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136: Rohingya Photography Exhibition Opens in Kuala Lumpur

By Mohd Salim | December 17, 2016

Kuala Lumpur — A Rohingya Photography Exhibition titled ‘136’ opened in Kuala on December 16 evening to create awareness of the sufferings of the Rohingya people and promote human rights around the world.

It was organized by Mr. Saiful Hoque Omi of Counter Foto, an award-winning photo-activist, Equal Rights Trust and Fortify Rights. The exhibition will be showcased until 22nd December.

At the opening event of the exhibition was opened and moderated by Mr. Henry Koh, Human Rights Specialist for Malaysia, Fortify Rights. After the opening, distinguished speakers such as Mr. Charles Sentiago, a Malaysian MP of Klang; Mr. Richard Towle, Chief of Mission, UNHCR Malaysia; Mr.Anwar, News Editor of Rohingya Vision; and Mr. Saiful Hoque Omi, Managing Director of Counter Foto talked on the current situation of the Rohingya in Arakan State, in Bangladesh and Malaysia and shared their experiences working on the issues of of the Rohingya.

The Klang MP and Chairman of APHR (ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights) urged the foreign ministers to press hard Myanmar rather shaking hands with one another at the emergency foreign ministry level meeting in Myanmar next week.

He said “the meeting should be seen as an opportunity, not just for shaking hands. They must press Aung San Suu Kyi and push her for investigations Investigator must be able to visit the affected (in northern Arakan State), where the crimes humanity are (reported to have been) taking place.

“The Myanmar should be held responsible for what has transpired today. It’s no longer internal problem of Myanmar but a regional problem. If this opportunity is used as a political cover, it will be a waste of the opportunity.”

The emergency foreign ministry level meeting is going to be held on December 19 upon the call by Myanmar’s state counselor and foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Charles Santiago also said Malaysia should rectify its stand on the 1951 UN Refugee Convention so that the Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia can get access to education, healthcare and livelihoods and urged Mr. Richard Towle, the Chief of the UN Refugee Agency in Malaysia, to register more Rohingya refugees as fast as possible. 

Mr. Towle responded “the Rohingya Refugees are slow to get registered as we do everything on our own and due to complicated application process. We need to create a situation where NGOs, the UNHCR and the government work together. 

“It is difficult for the UNHCR alone to handle and take care of more than 60 million refugees around the world.”

He also urged the government of Malaysia to be mild pertaining to this issue is the refugees in Malaysia.

Briefing on the current situation of the Rohingya in northern Arakan State, Mr. Anwar, the editor of Rohingya Vision TV, said “the Burmese military have launched the assaults on the civilian population in northern Maungdaw in the pretext of the crackdown on the apparent insurgents that conducted raids on three Border Guard Police posts on October 9, 2016. The patterns of the systematic crimes being committed against the Rohingya population amount to ethnic cleansing and genocide. 

“And the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is rather defending military brutal actions and using the media she controls to spread lies and incite more racial hatred for the Rohingya among Burmese population. It makes her complicit in the crimes against the Rohingya.”

And commenting on the International Crisis Group (ICG) report on the apparent Rohingya Insurgency in northern Arakan state, he said “the ICG have exaggerated the capacity of the apparent Rohingya Insurgency named Harkatul Al Yakin or the Faith Movement in northern Maungdaw creating an illusion among the international Community that the group is indeed too organized and strong to be ignored, which is factually false. And the Burmese government could use the report to justify its gross atrocities against the Rohingya and the military could further use the report as the pretext to kill even more Rohingyas.”

Mr. Anwar also urged the International community, ASEAN, EU, OIC to join hands to demand the United Nations Security Council to send peace-keeping force to Arakan State of the military doesn’t stop the violence and pressure the Burmese government to allow critically required humanitarian access to northern Maungdaw and other parts of Arakan State. 

On the launching of the photo-exhibition in KL and his experiences of working with the Rohingya Refugees since 2009, Mr. Saiful Hoque Omi addressed the audiences “I became a photo-activist after my visit to a refugee camps in Bangladesh. The dire situation of the refugees moved me and triggered me to make me do something useful for the humanity. 

“The Rohingya are at the last stage of Genocide. We have so far failed to stop the persecution.The United Nation has failed, the EU has failed and the US have failed. So, we cannot afford any more failures. We have to act.” 

Mr. Omi also commented on the report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the Rohingya and said “the ICG is worth reading but with much care. Most parts of the report seem conspiracies to me but I can’t call it uncredible either.

But the timing of the release of the report and the report itself, when the Rohingya is subjected to Genocide, hugely undermines the ongoing Genocide against the people and allow the Burmese military to commit more crimes. Therefore, I believe a worse situation is awaiting the Rohingya.”

When asked on the skepticism surrounding the reports of the killings of the Rohingya during the Question and Answer session, Mr. Omi said “when people suffer so much, it is a human tendency to exaggerate something to a certain extent. That doesn’t make his sufferings untrue. There could emerge two to three false or fabricated reports on the sufferings of the Rohingya. That doesn’t make many other reports wrong. Are the sufferings of the Rohingya sound fake to you?

“I can point out more than 100 false reportings by CNN on the situation of Afghanistan. But that doesn’t make other reports by CNN uncredible. So, all these skepticisms surrounding the Rohingya plight seem nonsense to me.”

The 136: The Rohingya Photography Exhibition will be showcased at MAPKL-White Box Level G2-01, Block A5, Solaris Dutamas, No 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia until December 22, 2016.

[Edited by M.S. Anwar]
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