Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to thank my colleagues on the subcommittee for national human rights who have been seized with the issues in Burma, particularly the Rohingya, since 2012, as well as my colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, who was the former chair. He was actually the chair when we produced our first report in regard to Burma, or Myanmar.
For decades the military has ruled Burma and has sought to make the entire population ethnically, homogenously Burman, with Buddhism being the official state religion. Although there was room for optimism with the words that were coming out of Burma, some initial actions, along with favourable election results—in particular, the election of the honorary Canadian citizen Aung San Suu Kyi—there is sufficient evidence now that this may well be a well-orchestrated plan to get the western world on side, along with the accompanying dollars, without ever establishing an international standard of human rights or, for that matter, a real democracy.
I take exception to the government's response to our June 2016 report, entitled “Sentenced to a Slow Demise: The Plight of Myanmar's Rohingya Minority”. The notion that Burma has changed significantly is profoundly overly optimistic and flawed at best, and at worst it is purposely out of touch.
I will go farther. Without assigning blame to anyone specifically, I believe we were blinded by our optimism, our western hopes and dreams for the Burmese people, and did not see the very evident signs that the mechanisms were either put in place or kept in place to ensure that the ruling military class, along with its many supporters in the Rangoon Buddhist communities, would be the ones that profited from an image of a new democratization.
However, these benefits would never extend out to the broader population of the Kachin, the Chin, the Shan, the Wa, the Konkang, the Karen, the Karenni, the Kayan, or the Mon, all of which, it should be noted, have fought for their aspirations of autonomy within Burma and have a history of armed conflict against the Burmese state since 1948. Not so with the Rakhine and the Rohingya, with whom there is little history of armed conflict.
To my previous point, let us look at the evidence.
Many political prisoners still have no complete amnesty, as they were released under a statute that makes them susceptible to rearrest.
The military answers to no civilian authority, and the police continue to act much the same way, with unjustified detentions and with corruption running rampant.
The judiciary is still one of the most corrupt institutions in Burma and still gives jail sentences to citizens who show public dissent toward the government.
Extrajudicial killings, even for those close to the government, are also part of today's Burma. Human rights defenders are under constant threat in Burma. On January 29, 2017, Ko Ni, a Muslim lawyer known for his stance in favour of religious tolerance and a legal adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, was assassinated on his way out of Rangoon airport.
Most Burmese minorities are not allowed to form political parties, and in the case of the Rohingya, they cannot even independently run for office.
Racism is rampant, systemic, and institutional, with only ethnic Burmans enjoying a modicum of rights and freedoms, which exist primarily in the capital of Rangoon.
Little to no effort has been made to have a free and fairly represented parliament. Instead, the constitution still holds that 25% of seats must be set aside for the military, virtually assuring that remnants from the former repressive regime always hold ultimate power. Such a structure ensures that there never will be a civilian democratic government.
There has been no move to correct any history of persecution of minorities. No peace talks have taken place to assure a lasting, durable peace amongst any of the minorities I listed above. Since 1962, statutory and administrative measures have continually eroded the rights of, in particular, the Muslim population, and there has been no attempt to repeal the abhorrent legislation that has left the Rohingya as the largest stateless group of individuals on the globe, sanctioning them to a continual state of poverty, uncertainty, and persecution.
Not only has this persecution continued against Burmese minorities, but in the case of the Rohingya it has reached the stage of ethnic cleansing. Such credible organizations such as Fortify Rights has said that it sees evidence on the ground that would support that the crime of genocide is taking place.
They are being persecuted so severely through violence, torture, rape, and murder that hundreds of thousands have fled to nearby Bangladesh.
I will read testimony that was given just days ago to the subcommittee for human rights. I would like to warn my colleagues that this is very graphic testimony. This is the testimony of Ahmed Ramadan. Although Mr. Smith did give you some description of how bad it is there, I wanted to share with everyone testimony that was submitted to the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal that is ongoing right now in Malaysia on this situation in Myanmar. This is one of the testimonies that was submitted. It is very graphic, but I want to show how serious, how bad, how horrifying the situation really is. The witness interviewed states:
My sister had just given birth in her house when the Myanmar soldiers came into the village. We all ran away, but my sister couldn't. I returned and found the dead bodies of my sister and her baby. They had taken off her clothes and cut into her vagina. They had cut off her breasts and put the dead baby on her chest. The baby had been stomped to death. Its stomach had burst open and its intestines had come out. They had put the breasts next to each other on the pillow beside her. She was lying in her bed. They had stuck a rifle in her vagina.
Next I would like to read from a document from the UNHCR, quoting a statement by seven special rapporteurs in regard to Myanmar. It states:
“There have been credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement, as well as the burning and destruction of over 200 Rohingya villages and tens of thousands of homes,” the experts said.
“We understand that State Counsellor Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in her diplomatic briefing on 19 September had encouraged the international community to learn along with the Myanmar Government the possible reasons behind the current exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh,” the experts said, noting that about 430,000 people had reportedly crossed into Bangladesh in the past few weeks.
The experts stressed: “No one chooses, especially not in the hundreds of thousands, to leave their homes and ancestral land, no matter how poor the conditions, to flee to a strange land to live under plastic sheets and in dire circumstances except in life-threatening situations. Despite violence allegedly perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the whole Rohingya population should not have to pay the price.”
By the way, I really think that is a sham of a piece of evidence.
Finally, I am going to skip down the report because of time. The rapporteurs say:
“UN member states need to go beyond statements and start taking concrete action to stop the military and security forces from accomplishing their so-called ‘unfinished business’ of getting rid of the Rohingya minority from Rakhine State,” the experts concluded.
I would like to finish with this: all I am asking is for the Government of Canada to do exactly what the rapporteurs are saying and take action. Stop this violence right now. We have the capability, we have the political capital we have invested in Myanmar, and we should take every action, including threatening to cut off money.
By the way, there was a statement made earlier than no government-to-government money was made. Forty-two million dollars was given to the Burmese government in order to build democratic institutions. That should stop, and we should make it clear. Even in regard to the humanitarian aid, right now we are not allowed to deliver it. We need to make sure that any money that we put toward humanitarian aid is allowed to be spent to support the Rohingya needs, not only in Myanmar but also in Bangladesh.
God bless Canada and God bless Burma.