Event on Indigenous People in Tokyo
What comes to your mind when you hear Indigenous people? Indigenous people in U.S.A or Aborigines in Australia or Ainu people in Hokkaido or Rohingyas in Arakan. The “Indigenous question” is not unrelated to anyone of Peace Loving Community around the world.
The Ainu people in Japan are active in the fight for their rights. Also many indigenous minority people from overseas living in Japan who share with the Ainu people, similar experiences of being unjustly deprived of their rights, land, resources and have come to Japan to flee from genocide and violence in their countries of origin; Despite their differences of origin, these people are voicing against the same injustice, discrimination and calling on the Japanese and international community to listen to their voice.
Regarding above the Peace Research Institute of Meiji Gakuin University sponsored an event to raise the question of Indigenous people by inviting Ainu people from Japan,Jumma from Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, Burmese Rohingya from Arakan State and Chin People from Burma.
The Event was held in Meiji Gakuin University Sinrogane Campus in Tokyo on 15 June, 2008. The programme was started with performance by Ainu Rebels at 2:00 PM and followed a speech from a representative of Jumma People. After the break the programme continued with the speeches from the representatives of Indigenous minority people from Burma. Mr. Zaw Min Htut of Burmese and Mr. Nang Lian Tang of Chin people made their speeches based on their history, human rights violation and discrimination faced by their respective peple providing with slideshow and documentary video clips.
The Event was officially endorsed by Jumma Net, Peace Power Forum, Yay Yukar No Mori, Kin Inde Mushekoji (forma UN University Vice-Rector, IMADR, PFB, Hokkaido Peace Net and various other NGOs.
There were about 180 participants from various fields; students, NGO members, Peace Activists, journalists, professors and indigenous minority people. Some Rohingyas living in Japan participated at the Event and distributed hundreds of leaflets describing their agony with the current Burmese military Junta.
* * * * *
Below is the Burmese Rohingya representative Mr. Zaw Min Htut’s speech:
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentleman;
I am Zaw Min Htut, a member of Burmese ethnic Rohingya minority living in Japan. I would like to thank to the organizers of this events for inviting us to have a presentation. I am honored to have an opportunity for the presentation today.
The Rohingyas, whose settlements in Burma dated back to 788 A.D, are an ethnic minority developed from different groups of people. They trace their ancestry from Arabs, Moors, Persians, Turks, Moguls, Pathans, Bangalees, Rakhine Chakmas, Dutch and Portuguese. Rohang/Roshand the old name of present day’s Arakan, was very familiar with the Arabs seafarers even during the pre-Islamic days. The descendents of the mixed marriage between the local people and Arabs founded the original nucleus of the Rohingyas in Arakan. The Rohingyas speak a particular language mixed primarily with words from Urdu, Hindi and Arabic languages but also from Bama, Rakhine and English languages. The Rohingya Muslims preserved their own heritage, religion and culture even the impact of Buddhist environment.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Historically Rohingyas are the natives of Arakan. The Rohingyas have been recognized as an indigenous people of Arakan by the previous democratic and elected governments of Burma with their members in Parliament, having a programme as an indigenous people in the official Burma’s racial groups. In spite of this, today’s military junta likes to say that there are 135 ethnic races in Burma and the Rohingyas are not one of them. Furthermore Rohingyas have been denied their citizenship rights and treated not only as foreigners but also as an undesired people. The withholding of citizenship has become a mechanism for discrimination and persecution on the basis of ethnicity and religion. Unlike common people in Burma who have been suffering mainly due to the military rule, the unprecedented pain and sufferings of Rohingyas are because of a deep-rooted conspiracy against them based on historical animosity, geographical situation, racial prejudice and religious bigotry.
The Rohingyas of Burma are vulnerable as they have no legal status in their home land and are considered non-national or foreign residents. The plights of Rohingyas demonstrate how people without citizenship rights in their own country can be forced out and became refugees, leaving them still vulnerable and without citizenship in their country of origin.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since military came in to power in 1962, the Rohingyas are victims of the worst kind of systematic, state-sponsored and patronized oppression, repression, discrimination, eviction, relocation, extortion and expulsion from their hearts and homes. Even their basic human rights, i.e. right to live with dignity and honor have been taken away. They have been facing inhuman torture, strict restriction of movement, restriction on marriage, restriction on religious activities, restriction on health and education. They subjected force labor, force relocation, confiscation of their properties, summary execution, mass killing and rape.
In fact, the current military regime has totally denied the Rohingya peoples’ rights to exist in Arakan, the main reason is they are Muslims. Time and again they are driven across the border to Bangladesh like the force exodus of 1978 and 1991-92.
Ladies and gentlemen,
From the beginning of early 1990s, some Rohingya arrived in Japan for seeking asylum. Since then Rohingyas have been working for democracy and human rights in Burma. A handful of Rohingyas have been granted as refugees but more than hundred of them have been abandoned by the Japanese government.
At the same time, we Burmese Rohingyas regrettably find that most of other Burmese groups are very reluctant to cooperate with us in our straggle for restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma
It is not difficult to understand why half of the Rohingyas population numbering one million and half has opted for a life of exile and uncertainty. They live as unwanted refugees and illegal immigrants in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Rohingyas have been called one of the world’s most persecuted people. Some argue that they are also one of the most forgotten people on the earth. I believe all human rights violations will be eradicated and all minorities will be protected with their due rights all over the world within a short period of this century. I anticipate for your effective contemplation and constructive engagement in protecting minority rights.
Rohingyas are innocent and peace loving people. It is time for the peace loving international community to raise their voice against the Burmese military to promote human rights in Burma. I myself with the Burmese Rohingyas living in Japan is appealing to the international governing bodies and peace loving people to do their best for the eradication of discrimination against minority people, human rights violation, protection of minority rights and restoration of democracy in Burma.
Thank you very much.