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Rohingya Muslims massacred as the world averts its eyes

Photo: Al Jazeera

By Brad Dell
April 16, 2014

The genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is being orchestrated. As they experience countless acts of violence from anti-Muslim Buddhists, the media murmurs, and the world merely lets out a small sigh. Where is the uproar? Where is justice for these minorities living in this small Southeast Asian country?


Approximately 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims reside in Myanmar, many descending from families that have lived there for generations. Fortify Rights, a non-profit human rights organization, confirms severe violations of the Rohingya’s human rights, and the United Nations recognizes them as “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.”

Despite their long-term residence in the country, more than 700,000 Rohingya still remain stateless, as the 1982 Citizenship Law categorized them as “foreign residents.” They have also been prohibited from freedoms such as practicing Islam, traveling freely and marrying whom they please, and Regional Order 1/2005 restricted them from having more than two children. 

Burmese-Buddhist nationalism has been on the rise, with the “969” movement – led by Buddhist monks – preaching intolerance toward the Rohingya. This ideology is set in the belief that the Rohingya Muslims are invaders of the land. This anger in the 90 percent Buddhist population paired with an authoritarian Buddhist political force has led to vast outbreaks of violence across Myanmar.

According to Myanmar’s ambassador, the major violence began with the rape and killing of a Buddhist girl by three Muslims in May 2012. A month later in June, about 300 Buddhists attacked and killed 10 Muslims in a bus. CBS reported that since 2012, the Rohingya have seen consistent outbreaks of fatal violence that have killed hundreds and left 250,000 displaced.


On June 13, 2012, “a government truck dumped 18 naked and half-clothed bodies near a Rohingya displaced person camp outside of Sittwe, the state capital. Some of the victims had been ‘hogtied’ with string or plastic strips before being executed,” according to Human Rights Watch.

On Oct. 23, 2012, Buddhists attacked a Muslim community in Yan Thei village, according to Human Rights Watch. Five mosques, six madrassas and 642 households were burned to the ground. The small amount of dispatched police, who were present during the event, were accused of disarming Muslims who attempted to defend themselves. In the daylong massacre, at least 70 Muslims were slaughtered, with 28 children – 13 under the age of 5 – hacked to death. 

Furthermore, enraged by the killing of a monk, Buddhists turned their eyes to an Islamic school. On March 21, 2013, 36 Muslims-most of them teenagers and not involved in the monk killing- were massacred by Buddhist mobs. The students ran for help to the police, who merely looked on as they were killed, accoding to the Associated Press. On May 18, 2013, the United Nations confirmed two recent, separate massacres, in which at least 48 Muslims were killed, although the government denies it.

However, the violence is not exclusive to Muslims; those who dare assist them also face assault. In March, CNN said the offices of international aid agencies in Sittwe were attacked for allegedly being biased toward the Rohingya Muslims. And in February, Doctors Without Borders were also banned from treating Rohingya.


Ironically, news of the May 2013 massacres arose as Myanmar hosted an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event that celebrated the distance the nation has gone since ending its military dictatorship two years ago.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has been saluted by the international community for his political and economic reforms, with economic sanctions enacted during the Burma dictatorship lifted by President Barack Obama on July 11, 2012. In the same speech that he lifted sanctions, Obama stated that new sanctions could be put in place for “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” 

Myanmar’s products are now allowed to be imported to the U.S., and “The Obama administration is allowing U.S. companies to do business with Myanmar’s strategic oil and gas industry, which has been a key source of income for the regime,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, in an interview with CNN. 

We have evidence of “human rights abuses” and “ethnic conflict,” yet we pat Myanmar on the head like proud parents. The Genocide Watch has a spotlight on Myanmar, and yet American media has chosen to treat the situation as second-rate news. We need to address the injustices that are being faced by people throughout the world. We should not stand by while innocent people are slaughtered and their human rights violated by a nation that becomes increasingly respected by the international community.

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