The below-named Canadian civil society organizations and individuals, who all have a strong interest and/or long experience of working in the Asia-Pacific region, are gravely concerned regarding the latest wave of military violence against Rohingya civilians in northwestern Myanmar.
The Myanmar military is inflicting collective, disproportionate and illegal punishment on Rohingya civilians following attacks on several police and military installations on August 25, 2017 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. These attacks were used as an excuse for the army to systematically attack and burn Rohingya villages, raping and murdering civilians in the process.
This latest violence follows attacks in October 2016, when the military attacked dozens of villages, killing an untold number and displacing more than 80,000 people. Now hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that since August 25, 2017, about 410,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in their native Myanmar for refugee camps in Bangladesh.
A number of fellow Nobel peace laureates have called on Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the violence and the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar has called on her to “step in.” While we appreciate the State Counsellor’s September 18, 2017 condemnation of human rights violations, this condemnation is compromised by her denial of ongoing military and police operations, and the government’s insistence that there is not a mass campaign directed at civilians.
Unfortunately, the Myanmar government has made no public effort to end the violence – to the contrary, the words and actions of the government have severely aggravated the situation. Moreover, the government has systematically blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the Rohingyas, which may constitute a crime under international law. It has consistently denied all reports of military abuses, and is currently blocking a UN-mandated fact finding team from accessing the region.
We are pleased with the Canadian government’s recent announcement of $2.5 million in aid, and encourage Global Affairs to find opportunities to allocate more aid towards needs identified by front-line organizations as the most urgent. We applaud Prime Minister Trudeau’s letter to Aung San Suu Kyi that underscored her moral obligation to help stop the crisis, and Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland’s announcement of planned advocacy at the United Nations General Assembly. To this latter end, we urgently call on the Canadian government to:
- Use all diplomatic channels, particularly through its Embassy in Yangon, to press and support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Myanmar to ensure the cessation of the ongoing hostilities, to protect the human rights of Rohingya people, and denounce the exactions perpetrated by the Myanmar military;
- Demand that the government of Myanmar provide unimpeded access to the Fact-Finding Mission established in March 2017 by resolution of the UN Human Rights Council;
- Push for humanitarian access and ensure relief assistance in Rakhine State;
- Press Myanmar officials to desist their inflammatory rhetoric which is endangering humanitarian workers and empowering the military to continue its campaign against civilians;
- Encourage the use of all possible legal channels – national and international - to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities and human rights abuses;
- Implement immediate travel bans on all Burma Army leaders attempting to visit Canada;
- Propose the introduction of a United Nations arms embargo against the Myanmar Military, as a measure to reduce the ongoing violence in Rakhine State and also in Kachin and Shan States; and
- Encourage and support the Myanmar government to demonstrate its commitment to finding meaningful and lasting solutions to the issues in Rakhine State, including, among others, by applying the recommendations of the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
We and our organizations will continue to monitor the situation, and urge the Canadian government to continue deepening its action on this worsening humanitarian crisis.
The following institutions have endorsed this statement:
Associates to Develop Democratic Burma / Euro-Burma Office
Burmese Muslim Association
Canada Tibet Committee
Canadian Collective against Islamophobia
Canadian Federation of University Women
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Development and Peace
Initiatives of Change Canada
Innerspeak Digital Media
International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines – Canada
International Development and Relief Foundation
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Mae Sot Education Project
MATCH International Women's Fund
MY STORY photo project
National Union of Public and General Employees
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Partners Relief & Development Canada
Peace Brigades International Canada
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
Project Umbrella Burma
The Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund
Rohingya Association of Canada
Steelworkers Humanity Fund
South Asia Partnership Canada
Unifor Social Justice Fund
World University Service Canada
The following individuals, all of whom have years of experience working in Myanmar or of acting in solidarity with struggles for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, have endorsed this statement:
Dominique Caouette, Études contemporaines et transdisciplinaires de l’Asie du Sud-Est, Université de Montréal
Naima Chowdhury, Women's Leadership and Gender Specialist, COADY International Institute, Saint Francis Xavier University
Paul Copeland, C.M.
Rod Germaine, founder of the former Just Aid Foundation
Fareed Khan, sponsor of Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship
Susan Hartley, Rotary Global Peace Scholar
Murray Thomson, Co-Founder, Canadian Friends of Burma
Nisha Toomey, former board member, Canadian Friends of Burma
Paul Turcot, South House Exchange
Jody Williams, Nobel peace laureate (1997) and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative