Current News

Rohingyas: No light at the end of the tunnel

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest
report on Burma has once again drawn global attention to the sad plight of
Muslims known as Rohingyas in that Buddhist country. His annual report to the
UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, raises
serious concerns about the condition of Muslims who are victims of ethnic and
religious tensions created by official policies and hate campaigns by some
radical monks, particularly Wirathu whom Time magazine describes as the
“face of Buddhist terror.”
This has so poisoned the atmosphere that even
the democratic reforms initiated by President Thein Sein are working to the
disadvantage of Rohingyas. While the government intensifies its campaign of
hate, opponents of the regime don’t want to alienate the Buddhist majority by
supporting the minority. Even the leader of the democracy movement, Nobel Peace
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is avoiding any criticism of the government on the
Rohingya issue.
Meanwhile, some 140,000 Muslims are still
languishing in refugee camps on the western coast of Burma. They were rounded
up in the wake of communal riots in 2012, although they were the victims of the
ugly incidents which took place that year. The situation is so dire that US
President Barack Obama on his visit to Burma in 2012 spoke of the “crushing
poverty and persecution” being faced by Muslims. The best that most of them can
hope for is to escape on an overloaded fishing boat to Malaysia or Thailand.
Some 86,000 people have tried to flee risking their lives. Those who manage to
reach their destination face uncertain prospects.
There are some eight million Muslims in Burma
of whom about one in six is Rohingya. Most of them live in Rakhine state on the
western coast. Muslims have faced repression in Burma since it achieved
independence in 1948. Their plight can be traced to the fact that they have
been denied citizenship.
Rohingyas are not a part of the 135
recognized ethnic groups in Burma. It is estimated that there are at least 10
million stateless people in the world today. One of the largest is the
Rohingya. They were deprived of their nationality in 1982 by Burma’s
Citizenship Law. The Burmese government and extremist Buddhist groups claim
that the Rohingyas are migrants from Bangladesh, although there is ample
evidence of centuries of Muslim settlement in the region.
What is causing particular worry to UN and
human rights groups is the Rakhine State Action Plan which will require
Rohingyas to first declare themselves Bengali (which they say they are not) and
then try to prove that they are eligible for citizenship by the standards of
the 1982 law. Those who fail to meet the nearly impossible conditions of the
law — including tracing their family history in Burma back to the days before
British colonization in 1823 — would be put into what the Burmese authorities
call “a resettlement zone.” Those who refuse to go through the
process would be sent to a displacement camp.
This means there is no light at the end of
the tunnel for these people. This is bad not only for Rohingyas but for
Southeast Asia as a whole. There are already disturbing signs to show that the
repercussions of anti-Rohingya violence may not be confined to Burma. In May
2013, two Indonesians were arrested for allegedly planning to attack the Burmese
Embassy in Jakarta with pipe-bombs to express solidarity with Rohingyas. The
blasts in India’s Bodh Gaya last year were also supposedly executed to avenge
the killing of Rohingyas. At the same time, Sri Lanka’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)
defends the anti-Rohingya campaign in Burma, claiming that Buddhists are acting
out of self-preservation. Thailand’s four southernmost provinces, where Muslims
are in a majority, are witnessing an insurgency. All this is certain to further
vitiate the atmosphere in Southeast Asia.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest
report on Burma has once again drawn global attention to the sad plight of
Muslims known as Rohingyas in that Buddhist country. His annual report to the
UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, raises
serious concerns about the condition of Muslims who are victims of ethnic and
religious tensions created by official policies and hate campaigns by some
radical monks, particularly Wirathu whom Time magazine describes as the
“face of Buddhist terror.”
This has so poisoned the atmosphere that even
the democratic reforms initiated by President Thein Sein are working to the
disadvantage of Rohingyas. While the government intensifies its campaign of
hate, opponents of the regime don’t want to alienate the Buddhist majority by
supporting the minority. Even the leader of the democracy movement, Nobel Peace
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is avoiding any criticism of the government on the
Rohingya issue.
Meanwhile, some 140,000 Muslims are still
languishing in refugee camps on the western coast of Burma. They were rounded
up in the wake of communal riots in 2012, although they were the victims of the
ugly incidents which took place that year. The situation is so dire that US
President Barack Obama on his visit to Burma in 2012 spoke of the “crushing
poverty and persecution” being faced by Muslims. The best that most of them can
hope for is to escape on an overloaded fishing boat to Malaysia or Thailand.
Some 86,000 people have tried to flee risking their lives. Those who manage to
reach their destination face uncertain prospects.
There are some eight million Muslims in Burma
of whom about one in six is Rohingya. Most of them live in Rakhine state on the
western coast. Muslims have faced repression in Burma since it achieved
independence in 1948. Their plight can be traced to the fact that they have
been denied citizenship.
Rohingyas are not a part of the 135
recognized ethnic groups in Burma. It is estimated that there are at least 10
million stateless people in the world today. One of the largest is the
Rohingya. They were deprived of their nationality in 1982 by Burma’s
Citizenship Law. The Burmese government and extremist Buddhist groups claim
that the Rohingyas are migrants from Bangladesh, although there is ample
evidence of centuries of Muslim settlement in the region.
What is causing particular worry to UN and
human rights groups is the Rakhine State Action Plan which will require
Rohingyas to first declare themselves Bengali (which they say they are not) and
then try to prove that they are eligible for citizenship by the standards of
the 1982 law. Those who fail to meet the nearly impossible conditions of the
law — including tracing their family history in Burma back to the days before
British colonization in 1823 — would be put into what the Burmese authorities
call “a resettlement zone.” Those who refuse to go through the
process would be sent to a displacement camp.
This means there is no light at the end of
the tunnel for these people. This is bad not only for Rohingyas but for
Southeast Asia as a whole. There are already disturbing signs to show that the
repercussions of anti-Rohingya violence may not be confined to Burma. In May
2013, two Indonesians were arrested for allegedly planning to attack the Burmese
Embassy in Jakarta with pipe-bombs to express solidarity with Rohingyas. The
blasts in India’s Bodh Gaya last year were also supposedly executed to avenge
the killing of Rohingyas. At the same time, Sri Lanka’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)
defends the anti-Rohingya campaign in Burma, claiming that Buddhists are acting
out of self-preservation. Thailand’s four southernmost provinces, where Muslims
are in a majority, are witnessing an insurgency. All this is certain to further
vitiate the atmosphere in Southeast Asia.

Source : Saudi Gazette