Ignoring Genocide: Rohingya People Deserve to Live

March 8th, 2013

Published on Dissident Voice, by Ramzy Baroud, March 6, 2013.

One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments’ normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action. 

Meanwhile the ‘boat people’ remain on their own. On February 26, fishermen discovered a rickety wooden boat floating randomly at sea, nearly 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Indonesia’s northern province of Aceh. The Associated Press and other media reported there were 121 people on board including children who were extremely weak, dehydrated and nearly starved. They were Rohingya refugees who preferred to take their chances at sea rather than stay in Myanmar. To understand the decision of a parent to risk his child’s life in a tumultuous sea would require understanding the greater risks awaiting them at home.

Reporting for Voice of America from Jakarta, Kate Lamb cited a moderate estimate of the outcome of communal violence in the Arakan state, which left hundreds of Rohingya Muslims dead, thousands of homes burnt and nearly 115,000 displaced. The number is likely to be higher at all fronts. Many fleeing Rohingya perished at sea or disappeared to never be seen again. Harrowing stories are told and reported of families separating and boats sunk. There are documented events in which various regional navies and border police sent back refugees after they successfully braved the deadly journey to other countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and elsewhere. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that nearly 13,000 Rohingya refugees attempted to leave Myanmar on smugglers’ boats in the Bay of Bengal in 2012. At least five hundred drowned.

But who are the Rohingya people?

Myanmar officials and media wish to simply see the Rohingyas as ‘illegal Bengali immigrants’, a credulous reading of history at best. The intentions of this inaccurate classification, however, are truly sinister for it is meant to provide a legal clearance to forcefully deport the Rohingya population. Myanmar President Then Sein had, in fact, made an ‘offer’ to the UN last year that he was willing to send the Rohingya people “to any other country willing to accept them.” The UN declined.

Rohingya Muslims, however, are native to the state of “Rohang”, officially known as Rakhine or Arakan. If one is to seek historical accuracy, not only are the Rohingya people native to Myanmar, it was, in fact, Burma that occupied Rakhine in the 1700’s. Over the years, especially in the first half of the 20th century, the original inhabitants of Arakan were joined by cheap or forced labor from Bengal and India, who permanently settled there … //

… While one is used to official hypocrisy, whether by ASEAN or western governments, many are still scratching their heads over the unforgivable silence of democracy advocate and Noble Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. Luckily, others are speaking out. Bangladesh’s Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, along with former Timor-Leste president Ramos-Horta had both recently spoke with decisive terms in support of the persecuted Rohingya people.

“The minority Muslim Rohingya continue to suffer unspeakable persecution, with more than 1,000 killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes just in recent months, apparently with the complicity and protection of security forces,” the Nobel laureates wrote in the Huffington Post on February 20. They criticized the prejudicial Citizenship Law of 1982 and called for granting the Rohingya people full citizenship.

The perpetual suffering of the Rohingya people must end. They are deserving of rights and dignity. They are weary of crossing unforgiving seas and walking harsh terrains seeking mere survival. More voices must join those who are speaking out in support of their rights. ASEAN must break away from its silence and tediously guarded policies and western countries must be confronted by their own civil societies: no normalization with Rangoon when innocent men, women and children are being burned alive in their own homes. This injustice needs to be known to the world and serious, organized and determined efforts must follow to bring the persecution of the Rohingya people to an end.
(full text).

(Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached here. Read other articles by Ramzy).

Links:

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar;

on en.wikipedia:

  • Rohingya people … are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group from the state of Rakhine (also known as Arakan, or Rohang in the Rohingya language) in Burma. The Rohingya are ethno-linguistically related to the Indo-Aryan peoples of India and Bangladesh (as opposed to the majority Sino-Tibetan people of Burma). The region of Rakhine was annexed and occupied by Myanmar in the 1700s, thus bringing the Rohingya people under Burmese government. As of 2012, 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma. According to the United Nations, they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.[10] Many Rohingya have fled to ghettos and refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and to areas along the Thai-Burma border.
  • Their plight came to international media attention in the wake of the 2012 Rakhine State riots[11][12] …;
  • Rakhine State.

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