My Rohingya

Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma co-organized a film screening of a documentary named My Rohingya at Kowloon Union Church yesterday evening.

The documentary was produced by a female reporter (Thananuch Sanguansak) from Thailand and focuses on the Rohingya people, practically a “stateless” people living primarily in Burma/Myanmar, and also in nearby countries like Thailand and Bangladesh.

The hour-long video is also available on YouTube, but the version shown last night was provided by the local UNHCR office and came with Chinese subtitles.

What drew me to the event was the repeated mentioning of the recent atrocities being done unto the Rohingya people, which are largely ignored by the mainstream media, by a few friends.

According to a quick search on Ming Pao, it’s been reported exactly once (twice if a very short quote is to be counted), on 12-Jun, in the past 3 months. In contrast, a search on “Syria” yielded 73 results, “Iran”, 80 results, even (Aung San) “Suu Kyi” produced 25 results.

Also, I’d like to take it as a measurement, in general, of the Hong Kong people’s concern for human rights issue and international matters. There were more than 50 people, about half of them were internationals and a few of them were Burmese. According to the hostess, the attendance was larger than usual for an event like this, that’s, not a protest.

The film painted a grim picture for the Rohingya people—they’re not recognized as citizens by any of the governments, and few, if any, NGO are able to help them.

Perhaps one can imagine what follows, as a minority group in a country not renowned for its human rights history.

With the recent election and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, one would expect the situations in Burma/Myanmar improve. But it’s definitely marred by this ongoing sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims. According to official figures, 78 people have died and 70,000 displaced, while Human Rights Watch considered them to be grossly underestimated.

There was a discussion/Q&A following the film, of which several Burmese participated. One of them expressed that she didn’t even know the Rohingya before seeing this documentary, but those who spoke could attest that minority groups were systematically discriminated and denied citizenship by the state.

While having citizenship does not automatically guarantee one’s rights will be fully respected (just ask the Palestinians living in Israel proper), residing in a country where one’s born but without citizenship (or even refugee status) is probably something that stretches the imagination of many people.

The topic of the border issue arose from the raise of nation-states in the past century was also touched upon. It may sound strange to some, but the borders in many parts of the world are not as clear cut as denoted on the map.

A candlelight vigil will also be held in Tsim Sha Tsui tonight, in part to commemorate the 8888 uprising.