ISSUE: Addressing the Rakhine state issue with Rohingya Muslims Profile of President My name is Stephanie Kannimmel, and I will be serving as the President of the Human Rights Council at KLMUN X. Over the course of my MUN career, I have attended 14 conferences throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and The Netherlands. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
my. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you soon! History of the Committee The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an intergovernmental body in the United Nations consisting of 47 member states elected by the General Assembly. The role of the HRC is to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide, addressing situations that violate human rights and making recommendations for solutions to these issues. The HRC was created by the General Assembly on March 15, 2006, as a product of Resolution 60/251, replacing the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established in 1946. The first session of the HRC took place from June 19-30, 2006.
The following year, the HRC established its main procedures and mechanisms. This included the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, to assess human rights situations in all member states, the Advisory Committee, to provide the Council with advice on issues to be discussed, and the Complaint Procedure, allowing individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention. The HRC now meets annually in the UN office in Geneva to discuss human rights issues of pertinence requiring attention throughout the year. It also works with special rapporteurs and representatives that advise, examine, and develop solutions to human rights issues in specific countries and regions.
Statement of the ProblemHistory of the Conflict Described as the world’s most persecuted people, 1.1 million Rohingya people live in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. Having existed in the Rakhine State, previously called the kingdom of Arakan, since the 8th century, the Rohingya have lived alongside Buddhists with tension that has persisted for decades. The Rohingya are descendants of Muslims, specifically Persian and Arab traders from the 9th-14th century. After the Burman king conquered Arakan in 1784, the Rohingya fled to Bengal as refugees. As Burma became independent in 1948, after both invasion and liberation from the British, tensions increased between Burma and the Rohingya as the Rohingya wanted to join Muslim-majority Pakistan. At this stage, the Burmese government began decreasing the civil rights of the Rohingya.
In 1950, the Rohingya began to resist the government. In response, Operation Nagamin, or Dragon King, was carried out by the Burmese government in 1977 to screen the population for foreigners, including the Rohingya. As a result, over 200,000 fled to Bangladesh as human rights abuses against the Rohingya, as well as killings, massacres, torture, and arrests were carried out by the army and local Arakan residents and authorities. In 1982, an immigration law was passed by the government defining all Rohingya as illegal immigrants, referring to them as “Bengalis” and refusing to grant them legal status and citizenship. In 1992-1997, 230,000 Rohingya returned to Arakan as a reparation agreement was implemented. However, in 2012, rioting broke out between the Rohingya and Buddhists on the Rakhine state again, leading to approximately 100 Rohingya being killed and many more forced into refugee camps in Bangladesh and neighboring regions.
Displacement As of 2017, over 310,000 Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh, or are looking to flee elsewhere as the Rohingya population in Bangladesh continues to increase. Many refugees currently live in border camps, makeshift settlements, and host communities, where violence and human rights abuses continue to occur as humanitarian needs for the Rohingya are restricted. Almost 50,000 refugees are forced to live in spontaneous settlements that have come up along the border, where services and supplies are severely limited, while others remain trapped in conflict zones.
Despite the vast number of refugees seeking asylum in neighboring countries, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are among those who have denied the Rohingya asylum as refugees. Furthermore, Rohingya who are able to flee to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia have been persecuted and exploited, pushed back to sea, or detained in immigration detention centers, leaving them with no safety or place to go. Violence Violence first broke out in the western Rakhine state in 2012 as rioting and clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left 200 dead and thousands displaced. Arakan and Rohingya mobs attacked homes, shops, and places of worship, burning villages and homes and beating people. The murder and rape of a young Buddhist woman was the turning point in the violence that ensued, leading to riots continuing and spreading until today. In August 2017, violence broke out as militants attacked government forces.
Subsequently, 1,000 were killed by forces supported by Buddhist militia, and 300,000 Rohingya were forced out of their homes. Massacres in villages in the Rakhine state forced many Rohingya people to flee as soldiers raided and burned their homes. Despite the constant outbreaks of violence that persist on the Rakhine state, authorities have done little to act and prevent incidents from breaking out, claiming that the Rohingya burned their own homes and killed Buddhists and Hindus in the region. In addition to denying allegations against them, government forces do little to help prevent conflict, often taking part in the violence themselves. Humanitarian Concerns As a result of the displacement caused by violence and lack of recognition as citizens in the Rakhine state, the Rohingya are forced to relocate and seek asylum as refugees, with many residing in makeshift refugee camps. The majority of these refugee camps exist in unsanitary conditions, with refugees experiencing a lack of education, basic healthcare, and even deprivation of basic necessities such as food and water. Several Rohingya people are even restricted from seeking asylum as the government attacks Rohingya who leave their villages, resulting in many being unable to leave their homes. Food aid for the Rohingya is entirely dependent on the UN and international agencies and projects, with domestic help and donations being restricted and prohibited.
Furthermore, over 100,000 Rohingya in the Rakhine state are denied international humanitarian aid as the Myanmar government suspends aid provided to them.The Current Situation Currently, the Rohingya continue to suffer from discrimination from many, including the Myanmar government itself, classifying them as illegal immigrants and denying them citizenship. They are a stateless people, with restrictions placed on their freedom of movement, healthcare, education, and many more of their human rights. Many have been and continue to be forced to leave their homes as a result of the violence in the Rakhine state as well as the deprivation of rights and citizenship they experience from the Myanmar government. Three years ago, religious and ethnic tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists sparked violence, and since then, even more Rohingya people have been forced to leave their homes as refugees as the violence escalated, causing an influx of over 400,000 new Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh in addition to the 300,000 already residing in camps on Cox’s Bazar. This has lead to an even further shortage of basic sanitation, healthcare, and food and water.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government continues to turn a blind eye to the needs of the Rohingya, denying all claims and allegations against them. Relevant International ActionsMyanmar The corrupt government of Myanmar has been accused on several occasions by human rights organizations to be attempting to eradicate the Rohingya population from Myanmar, continuing to deny these claims. The recent violence that has persisted due to increased military tension is especially significant due to the formation of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and the violence they have participated in instead of attempting to break up conflict.
The false claims of the Myanmar government can especially be seen in their response to allegations regarding the outbreak of violence, claiming that the army is targeting militants in a counter-insurgency operation, and that all Rohingya peoples injured or killed were burning their own homes and inflicting violence upon themselves. Although there were high hopes for Aung San Suu Kyi in helping to resolve the crisis on the Rakhine State, she has done little to ensure that the conflict is solved, accused of being a bystander while tensions ensued. Despite her action in appointing Kofi Annan to lead a commission for reconciliation in the Rakhine State, she has repeatedly failed to criticize violence against the Rohingya. Overall, the Myanmar government continues to deny all allegations against them, failing to present long-term proposals and solutions to violence on the crisis.Bangladesh Following the most recent outbreak of violence in the Rakhine State in August 2017, over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh in search of asylum.
Currently, there is an estimate of up to 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. With the influx of refugees into Bangladesh, the Bangladesh government has begun to deny Rohingya refugees asylum, ordering border guards and naval services to push back boats to prevent refugees from crossing the border. The majority of the Rohingya population in Bangladesh reside in Cox’s Bazar in Southern Bangladesh. The refugee camps within Cox’s Bazar are in extremely inhumane conditions, with limited access to humanitarian aid and inadequate sanitation, nutrition, and education. Unless they are living in official UN refugee camps (of which only 20,000-30,000 Rohingya are), Rohingya children in Bangladesh have no right to education. Even within official UN refugee camps, children are not granted access to secondary education, resulting in many having to illegally send their children to schools outside camps or establish illegal schools with the risk of having them shut down. The Bangladesh government continues to resist international efforts to provide service to the Rohingya people, despite having done little to support refugees and resolve the crisis themselves for the past 25 years. Thailand Despite Thailand’s original reluctance to grant asylum to Rohingya refugees in 2015, refugee camps have now been established in Thailand that are much safer, cleaner, and more organized than refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Although Thailand is not a signatory to The 1951 Refugee Convention, the Thai government is working with the European Union (EU), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and local NGOs on projects to provide support and assistance to undocumented Rohingya refugees. The projects specifically focus on improving access to education and healthcare, with the Education for All policy being implemented to ensure that all migrant children should have access to education. In addition to addressing the needs of the Rohingya, these projects will also benefit the needs of poor Thais living in the same regions as Rohingya refugees. Malaysia Although there are approximately 150,000 Rohingya refugees registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia as of April 2017, they are often detained in immigration detention centers or are forced to work illegally, with no access to work or government education. Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are regarded as criminals and illegal immigrants, with no legal status.
According to the UN refugee agency, at least 24 refugees and asylum seekers died in Malaysia immigration detention centers in 2015, living in overcrowded cells and deprived of access to basic necessities. EU & The United States Although the EU and the United States previously placed sanctions on Myanmar, the majority of sanctions have currently been lifted. The EU works with nations including Thailand in projects to support Rohingya refugees. The United States has dropped many of their sanctions against Myanmar, including the ending of investment sanctions on July 11. Past UN efforts Despite the significant action taken by the UN to resolve the conflict on the Rakhine state, there are still many obstacles that lie in the differing viewpoints of nations on the issue. The Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, the first resolution specifically written providing solutions to the Rakhine state crisis in the form of humanitarian aid and citizenship rights, gained significant support with 135 votes in favor. However, despite this support, the resolution and others that have now followed have failed to reach Myanmar itself, with allegations against the Myanmar government and military forces continuing to be called by the Human Rights Watch.
Furthermore, many Southeast Asian leaders continue to remain silent on the issue, as well as powers such as China and Russia, voting against the resolution. Overall, there is still much work to be done in order to reach a consensus on the issue. The resolutions and conventions below include some of the most significant documents outlining the actions of the UN on the Rakhine state issue thus far:Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, 31 January 1994 (A/RES/48/150)Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, 5 December 2017 (A/HRC/RES/S-27/1)Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, 8 September 2017 (A/72/382)The 1951 Refugee Convention, 28 July 1951 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 16 December 1966 (A/RES/21/2198) Possible Solutions Apart from the efforts already being undertaken by the UN today, many measures must still be taken in order to settle and resolve the conflict on the Rakhine state in order to ensure that the Rohingya people are recognized and granted the human rights that they deserve. Firstly, nations should be encouraged to grant Rohingya refugees asylum. This can be established through the reinforcement of the Refugee Convention, as well as through the UN drawing attention to the benefits poorer members of the local community within these nations gain by allowing asylum to refugees, as exemplified through projects Thailand has begun to implement.
In a similar way, Myanmar must be engaged and urged to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, but it must be stressed that the sovereignty of Myanmar must not be compromised in doing so. In order to do so, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) could be called upon to open offices in Myanmar, working with the government and relevant humanitarian NGOs and UN agencies. Relevant organizations and committees could also offer aid in a way that will benefit Myanmar as a whole as well as to appeal to the government instead of demanding forced access and permission to help the Rohingya directly.
In addition to working towards the granting of citizenship and legal status to the Rohingya, humanitarian aid must be extended towards Rohingya refugees in refugee camps, as well as measures to manage and regulate these camps. Local organizations and willing country governments could work with the Human Rights Watch in order to provide materials and aid. Furthermore, roads and basic infrastructure could be built and funded for in order to ensure that refugees are able to receive services and gain access to safe and efficient travel for healthcare purposes.BibliographyAgence France-Presse at the United Nations. “China and Russia Oppose UN Resolution on Rohingya.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Dec. 2017, www.theguardian.
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