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Demography of Burma being changed

Photo: Ablution (Wudu Kaána) Area at Buthidaung Mosque.

By KPN

All available information leads us to believe there has been orchestrated campaign in Burma to change demography to make the country Buddhist state where there is no place for other ethnic minorities, to say the least.

First, the military junta has changed historic name of Burma to that of Myanmar while historically, Rakhine state of present Myanmar, which was known as Arakan. Arakan in fact was an independent kingdom until 1784

Burma represents diverse groups of over 100 ethnic and religious minorities with 90 per cent population holds Buddhism. Among the ethnic minorities— Karen, Kachin, the Shans, Rakhine, Mon, Rohingya and the Chins are the largest ethnic minorities in Burma. For the last over 50 years military junta has launched civil war against minorities.

The most persecuted Rohingya people of  Burma has been facing life and death situation in their own country as a result of a campaign by Buddhist monks to drive out Rohingya people from Burma. The monks in Burma became famous for Saffron revolution against military junta of Burma in 2007. During Saffron revolution Buddhist monks were brutally dealt with by military junta.

This campaign has begun in Burma when President Thein Sein has instituted an inquiry team to investigate reason for sectarian riot in June this year in Rakhine state of Burma while team of investigation from Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) arrived in Burma and signed Memorandum of Understanding with Burma government on September 12 to provide humanitarian aid, and participation in rehabilitation work without political and religious considerations.

Recent demonstrations by Buddhist Monks, whose message was love and democracy during Saffron revolution against military junta when present President was the Prime Minister, is in line with President’s call for segregation and deportation of Rohingya to a third country or the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) should take care of them. The demonstration by Buddhist monks is in contrast to their message indeed.

For centuries the people living in Rakhine state represents of an admixture of Moguls, Turks and Persians and racially mixed with Bengali Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Persian was the court language of Rahkine state until 18th century. For generations Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists have lived together. Therefore, there is no justification to create artificially racial tension between two religious groups and deprive Rohingya Muslims of their citizenship that they logically deserve.

The arrival of fact-finding mission to Burma from the United States is very significant. The mission, which comprises of three deputy assistant secretaries of State Department and US Ambassador to Burma, has had talks with affected Rohingya families in Arakan state of Burma. The mission has been empowered to seek long term security, peace and humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees.

The mission also visited Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees are camped since 1990 under the supervision of the UNHCR.

A seven-member Turkish delegation, led by Turkish Ambassador to Burma Murat Yavuk, visited the affected villages in Sittway, the capital of Arakan State and held discussion with officials including Chief Minister of Arakan State on September 8. The delegation distributed rice and medicines to the affected Rohingya Muslims.

Earlier to the visit of Turkish delegation Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoghu visited Burma in August to assess the situation arising out of communal riot in June in Arakan State. Donors from Turkey have contributed $ 50 million to provide food and medicine to the victims in Arakan State.

In the meantime, the government of Burma has stepped up its propaganda as a part of face-saving tactic by saying it was a violent conflict between two communities following a criminal act whereas government forces— including army, Hluntin (riot police), Nasaka( Burma’s border security force), police along with local Rakhines were involved in massacring, looting properties and burning down Rohingya homes.

Besides, up to now, the Burmese government is being committed mass killings, arbitrary arrests and tortured, looting, rape women and girls against the Rohingya community.  Extortion money from the Rohingya community by Nasaka and police is increasing day by day although the government has announced that there is peace in Arakan state and controlled by the security forces.

Rohingya Muslims have been suffering for a long time. They have been denied basic human rights and subjected to untold brutalities. Burma has to end violence and human rights abuses against Rohingy Muslims. Thousands of Rohingyas are dying, being raped, falsely imprisoned and forced to leave their homes in Burma. The Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted in their own country and the Rohingya people of Arakan state are demanding that some action be taken to stop this ethnic cleansing.

There is no doubt that Government has a hand in ethnic cleansing campaign to change demography of Burma. Here is a need for concerted efforts by the OIC and individual countries including— USA, EU countries,  Bangladesh, India, Thailand and China— to put pressure through the United Nations on the government of Burma to recognize ethnic minorities and grant citizenship as well.