The letter titled “Rohingya Crisis is Deteriorating Very Fast” came before a UN Security Council meeting on the Rohingya crisis “most likely” to be held on Sep 13.
“We call on UNSC to intervene immediately by using all available means,” they wrote in the letter distributed by Yunus Centre in Dhaka.
“We request you to take immediate action for cessation of indiscriminate military attack on innocent civilians that is forcing them to leave their home and flee country to turn into stateless people.”
The Nobel Laureates include Máiread Maguire, Betty Williams, Desmond Tutu, Oscar Arias, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard J Roberts and Elizabeth Blackburn.
Eminent citizens include poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, actor and activist Shabana Azmi, former Malaysian minister for foreign affairs Syed Hamid Albar, former Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino, business leader and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson, former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, entrepreneur and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, former chair of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahangir, and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy.
Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing outrage over violence that has forced about 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Her office said she cancelled a trip to the upcoming UN General Assembly because of the crisis.
The Nobel laureates said the human tragedy and crimes against humanity unfolding in the Arakan region of Myanmar need “immediate intervention” from the Security Council.
“This is one of the decisive moments when bold and decisive actions are needed promptly when it is still possible to get it resolved,” they wrote. They also called for the implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations that advised Myanmar to give citizenship to Rohingyas.
“The world is anxiously waiting to see that UNSC is playing its role to bring an end to a humanitarian catastrophe and build peace in the region,” they said in the letter.
As preparatory steps of the peace process, they gave seven proposals:
1. Reappoint the commission members immediately to constitute an implementation committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations
2. Take immediate steps to stop the outflow of refugees
3. Invite international observers to visit vulnerable areas on a regular basis
4. Invite back the refugees who already left the country
5. Build camps within Myanmar for the returning refugees to facilitate their rehabilitation with UN financing and supervision
6. Give them the citizenship as prescribed in the commission report under the exclusive authority of the implementation committee
7. Ensure political freedom and freedom of movement
“A bold change in approach is needed by the United Nations and the international community if there is to be an end to the cycle of violence against the Rohingyas,” they said.
“The government of Myanmar needs to be told that international support and finance is conditional on a major change in policy towards the Rohingya.”
Around 400,000 Rohingyas have been living in Bangladesh for decades as Burma denies their citizenship.
Many of the Nobel laureates had earlier denounced the previous spate of violence late last year and wrote to the Security Council to intervene. However, the situation has not improved.
“We urge you to take decisive actions to stop the violence against innocent civilians and bring permanent peace to Rakhine state,” they said in the letter.
“Unless, constructive effort to build lasting peace is taken, the situation will get worse which in turn may pose serious security threat to the neighbouring countries.”
They also contradicted the arguments that the Myanmar government is using to deny Rohingyas their citizenship as “ludicrous”.
They gave historical background of this ethnic Muslims.
“At independence of Burma from the British in 1948 and under successive governments, Burma recognised the people of all ethnicities within its border, including the Rohingyas, as full citizens, having representation in the parliament.”
“The military juntas in the 1980s decided that Rohingyas are not Burmese. Accordingly, they stripped the Rohingyas of their citizenship. They used military and political means to make sure that the Rohingyas leave the country. Systematic persecution aiming at ethnic and religious cleansing began.”