Thursday, 28 May 2020

Chittagong, Bangladesh: On April 25 - The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission held its first hearing, focusing on human rights violations in Burma, according to Nurul Islam, the president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), London, UK.

In the three-hour session, chaired by Gary Streeter MP, the Commission heard evidence of human rights violations in Burma from four witnesses.

Charm Tong, a founder of the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) presented extensive evidence of the increasing militarilization of Burma, which spends less than 1percent of its GDP on health and education, the lowest in the world, and over 40 percent on the military.

She also provided evidence of the wide spread and systematic use of rape as a weapon of war. Besides, she described the plight of the internally displaced people in Burma, and refugees on the Thai- Burma border. Over one million people are internally displaced in eastern Burma alone, and over 155,000 refugees are in camps in Thailand.

Nurul Islam, President of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) described the suffering of the Rohingya people on the Burma-Bangladesh border. Describing his people as “One of the most persecuted and forgotten people on earth,” Nurul Islam said: “The Rohingyas are oppressed and persecuted beyond all measure. They have been invariably subjected to criminal atrocities, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, extra-judicial killing and summary execution, arrest and detention, rape, looting, destruction of homes, settlements, religious schools and mosques, forced labour, forced relocation, forced eviction and expulsion, confiscation of moveable and immoveable properties, taxation and extortion, restriction on their freedom of movement and residence within the state, prohibition of their rights to marry and to found a family without permission, restriction and or denial of their rights to education, right to work and assess to food and other essentials, medical care and necessary social services.”  Burma’s military regime, he added, has declared the Rohingyas as non-nationals “in utter disregard of their history.” 

Guy Horton, a human rights researcher funded by the Nertherlands and the author of Dying Alive: A legal Assessment of Human Rights violations in Burma, presented comprehensive evidence of widespread destruction and violence in eastern Burma. He urged the international community to establish a UN commission of Enquiry into the question of attempted genocide in Burma, and he encouraged the UK and other countries who are signatories to the Genocide Convention to refer a case of attempted genocide in Burma to the International Court of Justice.

Mark Farmaner, Campaign Manager at Burma Campaign UK presented a number of policy recommendations to the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. He highlighted the weakness in the current EU Common Position on Burma, and urged the UK to introduce tougher targeted sanctions against the regime in Burma.

All four speakers urged the UK to continue to work to bring the issue of Burma to the agenda of the UN Security Council this year.

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission will examine ways in which it can encourage the British government to increase its efforts to bring Burma to the UN Security Council agenda, provide support to pro-democracy groups and humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people, and consider introducing targeted sanction against the regime.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “Today, I want to say to Charm Tong, that the Conservative Party stands with her. We have much to learn from her experience and are grateful that she is with us today.” “Human rights abuses in the 21st century cannot be tolerated,” he added. He further said that the Conservative Party would develop a foreign policy, which would be pro-active in supporting democracy and those who bravely champion freedom in their own countries. It must put economic and political pressure on brutal regimes, and it must seek to hold them to account. Referring to Burma, Mr. Hague added his support to renewed calls for UN Security Council action. I am pleased to say the UK did, in the end, support the initiative and I will continue to urge the government to maintain this momentum and to work with our allies to get the issue of Burma raised at the Security Council, and a resolution passed.

Dr, Khin Maung, the vice-president of the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) said, “We welcome Mr. Nurul Islam, the president of ARNO as an Arakanese ethnic who addressed the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission about the human rights violations of Arakan. We are also very glad as we see there is no racial discrimination (regarding Rakhine and Rohingya) in his speech.”