There were Rohingya related events to coincide with the Burmese government visit to the United Nations in early October. These include a Press Conference to announce a Legal Summons for the President and Foreign Minister of Burma on Friday Oct 2 but the rally for October 3 was cancelled due to bad weather. The Press conference resulted in substantial coverage in Burma where some media tried to throw doubt on the action. Below You will find four videos from October 2 events including an interview with two Rohingya who have just arrived in the USA after one week who endured much suffering:
The spread of anti Muslim hate continues in Burma/Myanmar. Panels we organized on persecutions in Burma in Spring 2014 included several mosque presentations, a talk at the al- Iman school, a discussion at Left Forum, and a presentation at Peace Islands Institute (below)
Moderator Adem Carroll, Burma Task Force USA
Nay San Oo
Bruce Knotts, Unitarian Universalists at United Nations
Jenna Capeci, American Jewish World Service
Alex Caring Lobel, Tricycle Foundation
Here is the full video of the All Souls Panel
On October 4, 2013 Burma Task Force USA hosted a panel on the Human Rights Crisis in Burma as part of the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights conference, timed to coincide with the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development . It was moderated by Adem Carroll, Burma Task Force USA, with:
Jennifer Quigley, Executive Director US Campaign for Burma
Ms. Wai Wai Nu, Rohingya activist, law student, and Director of Women Peace Network-Arakan (WPNA).
Ms. Debbie Stothard Secretary-General of FIDH and Coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma)
Ms Jenna Capeci Director of Asia Programs, American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Followed by Open Discussion of Organizing and Advocacy Strategies. For video excerpts see below:
One question that panelists were considering was why the Muslim minorities were being attacked so viciously now just as Burma is opening up to foreign trade along with some political reforms. And, disturbingly, it turns out that development policy is actually a contributing factor in the violence.
This is because over two million acres of land have been stolen from the communities after they are chased from their villages in the last two years alone. The government is able to steal land since they simply do not recognize ownership and in the case of ethnic groups like the Rohingya refuse to acknowledge their identity or their right to remain in Burma. In areas like Sandoway and still-smoldering Kyaukpyu this land expropriation is linked to mall and “mini-Singapore” infrastructure development schemes implemented by military and other elites, in some cases with foreign investors.
“It’s so important to follow the money, “ stated panelist Debbie Stothard, a human rights defender born in Malaysia and now serving as Secretary General of FIDH, one of the oldest international human rights organizations in the world (having initiated the formation of the International Criminal Court, among other achievements) . “All of this terrible and unjust persecution is made possible because of the culture of impunity in Burma. And the international community only sees the government of Myanmar as part of the solution rather than the problem. There is a gold rush situation with new investors flooding in, but meanwhile there are no labor laws. Because of the land theft some Burmese tell me that these development projects are harder to deal with than the decades of war. We need to hold the government of Myanmar accountable before we allow foreign investment to profit.”
On August 20 2013 met for over an hour with Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, Permanent Representative for OIC at the United Nations. We discussed OIC’s role in pressuring the government of Myanmar and in building consensus around human rights and the rule of law. We also discussed the role of our Task Force and the potential for various strategies.
He very much likes the idea of Buddhist-Muslim dialogue and promoting this visibly. It need not be strong advocacy and may be better not to be at least in the beginning. He also says the government of Myanmar is not hostile to the idea. Regarding the earlier Religions of Peace statement in Bangkok, he says that there will be conference to follow up.
Ambassador Gokcen signed the Memorandum (MoC) with the government of Myanmar, after an 11 day visit in 2012, including to camps for the displaced, an experience which moved him greatly. He noted that the Myanmar government reneged on their earlier agreement to allow an OIC office in Myanmar. The “verification process” also stopped.
The citizenship issue is a “long term” challenge and of course with the upcoming census the government is playing all sorts of games. However in July in response to an earlier request they received an invitation for the OIC Secretary General and five ministers to visit Burma. This may happen around the time of the next General Assembly in late September. One way or another, OIC has been working on a resolution for the General Assembly and working to get support.
There were other discussion about allies at Alliance of Civilizations and the Commission on Freedom of Religion, which he says is “not comfortable with the green light the US has given Myanmar.” He is also in regular touch with Human Rights Watch as well as close to Dr Wakaruddin.
I was impressed by the Ambassador’s level of commitment to this issue. One indication is that of his 170 tweets this year, 160 have been about Burma Muslims.
We spoke about Islamophobia and also about Egypt. The Ambassador noted that one Deputy Secretary General is Egyptian and the other is Saudi, and that the third is from Sudan. We also note that the current Secretary General’s term ends at the end of 2013 and the new designated successor is a Saudi.
Burma Muslim Task Force began a round of UN Mission Visit on July 30, 2013.
7/31/13 Meeting at Turkish Mission with Mr. Levent Eler, Deputy Permanent Representative and Ms. Gizan Sucuoglu, regional expert on staff.
I proposed discussing Turkish perspectives and policies regarding Burma and its communications with the UN Human Rights Council and with the OIC. In addition acknowledging the offers of assistance from the Turkish Red Crescent, we discussed Turkey’s efforts to work towards UN consensus on this issue. Last year the statement of the UN’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural issues) was signed by Burma/Myanmar which they felt was very valuable. (see: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/520/48/PDF/N1252048.pdf?OpenElement)
We discussed the work of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and its recent (June 2013) statement on Myanmar. We discussed the work of the Secretary General’s envoy Vijay Nambiar who now has an office in Yangon and the potential for the HRC to move forward on OIC and other resolutions. (for a clip of the June resolution see, especially starting at the 4 minute mark: http://126.96.36.199/dev/webcast/topics-issues/member-states/myanmar/)
I provided a packet of detailed reports from Human Rights Watch as well as our own materials.
7/30/13 Meeting with Mr Raja Reza Deputy Permanent Representative of Malaysian Mission and Riaz Abdul Razak, Second Secretary (not pictured)
I proposed discussing Burmese refugees and Malaysia’s work as member of the UN Human Rights Council. After a description of Burma Task Force USA mission and membership, I inquired about refugees. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention On Refugees and makes no distinction between refugees and undocumented immigrants. Mr Reza and Mr Razak stated that there are over 100,000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia, more than reported in some media reports. They stated that despite not being a signatory, Malaysia behaves as if it is one, adhering to its standards. This is helped by the presence of the UNHCR which has been registering refugees in Malaysia. So far it has registered 25,000 refugees from Burma. Having read reports that others are vulnerable to deportation and being deported, I asked about this policy or repatriation. I also asked about reports of human trafficking in the region. In response, Mr Reza indicated that refugees would be better off registering and also that there are services available for them. However some social tensions have been arising in Malaysia involving displaced Rohingya refugees and there have been 10 fatal clashes in and around the capital city.
In discussing pluralism and co-existence we also touched on Malaysian laws banning or limiting the practice of Shia Islam, despite the public promotion of “moderate Islam” by the President.
7/30/13 Visit to Sri Lankan Mission; Meeting with Mr Waruna Sri Dhanapala, Minister Counsellor
Met to discuss Sri Lankan perspectives on Burma and also to inquire about Hardline Buddhist movements in Sri Lanka. I also asked about the banning of the Time magazine issue about 969 as well as media reports about crowds attacking a Muslim owned warehouse and a law college in early 2013.
In discussing Buddhist- Muslim tension he stated that he used to work for the President’s office and could assure us that despite the tension the President of Sri Lanka is well disposed to Muslims and is Chair of the Palestine Solidarity and that he participates in iftars during Ramadan. I noted that
reports that the President’s brother has shown support to one extremist anti-Muslim group, according to news reports. The brother, Gotabhya Rajapaksa, serves as Defence Secretary. He has attended the opening of a training school run by Bodu Bala Sena, or BBS, and also made supportive remarks. According to BBC this and another group Sinhala Echo have been targeting Muslims in Sri Lanka.
In discussing Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, and prospects to develop this as a response to the crisis in Burma, Mr Dhanapala stated that since 2008 there has been an interfaith alliance against ethnic hate led by a Dr Bellanwita in Sri Lanka. He looked up the link and the movement seems to be the “Bellanwita” movement and the “Sarosamen Interfaith Alliance.” (see: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=43,7648,0,0,1,0#.Ufq6pCzD-00)
The deadline for keeping sanctions on Burma has been allowed to expire and now we are waiting to see if the president will issue an Executive Order to keep limits on trade while massive oppression is going on. It was disappointing this week that White House lawyers apparently chose to move forward with assistance to Egypt despite the coup that recently took place, breaking their own rules through some very dishonest legal interpretation. Will business (including military assistance) continue no matter what happens, even in Burma?
Here is a Ramadan video to share with community that does not know:
As Ramadan unfolds, I notice some people immediate open their wallets when I speak about the crisis of the Burmese Muslims. Whether it is 1 dollar or 100 dollars, that spontaneous generosity is moving and beautiful. And yet, I wonder how many people will be generous with their time and make phone calls to our officials, to ask for policy to be changed, for the lies of the Burmese generals to be challenged? How many will reach out to Buddhist neighbors to discuss the issue?
Here are links to excerpts from the July 4 show on WBAI radio.
This Fourth of July we remember freedom; not only the freedom to live in privacy and dignity far from NYPD and NSA spying, unfrisked and unstopped. We consider the tradition of giving sanctuary and safe haven to those fleeing oppression. Are there fewer refugees being resettled? What are the trends in refugee assistance and what are the obstacles to a refugee
Our first guest is Mitzi Schroeder, Director for Policy JRS USA, who has been working since 1979 to defend the rights of refugees and migrants throughout the world. She served as deputy chair of Refugee Council USA and as a member of the Executive Committee of InterAction, the U.S. Council for Voluntary International Action. She began her career at Migration and Refugee Service, U.S. Catholic Conference, where she was responsible for the development and support of international programming.
JRS advocates for just and generous policies and programs for the benefit of victims of forced displacement. JRS/USA works with an international network of JRS programs in more than fifty countries as well as with other human rights and refugee assistance organizations to tell the story of the “forgotten” refugee. By bringing field-based accounts of needs that too often do not make the headlines to the attention of policy makers in the United States, and by proposing specific actions to meet these needs, JRS staff seek to make a direct and lifesaving impact on the well-being of refugees and forced migrants.
Facing ethnic cleansing, the Rohingya Muslim minority is one group that is being dislocated as extremist Buddhist groups attack and burn their villages and the Burmese government passes exclusionary laws. What services are being provided to this population? To discuss this issue, our final guests will be Shaikh Ubaid of Burma Task Force.
Shaikh Ubaid is on the board of the Burma Task Force USA and also heads the Muslim Peace Coalition, which is composed of Muslim Americans in 15 states who are committed to the principle of standing up and speaking for justice (Quran 4:135), not only because of their desire to uphold the principles of their faith but also out of deep concern and commitment to our country.
The Muslim Peace Coalition believes that war, terrorism and Islamophobia form a dangerous nexus that is dragging our nation backward. Spearhead by the Muslim Peace Coalition, 100 New York Imams in the spring of 2011 stood together to issue an historic statement that established the link between wars at home and wars abroad. For more information about the coalition see: http://muslimpeacecoalition.org/ and for Burma: www.burmamuslims.org