Refugees International’s (RI) 2015 Richard Holbrooke Award Winner Tun Khin traveled recently with RI’s Senior Advocate for Human Rights Dan Sullivan to Bangladesh. The two visited Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar (also called Burma). In this guest blog, Tun Khin shares his thoughts on the experience of being within sight of the homeland from which he fled 18 years ago and what motivates him to continue to fight on behalf of his fellow Rohingya.
This is a very emotional moment for me. I am seeing my homeland up close for the first time since I was forced to flee Burma 18 years ago. From this spot, I can see my native land where my grandfather and grandfather’s father were born and brought up, the land where my grandfather’s father served as the first judge in Arakan State. This is the land we belong to. This is the land where we lived side by side with the Rakhine community.
Unfortunately, even though my grandfather’s father served as a judge, even though my grandfather was a parliamentary secretary, and even though my father served as a government official, somehow, I don’t belong to my country. Because of the 1982 Citizenship Law, I was deprived of the basic fundamental rights of Burma.
I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to go and study in the United Kingdom and to work for our people as an advocate for the rights of the Rohingya. This is a really good opportunity for me to be here with Refugees International to see this place. We appreciate that Refugees International has been working on behalf of the Rohingya for so many years.
But just across this river, in my native land, there are a million Rohingya living in a kind of giant open prison. They are still denied their rights. Hundreds of thousands of others, in 1978-1979, 1991-1992, 2012, and October 2016 and after, have become refugees.
So it is important that we continue to raise this issue and advocate for the rights of the Rohingya both outside and still inside Burma. I miss my hometown. I miss my country. I belong to that country, and I strongly believe that one day I will be able go back.
Tun Khin is a human rights activist and President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK). You can follow him on Twitter at @tunkhin80.