In a speech at the Oslo Conference on Rohingyas, Archbishop Desmond Tutu credits the government of Myanmar for recent reforms, but reminds us all that it cannot “blind us to the ongoing disavowal and repression of its ethnic minorities, the Rohingya population in particular.”
Tutu points out that Burma’s first post-colonial government, in 1948, recognized the Rohingya as one of the indigenous communities of Burma. The continued to have government recognition until 1974, until the creation of a virtual apartheid state for the Rohingya in the late 1970s.
“As lovers of peace and believers in the right of all members of the family to dignity and security,” he says, “we have particular responsibilities to the Rohingya. 2015 is a big year for Myanmar, with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election on its calendar.
“Even as we seek to encourage the country to build on the reforms it has started, we have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost. We have a responsibility to hold to account those of our governments and corporations that seek to profit from new relationships with Myanmar to ensure their relationships are established on a sound ethical basis.
“We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality and basic human rights to the Rohingya.”