UN rights experts hail Myanmar journalists’ release

            By Erdogan Cagatay Zontur</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - UN human rights experts welcomed on Wednesday the release of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar but said they have serious concerns about the judicial process in the country and the fact that their guilty verdicts still stand.</p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who had been detained since December 2017, were each sentenced to seven years in prison last September for allegedly breaching a colonial-era law by investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017.</p>  <p>“While it is good news that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reunited with their families and will not have to carry out the remainder of their sentences, their convictions under the Official Secrets Act have not been withdrawn and they should never have been prosecuted in the first place,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.</p>  <p>  “We remain terribly concerned about the state of media freedom and the democratic space in Myanmar. The authorities have a considerable way to go to in law, policy and institution-building to ensure a minimum level of democratic space, which is particularly important in the lead-up to national elections next year,” the statement said.</p>  <p>  The two Reuters journalists were among 6,520 inmates released Tuesday under a third round of pardons by Myanmar President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year, which began April 17.</p>  <p>&quot;I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,&quot; Wa Lone told a crowd of reporters after his release.</p>  <p>    <p> Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. </p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Bangladesh urges Myanmar to ease Rohingya’s return

            By SM Najmus Sakib</p>  <p>DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to ensure the basic rights of Rohingya returnees and to take positive steps towards a “well-defined time-bound pathway” to citizenship that would encourage them to return voluntarily.</p>  <p>The suggestions were made Friday at the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group on the repatriation of displaced Myanmar residents which was held in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. </p>  <p>Mahbub Uz Zaman, secretary (Asia &amp; Pacific) at Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, and U Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s foreign ministry, led their respective countries at the meeting, according to a statement from Bangladesh’s foreign ministry.</p>  <p>Bangladesh particularly stressed the need to remove legal and administrative barriers to ensure the rights of the returnees, including freedom of movement and guaranteeing their safety and security, said the statement.</p>  <p>The two sides also agreed to speed up the verification process of the Myanmar nationals.

Bangladesh also emphasized the need for allowing greater engagement of the international community — including ASEAN and interested partners — in improving the situation on the ground in Rakhine state and proposed an appropriate mechanism for the coordination of actions among those actors to create greater confidence.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury told the local Dhaka Tribune daily that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and both sides were positive.

Myanmar also appeared to be receptive to Bangladesh’s proposal for a visit by a team from Naypyidaw to the Rohingya settlements in Cox’s Bazar to speak to them directly about the conditions in Rakhine, the daily added.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Myanmar troops shoot dead 7 civilians: Lawmaker

                       By Kyaw Ye Lynn</p>    <p>YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - Myanmar military on Thursday shot dead seven civilians, who were among many villagers detained for interrogation in the country’s Rakhine state, a lawmaker said.</p>    <p>The military earlier this week announced that it rounded up several hundred people in several villages in Rakhine state’s Yathay Taung Township for questioning for their alleged ties to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic rebel group.</p>    <p>It also said 275 men were held for interrogation in Kyauk Tan village in Yathay taung Township.</p>    <p>Soldiers on Thursday opened fire as a clash erupted with the detained villagers, according to Khim Maung Lat, a member of the country’s upper house of the parliament.</p>    <p>“Seven villagers were shot dead and eight others were seriously injured,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone.</p>    <p>“Before this accident, four civilians were also killed during the interrogation in other villages,” he said.</p>    <p>The lawmaker said the military has ignored the request made by regional parliament to hand over the detainees to police.</p>    <p>“Civilians are being killed. It is unacceptable,” he added.</p>    <p>The International Committee of the Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross said in a joint statement on Thursday they had transferred three seriously injured patients to hospital in Rakhine state capital Sittwe, as well as two other “civilians” to local hospital in Yathay Taung.</p>    <p>Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a military spokesman, has confirmed the killing of six civilians.</p>    <p>According to him, the villagers attempt to seize weapons and harm the security forces during the interrogation.

Turkish agency opens clinic in Rakhine State, Myanmar

            By Tevfik Durul</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's state-run aid agency opened a clinic in Rakhine State, homeland of Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, on Monday.

The clinic in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, will provide small surgical operations, mother and childcare, and outpatient and general care, said the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency.

The health services provided in the clinic will be accessible to all ethnic and religious groups, the agency added.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Turkish agency sends food to 1,012 Rohingya families

            By Md. Kamruzzaman<br>

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AA) – The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) distributed food items Wednesday to 1,012 Rohingya refugee families living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

“We are giving each Rohingya family 25 kilograms of rice, six kilograms of dal [lentils] and three liters of [cooking] oil,” TIKA deputy coordinator Emrah Ekinci told Anadolu Agency.

A total of 5,000 Rohingya families will be given the same food items in five phases this month, which will continue as a regular monthly package, he added.

“Thus, we are able to distribute food items to more than 20,000 Rohingya people per month,” Ekinci said, adding the food aid is also being distributed to several hundred needy locals.

TIKA has been distributing cooked food daily to Rohingya since the beginning of the Rohingya influx into Bangladesh following the Aug. 25, 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

“Now we are distributing food items as per their needs. Prior to this, we also distributed [cooking] spices according to their requirements,” Ekinci said.

During a field visit, hundreds of Rohingya were seen waiting in a queue at TIKA’s distribution area at the Shafiullah Kata camp in the Ukhia administrative region of Cox’s Bazar.

TIKA earlier visited Rohingya refugee camps and made a list of 5,000 families. It distributed one card to each family. Based on that card, they distribute food items so that all 5,000 families receive relief items.

“We are grateful to TIKA and Bangladesh for helping us,” said Rahima Khatun, 70, who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh with her four children after her husband went missing during a military crackdown.

Anwara Begum, 60, who fled to Bangladesh with her critically injured husband who died after four months, said that after losing everything, they are now living at the mercy of others’ help.

“We want to go back to our country with safety and rights,” she said.

  • Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Bangladesh seeks US support for Rohingya repatriation

                     By Md. Kamruzzaman</p>    <p>DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh has sought the U.S. support to create a safe zone in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for repatriation of Rohingya to their homeland.</p>    <p>Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen on Monday met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington and urged him to help put “credible international pressure” on Myanmar for the return of Rohingya, according to a press release issued by the Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.</p>    <p>Momen said Bangladesh at its own expense developed a remote Bhashan Char islet “a livable place”, where 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated in first phase in coordination with UN agencies and different aid groups.</p>    <p>In response to Bangladesh’s request, Pompeo said: “The one million plus forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals have to return to Myanmar without any form of fear and persecution,” according to the press release.</p>    <p>“It is the responsibility of the Myanmar government and military to create conducive environment so that the Rohingyas feel safe to return home,” it quoted Pompeo as saying.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- A persecuted people</p>    <p>The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>    <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>    <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>    <p>More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled &quot;Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience&quot;.</p>    <p>Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.</p>    <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent. 

ASEAN wants to create ‘safe zones’ for Rohingya

            By Md. Kamruzzaman</p>  <p>DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wants to play a leading role in the repatriation of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, a minister said late Wednesday.</p>  <p>“Thailand is the current chair of ASEAN. They are willing to take a leading role in the Rohingya repatriation process,” Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said at a press briefing following a meeting with his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai in Dhaka, local media reported.</p>  <p>Pramudwinai had informed Bangladesh authorities that Thailand had sent a delegation to visit villages in Rakhine, but Momen accused Myanmar authorities of taking foreign delegations to villages that were not damaged during atrocities, the daily New Age newspaper reported.</p>  <p>Replying to a question by a journalist on Bangladesh’s proposal to create a ‘safe zone’ in Rakhine for Rohingya, Momen said Pramudwinai agreed with the idea but wanted to use different words as ‘safe zone’ carries certain connotations and some quarters were unwilling to agree with that, the report added.</p>  <p>The Thai minister did not attend the press briefing.</p>  <p>Pramudwinai said ASEAN wanted to create such an environment in Myanmar where Rohingya might feel safe to go back, Momen noted.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- Persecuted people</p>  <p>The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled &quot;Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience&quot;.</p>  <p>Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.</p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.</p>  <p> 

Myanmar: Rakhine politician gets jail term for treason

             By Kyaw Ye Lynn</p>    <p>YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - A Myanmar court on Tuesday handed down jail terms for two prominent nationalists for treason charges over the deadly riots in volatile Rakhine state, local media said.</p>    <p>A district court in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state, sentenced Aye Maung, former chairman of powerful Arakan National Party (ANP) and a union parliament member previously, and writer Wai Hnin Aung to 20 years in prison each. </p>  <p>Maung and Aung were arrested early 2018 after nine people were killed in a clash between police and protestors in the Mrauk U town in northern Rakhine state.</p>    <p>The two were filed charges against under the Unlawful Associations Act, as well as the Penal Code for allegedly promoting support for the outlawed Arakan army during a public speech in the Rathedaung Township days before the deadly riot.</p>    <p>In his speech last year to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Mrauk U Kingdom with the invasion of a Burmese king more than 200 years ago, Maung accused the government of treating Rakhine ethnic people like “slaves” and called to support the armed rebellion led by the Arakan army.</p>    <p>Armed clashes have intensified in Rakhine, especially in northern parts, since March last year when the Arakan army claimed Rakhine's majority Buddhist ethnic group returned to base forces in the area.</p>    <p>Nearly 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, fled their homes since military launched an offensive in Rakhine after Arakan army killed at least 13 security forces during a coordinated attack on four border guard police outposts near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh in January.</p>    <p>Alongside its alliance with rebel groups, the Arakan army previously fought against the government troops in the northern Kachin state and the northeastern Shan state.

Earlier this month, the Arakan army killed nine police officers during a late night raid on a police station in Yoetayote village near Sittwe, the latest of the group’s several attacks on security forces and government officials in the area.

Philippine president offers citizenship to Rohingya

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered Filipino citizenship to Rohingya refugees and reiterated his willingness to accept them into the country, a local news portal reported.

“I am willing to accept Rohingyas,” GMA News, an online portal, quoted Duterte as saying while he was addressing a convention in capital Manila.

Last April, Duterte also called the military crackdown on Rohingya community in Myanmar’s Rakhine State as “genocide” prompting strong criticism from Myanmar, it added, forcing him to issue an apology.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

ANALYSIS – Conference calls for action to end Rohingya genocide

            By Maung Zarni
  • Writer is co-author of the “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya” (Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, 2014) and coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition.

LONDON (AA) – On Feb. 8 and 9 at Barnard College in New York City, the Free Rohingya Coalition held an extremely productive conference, drawing an audience of 200 researchers, activists and renowned academics from around 12 countries.

Amongst the nearly 40 speakers – two were pre-recorded – were the iconic American Black consciousness activist and renowned academic Angela Davis, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the founders of postcolonial studies and author of the classic “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, Radhika Coomaraswamy, a prominent member of the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and leading scholars on genocide Gregory Stanton and Alex Hinton.

They were joined by a group of Rohingya genocide survivors, Karen and Burmese activists and scholars.

The conference was the first of its kind internationally on the vitally important issues of accountability of Myanmar’s military and civilian leadership and protection of national minorities in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states.

It was co-hosted by top research institutes at Barnard College and Columbia University such as the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. It was also endorsed globally by a diverse network of institutions, including the Montreal Holocaust Museum (Canada), the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit at the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh), the Documentation Center of Cambodia and Genocide Watch (US).

Angela Davis’s special message of solidarity for the coalition specifically and the oppressed national minorities in general set the tone and parameters of the discussion.

Apparently having drawn on slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Davis was emphatic about “the indivisibility of justice”, whoever the victims of systematic injustices are and wherever they may be.

She linked the dots among seemingly disparate issues as diverse as the brutality of Israel-trained U.S. police towards Latina and black youth in the United States to U.S.-trained state troopers and their murder with impunity across Central and Latin American countries while explaining and justifying her support for the Palestinians and opposition towards the settler-colonial, racist and militaristic state of Israel.

In her pre-recorded address to the conference, Professor Yanghee Lee categorically dismissed the claim that Myanmar is in a fragile democratic transition under Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected civilian leadership. She pointed out the inconceivability of any real democratization under the 2008 Constitution; the constitution drawn up and adopted by the Burmese generals elevates the Armed Forces of Myanmar above the entire society and exempts it from any notion of accountability or checks and balances.

On Rohingya, Lee was emphatic that the conditions in Myanmar’s “killing fields” are not conducive for the much-hyped up schemes of repatriation or return of 1 million Rohingya criminally deported by Myanmar across the borders onto Bangladesh soil in two different waves in 1991-92 and 2016-17.

On the subject of repatriation, the conference also heard from three scholars and activists with decades of professional experience dealing with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and/or refugees.

Dr. Jeff Crisp, formerly head of policy development and program evaluation at the UNHCR, shared his insider view within the world’s main refugee agency mandated to strive for the protection of all refugees. His fact-based PowerPoint presentation exposed racism and lack of empathy among UNHCR senior management who described desperate and vulnerable Rohingya as “primitive people” who “will go anywhere they are ordered or told to go”.

Crisp, now at the Refugees Studies Center at Oxford University, accused the UNHCR as a UN agency of being complicit in the murderous crimes committed by refugee-producing states.

Tapan Kumar Bose, an Indian journalist and former secretary general of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, who has worked in support of Rohingya, Nepalese and Bengali (now Bangladeshi) refugees since the start of the 1970s, echoed Dr. Crisp’s damning indictment of the UN agency and called attention specifically to the UNHCR and its recurring practice of “imposed repatriation”.

On her part, Natalie Brinham of Queen Mary University of London, an expert on documentation as a weapon of racist persecution, discussed why Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and India have long resisted numerous types of pressures to accept what Myanmar calls “National Verification Cards”. Rohingya rightly view these cards as “genocide cards”, the acceptance of which would effectively render them stateless while their ethnic group identity would be erased with their consent.

She challenged the prevalent but false characterization of Rohingya as “stateless”. Rohingyas have a state – of Myanmar – which has been committing a slow, burning genocide against them, starting with the erasure of their history, identity and documentation, beyond the obvious annihilation of Rohingya as a community on their own ancestral soil of Northern Arakan or Rakhine next to Bangladesh.

In fact, Brinham went one step further when she in effect pointed out that the complicity of the United Nations in the Rohingya genocide – still ongoing – is not confined to “technical agencies” such as the refugee agency; it goes right to the office of the UN Secretary General and his Special Envoy that are pushing Rohingya inside Myanmar to accept these “genocide cards”.

Shifting the discussion from the vulnerability and hence the need for protection of Rohingyas in refugee camps in Bangladesh and India and the diasporic limbo in Saudi Arabia, Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, talked about the extreme nature of Myanmar’s persecution of Rohingya as a group protected under international law.

“Is what happened to the Rohingya genocide? What else could it be?…In our report, we finally stated that there was sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide,” she said.

She went on to offer her take as to why there has been a shocking absence of any meaningful and effective measures by the system of states – called the United Nations – to end what her fact-finding mission observes as the genocide that is ongoing.

“Though we have a very comfortable majority of the international community who want to condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the Myanmar government, only a much smaller group wants to go toward sanctions and accountability. The fear of accountability is linked in the minds of many developing countries with a fear of losing sovereignty. Accountability is resisted by countries like India on the face of it because of their theoretical stance on sovereignty.”

As the UN member states fail to discharge their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable – not just the Rohingya, but other oppressed minorities of Myanmar such as the Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Muslims and Christians — the conference’s host professor, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak of Columbia University, pointedly observed that we the people, activists and scholars of conscience must step in and offer concrete acts of solidarity, not so much in the neo-colonialist sense of “empowering” the victims or offering them “education” as we know it in advanced industrial countries of the West, but to put at the center of global consciousness the ongoing tales of de-humanization, demonization of Rohingya genocide survivors as prospective “Muslim terrorists” and deprivation.

As a matter of fact, in Myanmar, beyond Facebook as an effective disseminator of genocidal racism and blind hatred towards Rohingya in the Burmese society at large, the Ministry of Education — which runs all universities and 99 percent of pre-collegiate schools (K-10) — is the main engine behind anti-Rohingya racism, Islamophobia and Bama or Myanmar ethno-central colonial history and knowledge about the country and its birth.

For me as a Burmese who grew up nationalistic, racist and feudal, the most powerful moment of the two-day conference came when a Rohingya refugee, Ahmad Ullah, recalled a deeply traumatic moment of seeing a 5-year-old orphan girl being beaten up by Bangladesh police for having cut into a line of Rohingya refugees waiting for their food ration for hours.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Ahmad asked the visibly moved audience at Barnard College: “What kind of a world do we live in when a 5-year-old girl is beaten up by authorities [in full view of the public] for simply wanting and asking for food?!”

Ahmad told the audience that that little girl reminded him of himself, as he grew up under similarly harsh and inhuman conditions. He was a young boy born in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar as the first boy to the parents of two Rohingya survivors of the 1991-92 waves of mass killings and violence by Myanmar.

Paraphrasing the late Hannah Arendt, the acclaimed Jewish scholar of totalitarianism, refugees are humans without the earth – which many of us take for granted – beneath their feet.

To belabour the obvious, the United Nations has failed categorically to discharge Chapter 7 of its charter, which requires the Security Council to intervene firmly in situations that threaten world peace.

While the world’s policy circles frame, typically and falsely, one million Rohingyas – with no jobs, no dignity, no schooling, no freedom of movement in the camps in Bangladesh and in their own perpetrating country of Myanmar — as “potential terrorists” prone to “radicalization”, no state and no regional bloc (EU or ASEAN or South Asia grouping) is lifting a finger to really end the genocide.

That is why, in the final minutes of the conference, virtually all Rohingya activists and many scholars and activist supporters publicly called for the boycott of Myanmar – intellectually, educationally, institutionally, commercially and culturally.

Just as Germany in the 1930s was not reformed through engagement – really acts and policies of “appeasement” by the Old Europe – Myanmar’s political society in 2019 has already sleep-walked into the zone of mass genocide and other grave crimes.

As painful as it is, as a Burmese who blew the whistle on his society’s gravest crimes – including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, I wholeheartedly support this call.

Thankfully, we were joined by Angela Davis, who expressed her support for the Rohingyas’ leadership and call for “Boycott Myanmar, End Rohingya Genocide and Other Crimes Against Minorities”. Davis gave the audience a powerful endorsement: “I will boycott Myanmar until it stops its persecution of national minorities such as Rohingya, Kachin, Shan, Karen and Rakhine.”

Impersonal states – man-made Frankensteinian institutions – may not feel the pain or hear the cries of Rohingyas and other wretched of Myanmar. But as humans of conscience and compassion, many of us hear and heed their cries. Together, we can make “Never again!” a reality for Myanmar’s oppressed.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.