The international community and the Bangladeshi people must stand by the Rohingya during the most rapid forced mass exodus the world has seen in a generation, rights activists and religious leaders said at a conference in Dhaka on Wednesday.
They were speaking at the “Ending the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas by Myanmar” conference organised by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in the Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Building of Dhaka University.
“We are witnessing the death of a nation,” Dr Maung Zarni, a Myanmarese human rights activist and scholar of genocide and racism, said.
“The Buddhist people in Burma are purposefully wiping out a community, and they have been doing this for the past 45 years.”
In addition to 400,000 Rohingya who were already living in Bangladesh, a total of 620,000 refugees have entered the country from Myanmar since August 24, when ethnic conflicts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state sparked the most rapid human exodus seen worldwide since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
“Over 600,000 people have been severely endangered and displaced by the Myanmar military's vicious persecution,” Ma Khin Mai Aung, a Myanmarese-Rakhine lawyer, writer and activist based in New York, said.
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The speakers of “Ending the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas by Myanmar” conference looking at the pictures of Rohingyas displayed at Dhaka University on November 29, 2017 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
“The misconception that the Rohingya people do not fundamentally belong in Burma is unfortunately widespread among the Burmese, and has been fostered by the country's military for its own goal of promoting extremist Buddhist nationalism.”
Sanghanayak Suddhanda Mahathero, president of Bangladesh Buddha Kristi Prochar Sangha, called on the international community to pressure Myanmar to repatriate its nationals from Bangladesh.
“As a Buddhist, I am ashamed that Buddhist people are committing genocide against Rohingya people in Myanmar,” he said.
Slamming Myanmar's State Counsellor for her apparent silence over the crisis, Prof Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury said: “Aung San Suu
Kyi’s role has taken us by surprise. She was once a victim, but now she is an ally of the perpetrators.” Dr Zarni urged the global community to extend a helping hand to the persecuted minority.
“The Burmese government is committing atrocities not only against the Rohingya, but also against 17 other ethnic communities in the country. This is a slow process of genocide [by the Myanmar authorities],” he said.
“It’s our duty to stand beside the Rohingya people and against the Burmese military; otherwise our next generation will ask questions about what we did when the Rohingya were persecuted.”
Other attendees at the conference on Wednesday included Prof CR Abrar of Dhaka University; Chair Emeritus of Parliament of the World Religious Dr Malik Majahid; rights activist Hameeda Hossain; Supreme Court Judge Syed Refaat Ahmed; Prof Gayatri Spivak of Columbia University in New York; and Rohingya activist Ro Nay San Lwin.