By: Shamsul Huda
Source: MWC News
GENEVA — Saudi Arabia has expressed deep concern over the continuation of acts of violence, incitement, hate speech and racial discrimination against the Muslims of Myanmar, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
In a speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday during the periodic review of the human rights situation in Myanmar, Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, the Kingdom’s representative at the United Nations, called upon the Myanmar government to restore full citizenship rights of the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state.
He asked the Myanmar government to give the Rohingyas voting rights and allow their right to protect their ethnic identity. He also asked the government to take all necessary measures to prevent sexual exploitation, including human trafficking, and to ensure the return of all Muslim refugees and displaced persons, to ensure cooperation with all parties and to allow them full access to humanitarian aid.
Trad called for amending the Citizenship Act of 1982 to include all religious and ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, in order to ensure full and equal citizenship rights, in addition to removal of policies targeting the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Over a quarter million Rohingya Muslims currently live and work in Saudi Arabia, according to an estimate by the Pennsylvania-based Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU). Rohingyas have started arriving in the Kingdom since 1940s fleeing racial persecution in Myanmar, said Dr. Tahir Mohammad, chairman of ARU, an agency established by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The ARU chairman expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to the Saudi government for its generous support to the Rohingya people saying that until now over 125,000 Rohingya Muslims have been allowed to stay legally in the Kingdom.
They have been provided with resident permits free of cost for four years. They are entitled for free medical facilities and their children are allowed to study up to secondary levels in any educational institutions in Saudi Arabia, noted Tahir.
Most importantly, Tahir pointed out, the Saudi government has made special arrangements for creating employment opportunities for Rohingya Muslims. The Labor Ministry now considers employment of four Rohingyas equal to one foreigner, encouraging private companies to hire these refugees who are readily available in the country.
While talking about the general elections in Myanmar, Tahir said that it will not be free and fair with nearly almost all Muslims deprived of their voting rights. In Myanmar, Muslim population currently stands at around 8 million including 1.03 million in the Rakhine state who are considered one of the world’s most persecuted minority groups.
The plight of Rohingya Muslims took a serious turn when a Rakhine woman was allegedly abused by some Rohingyas, a crime that could have been solved in the court. But, instead, Tahir observed, the government fueled the tension pitting Buddhists against Muslims, which left over 200 people dead and more than 200,000 homeless.
Rohingya Muslims are disenfranchised for the first time since Myanmar’s independence in 1948. They were earlier deprived of Myanmar citizenship in 1982 citing an unorthodox reason that they do not belong to any of the 135 ethnic races in Myanmar. “It’s untrue. Until 1974, there were 145 ethnic groups including Rohingyas. Later on, as part of an ill-design, Rohingya ethnic group was delisted,” said Tahir.
He accused the junta government under President Thein Sein of committing “genocide against Muslims” saying that the military wants to prolong its rule in the country with keeping 25 percent parliament seats constitutionally reserved for the unelected members of the armed forces.
Tahir lamented that Aung San Suu Kyi has never spoken out against Rohingya’s persecution although she won the Nobel prize for peace. “Nevertheless, we want Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party to win the elections as part of the transition toward democracy,” he said.
He pointed out that the Myanmar government, in recent months, passed several controversial bills curbing religious freedom of minorities, inter-faith marriages and family size. “These laws are designed to keep Muslim Rohingyas at bay,” said Tahir.
The ARU chairman has urged the world powers including the United Nations and human rights agencies to step up pressures on the Myanmar government to grant Rohingya Muslims their citizenship rights. The ARU has been working to establish the rights of minority communities in Myanmar, he said.