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UN Pushes for Myanmar to End Rohingya Discrimination

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein's report calls for “concrete steps”

The Rohingya

Malnourished Child © Stefania Zamparelli

To end human rights violations, in particular against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, the United Nations has warned the Government of Myanmar to alter its policies. All hopes lie on the new de-facto democratic government born after the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a new report on the situation of minorities in Myanmar, highlighting the country’s inability to take “concrete steps” to end human rights violations, in particular against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.

The Rohingya people (Ruaingga), make up about 1.3 million of the population in Myanmar, and are mostly located in a single province known as the Rakhine State since the 16th century. Facing unjust prosecution and discrimination, many of the Rohingya peoples have fled to ghettos and refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh or to the borders of Thailand. Many of the Rohingyas who are in Myanmar are forced to live in camps for internally displaced persons, and unable to leave, as authorities have made their movement possible.

These severe restrictions on their movement, along with;  the deprivation of nationality, sexual violence, threats to security, forced labor, and limitations on political rights, were all outlined in the report, finally raising the idea that the consistant pattern of violence towards the Rohingya can be classified as crimes against humanity.

Any aid directed to the Rohingya peoples has also been severely limited, if capable of reaching them at all. Severe acts of violence against the Rohingya by Buddhist monks and followers ran rampant throughout the 90s to the early 2000s, followed by a series of sectarian riots that crippled the Rakhine state.

The UN human rights office stated in a report that “a pattern of gross violations against the Rohingya… [which] suggest a widespread or systematic attack … in turn giving rise to the possible commission of crimes against humanity if established in a court of law”.

These crimes have been continuous throughout most of Myanmar’s history, including the elimination of the people to self-identify, which is a key component of the Rohingya struggle. According to sources, Myanmar recently banned its officials from referring to the oppressed Rohingya peoples by their name, instead insisting they be called “people who believe in Islam.”

Given the new Government elected in Myanmar, the UN hopes that this report will change the current situation. The new hope in Myanmar lies in Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy party, who hopefully will address deep hatreds in Rakhine State and bring these issues to the forefront of the priority list for Myanmar. However, during a recent visit to Thailand. Rohingya activists and reporters were banned from asking questions to the de facto Burmese leader.

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