Over the last two years, the positive news of a Myanmar embracing democracy and engaging with the developed world has been consistently offset by reports of sectarian violence between Buddhists and the minority Rohingya Muslim population. Estimates suggest that 300 Muslims have been killed and up to 300,000 displaced as refugees since the military junta nominally ceded power in 2011. No longer is this violence restricted to the state of Rakhine where the majority of Burmese Muslims live. Major incidents are reported in states as far south as Thaketa, just a few miles from Yangon, the cultural, historic and business capitol of the country which is now awash with western businessmen drinking expensive cocktails in expensive hotels. This worrying trend of more frequent and more widely spread violence threatens to derail the country’s turnaround.
As violence in Myanmar creeps closer to the capitol, shown below, the genocide taboo creeps closer to the consciousness of the west.
The violence we are forced to consider here is of the most disturbing kind — indiscriminate, brutal, and deadly. A further disturbing element is the widespread belief that government forces are supporting the violence by turning a blind eye. There are many reports of government forces standing by and, if not actively encouraging, being less than heavy-handed with Buddhist perpetrators. There is some convincing video evidence of this around the news sites and on YouTube. Convictions relating to sectarian violence have been proportionately more prevalent for Muslims who have also seen harsher sentences handed down. Despite political reforms, power is still in the hands of the military, and currently concentrated in the hands of exclusively ethnic Burmese Buddhists.
For those who believe that “genocide” is too shocking a term to use here, I would respond: The Rakhine Buddhists refer to the Rohingya as Bengali rather than Burmese and believe they are illegal immigrants despite their having settling in the Rakhine region centuries ago. By denying their history and denying the Rohingya’s right to call Myanmar home, I believe the term “genocide” can be used without hyperbole to describe this systematic approach to removing an ethnic minority. Human Rights Watch (HRW) agrees.
This makes my recent Sunday morning browse of the papers all the more extraordinary: Continue reading
The HRW report accused the Burmese government of engaging “in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement”
Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire, administering it as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony. Burma was granted independence in 1948.
Post-independence, Burma took measures to strengthen the economic interests of the Buddhist Burmese against those that it saw as foreigners. These measures were intelligently masked to portray generality but most specifically hurt the Rohingya who constituted the biggest section in the Muslim population of independent Burma. Among the several Acts passed by the Burmese government in 1948, the Land Alienation Act forbade the sale of land to non-Burmese nationals while denying citizenship to anyone who could not prove his ancestors settled in the country before 1823. As a result, Muslims in its Arakan province, whose ancestors were in Burma and contributed to its economic activity even a century ago, were denied their right to own land and, therefore, any benefit accruing out of such ownership. Continue reading
UK Shadow Minister for International Development, Rushanara Ali, MP, has urged the British government to apply pressure on the Burmese authorities to address the humanitarian crisis in Burma and put human rights at the heart of their reforms process.
Burmese president Thein Sein will soon begin his official tour of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and France, it was announced yesterday.
Ali expressed worries about the humanitarian crisis in Burma’s Rakhine State and the human rights abuses against the Rohingya, a Muslim community, and other minorities in Burma.
She acknowledged the progress the Burmese government had made towards political and economic reforms since President Thein Sein took office. But, she said, the international community should not ignore the considerable work the Burmese government still needs to do.
Rushanara Ali, MP, who recently visited Burma, said, “Since inter-communal violence first broke out last year, Rohingya Muslims have been forced into segregated settlements and their movements have been restricted, stripping them of their livelihoods and rendering them reliant on aid. Displaced people are living in constant fear of violence, abuse and harassment both from the security services and from fears of a further attack from sections of the Rakhine population.
I would like to pour out our facing problem and difficulty in processing Iqama and job allowance opportunity in Saudi Arabia. As far as I know that, it brought the great opportunity for Rohingyas by Saudi government sympathy to Rohingyas on behalf of persecuting in Arakan. I am warmly welcome and thankful to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
On this regards, the Iqama processing start on hand of Jalia al Burmawiya( Burmese community) in March 2013. Their procedures are excellently good and systematically. Firstly, fill up the application form with bio- data and annexed documents for Iqama. Secondly, to have proved, he/she is Burmese or not. Finally, Saudi authority checked the all data and application form and negotiates with sponsor (Kafeel) and companies. I would like to explain our path to get Iqama. In Jalia al Burmawiya members are local born dearest and nearest and deep rooted persons who came here more than 40 years ago, they know nothing about Arakan,Rohingya, Burmese language and write. As my experience to fill up the form, I have given a token to enter the room where form are filling, after few hours later, I was in front of some Jalia al Burmawiya members who examined me from where I came, what you know about in Arakan and famous persons in your village or town etc….. They didn’t check and glimpse my file which was full of my data and documents. After passing of cross question of them, given a token this was made of empty cigarettes bundle. A few minutes later, my name was called by a man to follow him to a room for filling form, when I entered the room; I saw all clerks were dressed as Saudi who filled the form in completely Arabic. They started string of questions checking documents (Birth certificate, ID thon kak show, Degree certificate) page by page as if he can read Burmese and began to fill the form, after filled up the form another person was commended to cut the hair only one inch who gave the token with file number for oral examine to proof as Burmese citizenship again. Continue reading