Current News

Time to face the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state

Source
The Nation 
January
30, 2013 

The
best place on earth to discuss the Rohingya issue is Myanmar – and
it’s timely to raise the issue with the authorities in Nay Pyi Taw
now as they are in the process of seeking political reform for
national reconciliation. And reform cannot take effect unless the
Rohingya issue is addressed.


Thailand
alone, although receiving thousands of ethnic Rohingya annually,
cannot solve the problem at the root without good cooperation in
Myanmar. Arrest, detention, deportation – as Thailand is doing
currently – will not help end the problem. Humanitarian assistance,
if any, is just a temporary measure for survival but won’t help them
to have sustainable better lives.


Trafficking
syndicates might take some blame, but they indeed are just
facilitators to help the migrants get out of their place of origin
and reach new homes.
The
Rohingya issue is not new. Thailand arrests thousands of them
annually as illegal migrants. News reports on illegal migrant
Rohingya appear in the media around this time every year. Sometimes
such reports provoke attention from the authorities and international
community, but they will never lead to a permanent resolution to end
their problem.
The
Rohingya are leaving where they come from because they cannot live
comfortably due to several disturbing factors: historical, cultural,
religious, economic and political. People in Myanmar, who call them
‘Bengali’, rather than Rohingya, are debating the origins of these
people. Many in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the Rohingya mostly
live, regard them as “foreign or alien” and feel very
uncomfortable living with them. A series of major clashes between
Rakhine and Rohingya people left a score of deaths last year. There
are 135 registered ethnic groups in Myanmar but Rohingya are not
included in the official list. The Myanmar elite used to recognise
them as a part of the nation but there were several attempts during
the dictatorial regime in the 1970s to delete them from the notion of
state building and make them out as strangers. Some 200,000 Rohingya
have taken refuge in Bangladesh since then.
They
follow the Muslim faith, while the vast majority of the community is
Buddhist. There is nothing wrong being Muslim in a predominantly
Buddhist society, but that difference can stir up ethno-religious
problems. Normal crime can easily develop into sectarian conflict,
with two different religions never trusting each other, as happened
in Rakhine State in June and October last year.
The
clashes last year displaced at least 70,000 people who are currently
living in 50 refugee camps scattered near Sittwe, Kyauktaw and
Maungdaw townships in Rakhine State. The authorities are looking at
places for permanent settlement for them, but such a plan raises
concern among Rakhine people, as they fear they can’t live peacefully
with the Rohingya. They demanded a public hearing before any decision
to resettle the Rohingya in any part of Rakhine State.
Politically,
the ethnic Rohingya formed many organisations struggling for some
certain degree of self-rule since 1947. The Rohingya political
movements are not so strong, but have some voice to show they exist.
The most active one these days is Arakan Rohingya National
Organisation – ARNO – which tries to unite all ethnic Rohingya in the
struggle.
Myanmar
officials regard Rohingya political organisations as terrorists and
have no peace plan for this ethnic group, although many other armed
ethnic groups have drawn up truces.
To
solve the Rohingya issue, all con?cerned parties in Myanmar need to
readjust their basic attitude toward them first. The government needs
to consider them as national citizens and look into the real root
cause of the conflict they have with other groups, and with the state
of Myanmar. Otherwise they will not cease taking refuge in other
countries.