Muslim-Buddhist clash in Burma leaves many dead and hundreds of houses burnt. Trouble started, June 3 in Rakhine State, when a Buddhist mob attacked a bus and killed 10 Rohingya Muslims on a mistaken assumption.
A state of emergency have been declared by the President, Thein Sein, for Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh following the fighting in the capital, Sittwe.
Homes burned, gunshots rang out and witnesses reported many dead as sectarian violence raged for a fifth day between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in northwest Myanmar on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Witnesses reported black smoke over the port town of Sittwe. Some Buddhists have been seen carrying bamboo stakes, machetes and sling-shots. Both sides were also reportedly seen setting houses on fire.
A Muslim Lower House Representative, Shwe Maung, has accused the Police of allowing Buddhists break the curfew and burn Muslim Houses. He urged the army to intervene and accused police of allowing Buddhists to break the curfew and burn Muslim houses.
“Sittwe is like a war zone” he said, putting the death toll at 50 in the village of Narzi, not far from Sittwe.
Amid all this, Bangladesh has stepped up security along its 200-kilometre (125- mile) border with Burma/Myanmar to prevent an influx of Rohingya refugees who are fleeing the violence. It is estimated that about 300,000 Royingya Muslims are already refugees in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Patrol Teams have intercepted and push back several boats trying to enter Bangladesh since Monday. The Boats containing Women, Children and wounded were detained and later sent back to Burma’s water.
The UN refugee agency has called on Bangladesh to open its borders for Royingya Muslims that are fleeing the marauding Buddhist miscreants.
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority living in northern Arakan state in western Burma. They face religious discrimination at the hands of Burma’s military regime, which doesn’t recognize the Rohingya as citizens of Burma. The regime does not consider the Rohingya people as one of 135 legally recognized ethnic minority groups in Burma, leaving the Rohingya stateless, homeless and rights-less.
For decades, the Rohingya people have been victims of systematic and widespread human rights violations at the hands of the military junta. In a recent report released by the Irish Center for Human Rights, an expert on international human rights law claimed that these mass atrocities perpetrated by the military government against the Rohingya minority in the country’s western region may constitute crimes against humanity. Overlooked for years, their plight and the root causes of their dire situation remain under-examined.
MASS ATRCITIES AGAINST ROYINGYA: Loss of Land and Rights
The Rohingya are denied fundamental human rights and freedom, and the military regime consistently perpetrates human rights violations against this vulnerable population. The regime refuses to issue identification cards to Rohingya, which are necessary to be able to travel, as well as to obtain passports and enroll in higher education. They are denied land and property rights and ownership. The land on which they live can be taken away at any given time.
Furthermore, the Rohingya are victims of modern-day slavery – forced labor. These people are forced to work without pay on construction sites for roads, railways, and building army barracks. Because they are forced into these construction projects with no compensation, they cannot generate any income to feed themselves and their families. In addition, their non-legal status makes it extremely difficult for the Rohingya to find employment. Acute and chronic malnutrition is rife among the Rohingya minority.
Land confiscation has become a common practice, as the regime forces the Rohingya to evict from their lands in preparation for international development projects such as gas/oil pipelines and hydropower plants. Among several other development projects in the region, the regime is building the Shwe gas pipeline through Arakan State. The construction of previous pipelines have involved abuses such as forced labor, forced portering and forced resettlement, and it is likely the Rohingya will be further subjected to these abuses upon the beginning of this construction project. Though the regime uses these pipelines to export energy sources, Arakan state is not included on Burma’s power grid and thus has no electricity.
Moreover, these gas/oil pipelines generate billions of dollars annually for the military, and less than 1% of this gas/oil revenues makes it back into Burma to benefit the people of Burma. Often times, these revenues are used to buy more weapons or end up in off-shore individual bank accounts of the generals and their associates.
The denial of citizenship to the Rohingya means that the Rohingya must abide by laws for “temporary residents.” For example, Rohingya are denied birth certificates, and they must seek permission to marry, a process that may take months or years and may involve considerable bribes and requirements to renounce their religion. Restrictions on movement can prevent the Rohingya from accessing healthcare and education, or from working as civil servants. In many cases, the Rohingya are denied healthcare, or required to pay arbitrary fees.
MILITARY ATTACKS ON ROHINGYA PEOPLE
As early as 1942, the Rohingya have been the target of state-sponsored persecution. In 1942, an estimated number of 100,000 Rohingya Muslims were slaughtered by the Burmese nationals, local Arakanese communists and Japanese occupiers. In 1978, the Burmese Army launched a military offence, named Dragon King, to root out these so-called ‘foreigners’. Hundreds were arrested, tortured, raped and killed. In the following months of the military operation, over 300,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government refused to provide food supplies and other necessities to the Rohingya refugees, leaving many of them to die from starvation and disease.
Again in 1991, the Burmese Army launched another military operation to drive out more Rohingya from Burma’s lands. More than 268,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government forcibly repatriated over 60% of those who fled back into Burma, with full knowledge of their heightened vulnerability to persecution, discrimination, and insecurity.
STATELESS AND UNWANTED
As if their home government does not treat them badly enough, the Rohingya do not find welcome in other countries where they seek refuge. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia to escape persecution and adversity only to fall into even greater trials. Currently, over 30,000 Rohingya live in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh where they are denied access to food supplies, medical aid, and education. Sexual violence against women remain prevalent.
Many Rohingya people also fled to Thailand and Malaysia, with the hope of finding refuge and a life beyond misery and poverty. However, they are subjected to dehumanizing treatments by both Thai and Malaysian authorities. In December 2009, it was reported that Thai officials towed a boatful of Rohingya refugees back into international waters in a motorless barge, where they were at the mercy of the shark-infested sea. According to one survivor of this ordeal, “The boat drifted for 10 days and 10 nights. During the daytime, [we] saw large fish swimming along the boat the looked like sharks.” Then he went on to say that “at night they would see a light, perhaps from a passing ship or a nearby island, and many on board attempted to swim for it lest their boat drift in the wrong direction.” He said, “We saw many drowning, one by one, as the current was carrying them away and none of them had the energy left to swim.”
In February 2009, a thousand Rohingya refugees fleeing to Thailand were sent back to Burma, whom the Thai authorities forcibly expelled.
The From Burma to South Thailand, Kashmir, Palestine, Bosnia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and here in Nigeria, the situation of Muslims is not very different, the difference lies in the intensity of the prosecution and this in turn is determined by the strength of the prosecutor and the weakness of the victims.
The Royingya’s are like the Palestinians without the Palestinian resistance.
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