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Adjournment Speech: Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 13 Sep 2017

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Senator Rhiannon (New South Wales) (20:45): I also have been deeply shocked to hear the reports about what is happening to the Rohingya people. I wish to share tonight the words of some of these Rohingya people in Sydney. They have a right to be heard. We need to listen and to act on the genocide that is occurring. The first words are from Asma:

My name is Asma, I am 14 and I am a Rohingyan refugee from Burma. I am writing because what's happening in Burma is something I should not be experiencing or seeing. My people should not be experiencing this.

When I see the news I see my people being tortured, abused and women being raped. Children being slaughtered and burned alive in front of their families. This is something happening to people I know and love as well. My cousin and her husband and child and their whole village were burned alive. I have also lost all of my childhood friends. They have been killed.

My dad has been crying while he is praying. I have never seen him cry before. This breaks my heart.

This rips me inside and out. I don't understand. We are all people. Religion and race don't matter.

I want Rohingyan people to be free. They have been treated wrongly for so long just because they are Muslims.

When I first found out about the genocide I wrote this poem to try and express how I feel.

"Seeking the future we have lost

The place where we all used to share our dreams

The place where we truly knew ourselves

The place where we go when we are hurt or sad

The place where our parents, grandparents and their ancestors grew up in

The place where we, the Rohingya Muslim minority have been living on for centuries"

All we want is freedom.

Those are Asma's words. I also want to share with you this statement from the Burmese Rohingya community in Australia. It reads:

Our Rohingya brothers and sisters are being massacred as we speak here today. Thousands of civilians: men, children and women, are being: raped, hacked with machetes, shot, burned alive with petrol, and their charred remains are being desecrated and thrown into mass graves. Rohingyas have been massacred and villages razed in over 183 villages from Rathedaung to Buthidaung and Maungdaw. This massacre is being conducted by the Myanmar Army and Rakhine extremist militias acting in concert, and the world remains silent. Australian citizens and residents have been receiving reports from survivors that their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters are being slaughtered with knives and guns. They have received recent photographs and videos of their friends and families being murdered and their bodies desecrated with fire. This … is being conducted in the crematoria that is the killing fields of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung. The burning of the victims by the Myanmar Army and the Rakhine extremists serve their twin goals of the regime to instil terror in the survivors and to dispose of the evidence of Genocide.

However, each victim of these atrocities have a name and a family and the Rohingya community will remember them, and record their names, and document the way that they were murdered and desecrated. The Myanmar Government hides these mass killings from the international community. But the survivor reports show that the Myanmar Army has sought to destroy the Rohingya people by massacring village after village and seeking to extinguish all evidence that they ever lived on this earth. More than 300,000 people have fled in anguish through minefields, mortar and machine gun fire, knowing they will be murdered and desecrated if they remain.

The Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia have been collating the reports of these atrocities. The best available estimate was that 9,000 to 10,000 Rohingya civilians have been murdered by the regime in less than two weeks and more than 183 villages have been burned down. This was the available information as of 7 September 2017.

There is no international agency better suited to report on the actual death toll of the massacres than the community that has been subjected to it. The Rohingyas voice must be heard at this vital time. On the basis of an interview from the survivors' testimonies, BRCA believes that the Myanmar government planned the current ethnic cleansing in response to Kofi Annan's advisory commission and also as part of the longstanding pattern of massacres of Rohingya that have occurred over at least four decades and intensified since 2012. BRCA indicate that the Myanmar army had surrounded the Rohingya villages after 23 of August when Kofi Annan made recommendations on his advisory commission to be implemented.

They also reported that on 23 August the Myanmar army had started to commit atrocities against villagers. In this context, many Rohingya men and boys tried to defend their families and their villagers in self-defence. They have all been killed. From one village to another, all the males, including young boys under 10, have been separated from their families, tied up and killed. Women and girls have not been spared but subjected to rape, murder and the murder of their husbands and sons. BRCA speculates that this attack by the Myanmar army on 23 August was a provocation under the instructions of the Myanmar government as they feared they would have to recognise the Rohingyas and grant them citizenship, amongst other things, as per Kofi Annan's advisory commission. BRCA also highlights that, after decades of suffering persecution, no stateless Rohingya would jeopardise the chance to be finally recognised as a citizen in their own country and be given basic human and citizen rights. Myanmar's propaganda on fighting insurgents is, therefore, nothing less than preposterous.

We must listen to the victims and confront ourselves with the images of the desecrated victims and the testimonies of the survivors. It is a one-sided war of extermination by the Myanmar army against Rohingya civilians—every bit as evil as the Cambodian genocide. The world is being asked to look away while the Burmese army and the Rakhine extremists exterminate, extinguish and expel the remnants of the Rohingya people from Myanmar.

The international community must take action to stop this massacre against the Rohingya people. The obligation to prevent and punish the crime of genocide is erga omnes. It is an obligation on all to stop the crime of genocide. It is an obligation on the UN signatories to adopt 'responsibility to protect' protocols. 'We demand, on behalf of all humanity, that the Myanmar government stop the killings of the Rohingya people.' That is a statement from the Burmese Rohingya community in Australia, many of whom live in Sydney.

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