World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder strongly condemns the Myanmar military for its ongoing persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and urges the international community to make every effort to ensure that the rights of all citizens be safeguarded amid signs of attempted ethnic cleansing and genocide.
“The World Jewish Congress is extremely concerned by the plight of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, who has suffered widespread persecution for years under the ruling military government and has been forced to flee in the hundreds of thousands in the past two weeks alone.
“The divisive, anti-minority rhetoric heard around the world today has the potential to escalate into ethnic violence, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, signs of which are already strongly taking shape in Myanmar. The Jewish people, who are far too often targeted with violence and bigotry, must not remain silent in the face of such extremism, no matter where or how it rears its head.
“The World Jewish Congress urges the international community to safeguard the rights of all minority communities, including those threatened by sectarian violence and oppression.
“We condemn terrorist actions on all levels and fervently oppose violence as a solution to conflict.
“Nonetheless, the legitimate struggle against terrorists and terrorism should never be exploited for the oppression and murder of innocent civilians based only on their belonging to a particular ethnic group.”
Myanmar (Burma) is a Buddhist-majority country, which has been transitioning from military rule to a democratic government over the last five years under the new leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military however remains politically powerful and oversees security operations. Washington, which used to impose sanctions on Myanmar, sees Suu Kyi as key to the democratic future of the state.
The population of the Rohingya minority is estimated at around 1.1 million, located mainly in the Rakhine State area of Myanmar. The community has reported persecution for many years and are denied many basic rights in the country, including citizenship.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is an insurgent movement of the Rohingya established in 2012, claiming to fight for a democratic Muslim state for the Rohingya. Its first violent attack was in October 2016. The government suspects that it is involved with foreign Islamists.
Though violence between ARSA and the military has been ongoing since October 2016, the current crisis started around August 25, when militants attacked police and army posts. The following day, ARSA was declared a terrorist group in Myanmar.
The military responded in what appears to be a brutal ethnic cleansing, burning down thousands of homes and destroying dozens of villages in Rakhine state. This has created a mass exodus of of Rohingya to Bangladesh, approximately 300,000 in 15 days.