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Stateless Rohingya and violation of human rights

By A.F.M. Khairul

The Daily Star
September 22, 2013

Every human being
has the right to live in his birthplace irrespective of religion, colour and
race. But in case of Rohingyas in Myanmar, it is different and difficult.
Rohingyas have been living in the state of Arakan in Myanmar since the 8th
century, but have not been recognised as citizens. After decades of oppression
and marginalisation by the General Ne Win in 1962 and passing of the
Citizenship Law in 1982, Rohingyas have been officially stateless.
Buddhist Rakhines
are carrying out repression of Rohingyas. Many cases of torture and human
rights abuses against Rohingya have been documented by international
organisations. The UN and OIC have the responsibility to pressurise the Myanmar
government to recognise the legitimate right of Rogingyas to live in peace in
their homeland. Bangladesh, having sea and land border with Myanmar, has the
responsibility to give due attention to this issue through bilateral and
diplomatic channels. As Rohingyas are similar in culture, religion, language,
and have family bondage with local inhabitants of Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, so
Bangladesh government must have a system to identify Rohingyas for security
reasons and deal with the issue considering national interest and human rights
Security forces
along Bangladesh-Myanmar and Thailand-Myanmar borders must look after Rohingyas
in the border areas with the help of NGOs and provide them with shelter and
protection on humanitarian ground. Muslim countries have many responsibilities
to address this problem and help poor Muslim brothers by providing them with
food, shelter and medical care. Human rights organisations along with leading
countries like China and USA have to approach the Myanmar government to ensure
citizenship of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Politics in Myanmar
is dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) led by
military backed government of President Thein Sein. All the three branches of
government — legislature, executive and judiciary — are controlled by the
military generals and USDP members. The military has 25% of seats reserved in
the parliament without election. Security related ministerial portfolios like
defense, home affairs and border affairs are held by USDP members. The
constitution of 2008 ensures immunity for military generals for their past
actions and human rights violations.
The present
government has reached ceasefire agreement with the majority of the armed
groups, but there is no sign of political settlement with the ethnic groups on
the question of autonomy. It is unlikely that the government will amend the
2008 constitution to end the role of military in politics and remove bad laws
like citizenship law of 1982. It is also premature to predict that some
positive outcome of the constitution review committee will help to solve all problems.
It is also uncertain whether the election in 2015 will be fair and free so that
the people of Myanmar get real democracy. Till that time, the military will
play a vital role in the politics of Myanmar, and it would be difficult for
ethnic groups to live in peace and get citizenship in their homeland.
The writer, a
retired Lt. Colonel, is Director (Administration), University of Information
Technology and Sciences (UITS), Dhaka.