Nobel laureates call on UN to end Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

Indian Muslim activists holding placards to protest the attacks on Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, in New Delhi, on Dec 19, 2016.
Indian Muslim activists holding placards to protest the attacks on Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, in New Delhi, on Dec 19, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

UNITED NATIONS • More than a dozen Nobel laureates have urged the United Nations to "end the human crisis" of Myanmar's Rohingya minority group, whose members have been fleeing the country to escape a bloody military crackdown.

In an open letter addressed to the UN Security Council on Thursday, 23 Nobel laureates, politicians, philanthropists and activists said "a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar".

They also criticised the country's leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a Nobel Peace Prize winner , for what they called a lack of initiative to protect the Rohingya.

"We are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya," the group wrote.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people belonging to the persecuted Muslim minority group have fled a Myanmar military operation in Rakhine state launched in response to attacks on border posts by armed groups.

Rohingya survivors said they suffered rape, murder and arson at the hands of soldiers - accounts that have raised global alarm and galvanised protests around South- east Asia.

"The Rohingya are among the world's most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation," said the letter writers, who included Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi and Jose Ramos-Horta.

They asked the 15-member Security Council to add the crisis to its agenda "as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the secretary-general to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks".

They added: "If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity, which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say 'never again' all over again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Nobel laureates call on UN to end Rohingya crisis in Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe