Statement regarding ongoing human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

November 18, 2016

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to you about the plight of the Rohingya minority living in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The Rohingya have been part of the Myanmar landscape for centuries, where they lived in peaceful coexistence with the Buddhist population until a citizenship law in 1982 made them stateless.

More than one million Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine state, where tensions have been simmering yet again between the Buddhist and Muslim populations after an attack last month which killed nine police officers was blamed on the Rohingya.

Since then, soldiers have closed down parts of the state and have prohibited independent observers, aid workers and foreign reporters from entering the area. This is of great concern.

In recent weeks, hundreds of Rohingya, including children, have been attempting to flee the current military crackdown by crossing the border into Bangladesh.

On November 13, Human Rights Watch referenced a Reuters report which published interviews with Rohingya women who allege that Myanmar soldiers raped them.

Witnesses have reported that some of those attempting to escape have been shot and killed and that hundreds of Rohingya homes have been burnt to the ground.

Through satellite imaging, Human Rights Watch has been able to identify 430 destroyed buildings in three separate districts, but they believe that the number is higher, although they cannot confirm that due to trees obstructing the imaging in certain areas.

As you know, I have spoken about the plight of the Muslim population in Myanmar on several occasions. I recall just last year when haunting images surfaced of hundreds of Rohingya people on fishing boats, attempting to escape Myanmar by sea to Malaysia.

The ongoing persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar is a topic that is not spoken about enough on the global stage, notwithstanding that the United Nations has referred to the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

A vital part of our role as senators is to speak out against human rights violations both at home and abroad. It is imperative that we give a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves.

It is for this reason that I remain committed to speaking out in this honourable chamber about the ongoing plight of the Rohingya. Moreover, I call on all parties to bring an immediate end to this current state of violence. Thank you.


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