Category Archives: Interviews
By Liza Yosephine
February 27 2016
Thejakartapost.com recently spoke to Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK), which has long been advocating for the restoration of the rights of the people whose situation he said was only growing worse each day.
Tun Khin called for the international community, in particular member countries of ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, as well as the UN to come with stronger action to pressure the Myanmarese government, particularly when the National League for Democracy (NLD) government comes in April.
Although he now resides in London, Tun Khin is highly anticipating the transformations expected to be forged by the new government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, adding that the people of Myanmar have voted for hope, not hate.
However, he voiced disappointment at Suu Kyi, who has so far not provided any evidence in taking action toward addressing the issue of the Rohingya people.
“Actually, it is a very tragic moment for the Rohingya because she is not speaking up. Rohingya people strongly supported her as she is trying to build human rights and democracy. But we have to wait and see, but we are cautiously optimistic,” Tun Khin said.
A Myanmar law enacted in 1982 denied the Rohingya people citizenship, thus rendering them stateless and vulnerable to discrimination.
In a country of 20 million people, most of whom are Buddhist, the Rohingyas are the largest Muslim minority with 1.5 million people living in the Rakhine state located west of Myanmar, also known as Burma.
They came into the media spotlight during a refugee crisis in 2015, during which thousands fled the country by rickety boats via the waters of the Malacca Strait and Andaman Sea to escape to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Suu Kyi standing up for the rights of the Rohingya will instill more confidence in democracy and human rights activists to add their voice and push for change in the country, said Tun Khin.
Tun Khin said the NLD should immediately address the issue and lift the restrictions imposed on the Rohingya people. He also urged neighboring countries to be more proactive in restoring the rights of the oppressed population.
Meanwhile, Lilianne Fan, international director of the Geutanyoe Foundation, which provided humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya refugees who arrived in Aceh, said that awareness of the Rohingya issue should be heightened in the region.
She expressed concern that people were more informed about issues of further regions, such as in the Middle East where the Palestinians were stateless, in comparison to the problems that are right at their doorstep.
“For the Rohingyas, this is our Palestine,” Lilianne said.
She viewed Indonesia as having shown exemplary leadership in terms of conducting a humanitarian response for the refugee crisis last year where Acehnese fishermen were involved in rescuing 1,807 people from stranded boats.
Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi nationals stranded in the Andaman Sea were rescued on three occasions between May 10 and May 20, last year, in rescues off North Aceh, Langsa and East Aceh.
In recognition for their actions, the foundation has nominated the Acehnese fishermen for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) 2016 Nansen Refugee Award.
Since the rescue,, foundation have been working in providing psycho-social support for the survivors who she said have faced severe conditions throughout their journeys on the boats including starvation, exploitation and violence.
“They have been through such severe trauma,” Lilianne added.
The Rohingya people flee from their land because they can’t survive there, she said, but oftentimes they encounter human traffickers at sea who hold them on what is dubbed as “floating camps”, in which they are held.
According to Lilianne, the migrants suffer appalling conditions for extended periods of time. Lack of food lead to fights over what little morsels are available, some women have also confessed to being sexually abused, while the children often witness the violence that unravel on the boats.
Once they arrive onshore, the journeys have evidently had serious psychological impact on the people, she said.
On her visit to the camps, Lilianne saw that during the time children were given the chance to draw, the images they illustrate would reflect their traumatized state of mind, including drawing depictions of death and violence. (bbn)
SINGAPORE — The closely watched appointment of the Chief Minister in Myanmar’s Rakhine state would have implications on both the humanitarian situation for Rohingya Muslims and the country’s parliamentary composition, said a prominent Rohingya activist.
In an interview with TODAY earlier this week, Mr Maung Tun Khin, president of the “Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK”, noted that the political jockeying for Rakhine state’s top post was being played out between the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), the ultra-nationalist Arakan National Party (ANP), and the country’s military which remains a potent political opposition in Parliament.
“The ANP is saying that if the NLD is really democratic, (the latter) has to select someone from ANP,” he said, referring to the fact that the ANP beat the NLD at the state-level polls last November.
“But if there is an ANP Chief Minister, there will be more policies of persecution that will be pursued to eliminate the Rohingya,” said Mr Tun Khin. He explained that the Chief Minister would be able to dictate local policies including whether international aid agencies will be allowed additional access to Rohingya camps.
He noted that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD is in a difficult position, as the ANP, which is pushing for the Rohingya to be moved into camps or deported, has threatened to “give problems” to the ruling party.
“If NLD does not appoint a Chief Minister from the ANP, the ANP will stand with the opposition,” said Mr Tun Khin. But he emphasised that as the ultra-nationalist party’s warning was vaguely worded, the threat could involve the ANP working with the remnants of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and possibly the military lawmakers in Parliament to form a coordinated opposition bloc to oppose the NLD.
At the same time, said Mr Tun Khin, the military which occupies one quarter of the seats in Parliament has been pushing to appoint Chief Ministers in some resource-rich and strategic areas, including the Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states, among others. If the military pushes to retain the incumbent Rakhine Chief Minister General Maung Maung Ohn, the humanitarian situation for the Rohingya will continue to remain dire.
Although having grown up in Myanmar, Mr Tun Khin, who is a Rohingya himself, was forced to leave the country to pursue his tertiary education overseas after Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law which rendered 1.1 million Rohingya effectively stateless curtailed his right to further education, freedom of movement and employment.
The activist, who is regularly in touch with internally displaced Rohingya and fellow human rights advocates in Myanmar, warned that since 2012 there has yet to be any improvement in the conditions of the Rohingya currently confined in camps.
“Children and pregnant women are dying day by day because the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is not able to provide enough medical aid,” said Mr Tun Khin, adding that although MSF was allowed back into Myanmar months after being kicked out in 2014, humanitarian access by the aid group was severely curtailed by the then-USDP government.
Since communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya broke out nearly four years ago and displaced some 140,000 people, tens of thousands have left Rakhine state by boat. Last year, thousands of desperate Rohingya fled on smugglers’ ships, sparking a crisis in South-east Asia after other countries initially turned the boats back, leaving the migrants to starve at sea.
Dr Melissa Crouch, a legal expert on Myanmar, agreed with Mr Tun Khin’s assessment that the Rohingya humanitarian situation going forward would be dependent on who becomes the next state Chief Minister. She said the NLD is likely to be deep in negotiations with the military.
“If the NLD is going to enter into any sort of bargaining with the military on constitutional amendments, perhaps the only thing that they have to give away in return, for example, is a military person to be appointment as Chief Minister in Rakhine state,” she said, referring to how Ms Suu Kyi is seeking to change the country’s military-drafted Constitution, which bars her from being President as her children are not Myanmar citizens.
Dr Crouch, who is a lecturer in the law faculty at the University of New South Wales in Australia, was speaking to TODAY at the side-lines of a seminar organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) yesterday on “Understanding Religious Diversity in Myanmar”.
“Certainly, it would be important to watch who will be elected at the state level as Chief Minister, because they do have significant power,” she said.
Is Myanmar’s transition to democracy tainted by the persecution of Rohingya Muslims? Inside Story -Al Jazeera
Inside Story Al-Jazeera
Tun Khin – President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation, UK.
Kyaw Zwa Moe – The Irrawaddy News Magazine in Naypyidaw.
Adam Cooper – Myanmar Country Representative at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Yangon.
Maung Tun Khin (aka) Ziaul Gaffar (President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation, UK) is a Rohingya Activist last night spoke on “Is Myanmar’s transition to democracy tainted by the persecution of Rohingya Muslims?” in Inside Story Al-Jazeera
Maung Tun Khin highlighted … “People voted for hope, not for hate”
“It is clear that the huge resources and efforts made by president Thein Sein’s military-backed government, and Ma Ba Tha and other nationalist extremists, warning against voting for the NLD, failed to have a significant impact when people voted. People voted for hope, not for hate.
The election result demonstrates the support and power Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has. Her leadership speaking on Rohingya issue would make a significant difference and give others in Burma who support human rights for the Rohingya to have the ‘cover’ and confidence to add their voices”.
Action against hate-speech and extremists
NLD-led government should immediately lift all restrictions on the operations of international aid agencies in Rakhine State and take action to ensure the security of aid workers.
At the root cause of the denial of rights of the Rohingya is the 1982 Citizenship Law. The lack of full citizenship lies at the root of most of the discrimination faced by the Rohingya, including lack of freedom of movement, and access to health and education services.
There is no way Rohingya issue can be avoided, and it is much better that an NLD-led government bite the bullet and deal with it at the start of their period in government when they have a new and strong mandate, strong party unity, and elections are years away.
Myanmar’s first democratically-elected parliament in decades is being called historic. But it’s also the first Parliament that does not include a single Muslim legislator.
More than a million Muslim Rohingya, who do not have citizenship, were prevented from voting in November’s election.
They are among the most persecuted people on earth. Hundreds were killed during violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities in 2012. Muslim-owned businesses and homes were burned.
Since then, 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into refugee camps. Tens of thousands more have fled from the country on overcrowded boats.
So, what will Myanmar’s new mainly civilian government mean for the Rohingya?
BBC NEWS: Interview with BROUK President Mr.Tun Khin on “Rohingya Migrants in the Andaman Sea with no food & water.”
Mr Tun Khin President “Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK – BROUK” in an interview with BBC-News said,
It’s very tragic moment when I talk with them, the way they were screaming we need help, and we have nothing. Please help us and save our lives. We are without food and water for about five, six days.
The fishing boat, carrying people of the Muslim Rohingya minority, has been refused entry to Thailand and 10 people are already said to have died.
Mr Tun Khin added need help from international community that the way they were crying. Hundreds of Rohingya migrants are stranded on a boat for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water.
Mr Tun Khin also added … If we look back and see Rohingyas are the original native people of ARAKAN State which is western part Burma. Rohingya are facing systematic ethnic cleansing which is planed from the Burmese government for decades, and after this president Thein Sein Government came they are imposing more restrictions on movement, marriage, Education and creating popular violence and pushing all Rohingyas to the camps.