By Hichael Rashid, Rohingya Community Ireland (RCI)
Why are Rohingya leaving Myanmar (Burma)?
Despite Rohingya being the natives of Arakan (aka Rakhine state) in the western part of Burma, they have faced and continuously facing various discrimination, prosecution and laws that deny and defy the very existence of Rohingya as the natives and genuine citizens of Burma.
Numerous military campaigns and operations have been used to target and expel Rohingya from Arakan since Dictator Ne Win came to power in 1963. He has successfully expel more than one third of Rohingya population to Bangladesh, Pakistan and many more countries throughout his era and his successors.
The very cause of Rohingya crisis remains in the citizenship law that was implemented in 1982 under Ne Win’s leadership which has forced Rohingya from being well-recognized citizen of Burma to stateless, that ultimately causes Rohingya in the trap of restricted movement, education, religion, marriage, business and public services.
The hope towards a better future has further diminished after the current quasi-civilian government came to power. Under the leadership of current President U Thein Sein, a massive campaign was launched to expel the already neglected and persecuted Rohingya from Arakan. In 2012, a coordinated and systematic ethnic cleansing programme with government and Rakhine ethnic group has forced more than 150,000 Rohingya to Internally displaced camps (IDPs), destroyed hundreds of villages, closed and destroyed shops and religious buildings.
Rohingya in IDPs have not only suffered the massive attack, and also forced to suffer the slow burning torture that has become unbearable due to the lack of food, water, healthcare, movement, and forced arrest, labour and even sex-trade.
It is no difference for Rohingya outside IDPs who face the similar situation. The restriction of movement has tremendous effects in their daily lives and activities causing massive economic and psychological burdens to Rohingya bread-feeders and family members. They encounter various land and property confiscation, and often denied to repair the ever weakened houses. Their children face with no prospect or hope of future as they are being restricted from poorly delivered secondary education to higher education. They are often subjected to tortures, arrests and jails for the crimes they never commit.
It is a human nature to either fight or flee in the time of distress. The only option that remains for Rohingya is to flee in any possible way.
How do Rohingya end up in human trafficking network?
Straight from the cage to the mouth of carnivores, that is the situation of Rohingya people who have been fleeing the sufferings from their native land.
The trafficking network which has flooded out the international media in the recent weeks, is not work of a person or a group, rather it is a complete and complex network involving the very Burmese government that has denied their hands in the current Rohingya crisis. Expulsion of Rohingya from Burma remains the government top agenda, and they found an ever easy, yet fulfilling their agenda by helping and encouraging Rohingya to leave, and involving and smoothing the process. Many Burmese government officers heavily involve in the trafficking of Rohingya by taking money per boat and appointing some Rohingya who are forced to work persuading and showing the false bright future to fellow Rohingya.
It is not the only agenda in the expulsion of Rohingya. Rakhine Action Plan has a major hand in the network. Rakhine politicians and extremists have publicly announced and lobbied their plan with the government to start acting on the Action Plan, one of which main goals is to remove Rohingya from Arakan.
Rakhine has campaigned for their Plan for many years before it started showing the result after the 2012-ethnic cleansing programme. They have completely rooted out Rohingya from the capital of Arakan which, before 2012 held 40% of its population from Rohingya community. For Rohingya, the capital has become a zombie town which is clearly not tolerable to see its previous and native residents on the streets, and Rohingya have been forced to shelter under the massively guarded, heavily restricted, scarcely liveable and hardly tolerable camps.
Now deserted Rohingya towns, villages and lands have been used for the resettlement of Bangladeshi Rakhine who are brought from Bangladesh to overpopulate Arakan towns and accomplish the Action Plan, it is a better truth of what they and the government have been telling the world that Rohingya are coming into Arakan from Bangladesh.
Rohingya towns and villages which were affected less since the ethnic cleansing programme, find it difficult to cope with harassment from the authorities, land-grabbing, arbitrary taxation, movement and economy restrictions, which in the end leads Rohingya to find a way out from the plight and ends up in the mouths of hungry carnivores.
Is it an international crisis?
To understand whether it is an international crisis or not, it needs to look at the other partners in crime in the trafficking network. The network cannot be so successful and inhumane if people or groups from different destinations or transits are not involvement.
It has been reported that some corrupted government officers from Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have their hands on the crisis. The bond between these people has made the network easy to operate and function with impunity.
When it comes to the business of the network, they show complete lack of humanity, lack of trust and lack of respect to men, women and children. The graves discovered in the deep jungles of Thailand revealed their cruelty by letting Rohingya die with hunger, ailment and torture for not able to pay the ransom the network has demanded.
The international community, especially ASEAN countries will be no difference than the trafficking network, if they too let these malnourished, fainted, desperate and friendless people die in the sea in respecting the bond that ASEAN countries have with Burma in not interfering in internal affairs.
Since it involves many ASEAN nationalities in the network and the crisis being in the water of ASEAN, it becomes an international matter to solve and bring the culprits to front, and press Burma, the main culprit of the crisis bringing to table with permanent solutions rather than ‘soft-worded grievance and warning.
It is a moral responsibility for anyone to wholeheartedly involve in saving a decades-long persecuted people being drown in front of own eyes.