MYANMAR’S UNHOLY WAR AGAINST ROHINGYAS

 

 

 

Berthed in India’s North West’s frontier and Bangladesh’s North, bordered to the East by Laos, Thailand in the South East and China in the North, Myanmar formerly known as Burma had been on the headlines no thanks to her military.

South East Asia’s North-Western most country has had her own fair share of turbulence and troubles ever since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The mainly Buddhist country had been under military rule since 1962-a period typified by repression and more importantly, the incarceration of a Nobel Peace Laurette, Aung Sun Kyii which did not only lead to international condemnation but, also  ostracism.

While Aung Sun Kyii’s resilience in the face of brutal military rule had the West preoccupied with Burma, the plight of the Rohingyas-a Muslim minority in Rakhine state- didn’t court much attention. Certainly, not oblivious of the Rohingyas’ persecution by Myanmar’s military rulers but, guess  the West must have felt it was more of a symptomatic or rippling effect of the coercive rule in place that also affected other ethnic groups like the Karen, just to mention a few.

The international community wrongfully concluded: Restore democracy, free Aung Sun Kyii and everything would definitely fall into place-A thought that was widely shared by the Rohingyas; the casualties and victims of the state on unholy war against her.

But, they were wrong.

Years after a make-shift democracy was put up by the junta and Aung Sun Kyii freed, things-especially for the Rohingyas-have not changed nay improved. Rather, it has deteriorated.

Prior to the current crisis that has seen over 400,000 Rohingyas flee their homes in Rakhine state for Bangladesh, the Myanmar state had continually instigated and employed anti-Rohingya policies with aplomb. It is an institutionalized policy that even the ‘revered’ Aung Suu Kyii, the state counselor can’t challenge.

Seen as a national and international heroine for standing up to the repressive and oppressive military regime, however the 70 year old failed to speak out against the ongoing military operations on the Rohingyas much to the chagrin of Iran’s ayatollah.

Her silence sent a wrong signal: a silent approval of the Buddhist state unholy war against her minority ethnic Muslims. And even when she broke ‘the ice’, it all fell flat. Her denial and downplaying of the atrocities committed against the Rohingyas left many bemused and awestruck.

Away from Aung San Sun Kyi and her dismal performance in front of the international audience to the battle ground in Rakhine state, the beastly atrocities against the Rohingyas deserve scrutiny.

Originally seen as part of several groups that were under the Arakhan kingdom in the 15th century, now part of present Myanmar, the Rohingyas have long established roots. However, previous and successive Burmese government have deliberately declined and denounced this historical fact.

Hence, it comes as no surprise to see the Rohingyas denied group recognition as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups.

Instead, they are considered as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh that should be deported.

Stripped of citizenship, denied access to education, health, employment and migration, the Rohingyas have been subjected to every form of inhuman treatment one could think of; something that has further been highlighted in the ongoing violence in Rakhine.

Under the excuse of neutralizing a Rohingya rebel group that killed five Burmese police men last month, the government has ‘wedged the hammer’ on an already exasperated and weary ethnic population.

Rapes, arson, destruction of their villages and killings reek of ethnic cleansing. It seems there is a calculated attempt by the government and Buddhists nationalists to not only dislodge but also get rid of Myanmar’s 1 million Rohingya living in northern Rakhine state once and for all.

According to rights group and relief agencies providing succor for the fleeing Rohingyas in Coz’s Bazar, Bangladesh, over 400,000 have swarm the stretch of border land on the Bangladeshi side and many more are still trooping in.

It is an influx the Bangladeshi government is struggling to cope with. The government of Sheikh Hasina has resorted to international help as the country groans under the pressure of hosting their new visitors.

It is a call and a cause not lost on the international community.

The United Nations has in stark and unforgiving term branded the ‘unholy war’ against the Rohingyas as ethnic cleansing. And has called on Naypydaw to halt the violence and rein in its military-A position other Muslim countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, have also vented their voices on. But, one voice seems to be louder: Turkey’s.

Turkey’s vociferous president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not only decided to deliver humanitarian aids to the Rohingyas but, has also taken a step further by branding Myanmar’s action as genocide. Erdogan has sought to ramp up pressure on Myanmar by urging Pakistan, Mauritania, Iran and Qatar to join forces with her to find a way to stopping the violence against the Rohingyas.

It is a clarion call that seems to be finally earning the attention of the world.

The sordid tales of rape, arson and killings and planting of landmines by Burmese forces along the border with Bangladesh to prevent Rohingyas from returning all prove that Buddhist nationalists backed by the Myanmar government deliberately do not want the Rohingyas back.

It is a fact Nay py taw can’t deny. This recent crisis is just one in the series of crises that the Rohingyas have passed through; one that has also assumed greater proportion and received wider condemnations for its genocidal and ethnic cleansing appearance.

The Rohingyas have been the victims in the majority Buddhist state. Stripped of any form of legal status, deliberately schemed out of the socio-economic arrangement in Myanmar, they have long endured the psychological and physiological torment perpetuated by the government of a country they call ‘home’.

It is definitely an open wound cum scar for the Rohingyas. A charred and dark part in her unending sojourn to attaining dignity, respect and most of all acceptance, within the Myanmar state.

The perceived sense of hopelessness, abandonment, fear and an ‘eerie’ feeling that “the world is against them” can be reversed if the whole world stand in unison to not only condemn the Burmese government but, also pile international pressure on her to stop the killings and ensure the safe return of thousands holed up in Coz’s Bashar.

It is a path Myanmar must take. Aung San Suu Kyi can go beyond her ‘charade’ in front of the international community and do the needful to end the ‘unholy war’ the government is waging against a vulnerable and oppressed minority group in the Rohingya.

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