28 Aug
  • By CRDI

Rohingya call for action now

Rohingya in Canada call for action in wake of UN report accusing Burma of genocide

Saifullah Muhammad is happy the world is finally calling the Burmese military crackdown on the Rohingya minority what it is: genocide.

“A genocide is a genocide is a genocide,” said the Kitchener resident, who was sponsored to come to Canada from a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh in 2016 under the federal government’s refugee program. “They used to call it ethnic cleansing, but by calling it genocide, they recognized the Burmese government did more than denying Rohingya their rights, and they’re killing us and destroying our community.”

Muhammad was responding to a report released by the United Nations Monday that probed Burma’s brutal military crackdown on the mostly Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority country last year. The violence sent more than 700,000 people fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. The report called for the investigation and prosecution of the regime’s top military generals for genocide before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages. The (military) tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar,” the report stated.

“They are shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them. The (military)’s contempt for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, should be a cause of concern for the entire population.”

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The UN and Burma, also known as Myanmar, signed a deal earlier this year to resettle Rohingya — but the details of the agreement have been kept secret.

Given the latest UN findings, the international community should immediately suspend the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Burma unless a protected area is secured in the country under international watch, said Muhammad, a spokesperson for the Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative, which represents the estimated 450 Rohingya across Canada.

Tensions between the Rohingya minority and Burmese majority go back decades, but they intensified after a law in 1982 effectively stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship in the country, making them one of the largest stateless populations in the world.

“Rohingyas’ citizenship must be restored for them before they can return to the country safely,” said Toronto-based Ahmed Ramadan of the Burma Task Force, a coalition of Canadian and U.S. organizations advocating for the rights of ethnic Rohingya.

“We need to hold the perpetrators accountable. This UN report allows us to look at the next step. After years of suffering, we hope to see light at the end of the tunnel and bring the crisis to a stop.”

Both Muhammad and Ramadan said Canada should impose nationwide sanctions against Burma — rather than upon individuals, as Ottawa has done — and lead the international community in bringing those responsible for persecuting the Rohinyga to justice.

“We need a comprehensive sanction against Burma,” said Ramadan. “You can’t do business with a country that’s found to have committed genocide.”

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