End the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya

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File pic - Photograph: themalaymailonline.com

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) calls upon all parties including the Malaysian and Burmese governments to take active measures to end the ongoing humanitarian crisis besetting the Rohingyas of Burma.

Daily images flooding mainstream and social media are heart-breaking, and reports of burning villages, murder and rape are a common thread among those fleeing into Bangladesh. It is estimated that 300,000 have fled the current violence. Malaysia too plays host to up to 120,000 Rohingya, some of whom have been here over 20 years.

The Rohingya and other minority groups in Burma have been systematically denied citizenship and access to healthcare, education and other basic rights. They are considered one of the world’s most persecuted peoples.

The ongoing crisis is one of many in a series of government persecution, at times brutal. Calls for an end to this ethnic cleansing are echoing across the globe from past Nobel Peace laureates, former heads of state, former ambassadors, UN representatives and human rights NGOs.

We rejoiced with the people of Burma when they voted in elections in November 2015, 25 years after the last free vote. We rejoiced that Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), won a clear mandate from the people. We rejoiced that the previous regime did not resort to undemocratic means to alter the outcome.

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Burma is in transition from decades of totalitarian rule into a democracy. The situation is complicated by the large number of seats in parliament which are reserved for the military. Transitions are difficult, and Burma’s leaders have to make difficult decisions.

Yet democracies are more than government by those who claim legitimacy via the ballot box. Democracies are more than rule by the majority. Democracies must protect the rights of minorities.

Human decency requires that those of us who live outside Burma – including Malaysians onto whose shores thousands of Burmese arrive – cannot sit idly while minorities are stifled, exhausted and extinguished in the country of their birth and indeed of their ancestors.

In the eyes of refugees, Malaysia is a blessed land. For this reason, they arrive onto our shores in droves. We have a humanitarian duty to treat them with the dignity due to any human being. We should work to house them, feed them and heal them.

We applaud the many NGOs mobilised to assist the Rohingya community in Malaysia. We also applaud our enforcement agencies who have on the whole been sympathetic to them.

However, we must acknowledge that refugees are not Malaysian citizens and that our goal should be to work towards a political solution so that the refugees can eventually return to Burma, confident of their security and safety.

GBM urges:

  • the home minister to review the treatment of refugees in Malaysia, to ensure that they are treated with dignity. We note that Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission, Suhakam, has pointed out various failings in immigration holding centres, and we urge the minister to resolve these failings with a sense of urgency.
  • the foreign minister to call an emergency session of Asean foreign ministers and develop a political solution to the crisis, which threatens to spread to the rest of Asean. We are proud that Malaysian diplomats played an important role in securing Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom, and we urge the foreign minister to place our diplomats at the service of Asean.
  • the prime minister to establish an ad hoc committee in Parliament to conduct a comprehensive review of Malaysian policies, practices and legislation with respect to refugees. It is time for Malaysia to ratify the Refugee Convention, which guarantees the basic rights of all refugees.
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GBM also urges the Burmese government to:

  • end the grave persecution and human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minority groups and accord them their citizenship status where it is rightfully due.
  • allow aid workers into Rakhine to provide urgent medical and humanitarian relief work.
  • grant full and unrestricted access to independent fact-finding missions such as the UN and the media to report the actual situation on the ground and discredit the purveyors of fake news.

The statement is endorsed by the following GBM member organisation:

  1. All Women’s Action Society (Awam) 妇女行动协会
  2. Engage 愿景工程组织
  3. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) 回教复兴前线组织
  4. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami) 独立学生份子组织
  5. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) 隆雪华堂
  6. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG) 林连玉基金
  7. Merdeka University Berhad (MUB) 独立大学有限公司\
  8. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) 穆斯林人士专业论坛
  9. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH) 森美兰中华大会堂
  10. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran) 国民醒觉运动
  11. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua) 马来西亚留华同学会
  12. Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram) 马来西亚伊斯兰教革新组织
  13. Pusat Komas 社区传播中心
  14. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) 人民之声
  15. Tamil Foundation (TF) 淡米尔基金会
  16. Tindak Malaysia (TM) 行动大马组织
  17. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (UCSAAM) 马来西亚华校校友会联合会总会
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