Nearly a dozen Nobel peace laureates have criticised Burma leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying she has failed to ensure equal rights for the minority Rohingya people in Arakan (Rakhine) state.
A military offensive in recent months by the Burma army has led to the deaths of hundreds of Rohingya, the burning of homes and the raping of women, as well as arbitrary detentions, according to an open letter to the UN Security Council from a group of 23 activists, including Nobel laureates and current and former political and business leaders.
“Access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor,” the letter reads.
“Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back.”
Earlier this month, an Amnesty International report claimed that actions by Burma ‘s military in Arakan (Rakhine) may constitute crimes against humanity.
Burma has come under heavy criticism for its army’s forceful treatment of the Rohingya, and international human rights groups including Amnesty have accused the military of mass murder, looting and rape.
In the open letter, the group asks that the UN encourage the Burma government to lift restrictions on humanitarian aid, grant access to journalists and human rights monitors and establish an independent international inquiry into the situation in Arakan (Rakhine) state.
The group also asks that the Security Council make the Rohingya’s plight a matter of urgency and that the UN secretary-general visit Burma in the coming weeks.
“If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity,” the letter says.
The military sweeps were sparked by an October 9 attack on police outposts in Arakan (Rakhine) state that killed nine officers.
Located in Burma’s west, Arakan (Rakhine) has long been home to simmering tensions between the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority and the country’s Buddhist majority population.
The last major outbreak of violence in 2012 left hundreds dead and drove 140,000 people into internal displacement camps.
Nobel peace laureates who signed the letter include Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, South African social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for female education and the youngest ever winner of the prize.
Others who signed include former prime minister of Italy Romano Prodi and British business leader Sir Richard Branson.
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