Bangladesh's Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, supported by former Timor-Leste president Ramos-Horta, has pitched in strongly for the persecuted Rohingyas of Myanmar.
"There is evidence that the Rohingya have been in present-day Myanmar since the 8th century,” the two wrote in Huffington Post. “It is incontrovertible that Muslim communities have existed in [Rakhine] State since the 15th century, added to by descendants of Bengalis migrating to Arakan [Rakhine] during colonial times.”
“The minority Muslim Rohingya continue to suffer unspeakable persecution, with more than 1,000 killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes just in recent months, apparently with the complicity and protection of security forces,” the two Nobel laureates wrote.
Ramos-Horta and Yunus also criticised Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law which denied Rohingyas citizenship of Myanmar and forced on them severe restrictions of travel, marriage and reproduction by the State. Yunus and Ramos-Horta urged the Myanmar government to protect the Rohingyas and welcome them as full citizens of the country.
The outspoken support for the Muslim Rohingya minority group stands in contrast to the surprising silence maintained on the issue by Myanmar's own Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
It also goes against a recent comment made by Deputy Immigration and Population Minister Kyaw Kyaw Win on the Rohingyas.
Recently speaking at the House of Representatives in Naypyitaw, Win said that “there is no so-called Rohingya ethnic race in Myanmar.”
Myanmar president Thein Sein, a former army general, has said that the Rohingyas are not of Myanmar but are "illegal Bengali migrants". He pitched for deporting them to third countries.