Dear Madam 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 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'm a former Rohingya member of parliament in Myanmar, from 2010 to 2015. I'm also president of the Arakan Institute for Peace and Development, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, and a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, or IPPFoRB.
Madam Chair, the Rohingya were disenfranchised from the 2015 general election by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party government. I was not allowed to run for re-election because my parents were accused of not being citizens of Myanmar, although I was a sitting member of parliament.
On September 12, 2015, I came to the United States to give a briefing on the human rights situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress in my capacity as a sitting member of parliament, and to attend IPPFoRB's second annual conference in New York. Since then, I have been in exile in the U.S.A.
I also briefed this committee on May 3, 2016 about the human rights situation of the Rohingya. I highlighted policies of the USDP and NLD parties toward the Rohingya and Muslims in Myanmar. During my statement, I said, “If this is the case, the plight of the Rohingya will be doubled in the near future.” After two and a half years now, it is much more than double.
It has been three years that the National League for Democracy party has ruled Myanmar, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and foreign minister. The human rights situation of the Rohingya in Kachin State and Shan State under civilian government is worse than under the previous military governments. Although the Rohingya have been discriminated against and persecuted since 1942, the situation in the era of Aung San Suu Kyi's administration is the worst in the history of Myanmar.
In the first week of August 2017, Myanmar's security forces launched a persecution campaign in northern Rakhine State. According to satellite images from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, more than 300 Rohingya villages were razed systematically. Approximately 35,000 Rohingya men, women and children were killed. Hundreds of women were gang-raped. Children were thrown away into their burning houses by the security forces and local vigilantes. The local vigilantes were trained by local police and were equipped with guns and swords before the security forces started operations to persecute and kill innocent Rohingyas. This is very interesting. Within a few weeks, more than 700,000 Rohingyas were deported to Bangladesh by force. It is crystal clear to call this genocide against the Rohingya.
As I have regular contact with the people on the ground, I have all the information about what is going on every day in my homeland, Arakan. As innocent Rohingyas were killed and houses were burned down every day, I requested, via my Facebook Live video on August 27, 2017, that the Myanmar government leaders in Naypyidaw protect innocent people from being killed. In response, the Myanmar police force filed a lawsuit against me and released an arrest warrant on September 1, 2017. I was really shocked.
The whole world was shocked as a million Rohingya were forced to flee and live in the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. The UN, the United States, Canada, the European Union and the whole world showed their highest concern to stop the atrocities, the crimes against humanity and the war crimes, and to make the perpetrators accountable.
I would like to thank especially the House of Commons of Canada for its motion to call the situation in Myanmar a genocide and for the Canadian government's efforts to find a sustainable solution for the Rohingya, as well as the $300 million in humanitarian aid for this crisis.
Madam Chair, the current situation of the Rohingya inside Arakan State is still so dire, as the Myanmar government has been consistently denying not only the massacre against the Rohingya but also the existence of Rohingya ethnicity, despite international pressure. The worst thing is that the genocide against Rohingya is ongoing. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to the repatriation of 2,200 Rohingya refugees out of a million. Both countries reportedly agreed to start on November 15, 2018. Myanmar looks more serious than Bangladesh about bringing this handful of refugees back, but no refugee is ready to go back to Myanmar without concrete evidence of safety and fundamental rights, including full-fledged citizenship, freedom of movement and freedom of religion.
On that, we have a question. Does the Myanmar government really want this repatriation? I don't think so. This so-called repatriation is not genuine. Although the Myanmar government is saying that it is “ready for repatriation”, it is still denying the fundamental rights of Rohingya. Myanmar easily commits when pressure is mounted, but it breaks commitments systematically. We learned a lot of lessons from the 1978 and 1994 repatriations. I think this is to puncture international pressure and detour the UN's path to find a sustainable solution for the Rohingya.
Myanmar is still accusing the Rohingya of being illegal immigrants. Almost all villages of refugees were bulldozed and destroyed completely. All crops and cattle were looted. The same local security forces and vigilantes are still reportedly threatening Rohingya to expel them if they are resettled, especially in the Maungdaw south area.
The Myanmar government issued permits for demonstrations again Rohingya repatriation and resettlement in Maungdaw south. President U Thein Sein's government created the national verification cards to alienate the majority of the Rohingya population. It doesn't guarantee citizenship. If a person applies for this so-called national verification card, he or she will be confessing to being a foreigner, according to the description on the card. It is also inconsistent with the 1982 citizenship law.
More than 100,000 Rohingya in the Sittwe area are still living in internally displaced persons camps with uncertain future. They have not yet been resettled in their original places. They are not allowed to go outside the camp. They feel hopeless, as they have been kept in prison-like camps for six years. In this situation, how can the Rohingya come back? If they do, in this given situation, they will remain in a vicious circle of discrimination and persecution forever, and there may be another episode of genocide to uproot the whole population from their ancestral land.
Therefore, Madam Chair, the international community should double its efforts and find a mechanism so that the Myanmar government agrees to make perpetrators accountable, accept the existence of the Rohingya and restore their civil rights with dignity, safety and security.
Let me stop my statement here. Thank you so much for your time, Madam Chair.