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A young Rohingya contemplates freedom in Thailand, reports Phuketwan

I am a Rohingya Too, Says Billionaire

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Speech of George Soros at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar's Systematic Persecution of Rohingya
May 26, 2015

OSLO, Norway: Greetings, everybody. I regret I can't be there in person. I have been a supporter of Burma's democracy movement since 1993. For most of that time, the prospect of change seemed remote, and I felt increasingly discouraged.

Then, in 2010, quite suddenly, or so it seemed, the ruling military junta decided to abandon absolute authoritarian rule. The world was stunned. My engagement in Burma during those dark days taught me an important lesson.

Sometimes it's necessary to support a lost cause for a long time just to keep the flame alive. That way, when the situation changes, groundwork for progress has already been laid. As I speak to you today, I find myself again growing discouraged.

Making the transition from military rule to a more open society is not easy, and in many ways the government of Burma has made real progress in its reform efforts.

I fear that many of these reforms are not sustainable, because they have not yet been institutionalised.

It's also true that political and economic power remains mostly concentrated in the hands of a privileged few who monopolise the revenue from Burma's abandoned natural resources.

The most immediate threat to Burma's transition is the rising anti-Muslim sentiment and officially condoned abuse of the Rohingya people.

That has occurred under watch of the current rulers in Naypyidaw.

From private conversations with progressive Burmese officials, I know that some in power genuinely want to see a Burma where all are treated equally, but these officials also fear the potential of extremist violence from the small but powerful group of religious radicals.

These extremists have created a tinder box that could blow up the entire reform process. The government must confront these extremists and their financial supporters.

In January when I visited Burma for the fourth time in as many years, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground.

I met with state and local readers and both Rakhine and Rohingya populations, and also talked to internally displaced persons and those mostly Rohingya living in a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto.

In Aung Mingalar, I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya.

Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to healthcare, education, and employment.

Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming. Fortunately, we have not reached a stage of mass killing.

I feel very strongly that we must speak out before it is too late, individually and collectively.

The Burmese government's insistence that they are keeping the Rohingya in the ghetto for their own protection simply is not credible.

Government authorities have tried to reassure me. They say things are under control and not as bad as reported by outsiders who they claim don't understand the local culture or the long and complicated history of Rakhine State.

I understand that half a century of living in isolation under repression can make a population vulnerable to intimidation and exploitation in all sorts of ways, but I also know that most of the people of Burma are fair-minded and would like their country to be a place where all can live in freedom.

2015 is a crucial year for Burma; a tipping point, in the words of Yanghee Lee, US Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. With the prospect of democratic changes to the 2008 constitution and the holding of free and fair elections, meaningful reform could take hold.

As a longtime friend and supporter of Burma, I hope for a positive outcome for all the people of the country, but where I once felt a great sense of optimism, I am now filled with trepidation for the future.

I hope those in power will immediately take the steps necessary to counter extremism and allow open society to take root. In the lead up to the elections, it's crucial that official acts should be taken to counter the pervasive hate and anti-Rohingya propaganda on social media and the racist public campaigns of the 969 movement.

The promise of Burma as a flourishing and vibrant open society is still within reach. It's up to Burma's leaders and people whether this promise is fulfilled.


About George Soros

GEORGE Soros is the founder and chairman of Open Society - a network of foundations, partners, and projects in more than 100 countries. His commitment to the idea of open society - where rights are respected, government is accountable, and no one has the monopoly on the truth - makes the Open Society Foundations unlike any other private philanthropic effort in history.

Soros began his philanthropy in 1979, giving scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid. In the 1980s, he helped undermine Communism in the Eastern Bloc by providing Xerox machines to copy banned texts, and supporting cultural exchanges with the West.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he created Central European University to promote critical thinking. He expanded his philanthropy to the United States, Africa, and Asia, and his Open Society Foundations have supported paralegals and lawyers to represent thousands of individuals who were unlawfully being held, sometimes for years and without any legal representation.

He underwrote the largest and most concerted effort in history to bring the Roma people of Europe into the mainstream. The Foundations have provided school and university fees for thousands of promising students, including young Roma, refugees from armed conflicts, and young people from other marginalized groups.

George Soros helped establish an international system to bring transparency and accountability to the natural resource extraction industries, whose practice of making secret payoffs to local tyrants has for decades fueled some of the world???s worst political unrest and most heinous violence. He has supported independent organizations such as Global Witness, the International Crisis Group, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

''My success in the financial markets has given me a greater degree of independence than most other people,'' Soros once wrote. ''This allows me to take a stand on controversial issues: In fact, it obliges me to do so because others cannot.''

Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian will be in Bangkok for the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean and available on the sidelines for interviews about the precedent-setting military versus media criminal defamation case brought against them by the Royal Thai Navy.

The criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act case, with a seven-year jail term as a maximum penalty, centres on Phuketwan's word-for-word republication of a Pulitzer-Prize winning Reuters' paragraph that does not mention the Navy.

''As long as the Royal Thai Navy pursues these false charges, reporters and editors in Thailand and around the world cannot and will not accept the military government's word that it understands the universal principles of media freedom and democracy,'' says Morison.

Morison and Khun Chutima are obliged to begin serious preparations for their July trial from June 1. Please call Khun Chutima (''Oi'') on 089 4725117 to arrange an interview sometime between 2pm Thursday and noon Saturday.

WATCH How Trafficking Works
Phuketwan Investigative reporter Chutima Sidasathian, still being sued for criminal defamation over a Reuters paragraph: ''It's worse and worse, day by day. Nobody cares''.

LISTEN The Rohingya Solution
A tragedy almost beyond words has been unfolding in Thailand, where a human smuggling network is thriving with the full knowledge of some corrupt law enforcement officers. Alan Morison of Phuketwan talks to Australia's AM program.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Dear Ed

This is such an outstanding message from George Soros.

The world is truly fortunate to have such wonderful philanthropists such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg and George Soros.

All of us can do something to make improvements though. One does not have to be a billionaire or the leader of a country.

In relation to the hate speeches of Burmese Buddhist monks your readers might be interested to view some short video clips on youtube such as those that can be found from the links below. They can see, amongst other things, what appears to be Burmese Buddhist monk beating a Rohingya student.

Wirathu lashes out at Time Magazine.

Myanmar's Anti-Muslim Monks

BBC News Channel Our World Myanmar's Extremist Monk

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor - Perth, Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 28, 2015 13:11


A gift of the Internet is how fast it can spread information. This is good when the information is valid but not so when the real truth is reveled. We cannot take anything that we read (or maybe see or hear)as the gospel truth when it comes from a single source. You have the Internet. Use it. Google or Yahoo items to get at the facts (or fiction)of an article before you forward it and perpetuate untruths. Especially so, when it comes to the horn blowing of an individual that has made themselves out as being more than what they really are. Research and learn and do not believe ANYTHING at face value that you read on an email or Social Media when it comes to human lives.

Posted by Bok Nhao on May 31, 2015 22:38

Sunday November 28, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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