma during those dark days taught me an important lesson. Sometimes it's necessary to support a lost cause for a long time just to keep the flame alive. That way, when the situation changes, groundwork for progress has already been laid. As I speak to you today, I find myself again growing discouraged. Making the transition from military rule to a more open society is not easy, and in many ways the government of Burma has made real progress in its reform efforts. I fear that many of these reforms are not sustainable, because they have not yet been institutionalized. 

It's also true that political and economic power remains mostly concentrated in the hands of a privileged few who monopolize the revenue from Burma's abandoned natural resources. The most immediate threat to Burma's transition is the rising anti-Muslim sentiment and officially condoned abuse of the Rohingya people. That has occurred under watch of the current rulers in Naypyidaw. From private conversations with progressive Burmese officials, I know that some in power genuinely want to see a Burma where all are treated equally, but these officials also fear the potential of extremist violence from the small but powerful group of religious radicals. These extremists have created a tinder box that could blow up the entire reform process. The government must confront these extremists and their financial supporters. 

In January when I visited Burma for the 4th time in as many years, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground. I met with state and local readers and both Rakhine and Rohingya populations, and also talked to internally displaced persons and those mostly Rohingya living in a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. In Aung Mingalar, I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to healthcare, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming. Fortunately, we have not reached a stage of mass killing. 

I feel very strongly that we must speak out before it is too late, individually and collectively. The Burmese government's insistence that they are keeping the Rohingya in the ghetto for their own protection simply is not credible. Government authorities have tried to reassure me. They say things are under control and not as bad as reported by outsiders who they claim don't understand the local culture or the long and complicated history of Rakhine State. I understand that half a century of living in isolation under repression can make a population vulnerable to intermediation and exploitation in all sorts of ways, but I also know that most of the people of Burma are fair-minded and would like their country to be a place where all can live in freedom. 2015 is a crucial year for Burma; a tipping point, in the words of Yanghee Lee, U.S. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. With the prospect of democratic changes to the 2008 constitution and the holding of free and fair elections, meaningful reform could take hold. 

As a longtime friend and supporter of Burma, I hope for a positive outcome for all the people of the country, but where I once felt a great sense of optimism, I am now filled with trepidation for the future. I hope those in power will immediately take the steps necessary to counter extremism and allow open society to take root. In the lead up to the elections, it's crucial that official acts should be taken to counter the pervasive hate and anti- Rohingya propaganda on social media and the racist public campaigns of the 969 movement. The promise of Burma as a flourishing and vibrant open society is still within reach. It's up to Burma's leaders and people whether this promise is fulfilled.
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Daw Khin Hla: “No Country for Rohingyas: A Refugee’s Appeal to End Myanmar’s Slow Genocide”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
Daw Khin Hla speaking at Harvard University in November 2014

Ladies, Gentlemen, Reverends and Sayadaw,

Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to make an urgent appeal on behalf of fellow Rohingya peoples back home in Burma, and in diaspora. 

I’m Daw Khin Hla, a Rohingya woman born in Arakan State of Burma in 1953. Until I left from Burma, I worked as government middle school teacher. I was born in Burma, a native of Arakan soil – just like my ancestors who lived from cradle to grave – as the indigenous people of our land – now sandwiched between present-day Burma and present-day Bangladesh.

Today I would like to appeal to you to help restore our nationality, full citizenship and basic rights as humans in the country of our fore-fathers and –mothers in Burma. 

First, how were we in the past? How are we today? And how did we get here – as a people with a distinct identity who are being punished if we say we are ‘Rohingyas’. Do people not have the right to identify as so-and-so ethnic community? 

Following our country’s independence from Britain in 1948, we the Rohingyas did not need to apply for citizenship. We WERE considered officially as full citizens of the newly independent Burma. We were officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group living along cross-national borders and indigenous to our own ancestral land, just like any other indigenous ethnic groups you find along Burma’s long and porous borders with India, China, Thailand, and Laos.

When the first post-independence government of Prime Minister U Nu took office in 1948, my grandfather, a self-identified Rohingya, applied for the Union of Burma citizenship as he thought he needed to as power now rested with the new government. The relevant line-ministry replied in writing that he didn’t need to apply as he belonged to an indigenous ethnic group of the multi-ethnic Union of Burma. 

In the early 1950’s, when the Burmese government introduced the national registration cards, Rohingyas were issued these legal identification cards as ‘nationals’ of the country. We had absolutely no problem to obtain legal IDs. The then government of Burma – including the military leaders, both in the region and in the central administration in Rangoon – treated us with respect and appreciation as one of the ethnic peoples of the new Burma. We enjoyed basic citizenship rights and official recognition as a distinct ethnic community well into early 1970’s. We were broadcasting in our own mother tongue – Rohingya – on Burma Broadcasting Service, the only national radio station (before television arrived in Burma), 3 times a week, starting in 1961. Because we Rohingyas were 75% majority in the 3 towns near Bangladesh, we were administered as a separate district – called Mayu. For some years, because of radicals among the Rohingyas who took up arms to leave Burma and join the then East Pakistan as a predominantly Muslim country, the Ministry of Defense controlled the administration. But the overwhelming majority of Rohingyas did not support that separatist movement – known as Mujahideens. Instead our people cooperated fully with the military authorities and established our allegiance and love of the only place we consider our ancestral home – Arakan and the Union of Burma. Our cooperation with central Burmese government has been a sore point between the Rakhine nationalists and we Rohingyas. The Rakhine Buddhist nationalists who wanted to reclaim their ethnic group’s independence from the Burmese who colonized them in the 18th century and we express our desire to live in the country of our birth. 

When I was a young, student we Rohingya children had full access to schooling; we enjoyed full freedom of movement; we could move from one neighborhood to another, from one village to another, from one town to another and from one state to another within Burma. There was not even the idea – let along a national policy - of severely restricting our marriages, childbirth or family size. 

But all this had changed when General Ne Win, well-known for his violent streak as a person and xenophobia – towards Christians, Muslims, Europeans, Indians, Chinese and so on. He considered anyone who looked different, believed in a different god, or talked different as completely ‘untrustworthy’. Indeed anyone deemed ‘un-trust-worthy’ is perceived as a threat to nationality. 

So, in a little over a decade since he became military dictator, the military government of General Ne Win launched many violent operations against us the Rohingyas. The first large-scale campaign to drive us out of our own ancestral land began in February 1978. Under the disguise of immigration check – widely known as Na Ga Min or King Dragon operation - what was essentially a counter-insurgency campaign aimed at anyone who was not Buddhist and Burmese from strategic border regions. - was launched. Because we the Rohingyas have had a single demarcated geographic pocket – as opposed to being spread out and scattered across we were singled out for persecution since. 

One of the measures General Ne Win’s government, with a push for anti-Rohingya Rakhine nationalists, was the passage of 1982 Citizenship Act. The Citizenship Act stripped us of our nationality status and erased our ethnic identity. 

After the racially motivated law came into effect in the fall of 1982, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who had held national registration IDs were issued Temporary registration cards or “White Cards” so-called. A few months ago, the Burmese government de-recognized the White Cards and confiscated them, rendering the Rohingya people absolutely without any semblance or proof of their legal standing as Burmese citizens and lawful residents in our own country. Today, nearly 1 million of my fellow Rohingyas people, have absolutely no legal existence as a people. Thousands of my own fellow Rohingyas live in ghetto-like conditions where armed guards stand, ready to shoot and abuse. And yet the government of Thein Sein tell the people the Rohingyas are kept in these neighborhoods and camps ‘for their own protection’. Over the last nearly 40 years the level of restrictions, repression, abuse and deprivation has progressively increased. When foreign NGOs and researchers describe Rohingya neighborhoods as ‘vast open prisons’ – or refer to them as ‘21st century concentration camps’, they are not exaggerating. 

Burmese central government has imposed measures to regulate, control and restrict every single aspect of life for the Rohingyas as a human community: freedom of movement, choice of marriage, access to schooling and health clinics, place of worship, opportunities to grow food or hold employments, and even the right to identify ourselves as Rohingya ethnic people. Everything we do has to be approved in writing by the authorities. The approval is obtained only by bribing local authorities. Indeed the Burmese regime and its officials have learned to turn our oppression into a profitable business. We have been subject to chronic waves of violence, both by the anti-Rohingya Rakhine nationalists and by the state security troops such as police, border guard force and regular army and navy. Our people live in constant and profound fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from, when the next wave of mass violence awaits or whether who will die or who will live on our own ancestral soil.

When you see on TV news or hear or read news stories about hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from today’s Myanmar or Burma please know that they are not attempting to migrate to get better jobs for themselves, better schooling for their children or a brighter future for whole families. Not unlike the Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe about 70 years ago, our Rohingya people are fleeing Burma or Myanmar. They are fleeing out of fear of death and destruction at the hands of the local Rakhine nationalists and central government’s troops. They are fleeing conditions of life on the land of their birth that they know are meant or design to destroy their lives, their communities, their children. They are fleeing extreme, systematic and decades-long repression and policies designed to erase our identity, our physical and legal existence – in our own ancestral land. 

Some of you will recall that like the African dictator Ide Amin of Uganda, General Ne Win’s military drove hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Indians out of Burma in his 26-years in power. This is the same Ne Win regime that has instituted a long-term policy to destroy our Rohingya community on our own ancestral land. The present government of ex-General Thein Sein is simply continuing the Burmese military’s policy of Rohingya destruction. In fact, President Thein Sein and his government deny persistently that we the Rohingyas are a part of Burma, in the face of irrefutable and official evidence of our ethnic identity. He reportedly and officially proposed to the UN to expel and resettle more than 1 million of our Rohingya people in 3 countries, or build a UN-financed apartheid in our own land. I was very much saddened to hear that this ex-General Thein Sein was nominated – and even short-listed – for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. I thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for wisely choosing not confer him the supreme honor and recognition which he definitely didn’t and doesn’t deserve. 

In the last 3 years, UN has estimated that 150,000 Rohingyas – including mothers with new born babies - have fled the country under President Thein Sein’s watch. Since 1978, Burmese military governments have terrorized our community so much so that today almost half the total population of Rohingyas have been forced to settle across the world, including here in Norway. It is the other half – over 1 million – who are being subject to central policy of destruction. 

No one wants to leave home, especially the homes and the land where they were both; but when the Rohingyas do taking their infants and elderly relatives, they are fleeing for their lives. 

On behalf of my fellow Rohingyas who are stranded in dangerous high seas with no food or water, dying slowing in vast ghettos with no adequate food or medicine, I appeal to you today to stand with us in our darkest hours of needs. Norway is considered around the world a special country, small but influential promoter of peace and reconciliation around the world. I would like to direct my appeal to the Norwegian people and the government that as you engage with my country of birth, diplomatically, commercially and politically, please put the sufferings of our people on your policy priorities. I know that Norway considers Myanmar or Burma as one of the ‘focus’ countries important to Norway and Norway is involved in supporting “peace process” in Burma. I appeal to the Norwegian public and leaders that we too deserve a life in peace, a life where we are allowed to call ourselves by the name we choose, a life where our new born are not denied nutrition or legality. Lastly, I appeal to the world’s fellow humans to lend us a hand of compassion so that our people no longer suffer from cradle to grave. 

I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

May God Bless you all.

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