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Earlier in June, Youth Policy Forum collaborated with Oxford South Asian Society and Oxford Bangladesh Society in a dialogue titled “International Inaction over the Rohingya Crisis” – a discussion centering the role of accountability in securing justice for the Rohingya. Among the panelists were Stephen Rapp, former Ambassador at-large for War Crimes issues, Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, Liew Chin Tong, Senator and Former Deputy Defense Minister of Malaysia, Nahim Razzaq, a Member of the Bangladesh National Parliament, and Kirsty Sutherland, a visiting fellow of the Oxford Programme on International Peace and Security.

The primary goal of Youth Policy Forum’s Rohingya Advocacy Campaign is to initiate discussion regarding the Rohingya crisis and amplify the voices of the Rohingya on an international scale. The campaign brings together relevant individuals from around the world to discuss, analyse and formulate a solution for the plight of the Rohingya through collaborating with student societies of internationally revered universities such as Harvard and Oxford, engaging stakeholders such as ambassadors, politicians, scholars, international lawyers and international organizations, and bringing the Rohingya themselves to the forefront of such dialogues.

When the advocacy campaign was first launched, the Rohingya had been considered a “forgotten million”. Since then, it is a welcome development to see stakeholders from so many different parts of the world come together to talk about the solution for a once abandoned people. This is YPF’s third Rohingya Advocacy webinar, following its inaugural session in November 2020 and its collaboration with Harvard University in March.

“Though the Rohingya refugee crisis seems like a Bangladeshi issue,” remarked Zahidul Sajid, President of Oxford Bangladeshi society, “it should be regarded as a global issue, which happens to primarily affect Bangladesh, and above all, the millions of Rohingya people who are victims of genocide and have been displaced and made stateless.” He stressed that it will continue to be a goal for student societies like the OBS to continue to facilitate such critical conversations.

Throughout the discussion, there was a strong emphasis on the recognition of the Rohingyas’ citizenship being a fundamental step towards finding a solution. Mr. Tun Khin, a representative of the Rohingya community himself, mentioned that ever since the citizenship rights were stripped in 1982, there has been no clear answer as to how to get them back. He further stressed how the Arakan Army, an ethnic militia, had been extorting the Rohingya on top of the genocide they had already faced at the hands of the Tatmadaw, the military regime of Myanmar.

He stated that the international community has failed to take any action to hold any of them accountable. Former Ambassador Stephen Rapp added that the Rohingyas have been left out of the conversation entirely in spite of the world’s focus on the situation in Myanmar.

The National Unity Government, a “Parallel Government” formed by remnants of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party, had been brought up a few times during this discussion. The NUG made headlines in offering the Rohingya citizenship in early June, although this was met with suspicion by some commentators. Mr. Liew Chin Tong also asserted that the NUG may possibly have an important role to play, and that they should be included in further conversations regarding the Rohingya crisis going forward. Mr. Tun Khin had mentioned that the NUG must further clarify their stance and policy for the Rohingyas, as well as the matter of their recognition of the Rohingya Genocide.

The discussion also emphasized that the coup in February stemmed from the complete impunity the military enjoys in Myanmar. With hundreds of protestors killed and many arrested, the lack of accountability continues to allow them to perpetuate atrocities against Burmese civilians. “The crimes they committed against the Rohingya – the military is now doing the same thing to the whole country,” said Tun Khin. Before any resolution is reached, the military must be held accountable for the countless crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide it has committed against the Rohingya.

The dominant theme of the session – accountability – was well highlighted. Mr. Nahim Razzaq noted that regional players such as China must be held accountable for the partnerships they forge with Myanmar, as this creates an obstacle for justice. At the same time, he noted the need for proactiveness among regional stakeholders such as ASEAN and India to step up and hold Myanmar accountable. He also called attention to the need for other states to step forward to aid the Rohingya, as Bangladesh has already been stretched beyond capacity.

Other panelists stressed on the need to consider international accountability mechanisms. Ms. Kirsty Sutherland regretted the inaction of the UK in pursuing dialogue regarding the crisis in the Security Council, where resolutions have been rare regarding the crisis. She further stated that the UK could put pressure on Myanmar by using its hefty political weight to leverage

Singapore’s significant economic influence within ASEAN. As developments in Myanmar continue to occur, it is now more important than ever to raise awareness regarding the plight of the Rohingya. Youth Policy Forum’s Rohingya Advocacy campaign aims to ensure that the world does not forget about the countless Rohingya who have had to suffer from endless persecution in Myanmar. With further dialogues and international engagement under the campaign, YPF aims to keep the cause of the Rohingya at the forefront and hopes that the Rohingya will be able to return home safely and with dignity.

For more information please contact YPF

Contributors

Sheikh Zaharat Maanha, Associate in YPF’s Rohingya Advocacy team.

Afia Ibnat, Deputy Lead in YPF’s Rohingya Advocacy team.