By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Myanmar’s western state of Arakan (Rakhine) is again burning. In Mrauk-U, the former capital of
the independent kingdom of Arakan, hundreds of young Rakhine Buddhist men were on the march: packed on the backs of pickups, on motorcycles, on trishaws, tuk-tuks and bicycles, but mostly on foot.
They carried spears, swords, cleavers, bamboo staves, slingshots, crossbows and the occasional petrol bomb. Their target: the unarmed Rohingya Muslims. As the Economist (dated Nov. 3, 2012) of the UK noted, one Buddhist terrorist tugged at an imaginary beard and made a grisly throat-cutting gesture.
Sadly, Mrauk-U is not the only town where Rohingya Muslims are facing a genocidal campaign at the hands of Rakhine terrorists. From the reports collected inside Myanmar, there is little doubt that the Rakhine Buddhist terrorists, aided by local and
central government politicians, police and security forces, are carrying out a pre-meditated genocidal campaign to exterminate and drive out every Rohingya of Burma (Myanmar). So atrocious and criminal this campaign is even the president of Myanmar, who had previously tried to hide such targeted violence, had to admit on Friday, October 26 (as reported in the pro-government newspaper the New Light of Myanmar) that eight mosques (Muslim houses of worship) and 2,000 of Rohingya homes were torched to completely destroy these. His spokesman told the BBC this weekend that “there have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burnt down in Rakhine state.” The actual facts and figures, however, are much worse!
It is feared that in the last week of October at least 5,000 Rohingya homes were burned to ashes. Satellite imagery shows the utter destruction of a Muslim quarter of the coastal town of Kyaukphyu, from where oil-and-gas pipelines are to cross Myanmar to China. In this latest genocidal campaign, the Muslim villages and localities in townships are cordoned off and fire bombed. Anyone trying to escape from their burned homes is shot dead by the Rakhine Buddhist terrorists and their patrons within the government. Racist Rakhine politicians and monks are creating an environment of racial/religious hatred and intolerance which justifies all types of violence against the unarmed Rohingya population. Many Rohingyas have, therefore, tried to escape to the forest or the open seas, only to be hunted down there, too. Last week, dozens died when their boats sank in the Bay of Bengal. Others are forced to sneak out to Bangladesh.
Denied entry, many have ended up in squalid camps in Sittwe (Akyab) to join others who have been confined there since early June. Dozens of Rohingya girls were also kidnapped by the Rakhine terrorists to use rape and kidnap as weapons of war to terrorize the Rohingya populace.
It is an all out extermination campaign against the Rohingyas of Myanmar. In a statement dated Thursday, October 25, Ashok Nigam, a United Nations official in Myanmar, said, “The UN is alarmed by reports of displacements and destruction.” He said that access to all affected people is critical and appealed for immediate and unconditional access to all communities in accordance with humanitarian principles.
As I have pointed out earlier in my speeches and writings, the Myanmar government wants to hide its heinous crimes against the Rohingya people and, thus, have not allowed access of the international media, NGOs, aid groups and even the UN to the troubled region to investigate, monitor and assess the scale of the violence. Since the elimination of the Rohingya people one way or another is the declared state objective, no aid has reached from the Myanmar government agencies to the Muslim victims. And what is worse, even the relief materials sent from the OIC and the Islamic Relief have not reached the intended Rohingya victims. Less than 10% of such aids have trickled down to the victims. The Myanmar government, thanks to the state-managed protests and demonstrations in October by racist Buddhists that included monks, has also barred the OIC and Muslim relief agencies from opening offices inside the Rakhine state to help the Rohingya victims.
Not a single Buddhist terrorist has been punished for the gruesome murder of Muslims, not then and not now. All what we heard from the Thein Sein government was that it had identified the instigators behind the violence and pledged to bring them to justice. But as we have witnessed earlier with the June 3 lynching death of 10 Burmese Muslims, such promises have not translated into justice, let alone created an atmosphere that protects the lives and properties of the affected Rohingya minority.
It is obvious that the Thein Sein government is playing the cat-and-mouse game with the world community with false promises made to divert attention away when the satellite pictures are too obvious and difficult to hide such crimes, and once the outside pressure is low to encourage and participate in this heinous crime. As such the pogroms that started in June 3 with nearly a hundred thousand internally displaced Rohingyas have only worsened with extra tens of thousands that are now without any shelter. The once thriving Muslim localities now look like bombed-out territories. No Rohingya has been allowed back in to rebuild those properties. They have been caged in camps that look like the Nazi concentration camps from which they can’t venture out to fetch their livelihood without risking being shot by the Rakhine Buddhist security forces. They have been placed there to slowly die.
Terrorizing the unarmed Rohingya population has become a Rakhine national passion. The Border Security Force (NASAKA) continues to remind the Roingya people that Arakan is a Rakhine place where there is no place for the Roingya Muslims and that they must leave or will be killed. Newer territories are added to the list of ethnically cleansed ones to terrorize Rohingya Muslims and exterminate them. The Section 144, which prohibits an assembly of more than five people in an area, is only applied against the Rohingya. They cannot go out to protect their homes, shops, mosques, schools and villages from being looted and set on fire by the Rakhine terrorists who are not stopped from committing such crimes by the security forces.
In most cases, these criminal Rakhines are aided by the government. There have been cases, e.g., as in Kyauk Pyu Township, in which instead of dousing the fire with water, the Buddhist firemen sprayed gasoline into the fire to complete the destruction! “The firemen threw petrol on the flames, as if it was water! The authorities are one-sided. We can never trust them,” said a local teacher to Pete Pattisson, a journalist working for the Independent (UK). Last Wednesday, the entire Muslim community in Kyauk Pyu decided to flee in their fishing boats, joining thousands of others trying to escape from being killed or burned alive. Former Muslim residents of Pauk Taw told the Independent that a government ferryboat had rammed their fishing boats at sea, resulting in drowning deaths of dozens. Those who had fled and made it ashore have been prevented by government authorities from landing on the coast.
Satellite images of Kyauk Pyu and its coastal surroundings, released by the Human Rights Watch at the weekend, show the extent of the devastation. Where once there were houseboats and floating barges moored along a harbor town packed with houses, now there is charred desolation, with 811 homes and other structures destroyed.
All the victims in recent months have also been Muslims and yet the Thein Sein government tries to portray the violence in the Rakhine state as an interracial or communal riot.
What is going on inside the Rakhine state is simply a purposeful policy designed by the Myanmar government in which the members of the majority Rakhine ethnic group, which is Buddhist by faith, are willing executioners to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of the Rohingya ethnic community, which are Muslims, from the geographic areas of Arakan and Myanmar. The United Nations define such activities as ethnic cleansing. No hog-washing by the murderous regime and its supporters at home and abroad will succeed to hide such monumental crimes.
The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people is a text book case. It has become a national project that is led by the Myanmar state at the central level and the Rakhine state at the local level, supported by a good percentage of the Buddhist nation and its dominant Burman and Rakhine ethnic groups, and which employs large institutional and material resources. The local Rakhine politicians and terrorists, the Buddhist monks and mobs, and the entire state apparatus from the local to the central government level are enthusiastic partners in this project towards final solution of the Rohingya problem.
It was no accident, therefore, to witness demonstrations of monks, esp. those organized by Young Monks Association, supporting Thein Sein’s plan to expel the Rohingyas from Myanmar. The largest such demonstration was led by Wirathu, considered a venerable teacher by many Buddhists. He is a criminal who was imprisoned in 2003 for inciting violence against the Muslims. It is no accident that Suu Kyi spoke with forked tongues and that her NLD party has actually been supporting the national project towards elimination of the Rohingya people. Many of the so-called ‘democracy’ leaders have proven to be no better than fascists and are actually worse than the KKK members.
The worst criminals in this extermination campaign are, however, the fellow Rakine Buddhists, whose ancestors settled in Arakan beginning in the 11th century, i.e., centuries after the darker complexioned Indo-Bengali ancestors of the Rohingya people had already settled in this coastal territory once ruled by the Hindu Chandra dynasty, which had closer ties with Bengal (today’s Bangladesh).
With that intrusion, albeit a violent one, of the Tibeto-Burman people, the forefathers of today’s Rakhine race, who professed Buddhism, the original inhabitant Hindus and Muslims gradually became minority religious groups. However, in 1430 when two contingents of Muslim Army from Bengal, comprising of more than 50,000 soldiers, restored the fleeing Arakanese king Narameikhla (Maung Saw Mawn) to the throne of Arakan, and a great many of them were asked to protect the regime against any future Burmese invasion, the new settlements of the Muslim garrison around the new capital city of Mrohang (Mrauk-U) greatly added to the size of the minority Muslim community.
The Arakanese rulers of Mrauk-U dynasty adopted superior Islamic culture from nearby Muslim Bengal/India, and issued coins with Islamic inscriptions. They patronized Bengali literature. They also adopted Muslim names, a practice that was to continue for generations well into the 16th century. Muslims played major roles in administration, courts and defense of this multi-ethnic kingdom that maintained its independence for centuries until its annexation by the Burmese king Bodawpaya in 1784.
Bodawpaya was a Buddhist religious fanatic who tried to demolish everything Islamic. He introduced racism and bigotry into this multi-religious region. He destroyed mosques that once dotted the shorelines of Arakan and patronized building Buddhist monasteries and pagodas. He massacred tens of thousands of Muslims, and took another 20,000 as prisoners during his annexation of Arakan. During his tyrannical rule, some 200,000 Arakanese also fled to Bengal (today’s Bangladesh), which by then was under the British rule. After 40-years of Burmese rule (1784-1824), Arakan was occupied by the English East India Company who ruled the territory until Burma won its independence on January 4, 1948.
During the Second World War, taking advantage of the Japanese occupation of Burma, the Buddhist forces which had allied themselves with the Fascist Japanese Imperial Army against the British Raj, targeted the Indian and Muslim population and their homes and businesses. Even the Rohingya Muslims who lived in the western territories did not escape the extermination campaign. Nearly a hundred thousand of them were killed in that joint campaign. They were pushed out of the southern parts of the Arakan state; and many managed to survive by living in northern territories, closer to the Bengal, where they were a solid majority. Another 80,000 settled permanently in Bengal to save their lives. Two hundred and ninety four Muslim villages were totally destroyed.
Even after Burma achieved its independence, sadly, the mass elimination and targeted violence against the Rohingya and other Muslims continued. To the best of my knowledge, at least two dozen campaigns have been directed against them to ethnically cleanse them.
01. Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment) – November 1948
02. Burma Territorial Force (BTF) – Operation 1949-50
03. Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin regiment) – March 1951-52
04. Mayu Operation – October 1952-53
05. Mone-thone Operation – October 1954
06. Combined Immigration and Army Operation – January 1955
07. Union Military Police (UMP) Operation – 1955-58
08. Captain Htin Kyaw Operation – 1959
09. Shwe Kyi Operation – October 1966
10. Kyi Gan Operation – October-December 1966
11. Ngazinka Operation – 1967-69
12. Myat Mon Operation – February 1969-71
13. Major Aung Than Operation – 1973
14. Sabe Operation February – 1974-78
15. Naga-Min (King Dragon) Operation – February 1978-79 (resulting in exodus of some 300,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh; 40,000 died)
16. Shwe Hintha Operation – August 1978-80
17. Galone Operation – 1979
18. 1984 Pogrom in Taunggok
19. Anti-Muslim riots – Taunggyi (western Burma), Pyay and many other parts of Burma including Rangoon – 1987-88
20. Pyi Thaya Operation – July 1991-92 (resulting in exodus of some 268,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh)
21. Na-Sa-Ka Operation – since 1992
22. Race riot against Muslims – March 1997 (Mandalay)
23. Anti-Muslim riot in Sittwe – February 2001
24. Anti-Muslim full-scale riot in Central Burma – May 2001
25. Anti-Muslim violence throughout central Burma (especially in the cities of Pyay/Prome, Bago/Pegu) after 9/11 – October 2001
26. Joint extermination campaign – June 3, 2012 – to date.
Every attempt has been made by the Myanmar government since the days of General Ne Win to ethnically cleanse the Rohingya people and deny them human rights. They were declared stateless, thus licensing every crime directed against them; not a single Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was honored. Here below is a shortlist of such crimes against the Rohingya people:
• Denial of Citizenship
• Restriction of Movement or Travel
• Restriction on Education
• Restriction on Ability to work
• Forced Labor
• Land Confiscation
• Forced Eviction
*Destruction of homes, offices, schools, mosques, etc.
• Religious persecution
• Ethnic discrimination
• Restrictions on Marriage of Rohingyas
• Prevention of reproduction and forced abortion
• Arbitrary Taxation and Extortion
• Registration of births and deaths in families and even of cattle, and the associated extortion
• Arbitrary arrest, torture and extra-judicial killing
• Abuse of Rohingya Women and Elders
• Rape as a weapon of war
• Depopulation of Rohingya community
• Confiscation of residency/citizenship cards
• Internally displaced persons or undocumented refugees and statelessness
• Destruction or alteration of historical Muslim sites and shrines to erase its symbolism or Islamic identity.
To be continued….