Tuesday, 18 May 2021

By Nurul Islam

Hon’ble Chairperson,
Hon’ble Director of NRP Mr. Harn Yawanghwe
Distinguished participants
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today I am really pleased that we are able to hold this long awaited workshop under the theme of “FIRST ROHINGYA CONSULTATION: - WORKING TOGETER TO FIND A SOLUTION”.  In this connection, we express our gratitude to the people and Government of Thailand.

This workshop is hosted by Chulalongkron University, sponsored by National Reconciliation Program (NRP) and Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN); and I express my heartfelt thanks to Professor Surat Horachaikul, Mr. Harn Yawnghwe, Ms. Urunii Fung-atsakul and members of the BCN and many others for their untiring efforts and support for this historic workshop. Without their assistance and cooperation it would be impossible to hold this workshop.

This workshop is first of its kind and is very important. Because it gives us opportunity to meet each other, to share experiences with one another  and to discuss together  so as to build consensus, among the participants representing various organizations, civil societies and people’s forums, on issues relating to the Rohingya people and their legitimate interests. The oppressed and persecuted Rohingya people, at home and abroad, anxiously looking towards this Consultation with high expectation.

We have invited about 35 Rohingya leaders and academics from 16 political and civil societies organizations in 15 countries. We really feel encouraged that some of our friends from different ethnic groups and NGOs are participating at the meeting.

Today the human rights situation in Burma has become a concern of the United Nations with the international community. Amidst Burmese People’s outcries and international reactions it has been increasingly recognized that the Rohingya are the worst victims of human rights violations in the country. Some argue that they are the most persecuted and forgotten people on earth while MSF has enlisted them as one of the ten world populations in danger of extinction.

Indeed, the Rohingyas are facing challenges and insults from all directions. They are not tolerated in the country on grounds of their race, religion and ethnic background. With deep hatred against them the Burmese military regime has declared them as non-nationals with a view to ridding Arakan of the Muslim population. This has been carried out as a part of the regime’s policies of Burmanization and de-Muslimization.

By now nearly half of Rohingya population has been expelled from the country or have had to leave their homeland to save their lives. They are wandering from place to place in many parts of the world, and are particularly found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia and Thailand. They are vulnerable without any status in those countries. Rejected by the regime and ignored by their own compatriots at home and unwelcome in abroad or in their places of refuge, today the Rohingya have been living in sub-human condition and in a position of “statelessness”.

During recent years  many political, socio-cultural or community organizations emerged among the Rohingya community in different places of the world in order to fulfill the political, social and spiritual needs of this ‘dying alive’ people. There are some academics and individuals whose contributions are of great help to the community development and enlightenment. It is imperative that all these people meet together to examine the existing deteriorating situation of the Rohingya and set out a common goal and strategy in order to safeguard their legitimate interests in their home country under future “Federal Union of Burma”, and also to look into the matters of ‘protection’ for those Rohingyas taking refuge in many countries of the world.

The central purpose of this meeting is to promote a deeper understanding of the Rohingya issues and problems, and their aspiration towards political, socio-cultural and religious issues in the light of “peaceful co-existence” among various racial groups and ethnic nationalities inhabiting Arakan and Burma. This Consultation, therefore, aims at building consensus among the community representatives or participants on all issues of community integrity, interests and matters of national importance, on the concept of democracy and human rights for all.

It is to be stressed that crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by the regime, particularly against the ethnic peoples, including the Rohingya, which have created serious humanitarian disaster and political crisis in the country representing a threat to regional and international peace and security. Therefore, the time has come for United Naions Security Council’s action, which would be binding on the the ruling SPDC. In this connection, it may be mentioned that more elements of genocide or genocidal circumstances exist in the case of Rohingya as the intent to destroy this particular ethnic community is clearly visualized from the regime’s systematic, widespread and institutionalized persecution against them. 

It is reiterated  that unity and solidarity of all peoples of the country, irrespective of race, culture, religion, is prerequisite to liberate Burma from the yoke of the military dictatorship. Particularly the rapprochement between Rohingya and Rakhaing is of paramount importance. Because, the peaceful co-existence between this two sister communities is a precondition for peace, stability and sustainable development of Arakan and its entire people.

Therefore, this meeting also aims at building a consensus of collective action among the Rohingyas and to struggle together, in share and share alike, with all democratic and ethnic forces of the country.

It is a two day workshop starting today. I urge upon all to freely express and exchange your views, and deliberate ways and means to evolve a common strategy while developing a sense of unity -- unity of mind, unity of purpose and unity of dedication – with a commitment of peaceful co-existence among various peoples in Burma, on the principle of democracy and human rights.

Thank you.

This paper was submitted at  First Rohingya Consultation: Working together to find a solution, on 2-3 August 2006, Sigha Dum Conference Room, Faculty of Political science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, Organized by Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, In cooperation with the National Reconciliation Programme  (NRP)