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    Southeast Asia
     Nov 14, 2012

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Myanmar fixates on Rohingya calculation
By Peter Lee

To outside observers, the carnage inflicted on the Rohingya minority - a five-month spasm of violence and de fact ethnic cleansing ostensibly stemming from the rape of a Buddhist woman by three Rohingya men - in Rakhine Province is indefensible and inexplicable.

What is even less understandable to Westerners is the virtually universal closing of ranks among local and national governments, pro and anti-government Buddhist monks, junta apologists and pro-democracy activists, President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, all uniting to deny the apparently undeniable fact that an old fashioned pogrom is taking place against Rohingya minority and other Muslims.

Friends of Myanmar are puzzled and dismayed that the


progressives they have championed have joined forces with the country's most reactionary forces to deny the overwhelming evidence that Rohingya - a dark-skinned Muslim ethnic minority with cultural and linguistic ties to neighboring Bangladesh - are being driven out of their homes by a campaign of intimidation, arson, and violence in 2012 that builds upon years of marginalization and demonization.

Seventy-five thousand Rohingya IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) have been herded into camps on the outskirts of the state capital, Sittwe, and other towns.

In a sign of how bad things are, thousands of Rohingya are trying to flee to Bangladesh, even though they are not welcome there and their only possible refuge if they aren't turned back are two squalid UN-run camps surrounded by a ring of miserable unsanctioned huts.

Exasperated by Myanmar denialism, Human Rights Watch published a satellite photo showing most of the Muslim quarter of a sizable town, Kyak Pyu, burned to the ground. [1]

(As is usual in these matters, nomenclature follows political inclination. The official government identifiers are Myanmar and Rakhine State. People disinclined to legitimize the regime's terms use Burma/Arakan).

The local Rakhine government and its dominant political party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, or RNDP, have been at the forefront of the anti-Rohingya campaign, according to Rohingya advocate Nay San Lwin.

Writing in Turkey's Today Zaman, he asserted:
The tragic cruelty and the carnage of Rohingyas that occurred in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan (now known as Rakhine) state, is assumed to have been caused by Dr Aye Maung, member of parliament and chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) because in his interview with Venus News Journal on June 14, 2012, he said, "The Rakhine state should be established in the way Israel was initially established." That's the dream of the Rakhine people. They want to drive out Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine (Arakan) state, their current leader Dr Aye Maung asserted in that interview.

In the last week of last month, a RNDP statement indicated, "Bengalis must be segregated and settled in separate, temporary places so that the Rakhines and Bengalis are not able to mix together in villages and towns in Rakhine state." "Repatriating non-citizen Bengalis to a third country in a short period of time must be discussed with the United Nations and the international community," the statement added. The RNDP also issued a statement early this year against a job announcement by CARE International in Myanmar, an NGO working in Arakan state, for using the term "Rohingya." [2]
Local Arakanese monks have been pitching in as well, according to Democratic Voice of Burma:
A group of Arakanese monks have called for Rohingya "sympathizers" to be targeted and exposed as "national traitors" while tensions again flare between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma's westernmost state.

In a document seen by DVB, the All-Arakanese Monks' Solidarity Conference have urged locals to distribute images of anyone alleged to be supporting the stateless minority group to all townships in the region, potentially opening them up to violent attacks by nationalist extremists.
Many Arakanese monks have repeatedly called on local Buddhists to sever all relations with the Rohingya community, including trade and the provision of humanitarian aid. [3]
Another ugly message was delivered courtesy of some Rakhine Buddhist university students:
Hundreds of Buddhist university students in Sittwe in Rakhine State rallied on Wednesday against Rohingya Muslims as communal tension was at a heightened pitch in western Burma, according to news service reports.

More than 800 students joined a rally to call for an end to "studying with terrorist Bengalis" and for the removal of Muslim villages on the road to the university. [4]
In addition, the RNDP embarked on an active political and public relations campaign to reframe the pogrom as "sectarian clashes" in order to present its supporters - the rioters - as the injured party, especially if foreign diplomats show up to commiserate over the plight of the Rohingya.

In June, the Secretary General of the RNDP complained:
Q : We have knowledge that UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Myanmar Mr. Vijay Nambiar visited the town of Sittwe through Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships of Rakhine state and head back straight to Yangon. However, during his trip, he did not meet the representatives of ethnic Rakhine. What's your say on this?

A: I would so much like to talk about this issue. We feel highly upset about Mr. Nambiar's failure to meet [Rakhine ethnic representatives] despite coming to Rakhine state. That makes us wonder about the stance of UN. There was no press conference either. And that is purely a totally unpleasant situation.

Therefore it makes us wonder the true motives of Mr. Nambia, is he being bias against those of ethnic Rakhine? So, by looking at this event, it's obvious that there are people who are pulling the strings from behind; otherwise, there is no reason for such a high ranking diplomat like him to dare not to call for a press conference. For an organization like UN, which is the de-facto representative of world's democratic societies, such a big failure is a heinous diplomatic mistake. [5]
When the Organization for Islamic Cooperation proposed setting up a humanitarian liaison office in the state capital of Sittwe, local "offended Buddhist" women marched through the streets of the state capital, wearing mass produced T-shirts and brandishing mass-produced banners. [6]

That's bad enough. But there was more. The national government of Thein Sein endorsed the position of the Rakhine State government and declared that the best deal for the Rohingya would be to herd them into UN camps for their own safety and then deport them to whatever third country would take them.

At the national level, the anti-Rohingya wave was not limited to the callous, knuckle-dragging authoritarians associated with the Myanmar military junta (now the pro-Western reformist regime in Nyapyidaw).

Buddhist monks and democracy activists piled on, excoriating the international community for daring to care about the Rohingya.

The leadership of the 8888 student democracy movement, while vigorously and commendably deploring the violence against the Rohingya, adamantly declared its disdain for the persecuted group:
Rohingya is not one of the ethnic groups of Myanmar at all. We see that the riot happening currently in Buthedaung and Maungdaw of Arakan State is because of the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh called "Rohingya" and mischievous provocation of some international communities. Therefore, such interfering efforts by some powerful nations on this issue (Rohingya issue), without fully understanding the ethnic groups and other situations of Burma, will be viewed as offending the sovereignty of our nation. Genetically, culturally and linguistically Rohingya is not absolutely related to any ethnicity in Myanmar Taking advantage of our kindness and deference, if the powerful countries forced us to take responsibility for this issue, we will never accept it. Concerning with the sovereignty, if we are forced to yield by any country, we, the army and democratic force will deal the issue together as a national issue. [7]
From the Western liberal perspective, the worst was the studied disdain of Aung San Suu Kyi- whose official title in the Western press appears to be "democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi- for the plight of the Rohingya. 

Continued 1 2 3 4

Rohingya miss boat on development (Nov 10, '12)

Nowhere to go for the Rohingya
(Nov 9, '12)


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