Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomes yesterday’s European Parliament resolution on the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, which called on the Burmese government to amend its controversial 1982 citizenship law that effectively stripped the Rohingya of citizenship and allow humanitarian aid to Rakhine State “as a matter of urgency”.
The European Parliament warned that ongoing violence in Rakhine State between the majority Rakhine Buddhist and minority Rohingya Muslim populations, which has left over 70,000 people internally displaced, “may put at risk the transition to democracy in Burma/Myanmar.” The resolution urged the Burmese government to allow “UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs, as well as journalists and diplomats, unhindered access to all areas of Rakhine State, guarantee unrestricted access to humanitarian aid for all affected populations, and ensure that displaced Rohingya enjoy freedom of movement and are permitted to return to their place of residence once it is safe for them to do so.”
The resolution also called on the government to “amend the 1982 citizenship law so as to bring it into line with international human rights standards and its obligations under Article 7 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, with a view to granting citizens’ rights to the Rohingya and other stateless minorities, as well as ensuring equal treatment for all Burmese citizens, thus ending discriminatory practices.”
In a separate development, a new report released yesterday by the Arakan Project documents that “the systemic and discriminatory practice of forced labour against the Rohingya has continued, or even intensified, across large areas of North Arakan/Rakhine State in Burma/Myanmar, since deadly communal violence broke out in June 2012.”
Meanwhile, in London this week, a delegation from the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), hosted by CSW, presented their new report, “Threats to Our Existence: Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma”, at a meeting in the House of Commons organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma. They also met with the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP.
Reports have also emerged this week that Howitzer artillery shelling is being used on civilian villages surrounding the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) headquarters of Laiza. Peace talks between leaders of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the government have been suspended since July, during which time fighting between the KIA and Burmese army has escalated severely.
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said, “During this week, the suffering of people in western and northern Burma has received long overdue and much needed attention, which we welcome. In the past year, Burma’s government has taken some very welcome steps towards democratization and openness, and those reforms should be recognized. However, until all the people of Burma can live in peace and without fear, we must continue to highlight the very grave human rights violations which are still taking place today, including violations of religious freedom. The Rakhine and Rohingya, as well as the Chin and Kachin people, along with the ethnic nationalities in eastern Burma, must be included in the reform process; a genuine nationwide dialogue must take place, and a political solution to decades of conflict and persecution must be agreed. As President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi prepare to visit the US, we urge them to work together to establish a nationwide ceasefire, to open a political dialogue with the ethnic nationalities, to repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law and introduce a new citizenship law that recognizes those born in Burma as citizens, and to promote religious freedom and human rights for all.”