Rohingya Issues May Remain Unsolved Under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Led NLD Government Of Myanmar
|(Photo: REUTERS/Max Rossi)|
By Z. M. Babar (aka) Soe Raza
November 17, 2015
Rohingya Issues May Remain Unsolved Under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Led NLD Government Of Myanmar
Many Rohingya activists around the world congratulated and gave big applauses to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson of NLD for the landslide victory of her party in this historic General Election (GE) of Myanmar held on 8th Nov, 2015 under the ruling camouflaged military regime of U Thein Sein. According to international observers and media reports, there were some polling stations found with advanced casting of votes and irregularities in favor of USDP. On the other hand, the results of the contests were announced in delayed manner by U Tin Aye, the Union Election Commission (UEC) who was believed to be under high pressure of USDP leaders. There was no doubt about the irregularities, frauds attempted manipulation of votes by USDP supporters and its leaders in order to cheat the supporters of NLD and other opposition parties . The credibility of this election should be below the normal standard and against international electoral procedures because it has removed or denied the rights of Rohingya MPs and themselves. Badly, the UEC was not an independent candidate or person with ultimate power to make a decision based on the results because he was appointed by State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government of General Than Shwe on 11th March of 2010. Unfortunately, those who were once elected as the MPs of USDP from Rohingya Muslims population in the last elections that represented more than 1.3 million of indigenous and ethnic minorities in the country were recently denied of being eligible candidates based on various alleged falsifications and biased grounds [2, 3]. From the beginning, the credibility of 2015 GE of Myanmar itself was supposed to be questioned by so called world democratic communities and ASEAN members . No strong words were seen except Mr. Charles Santiago, a Malaysian MP of Penang and the Chairman of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights who has expressed very logical argument saying , “In any other country the rejection of an entire class of candidates would render the contest itself undemocratic .”
We could remark that UEC has broken his silence suddenly to show his tremendous support towards USDP by saying that he wanted the USDP to win in the poll but fairly, we know the term ‘fairly’ was aimed here only to protect him from public outcry and violation against articles (d & e of clause 4) of Chapter II Under Section 450 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Union Election Commission Law [6, 7]. It was a clear indication of biased UEC which was quietly ignored by USDP. International observers believed that the election held on Nov 8 of 2015 was run freely and smoothly in technical manner while most of them forgot or feared to emphasize and highlight that this was the only election in the history of Burma (Myanmar) where no Muslim candidates from Rohingya were allowed to participate, only 28 other Muslim candidates or less than 0.5% of 6,074 candidates (5,130 Buddhists and 903 Christians) were allowed as the part of sham election policy. On the other hand, Muslim residents from upper Burma, Yangon and lower Burma were allowed to cast votes as well mainly in favor of the ruling party.
According to authentic historical documentations, there was no record of election held in Burma or Myanmar without participation of Rohingya candidates including the last GE held in Nov 10 of 2010 [8-10] after 47 years of military coup of General Ne Win . It doesn’t look strange and new to me to hear the denial of Rohingyas’ rights to vote because it didn’t happened suddenly in one day but it is a subsequent result and proof of continuous, systematic marginalization of major group of Muslim population (Rohingya) of Myanmar, genocidal and ethnic cleansing schemes of radical Buddhists including institutionalized elements (969 and Ma Ba Tha). ‘Voting or not voting is the sole right of a citizen but not the government itself where democracy is truly practiced. It was the political parties that are the losers and failures in nation building processes, what they called as ‘road map to democracy’.
All Rohingya are indigenous to their motherland (Arakan) and they were the citizens of the Union of Burma (today’s Republic of the Union of Myanmar) before and after independence. Believe it or not!, many thousands of Rohingya were already citizens of the land by birth and nature (For instance, my grandfather who was born in 1868 and died in 1982 on the soil of Arakan) before British colonization came to exist allover Burma from 1886 when U Thein Sein (born on April 20, 1945) and / or our National Hero, Thakin Aung San (born on February 13, 1915) were not born even and there was no such name called Myanmar in those days (Myanmar is a fabricated , concocted, manipulated name given in 1989 aiming to wipe off the history of British colonization) [12, 13].
Changing uniforms, changing name of the country (Burma/ Union of Burma/ SLORC / SPDC/ Myanmar and current Republic of the Union of Myanmar) and places (Arakan to Rakhine / Rangoon- Rangon to Yangon etc.,) are being used by the military Generals of Burma as a tactic to make international community confuse. Nothing is believed to be stable and reliable in my birth country except the military power which is still alive at any cost. As we know, real democracy could never be established and sustained by camouflaging and ambushing like a ‘Fox wearing the skin of a goat’. Moreover, it is undeniable that most of the Rohingya had remained loyal and sincere to the Union of Burma after the independence in 1948 as genuine and bona-fide citizens in serving the people and nation [14-19] while today’s Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung were recognized as the Mayu Frontier District [18, 20] (also known as Western Frontier) which was started to administer officially on 1st May of 1961 by Rohingya Muslim majority.
Even though majority of the parliamentary seats would be occupied by NLD members if there would be a smooth power transition in March of 2016 but obviously 25% of seats reserved for unelected military officials according to 2008 military-drawn constitution, blocking Daw Suu Kyi from becoming the President by her much talked ‘rule of law’, appointing of key ministers for the new government, management of natural resources and salaries for civil services, corruption and bribery, amendment of selected constitutional laws [21-24], some international treaties with neighbors which were signed against the will and interest of people such as Shwe Gas pipeline (800 km long) from Kyaukpyu of Arakan to Kunming of Yunnan province of China, mining and displacement of localities [25-29], the ongoing ethnic conflicts in border regions, refugee issues of Rohingya (internationally) with host countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, U.S.A and Canada etc., Karen Refugees in Thailand, the most importantly again is of Rohingya Citizenship issue (internally) would remain as the most challenging tasks for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led future NDL government from 2016 [30-33].
Simply, we could predict that the dark side of the Moon and the failure or the very bright future of the so called Myanmar democracy Icon (also called as the Lady of Destiny) is going to evolve soon depending on how she could handle these mentioned problems above. She may regret or proud to be the failed /supreme leader of NLD respectively when it comes true. Leave the Rohingya issues aside for a while, just think about the recently documented reports on the corruption of $31 billion (about two-third of the country’s GDP of 2014) from jades trade alone by military owned companies  which was an alarmingly dangerous and negative step towards building of a prosperous, transparent and balanced society . It might be 1% of corruption that media has explored under tight security measures and strong media censorship. Nobody knows exactly how many secret businesses do elite military officials of Nay Pyi Taw and their families have.
For decades, Myanmar was being isolated from the outside world due to its records of human rights violations until last GE of 2010. According to Global Finance Magazine reports, Myanmar was ranked in 23rd position (but richest among the 23 most poorest countries in the world) based on GDP per capita of $1490.53 in 2013 , its total revenue was just a bit higher than Burkina Faso of Africa which has indicated that it was still crawling with hundreds of various socioeconomic problems which should be mainly considered as man-made catastrophes as mentioned earlier. Is Myanmar really a poor country? Not at all if we look at natural resources, scopes of socioeconomic developments, ethnic diversity, and cultural heritages and so on.
The progress of a country’s economy also depend on many other factors (besides natural ones) such as population and its growth rate, mortality rate, healthcare facilities, quality of life, life expectancy, literacy rate, research and developments, skills development programs, empowering of women, cultural diversity, freedom of religious practice and media, equal treatment, rehabilitation processes for poor and homeless people, protection of environment, food safety and security, tourisms and tertiary businesses (manufacturing facilities). To achieve these goals, Myanmar needs to suspend all the restrictions imposed on those people within the territory of Myanmar who are allegedly being considered as the aliens or illegal immigrants. A truly diverse cultural society and prosperous economy could be rebuilt if all walks of people including Rohingya of Myanmar are being treated equally without looking at color of skin, racial background, religious practice, gender, social status, creed and caste. It is not impossible but it would be difficult for any kind of NLD government to ban Ma Ba Tha and 969 or any other radical Buddhist extremists groups that incite violence, instill hatred through religious speeches, leaflets, books, journals and electronic media.
There is no problem that doesn’t have a solution but sometimes it takes time or very hard to find the correct one. Among all the ethnic problems of Myanmar, Rohingya issue is supposed to be the easiest and simplest one because Rohingya have been struggling for getting their ethnic and citizenship rights back with equal treatments and full dignity only while coexisting with Buddhist societies within the Union. Of course, it is critical and sensitive issue for Daw Suu Kyi when she may think of about the interest of her fellow Buddhists majority, Ma Ba Tha, 969 and some of her own party seniors who are opposing to bring any truly changed environment of democracy and human rights. By giving back the rights of Rohingya, Myanmar would become more powerful, prosperous, transparent, harmonious and industrious. There is no democratic country or society in the world that could reach peace and stability of it by keeping an entire class of human race aside from the share of happiness and sorrow. It is the majority of Myanmar Buddhist public who need to have a positive mindset to understand the wrong preaching of Buddhist monks and leaders who are always against the peaceful coexistence, communal harmony, multicultural society, democratic development, natural diversity and cultural pluralism. As we all believe that all Buddhists are not terrorists or 969 and Ma Ba Tha, there are many monks and general public in Myanmar like Dr Maung Zarni  in exile who believes in universal human rights and support the progress of democracy, Rohingya human rights and Buddhism in real sense.
In high school level, it is taught that Myanmar was known as the ‘Golden Land’ which is not because of having a plenty of natural resources but it is because of the hospitality of its people. Till today, you may find the same gesture of hospitality in any reception desk of hotels in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar where you may also notice that Muslims and all other religious people are sitting, walking, eating and talking together friendly. If you want to see the different image of hospitality of Buddhist society, you should be able to visit Arakan interdependently where you could explore Rohingya concentration camps or Open Prison Ghettos in 21st century led by Nazism-influenced ultra-nationalist Buddhist Rakhines, the result of Face of Buddhist Terror [38, 39], U Thein Sein of USDP, Dr Aye Maung of RNDP, the hidden genocide  of Rohingya as Aljazeera reported, the entirely burned habitats of Rohingya and finally few hundreds of fake Rakhine IDPs whom were being used by Thein Sein as the sham IDPs either to justify the institutionalized policy of Rohingya genocide or create confusion for international / UN agencies [21, 37, 41-43].
Unfortunately, the door of Myanmar for international agencies, independent reporters, academicians and researchers are very limited and/or restricted starting from the exit of Sittway airport. Now, you could easily imagine how far Myanmar democracy has reached after even five years of so called quasi-civilian government of Thein Sein. Surprisingly, Myanmar is opened for you to go any other part of the country where no oppressed Muslims or any ethnic minorities exist . Thus, if anyone believes that Myanmar has geared up to reach the peak of its real democratic change, then it is a very obvious mistake . If NLD comes to power, there would be no different for military seniors including the soft-spoken Liar, U Thein Sein to enjoy a handsome monthly salary of Kyats in millions according to constitution drawn in 2008.
Look! By the current one-month equivalent salary (which is ≈12 million Kyats) of U Thein Sein, a 4-membered family of 100 garment workers of Myanmar could survive in Yangon for one month easily if we assume a basic monthly salary of 30,000 Kyats (10,000 Kyats higher than government fixed minimum wage) per worker . If we consider the out flow of pensions and salary payments for five years like this, how many workers or poor Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar could survive? This is like a dream or imagination for those country leaders who used to take only a nominal salary to survive like H.E Mr Jose Mujica (monthly of $1,250 only), the president of Uruguay  and the Honorable Prime Minister of People’s Republic of Bangladesh  (monthly salary of only $754). Myanmar’s GDP is not equal to Canada or America; therefore Myanmar leaders should not take such huge amount of salary for the sake of country’s socioeconomic developments. If NLD could not address these issues of misusing the wealth of the country after coming to power, the real problems would still remain there firmly in its place. I’m not objecting here about the pension of any civil servant who has gone for retirement but it is about the amount of pension or salary they fixed for themselves through legislation. Does any professor or teacher in Myanmar get this type of pension or salary? If so, all the wealth of the country would be melted and finished only in settling pensions and salary [49, 50]. This is one of the more critical issues than Rohingyas’. There are hundreds of internal issues which are more sensitive and important for NLD to solve.
Again, I personally believe that Rohingya do not need to regret on disenfranchising them from right to vote because the denial of Rohingya ethnic identity and even their historic existence of time immemorial was already placed there by both ruling USDP and opposition party leaders ahead of this GE election systematically or in genocidal way of several discriminatory policies. Frankly, it is meaningless for Rohingyas to regret on missing the voting right and candidacy in Nov 8 GE of 2015 whilst their ethnic, citizenship and other basic rights are not restored unconditionally. Alternatively, it looks good to me that any GE election with no Rohingya Muslim voters and representatives in Myanmar is a clear proof of failure in road map to democracy or reconciliation processes or it is the proof of clear ethnic cleansing and genocidal policy of Myanmar leaders whom the world powers often appreciated and praised mistakenly.
Having the right to vote and being elected as MPs could not solve the core problems of Rohingya unless they are being recognized as the genuine citizens of the same land where Thakin Aung San was born. I have many Rakhine and Dyna (Chakam) friends with I stayed and played together during my school and university lives in Myanmar who are very generous, friendly and brotherly. We have illegal immigrants issue of Rakhines including Dr Aye Maung (a Bengali Rakhine) whom were brought from Bangladesh to the lands of original Rohingyas and Rakhines by successive military regimes including U Thein Sein in order to create violence, destabilize peace and security of the regions, bring demographic change and control Rohingya population. There are hopes for reconciliation, creating friendly environment between Rohingya and Rakhines if NLD could take solid steps on the issue. I believe that my Rakhine and Dyna (Chakma) friends in Arakan and throughout Myanmar who have been living with us together side by side are not the followers of 969 and Ma Ba Tha. If they are so, they shouldn’t be blamed for the time being because they were being misled by radical and ultra-nationalists Rakhines and Buddhists monks.
The so called ‘Mother Daw Suu’, ‘Myanmar democracy Icon’ or Nobel Laureate has always been keeping silent on the statelessness, human rights violation and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya since the emergence of hidden and slow genocide in 3rd June of 2012 for which she bore the brunt of international criticisms . It was good for Rohingya if she has only kept her mouth shut down but she didn’t. World communities including Rohingya must note that she has claimed to be a political leader only rather than a human right defender. She has also answered to media that she doesn’t know about this mass population (about 1.8 – 4 millions) of Muslim Rohingya and their citizenship status [52-55]. If she doesn’t really know, she shouldn’t be a political leader as well or she doesn’t belong to the Burma or Myanmar. She has also ignored the truth of Rohingya genocide like U Thein Sein there by just blaming on the growth of world Muslim power to justify the Rohingya ethnic cleansing ; it was indirectly indicating that the ongoing slow and hidden genocide of Rohingya should be continued even under her leadership. Rohingya are neither coward nor violent but they are the most peace loving people in Myanmar. I am not sure how long would Rohingya tolerate this ongoing slow genocide. One day, I am sure all their rights of Rohingya must be returned unconditionally.
Although Daw Aung San Suu was born (on June 19 of 1945 in Yangon) of Myanmar but she has to play the same roles like Sonia Gandhi of India or Ali Khomeini of Iran because there is a law that blocks her for becoming the president. It is like treating Rohingya as illegal immigrants who cannot be citizens of Myanmar too. Has Daw Suu Kyi ever felt that how discriminatory the law it is which was enacted in 1982 to marginalize the entire Rohingya community? She is a Buddhist, Nobel Laureate and a political leader but what is the difference between her and Rohingya in terms of such discriminatory laws practiced. She has also forgotten about the support and contribution of Rohingya Muslims towards her party during 1990 GE, the election results were not only denied by the military dictators but she was also put under house arrest for more than 15 years.
Recently, there are secret conversations and meetings between senior NLD leaders and military led USDP in order to reach a concrete deal which may include a number of terms and conditions including Rohingya ethnic identity and citizenship issue, benefits and facilities for retired or senior USPD members of military, appointment of key ministers in the cabinet, continuation of national and international treaties signed by USDP. If NDL could not accept all the terms and conditions placed by USDP, there would be a U-Turn rather than a straight away to the road map of democracy. Thus, the scopes for her to play may not be as vital ones as Sonia Ghandi and Ali Khomeini do. The internal policy of NLD leadership is going to change that may result in creation of unwanted situation within senior members of the party. Still there are a number of obstacles for her waiting among which the most dangerous one would be to sustain and remain in power effectively as the legitimate supreme leader of the State with continuous support of Buddhists majority including more than half a million  of monks led by Ma Ba Tha [58, 59], 969 terror groups [60, 61] and military officials (MPs). Any dissatisfaction to the powerful military may smash her leadership and long dream of establishing the rule of law.
Factually, among all the ethnic issues of Burma, Rohingya issue is the simplest and easiest one because Rohingya are not separatists like Rakhines and other ethnic groups. If NLD could be able to handle ultra-nationalist Buddhists and monks, then it could be solved easily, just by restoration of their status and rights sincerely. It is not Daw Suu Kyi herself or her party members themselves that have been denying the truth of Rohingya intentionally but it seemed to be due to political interest of their own safety to stay in power and avoid criticism of Buddhists and radical clerics of monks. The Chairperson of NLD and its senior members knew the truth but they pretend to be unaware of it because they are either under political pressure of stuck on their stance politically.
When you look at Myanmar’s education today, no school or university textbooks contain about Muslim (e.g., Rohingya, Kaman, Pathi) societies in Myanmar, Islam as a practicing religion in Myanmar, ethnic minorities of Myanmar; belief in communal harmony, cultural diversity, democracy and human rights; finally on building a corruption-free multicultural society for all concerned. I have still remembered two words that I have encountered in ‘Myanmar History’ throughout my entire school life (from Grade I to XI); one of them is ‘Kalar’ a derogatory word used by racist Buddhists usually in referring to Rohingyas as a black Indian descendant in appearance, why do Rohingya are being called as ‘Bengali’ today again?; and another word is ‘Mujaheedins’ to refer those Rohingya freedom fighters who had surrendered before and after forming Mayu Frontier District. Thus, it is utmost important for Daw Suu Kyi and her government to review all the educational syllabi including those in monasteries used to preach more than one million monks so that they could ensure that there are enough necessary information and guidance to promote communal harmony, mutual understanding, democracy, moral and ethical values of all religions found in Myanmar; and it must be ensured that there are no words of hatred, violence and disunity among different races and faiths within the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Rohingya issues have been labeled as ‘internal affair of Myanmar’ for avoiding any interference. Today, the most adversely affected countries due to denial of Rohingyas’ ethnic identity and citizenship rights by U Thein Sein or NLD are international communities, particularly Bangladesh , Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia [18, 63, 64]. For ASEAN members that have been suffering from mass flow of Rohingya refugees, they need to change the terms and conditions of ‘non-interference’ policy of the body in order to adapt an action against the notorious and serious violation of international laws including universal human rights. If still NLD failed to address and solve the statelessness issues of Rohingya based on their ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds, then the last and final option should be to form an ally of all the concerned Rohingya host countries of the world to build a coalition force (like UN peacekeeping forces) in order to protect Rohingya from the slow and hidden ongoing genocide and prevent further Rohingya migration issues or refugee crises in the region. Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand should play vital role as these countries alone bearing the burden of about 1 million of Rohingyas refugees excluding more than 100 thousands of Karen refugees in Thailand.
Daw Aung San Suu led future NLD government may fail to restore the ethnic identity and citizenship status of Rohingya Muslims, rehabilitate all Rohingya IDPs to their original homes and villages if there would be no effective reconciliation processes, promotion of real democracy, independent international aid agencies, positive mindset of Buddhists towards their fellow Rohingya and other Muslims, prosperous economy free from corruption, textbooks in school that guide young generation for multicultural society like Malaysia, accountability held for those criminals who are behind the genocide of Rohingya and killing of hundreds of innocent Muslims in Meiktilla.
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