PGA Panel on Burma

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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.”

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