Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Rohingya campaign commitment to peaceful action

On 2nd April 2017, the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow campaign put out a statement condemning violence, in response to Ata Ullah allegedly stating that if 1.5 million Rohingya needed to die, if they didn’t get their rights, then all would die.

Since then, it has come to light that this he may not have said that at all but this may have been a false translation. If this is the case, I hope that the Ata Ullah will contact Reuters to insist they issue a statement to correct any misunderstanding.

As a result of our own statement, our Rohingya co-ordinator Nay San Lwin has left the campaign, his reasons explained here: https://twitter.com/nslwin/status/848891220185231360  I apologise for putting him in a difficult situation regarding our press release, which I should have consulted with him beforehand. Nay San works tirelessly for the Rohingya cause and is also a good friend, I hope perhaps he may reconsider, but I do understand and respect his reasoning.

Our campaign remains committed to peaceful activism and condemns violence. I am not Rohingya, I am living comfortably abroad, and have no right to tell the Rohingya people how they should take their struggle forward as they fight the constant threat of genocide.  However, I feel I owe it to my Rohingya friends to be clear of my serious concerns regarding what would likely happen next, should an approach of supporting such an insurgency become the consensus.

I fully support the right to self-defence, but believe an insurgency approach in the case of the Rohingya is not self-defence but putting the lives of many in extreme danger. Already we have seen perhaps 1,000 people killed, hundreds raped, hundreds arbitrarily arrested, many tortured, thousands of homes burnt, and tens of thousands of people displaced, as a result of an attack on a border guard post. The military have an 11 point plan to get rid of the Rohingya, written in 1988, but as far as we are aware still in existence today, where point 1 is to label the Rohingya as insurgents in order to justify their elimination. It therefore seems like mass suicide to go down that path.

Of course it is the Rohingya people themselves who will decide what route they take, but I must at least offer my concerns for consideration. To say nothing, knowing well how the military are looking for the slightest excuse to further clear the Rohingya from their land, would be irresponsible on my part.

If the Rohingya did decide to embrace an insurgency, this campaign would be wasting its time. Whilst multinational corporations will, with some encouragement, support the rights of the Rohingya who have embraced peaceful means to resolve their situation, they will not support any groups linked to any insurgency, and we would be faced with no option but to close this campaign.

In addition, my own type of activism, would do absolutely nothing to change the outcome, and I would therefore be better devoting my time to where I can make a difference. This does not mean to say I would not, of course, be supportive of the Rohingya’s plight, but it would mean I would not be actively campaigning with the same devotion as there are other pressing causes that I would be more effective working on. I have also heard from others who support the Rohingya campaign who have said the same. I am explaining this just so that my Rohingya friends might consider this fact as they move forward.

However, I am encouraged by several messages that I have received from Rohingya people living in Arakan, in the affected area, in addition to some Rohingya from outside Myanmar, who have expressed support for our statement urging people to condemn violence and commit to peace, and on this basis feel we can push ahead with our campaign.

We are busy now working on our next actions, drawing up a shortlist of multinational companies that we will be approaching next, and also meeting with potential partners to work with us on this cause, and we very much hope you will join us in our actions.

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