By Ceci Sturman, Amnesty International USA
When the Myanmar military entered the town of Kyet Yoe Pyin last October they lit their torches and set fire to houses. Schools. Mosques. Shops. No building was spared. They kept the village burning for weeks, and they shot down everyone they could find in the process.
A former resident of Kyet Yoe Pyin told Amnesty International, “Secretly and suddenly they entered our village and started randomly firing on everyone they saw… They came again a few weeks later. They fired their guns again at the villagers. When I saw them coming I ran away, but my younger brother, sister and mother stayed at home. They were all killed. Now I am alone.”
When the entire village was burned to the ground, the military abandoned the site. There was nothing left in the town, no food, no clothes, no shelter, and no sign of life.
Unfortunately, this horrific incident is not unique to the town of Kyet Yoe Pyin, nor was this the last time this will happen. Once the military left Kyet Yoe Pyin, they pillaged another innocent town, and another, and another. Amnesty International has been on the ground documenting this ethnic cleansing, with the hopes of making sure that those responsible for this are held accountable.
The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. For decades, the Rohingya people have been subjected to discrimination in Myanmar. Since August 2017, they have been subjected to escalated textbook ethnic cleansing, taken shape in a widespread, systematic discrimination campaign on behalf of the Myanmar Military, and General Min Aung Hling has done nothing to stop it.
The Rohingya women, men, and children such as residents of Kyet Yoe Pyin are desperately seeking to escape unlawful mass shootings, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, widespread burnings of villages and destruction of Rohingya homes and properties, mass deportations, and the unlawful use of anti-personnel landmines. They are fleeing for their lives and, in some cases, being shot at while attempting to do so.
More than 688,000 people have fled Myanmar since August 2017, with daily arrivals of up to 2,000 persons every day at various border entry points in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh.
This community has been continuously objectified as Bangladesh denies them refugee status and calls them Myanmar nationals, while Myanmar calls them undocumented Bangladeshis. In accordance with human rights standards, the Rohingya deserve refugee protections during their displacement.
Over the last few months, the world has watched the exodus of the Rohingya, but has been slow to act. These are egregious crimes against humanity and we can no longer stand by and watch. Now is the time to act.
Amnesty International will not stop fighting for the rights of the Rohingya people until the ethnic cleansing is over and the Rohingya are safe from persecution and able to return to their homes in safety and dignity.
Here are four steps you can take to join us:
- Raise public awareness on the Rohingya crisis in your community:
· Hold a public forum or teach-in on refugees focusing on the plight of the Rohingya. Screen the virtual reality video “I Am Rohingya”.
· Contact your local media and ask them to write an article or host a radio show on the Rohingya. Cite Amnesty’s report Caged Without a Roof: Apartheid in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
2. Urge your member of Congress to stand on the right side of history by co-sponsoring this urgently needed, bipartisan legislation: The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017 (S.2060) and The BURMA Act of 2017 (H.R. 4223). Send a message to your representatives and learn more here.
3. On February 23, 2018, Amnesty International activists from all over the country will kick off AI’s Annual General Meeting in North Bethesda, Maryland with an act of humanity, also known as an art action. This art action will be a symbol for peace and the protection of human rights for the Rohingya. We encourage you to join us by doing the following:
Use half of an 8 ½” by 11” white paper and create an origami dove. Check out this origami instructional video for details. Send your doves to this address and make sure it’ll arrive by February 20, 2018:
Attn: AIUSA Campaigns — Rohingya Crisis
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Suite #500
Washington, DC 20003
4. Get on the Bus (GOTB) with Amnesty International in NYC. On April 6, 2018, activists will gather in New York City for a demonstration calling on Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing to order his troops to put a stop to the ongoing crimes against humanity and campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people. If you can’t make it to New York City, organize a solidarity rally in your community! Click here to learn more about GOTB.