Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about the current human rights situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar, to testify before the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Let me introduce myself. My name is U Shwe Maung, also known as Abdul Razak, and I am a former member of parliament in Myanmar, from 2010 to 2015. In my country, there was a historic election on November 8, 2015. The National League for Democracy party, the NLD, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory.
Effective from April 1, 2016, the previous USDP government, led by President U Thein Sein, transferred the state power to the NLD. As the NLD was unsuccessful in amending the 2008 constitution in the previous parliamentary term, the core of state power is still in the hands of the Myanmar military. The ministries of home affairs, defence, border affairs, immigration, and religious affairs are under the command of the Myanmar military chief. The region, state, district, and township administrators and the Myanmar Police Force are under the command of the home ministry.
I am trying to say that the core of state power is still in the hands of the military group, although the NLD formed a civilian government. In this situation, NLD submitted a bill for a post of State Counsellor of Myanmar for its chairperson, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to parliament as she was barred from becoming president, and the bill was approved. Now she is the State Counsellor of Myanmar. She is leading the NLD government and performing duties as if president of Myanmar.
The honourable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is trying her best to reform the country's old system, bit by bit. We appreciate her correct steps for a new era, but she is still silent about the plight of the Rohingya. She took the side of the oppressor. She and her party have been denying the existence of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
In the context of Rohingya and Muslim issues, the USD Party and the NLD party have been exercising the same political pattern, although they have a huge number of differences in nationwide politics.
Since 2012, there has been violence against the Rohingya and the Kaman people in Rakhine State, and in 2013 violence in Meikhtila, a township of central Myanmar. Both parties favour the hate speeches of the nationalist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha directly or indirectly.
In October 2012, there was a second outbreak of violence against Rohingya and Kaman Muslims. In this connection, I submitted an emergency proposal to take action on the violence against the Rohingya and Kaman from Kyauk Pru Township to the Speaker of parliament, Thura U Shwe Mann, through the USD Party. The Speaker asked the chair of the rule of law committee, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but she denied it.
Finally, the National Unity Party submitted the proposal. Of course, I had the opportunity to discuss it and I called for the Ministry of Home Affairs to reform the police force of Rakhine State, as policemen were involved in the violence, according to Rohingya and Kaman victims. When the 2013 violence broke out in Meikhtila, the NLD MP for Meikhtila, U Win Htein, blamed Muslims instead of the culprits.
The USDP proposed an amendment of the constitution referendum bill and parliamentary electoral bills to exclude the voting rights of 1.3 million Rohingya, even though Rohingya were allowed to vote in all previous elections. Neither Daw Aung San Suu Kyi nor any single NLD MP objected to those bills. This was a conspiracy of Thura U Shwe Mann and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to disenfranchise the Rohingya from the November 2015 election. Both parties did not nominate a single candidate to run for the election. The Rakhine State election commission and the Union Election Commission denied my right to run for office in the November 8, 2015, election even though I was a sitting MP.
I was denied the right to contest the election because the immigration department and the election commission falsely claimed my parents were not citizens of Myanmar when I was born, but in the 2010 election, the same immigration department and election commission approved my paperwork for candidacy and I was elected in the Buthidaung constituency of Rakhine State.
I would like to say that this is the most laughable joke in the 21st century. I am not the only one: all Rohingya candidates were targeted for exclusion. Dozens of Burmese Muslim candidates had also been rejected by election authorities. Make no mistake: it was because of our ethnicity and religion.
During a press conference just before the election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi described the persecution of the Rohingya as an exaggeration. She also publicly said, during a visit to Europe in 2013, that she was a politician, not a human rights defender. She also told the media several times that the Rohingya issue is an immigration issue, a rule of law issue, and the responsibility of the government.
Mr. Chair, now honourable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is foreign minister, president's office minister, and State Counsellor. She is leading the government.
Let me highlight what the NLD government did so far in the first month of its term. A lot of political prisoners were released by order of the NLD president and State Counsellor, but Rohingya and Burmese Muslim political prisoners were excluded. Approximately 1,000 Rohingya were imprisoned on false charges after the 2012 violence, which caused 140,000 internally displaced persons. Religious affairs minister Thura U Aung Ko accused all Muslims of Myanmar as “associate citizens” or so-called “guest citizens” during an interview with RFA Burmese.
According to the 1982 citizenship law, the rights of associate citizens are not so different from those of foreigners. In practice, associate citizens are viewed and treated as foreigners by government agencies in my country. Although Muslim organizations urged the NLD government to release a statement to show its policy towards Muslims in Myanmar, the NLD and the honourable State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were silent.
Then about 20 Kaman and Rohingya IDPs drowned after a boat capsized off the coast near Sittwe, Rakhine State. The NLD government did not help any victims and did not release any statement of condolences, but the U.S. embassy in Rangoon released a statement of condolences, and it used the term “Rohingya”. After that, the nationalist Buddhist Ma Ba Tha group provided hate speeches, insulting not only the Rohingya but also the U.S. embassy in Rangoon, the U.S. ambassador, Mr. Scot Marciel, and the U.S. government. Then Ma Ba Tha and the Myanmar National Network organized a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Rangoon on April 28, 2016. During the demonstration, the Ma Ba Tha chief sent a communication that insulted Rohingya, the U.S. embassy, and the U.S. government as well.
The Myanmar Police Force issued a permit to demonstrate, and the police are accomplices. Probably the permit was issued with the agreement of the home minister, but the NLD kept quiet as if nothing was happening in the country.
The National Democratic Force party, the NDF—this is another party in Myanmar—released a statement criticizing the U.S. embassy statement and the U.S. ambassador for the usage of “Rohingya” but did not show any sympathy for the victims. The NDF party is a nationalist party that always blames and insults Rohingya in co-operation with extremist Rakhine politicians.
In their statement, the NDF urged the NLD government to release a statement on the issue of the usage of “Rohingya” by the U.S. embassy. In this connection, RFA Burmese interviewed NLD patron U Tin Oo, and he said it was the previous government that had decided about the term used for these people. The NLD government will not tell anything, and there are no Rohingya.
Mr. Chair, now it is crystal clear that the NLD party and the NLD-led government are not recognizing the Rohingya and are not willing to solve the Rohingya IDP camps problem. There are still 120,000 Rohingya IDPs due to the 2012 violence. I saw with my own eyes from a helicopter Rohingya houses being burnt by the Rakhine Buddhist extremists in Sittwe on June 10, 2012.
Since then, I have been advocating for the victims to be resettled and for the culprits and the policemen who were involved in the violence to be punished. No member of parliament listened to me, and no minister cared about my questions or proposals.
I compiled a book of facts on the existence of the Rohingya and a solution of peaceful coexistence and handed it to the Speaker, Thura U Shwe Mann, and NLD chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all union MPs in 2013, but neither Thura U Shwe Mann nor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have responded to me yet. Both of them are politically unwilling to solve Rohingya issues. They are using “silent diplomacy”.
If this is the case, the plight of the Rohingya will be doubled in the near future. We are not illegal immigrants. We don't need to be naturalized. We have been demanding restoration of our rights, including citizenship and political rights.
For Rohingya, conditions remain grave as of today. I myself visited IDP camps in Sittwe on August 31, 2015. Their situation was so dire. Children are suffering from malnutrition. Elders are suffering from disease. Sittwe General Hospital is like a Nazi hospital for Rohingyas. Most of the in-patients were reportedly killed by Buddhist nurses. Rohingyas are scared to go to the General Hospital. Medical clinics in the camps are not equipped for all kinds of treatments. Thus, most Rohingya patients want to be hospitalized in Rangoon instead of in Sittwe. In this case, officials charge huge amounts of money, and most of the patients are unable to pay.
Let me continue. Rohingyas are facing problems, and as of today they are denial of full-fledged citizenship, treatment of Rohingyas as if foreigners, uncertainty of citizenship processing, denial of Rohingya ethnicity, accusation as illegal immigrants, no freedom of movement, lack of access to higher education, uncertain life at IDP camps, and restriction of marriage.
The worst thing is the restriction of freedom of movement within our own country. Every town in Rakhine State for Rohingyas is like an open prison.
Therefore, on behalf of the Rohingya in Myanmar, I would like to request the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada, through the chair of this committee, to urge or press Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing to implement the following immediately.
Here are my recommendations:
Stop all abuses against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Make a road map to deal with the Rohingya crisis.
Allow freedom of movement.
Allow access to higher education and build enough primary schools.
Resettle Rohingya IDPs to houses on their original lands.
Dismantle the partition fence between Rakhine and the Rohingya community in Sittwe, Rakhine State.
Recognize Rohingya ethnicity officially.
Grant or restore full-fledged citizenship and political rights to Rohingya.
Include and invite Rohingya representatives to the forthcoming 21st century pinlon conference of national reconciliation.
Mr. Chairman, let me stop my presentation here and thank you so much for your time. Also, thank you, Mr. David.
Let me answer the question of the honourable member. As of today, I don't see any hint that the new government, even the NLD Party, is ready to talk with our Rohingya representative inside our country. Although a lot of political parties, representatives, and politicians tried to approach even Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her party was unwilling to meet with them.
This is why I call in my recommendation for an invitation to include Rohingya representatives in the forthcoming pinlon conference of national reconciliation. In these days, in an interview, NLD patron U Tin Oo asked where Rohingya was in connection with the demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Rangoon.
Before the election, in 2014 and 2011 a high-ranking NLD official mentioned the Rohingya several times, but now they are not using the word. Even now they are very reluctant to meet with Rohingya representatives.
Let me give you another example. During the previous session, I tried to talk to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi three times, but she didn't give me time. The first time she gave me three seconds, with a smile and a “How are you?” The second time there was a small smile. The third time she just left.
Also I submitted a fact book on the Rohingya, “A Truthful Rohingya Solution”, and it was handed over to her and also to the previous speaker, Thura U Shwe Mann, but they didn't reply at all.
If I include all these things, we can say they are still not ready to talk or discuss. Therefore, maybe the Canadian Parliament and the government can ask our State Counsellor to discuss it in the very near future.
I have paid a big price because of my voice for the persecuted Rohingya people.
I'm now living in the United States of America. As Mr. David knows very well, I came to the United States of America to attend an IPPForB conference and a number of meetings with the State Department and, of course, to attend the U.S. Congress.
After that, the President of Myanmar, the Speaker of the parliament, the USD Party and the military group co-operatively created a trap for me. The trap is that if I return home, they will arrest me at the airport. Then they can charge me, as of May 1, I believe, with the Duchiradan fire, the blaze of 2014.
At that time I criticized the Myanmar Police Force. As my constituents informed me, the police were involved in the blaze, but at the same time the Myanmar government accused the Rohingya people. They said they burned it themselves. I said, “No, it's not true. According to the people, the police burned their houses.” For that the president, Thein Sein, sent a letter to the Speaker to issue an arrest warrant. This is a grudge against me.
After that, I resigned from the UNDP. It's another grudge. The main thing is that I have been repeatedly advocating for the Rohingya people. Therefore, they don't want me to go back to my country because they want to use me as a symbol. Who will speak for the Rohingya? Who will speak on the part of these people? He or she will be punished. This is the idea. For these reasons, although I am very willing to go home, I can't, because in collaboration with the police they have already issued an arrest warrant against me.
I think this is the price I pay because I raised my voice for the persecuted people.