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    Rohingya highlight plight of their people at Dubai aid conference

    The Rohingya booth at the Dubai international aid conference, where representatives at the event hope to spread the word among international aid donors about the cause of the Rohingya. Christopher Pike / The National 

    The National
    March 27, 2013
    DUBAI // A group of
    Rohingya have travelled to the UAE to highlight their people’s plight to
    international aid organisations.
    The Rohingyaare a Muslim
    minority from the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
    Twelve of their people set
    up a stand at the 10th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development
    (Dihad) conference and exhibition.
    “Our mission is to
    empower the Rohingyas so they can communicate directly with international
    NGOs,” said Amjad Romman, general coordinator of Bader Gateway, a Saudi
    Arabian charity that arranged the group’s visit.
    “The Dihad conference
    is a unique opportunity to get all these NGOs under one umbrella. This is the
    Rohingyas’ chance to present their case in a language that NGOs, governments
    and the UN can understand.”
    The Myanmar government does
    not recognise the 800,000-strong population as one of about 130 ethnic
    minorities in the country.
    The UN identifies them as
    the Indo-Aryan inhabitants of Arakan or Rakhine state in north-west Myanmar,
    which shares a border with Bangladesh.
    Their roots are thought to
    date back to 1821, when the UK annexed the region as a province of British
    India and brought in large numbers of Bengali-speaking Muslim labourers, who
    later called themselves Rohingyas.
    Mohammed Yasin, head of the
    Global Rohingya Centre in Saudi Arabia, who fled from Myanmar a year ago, said
    their presence in Dihad had helped to put a face to their cause.
    “Visitors were
    enthusiastic when they knew they were talking to the Rohingyas directly instead
    of discussing our plight with NGOs,” Mr Yasin said.
    “They did not feel
    like we were an invisible group of people but were real.”
    Now settled in Mecca, he
    said the event was “a new arena that gave them the opportunity to meet
    with many local and international organisations”.
    He hoped more Rohingyas
    could come to next year’s conference to again speak about their situation.
    The UN’s refugee agency
    says, thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar to neighbouring countries
    because of “restrictions on movement, secondary education, marriage,
    livelihoods and the acquisition of skills”.
    Mr Romman said:
    “People can’t get married without official permits, which are very
    difficult to get. Couples are allowed to have only two children. There is no
    access to work or education.
    “This is the trial of
    humanity because it’s an unprecedented scale of crisis. We have to keep this
    cause alive in the political and humanitarian arena.”
    The Dihad conference at the
    Dubai World Trade Centre aims to build effective and sustainable partnerships
    in humanitarian assistance and development.
    On the final day yesterday,
    Dubai Police and Noor Dubai signed an agreement to expand the scope of work in
    preventing and treating curable blindness and low vision.
    Dubai Police will
    contribute a total of Dh2 million over the next three years to Noor Dubai for
    their camps in Africa and Asia.
    The money, which includes
    Dh500,000 the police donated last year, will help to restore vision, provide
    treatment for sight-threatening diseases, and provide education and training.
    pkannan@thenational.ae