Current News

    Tragic plight of Rohingya Muslims

    Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
     April 3, 2013

    A report recently published by the British newspaper
    The Independent said about 100 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar died slowly of
    hunger after spending 25 days at sea on their way to find a new home. The
    report said this might be shocking to those who do not know what is going on in
    what is alleged to be the latest democracy in Asia. It added that news about
    the rape and torture of Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine may also seem
    shocking to those who are not aware of what is happening to Muslims in Myanmar.
    However, for those who closely follow the seemingly
    endless waves of threats, violence and torture of Rohingya Muslims, such news
    is not at all surprising. The Rohingyas are the weakest minority in Asia. They
    have been deprived of their citizenship rights in the country in which they
    have lived since birth. They have no right to education, health care or
    employment and are not allowed to own land. They have very few options. They do
    not want to leave their homes and the communities where they live for fear of
    the violence and intimidation by organized criminal gangs and also by border
    The report said that the world media has ignored the
    plight of the Rohingya Muslims except in very rare cases. It said that Western
    politicians have made a lot of noise about the Rohingya issue but have not done
    anything to put an end to their misery. It added that Western politicians have
    sent trade and economic delegations to Myanmar to conclude commercial deals
    with businessmen who have close links to the former military rulers of the
    The British newspaper report said that international
    media and  the world community have not
    done anything to help the Rohingyas who, according to many analysts, will face
    hunger and more violence and disease in the coming days, resulting in a
    terrible human catastrophe which could easily have been avoided. The report
    said the besieging of a number of cities in the Rohingya region including,
    among others, Maungdaw, Min Pya and Mrauk, could result in famine and mass starvation.
    The Independent quoted local sources as saying that
    whoever tries to leave these besieged cities is killed or apprehended. The
    sources also said the boats used by the Rohingyas to smuggle food to their
    besieged compatriots have been sunk by hostile groups from the state of
    Rakhine. It said massacres were committed at sea in which entire families were
    According to the newspaper, those who succeeded in
    escaping the massacres were killed by Buddhist gangs coming from Rakhine on
    large fishing boats, and 97 Rohingya Muslims were killed in one day. The UN
    special rapporteur on Myanmar human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana issued a
    strongly-worded statement denouncing the violence between Muslims and Buddhists
    in Myanmar. He urged the government of President Thein Sein to adopt stern
    measures to end this violence which might adversely affect the process of
    reforms in the country. Quintana also asked the government to take drastic
    steps to put an end to the religious persecution of Muslims.
    The rapporteur was referring to the appearance of
    extremist Buddhist groups led by Buddhist monks who orchestrate violence
    against Muslims and advocate the boycott of Muslim merchants.
    He said that the government was warned about the
    dangerous activities of extremist Buddhists at the outbreak of violence last
    summer but that it has done little to stop the persecution of Muslims.
    Quintana accused some government officials of openly
    encouraging hatred against Muslims and called for them to be brought to trial.
    He asked the government not to turn a blind eye to the violence against Muslims
    and to prevent its employees from doing the same.
    The rapporteur also accused the police and the
    military of watching Muslims being physically abused without doing anything to
    protect them. He called for these military and police personnel to be tried in
    court and warned that the violence against Muslims might spread from the state
    of Rakhine to other areas.
    The killing, rape, and torture of Muslims, along with
    the destruction and burning of houses and mosques are a shame on the face of
    the world especially of Muslim countries.
    The strong warning to the Myanmar government issued by
    Muslim leaders during their extraordinary summit conference in Makkah last
    August has not led to political or diplomatic initiatives. The Organization of
    Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has not carried out the duties assigned to it by the
    summit. The OIC secretary general did not respond to the invitation extended to
    him by the Myanmar president to visit the turbulent areas. He only wrote a
    letter to US President Obama urging him on his visit to the country to ask the
    Myanmar government to grant the Rohingya Muslims their legitimate rights. It
    was as if Obama was going to Myanmar to discuss the issue of human rights with
    the country’s leaders and not to discuss trade cooperation and finding markets
    for US products.
    The OIC recently opened a center for Rohingyas in
    Jeddah. The role of the center in rescuing Rohingyas from death at sea or at
    the hands of Buddhist gangs is still unclear. The OIC has moral, religious and
    humanitarian obligations to Rohingya Muslims. The organization should save them
    from the killing and rape. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has
    not said a word to protest what is happening to Muslims in her country. She
    must fulfill her duty as an advocate of peace to the human rights organizations
    who stood by her during her years of captivity.
    — Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who
    specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at