Protests over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya

Protests over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya


LAHORE: The Hindu community demonstrated outside the Lahore Press Club to denounce Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya Muslims and appealed to the United Nations to send a fact finding mission in the territory to investigate the conflict and provide immediate help to the mistreated minority.

Over 270,000 Rohingya have fled northern Myanmar into Bangladesh in the past two weeks, according to the United Nations refugee agency, roughly a third of all Rohingya living in the predominantly Buddhist country. The UN estimates stated that more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.

The civil society members also joined the protest demonstration, arranged by the Hindu Sudhar Sabha organisation, to urge Myanmar to stop committing genocide and take back those who have sought refuge elsewhere. The protesters asked Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to play her role as Myanmar's de facto leader to take concrete action to protect the people in Rakhine state.

Backed by satellite imagery, there are reports of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages and committing extrajudicial killings in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Protest leader Amarnath Randhawa said that the crowd gathered to condemn atrocities committed against Muslim minority in Myanmar.

He said that it’s the responsibility of the international community to move, to act, immediately to stop the bloodshed and demanded the immediate deployment of the UN peacekeepers in the Rakhine state. He said that everyone should stand beside the Rohingya people in this difficult time.

Human rights activist Saeeda Diep said she was appalled by reports that Myanmar authorities planting land mines along the border and showed concerns about the reports, which include stories of Rohingya being crippled after stepping on the hidden mines while making their way to safe place outside their state. She said that the Myanmar Army was one of only a handful of state forces worldwide to openly use antipersonnel landmines.

The protesters asked the government to revise its relations with the Myanmar government. “Pakistan must sever diplomatic relations with Myanmar,” said Heera Lal, chairman of the Hindu Sudhar Sabha. He urged the government to take up the issue of Rohingya genocide with UN and other world bodies to help stop unabated atrocities.

The protesters also demanded of the government to give citizenship rights to the Rohingya refugees, who are living in an isolated life in Karachi. In Myanmar, the Rohingya are not recognised as one of the 135 official ethnic groups and are denied citizenship, which means many are deprived of basic rights such as access to health services, travel or study.

Today, officially, 55,000 Rohingya live in Pakistan, many in the Arkanabad neighbourhood of Karachi. Many of these Rohingya families, who actually may number up to 300,000 people, first came to Karachi after a repressive military regime took power in Burma (Myanmar) in 1962. Yet half a century after arriving in Pakistan, the Rohingya in Karachi are still unable to obtain citizenship, and those who arrived after Pakistan’s 1971 civil war cannot get national identification cards, which leaves them unable to enroll their children in public schools, use government health facilities, or even open bank accounts.

They are effectively rendered stateless – precisely the same indignity to which the Rohingya have been subjected in Myanmar. Their uncertain legal status makes the Rohingya living in Pakistan vulnerable to harassment, extortion, and discrimination. Pakistan also needs to start treating Rohingya on its own soil better too, and it should start by guaranteeing them the same basic rights and constitutional protections other Pakistanis enjoy.