Insurgents in Myanmar call for ceasefire, DAPs International Bureau urges Myanmar government to reciprocate
It is with relief that the DAP welcomes the ceasefire announced by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). This will hopefully bring the month-long insurgency in the Rakhine State of Myanmar to a temporary ceasure. This is reportedly to allow for aid and humanitarian assistance to be channelled to the thousands in need. The DAP calls for the Myanmar government to reciprocate the ceasefire for the sake of ordinary Myanmarese of all ethnicities and religions, including the Rohingya people.
The violent slaughter that took place in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, especially of the Rohingya people, is abhorrent and must immediately cease. For years, the Rohingya people have been systematically repressed and abused. Since the attack on 25 August, when the Myanmarese Government activated its military forces to curb the influence of the ARSA, thousands have fled to Bangladesh, while thousands of those stuck in Rakhine have been massacred.
The Rohingya humanitarian crisis is not one isolated within Myanmar, but a regional one with its toxicity over spilling far and wide across South-east Asia. The killings and continued alienation of the Rohingya people has profoundly far-reaching implications, felt even here in Malaysia.
Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions; ‘the ASEAN way’ of non-interference has proven futile in ensuring national challenges remain within national borders. The Malaysia government should start bilaterally engaging the Myanmar government in stating a clear demand for the state-sponsored violence to immediately stop. We, as a country, should not be silent when atrocities are being committed against the innocent and helpless civilians.
Whilst marches and rallies in solidarity of those affected have the utmost support from the DAP, the Malaysian Government MUST go beyond merely that. The Foreign Ministry should exercise leadership, and immediately step up several gears in mobilising the country’s resources and leaders within the UN, especially during the General Assembly on 19 September. Malaysia should also use its influence within the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (ASEAN ICHR) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to urge Myanmar and its government to put an immediate stop to the senseless killings.
Indonesia has taken on an active role in assisting the Rohingya people, it’s time that Malaysia does her share in the name of humanity. As a nation, we must unite in actively condemning those who have and are perpetrating any form of violence towards any group of people, regardless of race or religion. Hatred, oppression, and violence should not have a place in any country, and the Malaysian government should ensure that it stands tall and live up to its reputation as one of the champions of human rights in the region.
The DAP does not condone any act of violence committed by any groups or governments. We also condemn the words and actions of those fanning the flames of hatred and polarisation, by accrediting the violent actions of a few to an entire ethnic group and/or the believers of an entire faith. Our only concern is for the safety and well-being of civilians regardless of race or religion.
The DAP joins the international community’s call to end the senseless killings of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and for the latter’s government to stop the state-sanctioned military attack in Rakhine and instead focus its efforts in ensuring the safety of the survivors of the massacre.
In the interest of upholding the truth, the DAP, through the cooperation of Progressive Alliance and the International Union of Socialist Youth, have compiled some well-researched key findings and verified facts.
- The Rohingya in Myanmar have been for years, and continue to live in dire conditions favourable to extremism. The Rohingya are probably one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. The conflict between the group and the Myanmar government has historic, religious and ethnic roots; though the current conflict is largely a military-led expulsion resulted by a militant group claiming to represent the entire ethnicity. It is exacerbated by systematic discrimination and the portrayal of the group as an economic burden as well as a security risk. As a result, an increasing number of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh.
- Reliable information is scarce. As of now, international journalists have had no access to the area. Therefore, any facts and footage have to be treated with extreme caution. The unprecedented solidarity wave in the Muslim world means that a lot of fake footage is spreading through social media. Other footages and pictures depicting Buddhists being treated violently are used by those countering that narrative. There is a spiral of hatred and violent propaganda that is driving a fabricated Rohingya versus Buddhist narrative that is growing rampantly.
- Militant Extremism by a small minority of Rohingya is real. It is unclear to what extent the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is supported by Rohingya civilians. But they have proven their capability to stage coordinated attacks, spread propaganda and recruit fighters. ARSA’s activities could indicate a renewed Islamic militancy among Rohingyas. However, as ARSA is ill-equipped and primitively armed, the excessive counteractions of the Burmese Army might either eradicate the group or trigger a counter propaganda campaign leading to a surge in recruits.
- Militant Nationalism and religious hatred towards Muslims and Rohingya stoked by some small groups of Buddhist monks is equally real. Though not entirely related to this bout of violence, it is sure to capitalise on it to further fan the fires of fear and polarisation. U Wirathu is a firebrand Bhuddist monk, known to some international media as the ‘face of Buddhist terror’ – he is synonymous with the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion (Ma Ba Tha) which is well known for their provocative anti-Islam pronouncement. U Thuzana is a charismatic monk in the state of Karen linked with armed Democratic Buddhist Karen Army (DKBA). The alignment of U Wirathu and U Thuzana through anti-Muslim Buddhist activism is heightening religious tensions across the country – including with Christians. U Thuzana and his armed men will capitalize on renewed conflict in Rakhine in the service of their own politico-religious projects. The rising confluence of armed groups and nationally prominent Buddhist monk extremists introduces a disturbing new dynamic to Myanmar’s religious-political conflicts that, despite official efforts to curb the Ma Ba Tha and its message of hate, seem likely to get worse before they get better.
- An international commission led by Kofi Annan recently published a report on the situation. Their main finding is that without fixing the 1982 citizenship law and even bringing back Rohingyas to Myanmar (as happened after previous clashes with international support) would not prevent but merely delay the next cycle of violence.
- Myanmar’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy is far from over. The country is dealing with a transition to civilian rule, a market economy, functioning statehood and bureaucracy, open society, capitalist consumerism and sustainable peace. The military elites are still the strongest political force. Aung San Suu Kyi focuses on consolidating domestic support and evades any conflict with the military establishment.
- Some 290,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since 25 August, according to a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. Around 27,000 Buddhists and Hindus have also been displaced by ARSA attacks. Fear and violence stalks Rakhine state as communities turn on each other and villages continue to be set alight.
- The situation in the Bangladesh Rohingya camps has reached a “breaking point” . Resources and staff are insufficient. Thousands are living in emergency tents, makeshift camps or in the open. Without international support, a humanitarian catastrophe will ensue.
In view of the above, the DAPSY urgently calls for:
- Immediate cessation of military activities in Northern Rakhine
- Immediate re-admission of UN Agencies and INGOs into the crisis area
- Immediate additional funding to first responders and humanitarian workers in Bangladesh
- Access of the UNHCR fact-finding mission to Rakhine
- Continued dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Setting up of a Joint Border Management
- Admission of international press to cover the situation in Northern Rakhine
- International Conference on the proposals of the Advisory Commission on the Rakhine State (http://www.rakhinecommission.org/)
- International Conference on Regional Implications of the Kofi Annan report by receiving cross-partisan delegations from regional countries esp. Bangladesh, but also India, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia.
Media statement by Howard Lee Chuan How in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 11th September 2017