By Sorwar Alam and Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - An international conference on Rohingya in New York on Friday will serve as a “unifier” for academics, activists, the UN and law practitioners, its organizers said on Thursday.
The conference, hosted by the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC), will seek a boycott movement against Myanmar similar to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, said Maung Zarni, coordinator of strategic affairs for the group.
“[Boycott of] Suu Kyi's civilian government, the killer military, and the deeply racist society and its institutions ..... that have been used by the government and the military as weapons of hate, misinformation and violence, like BDS against Israel,” U.K.-based activist Zarni, told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Zarni noted that authorities in Myanmar are using schools and universities as vehicles to spread racism and hatred toward Rohingya and other minorities such as the Christian Karen and Kachin people.
“The conference will highlight the fact that there are common institutions and structures of Myanmar -- society and state -- that are involved in all cases of minority repression, be it the Rohingya victims, or Christian Kachins or Buddhist Rakhine,” he added.
The conference aims to hold officials accountable for the Myanmar genocide and war criminals, protection for Rohingya, and other minorities, Zarni added.
Zarni said they plan to spearhead various initiatives with sister organizations to mobilize public outrage "against international organizations and governments that cozy up to Myanmar”.
"There is absolutely no political will among member states of the UN because saving lives and ending genocides do not advance the interests of these nation-states,” Zarni alleged.
The rights activist regretted how western countries were interfering in the on-going Venezuelan crisis but not taking steps to safeguard Rohingya.
The conference, he hoped, “will explore ways to mobilize peoples of conscience around the world … help restore Rohingya people to their ancestral land as full and equal citizens of Myanmar”.
They will also seek the release of two Reuters journalists detained by authorities in Myanmar.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.