On January 14, Burma Task Force co-sponsored an event at the United Nations about last year’s November elections in Burma that brought victory to the National League for Democracy (NLD), which took its seats in parliament today, the 1st of February, 2016. The panel was titled, “Myanmar Elections: Illusory Victory or Hope for Human Rights?” Speakers included: OIC ambassardor Ufuk Gokcen, Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, Mohiuddin Yosuf of the World Rohingya Organization, Andrea Gittleman of the Holocaust Museum, as well as others.
OIC ambassador Gokcen related his experience when he visited Burma and met with two Rakhine women whose opinion he elicited regarding the issues in the state. They told Gokcen that they blamed the UN and NGO’s, saying, “all these [problems] are because of the UN and NGO’s. We don’t want UN or NGO’s.” When he asked the two “why,” they responded by saying, “we were told so” most likely by the government and Ma Ba Tha extremists. He also related how at the time OIC was not well known in Rakhine state and he was able to sign a memorandum on “humanitarian assistance” with the then leader of Border affairs. Since then however there has been an incredible deterioration and “negative transformation” politically for which he feels “regret and sadness in regard to the situation in Rakhine because it could have been quite different with wiser leadership from the union government and the Rakhine authorities.”
WRO’s, Mohiuddin Yosuf emphasized that “the situation is not an accident and not a spontaneous thing. This is a completely calculated, pre-meditated and planned design to wipe out a popultion that is 4 million strong.” Andrea Gittleman of the Holocaust Memorial Museum presented a slide show of her visit to the state where she bore witness to the persecution of the Rohingya in concentration camps. Gittleman also narrated stories highlighting the horrendous health situation that the Rohinga live under. She related the story of one Rohingya mother she met whose children had a skin condition and were also malnourished. The mother said she didn’t know “how to get help for her children.” She was unable to pay or afford transport out of the camp, she can’t afford to bribe the police officers to get out and go and if she were around Rakhine people she “was too afraid as to what could happen” and also related stories about Rohingya going to Rakhine health centers and then never leaving.