In a short few days, Burma will go to the polls for a parliamentary elections that have long been heralded as the symbol of change from despotic leadership to a fledging new democracy. It is widely expected that the NLD (the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) will sweep to victory. But will this change anything for the millions of ethnic minorities that have long championed Suu Kyi as the saviour of human rights in Burma?
Almost by default, these elections will mean little difference will be seen on the political landscape as 25% of all seats at parliament will be reserved for the military implying that any political reform can be effectively blocked and vetoed by the military members of parliament.
This is also the first time that no Rohingya candidates have been allowed to stand for election and will wipe out any political voice, whether powerful or not, of the marginalised ethnic group off the face of Burma's new 'democracy'. Since the military coup of General Ne Win in 1962, the rights of the Rohingya, once equal citizens of Burma, have been eroded to a point where they are no longer able to engage in the political system of Burma.
A military charged apparatus of hate showered the Rohingya in the early days of Ne Win's leadership leading to a mass exodus in the late 1970's after countless cases of arbitrary arrests, land grabbing, denial of access to education, denial of right to migrate around Burma, denial of marriage rights amongst many others, until the ratification of the 1982 Citizenship Law which rendered the Rohingya a stateless minority in their own homeland. Since Thein Sein rose to power after the 2010 elections, there were some initial signs of reform under the military man's stewardship.
This got the likes of the USA, UK and the EU at large salivating at the prospect of a 'new frontier' opening up in Burma. Almost all sanctions were immediately lifted rendering all trump cards of leveraging Burma away from human rights abuses, useless. Then followed the outbreak of xenophobic mob attacks in 2012 against the Rohingya in Arakan state. Of the 1.3 million Rohingya, over 150,000 were forced into permanent IDP camps. Reports of savage treatment lead to widespread claims of open air prisons being manufactured by the Burmese authorities.
2013 and 2014 saw a rise of the 969 movement led by their notorious leader, Buddhist Monk, Wirathu. Horrific attacks against Muslim communities across Burma took place and images of people being burned alive were transmitted across the globe. And our 'Heroes of Democracy' the likes of Cameron, Obama et al continued to visit and to smile and to shake hands with those standing by, watching, encouraging such damaging acts of vitriolic violence.
2015 saw almost 200,000 Rohingya flee from Burma's shores into the high and open seas of the Andaman. Human traffickers revelled in their trade and mass graves were found across the Thailand-Malaysia border. 8,000 Rohingya were left to float at sea without food and water and in serious danger of ongoing abuses by traffickers while Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand's governments refused access to shore. The world continued to watch unwilling to step in and rescue. Many hundreds perished. Many thousands were displaced. Once again.
Last week Fortify Rights and the Yale Law School, Queen Mary University of London, Al Jazeera and Sky News all reported that the treatment of the Rohingya by Burma's authorities show and meet the definition of genocide. Reports in the past have commented how ethnic cleansing, apartheid and crimes against humanity have all taken place. And yet, on Sunday, when the NLD sweeps to power, most International news outlets will report of change in Burma.
When will we learn?
Restless Beings with our partners Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Burmese Muslim Association, Burma Campaign UK and Bradford Rohingya Community UK will be demonstrating outside the FCO office in London to 'Stop Genocide Against Rohingya' on Thursday 5th November 2015 from 2pm to 3pm. This will be followed up by a press conference which will be held at Queen Mary University Law School at 4pm. We urge you to attend.
Demonstration - Thursday 5th November, 2pm to 3pm
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London. (Nearest Tube - Westminster)
Press Conference - Thursday 5th November, 4pm to 5pm
Queen Mary University Law School, Mile End, London (Nearest Tube - Mile End
To confirm attendance to press conference please email firstname.lastname@example.org