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Nobel winners condemn Myanmar violence in open letter

Are Myanmar soldiers raping muslim women?


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Published on Dec 19, 2016

Amnesty International says Myanmar's military are destroying homes and raping muslim women. CNN's George Howell has more in this interview.


Nobel winners condemn Myanmar violence in open letter

CNN 9 hours ago

(CNN)Twenty-three of the world's most prominent human rights voices, including Malala Yousafzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson, are calling on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to end "ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" in western Myanmar. 

"If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets and we may end up being passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly," read the signatories' stark warning.

Dozens of the stateless Rohingya minority have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since October, when a fresh bout of state-sponsored violence hit restive Rakhine State. 

The current militarization of the region -- where access is heavily restricted to aid workers and journalists -- has precipitated violence with the same "hallmarks" of past genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and Darfur, reads the open letter published by the Yunus Centre.

Bangladeshi social entrepreneur Mohammed Yunus and former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta were among thirteen Nobel Prize winners to voice their "frustration" with fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and ask the U.N. Security Council to make the violence a matter of urgent consideration.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a political prisoner turned election-winner, is widely seen to have failed with her muted response to the current crisis, which erupted after an army response to a series of attacks on Myanmar police stations on 9 October. Blamed on Rohingya extremists, the attacks killed 17, including 9 police officers.

Photos and videos allegedly show executions

The letter, published on Thursday, accuses the Myanmar government of a "grossly disproportionate" military operation that has seen troops "unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians...rape women and throw babies into a fire".

It calls on the U.N. to send its current Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, or his successor, to visit Myanmar "as a priority".

Photos and videos posted online recently from Rakhine State have purported to show arbitrary executions of civilians by soldiers. Human Rights Watch has independently produced satellite imagery that it claims proves the Myanmar army has razed entire Rohingya villages by fire. The Myanmar government has denied burning the villages, blaming it on "attackers".
Aung San Suu Kyi had enlisted the help of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to chair a 'Rakhine Commission into Interfaith Violence in Myanmar' before the recent violence began. The results of his investigation are pending. 

She also recently met the foreign ministers of neighboring Southeast Asian nations and told them the Myanmar government is committed to resolving the issues in Rakhine State, but said "time and space are critical for the efforts to bear fruit," according to state newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar.

Earlier this month the UN's Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee said the situation is "getting very close to what we would all agree are crimes against humanity".

Myanmar's Muslim minority has faced intermittent pogroms since 1982, when majority-Buddhist Myanmar blocked any recourse to citizenship for its members. 

Tens of thousands have been forced over the border into Bangladesh over the past thirty years. Over 100,000 Rohingya have remained ghettoized in displacement camps in western Myanmar since 2012, when the state's worst instance of violence ushered in Thursday's letter referred to as "a new apartheid".



Source: Yunus Center

Dear President and Members of the Security Council,

As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.

Over the past two months, a military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people. Over 30,000 people have been displaced. Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies - Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.

The head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Bangladesh side of the border, John McKissick, has accused Myanmar’s government of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee has condemned the restricted access to Rakhine State as “unacceptable.”

The Rohingyas are among the world’s most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation. In 1982, their rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations. They have endured severe restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom. Yet despite the claims by government and military, and many in society, that they are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants who have crossed the border, Bangladesh does not recognise them either.

Their plight intensified dramatically in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. Since then they have existed in ever more dire conditions.

This latest crisis was sparked by an attack on Myanmar border police posts on 9 October, in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The truth about who carried out the attack, how and why, is yet to be established, but the Myanmar military accuse a group of Rohingyas. Even if that is true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate. It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial. It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire.

According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, “they shot at people who were fleeing. They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”

Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they [the military] pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away”. She has not seen them since.

Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.

We urge the United Nations to do everything possible to encourage the Government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid, so that people receive emergency assistance. Access for journalists and human rights monitors should also be permitted, and an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation should be established.

Furthermore, we urge the members of UN Security Council to put this crisis on Security Council’s agenda as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks as a priority. If the current Secretary-General is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new Secretary-General to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January.

It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said “never again”. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say “never again” all over again.

Professor Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate José Ramos-Horta
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate
Máiread Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
1984 Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
Jody Williams
1997 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
Tawakkol Karman
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
Malala Yousafzai
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate Sir Richard J. Roberts
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Elizabeth Blackburn
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Emma Bonino
Former Italian Foreign minister
Arianna Huffington
Founder and Editor, The Huffington Post Sir Richard Branson
Business Leader and Philanthropist
Paul Polman
Business Leader Mo Ibrahim
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Richard Curtis
SDG Advocate, Film Director Alaa Murabit
SDG Advocate, Voice of Libyan Women
Jochen Zeitz
Business Leader and Philanthropist Kerry Kennedy
Human Rights Activist
Romano Prodi
Former Italian Prime Minister