|Burma's Muslim Rohingya community|
|Monday, 13 August 2012 16:16|
Concerned by reports by Human Rights Watch, Sadiq Khan MP has written to the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development asking the British government take action to stop the violence and provide aid to those who need it.
Sadiq has also written to the High Commissioner for Bangladesh asking for him to respond to reports that Muslim Rohingyas, seeking a safe haven from persecution and violence in Burma, are being turned away by Bangladeshi authorities.
The Muslim Rohingya community is mainly situated in the west coastal region of Burma, bordering Bangladesh. According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya community has been subject to human right violations since 1978, causing many of them to flee to the neighbouring country. The United Nations views the Rohingya Muslims as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
A report from Human Rights Watch entitled ‘The Government Could Have Stopped This: Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan State’ (which can be viewed online, for free, here) was published on 1st August, and highlighted the lack of action by the Burmese government to stop escalating sectarian violence between two Burmese minority populations - the Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims - in June 2012.
The sectarian clashes began when an incendiary pamphlet was circulated, claiming that an Arakan woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men. Violent reprisals by both communities continued, and escalated, until the military junta, which governs Burma, declared a state of emergency in Rakhine State on 10th June.
The state of emergency resulted in a concerted period of violence being used against Rohingya communities by state security forces. Amnesty International asserts that Muslim Rohingyas have been beaten, raped and killed by security forces and Rakhine Buddhists.
The Human Rights Watch report claims that the 78 people reported to have been killed is a conservative figure, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 80,000 persons have been displaced by the violence.
A further report by Human Rights Watch (available here) claims that they have witnessed Rohingya men, women and children seeking refugee land on Bangladeshi shores only to be forced back into their ‘barely seaworthy wooden boats’ where they risk drowning or starving at sea – or returning to persecution in Burma.
What Sadiq has done
Upon hearing of this report from Human Rights Watch, Sadiq mades representations to both the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development.
Sadiq Khan MP said: “The violence towards the Muslim Rohingya is extremely serious and causing unnecessary bloodshed and suffering. It is crucial that the violence ends immediately. Especially in this holy month of Ramadhan, I have been inundated with British citizens expressing concern about the plight of these innocent Burmese Muslims.
“We have seen positive actions from the Burmese government in recent years – such as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest – but they need to realise that the first job of government is to secure the safety of all citizens.
“It is important that the British government uses all its influence to end this savage treatment of the Rohingya community by the Burmese authorities as a matter of urgency.”
He has also written to the High Commissioner for Bangladesh about the alleged refused entry of Muslim Rohingya refugees, and separately the Foreign Secretary, to determine the facts about these reports.
Sadiq Khan MP said: “The report by Human Rights Watch into the violence perpetrated by Burmese state security forces is shocking. It is completely understandable that families would seek asylum in another, friendly, state.
“However the reports that Rohingya refugees are being pushed back into the sea, after arriving in Bangladesh, is as concerning as it is surprising. It is my hope that the reports are false, and that Bangladeshi authorities are accepting refugees – which is, of course, international law.
“To be forced out of your home through violence, then told that your only safe haven will not shelter you, is difficult to comprehend.
“I will do all I can to raise awareness of this issue, and to ensure that the British government does all it can to prevent further suffering and deaths.”
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