Burma Correspondent: Burma needs “space” to address human rights abuses in its agitated northwest, adding it would respect the call by leader Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid the term “Rohingya” to describe persecuted Muslims there, the European Union (EU) said on Wednesday.
The statement exposes a gap in the West’s move toward the sensitive issue, standing in difference with the US, which said it would continue to use the term, Rohingya refer to a respect for the right of communities to choose what they should be called.
The 1.1 million Muslims minorities, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Burma Buddhists as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The term is a troublesome problem and tensions around the Muslim minority are rising.
Some 120,000 Rohingya Muslims forced to flee to squalid camps since anti-Muslims violence erupted in Rakhine State in 2012 while thousands have fled persecution and poverty to neighboring counties by rickety boats taking risk of life.
The abuses such as, executions and torture, together may rise to crimes against humanity, the U.N. said on Monday.
“We understand that the word ‘Rohingya’ is emotionally charged in Burma and we have heard the call of the government to avoid creating tension by using polarizing terms,” Roland Kobia, the EU ambassador to Burma, told reporters.
“Therefore, we need to give political time to find a solution to this protracted issue steadily.” Suu Kyi’s administration last week tabled a new term for the Rohingya – “Muslim community in Rakhine State” – but the description has quickly run into opposition.
The (ANP), formed by Rakhine hardliners in the state, said the government was biased and the new term was refused. “We consider that using the new term … is equal to sense that they are natives of Rakhine region by ignoring the original place of these Bengali people,” the party said in a statement.
The former army-linked government referred to the group as “Bengalis”, exposing they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though their existence in Burma for generations. Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya activist from Women Peace Network Arakan (WPNA), said the government must protect, listen and consult with ethnic minorities if it claims that Burma is now a democratic country.
Wai Wai Nu liked to ask it: “Why are you denying us our identity…and not taking a possible, positive and comprehensive step to move forward”? The government should deal with the systematic persecution and discrimination against Rohingya minorities and guarantee protection of their rights by respecting their ethnicity, identity and name,” she added.