Rohingya Leader Tun Khin, co-founder and president of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, recently, paid a visit to Bangladesh and chaired a panel discussion on "Rohingya – The Need for Justice and Rights in Rakhine," jointly arranged with Brac University's Centre for Peace and Justice and Dhaka University's Centre for Genocide Studies, held at the Brac Centre Inn.
In an exclusive interview with The Business Standard's Adiba Hayat and Raihana Sayeeda Kamal, Khin talks about Myanmar's lack of sincerity regarding the Rohingya crisis and praises Bangladesh's efforts to provide the Rohingyas with shelter and aid.
As a Rohingya leader, how do you convince global leaders to press Myanmar to provide the Rohingyas with justice?
The global pressure on Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis is increasing. Also, the crisis is gaining momentum. The International Court of Justice (ICJ)'s ruling against Myanmar, the case with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the lawsuit filed against Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Argentina, by the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK are very powerful steps.
However, the ICJ case needs the support of many countries. So far, we have seen only Canada and the Netherlands extend their support to The Gambia in the ICJ's case but more countries need to come forward and support the nation – financially and with other technicalities.
This is not only about the cases; we also need to focus on imposing sanctions on Myanmar. We need to boycott Burmese products, otherwise, the government will not feel pressured.
Bangladesh has played a key role in handling the Rohingya crisis and we appreciate the hospitality and generosity of the Bangladeshi people very much. However, the international community has to step forward and support the Bangladeshi government so the momentum of this country's hospitality can be retained.
How do you see the ICJ's ruling against Myanmar; as they do not have any jurisdiction over Myanmar and there is a high chance that China's veto power will give them immunity in the UN Security Council?
We cannot deny that China is an obstacle in the course of the ICJ case, but the case is moving forward. Until the four months of provisional measures end, we cannot say for certain if China will use its veto power or not. But the decision is coming from the ICJ, not from any ordinary security council meeting. Of course, Myanmar relies on China, we cannot deny that either, but the pressure generated by the other ICC and universal jurisdiction case against Myanmar is also very strong.
I believe other sanctions will be imposed on Myanmar in the future. So, under the mounting pressure, there will be fewer chances for China to exercise its veto rights and give Myanmar immunity as both countries will be under building pressure once the provisional period is over.
Myanmar is repeatedly holding Bangladesh accountable for the delay in repatriation – accusing Bangladesh of being non-cooperative. What do you have to say about this? Is Myanmar's infrastructure ready to take them back with the safety, security and full citizenship they demand?
Myanmar is habituated with playing the blame game with Bangladesh. Everyone knows what is going on inside Rakhine state right now – where 600,000 Rohingyas have been exposed to the ongoing genocide. Everyone knows about the situation of the Rohingya community in the Arakan state and that is why the people are refusing to go back. Myanmar has, many times, accused Bangladesh of delaying repatriation as this buys the Burmese government time to impose National Verification Cards on the Rohingyas instead of issuing National Identity Cards.
I definitely think the international community can understand the game Myanmar is playing – to deny the Rohingya people their citizenship rights by not allowing them to return to their homeland. Without a promise of safety, security and protection from the atrocities, no Rohingya refugee will voluntarily return to Myanmar. If they return now, they will have to come back to Bangladesh because there is no willingness and sincerity for repatriation from Myanmar's end. This is why Myanmar's government has systematically destroyed all the villages and pushed the Rohingya population into Bangladesh. And without citizenship, there is no safety or security because they will be considered as foreigners. If anything happens to the Rohingyas in Myanmar, there will be no justice for them in their homeland.
Bhashan Char is ready for the Rohingya relocation. Would you encourage them to go there?
I think the Rohingyas can speak for themselves. We are in the diaspora. The Bangladeshi government should sit down with the Rohingya leaders in the camps to discuss the issue. The future of the Rohingyas cannot be decided by anybody but them. Whatever the refugees decide is important.
The camp has been fenced around and they are not allowed to use mobile phones or the Internet. Is this problematic?
We have faced very serious issues of: genocide, mass killings, massacres, slaughter, rape and torture in our country. This is why we fled to Bangladesh and we appreciate everything this country has done for us. We will never forget the support, hospitality and generosity of the Bangladeshi government and its people. Recently, Bangladesh arranged for the education of 10,000 Rohingya students and this is a great development. Bangladesh has been the epitome of humanity, solidarity, generosity and hospitality – they have shown it for the last two years. But, I am worried that such a development will be undermined if access to phones and the Internet are cut off plus fences are kept up. The Rohingya community in Myanmar has always been restricted from using the Internet and phones but I hope the Bangladeshi government will consider decreasing the amount of restrictions here.
Bangladesh has allowed for the education of the Rohingya children. Do you think it will create a positive impact on them?
Sixty percent of the Rohingya community in the refugee camps are children and Bangladesh's decision to educate 10,000 Rohingya children is an important and welcoming step. I would like to appeal to the Bangladeshi government to extend more help to the younger population of the Rohingya community. We need this sixty percent to stand up and walk for the rights of the Rohingyas in the future – and that is the positive impact we are hoping for.