The following statement from the Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation was read by Habib to a solidarity protest in Melbourne on September 7.
* * *
Today we raise our voices on behalf of the oppressed Rohingya and Kaman people, who are facing ongoing genocide in the Rakhine [Arakan] state of western Myanmar [Burma].
We are also protesting the continuous wars being waged against minorities in the Shan and Kachin states.
We urge world bodies, international communities, neighbouring countries, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Association of South East Asisan Nations (ASEAN) to take all necessary measures to end the crises across Burma, particularly in Arakan state.
We are well aware that [Myanmar state counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD)] Aung San Suu Kyi and the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State have been covering up the crimes committed by its authorities and generals.
They seem to be proud to invite [former UN chief] Koffi Annan, who has no power to conduct the inquiry, nor to act on any recommendations. That much is clear since the National League for Democracy government has not taken any steps to fulfil the recommendations made by Annan’s interim report, released in March.
Before the release of the Annan commission’s final report, the NLD government provoked the violence by beefing up its armed forces and arming Rakhine civilians who have carried out arbitrary arrests, tortures, rapes, lootings and extortion.
Since August 11, they have blocked off food transportation in the Rohingya-populated regions of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathidaung, and attacked the Arakan army in the Kyauktaw township region.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army tried to save Rohingya civilians by driving out the military forces from their villages. This was the pretext for a resumption of the genocide against innocent unarmed Rohingya civilians — the indiscriminate firing of army helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers, machine guns, the torching of houses and the shooting and slaughtering and burning alive of women, children and aged people.
In an attempt to release international pressure, the government has understated the death toll.
Over 10 days from August 25, more than 30,000 houses from 56 villages — more than 20 villages from Maungdaw, 19 villages from Buthidaung, and 18 villages from Rathidaung — were burnt down. More than 3000 unarmed Rohingya civilians, mostly women, children and elderly people were killed. More than 400,000 people have been pushed out along the Bangladeshi border. About 20,000 people are still trapped in Maungdaw South and more than 30,000 people are trapped in Buthidaung Mountains.
The government, which never helped during the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, is now tactically showing sympathy by providing security, accommodation and food to the Rakhine people living in Maungdaw. It is pushing them to lie about the Rohingya, whose women, children and elderly people are being mercilessly shot dead and burnt alive.
Hindu people, who look similar to and speak a similar language to the Rohingya, are being forced to make up lies and blame the Rohingya. The government is also arming the Rakhine people.
It has been more than five years since the Rohingyas and Kamans of Rakhine (Arakan) state have been excluded, segregated and trapped in concentration camps and permanently barred from education and medical aid and employment. Aid and food supplies have been blocked.
Since 1942, the Rohingyas have been oppressed, victimised and terrorised by both the government and the extremist Rakhine people.
The latest state-sponsored genocide, which began in June 2012, has totally destroyed 13 townships, badly affected 97 religious buildings, and some 23,000 houses from 95 villages. Thousands of Rohingyans and Kamans have been killed and nearly 200,000 people displaced. Some 110,000 of these are in 15 camps in Sittwe (Akyab) city, and the rest, about 65,000 people from eight other regions, are in 26 camps. Aid workers cannot reach them.
Currently, the number of arbitrarily detained people is more than 800. Add that to the 12,000 Rohingyas and Kaman detained in 2012, mainly from Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe townships, and the number becomes huge.
Many organisations, including the Red Cross and healthcare clinics, are puppets for the government: they are not delivering services for the Rohingya and Kaman.
The Rohingya youths who are teaching Rohingya kids and helping elders in the camps are also being detained by security forces.
The NLD government has covered up the past brutal crimes of the military, divided communities and incited racial hate between Rohingya and Rakhine communities by releasing fake photos.
It is well known that the NLD has been following the same tactics of past regimes that routinely attacked and waged wars against ethnic minorities such as the Chin, Karen, Kachin, Shan, Rohingya and Kaman.
The government has doubled the number of armed forces in minority areas and is allowing them to carry out brutal attacks.
Given this, the Rohingya are establishing armed groups to protect their people from repression. This is similar to 43 other armed ethnic groups which have also been set up. They find it is the only viable option to protect their people, lands and rights from military abuses and genocide.
The fact is that the NLD government has never tried to achieve a genuine ceasefire, reconcile with minorities or restore a democratic federal system. Rather, it has broken ceasefire agreements, waged aggressive wars and tortured civilians — all of which amounts to crimes against humanity.
We strongly urge the Suu Kyi government to uphold the rule of law and to guarantee safety, security and respect to the entire population, regardless of race, religion and colour.
The NLD government must immediately halt its ongoing persecution, oppression, restriction, segregation and its attacks on minority groups, particularly the Rohingya and Kaman.
Under its “citizenship verification” law, authorities are forcing Rohingya and Kaman people to accept a foreign identity. They have destroyed their residential documents and are not allowing them to be new citizens even though historical and ancestral evidence show that the Rohingyas were in the area earlier than 1824.
Australia and the United Nations must not forgive the heinous crimes of the tyrannical Burmese rulers and military dictators. We urge the UN and member countries, including Australia, that have business ties with Burma to take action to end the humanitarian crisis and in particular help Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide.
ABRO is urging the Australian government to press the UN to:
- Use its special power to immediately deploy international peacekeeping forces on the ground;
- Force the Burmese government to immediately lift the blockade of food and aid supplies and to grant aid agencies the ability to directly deliver food and aid without having to ask the Rakhine authorities;
- Pressure the NLD government to immediately lift all restrictions and halt corporal and collective punishments, arbitrary killings and arrests;
- Monitor the granting of citizenship to the Rohingya and Kaman people and to stop the pressure on them to accept a foreign identity;
- Demand the immediate release of Muslim political prisoners from central Burma and thousands of Rohingya prisoners, some of whom are as young as 12, detained in Sittwe Central Jail and Buthidaung Jail and in police lockups and military camps;
- Demand member countries use their veto power to allow the UN Inquiry Commission to investigate and take action against government authorities, military generals and other Rakhine politicians, the main perpetrators of the crimes;
- Establish a safe territory, or special region, for Rohingya and Kaman people within the Arakan state; and to
- Ask the UNHCR in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia to provide protection, accommodation, medical aid and support to all recent and previous Rohingya refugees.