Joint Declaration of Peaceful Coexistence in Rakhine State, Myanmar
Statement from Rakhine, Muslim (Rohingya), and other minority communities in Burma.
Participants from Rakhine, Muslim (Rohingya), and other minority communities have held series of meetings since October 2020. All communities have expressed consent and reached the following consensus:
Whereas all our diverse communities confirm that we are united and belong to the Fatherland of Arakan, we agree to the importance of peaceful coexistence and the building of a new society based on
- the preservation and promotion of justice, peace, equality and human rights, including freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of religion and worship
- full respect for each other’s diverse identities, cultures, symbols, and languages.
Whereas we are proud and diverse people with an abundance of talents, skills and human capital to ensure our own socio-economic wellbeing and dignity, we pledge to pursue peaceful and democratic solutions for any differences of opinion that may stand in the way of progress, be it in the area of politics, social development, religious freedom or any other area that may give rise to dispute.
Whereas we are committed for peaceful coexistence and are determined for rebuild a just and equal society in a United Arakan based upon secularism, we solely oppose any form of extremism and ideology that may harm our unity, prosperity and rule of law.
Whereas our Arakan is rich in natural resources and has considerable potential for development, including through interaction with other regional nations, we are the sole owner of the land and its resources. The power to decide about responsible use of these resources is vested in us, as is the responsibility to ensure that the people of Arakan are the prime beneficiaries of the land and its resources. We declare that any planned international and domestic investments and projects shall first be considered, consented to and prioritized by the people of Arakan ourselves, and before the Union Government takes action.
Whereas we welcome current developments related to a possible truce, as well as peace negotiations between the Arakan Army and Tatmadaw that are helping to reduce civilian casualties and displacement, we stand firm that long-term stability must come through a political settlement leading to greater autonomy and self-determination of the Arakan people.
Whereas we, the people of Arakan, welcome plans for possible elections or mandatory by election in the townships and wards where these were cancelled earlier, we will hold the authorities accountable for the conduct of free, fair and inclusive elections with full participation of not only Rakhine political parties and intra-ethnic parties, but also of Muslim (Rohingya) political parties as well as to reinstate the political party registrations. All voters, including Muslim voters, must have free access to the ballot in any election.
Whereas Muslim Kaman and Muslim (Rohingya) students are banned from attending colleges, universities, and other higher education institutes, we urge the Union and state governments to immediately end discrimination and to allow Muslim students to freely pursue higher education.
Whereas the freedom of movement of Muslims of Arakan is now severely restricted, impeding their travel, livelihoods, access to education and medical services as well as their access to other communities, we firmly believe that enforced segregation based on ethnicity and religion has no place in Arakan. Enforced containment in segregated villages, wards and camps, constitutes inhuman treatment and we urge the authorities to lift all restrictions once and for all.
Whereas Muslims and Khaman people are prevented from exercising their rights as citizens, we agree that use of ethnicity as a decisive factor in the determination of citizenship is not justifiable. It must be rejected. Therefore, we urge the authority to lift the discriminatory policy on citizenship and, more generally, to avoid judging people on the base of race and religion. Speedy process of citizenship shall be implemented by the ministerial levels immediately.
Whereas the communities of the Chin, Dinet, Hindu, Kaman, Khami, Maramargyi, Mro, and Thet face sectarian discrimination within Arakan State, including by decades-long policies of divide-and-rule and lack of much needed attention and sensitivity to our native people identity, culture and language, we shall protect the aspirations of our brothers and sisters and confirm the importance of eliminating all forms of discrimination and group pressure.
Whereas COVID-19 is a global pandemic which indiscriminately affects everyone, the government’s virus vaccination should not leave anyone behind. In Rakhine State everyone must get as equal treatment as possible, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and citizenship status.
Whereas, based on our experience and beliefs, we stand on justice and equality, we are convinced that our society finds strength in its diversity. We take great pride in our history and culture and know that by standing united we can move forward towards a dynamic future in which security, development and justice are guaranteed to all. The scope of our challenges
is immense but our joint strength and indivisibility are uniting us in the consensus that together we shall live forever in peace, harmony and prosperity and protect our Fatherland of Arakan and His united people.
May peace endowed Arakan. Signed By
Muslim (Rohingya) Community
Nyi Nyi Lwin Maung Maung U Thar Aye
Dr. A. H. Kamal
Full Briefing of the meeting:
Briefing Program and Background of Resolution for Joint Declaration of Peaceful Coexistence in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
132 participants are taking place in Zoom briefing today for Declaration by the Diverse and United Communities of Arakan, mostly, diplomats, UN agencies, INGOS, NGOs, institutes, academics, scholars, media, Myanmar nationals, and joint woking team members of Arakan State.
Briefing Program and Background of Resolution for Joint Declaration of Peaceful Coexistence in Rakhine State, Myanmar
January 18, 2021
Welcome to our visual briefing.
I am Nyi Nyi Lwin, an Arakanese and leading member of this briefing team.
On behalf of our working team, I would like to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies Ambassadors and dignitaries from UN high offices, diplomats and key Myanmar nationals for participating in our virtual briefing. Today’s briefing deals with the Declaration of Principles on peaceful coexistence between Rakhine, Muslim (Rohingya), and minority communities in Rakhine State.
We will record this briefing for our internal records and will not share it with others. We trust that this will be okay.
May I have some house rules.
I may request you to stay muted in order to minimize noises. And, our Admin-Technicians are also making all muted. When you have question and comment, please do unmute by yourself.
Let me proceed by the agenda of today’s program.
First, I will like to introduce our briefing team.
Second, Ms Hhin Nyien Kahing, Ms Thaint MyintZu Kyaw, and Ms Soe Thandar Htay and will read the Declaration.
Third, I will explain the background and working-plan of the resolution implementation process after all the readings.
May I Introduce our briefing team….
- Hnin Nyein Khaing, an Arakanese woman leader, born in Minbya Township, currently living in Nebraska, United States. A Thompson (Susan Buffett) Scholar, and Initiatives of Change – Caux Scholar.
- Thaint MyintZu Kyaw, Rohingya young woman leader and born in Yangon and lives in Yangon.
- Soe Thandar Htay, an Arakan young woman leader and a high court lawyer from Rakhine State and lives in Yangon.
- U Thar Aye, born in Buthedaung and leading member of Rohingya team.
- U Maung Maung, born in Kyaukphyu and lives in Vancouver, Canada
- Dr. A. H. Kamal, born in Maungdaw and lives in Australia.
- Our technicians, Ms Mya Thein Htay Haling, born in Arakan, and Ms Aye Aye Soe born in Irrawaddy Division, Ko Nay San Lwin, born in Muandaw and lives in Germany; Ko Than Maug, Ko Tun Khin, and Ko Soe Win Naing are here to give advises.
There are 10 additional team members and legal advisers in this room as well. Thank you all for your valuable contributions and firm commitments.
Ma Hnin Nyein Khaing, could you read the Declaration in English.
Ma Thaint MyinZu Kyaw and Ma Soe Thandar Hay, could you jointly read the Declaration in Burmese.
Thank you all.
May I brief you the background of resolution and our efforts.
This declaration and its implementation plan have been developed and adopted by key leaders of the Rakhine, Rohingya, and minorities communities, including myself. We have been working on this since 2018 with the aim of securing the peaceful coexistence of all Arakan’s communities.
I want to highlight that many young men and women have made a major contribution to the drafting of this declaration. Without their fresh ideas, innovative minds, firm determination and pragmatic approach, we would not have gotten this far. The future is theirs and we rely on them for our common future and development.
We met with key Arakan organizations and likeminded leaders in December 2018, and agreed to have physical meetings with Muslim (Rohingya) leaders.
In February in 2019, we met key supporters in Myanmar and in the Asia region. In March, we were honored with an opportunity to brief and consult the State Counsellor. We told her about our work in the interest of peace, reconciliation and development in Rakhine State.
In early 2020 we met senior Rakhine leaders and political parties in Naypaytaw and in Yangon, including the Union Parliament’s Deputy Speaker. In October 2020, we had discussions with the Speaker of the Rakhine State Parliament.
We were grateful for the support and advice we received from all sides, and on the basis of this we met Muslim (Rohingya leaders) in Yangon in March 2020 for the first time and agreed to have a broader meeting in April.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from having physical meetings.
Instead, we held a series of Zoom meetings with Muslim (Rohingya) community leaders, and later, in October, November and December 2020 we met with the leaders of the smaller minority communities. Subsequently, the most recent meeting with the tri communities was held on January 9, 2021. We consulted all stakeholders, political parties, youth, women, legal experts, and MPs in Rakhine State. Based on the broad consensus, we agreed to release the declaration that was born out of our common suffering. And we resolved that as long as we stay united, we will be able to achieve the goals and principles set out in the declaration.
We have always been aware in our mind and heart during our negotiations that the late United Nations’ Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan’s report of the Rakhine Advisory Commission and the recommendations that are still relevant and practical. His quote as “The question should not be whether Rakhine and Muslims will live together, but rather how they will live together. Reintegration, not segregation, is the best path to long term stability and development in Rakhine State.”
By working together with all diverse community leaders and by honoring the Secretary General’s works for the good of the Rakhine people, we feel we have a clear vision and the mission is that we are united to moving forward.
That is why we are here today. We are an independent group that wants to work on behalf of all communities in order to achieve a prosperous, stable and secure Arakan, where people are treated on the basis of equality. We are not linked to any political party or group. We have not received any funding for our efforts.
Let me list some channels we would like to engage with to implement our declaration:
- The current Arakan Army peace negotiations with the Myanmar government and Tatmadaw to ensure the inclusion of Arakan’s people’s voices and the implementation of our principles. We will support for it.
- Open and inclusive talks with the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State led by the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This might be channeled for good start by our joint community support and through the upcoming formation of Arakan National Reconciliation, Peace, and Development Consortium (ANRPDC) that will include every community, political parties, women, youth, and CSOs as a national forum and broad working body.
- Community level engagement on social issues, such as education, health, trade, labour, women and youth empowerment, joint cultural events, sports activities etc.
- Open talks with NRPC and other key government agencies.
- Engage regional fora and receive support from institutions like ASEAN et cetera.
- Engage UN and other key organizations, including for support for issues listed in annual Myanmar UNGA resolutions as well as by including key points of our declaration in the work of UN agencies and institutions.
- Engage the Union and State parliaments about law making and decision-making.
- Engage the international community and secure their support for our inclusive and independent effort.
- Community reintegration.
- Holding an Arakan National Conference with representation by all communities to discuss
- long term political solutions, including formation of a joint State constitution drafting committee. And
- contesting in national and state elections as a means to achieve balanced representation in discussions about democratic solutions to a wide range of issues, including self-determination and self-governance.
Immediate Cooperation Areas;
- COVID-19 Vaccination for everyone in Rakhine State on the basis of equality. Our joint committee can assist WFP, Ministry of Health at both Union and State level to ensure that no one is left behind.
- Free and adequate education for all, on the basis of equality
- Community empowerment, tri community cooperation, and all community reintegration.
- Joint humanitarian assistance to all IDPs.
- Secure, voluntary and sustainable return of refugees.
- Joint monitoring and curbing human trafficking and sea routes to Asian nations.
- Free, fair, and inclusive elections in Rakhine State.
- Arakan Army, government, and Tatmadaw ceasefire and peace talks.
- Closure of all IDP camps and ensuring that their return or relocation takes place in full consultation with them and includes the provision of assistance with livelihoods.
- Formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Transitional Justice Committee.
- Local media empowerment, and et cetera.
We will now have an opportunity for Questions and Answers. U Thar Aye and our team will do our best to answer your questions, but it would be helpful for us if you bear in mind that our group has reached a sensitive point and that we now have a large number of stakeholders on board. Our unity is our strength so please refrain from asking questions that might divide us or that might compromise the declaration we champion.
In view of the limited time available, please keep your questions as brief as possible. And will allow 5 questions and comments or combination. We will response one by one in order to keep ourselves and meet the time limitation.
If media has more questions, please remain in this meeting room for 30 more minutes immediately after end of this briefing session. We will do our best to provide you more details.
You can also email us and join our Signal for more conversation and further information.
Now, I am giving the floor to ask questions and comments.
Nyi Nyi Lwin
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