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ASEAN Rohingya Centre Proposes 2017 as Int’l Rohingya Solidarity Year

By Arifa Sultana | January 10, 2017

Kuala Lumpur — The ASEAN Rohingya Centre (ARC) held forum to discuss ‘Rohingya plight’ at Malaysia Institute of Integrity in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday (Jan 8) and proposed that the Year 2017 be regarded as the International Solidarity Year for the Rohingya.

The forum was named “2017: International Year of Solidarity for Rohingya” and accompanied with singing activities by the Rohingya refugee school children.

The ARC executive director, Dr Mohd Helmi Ibrahim, said to the that the declaration is supported by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). “The purpose of the declaration is to increase regional awareness (of the need to put) an end to the abuse of human rights, discrimination and violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state,” he said. 

The forum was inaugurated by the former Malaysia FM and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar with an opening speech.

In the opening speech, he said “these people, Rohingya do not pose any threats to Buddhism in Myanmar. But I have learned through my experiences as an OIC Envoy to Myanmar that some Burmese monks and most of the Burmese Buddhists view that they would take over the country if they are given freedom. There is a common hatred against Rohingya in Myanmar, unlike other ethnic groups persecuted by the government such as Kachin and Karen. No one wants to take the name of the Rohingya. This is a result of the state instilling fears and racial hatred in the hearts of the common people.

“Most of ASEAN countries were once Hindu states and then became plural states like Muslim-Buddhist-Christian-Hindu states as they are today. Myanmar especially Arakan (or Rakhine) state has historically been similar. The Rohingya are also traced back to the millennium and related to Hindu origin. No matter what, the reality today is we must be inclusive of all religions and practice pluralism. So, Myanmar needs to practice the same if it is to be regarded as a democratic country and respected internationally.”

He added “when Aung San Suu Kyi was under house-arrests, we campaigned for her release. We went to Myanmar especially for that. However, what she is letting the persecution of the Rohingya go on which is unacceptable because she won the Nobel Peace Prize as a defender of the HUMAN Rights.”

The opening speech was followed by the discussion forum with the distinguished panelists of distinct/different religious backgrounds. The panelists that discussed in the forum are Tan Sri Sayed Hamid Albar, SUHAKAM Commissioner, Mr. Jerald Joseph; ABIM Vice President & CEO Global Peace Mission Malaysia, Fahmi bin Shamsudin; Dato K. Sri Dhammaratana, Malaysia Buddhist Highest Priest (Temple Maha Vihara, Brickfields); Dr. Heman Shastri, General Secretary, Council of Churches of Malaysia (Protestant Umbrella); and Mr. M.S. Anwar, Editor of Rohingya Vision TV.  At the end of the fruitful forum, the panelists came to the following conclusions. 

  • The genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar is more politically and economically motivated than religiously is.
  • What’s happening in Myanmar today has nothing to do with Buddhism. That’s unfollowing of Buddhism.
  • Although the violence in Myanmar is portrayed religiously, this is more of a humanitarian concern and should be responded as an urgent international issue of human being issue. We are one people. We are human being.
  • The new form of insurgency ‘Harakah Al-Yakin or the Faith Movement that has emerged among some members of the Rohingya has emerged due to the decades-long persecution of the Burmese/Myanmar government(s) and international irresponsiveness to their plight. And they don’t have links to foreign militant groups.
  • The Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in the region directed affected by the Myanmar’s on the Rohingya have the legitimate ground to effectively respond to the crisis, rather just being vocal.
  • The bold-step taken by the Malaysian PM is welcome and Malaysia should rectify 1952 Refugee Convention to be in a better position to help Rohingya and other refugees in the country and at least 1984 Child Convention so that the refugee children in Malaysia enjoy basic human rights.
  • The whole Malaysia should do something exemplary like its state, Kedah, did where the refugee children are allowed to enroll in the government schools without holding official status such as citizenship. 
  • The Malaysian PM and his wife are requested to pay a visit to the Arakan State to give hopes to the Rohingya like former Turkish FM, Ahmet Davutglu, his wife and the wife Turkish President Erdogan did. This way, Malaysia can become an example for the rest of the world. 
  • The forum proposes the Malaysian authorities to resume the documentation program for the Rohingya refugees named IMM13.

During a press conference, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that Malaysia had to keep on pressuring Myanmar to solve the Rohingya issue and should not create a situation where more refugees will come to the country from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

He said “if we had allowed refugees to enter Malaysia during last Boat-people crisis, it would be like doing favor to the Myanmar government. So, Malaysia is always at the receiving end for what happens in Rakhine state. So, our stand and policy is changed since we publicly criticized Myanmar for the Rohingya genocide. We need to interfere because the Rohingya problem is not affecting Myanmar alone, but other ASEAN countries, too, including Malaysia.”

He also urged the Malaysian government to document the Rohingya refugees estimated to be 150,000 so that they can employment and said “Instead of bringing in people from other places, they can be employed here and earn a living.”

The ASEAN Rohingya Centre (ARC) is an organization based in Kuala Lumpur to address the plight of Rohingyas, an initiative by 60 NGOs throughout ASEAN taken in the wake of the ongoing genocidal operation on Rohingya people in Arakan, Myanmar, that began October 9, 2016.

[Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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Tan Sri Sayed Hamid Albar Opening Speech during ‘2017: International Year of Solidarity for Rohingya’ Forum
‘2017: International Year of Solidarity for Rohingya’ Forum was opened with the singing activities by the Rohingya refugee school children