The international community is well aware that we, the 3.5 million peace-loving Muslims of Arakan known as “Rohingya”, have long been subjected to large-scale persecution, genocide, ethnic-cleansing, diabolical tyranny and extermination particularly by the successive Burmese autocratic regime, the worst being the present State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military regime. They are also made largest target of other widespread human rights violations, including rape, summary execution, torture, slave labour, and restriction on movement, forcible dispossession and seizure of their land, denial of their citizenship, compelling them to become stateless or refugees. As a result about 1.5 million of Rohingya have been expelled to have to leave their ancestral homeland for their lives.
In the face of the rapidly deteriorating situation of the Rohingyas threatening their very existence and daunting challenges thrown upon them by the military junta, all Rohingya organisations have strongly felt that the total unity of the Rohingya people is indispensable. Thus all former Rohingya organisations – Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) — having common outlook towards all national, political and ideological matters, have united together and merged into a single organisation namely Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) to serve the cause of their people. Having established this broad-based organisation with the unanimous and unflinching support of the entire Rohingya people to translate their hope and aspirations so as to shape and charter their own destiny in accordance with their free will, we hereby declare:
(1) That the struggle of Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) is to achieve the ‘right of self-determination’ of the Rohingya people. This struggle is but the continuation of Rohingya people’s long heroic resistance movement. We the Rohingya people will remain steadfast and never lower our resistance till final victory.
(2) That the Burmese military junta has been indulging in religious persecution as a means of Burmanising the country. Much of this persecution has historically targeted Muslims. However, Christians and Hindus have also been subjected to harassment. We are committed to the preservation and growth of Islamic culture among our people without prejudice to the growth and preservation of other religious and indigenous culture in our homeland.
(3) That the Muslim community in the rest of Burma are also oppressed and persecuted. In 1997 alone, over 40 mosques had been destroyed in organised campaign of looting by the military and planned anti-Muslim riots in central Burma. The military has rejected to acknowledge the Burmese citizenship of the Muslim refugees in Thailand and refused to receive them back unless the have converted to Buddhism. We strongly condemn this act of religious persecution and bigotry and urge upon the international community to protect the rights of the racial and religious minorities of Burma. We will try every possible course of action for their civil and political rights.
(4) That the Rohingya masses, whether in the homeland or in the places of refuge, comprise one national front. They are an integral part of the Islamic Ummah as well as part of third world and of oppressed colonized humanity everywhere in the world.
(5) That about half of our population has been expelled from the country in order to annihilate the Rohingya people. Many of these uprooted people are now taking shelter in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, other Middle-East countries and Malaysia. They are still hoping to return to their ancestral homeland of Arakan. Renewed flows of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh is continuing due to incidences of forced relocation, pervasive use of forced labour, torture, rape and other atrocities. We will take all effective measures for their honourable repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration in Arakan. We are very much grateful to the peoples and governments of the countries of their refuge for their great magnanimity, help and sympathy towards these unfortunate people with a request to help them continue a peaceful-living, on humanitarian grounds, until a congenial atmosphere is crated for their safe return to their centuries-old motherland.
(6) That we will organise, inspire and activate the entire Rohingya people, irrespective of their present places of residence or refuge. We will undertake necessary steps to train and motivate the Rohingyas for improving their human qualities and consciousness.
(7) That we will undertake all programmes that may be needed from time to time for the uplift of the Rohingya people in socio-cultural, economic, educational and technical fields.
(8) That the military regime is trying to obliterate and erase Muslim entity in Arakan by distorting archaeological remains, mosques, madrassahs, shrines and graveyards in Arakan and Burma in order to wipe out the Islamic cultural heritage of Arakan. The regime is deliberately tampering with the actual figure of our people. They are engaged in statistical genocide in an effort to make our people look few, small and insignificant as part of an evil design to deny us of our rights and prepare the minds of the peoples of the world for the appalling consequences of genocide. We shall leave no stone unturned to preserve Rohingya’s history and cultural heritage and to maintain and reveal their actual population figure.
(9) That we will establish a welfare society based on equality, liberty, democracy, human rights and freedom for all people, without distinction as to race, colour and religion. Economic deprivation, exploitation, injustice and discrimination of any kind will be eradicated.
(10) That the military junta known as State Pace and Development Council
(SPDC) is clinging on power by brutally suppressing country’s opposition democratic forces and denying all the people of Burma their aspirations for human security, rights and freedom, democracy and economic development. The military is the root cause of all miseries and sufferings of the Burmese people. In fact, SPDC has become one of the most abusive regimes in Asia and is an illegitimate regime ruling the country against the
will of the Burmese people. We are determined to continue struggle, hand in hand with other compatriots and country’s democratic forces, to put this military regime to an end.
(11) That the Rohingya are a peace loving people and believe in the principle of peaceful co-existence. It is irrefutable historical truth that the two sister communities of Arakan—Rohingya and Rakhine – had lived together in perfect amity for centuries. The ruling junta is playing the inherited “divide and rule policy” among them to weaken and enslave them forever. We would like to extend our hands of friendship and co-operation to our sister community and work hand in glove with them in the interest of all people of Arakan, including that of the highlanders distributed among different tribes—such as Chin, Mro, Khami, Dainet, Thet etc – so as to charter their future and that of their generation to come. Meanwhile, we urge them to be vigilant against the machination of the enemies.
(12) That since Burmese independence, the spirit of the Union of Burma or the principle of "unity in diversity" has been undermined resulting in fratricidal civil war of long 50 years continuing till today. We believe that Burma's diverse ethnic issues and problems can only be solved through a meaningful dialogue among the military junta, the democratic opposition forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the different ethnic groups, including that of the Rohingya people. Over and above, peace can only be established in Burma when the country is transformed into a welfare state, based on federalism where equality, justice, humanity, fundamental human rights and freedom will perpetually prevail and the right of self determination of all ethnic peoples is guaranteed. In this connection, we reiterate that 'self determination' of the Rohingya people is a sine qua non for a permanent solution of their long standing problem.
(13) That Burma is a resourceful country. In spite of that Burma remains among the least developed and backward countries in the region. Educational institutes, universities and colleges remain closed, off and on, without any certainty. Burma's education system is failing and the country has little chance of producing skilled workforce. The spread of AIDS and communicable diseases are out of control and alarmingly affecting the Burmese people. Without the timely removal of the autocratic military regime, the future of Burmese people will be doomed forever. In this connection, we reiterate to struggle together with the Burmese opposition and democratic forces to put this dastardly military rule to an end once and for all.
(14) That Bangladesh is our neighbourly country, which practically shares the experience of tragedy besetting the Rohingya people. Having deep traditional and historical relationship in the bonds of Islamic fraternity and contiguity in geographical position, the people of Bangladesh have had the opportunity to closely view the historical process that led to the present position of the Rohingyas. Besides, the atrocities upon Rohingyas have a direct affect on her, particularly a huge number of Rohingyas have been taking refuge in Bangladesh over the decades to escape persecution at home. We are thankful to Bangladesh for providing food and shelter to our refugees. We, however, believe that Bangladesh, being a neighbourly Muslim country, has historical and moral obligation to endeavour for a permanent solution of the Rohingya problem.
(15) That we are concerned about the attitude of the ASEAN countries towards Burmese military regime. We urge upon the ASEAN leaders to review their policy on Burma with the SPDC and to adopt a new direction for the welfare and in the interest of the Burmese people. Particularly, the ASEAN leaders should not allow the military to perpetuate their brutalities, deprivation, injustice and insult to Islam and Muslims and other minorities in Burma.
(16) That the international community is well aware that landmine is one of the most dangerous and barbaric weapons which is a serious threat to humanity. Although campaign to ban landmines has achieved unprecedented attention, landmines continue to be a threat to the wild lives and common people of both sides of the Burma Bangladesh border, including refugees resulting in the death and injuries. Now fears have gripped the bordering villages of both Arakan and Bangladesh. Burma military also planted landmines at the Burma India border and frequent explosion of mines had killed and injured many people. We condemn the SPDC for laying of such landmines and making the border areas a "death trap ". We urge upon the international Community to pressurize the SPDC to immediately clean up all landmines laid by its armed forces and stop further laying of the same.
(17) That it is well known that the Rohingya women and girls have borne the brunt of oppression by Burma's military regime. The soldiers and officers of the regime in systematic campaigns have most horrendously abused them. We salute the female Rohingyas' courageous efforts to survive, even as refugees, widows and orphans. For the future, we support the rights of Rohingya women and girls to education, health and economic empowerment, in a new atmosphere of utmost respect and absolute safety and security.
(18) That as the dangerous narcotics flowing out of Burma with its military regime's full involvement poses a terrible hardship to all people of Asia and the world, we oppose this deadly trade. We will educate our youths of the dangers of drugs (including AIDS infection) and firmly obstruct any such narcotics trafficking through our land.
(19) That we call for a halt to the present grievous ravaging of the forests of our homeland by greedy exploiters and the Burmese military regime. For our future generations' heritage we pledge to protect our environment, including forests, rivers, wetland, Coastline Ocean. We shall save our land from unsustainable logging, killing of endangered species, all forms of pollution, and over fishing, to preserve a green haven for our children and the world.
(20) That we reject and boycott against all multinational corporate investment with the Burmese military regime. In the future, any investment and development must only be done with the wishes and welfare of our people in mind and with their full informed consent and oversight. Future development must be sustainable, appropriate, clean, and beneficial to the common people.
(21) That we appeal for all-out support of the international community, the Governments of the world and the World Bodies, including United Nations Organisations (UNO), Organisation of' Islamic Conference (O1C), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), South Asia Association for Regional Co operation (SAARC), ASEAN, Non Governmental organisations (NGOs), other humanitarian and human rights organizations.
Date: 13th December 1998