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Activists call for swift action on Myanmar violence

Sumber: BANGKOKPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Kamis, 14 Juni 2012

The United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must quickly intervene in the spiraling sectarian conflict in Myanmar's northwestern state of Rakhine and send an independent fact-finding team to ascertain and monitor the situation, activists in exile said during a seminar in Bangkok.

They described the situation as "genocide-like"

The international community, particularly those UN representatives inside Myanmar should no longer sit by and wait for the violence to subside, but must intervene before the hatred spreads throughout the country, Debbie Stothard, Asean-Myanmar coordinator and deputy secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said.

Ms Stothard was taking part in a discussion panel at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Wednesday night along with Bangkok-based Rohingya representatives who on Monday lodged an appeal to the UN secretary-general with the UNâ??s Bangkok regional headquarters.

They called for an independent monitoring group and for international aid workers and media to be allowed into the area.

The appeal followed the UNâ??s relocation of its staff and their families out of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe (the Rakhine state's capital) to Yangon because of the "serious disturbances with the declaration of a state of emergency by the president, including a curfew in five townshipsâ?.

Maung Kyaw Nu, president of the Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, said international intervention was desperately needed before the "Muslim Rohingyas are wiped away from Burma".

The outbreak of violence in Rakhine state, where Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims form the majority of the population, followed the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman in late May. Her attackers were believed to be Muslim.

On June 2, ten Muslim bus passengers were beaten to death by a mob seeking revenge for the crime. In the days that followed there have been numerous and conflicting reports of further sectarian attacks perpetrated by both Buddhist and Muslim residents.

Neighbouring Bangladesh has sealed its border to prevent thousands fleeing from the violence from entering the country. Among the Myanmar diaspora, especially in the internet world, hatred and accusations are prevalent, each group blaming the other as "terrorists".

Maung Maung Gyi, former secretary general of the Anti-fascist Peoples Freedom League (the now-defunct AFPFL political party), said ultra nationalism inherent among the Buddhist Burmese government officials has caused the riots to spiral out of control and the area badly needs law and order.

"The hysteria and hatred of each other is very disturbing as the Burmese authorities not taking appropriate action and are keeping international organisations out of the area, while Asean members have simply been excused themselves, ignoring and closing their eyes and ears against the genocide," said Ms Stothard.

Htike, an Arakanese Muslim (different from Rohingya), conceded that segregation campaigns have long influenced peopleâ??s minds. â??Hatred against one another can also be seen in other states as well due to the decades-long military rule," said the Bangkok-based Arakanese who works for the Peopleâ??s Empowerment Foundation.

Maung Maung Gyi said the Rohingya were recognised by former leader U Nu, but were later stripped of their rights following the 1982 citizenship act.

Although National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed concern over the issue and met the Imams in Yangon, "she is a minority in parliament whereas the military are the majority�, the Rohingya exile said.

â??We need a constitutional amendment and political recognition of the Rohingya presence, like other ethnic groups."

Human Rights Watch, the Indonesia-based Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute have also called for international intervention. However comments from exile activists based in Thailand were regarded with caution, while a leader of the 88 Generation Ko Ko Gyi group referring to the Rohingya as "Bengalis" and saying they are not one of the ethnic groups in Myanmar has caused worries among solidarity groups.

Khin Ohmar, of Burma partnership, said from Mae Sot that historically the government had always instigated ethnic/religious riots (between Myanmarese and Chinese or Myanmarese and Muslims) whenever public unrest and resentment had loomed large as a threat.

She said the Rohingya have also been used by Burmese politicians for their political benefit since prime minister U Nu's time. "Now, it seems the authorities are playing the nationalist card again and the tamadaw (Myanmar military), who were hated by and not trusted by the public for many years for killing students and monks is now to be perceived as the protector of the nation and religion," Ms Ohmar told the Bangkok Post.

Ms Ohmar conceded that the exilesâ?? silence on the matter is largely because it is an emotionally charged issue for both Rakhine and Rohingya and there are extremists on both sides. Many activists feel this issue is beyond their reach or control and it would place them at high risk to express their opinions freely.

Exile Soe Aunghe said hateful comments and speeches should not have been made in the first place because it only inflamed the situation.

â??The key problem here is that the state has not done enough to control the situation since the violence broke out and it has cost the lives of people in both the both Muslim and Buddhist communities. There are at least 43 battalions of the Burmese army in the state,â? said Soe Aung, a member of the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB).

The border-based exile coalition FDB released a statement on June 7 calling for all communities to find a peaceful solution and not to resort to violence.

"It is very important to note that it has been a pattern in Myanmar that attacks like these are orchestrated whenever the government is feeling insecure.

â??At the very least they are guilty of criminal negligence in failing or refusing to ease tensions. On the other hand, there is a war in Kachin state where the Myanmar army is committing atrocities. In Arakan, it is racially motivated violence where the government is playing a shadowy hand," said the FDB statement.

Kachin Women's Association representative Hkawng Seng Pan told the Bangkok Post that whether the Rohingya are ethnic to Myanmar or are illegal immigrants they should be treated humanely.

"Bangladesh should open the border for the displaced people. They should not act like China in ignoring the plight of displaced Kachin who flee armed conflict into neighbouring countries," said Ms Seng Pan.

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