Twelve Nobel laureates and 15 eminent citizens of the world have issued an open letter calling on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene to end the persecution of Rohingya people in Rakhine state by Myanmar regime.
The letter issued by Yunus Centre on Wednesday was addressed to the president and members of the Security Council.
“The human tragedy and crimes against humanity unfolding in the Arakan region of Myanmar need your immediate intervention. This is one of the decisive moments when bold and decisive actions are needed promptly when it is still possible to get it resolved,” the letter said, hailing the decision to hold UNSC meeting on Rohingya issue.
The 12 Nobel laureates are Professor Muhammad Yunus, Máiread Maguire, Betty Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard J. Roberts, and Elizabeth Blackburn.
According to account of different organisations, recent military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people, the letter added.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Entire villages have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, humanitarian aid organisations have been almost completely denied access, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor,” it said.
Quoting UN statement, the letter said around 300,000 people have fled to Bangladesh during the last two weeks. Human misery created by such massive displacement of men, women and children under the threat of death is getting worse every day.
“Some of us denounced the previous spate of violence late last year and wrote to you to intervene. However, the situation has not improved. We urge you to take decisive actions to stop the violence against innocent civilians and bring permanent peace in Rakhine state,” it said.
“We call on UNSC to intervene immediately by using all available means. We request you to take immediate action for cessation of indiscriminate military attack on innocent civilians that is forcing them to leave their home and flee country to turn into stateless people.”
The arguments that the Myanmar government is using to deny Rohingyas their citizenship are ludicrous, to say the least, it said, adding that at independence of Burma from the British in 1948 and under successive governments, Burma recognised the people of all ethnicities within its border, including the Rohingyas, as full citizens, having representation in parliament.
The Nobel laureates and eminent citizens claimed the military juntas in the 1980s decided that Rohingyas are not Burmese and they deprived Rohingyas of their citizenship. They used military and political means to make sure that the Rohingyas leave the country and systematic persecution aiming at ethnic and religious cleansing began, the letter noted.
The letter signatories said, “The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilisation. The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need.”
They called upon UN General Secretary to persuade Myanmar government to take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission which the Myanmar government established in 2016 under the pressure of international community.
The Commission, mostly comprised of Myanmar citizens, chaired by Kofi Annan, recommended providing citizenship to the Rohingyas, allowing them freedom of movement, rights and equality before the law, ensuring communal representation, lack of which affects Muslims disproportionately, facilitating UN assistance in ensuring safety and security of returning people, they opined.
“The fear became reality through the attack on Myanmar security forces by the militants. Unless, constructive effort to build lasting peace is taken, the situation will get worse which in turn may pose serious security threat to the neighbouring countries.”
The letter recommended steps to reappoint the Commission members immediately to constitute an Implementation Committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, take immediate steps to stop the outflow of refugees, invite international observers to visit vulnerable areas on a regular basis, invite back the refugees who already left the country, build camps within Myanmar for the returning refugees to facilitate their rehabilitation with UN financing and supervision, give them the citizenship as prescribed in the Commission Report under the exclusive authority of the Implementation Committee and ensure political freedom and freedom of movement.
A bold change in approach is needed by United Nations and the international community if there is to be an end to the cycle of violence against the Rohingyas, the letter said, adding the government of Myanmar needs to be told that international support and finance is conditional on a major change in policy towards the Rohingya.
Propaganda and incitement of hatred and all violence, particularly state violence against Rohingyas, must stop, discriminatory laws and policies must go and the recommendations of Kofi Annan led commission must be implemented immediately, it said.
The world is anxiously waiting to see that UNSC is playing its role in bringing an end to a humanitarian catastrophe and building peace in the region, it added.
The fifteen eminent citizens who signed the letter are Syed Hamid Albar, former Malaysian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, former Italian Foreign Minister, Sir Richard Branson, Business Leader and Philanthropist, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, Mo Ibrahim, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Kerry Kennedy, Human Rights Activist, Alaa Murabit, Voice of Libyan Women, SDG Advocate, Narayana Murthy, Business Leader, Kasit Piromya, former Thai Foreign Minister, Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary-General of ASEAN, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, Paul Polman, Business Leader, SDG Advocate, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Forest Whitaker, Actor and SDG Advocate, and Jochen Zeitz, Business Leader and Philanthropist.