Civil society makes statement on latest violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar

This latest violence follows attacks in October 2016, when the military attacked dozens of villages, killing an untold number and displacing more than 80,000 people. Now hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that since August 25, 2017, about 410,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in their native Myanmar for refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Ottawa (27 Sept. 2017) — Canadian civil society organizations and individuals, who all have a strong interest in, and/or long experience of working in, the Asia-Pacific region, are gravely concerned regarding the latest wave of military violence against Rohingya civilians in northwestern Myanmar, said a statement issued today. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of the signatories to this statement.

The statement reads: 

The Myanmar military is inflicting collective, disproportionate and illegal punishment on Rohingya civilians following attacks against several police and military installations on August 25, 2017, by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. These attacks were used as an excuse for the army to systematically attack and burn Rohingya villages, raping and murdering civilians in the process.

This latest violence follows attacks in October 2016, when the military attacked dozens of villages, killing an untold number and displacing more than 80,000 people. Now hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that since August 25, 2017, about 410,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in their native Myanmar for refugee camps in Bangladesh.

 A number of fellow Nobel peace laureates have called on Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the violence and the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar has called on her to “step in.” While we appreciate the State Counsellor’s September 18, 2017, condemnation of human rights violations, this condemnation is compromised by her denial of ongoing military and police operations, and the government’s insistence that there is not a mass campaign directed at civilians.

Unfortunately, the Myanmar government has made no public effort to end the violence — to the contrary, the words and actions of the government have severely aggravated the situation. Moreover, the government has systematically blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the Rohingyas, which may constitute a crime under international law. It has consistently denied all reports of military abuses, and is currently blocking a UN-mandated fact-finding team from accessing the region.

Canadian government announced $2.5M in aid 

We are pleased with the Canadian government’s recent announcement of $2.5 million in aid, and encourage Global Affairs to find opportunities to allocate more aid towards needs identified by front-line organizations as the most urgent. We applaud Prime Minister Trudeau’s letter to Aung San Suu Kyi that underscored her moral obligation to help stop the crisis, and Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland’s announcement of planned advocacy at the United Nations General Assembly. To this latter end, we urgently call on the Canadian government to:

  • Use all diplomatic channels, particularly through its Embassy in Yangon, to press and support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Myanmar to ensure the cessation of the ongoing hostilities, to protect the human rights of Rohingya people, and denounce the exactions perpetrated by the Myanmar military;
  • Demand that the government of Myanmar provide unimpeded access to the Fact-Finding Mission established in March 2017 by resolution of the UN Human Rights Council;
  • Push for humanitarian access and ensure relief assistance in Rakhine State;
  • Press Myanmar officials to desist their inflammatory rhetoric, which is endangering humanitarian workers and empowering the military to continue its campaign against civilians;
  • Encourage the use of all possible legal channels – national and international - to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities and human rights abuses;
  • Implement immediate travel bans on all Burma Army leaders attempting to visit Canada;
  • Propose the introduction of a United Nations arms embargo against the Myanmar Military, as a measure to reduce  the ongoing violence in Rakhine State and also in Kachin and Shan States; and
  • Encourage and support the Myanmar government to demonstrate its commitment to finding meaningful and lasting solutions to the issues in Rakhine State, including, among others, by applying the recommendations of the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

We will continue to monitor the situation, and urge the Canadian government to continue deepening its action on this worsening humanitarian crisis.

The following institutions have endorsed this statement:

  • Associates to Develop Democratic Burma / Euro-Burma Office
  • Burmese Muslim Association
  • Canada Tibet Committee
  • Canadian Collective against Islamophobia
  • Canadian Federation of University Women
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees
  • Development and Peace
  • Initiatives of Change Canada
  • Innerspeak Digital Media
  • Inter Pares
  • International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines – Canada
  • International Development and Relief Foundation
  • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  • Mae Sot Education Project
  • MATCH International Women's Fund
  • MY STORY photo project
  • National Union of Public and General Employees
  • Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
  • Partners Relief & Development Canada
  • Peace Brigades International Canada
  • The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
  • Project Umbrella Burma
  • The Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund
  • Rohingya Association of Canada
  • Steelworkers Humanity Fund
  • South Asia Partnership Canada
  • Unifor Social Justice Fund
  • USC Canada
  • World University Service Canada

The following individuals, whom have years of experience in working in Myanmar or of acting in solidarity with struggles for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, have endorsed this statement:

  • Milagros Arguelles
  • Brenda Belak
  • Dominique Caouette, Études contemporaines et transdisciplinaires de l’Asie du Sud-Est, Université de Montréal
  • Naima Chowdhury, Women's Leadership and Gender Specialist, COADY International Institute, Saint Francis Xavier University
  • Paul Copeland, C.M.
  • Rod Germaine, founder of the former Just Aid Foundation
  • Fareed Khan, sponsor of Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship
  • Susan Hartley, Rotary Global Peace Scholar
  • Murray Thomson, Co-Founder, Canadian Friends of Burma
  • Nisha Toomey, former board member, Canadian Friends of Burma
  • Paul Turcot, South House Exchange
  • Jody Williams, Nobel peace laureate (1997) and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE

 

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