By Mohiuddin Yusof
United to End Genocide interviewed Mr. Mohiuddin M. Yusof, President of Rohingya Concern International, to learn more about the current crisis facing Burma’s Rohingya people following the outbreak of deadly violence in Arakan State this past June.
Can you talk about what is happening right now in Burma’s Arakan State?
“The displaced people and those who are not displaced, but still live in their own homes and villages, are both still suffering a lot. Actually, those law enforcement agencies, security forces and police who have the responsibility to protect the lives of the Rohingya people have become an instrument of ethnic cleansing. This is still true today.”
“The situation may seem calm, but the inside is burning. The Rohingya people are traumatized. People are in constant fear of persecution.”
“The situation has not progressed. Protection is very important now. Citizenship rights and other rights are secondary for now; at this critical moment, it is a life and death question. The first step is protection. We need the Rohingya people to be protected. This will not happen until and unless the United Nations arranges a monitoring and protection force. Until that day, there will be no solution.”
“There also needs to be a UN commission of inquiry in addition to the monitoring and protection force. Everyone is saying that there should be reconciliation, peace and stability, but there’s still violence. Some people and groups don’t want peace. Some don’t want the Rohingya to have citizenship rights. The Burmese President Thein Sein wants to keep the Rohingya population in camps under supervision of the UN and then forcibly send them to other countries for resettlement. They say there is no place for the Rohingya in Burma’s Arakan State. It’s very worrisome.”
What should the international community be doing to help the Rohingya?
“I want the United States government, European Union countries, non-aligned movement, the Asian countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and international non-governmental organizations to put more pressure on the government of Burma to restore peace and promote reconciliation between the Rohingya and Rakhine. People need to be protected. Otherwise, there will be even more bloodshed. All the world governments should put more pressure on the Burmese government with all available means, so that at least the Rohingya people can survive in their own native land.”
“The world community needs to come forward to save the Rohingya people because they are human beings. We have to restore human dignity and human respect.”
If the Rohingya people were to be protected, what would be the next step to secure their rights?
“First and foremost, we want our people to survive. Protect them first, then restore all their rights and give them equal opportunities just like all other ethnic national groups in Burma.”
“The Rohingya are peace-loving people. They want to live in Burma in peace and security, abiding the laws of the country, according to the constitution, but they want guarantees from the local, state and national governments that they will be treated equally. They should have all rights. The Rohingya people want to make sure that they are bona fide citizens recognized as an indigenous people of Arakan under the current Burmese constitution.”
How do you feel about the U.S. government’s decision to end sanctions against the Burmese government?
“We feel that sanctions removal is not helpful for the Rohingya people, and will not be helpful until all our rights are granted.”
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
“Some people say that the situation has calmed down and that a solution is available, but this is not true. The problems facing the Rohingya are very complicated. The Rohingya are not only 800,000 people as the Burmese government says in their report. There are 3.5 million Rohingya people worldwide: 1 million live in Arakan State, 500,000 are scattered throughout Burma, and 2 million live in other countries after they were compelled to leave their native land in Arakan State due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion and language. So, when we talk, we need to talk about all the Rohingya people. Those displaced outside of the country must have the right to return to Burma and live there with dignity and honor as citizens. We should be allowed to work for the progress and development of Burma to make our country peaceful. We all must endeavor to create an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence in Arakan State where all Burmese citizens can live together peacefully and in happiness.”
Rohingya Concern International is a New York-based human rights organization working for the protection and prevention of genocide against the Rohingya people, and the restoration of the Rohingyas’ fundamental rights.