Myanmar refugees and local civil society groups held a demo outside the Myanmar embassy to protest against the military oppression against ethnic minorities in Myanmar.
KUALA LUMPUR: Over 200 Myanmar refugees, including women and children, gathered today near the Myanmar Embassy here to protest against the ongoing military oppression against ethnic minorities back in their country.
Backed by several local civil society groups, they handed over a letter of protest, addressed to their president U Thein Sein, to a representative from the embassy.
The refugees, mainly from Kachin, Shan and Karen ethnic groups, held up banners saying “Stop killing civilians”, “Stop war crimes” and “Stop all offensives against all ethnic civilians”and one group of children help up banners stating “Why are you killing my parents?”
They chanted:”We want peace! Stop the killing! Civil war… stop… stop!”, while light strike force police were present to control the crowd.
“Dear Mr President, We, the Burma ethnic refugees in Malaysia together with the undersigned Malaysian civil society organisations wish to express our strong condemnation against the on-going arm conflicts,assaults, systematic persecution, torture and intimidation launched by the Burmese army against ethnic minority’s freedom fighters, armed groups and civilians in several states,” stated their letter to the president.
They urged their government to:
- Stop military offensive and persecution against ethnic minorities
- Sign a cease-fire agreements and to hold political dialogue in order to achieve a nationwide cease-fire with all ethnic minority groups
- Release all political prisoners across the country unconditionally
- Entirely halt the Myitsone dam project
“Now in our country, the Burmese army controls the state. They use a lot of soldiers and they kill our parents, our children… just last Saturday, they burned the schools and killed the teachers,” said protester Paul Naw Naw.
“Now many have fled to other countries but many also flee into the forests, they die there without food.”
Another protester, Sai Kham Noom, said that now in Myanmar, there’s a policy where ethnic minorities cannot practice their own culture, religion or even speak or learn their own language.
“The government doesn’t want us, they want to kill all ethnic minorities… it’s ethnic cleansing,” he said.
“We don’t want to be refugees here in Malaysia, we also want to go home to our country, we are human beings too. We are suffering here in Malaysia, our children can’t go to school,” said one of the leaders of the protest, Dominique Thetsaw.
Women raped, children killed
Explaining the situation in Myanmar, Suaram coordinator Andika Ab Wahab said the civil war in the territories in Kachin, Shan and Karen are forcing the people there to flee by the thousands to the forests, and to other countries, making Myanmar the “largest refugee producing country in the region”
“Women are raped, children are killed and their villages and houses are burnt and food are taken from them.
“Because of all this, they all have to run in fear. After the new government took over, they have said that things will improve, but the military is not even pretending to say they would change things,” said Andika, who heads the refugee desk in Suaram.
Andika said any country in the South East Asia wants to stop human trafficking and smuggling and refugees, the problem should be stopped at the roots.
“The only way to tackle the problem is to push the Myanmar government to stop the military oppression,” said Andika.
Suaram was part of over 20 other NGOs supporting the letter of protest, including Tenaganita, Lawyers for Liberty, Amnesty International.
Myanmar has been under the thumb of a military junta for nearly 50 years, since 1962. Decried by many around the world as an oppressive and “brutal” regime, the junta has kept an iron grip over nearly all facets of Burmese life.
Many have been forced to flee their country due to the rampant human rights violations, especially discriminatory to those of the ethnic minorities. There are more than 100,000 Burmese refugees residing in Malaysia, including those registered under the UNHCR and non-registered, including more than 10,000 children.
However, as refugees, they are not recognised and Malaysia classifies them as illegal immigrants under the Immigration Act.
As such, many have been mistreated and rounded up into detention centres. Some have been trafficked, never to be seen again.
The junta has also estimated to have detained more than 2,000 political opponents in the country.
By Teoh El Sen | October 11, 2011