The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and its allied networks and partners today join the international community and the broad civil society and solidarity movements in commemorating the 6th Rohingya Genocide Anniversary and reaffirming our heartfelt solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar in their continuing quest for genuine democracy, peace, and social justice. 

Six years ago today, 25 August 2017, thousands of Rohingya from Rakhine state in Burma, also known as Myanmar, fled their homes in a desperate attempt to escape the then worsening sectarian violence and armed attacks perpetrated by the Burmese army in their communities. Systematic human rights violations, including the burning of Rohingya villages, sexual violence against Rohingya women, and the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed and defenseless civilians have been documented, which led to a full-blown humanitarian crisis and multiple-displacement of around 750,000 Rohingya and Arakan people.

Since 2017, the Rohingya have been subjected to genocidal crimes, with the brutal Myanmar military junta imposing stricter measures that aggravate the already dismal condition of the remaining 600,000 Rohingya in Arakan State. According to reports, there are over a million  Rohingya and Arakan people living in precarious conditions in various refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, 400,000 in Saudi Arabia, 200,000 in Pakistan, 100,000 in Thailand, 40,000 in Malaysia, 36,000 in India, close to 12,000 in Indonesia, and 200 in Nepal following the crackdown in 2017. 

The conflict’s impact on the civilian population has been multiplied by restrictions on humanitarian access to vulnerable communities. On 25 August 2017, humanitarian agencies were forced to suspend all operations in northern Rakhine State, including the provision of aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations due to several factors, including the security situation on the ground, government field-visit restrictions, and protests by ethnic Rakhine against international aid.

Most recently, Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) visited Sittwe Township in Rakhine State to assess the conditions of cyclone-affected people. Part of the 3-day visit is to verify the reported denial and restriction of the military junta to all international aid deliveries during the devastation of cyclone Mocha in May. 

Unfortunately, Griffith’s visit to Rakhine state bore no substantive results and ignored the fact that the root cause of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is the junta’s decades of violence and atrocities. In fact, we view Grifith’s visit as counterproductive to the growing international demand not to accord the military junta any recognition or legitimacy. Griffith’s visit failed to even address the issue of junta’s weaponization of humanitarian assistance as a major stumbling block to facilitate safe aid delivery to vulnerable communities in Myanmar.    

The illegitimate Myanmar junta has consistently denied persecuting the Rohingya people nor acknowledged the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis, along with related issues of human trafficking, which has caused strained diplomatic relations between Myanmar and other nations, including some fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

The dismal plight of the Rohingya and Arakan people has worsened following the February 1, 2021 attempted military coup in Myanmar.

As solidarity activists, we support the urgent demand to replace discriminatory laws such as Myanmar’s flawed 1982 Citizenship Law—seen as a root of this tragedy, for it to comply with existing international norms; end restrictions to citizenship and freedom of movement of the Rohingya people; and urge Myanmar to comply with relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, particularly on the protection of civilians in times of conflict, and protection of children, women and minorities. Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship law has systematically stripped Rohingya people of their identity,

IID reasserts our belief that aside from the immediate end of hostilities and emergency humanitarian response, we must address the root causes of the issue and bring into focus the structural-legal discrimination against the Rohingya people. We must also situate the continuous violence and abuses within the recent overall and long-standing patterns of human rights violations against ethnic civilians by the Burma/Myanmar military in other conflict areas in Myanmar that include – but not limited to – northern Shan and Kachin States.

We believe that ASEAN, UN, and the international community must lead and replicate the demands of civil society and solidarity movements for justice and accountability and probe the continued killings of activists in Myanmar and call on the junta to immediately stop the use of violence against the peoples of Myanmar.

The continued dismantling of democracy in Myanmar, which is now sliding into a virtual civil war, will not happen if those who should do something will take appropriate actions. By not doing any tangible steps on the political crisis in Myanmar, member states of ASEAN and the UN are not only helping but contributing further to the injustice and casual disregard for the human rights of the people of Myanmar.

We believe that the longstanding persecution of the Rohingya and the collective failure of the international community to exact accountability from the military generals of Myanmar for its crimes against humanity committed against ethnic populations have further emboldened the Burmese military to grab power a year ago.  

With utmost urgency, we urge all ASEAN and UN member states to apply more pressure and take definite actions against the military junta of Myanmar, especially now that all legal remedies and democratic avenues were already compromised and restricted by the junta.

Hence, with the aforementioned facts and with utmost urgency, we call on the ASEAN and UN, to:

1. Move towards a collective and decisive approach to regional conflict prevention, in line with its guiding principles on fostering “peace and stability” in the region. 

2. For ASEAN to collectively find durable solutions to address the continuous human rights violations such as rape, torture, and killings of the Rohingya in Myanmar;

3. Take urgent steps to halt the continuous persecution of the Muslim Rohingya, by joining calls to replace Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship and other discriminatory legal frameworks in order to ensure that all persons should have rights and equal access to citizenship and are not treated unfairly on grounds of ethnicity, political and religious beliefs;

4. Respect to fundamental principle of non-refoulement, in accordance with international laws, which forbids a country from returning asylum seekers to the country where they would be likely to face persecution based on race, religion, nationality, and from membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

5. Strengthen and mobilize ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) mandate and mechanisms to tackle the crisis, and address the entire gamut of  democracy issues in Myanmar especially after the attempted coup by the military;

Today, we call on the ASEAN, UN and the international community to resolutely respond to  the demands of the peoples of Myanmar for the immediate return to democracy, investigation of crimes against humanity and protection to human rights by applying more pressure to the junta.

There will be no end to the cycles of conflict and displacement in Rakhine State without addressing the roots of this conflict. ASEAN and UN should not accord the military junta any semblance of legitimacy.

Today, we pledge our unrelenting commitment to continuously stand in solidarity with the Rohingya and the peoples of Myanmar. ###

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