Maung Tun Khin this week became the first Rohingya to brief the US congress on the religious persecution of ethnic minorities at the hands of the Burmese government.
The president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) travelled to the US as part of a delegation, joined by Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Benedict Rogers.
Maung Tun Khin said the visit was “an extremely valuable opportunity to provide a voice for all the people of Burma, including the Rohingya, and to advocate for a UN commission of inquiry to be established, to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes”.
Rogers told the congress panel, which included congressmen Joseph Pitts and Chris Smith, that the plight of ethnic and religious minorities in Burma was “neglected”.
There has been a concerted effort to attempt to try the Burmese junta for crimes against humanity and war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Maung Tun Khin presented evidence of the widespread, systematic persecution of his people and the growing crisis of refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries on earth.
The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim group estimated by the UN to number some 800,000, reside in Burma’s western Arakan state. Their treatment by the Burmese government has long been regarded as amongst the most brutal in the world.
Elaine Pearson, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), recently told DVB that “there are serious concerns for the Rohingya’s safety inside Burma”, whilst calling on more countries to take Rohingya as refugees.
The open racism of the Burmese government, which denies them citizenship, was exemplified in February last year by Burma’s ambassador to Hong Kong, Ye Myint Aung, who described the Rohingya as “ugly as ogres” in a letter to the press.
This comment followed one month after photographs emerged of nearly 1,000 Rohingya who had washed up in boats on Thailand’s southeastern coast being towed back out to sea by Thai authorities, where four of the boats sank. The Thai government was roundly condemned for the treatment.
Bangladesh has also been criticised for blocking attempts by the UN refugee agency to grant refugee status to the estimated 378,000 who remain in the country’s eastern Cox’s Bazaar district illegally.