A total of 21 civil society groups from inside and outside Burma are concerned that the European Union has eased its position on the plight of the country’s Rohingya people.
Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK urged the EU, in a media statement released today by the civil society organisations, to maintain a more forceful position against the Burma government.
“We are highly concerned that despite the much-needed EU attention at the end of 2017 on the plight of the Rohingya, it appears that the EU’s focus has turned to other priorities.”
Mr Farmaner explained that the 21 civil society organisations had sent its letter “to highlight that Myanmar will not be discussed at the [EU] Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday 22 January. The situation continues to be dire for the many thousands of Rohingya forced from their homes and for those who remain in Rakhine State.”
Mr Farmaner is concerned “the continuing lack of a concrete response sends the wrong message to the Myanmar Army and the Government of Myanmar, that they can get away with committing such grave crimes against not only the Rohingya, but also against other minorities throughout the country.”
The statement from the civil society organisations explained the Burma government and its Army had continued its campaign against the Rohingya.
“Rohingya faced ethnic cleansing. In recent months, Myanmar’s authorities have prevented the UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, and the independent, international Fact-Finding Mission from entering the country. They have also detained several journalists covering Rakhine State.”
R. Iniyan Ilango, United Nations Advocacy Programme Manager of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) called for the EU to “consider measures to sanction military leaders and businesses connected to the military and take the lead to initiate a global arms embargo on the country. The EU should respect the international legal principle of non-refoulement and not support any efforts to repatriate Rohingya refugees until their safety and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed by Myanmar in an independently verifiable manner.”
The civil society media statement pointed out that the Burma government’s position on a number of issues critical to the safe repatriation of refugees were a concern.
“As it stands, it is unclear if the refugees will be granted a legal status that allows their right to self-identification upon their return, and there are no guarantees of a long-term destination inside the country, much less their safety and security in the interim period.”
Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said.
“The plans for return are premature and were reached without adequate consultation with the refugee community. This is reminiscent of the plans to deal with previous displacement and return of Rohingya refugees in 1990s, which led to scores of human rights violations. Past mistakes must not be repeated.”
The civil society organisations letter called for the “EU to pursue options for the application of universal jurisdiction relating to violations of international law in Myanmar, including supporting a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.”
Khin Ohmar, Chair of the Advisory Board of Progressive Voice said.
“Strong action must be taken against the Myanmar Army, which continues to deploy rape and gender-based violence against civilian women and girls – particularly the Rohingya – as weapons of war. They must not be allowed to act with such impunity”