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://188.8.131.52/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)