Speaking Notes by Ex-MP U Shwe Maung at Parliament of Canada
Speaking Notes for the meeting of Parliament of Canada the House of Commons’ Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on “Current Human Rights Situation of Rohingya in Myanmar” at 13:00 to 14:00 EDT on May 3, 2016
Dear Mr. Chair,
First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about Current Human Rights Situation of Rohingya in Myanmar to testify before the House of Commons’ Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Let me introduce myself. My name is U Shwe Maung (a.k.a) Abdul Razak and I am a former Member of Parliament in Myanmar from 2010 to 2015.
In my country, there was a historic election on November 8, 2015. National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made a landslide victory. With effective from April 1, 2016, previous USDP government led by President U Thein Sein transferred the state power to the NLD. As NLD was unsuccessful to amend the 2008 Constitution in the previous parliamentary term, the core of state power is still in the hand of Myanmar Military. Ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, Border Affairs, Immigration and Religious Affairs are under the command of Myanmar Military Chief. Then, The Region/State, District, Township Administrators and Myanmar Police Force are under the command of Home Ministry. What I am trying to say is the core of state power is still in the hand of Military Group although NLD formed a civilian government. In this situation, NLD submitted a bill for a post of State Counsellor for its Chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the parliament as she is barred to become President and it was approved. Now she is The State Counsellor of Myanmar. She is leading NLD-Led Government and performing duties as if President of Myanmar.
Honourable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is trying her best to reform the country’s old system bit by bit. We appreciate her correct steps for a new era. But she is still silent about the plight of Rohingya. She took side of oppressor. She and her party have been denying existence of Rohingya people in Myanmar. In the context of Rohingya and Muslim issues, USDP Party and NLD Party have been exercising with same political pattern although they have a huge number of differences in nationwide politics since 2012 Violence against Rohingya and Kaman in Rakhine State and 2013 Violence against Burmese Muslims in Meikhtila Township. Both parties favour hate speeches of Nationalist Buddhist Group Ma-Ba-Tha directly or indirectly. In October, 2012, there was second violence against Rohingya and Kaman Muslims. I submitted an emergency proposal to Take Action for the violence against Rohingya and Kaman from Kyauk Pru Township to the Speaker of Parliament Thura U Shwe Mann through USDP Party. But the speaker asked the Chair of Rule of Law Committee Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But she denied. Finally, NUP Party submitted the proposal. I got opportunity to discuss and I called Ministry of Home Affairs to reform Police Force of Rakhine State as policemen involved in the violence according to Rohingya and Kaman victims. When 2013 Violence broke out in Meikhtila, NLD MP for Meikhtila U Win Htein blamed Muslims instead of culprits.
USDP Party proposed amendment of Constitution Referendum Bill and Parliamentary Electoral Bills to exclude voting rights of 1.3 Million Rohingya, even though Rohingya were allowed to vote in all previous elections. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and no single NLD MPs objected that bills. This was a conspiracy of Thura U Shwe Mann and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to disenfranchise Rohingya from the November 2015 Election. Both parties did NOT nominate a single candidate to run for the election. Rakhine State Election Subcommissions and the Union Election Commission denied my right to run for office on November 8, 2015 Election although I was a sitting MP. I was denied the right to contest the election because Immigration Department and Election Commissions falsely claimed my parents were not citizens of Myanmar when I was born. In 2010 Election, same Immigration Department and Election Commsion approved my paper work for candidacy and I was elected from Buthidaung Constituency, Rakhine State. I would like to say this is the most laughable joke in the 21st Century. I am not only one. All Rohingya candidates were targeted for exclusion. Dozens of Burmese Muslims candidates had also been rejected by election authorities. And make no mistake: it is because of our ethnicity and religion. During a press conference just before the election, she described the persecutions on Rohingya as an exaggeration. She also publicly said “I am a politician and I am not a human rights defender” during a visit to Europe in 2013. She also told media several times that “ Rohingya issue is an Immigration issue, rule of law issue and it is responsibility of government”.
Now Honourable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Foreign Minister, President’s Office Minster and the State Counsellor. She is leading the government. Let me highlight what NLD government did so far in the first month of its term. A lot of political prisoners were released by the order of NLD President and State Counsellor. But Rohingya and Burmese Muslims political prisoners were excluded. Approximately 1000 Rohingya were imprisoned with false charges after the 2012 Violence, which caused 140,000 IDPs. Religious Affairs Minister Thura U Aung Ko accused all Muslims of Myanmar as Associate Citizens (so-called Guest Citizens) during an Interview with RFA Burmese. According to 1982 Citizenship Law, rights of Associate Citizens are not so different as Foreigners. In practice, associate citizens are viewed and treated as Foreigners by the Government agencies. Although Muslim Organizations urged NLD Government to release a statement to show policy of NLD Government towards Muslims of Myanmar, NLD and Honourable State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was silent.
Then, there was about 20 Kaman/Rohingya Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who drowned and died after a boat capsized off the coast in Sittwe, Rakhine State. NLD Government did not help any victim or didn’t release any statement of condolence. But sUS Embassy Rangoon released a statement of condolence and it used the term “Rohingya”. After that the Nationalist Buddhist Ma-Ba-Tha Group providing hate speeches by insulting not only Rohingya but also US Embassy Rangoon, US Ambassador Mr. Scot Marciel and US Government. Then, Ma-Ba-Tha and Myanmar National Network organized a demonstration in front of US Embassy on April 28, 2016. During the demonstration, Ma-Ba-Tha Chief sent a felicitation which insulted Rohingya, US Embassy and US Government very badly. Myanmar Police Force issued permit to demonstrate and police are accomplice. Probably, the permit was issued by the agreement of Home Minster. But NLD was kept quiet as if nothing was happening in the country. The National Democratic Forces (NDF) party released a statement criticizing US Embassy Statement and US Ambassador for the usage of “Rohingya” but didn’t show any sympathy for the victims. NDF party is a Nationalist Party and always blames and insult Rohingya in cooperation with Rakhine extreme politicians. In the statement, NDF urged NLD Government to release a statement on the issue of usage of “Rohingya” by US Embassy. In this connection, RFA Burmese interviewed with NLD Patron U Tin Oo and he said that previous government had decided about the usage for these people, NLD government will not tell anything and there is no Rohingya. Now it is crystal clear that NLD Party and NLD-led Government is not recognizing Rohingya and willing to solve Rohingya IDPs Camps problem. There are 120,000 Rohingya IDPs due to 2012 violences. I saw with my eyes from helicopter while Rohingya houses were burnt by the Rakhine Buddhist Extremist in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. Since then, I have been advocating for the victims to resettle and punish culprits and policemen, who involved in violence. No MPs listened to me and no Ministers cared my questions and proposals. I compiled a book of facts on Rohingya existence and solution to peaceful coexistence and gave to speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, NLD Chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all union MPs in 2013. But neither U Shwe Mann nor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not responded to me. Both of them are politically unwilling to solve Rohingya issue. They have been using “silence diplomacy”
If this is the case, plight of Rohingya will be doubled in a near future. We are not illegal immigrants. We don’t need to be naturalized. We have been demanding to restore our rights including citizenship and political rights.
For Rohingya, conditions remained grave as of today. I visited IDPs Camps in Sittwe on August 31, 2015. The situation was so dire. Children are suffering from malnutrition. Elders are suffering from disease. Sittwe General Hospital is like a Nazi Hospital for Rohingyas. Most of in-patients were reportedly killed by Buddhist Nurses. Thus, Rohingyas are scared to go to the General Hospital. Medical Clinic in the Camps are not-equipped for all kind of treatments. Thus, most of Rohingya patients want to be hospitalized in Rangoon. For this case, officials charged huge amount of money and most of the patients are unable to pay. Finally, they remain in the camps and waiting for the death. Some tries to go Bangladesh for better medical treatment. When they returned, they are charged for illegal border cross and imprisoned for 1 to 2 years. Most of the patients are women and children. Some of my cousins are victims of this case. Rohingya are not allowed to move freely. Rohingya are facing following problems as of today.
1. Denial of Full-fledged Citizenship
2. Treatment of Rohingya as if Foreigners and Trapping them for Naturalization, which is only applicable for foreigners
3. Uncertainty of Citizenship Processing
4. Denial of Rohingya Ethnicity
5. Accusation as Illegal Immigrants
6. Lack of Freedom of Movement
7. Lack of Access to Higher Education
8. Uncertain life at IDP Camps
9. Restriction of Marriage
The worst thing is restriction of Freedom of Movement within own country. Every town in Rakhine State for Rohingya is like an open prison. Let me share one of my philosophy on Movement. I think restriction of movement is a global practice of governments to punish criminals. When a person commits a crime, he or she must be sent to the prison as a prisoner to be punished. One of the main concept of keeping prisoners in the prison is to restrict their movement. But Rohingya’s freedom of movement is restricted without committing any crime by Rohingya. So, the Rakhine State become as if a prison for Rohingya. Thus, they are taking a risky journey in search of better life in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. In long term, there shall be no Rohingya youths and educated in Rakhine State. In this way, Myanmar Governments are committing continued ethnic cleansing and slow-motion genocide.
Therefore, on behalf of Rohingya in Myanmar, I would like to request Parliament of Canada and Government of Canada through Mr. Chair to urge/press the Myanmar State Counsellor and Myanmar Military Chief to implement followings immediately.
1. Stop all abuses against Rohingya in Rakhine State
2. Make a roadmap to engineer Rohingya Crisis
3. Allow Freedom of Movement
4. Allow Access to Higher Education and build enough Primary Schools
5. Resettle IDPs to their original house land
6. Dismantle Partition Fence between Rakhine and Rohingya Community
7. Recognize Rohingya ethnicity
8. Grant/Restore full-fledged citizenship and political rights to Rohingya
9. Include/invite Rohingya representatives in forthcoming 21st Century Pinlon Conference of National Reconciliation
Mr. Chair, Let me stop my presentation and thank you so much for your time.