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A Cause To Act Upon: Burma And Anti-Muslim Sentiment

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
October 31, 2015

An investigative unit for a regional media outlet has discovered that there is “strong evidence” that the government of Myanmar is fueling anti-Muslim sentiment leading to riots and that genocide is indeed taking place in some provinces.

The media unit gathered firsthand eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence that clearly suggests that the present Myanmar government under President Thein Sein is “triggering communal violence in order to achieve political gain”.

Their findings were released in a film titled “Genocide Agenda” in cooperation with Yale University Law School as well as the International State Crime Initiative at the University of London. The real life documentary focused on the Myanmar government’s actions against ethnic Muslims. A former United Nations Rapporteur on Myanmar emphatically stated that “President Thein Sein should now be investigated for the ongoing genocide”.

In their investigation, the media unit found rock solid evidence that previously neutral Buddhist monks were offered money to join anti-Muslim, pro-government groups. They also discovered that the isolation of Muslims and the targeting of Rohingya with an increased dose of violence “plays into the hands of the military backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)”, which is running against the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the face of a gathering chorus of international condemnation, the Myanmar government has resorted to a more subtle approach to exterminate Rohingya. To distance themselves from any possible censure, the government uses hired thugs to trigger communal violence. In the film, a former member of Myanmar’s feared Military Intelligence Service describes how she witnessed agent provocateurs from the army provoke confrontations with the normally placid Rohingya Muslims. “The army controlled these events from behind the scenes. They were not directly involved, choosing instead to pay money to people from outside.”

The investigative unit also discovered that communal violence as far back as 2012 against the hapless Rohingya was state-sponsored. “It wasn’t communal violence. It was planned violence,” said Professor Peggy Green, a researcher taking part in the investigation. “Express buses were organized to bring Rakhine from outlying areas to take part in the violence. Refreshments and meals were provided. It had to be paid by somebody. All of this suggests that it was very carefully planned.”

To drum up support, government figures travel around the country raising alarm over the presence of Rohingya in the local population. Using incendiary rhetoric against the hapless Rohingya, U Mra Aung, the new chief minister of Rakhine stated that “The ‘Bengali’ Muslims (implying Rohingya) in Northern Rakhine state are planning to commit violence against Rakhine because they are barred from the upcoming election, and the Bengali Muslim terrorist groups have also infiltrated Arakan; therefore, you (the Buddhist Rakhine community) must be prepared to defend yourselves as you did in the past”.

The Rohingya have a reason to be concerned. The chief minister has been traveling to various townships in Arakan state and making similar statements. There are major concerns in the Rohingya community in Arakan over the inflammatory speech of government officials and Buddhist Rakhine leaders that is likely to set off new waves of violence against Rohingya by the Buddhist Rakhine mobs on the pretext of barring Rohingya from the upcoming election.

The Rohingya are unquestionably the world’s most persecuted minority. An ethnic Muslim group in a majority Buddhist country, they make up around one million of the total 50 million population. They reside primarily in the country’s northwest state of Rakhine, one of the poorest states in Myanmar. They also speak a Bengali dialect, and many in the Rakhine state live in ghetto-like camps that they cannot leave without government permission. Many have tried to flee the persecution by sailing the high seas to neighboring countries and have perished on the journey.

Meanwhile, for those who remain, only genocide seems to be their fate. How much more blood has to be spilled and soil the ground before humanity wakes up and takes action? It has done much more for much less.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

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