Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Humanism is more important than the term 'Rohingya': NCUB

By Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – There is debate among Burma's military regime, some activists and some sectors of the ethnic nationalities on the existence of 'Rohingya' in Burma.

The Rohingya reached Thailand, Indonesia and India from Burma by crossing sea in small boats. They claimed that they took the risk of their lives for seeking a better life after suffering unbearable racial, religion, social and economic repression inflicted upon them by Burmese junta.

Despite the denial by the Burmese junta on the existence of Rohingya as an ethnic race in Burma, Thai government is now saying it wants to discuss the issue of Rohingya coming from Burma informally at ASEAN meeting to be held in Thailand in the last week of this month.

Mizzima reporter Ko Wild interviewed an exiled umbrella orgnization 'National Council of Union of Burma' (NCUB) Joint General Secretary (1) Myint Thein on his opinion on the use of term 'Rohingya' and how to treat them and how to tackle the consequences of the boatpeople. This interview:

Q: The Rohingya boatpeople coming from Burma and Bangladesh arrived in Thai, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. The news reports said some of them were arrested and some tortured. And also we can see some countries do not want to accept them. What is the opinion of NCUB on this issue?

A: Whatsoever they said, they are human beings. They are not animals regardless of their name, Rohingya or whatever they are. I would not like to focus on this term. We should focus on this issue on the fundamental causes such as why they suffer, why they face such an unfortunate situation etc. The fundamental causes mean these people are seeking their way out by all possible means under the current circumstances of objective political situation, crises and difficulties they are facing. This is the main point.

Many of them faced trouble in Thai territory recently. Some of them died. This issue is really a humanitarian issue. We should rescue them on the basis of humanitarianism. And also the fundamental and root causes of this issue should be searched in a concerted effort among all the countries concerned, Burma and regional countries, through negotiation and consultation.

Moreover the UN Human Right Commission should take all necessary action by emphasizing on this issue. We see this issue like not on Rohingya, Muslim and Buddhism. We don't want to see this issue in this way.

Q: One of the ethnic leaders in the democracy struggle told Mizzima that the 'Rohingya' appeared only in 1950s based on 'Mujahit' rebels from western Burma. But nowadays the media, UN and other countries use the term 'Rohingya'. What is your opinion on the usage of the proper term?

A: As for NCUB, we have not yet adopted concrete policy on this issue of Rohingya, the usage of the term Rohingya and whether they are Rohingya or not. But in our opinion, there are many ethnicity and racial issues in Burma inherited from the past and history, some of which were deliberately created by sowing confusion and complexity. All these issues can be resolved only when we can restore genuine peace in our country. If we emphasize these unresolved issues first, we will ignore and overlook the ground reality of people who are currently in trouble. We should not see this issue based on racial and religious grounds. We must do our best to resolve the current sufferings they are facing. This is the common phenomenon for the people who are migrating between two countries to and fro then later produced confusion and complexity on their ethnicity. By focusing and overemphasizing on this issue in this way, we will lead to communal riot. It should not be like that.

Q: Both naturalized citizen in Muslim faith and those who have not yet been granted citizenship living in Rakhine State are suffering severe repression unleashed by the SPDC. What type of works the humanitarian workers should do to stop racial hatred and repression?

A: This is the work we are consistently doing. Any raceregardless of where they are living, in Burma or in any other country, should not lose their fundamental rights. All human beings shall enjoy the human dignity and all human rights they are entitled to. Resolving their racial issue left by history is another case. All these issues will remain unresolved until they can exercise the democratic procedure in resolving these issues. I think UN should handle all these disputed ethnicity issues.

Q: Currently the Rohingya reports are making headlines in the media. There are both optimistic and pessimistic views on them and heated debate among them. Under these circumstances, do you think SPDC can start a communal riot by exploiting the current situation?

A: We absolutely believe the SPDC will do whatever things which will benefit to them in perpetuation of military dictatorship and clinging to power. If they see the current situation and circumstances are the best opportunity for them, they will exploit them certainly. That's what I see in this situation.

Q: Like other fallouts of Burma problems and controversies such as refugees and migrant workers, do you think the Rohingya issue has also become the regional issue and regional threat?

A: It's difficult to say exclusively on the Rohingya issue. But it is very clear to see that under the current situation and circumstances in Burma, there are many refugees who take refuge on foreign soil, millions of migrant workers working in Thailand alone and illegal and undocumented immigrants in those countries. All of them are of different faiths and races. All of these illegal migrant people will certainly be a burden to the host countries to some extent. We cannot say who will give trouble to the host countries and who will not. We see the root cause of all these problems originated from the problems in Burma.

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