Current News

Initial euphoria

Hasan Kamoonpuri

Oman Daily Observer
May 20, 2013 

AFTER the initial euphoria that followed some reforms by the civilian-led government of Myanmar in 2011, it’s again in the news; this time for the killing of Rohingya minority. The hopes of Rohingyas that much needed reforms on their citizenship rights were on the way, the first for 65 years, have been dashed.

Myanmar’s injustice is on full display in its Rakhine state where 140,000 displaced Rohingyas in makeshift camps are facing very hard times. Recent rains and floods have further worsened the conditions of the Rohingyas, who have faced torture, neglect and repression since 1948 when Myanmar achieved independence. More recently, the violence since June 2012 has left over 4,000 Rohingyas dead, a further 8,000 missing, over 140,000 homeless and 700 women abused.
The root cause is Myanmar’s racist attitude for not recognising one million Rohingyas as its own citizens, which has long made them vulnerable to discrimination, violence and persecution, expulsion and displacement by authorities. Rohingyas, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century, are regarded as illegal immigrants, rather than one of its 135 official ethnic groups.
Alarmingly enough, at a time when the UN has described these oppressed people “as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world”, some self-styled champions of human rights are not only mute over the continued atrocities, but have lifted sanctions and forged trade ties with Myanmar. At a time when the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has confirmed Myanmar government’s complicity in ethnically cleansing entire Rohingya towns and villages, the European Union has decided to lift many sanctions on Myanmar.
The US has already lifted the 1996 visa ban that barred most government officials, including President Thein Sein, from travelling to the US. More recently, the Washington eased another set of sanctions against Myanmar despite the ongoing persecution of Rohingyas, which flies in the face of their assertions that they are supporters of human rights.
The latest promotion of their ties coincides with a new surge of violence against Rohingyas. The UK is against giving any coverage to the plight of Rohingyas in the press. So instead of engaging constructively in Myanmar with the supporters of peace, they continue to engage unhelpfully.
Egypt’s newly appointed Grand Mufti Dr Shawqi Allam, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Ahmed el Tayyeb and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have condemned this massacre, describing it as “shame on humanity”. They have also expressed readiness to dispatch humanitarian aid and called on all peace-loving parties to act to lift the injustice against these oppressed people.
Indeed, all justice-loving people need to raise an international chorus condemning the silence on these crimes and the use of human rights as a tool for political gains. HRW blames security forces, government officials and monks for fomenting ethnic cleansing and says the dead Rohingyas have been secretly buried in mass graves. The campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ amounts to “crimes against humanity”, adds HRW.
Thousands of Rohingyas, including women and children, have put their lives at risk by taking to the seas — often in unsafe craft — hoping to reach Thailand and Malaysia. Hundreds of refugees have been lost at sea. The UN says a boat carrying 100 Rohingyas capsized off western Myanmar on May 13 at midnight and many were feared drowned and dead. Just imagine the helpless cries of small children, women and men at the dead of night in the midst of sea! Where is our sense of outrage!
Amnesty International as well as the world’s foremost Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama have condemned the attacks on Rohingyas, who account for five per cent of Myanmar’s 60 million people.
Vijay Nambiar, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, said the violence is “clearly targeted” with “brutal efficiency” against Rohingyas. The UN Special Rapporteur in Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, said he received reports that Myanmar’s soldiers stood by “while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes” in the city of Meiktila.