Saturday, May 30, 2015

Notes from Oslo Conference of Rohingyas

Nobel laureates appeal for end to persecution of Rohingya

May 29, 2015

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Several Nobel Peace Prize winners have called for an end to the persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, describing it as "nothing less than genocide," and appealed for international help for them in Rakhine state. 

The appeal followed two conferences in the Norwegian capital where participants witnessed video addresses from Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including from South Africa's retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi and former East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta. 

"What Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government," the final statement said. 

Held at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, the conference urged the international community "to take all possible measures to pressure" the Myanmar government to "immediately end its policies and practices of genocide." 

Philanthropist George Soros, who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary, said that there were "alarming" parallels between the plight of the Rohingya and the Nazi genocide. 

Pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi hadn't been invited to the event, organized by several international organizations. During her 15 years under house arrest, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate won admiration for her fiery speeches and scathing criticism of the military regime that ruled Myanmar, or Burma, at the time. Her critics note she is carefully choosing her battles, in part because she has presidential ambitions. 

In recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya have fled persecution and landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, often abandoned by human traffickers or freed after their families paid ransoms. There are approximately 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims.
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The Speech of Archbishop Desmond Tutu at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Hello peace lovers, colleagues, and friends. I'm sorry to have to address you electronically. One of the pitfalls of old age is that travel becomes somewhat tricky. Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words of encouragement and solidarity as you settle down to apply your minds to solving one of the most enduring human rights crises on earth. 

The credit that is due to the government of Myanmar for reforms undertaken over the past couple of years does not blind us to the ongoing disavowal and repression of its ethnic minorities, the Rohingya population in particular. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country. Freedom is indivisible. All must be invited. All, a part. 

The Rohingya people were not consulted when the British drew the Burmese border on the map. With those strokes of a pen, they became a borderland people; people whose ancestral land traverses political boundaries. Burma's post colonial government elected in 1948 officially recognized the Rohingya as an indigenous community, as did its first military government that ruled from 1962 to 1974. 

Manipulation by the military of ethnic minorities in the west of the country dates back to the late 1950s. At first, the military sought to co-opt the Muslim Rohingya to quell the Buddhist Rakhine after Rakhine separatists had been crushed. The military turned only Rohingya. In 1978, the Far Eastern Economic review described the Rohingya as the victims of Burmese apartheid. 

A few years later, a citizenship law left the Rohingya off the list of indigenous people, describing them as Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. In the context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, many Buddhists, particularly in Rakhine State regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. More than 100,000 Rohingya are trapped in internment camps. They may not leave “for their own protection.” They hold only temporary identity cards. In February, they lost all voting rights. 

The government of Myanmar has sought to absolve itself of responsibility for the conflict between the Rakhine and the Rohingya, projecting it as sectarian or communal violence. I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people. There's evidence they say that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. 

Human beings may look and behave differently to one another, but ultimately none of us can claim any kind of supremacy. We are all the same. There are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims. It is possible to transplant a Christian heart into a Hindu chest and for a citizen of Israel to donate a kidney to a Palestinian. We're born to love-- without prejudice, without distrust. Members of one family, the human family-- made for each other and for goodness. All of us! 

We are taught to discriminate, to dislike, and to hate. As lovers of peace and believers in the right of all members of the family to dignity and security, we have particular responsibilities to the Rohingya. 

2015 is a big year for Myanmar with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election on its calendar. Even as we seek to encourage the country to build on the reforms it has started, we have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost. We have a responsibility to hold to account those of our governments and corporations that seek to profit from new relationships with Myanmar to ensure their relationships are established on sound ethical basis. 

We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya. 

Over to you. Thank you and God bless you all.
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The Speech of George Soros at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Greetings, everybody. I regret I can't be there in person. I have been a supporter of Burma's democracy movement since 1993. For most of that time, the prospect of change seemed remote, and I felt increasingly discouraged. Then, in 2010, quite suddenly, or so it seemed, the ruling military junta decided to abandon absolute authoritarian rule. The world was stunned. My engagement in Burma during those dark days taught me an important lesson. Sometimes it's necessary to support a lost cause for a long time just to keep the flame alive. That way, when the situation changes, groundwork for progress has already been laid. As I speak to you today, I find myself again growing discouraged. Making the transition from military rule to a more open society is not easy, and in many ways the government of Burma has made real progress in its reform efforts. I fear that many of these reforms are not sustainable, because they have not yet been institutionalized. 

It's also true that political and economic power remains mostly concentrated in the hands of a privileged few who monopolize the revenue from Burma's abandoned natural resources. The most immediate threat to Burma's transition is the rising anti-Muslim sentiment and officially condoned abuse of the Rohingya people. That has occurred under watch of the current rulers in Naypyidaw. From private conversations with progressive Burmese officials, I know that some in power genuinely want to see a Burma where all are treated equally, but these officials also fear the potential of extremist violence from the small but powerful group of religious radicals. These extremists have created a tinder box that could blow up the entire reform process. The government must confront these extremists and their financial supporters. 

In January when I visited Burma for the 4th time in as many years, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground. I met with state and local readers and both Rakhine and Rohingya populations, and also talked to internally displaced persons and those mostly Rohingya living in a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. In Aung Mingalar, I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to healthcare, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming. Fortunately, we have not reached a stage of mass killing. 

I feel very strongly that we must speak out before it is too late, individually and collectively. The Burmese government's insistence that they are keeping the Rohingya in the ghetto for their own protection simply is not credible. Government authorities have tried to reassure me. They say things are under control and not as bad as reported by outsiders who they claim don't understand the local culture or the long and complicated history of Rakhine State. I understand that half a century of living in isolation under repression can make a population vulnerable to intermediation and exploitation in all sorts of ways, but I also know that most of the people of Burma are fair-minded and would like their country to be a place where all can live in freedom. 2015 is a crucial year for Burma; a tipping point, in the words of Yanghee Lee, U.S. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. With the prospect of democratic changes to the 2008 constitution and the holding of free and fair elections, meaningful reform could take hold. 

As a longtime friend and supporter of Burma, I hope for a positive outcome for all the people of the country, but where I once felt a great sense of optimism, I am now filled with trepidation for the future. I hope those in power will immediately take the steps necessary to counter extremism and allow open society to take root. In the lead up to the elections, it's crucial that official acts should be taken to counter the pervasive hate and anti- Rohingya propaganda on social media and the racist public campaigns of the 969 movement. The promise of Burma as a flourishing and vibrant open society is still within reach. It's up to Burma's leaders and people whether this promise is fulfilled.
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The Speech of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

May 26, 2015
Oslo Norway

I feel much saddened by the events taking place in Myanmar today. I was very instrumental in getting Myanmar to become a member of the ASEAN, the regional grouping of Southeast Asian countries. Myanmar, geographically, is definitely a part of Southeast Asia, and its exclusion would be contrary to the idea of South East Asian unity. But now, we find that Myanmar is not treating its own people the way we treat Myanmar.

We did not want Myanmar to be excluded but Myanmar today is taking action to expel the Rohingyas, the Muslim part of this population who have been there for the past 800 years or so. They have always been regarded as citizens of Burma before, and since Myanmar is a continuation of Burma it should accept these people as its citizens. 

Now Malaysia also has a lot of people from other countries who have settled here in the last 200 years or so. We decided that they have a right to be citizens of Malaysia, to be given political rights, and to be allowed to train and carry out business in Malaysia. We regard them as our citizens.

Unlike Malaysia, we find that Myanmar does not even want to recognize the Rohingyas who have been there all this while as its citizens. This is grossly unjust on the part of the government of Myanmar. I had expected that those who benefited from our struggle to get Myanmar to release (for example Aung San Suu Kyi) that they would realize that oppression by the government is something that is intolerable; and yet few people from Myanmar have risen to the occasion to defend the rights of the Rohingyas who after all are citizens of Myanmar.

I hope that the international community would focus its attention on the problem of the Rohingyas who are Muslims, but they are citizens of this Buddhist dominated country. They should live and be allowed to live in Myanmar without oppression. There should be tolerance of peoples of other religions.

Again I would like to mention that in Malaysia, although the majority of the people are Muslims, we have treated people with other faiths with consideration and we have given them rights to become citizens of Malaysia and to benefit from the laws of this country. I hope that the international community would focus on the problem of the Rohingyas who today are being forced to flee in ships to other countries and many of them drown in the sea because they were not able to get good ships to carry them to other countries.

This is a human tragedy and I do hope that the international community would help these unfortunate people of Myanmar who have been discriminated against in a way that is not becoming of a country that aspires to become a democratic country. I thank you.
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Seven Nobel Peace laureates call the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar a genocide and demand action as two-day Oslo conference ends

Oslo, Norway, May 28, 2015 - A two-day conference focusing on ending the persecution of Burma's Rohingyas concluded today, with a call from seven Nobel Peace Laureates to describe their plight as nothing less than a genocide.

In his pre-recorded address to the conference, Desmond Tutu, leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, called for an end to the slow genocide of the Rohingya.

Tutu’s appeal was amplified by six other fellow Nobel Peace laureates: Mairead Maguire from Ireland, Jody Williams from the USA, Tawakkol Karman from Yeman, Shirin Ibadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina. They stated that, “what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government.”

Philanthropist George Soros drew a parallel between his childhood memories of life in a Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation in Hungary and the plight of the Rohingya after visiting Rohingya neighborhood in Sittwe which he called a “ghetto”. “In 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I, too was a Rohingya… The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” he said, in a pre-recorded address to the Oslo conference.

The meeting was held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway. It was attended by Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar. Also present were genocide experts, international diplomats, interfaith and human rights leaders. Attendees explored ways to end Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya, as well as foster and communal harmony in Burma.

Addressing the conference, Morten Høglund, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced his government’s decision to give 10 million Norwegian Kroner ($1.2 million US) in humanitarian assistance to Burma. The participants were dismayed however, as the State Secretary choose not to even mention the word “Rohingya” in his entire speech in an apparent compliance to Myanmar’s government stand.

The conference communiqué urged the Norwegian government to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in Burma, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

During the conference, former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik

conferred on three leading Myanmar monks who have saved Muslim lives in Burma and opposed Islamophobia the first-ever “World Harmony awards” on behalf of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a 120-year-old interfaith organization. Rev. Seindita, Rev. Withudda, and Rev. Zawtikka, were the three awardees who also chanted Buddhist prayers at the inauguration.

Presenting the awards, the Parliament’s chair, Imam Malik Mujahid said, “These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas.”

The participants from 16 different countries, including leading Rohingya activists and leaders, as well as genocide scholars, adopted the following statement:


ဂ်ပန္ႏွင့္ အေမရိကန္ သတင္းေထာက္တုိ႔ လည္လွီးအသတ္ခံရၿပီးေနာက္ ျမန္မာသတင္းေထာက္မ်ား လည္ပင္းလွီးဖုိ႔ က်န္ေနေသးေၾကာင္း ဦးေနမ်ဳိးေ၀ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ ေျပာၾကား

ဦးေနမ်ဳိးေ၀အား ေမ ၂၇ ရက္က ရန္ကုန္ၿမိဳ႕၌ ျပဳလုပ္သည့္ဆႏၵျပပြဲတြင္ ေတြ႕ရစဥ္

ဂ်ပန္ႏွင့္ အေမရိကန္သတင္းေထာက္တုိ႔ လည္ပင္းလွီး အသတ္ခံရၿပီးေနာက္ ျမန္မာသတင္းေထာက္မ်ား လည္ပင္းလွီးဖုိ႔ က်န္ေနေသးေၾကာင္း မတူကြဲျပားျခင္းႏွင့္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးပါတီဥကၠ႒ ဦးေနမ်ဳိးေ၀က ေမ ၂၇ ရက္တြင္ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ေျပာဆုိခဲ့သည္။

ေလွစီးလူသား (Boat people) အေရးႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ ကုလသမဂၢႏွင့္ ႏိုင္ငံတကာ မီဒီယာမ်ားမွ ယင္းေရႊ႕ေျပာင္း အေျခခ်သူမ်ားကို ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံမွဟု ေရးသားေျပာၾကားျခင္းမ်ားကို ကန္႔ကြက္သည့္အေနျဖင့္ ေမ ၂၇ ရက္က ဗဟန္းၿမိဳ႕နယ္ ဗုိလ္စိန္မွန္ကြင္းမွ ဟစ္တုိင္သုိ႔ လမ္းေလွ်ာက္ဆႏၵျပမႈ၌ ဆႏၵျပပြဲမတုိင္မီ နာရီပုိင္းအလုိတြင္ ေျပာၾကားခဲ့ျခင္း ျဖစ္သည္။

ဦးေနမ်ဳိးေ၀က ဒီဗီြဘီသတင္းဌာနမွ ထုတ္လႊင့္ေသာ သတင္းတစ္ပုဒ္ မွားယြင္းေနေၾကာင္း ယင္းႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ ယခုဆႏၵျပပြဲအတြင္း ေရာက္ရွိေနေသာ ဒီဗီြဘီသတင္းဌာနမွ သတင္းေထာက္မ်ားက အျဖစ္မွန္အား လာေရာက္ေမးျမန္း ေစလုိေၾကာင္း ေျပာၾကားရာမွ ေအာက္ပါအတုိင္း ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ေျပာၾကားခဲ့ျခင္း ျဖစ္သည္။

“ဒီဗီြဘီသတင္းေထာက္ေတြ ပုလဲဆရာေတာ္ေရာက္တုန္း ေမးၾကည့္ၾကပါဦး။ ဖြတယ္ကြ၊ မီဒီယာမွ ဖြတာမဟုတ္ဘူး။ တုိ႔ကလည္းဖြတာပဲ။ ရွင္းလားမသိဘူး။ ေဟ့ေကာင္ေတြ။ ဒီထဲမွာ မီဒီယာေတြရွိတယ္။ တစ္ခါတည္းေျပာကြာ အဲဒါေတြ။ မီဒီယာမွ ဖြတာ မဟုတ္ဘူး။ တုိ႔ကလည္း ဖြတာပဲကြ။ သတင္းကုိ အကုန္တင္ျပရဲမွ မီဒီယာသူရဲေကာင္းကြ။ သတင္းသူရဲေကာင္းေတြဆုိတာ သတင္းကုိ အကုန္တင္ျပ ရဲရတယ္ကြ။ ဂ်ပန္သတင္းေထာက္ကုိ လည္လွီးၿပီးၿပီ ဟုတ္သလားေဟ့။ (ေဟး ... ေဘးက လူမ်ားေအာ္သံ၊ လက္ခုပ္သံမ်ား)၊ အေမရိကန္သတင္းေထာက္ကုိ လည္လီွးၿပီးၿပီ။ ဟုတ္သလားေဟ့။ (ေဟး .... ေဘးက လူမ်ားေအာ္သံ၊ လက္ခုပ္သံမ်ား)၊ ျမန္မာသတင္းေထာက္ကုိ လည္လွီးဖုိ႔ပဲ က်န္ေတာ့တယ္ကြ။ (ေဟး ... ေဘးက လူမ်ားေအာ္သံ၊ လက္ခုပ္သံမ်ား)၊ ျမန္မာသတင္းေထာက္ေတြ လည္လီွးဖုိ႔ပဲ က်န္ေတာ့တယ္” ဟု လက္ကုိင္အသံခ်ဲ႕စက္ကုိင္၍ ေအာ္ဟစ္ေျပာဆုိခဲ့သည္။

The Street View ဂ်ာနယ္မွ အယ္ဒီတာ ကုိမွဴးသစ္က “ဥပေဒမဲ့ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္မႈေတြ၊ ဥပေဒမဲ့ေျပာဆိုမႈေတြကို အခုမွမဟုတ္ဘူး။ ေျပာေနဆိုေနတာကၾကာၿပီ။ အခုလည္း ျမန္မာသတင္းေထာက္ေတြကို လည္လွီးဖို႔ က်န္ေသးတယ္ဆိုတဲ့ စကားကို ေပၚေပၚထင္ထင္ ေျပာလာတယ္။ ပါတီဥကၠ႒ တစ္ေယာက္အေနနဲ႔ ဒီလိုမ်ဳိး သတင္းသမားေတြကို ျခိမ္းေျခာက္ေျပာဆိုတာက ဥပေဒမဲ့တာ၊ ဂုဏ္သိကၡာမဲ့တာလို႔ပဲ ေျပာခ်င္တယ္။ အဓိက, ကေတာ့ ဒီအေပၚမွာ အစိုးရက ဥပေဒန႔ဲအညီ ဘယ္လိုကိုင္တြယ္မလဲ၊ ျပည္ေထာင္စု ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲ ေကာ္မရွင္က ဘယ္လိုအေရးယူမလဲ၊ စာနယ္ဇင္းေကာင္စီက ဘယ္လိုတံု႔ျပန္မလဲ ဆိုတာေတြက အေရးႀကီးတယ္။ အရင္တုန္းကလည္း လူမ်ဳိးေရးဘာသာေရး ပဋိပကၡျဖစ္ေစမယ့္ စကားေတြကို အြန္လိုင္းမွာေရာ၊ ေဟာေျပာပြဲေတြမွာေရာ ေပၚေပၚထင္ထင္ ေျပာဖူးတာေတြလည္း ရွိခဲ့တယ္။ တားမယ့္ ဆီးမယ့္သူ မရွိခဲ့ဘူး။ အခုသတင္းေထာက္ေတြကိုပါ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္လာတယ္။ ဘယ္သူမွ မတားဆီးဘူး၊ အေရးမယူဘူးဆိုရင္ ဆက္ၿပီးက်ဴးလြန္ဖို႔ ၀န္ေလးေနမွာ မဟုတ္ပါဘူး။ အစိုးရက ၾကည့္ေကာင္းလို႔ ၾကည့္ေနတာလား၊ ကိုယ့္လူမို႔လို႔ လႊတ္ထားတာလားဆိုတာ ေမးခြန္းထုတ္ရေတာ့မွာပဲ။ ဒီလို မိုက္မိုက္ကန္းကန္း ဥပေဒမဲ့ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ ေျပာဆိုတတ္တဲ့လူက ပါတီတစ္ခုက ဥကၠ႒ျဖစ္ေနသလို၊ သမၼတနဲ႔ ေတြ႔ခြင့္ရတာ၊ လႊတ္ေတာ္ကလုပ္တဲ့ ပညာေရးဥပေဒ ၾကားနားပြဲေတြမွာတက္ၿပီး ေျပာဆိုခြင့္ရခဲ့တာ အဲဒီလို အခြင့္အေရးေတြေတာင္ ရေနေတာ့ ပိုျပီးစိတ္ပ်က္ဖို႔ ေကာင္းတာေပါ့။ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ စာနယ္ဇင္းေကာင္စီ အေနနဲ႔လည္း ျမန္မာသတင္းသမားေတြ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ခံရတာကို တစ္စံုတစ္ရာ ေဆာင္ရြက္ေပးဖို႔လိုမယ္။ သတင္းသမားေတြကိုယ္စား တရားစြဲတာမ်ဳိးျဖစ္ျဖစ္ လုပ္ေဆာင္သင့္တယ္လို႔ ျမင္ပါတယ္” ဟု ေျပာၾကားသည္။

ျပည္ပရုပ္သံ သတင္းဌာနတစ္ခုမွ ဗီြဒီယုိဂ်ာနယ္လစ္ တစ္ဦးက “ဒီမိုကေရစီနည္းအရ ယွဥ္ၿပိဳင္အေရြးခံဖို႔ ပါတီေထာင္ထားတဲ့ ေခါင္းေဆာင္တစ္ေယာက္ရဲ႕ ေျပာစကားဆိုရင္ ဒီလူဟာ အစြန္းေရာက္ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈကို ဦးတည္ေနသူ တစ္ေယာက္ျဖစ္တယ္လို႔ သူကိုယ့္သူနဲ႔ သူ႕ပါတီကို ေၾကညာေနသလိုျဖစ္တယ္။ ဒါကို ဒီမိုကေရစီ ေဖာ္ေဆာင္ေနေသာ အစိုးရဆိုရင္ တင္းတင္းက်ပ္က်ပ္ ကိုင္တြယ္ေျဖရွင္း ေပးဖို႔လို႔တယ္” ဟု ေျပာၾကားသည္။

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