The sectarian unrest is no new strange human tragedy in Arakan, the northern province of Burma where minority Muslim Rohingyas have been attacked by Buddhists for quite again and again.
The persecution of the stateless Rohingyas had started for decades of years. The Muslims make up nearly five percent among more than 53 million populations. And the largest group of Burma’s Muslims is generally known as the Rohingyas, who mainly live generations to generations in the western state of Arakan or Rakhine.
Elsewhere rape or murder is a crime, and there are laws to deal with a rapist or murderer. I am sure in Burma there must be instances of a Buddhist committing such crime against a Buddhist. Usually none bothers to find out what religion the rapist belongs to. It is completely unfair that Burmese Buddhists target the entire Muslim community with accusation to Muslims being no proper investigation. It is clear that they used the rape as an excuse to step up the mysterious assaults to Rohingyas who have been attacked for some years.
Persecution of the Rohingyas in Burma has reached terrible level in recent weeks. Since June 10, a state of Emergency has been imposed across Arakan; Burmese President U Thein Sein has instigated martial law, giving the military administrative control of the region. Now the security forces have ganged up with the Rakhine Buddhists in attack against the Rohingyas. International media or other independent observers are not allowed in the areas where Rohingyas are holed up.
Some thousands of Rohingyas have been brutally killed and hundreds of Rohingya houses and businesses have been looted or set on fire in the past two months. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other rights groups have condemned the government forces for taking partisan role and supporting the Rakhine gangs. Scores of mosques have been vandalized. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas is going on and the government of Burma is the key sponsor of the anti-Rohingya pogrom.
Rakhine shops have stopped selling foodstuffs and other provisions to Rohingyas. State personnel are openly asking Rohingyas to leave the country or starve to death. Most Rohingyas are not being allowed to run their businesses, serving agricultural farms or other incoming sources
Some Rohingyas have attempted to flee to Bangladesh by taking along the women and children. However, the Bangladesh government has issued orders to close its borders to these refugees despite repeated calls from the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and several other global rights groups as well as organizations, such as the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Asian Human Rights Commission. These groups have asked Dhaka to offer refugee status to Burma’s minority Muslim Rohingyas against the backdrop of the deadly violence in the country’s Buddhist dominated Arakan state.
More than 1,200,000 Rohingyas are lying trapped in their own localities in Arakan. They have no place to escape and they are dying miserable deaths.
The Rohingya has been described as “among the world’s least wanted” and “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”. Evidence has been gathered suggesting that the Burmese regime has marked certain ethnic minorities such as the Karen for extermination or ‘Burmanisation’.
The inhuman tyrannical government, which operates unrelenting internal security machinery, generally infiltrates or monitors the meetings and activities of virtually all organizations, including religious organizations. Religious freedom for all Muslims and Christians is almost entirely absent. It is just months passed since pro-democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi belatedly received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, but her silence and blind eye towards the atrocities of Rohingya Muslims has made the world wonder if her selection for the “esteemed honor” was proper.
Even an appeal for an international assistance from several Rohingya organizations around the world have fallen on deaf ears and have received little attention from the international community since it has been more subtle and indirect than the mass killings in places like Rwanda.
The West has literally turned a blind eye to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma in an attempt to maintain its economic interests in the Burma’s lucrative market. To them the violent targeting of Burmese minorities arrived at a time when the US and Britain have called off their pro-democracy campaign against the country’s junta.
Regrettably the West’s silence over the bloody crackdown on Rohingya Muslims comes at a time when Western companies have jumped into Burma in an attempt to counterbalance the near-exclusive Chinese control over the Burma market. Even the silence of the United States is not unwarranted as it has deeper financial reasons. President Barak Obama has recently lifted the ban on American investment in the country and Britain has opened a trade office in Yangon on July 11.
While it seems Burma has become a destination for capital investment now, as the United States, the European Union and Canada, Australia have accepted the government’s narrative of democratic transition and have largely lifted the economic sanctions enforced since mid eighties.
The United State looks to have overviewed what the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on her visit to Burma late last year when she welcomed Burma’s first steps toward democratization, but had set down conditions for strengthening bilateral ties, that included an end to ethnic violence!
For the international news agencies, most parts of Arakan are still media blockage zone. So, specific details of killing and harassments of Rohingyas are not reaching the mainstream media. Some Rohingya youths from different countries, using special sources are regularly collecting news from villages which are being targeted by the Rakhines and the security forces and circulating them among refugee community and others spread across other countries.
There is a report I happened to get in the first week of this month through a Human Rights Activist, in the UK that depicts the enormity of the situation. Worthy worst, the mainstream media is not using such info to expose the atrocities perpetrated by the Rakhine Buddhists and Burmese security forces in Arakan. Obviously, it is clarified that the number of Rohingyas killed in the past two months would run into several thousands. Yet the government says the death toll is not more than 180.
This is found that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas is sponsored by the state. It is disappointing that even the Dalai Lama, who is very vocal about the Chinese aggressions into Tibet and democratic icon Suu Kyi have not spoken out against the persecution of the Rohingyas in Burma.
Analyst is Mohamed Farooq, a B.Sc. Engineer in Electrical & Electronics.