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Intense persecution

Photo AP

November 25, 2013
The stand of the Myanmar government in the context of the Rohingyas is crystal clear. These hapless people will continue to be third class inhabitants of Myanmar and their persecution will go on. This point was implicit in the rejection by a spokesman for President Thein Sein of a United Nations resolution calling on the Myanmar government to grant Rohingyas citizenship and to end the violence against them. “We cannot give citizenship rights to those who are not in accord with the law, whatever the pressure. This is our sovereign right,” said spokesman Ye Hut and added that only “Bengalis in Rakhine state who are in accord with the 1982 citizenship can become citizens.” According to rules minorities must prove that they have lived in Myanmar before 1823. That will be impossible. This means that more trouble is in store for the Rohingyas who number around 800,000 and most of them live in Rakhine state. A repeat of the riots some years ago, in which more than 200 Rohingyas were killed and more than 150,000 displaced, cannot be ruled out in the future. Rather shocking are the other policies that expose further the naked anti-Rohingya bias of the government. One is that while close to 200 Rohingyas have been jailed for the violence, less than 50 Buddhist extremists, the initiators of the bloodshed, have been sentenced to prison terms for their crimes. In addition, 1,000 Rohingyas are said to be in detention after closed trials. Among them are scores of minors. The deep Buddhist prejudice against the Rohingyas is vivid again in the population census – the first in three decades – scheduled for next year not providing for a box for ‘Rohingya’ as the government rejects the use of this word.

Rather shocking is the stand of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and champion of democracy and human rights, who has maintained a studied silence all those months. But the other day, Nyan Win, a spokesman for her National League of Democracy, said the Rohingyas do not exist under the law of the land and he agreed with Ye Hut on this point. Nyan Win could not have uttered these words without Suu Kyi’s sanction. In other words, almost all the Buddhists of Myanmar are against the Rohingyas and want them out of the country. Equally or more stupefying is the stand of the international community that has not done much to pressure Thein Sein to help the Rohingyas. The stand of the United States and other western nations in this context is condemnable and proves that they are selective in their approach to democracy and human rights. More important for them are their interests. When nations are inimical to their interests, the West raises the cry of human rights and freedom. And the westerners look the other way when tyrannical governments, which embrace them, resort to extreme steps to suppress their citizens and others. This kind of hypocrisy must be ended to ensure the world becomes a better place to live in.