114 Int’l Orgs, 32 Individuals Urge Myanmar to Protect Civilians’ Rights in Rakhine

December 14th, 2017  •  Author:   The Daily Star  •  11 minute read

The world renowned 114 organisations and 32 individuals in a joint statement today underscored the need for prioritising protection of the civilians in Rakhine and called upon the Myanmar authority to address the roots of the conflict.

“We, the undersigned civil society organisations, people’s organisations and individuals, affirm our belief in peoples’ right to self-identification, and the primacy of dialogue and a politically-negotiated settlement in transforming conflicts,” the statement said.

“We express our deep anguish and concern with the latest escalation of violence in Rakhine State in Myanmar and the attacks against unarmed civilians. We condemn the targeting of civilians of any ethnicity and religion by any armed group for any reason,” it said.

This latest wave of conflict, which has festered for decades and been perpetrated by the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) on the Rohingya population, was lately spawned by the Tatmadaw’s heavy-handed response to a recent attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on border guard and police outposts, the statement reads.

The aftermath of the ferocious Myanmar military action has led to hundreds of innocent civilian people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Over 600,000 civilians from northern Rakhine State, mostly members of the Rohingya community, have been forced to flee their homes, according to the statement.

“We are particularly concerned about the clearance operations conducted by the Myanmar military during which various independent reports have documented systematic burning of Rohingya villages sexual violence against Rohingya women and opening fire on unarmed civilians,” the organisations and individuals said.

The conflict’s impact on the civilian population has been multiplied by restrictions on humanitarian access to vulnerable communities. In 25 August 2017, humanitarian agencies were forced to suspend all operations in northern Rakhine State, including provision of aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations due to several factors including the security situation on the ground, government field-visit restrictions and protests by ethnic Rakhine against international aid, they said.

While some aid workers have reportedly been allowed access to Rakhine, the overall approval process remains cumbersome. Myanmar media and government-linked social media accounts have contributed to a strong anti-international sentiment in the country fanned by circulation of falsified information including information linking humanitarian agencies and the ARSA, according to the joint statement.

Myanmar nationalists, including those within the government and military as well as those in the host countries in Southeast and South Asia, have also contributed to an atmosphere of fear and hatred through hate speech, propaganda and inflammatory remarks that dehumanize the Rohingya and increase support for the military’s response, the statement said.

“We believe that aside from the immediate end in hostilities and emergency humanitarian response, we must address the root causes of the issue and bring into focus the structural-legal discrimination against the Rohingya people.”

“We must also situate the recent violence and abuses within the overall and long-standing patterns of human rights violations against ethnic civilians by the Myanmar military in other conflict areas in Myanmar that includes – but not limited to – northern Shan and Kachin States. Impunity for abuses against civilians during decades of conflict with ethnic armed organizations has encouraged the Myanmar military to apply the same tactics in Rakhine State,” it said.

There will be no end to the cycles of conflict and displacement in Rakhine State without addressing the main drivers and the roots of this conflict.

Thus, the below signatories call on the Myanmar military to:

• Cease violence against and abuses of unarmed civilians in Rakhine State and the other conflict areas such as northern Shan and Kachin States.

• Comply with relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, particularly with regards to the protection of civilians in conflict, and protection of children, women and minorities.

• Hold accountable those who have committed crimes against civilians.

• Cooperate with the civilian government to allow access for humanitarian groups to assist the entire displaced population, without discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or citizenship status.

Myanmar Civilian Government to:

• Publicly call on the Myanmar military to protect civilians and abide by international law in its military engagements.

• Hold accountable any soldiers and civilians who have committed crimes in the conduct of military operations.

• Cease circulation of unverified, inflammatory material on social media and condemn hate speech against Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.

• Allow independent monitors including the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission and independent media into northern Rakhine State and other areas of Myanmar.

• Allow unconditional access for humanitarian aid and response in Rakhine State and other parts of Myanmar. Seek assistance from the international community particularly among co-members of ASEAN to provide humanitarian relief and protection to displaced people.

• Review and amend the 1982 Citizenship Law to be in line with international norms; end restrictions to citizenship and freedom of movement of the Rohingya people.

• Comply with relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, particularly in regards to the protection of civilians in conflict, and protection of children, women and minorities.

• Undertake a process of review and amendment of the 2008 Constitution in order to bring the military under civilian control and ensure accountability for serious crimes.

Civil Society in Myanmar to:

• Cease circulation of unverified, inflammatory material on social media and condemn hate speech towards the Rohingya and other minorities.

• Promote understanding of human rights and humanitarian law, particularly in regards to protection of civilians and non-discrimination.

• Call on the government to allow access to independent media and unhindered humanitarian aid.

• Engage the Myanmar military and government on cessation of hostilities, review of discriminatory legal frameworks, and compliance with international human rights conventions.

• Link efforts with other ethnic and relevant regional and international civil society platforms.

International and regional intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to:

• Coordinate to monitor developments in Rakhine State and other conflict-affected areas, as well as monitor governments’ action on the refugees, mindful of ‘Do No Harm’ principles.

• Support/impose a global arms embargo and advocate to relevant governments to cease military-to-military engagement and impose targeted sanctions against the Myanmar Army, until it ends attacks against civilians.

• Support and cooperate with the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission on alleged crimes and human rights violations throughout Myanmar particularly in northern Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) and its members states to:

• Prioritize immediate dialogue between Myanmar and other ASEAN members on Rohingya issue with the aim to seek a sustainable solution to the conflict and to address the continuous human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar.

• Open borders and pro-actively accept and provide shelter and assistance to fleeing refugees from Rakhine State. Respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, in accordance with international law, which forbids a country from returning asylum seekers to their country of origin when they would be likely to face persecution based on race, religion, nationality, and from membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

• Send an ASEAN peace and humanitarian mission to provide humanitarian relief to displaced persons in Rakhine State and in Bangladesh.

• Urge the Myanmar government to conduct a comprehensive review of its 1982 Citizenship and other discriminatory laws in order to ensure that all persons should have rights and equal access to citizenship and are not treated unfairly on grounds of ethnicity, political and religious beliefs

• Revisit and review ASEAN Charter principles and current practices and consider embedding prevention norms for internal conflicts.

• Strengthen and mobilize ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) mandate and mechanisms to tackle the crisis, and similar cases.

• Move towards a collective and decisive approach to regional conflict prevention, in line with its priority theme on “peace and stability.”

Initial Signatories:

114 organisations

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)

Solidarity for ASEAN Peoples’ Advocacies (SAPA)

Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) / GPPAC Southeast Asia, Philippines

Progressive Voice (PV), Myanmar/Burma

SUARAM, Malaysia

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Working Group for Peace (WGP), Cambodia

Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT), Cambodia

Cambodia Civil Society Working on Asian (CCWA)

Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP)

IM Centre for Dialogue and Peace-Indonesia

Institut Titian Perdamaian (Peace Building Institute) (ITP), Indonesia

People’s Empowerment Foundation, Thailand

Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN)


Think Centre, Singapore

SAMIN, Indonesia

Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Center for Peace Education-Miriam College (CPE), Philippines

Acehnese Civil Society Task Force (ACSTF), Indonesia

Asia Democracy Network (ADN)


International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia

Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

Islamic Renaissance Front, Malaysia

MARUAH, Singapore

Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)

Arakan Watch

Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC), Malaysia

Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYFF), Arakan-Burma

Rohingya Academy

Destination Justice, Cambodia

Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, Cambodia

Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), Cambodia

Centre for Development Resources

KontraS, Indonesia

Swedish Burma Committee (SBC)

GZO Peace Institute, Philippines

Burmese Relief Center, Japan

Free Burma Campaign, South Africa

Info Birmanie, France

International Campaign for the Rohingya

Karen Community of Canada

Rhiza Collective

The Arakan Project

Coalition of Cambodia Farmer Community

Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM), Malaysia

Empowering Singaporeans, Singapore

ReturnOurCPF, Singapore

Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P)

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

Women Health, Philippines

Migrants Rights Council, India

Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK/NRWC), Philippines

Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines

RIGHTS Network, Philippines

Vietnam Coalition Against Torture

Buhay Na May Dignidad Para Sa Lahat (DIGNIDAD)/Life of Dignity For All, Philippines

Action Aid International

Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP)

SYNERGY (Social Harmony Organization), Myanmar/Burma

Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA), Cambodia

ASEAN Youth Forum

Boat People SOS

Burma Human Rights Network


Stiftung Asienhaus

Acehnese Women’s Education Foundation

Women Peace Network-Arakan

Sustainability and Participation thru Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL), Philippines

Centre for Community Development and Social Work (Codes Vietnam)

Center for Community Development and Education (CCDE)

Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), New Delhi, India

Tampadipa Institute, Myanmar/Burma

Mrinal Gore Interactive Centre for Social Justice and Peace, India

Partido Manggagawa, Philippines

National Garments Workers Federation, Bangladesh

Migrant CARE, Indonesia

Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM), Philippines

Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Pakistan

National Garments Workers Federation, Bangladesh

Focus on the Global South

Stop the War Coalition, Philippines

New Trade Union Initiative, India

Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh

Philippinenbüro e.V., Germany

Network of Young Democratic Asians (NOYDA)

People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea

PeaceMOMO, South Korea

Green Formosa Front, Taiwan

Genocide Watch, United States

Alliance for Peacebuilding, United States

International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)

World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP)

Permanent Peace Movement (PPM), Lebanon

Middle East and North Africa Partnership for Preventing of Armed Conflict (MENAPPAC)

femLINKpacific / GPPAC Pacific, Fiji

Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition, Vanuatu

Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES) / GPPAC Latin America and the Carribean, Argentina

International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN) / GPPAC South Caucuses, Georgia

Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) / GPPAC Central Asia, Kyrgyztan

GPPAC Eastern Europe

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Igarapé Institute, Brazil

United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK), UK

Nansen Dialogue Centre, Serbia

Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), Liberia

U.S. Campaign for Burma

Freedom House

United Nations Association of Sweden

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Minority Rights Group International

32 individuals

Sushil Pyakurel, Former Commissioner National Human Rights Commission, Nepal

Andrew Khoo, Advocate and Solicitor, Malaysia

Prof. Walden Bello, Philippines

Wensislaus Fatubun, Papuan Film-maker, Human Right Defender and Lobbyist in Geneva

A. S. M. Enamul Hoque, Independent Consultant (development, public health and humanitarian service) and human rights activist, Bangladesh

Huynh Thuc Vy, chairwoman of Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), Vietnam Bruce Van Voorhis, United States

Masjaliza Hamzah, Human rights activist, Malaysia

Marina Mahathir, Writer, Malaysia

Dayang Karna Bahidjan, Development Worker and Muslim woman, Mindanao-Philippines

Andrew Paul, MA Candidate, York University, Toronto, Canada

Ging Cristobal, Philippines

Han Hui Hui, Singaporean Human Rights Defender, Singapore

Anabelle Vitacion, Philippines

Naomi Fontanos, Philippines

Tuan Q. Nguyen, USA

Tabrani Yunis, Director of Center for Community Development and Education (CCDE)-Aceh, Indonesia

Tabrani Yunis, Indonesia

Dorothy Guerrero, Philippines

Oksana Chelysheva, member of Union of Journalists of Finland

Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, India

Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, India

William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender and Freelance Journalist, UK

Thin New Soe, Burma/Myanmar

Aresenio Pereira da Silva, Timor Leste

Susanne Sutthisunsanee, Thailand

Dr. Eduardo Tadem, Philippines

Prof. Gamini Keerawella, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Sri Lanka

Dr. Jehan Perera, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

Michael Y. M. KAU, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), Taiwan

Mohammad Reza Eslami, Iran

Harriet Atim, Uganda

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