Wednesday, July 25, 2012

London-based think tank urges protection for Rohingyas

Ansar Ahmed Ullah, London
London-based anti-extremist think tank, Quilliam, has called for urgent action by the international community to end violence and discrimination against the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar.

In a statement issued yesterday, it said the current communal violence and ongoing state-sponsored systematic discrimination against the Rohingya minority in Burma required a strong response by the international community and by democracy and human rights activists worldwide.

For decades, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group primarily based in Arakan State and one of the world's most persecuted minorities, have faced severe restrictions, harassment and intimidation. Rohingya activists have been routinely subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and even extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the security forces and Rakhine Buddhists.

The Rohingya have effectively been declared stateless in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the 1982 Citizenship Act, which removed their citizenship granted in 1948, even if they have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Since a state of emergency was declared in June 2012, targeted attacks by the security forces against the Rohingya have increased and anti-Muslim communal violence has continued unchecked.

Hundreds are thought to have died in the recent violence. In addition, UN agencies say that at least 90,000 people have been displaced and are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

In the meantime, Myanmar President Thein Sein's suggestion to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) last week that it should take responsibility for the entire Rohingya population of almost a million until they can be resettled to third countries is appalling and may amount to a policy of ethnic cleansing.

Quilliam has called on the international community to demand that the Myanmar government immediately repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law, which removed basic rights from the Rohingya.

“We call on the UK, US & EU governments to urgently press the Government of Burma to end all systematic discrimination and human rights violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities," said Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at Quilliam. "In addition, the perpetrators of communal violence must be held accountable and swift steps must be taken to resolve the conflict justly.”

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