THE Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia and the Initiatives for International Dialogue together with their partners and networks in civil society, and the peace movement recently joined the world in celebrating the United Nations’ International Day of Peace 2018.
This year’s theme of the International Day of Peace is “The Right to Peace – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.”
It is within the spirit of this ‘right to peace’ that we strongly reassert our peace and human rights, now being challenged repeatedly by those who continue to restrict our fundamental freedoms with a goal to undermine our concepts of justice, dignity, democracy and human rights, said the GPPAC-SEA and IID in a statement.
The GPPAC-SEA and IID took the observance of International Day of Peace last September 21 as an opportunity to further extend solidarity and express our concern over the continuing large-scale exodus of refugees across the region, particularly the Rohingya people.
In recent years, thousands of Rohingya from Rakhine state in Burma, also known as Myanmar, have fled their homes in a desperate attempt to escape the worsening sectarian violence and armed attacks mostly perpetrated by the Burmese army in their communities.
Various independent reports have documented systematic human rights violations including the burning of Rohingya villages, sexual violence against Rohingya women, and the indiscriminate shooting on unarmed and defenseless civilians. The aftermath of the intense and brutal military action by the Myanmar government has led to hundreds of innocent people being killed, destruction of livelihood and properties and multiple-displacement of Rohingya and Arakan people.
The UN has recently said that the situation of the Rohingya was an example of “virtual genocide and crimes against humanity”.
As solidarity activists, we support the urgent demand for a review and amendments to Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law—seen as a root of this tragedy, for it to comply with existing international norms; end restrictions to citizenship and freedom of movement of the Rohingya people; and urge Myanmar to comply with relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, particularly on the protection of civilians in times of conflict, and protection of children, women and minorities.
We reassert our belief that we must address the root causes of the issue and bring into focus the structural-legal discrimination against the Rohingya people. We must also situate the recent violence and abuses within the overall and long-standing patterns of human rights violations against ethnic civilians by the Burma/Myanmar military in other conflict areas in Myanmar that includes – but not limited to – northern Shan and Kachin States.
Article 1 of the ‘Declaration of the Right to Peace’, a resolution which was ratified by the plenary of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), in a majority vote by its member-states (Resolution A/71/189) in December 2016 clearly states, “Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.” This specific milestone resolution is anchored on the 3 pillars of the United Nations on peace, human rights and development.
The need to extend solidarity and assert the ‘right to peace’ especially for the Rohingya people is of utmost urgency that all-peace loving people of the region and world should never ignore.
Given the appalling lack of firm and strong regional response specifically from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the issue of Rohingya, regional civil society, human rights and peoples’ movements have to prove once again that people-to-people solidarity can in fact make a difference in the lives and struggles of the Rohingya people. The need to consolidate towards a common position on this issue is imperative.
On the occasion of International Day of Peace 2018 and beyond, we call for solidarity and pledge our unrelenting commitment to continuously struggle for human rights, justice, freedom and peace.