Speaker on Plight of the Rohingya to Visit SA; March 3rd to 8th 2013

“It’s not frivolous to envisage the use of the term genocide”*

Following the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman in Arakan State, Burma (Myanmar) in June of 2012, ten Muslim bus passengers were murdered. In the subsequent violence between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas that broke out 80 people were killed according to the official reports. There is concern that the actual death toll is much higher.

Furthermore in excess of 100,000 people have been displaced. The displaced are living in conditions which a veteran aid worker described as “as bad if not worse than ones in Eastern Congo or Sudan”. Most of the displaced are Rohingya. The Rohingya are a group who have been described as the world’s most persecuted minority.

The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite many having lived in Burma for generations. They are denied citizenship, access to education, healthcare, require permission to marry, have their reproductive rights restricted and are subject to numerous abuses such as forced labour.

Burma’s President has stated that the Rohingya must either be resettled in a third country or confined to camps.

Protect the Rohingya is a group who wish to draw attention to the plight of the Rohingya. We will be hosting Maung Tun Khin (“Tun Khin”), President of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK) from 3rd March until 8th March 2012. He will be talking on the plight of the Rohingya in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Tun Khin was born and brought up in Arakan State, Burma. Despite the fact that his grandfather had served as a secretary to Burma’s post-independence democratic parliament he was denied citizenship and access to higher education. As a result of his oppressed circumstances he decided to leave Burma.

He now lives in the UK where he is President of BROUK. BROUK plays a crucial role in ensuring that the plight of the Rohinya reaches major international media and policy-makers around the world. He has campaigned at the US Congress, the US Senate, the US State Department, the British Parliament, the European Parliament, the European Human Rights Council, the European Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Council.

Tun Khin has written on the Rohingya for Britain’s Independent newspaper, the Democratic Voice of Burma and the Burmese media group Mizzima. He has given numerous interviews about the Rohingya’s situation to inter alia the BBC, Sky News and Al Jazeera.

He is currently doing his PhD in London.

* Professor William Schabas, former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, says (with regard to the Rohingya’s position): “When you see measures preventing births, trying to deny the identity of the people, hoping to see that they really are eventually, that they no longer exist; denying their history, denying the legitimacy of their right to live where they live, these are all warning signs that mean it’s not frivolous to envisage the use of the term genocide.”

Advocate S E Mayet