Rohingya massacre — Will 'rip van winkle' wake up?
Published : Sunday, 18 December, 2016 at 12:06 PM Count : 384
Recent years have seen more Rohingyas attempting to flee their country, unable to get on with the situation deteriorating further. Their men have been tortured and killed, women raped, houses burnt and they were deprived of jobs or subjected into forced labour often without pay.
Yesterday morning I woke up to twin news about the repression and killing of minority Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar - a sad saga unfolding in the Buddhist-ruled country for years and intensified recently.
One report said at least 200 Rohingyas onboard 19 boats had been pushed back across the Naaf border river by Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) on Friday. However, 27,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar's Rakhine state have already fled to Bangladesh since the latest carnage began - and found themselves shelter in jungles or with Rohingyas, who previously came here to escape persecution of Muslim minority continuing since early 1970s.
The other news that caught my attention was a report by the Reuters international news agency from Geneva. It said 'The United Nations is getting daily reports of rapes and killings of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, although the government was insultingly dismissing the claims and making the situation worse, the UN human rights office said on Friday.'
It further said in a statement that the government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, had taken a "short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous" approach to the crisis, which could have grave long-term repercussions for the region.'
The UN reports at least 86 people have been killed, according to (Myanmar) state media, and the United Nations has estimated 27,000 members of the largely stateless Rohingya minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh.
It was in a nutshell UN's estimation of the virtual genocide in the country bordering Bangladesh, which has been hosting over half a million Rohingyas for decades with no solution to their ethnic problem or any hope for their repatriation to Burma or resettlement anywhere in the world in sight.
The UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation of Migration (IOM) have at times spoke of their concern and efforts to stem the exodus of the Rohingyas but in reality nothing has happened while more Rohingyas kept fleeing the country where they lived for generations.
Bangladesh has called for international cooperation to address the issue but so far with no response from regional or other governments. They keep mysteriously silent over the killing, rape and burning of homes of the Rohingyas - who Myanmar, even after accession of power by Suu Kyi, refuse to grant citizenship and blame being illegal migrants from Bangladesh. This irony is haunting the Muslims in what was formerly known as Burma seems has no end or not in a foreseeable time.
Bangladesh and Burma, many would say, is a stone's throw apart across the Naaf River or by land border from each other but yet the countries have remained ethically and religiously wide apart which has cursed the Muslim population in Rakhine. Just for being a minority and Muslims they are treated inhumanly. The world is watching this and Suu Kyi is justifying it - and the UN has been in a long slumber until Friday when it issued the report. However, we don't know whether the UN report is an indicator that the world body will act on the problem and try to fix the military-backed Suu Kyi government in an appropriate way.
Myanmar has been a place of interest for America, China, India and other countries investing there heavily to explore the huge untapped resources in the country which was virtually off limit to the rest of world until recently. But sadly, they are busy with harnessing their dreams in Myanmar but unlikely to do anything to help the Muslims from rape, killing and driven out of their homes. More surprisingly, the Muslim nations - except for Iran - are also dubiously quiet about the sufferings of the Muslims in Myanmar. These stateless people (as they do not have citizenship of any country) are being made further stateless.
The Rohingyas are often regarded as the world's most persecuted minority. They are an ethnic Muslim group in the majority Buddhist country and make up around one million of the total 50 million populations.
They hail from the country's northwest and speak a Bengali dialect which made it easy for the rulers to brand them as migrants from Bengali-speaking Bangladesh. Also overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis and the Rohingyas belong to Muslim faith, Islam. Almost all live in Rakhine, one of the poorest states. They cannot leave without the government's permission.
They are not regarded as one of the country's 135 official ethnic groups and are denied citizenship under Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively renders them stateless.
To get citizenship, they need to prove they have lived in Myanmar for 60 years, but paperwork is often unavailable or denied to them. As a result, their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practise their religion and access health services are restricted.
Myanmar views the Rohingyas as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
In October 2012, in the wake of violent riots, Myanmar's President Thein Sein asked the UN to resettle the Rohingya in other countries, saying, "We will take care of our own ethnic nationalities, but Rohingya who came to Burma illegally are not of our ethnic nationalities, and we cannot accept them here."
Recent years have seen more Rohingyas make attempts to flee the country, unable to bear the deteriorating situation further. Their men have been tortured and killed, women raped, houses burnt and they were deprived of jobs or subjected into forced labour often without pay.
Many cross the border into Bangladesh escaping notice of the Myanmar police and BGB risking their lives, from where they try to get to countries other with higher incomes and better future - though human rights abuses still exist in Southeast Asian countries in the forms of employment exploitation and discrimination.
The Rohingyas have formed their own militia allegedly with backing and funding from the Middle East and maybe ISI also - and they recently launched attacks on police claiming several lives that further fuelled the 'genocide' by the Myanmar military and 'militant' Buddhists.r
Anis Ahmed is Executive Editor, The Daily Observer