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Silent views on Myanmar violence

By Chan Myae Khine
July 30th 2012





The violence in western Myanmar started from thebrutal raping and killing of a Rakhine (formerly known as Arakan) woman by three Muslims, the fact that two of them are reportedly Rohingyas is still a headliner in mainstream media.

The riot occurred in some areas in the Rakhine state, near the border towns of Myanmar and Bangladesh, where most of the population is Rohingya. Despite the riot, other states and divisions throughout the country where a number of Muslims live remained peaceful, proving that the clash was communal-based. Some mainstream media, however, manipulated the news as a religious clash between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.

Since the violence broke out, a number of people from both sides have been severely victimised. Seven weeks after the riot, the local people still suffer from a lack of security despite the presence of government armed forces. To add to the miseries, certain news agencies and extremists further worsened the situation. Local Rakhines, Hindus and some Muslims who were not involved in the riot are now also in need of government armed forces for state security.

The media spread the news that armed forces were cruelly treating the Rohingya, whereas government authorities were detaining people suspected for committing criminal activities such as burning down buildings and being a threat to the public.

The complexity of the situation and limited information from the Myanmar government has left the rest of the world confused. There is no solid definition for the term Rohingya; while Myanmar claims that they are the descendents of Bengalis, Bangladesh claims that they are the citizens of Myanmar. From the pages of history, at some point the authorities of Myanmar seemed to have recognised the Rohingya as people of Myanmar but the Myanmar public now believes that it was due to a corrupt immigration system.

These stateless Rohingyas must be helped with respect to human rights, yet the international community should not ignore the Rakhine people. While thousands of Rakhine people became homeless, they continued to be labeled as racists where none of them started the riot. In addition, even at emergency camps where they take refuge, discrimination on providing adequate aid to victims of the riot reportedly occurs.

International NGOs such as UNHCR who have been supporting the Rohingyas for decades is not paying enough attention to the local Rakhine ethnics. Some monks and monasteries which were the victims of the riot, as a response, denied receiving supports from INGOs.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the world democracy icon, mentioned that the whole issue has to be solved with effective rule of law to both border areas and the corrupted Myanmar immigration. The president of Myanmar who is known as a reformist, U Thein Sein, expressed his concern for the stateless illegal immigrants suggesting that UNHCR operate a sheltered camp for them or for them to be absorbed by another state. The UNHCR immediately rejected the proposal, contrasting their concern for the Rohingya people.

Although the world is pushing Myanmar to accept all the Rohingyas as “citizens” of Myanmar, contradictorily, Muslims around the world are protesting against the Myanmar people and its government. People are stepping on the Myanmar flag, some have burnt photographs of the president, and others have announced that they would organise a jihad against Myanmar. Iran forced the United Nations to send UN peacekeeping troops to Myanmar while the Organisation of the Islamic Corporation condemned the government for accepting all Rohingya people as Myanmar citizens.

Furthermore, some extremist pro-Rohingyas propagated misleading facts about Rohingya by manipulating photos of Chinese monks from earthquakes, dead bodies from cyclones and arresting Muslims in Thailand, and portraying them as Myanmar monks and Rakhine people brutally attacking the Rohingya. Some are even screaming that there is a genocide taking place without even knowing the facts of the situation. Such one-sided force will not assist in solving the current violence but only perpetuate racial hatred.

Some of the Bengali residents who are eligible to be granted citizenship should doubtlessly be granted it, as the Myanmar government and leading politicians have clearly stated so. However, for some of the armed illegal immigrants, Bangladesh has to be responsible and the Myanmar public believes that both countries should organise an efficient dialogue to resolve these immigration issues. Moreover, all prevailing countries should consider supporting the stateless Rohingya people to be absorbed by first-world countries, just like some of the refugees have been given the opportunity to apply for asylum.


The author is a graduate from National University of Singapore and Yangon University of Foreign Languages.  Based in Singapore, she covers issues and affairs related to Myanmar on Global VoicesAYM MagazineSEAYouths Say So and Myanmar Netizens.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan
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