By Isabel Rutherfurd, Refugees International Intern
Speaking to Burmese in Yangon last December, I heard a lot of cautious optimism and relief about the reforms inspired by the government’s transition to democracy.
This article originally appeared in The Bangkok Post.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been more successful in mobilising Myanmar's people for change than any figure in recent history. Through her perseverance, she convinced her compatriots that with time, effort and unity of purpose, reform really was possible. The odds were long, but eventually she won and was proved right.
Exactly one year ago, a historic summit took place in Geneva on the rights of refugees and stateless people. On December 9, 2011, the United States and 154 other nations met to discuss the importance of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions. But what made the conference historic was not the debate, but the pledges.
On Tuesday, October 9th, the Open Society Foundations and Refugees International co-hosted an event on the ongoing inter-communal violence in Rakhine State, Burma, which has displaced thousands of stateless Rohingya. The event brought together representatives of the U.S. government, civil society, and the media to review recent developments in Burma and Bangladesh.
I am excited to be joining RI as the new advocate for DRC and the Sudans. With the presidential election now approaching, and renewed Congressional interest in the conflicts of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is an exhilarating time to be joining the organization.
Today, RI, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International submitted a joint letter to the Emir of Kuwait demanding an end to abuses of the stateless bidoon and the acknowledgement of their citizenship rights. The full letter is as follows:
September 27, 2012
HH Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah
Al Diwan Al Amiri
Seif Palace – Building 100
State of Kuwait
The political thaw in Burma has advanced so quickly that it is hard to believe Aung San Suu Kyi was here in Washington yesterday, giving her first public speech at the outset of an historic trip to the U.S.
Yet as Suu Kyi was quick to point out in her remarks (which you can view in the video below), the country’s progress to date is fragile and easily reversible. Indeed, she reminded the audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace that she remains but the leader of a small opposition group in Parliament, not the head of government.
It’s hard to imagine that life could get much worse for the Rohingya, a stateless Burmese Muslim minority group. But yesterday’s news that Bangladesh has ordered non-governmental organizations to stop providing Rohingya refugees with (already minimal) services will surely increase their suffering.