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 Sittwe, Myanmar (CNN) -- It's been three years since I reported on the plight of the Rohingya Muslim people of western Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh. We called our documentary "A Forgotten People," and it looked at appalling incidents where boatloads of refugees fleeing poverty and persecution arrived in Thailand only to be towed back out to sea and abandoned by the Thai security forces. Hundreds died or went missing.

 WATCH: The Forgotten People: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Since then, the Rohingya have remained off the political agenda in western countries. But now that's changing. U.S. President Barack Obama addressed their plight during his recent visit to Yangon. The lukewarm response he got in the auditorium was nothing to the vitriol he got online. Even mentioning the name Rohingya is controversial for some in Myanmar.

We have come to Rahkine to report on the latest threat to the Rohingya. What we have found is shocking. The Rohingyas are among the most persecuted people on the planet. In both Myanmar and Bangladesh -- where they have a deep-rooted heritage dating back to when it was known as East Bengal -- they are not officially citizens and are denied passports, access to health-care, education and decent jobs.

Each country claims the Rohingya is the other's problem. In July this year, the Bangladeshi government ordered three international aid organizations to stop helping Rohingya who were crossing the border from Myanmar.
In Myanmar, their perilous situation has become markedly worse in recent months. Mobs of Buddhist Rahkine extremists have been torching whole Rohingya villages. Hundreds have died and more than 100,000 people have been forced to flee, according to humanitarian groups.
But there is nowhere for them to go. So driven by fear many are congregating in huge makeshift camps on the edge of the Rahkine town of Sittwe.
I was expecting the camps to be grim -- but I wasn't prepared to see children starving to death. This isn't journalistic hyperbole. The two western doctors working unofficially here have watched several children perish before their eyes -- not from a rare tropical disease or an untreated chronic condition, but simply from malnutrition.
I find it sickening and outrageous that this is happening in a land of plentiful food in 2012. Perhaps I am naïve or too idealistic. I should probably know better, I should have seen enough of the world's misery and violence to be unaffected by a wide-eyed kid too fatigued to swat the flies from her eyes. But this one broke my heart.
She's not alone.

An assessment in August by Refugees International found that "2,000 acutely malnourished children who were at a high risk of mortality."

Thousands of kids like Saulama Hafu are starving to death.

International aid agencies are beginning to wake up to the scale of the problem. The United Nations has just launched an appeal for US$41 million. Tents, wells and latrines have been installed in some of the camps, but according to Refugees International, camp facilities are "unacceptable and fall well below international standards" and "are a direct manifestation of a funding gap." They say water and sanitation facilities in particular are "wholly inadequate, resulting in life-threatening illnesses."

Many Rohingya are surviving on a cup of rice each day and little else. It's not enough for breast-feeding mothers to sustain their babies. It's not enough for adults. It's not enough for little Saulama, whose skeletal body is as light as a doll's. She looks like a famine victim but she is starving to death in a camp surrounded by paddy fields full of rice. There's a busy market a couple of miles away, but her mother is effectively imprisoned here. This is a man-made crisis that could be ended immediately, with political will.

I asked Saulama's age, thinking that she looked like a toddler. My own dand is considerably larger, so I guess perhaps she was two. I was appalled when her mother told me Saulama is five-years old. In the west, she'd be in her first year of school. Here, she could be in the last year of her life. She's so thin she can barely walk. Her limbs are pitifully emaciated. After six months in this camp, she looks like she can't go on.
The doctors have not been given visas to help here, so they can only get the most basic supplies. The Myanmar government is reluctant to allow aid workers to help people who don't officially exist. But the reality is that there are an estimated one million Rohingya in Western Myanmar and at least a tenth of them have been driven from their homes.

Yet driving around Sittwe, away from the camps, you rarely see a Rohingya in the town center. When we asked a Rohingya driver to bring us back from the camps to our hotel to sort out a problem with our camera, the hotel manager was furious. He told us in no uncertain terms not to use a Muslim driver again and said people had seen the driver come into the hotel and had complained. It is apartheid of the most extreme form.

Near Sittwe University, which sits amid several Rohingya villages and camps, RohingyaS on foot, bicycle or scooter are forced to pull off the road when Buddhist Rakhine students are leaving classes. Sharing the same stretch of tarmac as a Rohingya is unacceptable for many Rahkine Buddhists; heaven forbid a Rohingya should attempt to board the same bus or eat in the same restaurant.

Aung Mingalar is the last neighborhood of Rohingya living inside the town of Sittwe; the rest of population is now under canvas or tarps out in the countryside. This island of Rohingya houses is now effectively a ghetto surrounded by barbed wire.

The soldiers that patrol the area are supposed to protect the Rohingya from further attacks by hostile locals, but videos taken by Rohingya purportedly showing an outbreak of violence in Aung Mingalar in June show the troops doing little to put out fires set in Rohingya homes. The Rohingya fear more attacks here, but can do little to stop the gangs of extremists who they say were orchestrated by a local Rahkine nationalist party.

The spokesman for that party denies involvement, but has open contempt for the Rohingya, flinching when I even mention the term. He says it's a recently made up word, and that the Rohingya are simply Bengalis from neighboring Bangladesh. Ominously he goes further. He doesn't just want to kick all Rohingya out. He wants all Muslims out of Rakhine state, including officially recognized ethic groups like the Kaman. The anti-Muslim sentiment has spread across Myanmar, with protests outside a mosque in the main city of Yangon.

The International Crisis Group report on the situation is deeply worrying, while Human Rights Watch has also completed some important work, highlighting the atrocities, with satellite photos showing the vast areas of destruction.

What has disappointed many is that Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi took a long time to speak out clearly to uphold Rohingya rights and condemn the extremists. She recently told Indian Broadcaster NTV: "Violence is something I condemn completely, but don't forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides and also I want to work towards reconciliation between these two communities. I'm not going to be able to do that if I'm going to take sides."

Suu Kyi elaborated further, saying: "There's a quarrel whether people are true citizens under the law or whether they have come over as migrants later from Bangladesh. One of the very interesting and rather disturbing facts of this whole problem is that most people seem to think as that there was only one country involved in this border issue. But there are two countries. There's Bangladesh one side, there's Burma on the other and the security and the security of the border is surely the responsibility of both countries."

But in the past she has referred to Rohingyas with the pejorative term "Bengalis" suggesting some should not be recognized as citizens in Myanmar.

The whole issue has tarnished the glow of fast-paced reform in Myanmar. While the rest of the country is enjoying freedoms not experienced in 60 years of military dictatorship, in Rahkine State the ethnic cleansing is continuing with impunity. It demands the attention of the international community, for the sake of children like Saulama... before it's too late.


Evidence is mounting that attacks on the Rohingya are not just skirmishes but an organised pogrom

“Please treat us like human beings” the sign reads. It is one of several placards held up by the emaciated inhabitants of a refugee camp in Rakhine state, Burma, captured in a photograph taken by locals. 

It can hardly be said to be an unreasonable plea. Sadly, it may be a hopeless one-for those making the appeal- the Rohingya people of Burma- are not treated like human beings. Instead, they are a stateless minority, suffering from the continual threat of racist violence from their neighbours. This year 100,000 or more have been driven from their homes by mob attacks, which destroyed entire villages and neighbourhoods  . 

Sources within Burma have sent a plethora of photos, pixellated phone videos, and messages to me this week, desperate to share visible records of their suffering. The refugee camp protest photo is certainly among the least upsetting files I’ve received. Some appear to show the victims of ethnic violence in June; others appear to be from last month’s equally bloody riots. They are, for the most part, harrowing and gruesome: shots of dead babies; corpses putrefying on beaches; young people shot in the groin or stomach; purported torture victims. Such horrors, I am told, are the result of intentional pogroms - not mere “ethnic skirmishes” as some have portrayed events. 

Police attacks 

In addition to visual evidence, I have received compelling witness testimony. One source from Sittwe told me that he had clearly observed police involvement in some of this year’s violence. He stated that a group of thousands of Rakhine “including police, security forces” had surrounded the Rohingya area in June and that “everybody [in the mob] had a sword, some had weapons, some guns.” He saw that houses were subjected to arson attacks, after which time the occupants fled their homes only to be attacked by the crowd. “Rakhine started killing us, our people tried to protect [themselves]…at that time police shot us.” 

Such claims of systematic, discriminatory violence are supported by independent analysis. Andrew Heyn, Britain’s ambassador to Burma told Radio 4 recently that “there’s compelling evidence, that this latest wave of attacks [against the Rohingya]...were pre-planned, coordinated and organised.” 

Adding to the case for high-level involvement, a Reuters investigation released this weekend quoted senior political sources as stating that the recent attacks against Rohingya were “led by Rakhine nationalists tied to a powerful political party in the state, incited by Buddhist monks, and… abetted at times by local security forces.” 

It’s clear that the Rohingya have also been the target of hostility from a large number of Buddhist monks, who are influential among the population. Yet one prominent Buddhist figure has spoken out, arguing that political forces are seeking to stir up inter-communal animosities for their own gain. Ashin Gambhira, a monk who was heavily involved in 2007’s brutally suppressedSaffron revolution, wrote recently: “the neo-military dictatorship has exploited and fostered a new national crisis, a religious conflict, the Rakhine-Rohingya conflict, for its own purposes… These clashes were encouraged by the military.” 

This is ethnic cleansing 

American human rights advocate Dr. Nora Rowley, drawing on her experience of working in Burma, told me that the attacks on the Rohingya were “absolutely” being backed by members of the former military junta, now incorporated into the political elite. She suggested “what we need right now is to connect the regime with what’s going on so the international community know it’s not an internal matter.” 

I asked her what she believes will happen if nothing is done to protect the victims. “Ethnic cleansing completion,” was her terse reply. 

The recent news that Barack Obama is set to visit Burma’s President Thein Sein in coming days has been the source of some hope to those that imagine he may seek to press Burma on the plight of the Rohingya. Yet there is room for pessimism: American business interests in the country are strong, as are geo-political concerns - Burma sits between two regional powers, India and China, and Washington will be mindful of the importance of gaining a stronger foothold in the strategically-positioned country. As a result, Obama may not push too hard on an issue that is domestically controversial in order to advance other agendas. 

However, as I have argued before, the safety of the imperiled Rohingya people is an issue of major concern to those who value the rights of threatened minorities - and the shame will belong to all of us if the world fails to prevent an entirely predictable humanitarian catastrophe in the near future. More has to be done. 

No place like home
The Rohingyas need the help of the Burmese government, Aung San Suu Kyi and the outside world

THE political transformation in Myanmar this past year or more has so far seemed one of history’s more remarkable revolutions. It has seemed, indeed, to be a revolution without losers. The army, which brutalised the country for half a century, remains influential and unpunished. Political prisoners have been freed by the hundreds. The opposition and its heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi, have successfully entered mainstream politics. What had seemed a purely ornamental parliament is showing it has a function (see article). Foreign countries that shunned the dictatorship, hemming it in with sanctions, can exploit Myanmar’s untapped market and treasure-house of natural resources.

One group, however, has lost, and lost terribly. Around 1m members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority remain in Myanmar’s impoverished western state of Rakhine. They are survivors of relentless rounds of persecution that have created a diaspora around the world that is perhaps twice as big. As The Economist went to press, more than 100 boat people, mostly Rohingyas, were missing in the Bay of Bengal. They were fleeing hideous peril at home in Myanmar. Members of the ethnic-Rakhine majority, who are mostly Buddhist, have seen the greater liberties the country now enjoys as the freedom to resume persecution. Members of both ethnic groups are guilty of abuses in the violence that flared in June and again in October (see Banyan). But its main contours are clear: a vicious and bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Rakhines that is intended to drive Rohingyas out. Rakhine politicians say frankly that the only alternative to mass deportation is a Burmese form of apartheid, in which more Rohingyas are corralled into squalid, semi-permanent internal-refugee camps. Most Rohingyas have lived in Myanmar for generations—at least since British colonial days. But Rakhines and other Burmese citizens see them all as fairly recent illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
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Dozens have died, thousands of homes have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. This must stop, not just because it is a cruel injustice but also because it threatens reforms and even the future of Myanmar itself. The violence offers an excuse to those hardliners who have always equated democracy with anarchy, fearing that, without the army’s firm hand, Myanmar’s borderlands, all inhabited by disgruntled ethnic minorities, would descend into bloodletting.

In fact, for once, the army really does need to be firmer—but in stopping violence, detaining perpetrators, and helping Rohingyas survive the unofficial commercial boycott that is leaving many hungry and thirsty. Parliament and the government, for their part, need to revise the Citizenship Act of 1982, which has been used as the tool to render most Rohingyas stateless. Rohingyas with a good claim to citizenship should have it. And their claims should be examined generously: it is not easy to prove your lineage when everything you have has been reduced to ashes.

Responsibility to protect

Citizenship is not enough, however. Leaders need to speak out in the Rohingyas’ defence. The one person in Myanmar with genuine moral authority, Miss Suu Kyi, has confined herself to calling for respect for the rule of law. When the law is unjust and unfairly applied—as it long was against her—that is a betrayal of the high moral principles she has always espoused.

Elsewhere, Bangladesh must accommodate fleeing Rohingyas. The West has tended to regard the Rohingyas’ plight as a peripheral problem that should not deflect it from lifting sanctions and engaging with the new Myanmar. Yet it should make clear that ethnic cleansing on this scale is central to its concerns. The test of a fledgling democracy is not just how it cares for the majority, but how it protects its minorities.

Source : Economic
We know that America has some sway in the country. Surely they should exert pressure to help these people.

Revelations of widespread violence against ethnic minorities in Burma’s north-western Rakhine state fleetingly drew the eye of the world’s media last week. Headlines and op-eds reflected the shock felt by the international community at the slaughter of the local Rohingya population and other predominantly Muslim groups, such as the Karan.

And shock there should be, despite the fact that the enduring suffering of the Rohingya has long been ignored by the international press. It seems that the severity of the latest assault, involving the razing of entire blocks of houses and dozens of deaths, has finally hammered home just how brutalised and vulnerable Burma’s forgotten people are.

With the news of the massacre the world seems to have taken note of their pain; the alarming scale of the violence being made plain by NGO-released satellite imagery (which clearly shows an entire neighbourhood in one town blanched by arson). It is reported that over 20,000 people have been displaced as a result of recent events- most left without any shelter or access to food.

The destruction, believed to be perpetrated by Buddhist locals hostile to Rohingya Muslims (some survivors were quoted by Reuters as claiming that police also took part in the attacks), is the latest outbreak of inter-ethnic violence in Burma since the collapse of the absolute rule of the nation’s military junta last year.

Of all of the country’s many imperiled minorities, the Rohingya have perhaps experienced the greatest brutalisation and repression; in June, dozens were killed in similar circumstances, while past examples of murder and abuse stretch back decades.

As a result of such mistreatment many have simply fled en-masse to bordering countries, living in the squalor of crowded refugee camps to avoid the threat of further violence. Most remain effectively stateless, officially unrecognised by the government of Burma (who consider them “illegal immigrants”) and by many of the surrounding countries that receive the flows of their displaced.
World's most persecuted

The UN regards the Rohingya as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. This is surely an accurate judgment: while the 800,000 present in Burma face “systemic discrimination” (according to Amnesty), refugees fleeing abuses suffer from extreme insecurity in nearby nations.

Even the government of Muslim Bangladesh have shamefully disregarded the suffering of the Rohingya; last year they callously refused to accept an aid offering from the UN to assist the refugees. This summer Al Jazeera obtained letters from Dhaka to the three NGOs operating in Rohingya refugee camps, demanding that the agencies cease their relief programmes. Around 300,000 Rohingya live in Bangladesh in such camps without access to electricity, medical assistance, clean water or even enough food to eat.

Desperation has eroded the dignity of this devoutly religious people. In the Bangladeshi camps, young women and girls are forced to sell their bodies in order to feed their children as malnutrition worsens and a near-total absence of available employment confronts each family.

But the Rohingya need more than just food and money. They also need protection against the increasingly plausible threat of near-annihilation. If the present state of affairs continues, there’s a risk of worse massacres in future.

And what has the otherwise noble Aung Sung Suu Kyi have to say on this issue? Very little, it seems - perhaps because of a new-found cautiousness that seems to have come with political office.
The United States and her western allies, always ready to trumpet the cause of human rights when it suits them, may not be able to wield enough influence over Damascus to persuade Assad to desist from murder. But the US surely has the ability to press Burma's President for compassionate action on the Rohingya issue. After all, Washington has been credited with having persuaded the regime in Rangoon to embrace democratisation and reform. Surely pressure commensurate with the severity of the suffering of Burma’s Muslims and the Rohingya could be directed at President Thein Sein?

One thinks of all the fine words spoken on the anniversary of Srebrenica this year, and those poignantly intoned in its immediate aftermath. “Never again”, they said. But then Sudan happened. Sri Lanka. Syria. And now in the age of the “responsibility to protect”, the Rohingya people crawl toward a humanitarian catastrophe with little hope of succour.

Burma’s government cannot be granted legitimacy by the international community if minorities continue to be subjected to murder and mistreatment on their watch; moreover, the world must assist the Rohingya- or share responsibility for the terrible, preventable consequences.

Emanuel Stoakes is a UK and New Zealand based freelance journalist. His work typically addresses issues pertaining to war, human rights and/or social justice. He has produced work for The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Huffington Post and Empirical magazine among others.

Sources Here:

This is the beginning of my book about getting to know Rohingya in Rakhine. 

“We have no time for you.” How these words have haunted me. Haunted ME?!? How about the mother who carried her ill six month old son to our health compound hours before clinic hours started. This mother asked for medical help for her son. Our clinic assistant replied, “’We have no time for you.’” Four mornings later this mother’s son was dead.

She repeated, “’We have no time for you,’” as tears rolled down her cheeks. Tears flowed while she cradled her arms, showing me how she yearned to hold her precious alive baby boy again. I was sitting close to her. I instinctively reached for her hand. Her hand welcomed the touch, my touch. Soon, we held hands. This contact communicated so much. She mattered. Her son’s death mattered. They mattered to a stranger, to this American doctor.

This woman adjusted her black headscarf, which shifted in the breeze, as we sat outside her woven bamboo house. You see, she was Muslim and, therefore, here in Rakhine State, Burma, aka Myanmar, she didn’t matter. The message to this loving mother who’s concern and correct judgment to ask for medical care for her ill infant son, was “You don’t matter.” She and her son didn’t matter to our Rakhine Buddhist clinic assistant.

This mother and I sat close in the front seat as our driver took us into our clinic compound. She dreaded having to return to the scene. She pointed to identify which assistant had turned her away and said, “The fat one.” Then she bent her head down, cried more and accepted my offered hand, again.

Of course the fat clinic assistant was standing close to the fatter Burmese clinic doctor. I couldn’t just assume and had the driver loop around again. Through tears the dear mother clarified and specifically identified the assistant as the perpetrator of refusal of care.

Then, she quickly turned away her head. Somehow, I knew she was expressing more than sorrow. The assistant shamed, humiliated her. She was a mother with a sick infant seeking help. “Shame on you,” was the message within the response. This caring and grieving mother still felt humiliated, dehumanized for doing what mothers universally do, i.e. care for their children.

My hand, my closeness, listening and understanding were making a human connection with someone who was mourning the loss of her son and the lack of humanity in connection with his death.

This was not the first time this mother had been dehumanized. The atmosphere of life for Muslims in Northern Rakhine State was infused with humiliation and dehumanization from the ruling military government, the military border security forces, named NaSaKa, local security forces, many Rakhine Buddhists and other civilians from outside Rakhine.

Northern Rakhine State (NRS) is the area in Burma with the largest and most concentrated numbers of Muslims. Muslims of Rakhine and many other minorities populations in Burma have been targets of the ruling military regime’s brutal persecution and human rights abuses for many decades.

The aura of persecution clung to me soon after my arrival to the project. But I found the Muslims’ strength of character and peaceful dignity in the face of inhumanity awe inspiring and compelling.

Nora E. Rowley MD MPH
In order to understand how the ‘Rohingya crisis’ has come to pass we need to consider the narrative built by three groupings of international actors - the Burmese government, host countries for Rohingya who have fled and the international community at large.

‘Rohingya crisis’ is a much bandied phrase these days. Since June this year, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, burnings, beatings, rapes, killings and other forms of persecution against this most marginalised group have led to human rights and humanitarian crises which have tainted the landscape of Rakhine State in Western Burma and given substance to the term. In order to understand how these developments have come to pass, we need to consider the narrative built around the crisis by three groupings of international actors - the Burmese government, host countries for Rohingya who have fled and the international community at large. Amidst the jockeying for position in the discourse - and opportunities to define it - the human impact of the crisis appears to have been relegated to the background. As a result, it seems that we are no closer to a solution that is just and equitable and that respects the human rights of the Rohingya.

In the context of the Rohingya crisis, the international community at large comprises two main interest groups – the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and what can loosely be termed as the western block (the EU, US and Australia etc.). These countries have varying degrees of interest in the Rohingya issue specifically and conflicting economic and geo-political interests in Burma more widely. According to their narratives, the Rohingya are clear victims both within Burma and (to a lesser extent) in the countries to which they flee. A sub-text to the western block version of this narrative is that the Burmese democratic transition process is also suffering because of this and other 'communal conflicts' in Burma.

According to the narrative of Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries which host large numbers of Rohingya refugees, the ‘crisis’ endures because of the lack of straightforward solutions to the problem. Burma is responsible, but the Rohingya are both victim (inside Burma) and burden (in their own countries). It must be noted that Bangladesh and Malaysia are also member states of the OIC.

Burma views the crisis as one caused by the existence of these unwanted people and their encroachment into its territory.
The Burmese Narrative - The Illegal, Unwanted Migrant Bengali

Let’s begin with the most repellent narrative – the Rohingya are illegal immigrants; land stealing encroachers; criminals who procreate like rabbits; dark skinned and ugly. In this view they certainly do not belong in Burma. In fact, this narrative posits that the term ‘Rohingya’ is a fiction – they are all ‘Bengali’. This racist, totally unfounded and hate-inciting position is that of the Burmese regime. It is a narrative that is shared by many Burmese, including leaders of the democratic movement and those who have never seen a Rohingya in their lives. Dating back decades, it has been used to justify acute discrimination, exclusion, abuse and violence against the Rohingya. The power of this narrative is such that in 1982 it was the basis upon which the Rohingya were stripped of their nationality. They were thus rendered stateless, which means that they are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law.

The main arena within which this narrative has played out is within Burma and amongst diaspora groups. However, the regime has not shied away from making formal statements along these lines internationally: at gatherings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), amongst diplomats and to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. No doubt, words spoken internationally have domestic audiences in mind, but they probably also stem from an understanding that the ‘new’ Burma cannot continue to operate with the impunity and isolation of the old; that it needs to engage with and attempt to win over non-Burmese actors, or in the very least, make a strong case as to why it will not succumb to international pressure.

Contested histories are an extremely potent tool for those who engage in the business of lies – they shift focus from the present to the past and divert attention from the core issues. The Burmese regime has expertly negotiated the situation, playing Rakhine (the Buddhist majority population of Rakhine State) against Rohingya, drawing on absurd historical accounts and creating a Rohingya ‘fiction’ which they have used to justify their unjustifiable laws, policies and actions. Over time these laws, policies and actions have imposed a new reality on Rakhine state in which exclusion, discrimination and arbitrariness have become the norm; marriage without bribery-induced permission is a crime; forced migration is the most common type of movement and return to Burma is illegal. The untrue narrative of ‘illegal migrant’ has taken on a truth of its own as those who commit the crime of fleeing persecution cannot legally return. In 1978, about 200,000 Rohingya who fled the country and were forcibly returned thus substantiated the ‘illegal immigrant’ narrative. Similar numbers ‘illegally migrated’ out of and back into Burma in the 1990s.

Rohingya names are also being struck off ‘family lists’ – often the only type of documentation for Rohingya and consequently the only proof that they were born in Burma. After the violence erupted in June 2012, security personnel have reportedly been visiting Rohingya homes and striking off the family list the names of persons not present at the time. They may have gone to the shops, been in hiding or been ‘disappeared’ by those very security forces or fled to Bangladesh. Whatever the reason, their absence from home renders them ‘illegal’.

Over time, and perhaps because of international pressure, this narrative has become more nuanced. The Burmese President has in some forums admitted that illegal migration is minimal and that the real problem is the Rohingya population explosion. This shift in discourse adds another layer of complexity and confusion to the narrative, particularly because it hasn’t replaced the ‘illegal immigrant’ argument, but rather formed a parallel track. Both versions (they are illegal immigrants and they multiply too aggressively) stem from the xenophobic position that the Rohingya are foreign invaders taking over Burmese lands.

The narrative does not end there. It goes on to absolve the regime of any responsibility. The fact that the Rohingya are ‘illegal immigrants’ is meant to explain why they are hated by the rest of Burma, and particularly by the Rakhine whose lands they have encroached on. This, it is posited, has driven the local ‘legal’ population to violence – and understandably so. Accordingly, the Burmese regime does not endorse the violence but, in the face of such strong sentiment, it has been powerless to prevent it from happening.

The contradictions are plentiful: Burma blocks humanitarian aid being received by those most in need; Burmese security personnel have played an active role in the violence and other crimes committed; and any contention that this all-powerful regime that yesterday ruled with an iron fist is today unable to control civilians acting on their own accord is simply laughable.

Sources Here:
Nearly 75,000 of those made homeless during inter-communal conflict in June and transferred to temporary camps are living in conditions “worse than animals”, according to the Rohingya Human Rights Association in Bangkok
There is no end in sight to the sufferings of what the UN has called “the world's most persecuted minority” - the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan state, in the far west of Burma.

Nearly 75,000 of those made homeless during inter-communal conflict in June and transferred to temporary camps are living in conditions “worse than animals”, according to the Rohingya Human Rights Association in Bangkok. In some of the camps 100 people are sharing a single latrine, and many are reportedly falling ill with diarrhoea and fever.

But the camp-dwellers may be the lucky ones: according to Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, hundreds of thousands more Rohingya in northern parts of Arakan state, where outsiders are not permitted to travel, are being deliberately bottled up in their homes by security forces and antagonistic locals. Meanwhile in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state, fire broke out in the grounds of the centuries-old central mosque, allegedly started by the Muslim community’s enemies. The extent of the damage is disputed.

The ghost of General Ne Win still haunts the country he tyrannised for so long. Most of Burma’s 130-plus minorities have been brutalised at one time or another by the Burmese army during its half-century of domination, but the Rohingya is the only major one barred from citizenship in the Citizenship Law introduced in 1982.

For Ne Win, a Burman chauvinist who did everything he could to ensure that the majority community faced no serious challenges to its power, this was perhaps second best to expelling them en masse – the fate of 300,000 ethnic Indians settled, many for generations, in Rangoon and other cities, who were sent penniless to their “homes”. But the consequences of the Rohingya’s legal marginalisation continue to rumble on today: on 12 July Burma’s new strongman President Thein Sein, hailed in Washington in recent days as a courageous reformer, said he wanted the Rohingya removed. “We will send them away,” he said, “if any third country would accept them.”

The pogrom of Rohingyas in June, the killings and house burnings that drove 100,000 of them from their homes, caught the outside world on the hop, coinciding as it did with real breakthroughs in the country’s reform process. It occurred precisely as Aung San Suu Kyi started travelling for the first time since 1988, visiting Thailand, Norway, Britain and most recently the US, picking up medals and prizes awarded long ago for her humanitarian stand. Meanwhile the Potemkin-like parliament in Naypyidaw, mostly packed with military stooges elected in the grotesquely fixed polls of 2010, started behaving like a real legislative body, challenging the executive, holding vigorous debates. Democracy, it seemed, was beginning to find its feet.

Meanwhile a community whose roots in the country go back at least two centuries – the term “Rooinga” was first mentioned by a British historian in 1799 – and probably much further, was being targeted for the most cold-blooded attempt at ethnic cleansing since Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic bombarded downtown Sarajevo.

The uncomfortable fact is that these two phenomena – the flourishing of Burmese democracy and the brutal crackdown on a community long stigmatised as alien – are closely related.

In the by-elections held in Burma in April, Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 43 of the 44 seats it contested. These were the first fair polls since the NLD won a landslide – ignored by the military – in 1990. The fact that they were relatively free and fair showed that President Thein Sein recognised that if Burma wished to continue to improve its ties with the rest of the world, it could not go on fixing elections as it had done in 2010.

His problem was that in April the party he leads, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the military’s proxy, was trounced everywhere it stood. If this result was repeated in the general elections in 2015, it would be swept into the dustbin of history. Somehow the USDP must tear the support of the masses from the grip of Ms Suu Kyi and her colleagues.

It has tried to do so in a way that is as ugly as it is effective: by appealing to the strong chauvinistic vein in the majority population, manufacturing (Rohingyas claim) a local atrocity – the rape and murder of a non-Rohingya girl – then orchestrating the vicious reaction. Thein Sein is now reaping the reward: crowds greeting him as a hero, monks demonstrating in Mandalay demanding the Rohingyas’ expulsion.

Aung San Suu Kyi – who was persuaded to enter politics by a Muslim poet, Maung Thaw Ka – knows that if she speaks out against the persecution of the Rohingya she risks alienating at a stroke the millions who love and support her. Thein Sein knows it too. Negotiating this conundrum and emerging with both the support of the Burmese millions and the respect of the world may be the biggest challenge she has yet faced.

Sources Here:

A minority can understand more easily what other minorities had to encounter in their respective countries. Differences between individuals, communities and countries are more diverse than similarities. If we are fighting  due to this differences, the world never will be a peaceful place to live in. We must adjust ourselves with environment. We must understand each other. To live a midst diversity with patience and understanding is the essence of democracy.

Alas! There are some extreme groups who can not tolerate diversity. The strength of these dark forces have been gathering momentum. Due to their instigation undesired riot took place in Rakhine state and hundreds of thousands of people became internally displaced. This people have to go through a hard life. They are suffering unfold miseries. A lot of people lost their life. Those who are not displaced also confined in their own residential areas. They can not move and work for their livelihood. Their lives became worse than the refugees. In the near future they may face mass starvation. There still it sporadic killing and looting in every town. People life is highly insecure and terrorized. Official explanation is “It will take time for security and stability”. This is the most heart breaking.

There have been a series of demonstration, disturbances and violence in the last a few decades. Government seemed to have firmly controlled all these disharmony things. But in case of present Rakhine state ethnic violence, every thing remain insecure and instable. We implore law enforcing departments to take thing seriously and fairly to bring security and rule of law among the public. Public promptly need a normal life.

Despite the seriousness of the situation in Rakhine state we sorrowfully hear the news across the border that some Rakhine houses and monasteries were burnt down by Bangali mob in Cox’s Bazar district. Cause of this violence, according R.F.A is insulting Muslim religion and desecrating their holy book by a Cox’s Bazar based Rakhine face book.

What so ever we understand it as an act of an individual or a group. It was not done by the whole Rakhine community there in Bangladesh. Government can take action against the one who committed the crime. It is not fair to give collective punishment for the crime of an individual. It is not civilized thing for the strong to suppress the weak. It is uncivil for majority to take advantage over the minority. In Bangladesh the security organs and law enforcing departments will be mostly in the hands of Muslims. Without their backing or accomplices it is hard to believe this unscrupulous element could dare to this destruction.

We fully condemned this sort of communal violence. We must be restrained. We can realize the feeling the Rakhine minority in Bangladesh as we suffer as a minority in Rakhine. We regard prejudices against minority as a crime against humanity.

We are worried that already tense communal atmosphere in Arakan will turn worse due to this aggressive lawless burning of houses in Bangladesh. But to our relief, we came to learn there is no connection between the violence in Rakhine and  the one in Bangladesh.

So we would like to urge Bangladesh Government to take prompt action and to control the situation. We hope Bangladesh will fulfill its obligation to protect its all citizens disrespect  of race and religion. The victims should be given full compensation. We request Bangladesh authority to reconstruct all those which are destroyed with state funds.

My last request is to both Rakhine and Rohingya communities to exercise restraint, to be cool minded. We must be for sighted and rational. Destructing is easier than constructing. Let us reduce tension. Let us create normal life again. Greed, envy and anger are vice where as love, sympathy and compassion are virtues. Virtue leads us to peace and prosperity.

U Kyaw Min 
M.P (elect) 1990 election, Buthidaung. 
Former C.R.P.P member. 
317, Kyaikkasan Road, Tarmwe, Yangon.

(Opinion) – Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) supports human rights for the Rohingya people. For Burma Campaign UK to make such a statement shouldn’t be surprising or controversial. 

We are a human rights organization working on Burma. How could anyone disagree that the Rohingya people are entitled to full human rights and the normal rights and protections under international law?

But some people see that statement as such an outrage that Burma Campaign UK staff deserve to be raped and killed. We need to be “punished,” “taught a lesson” and “hung.” All these views and many more – many vicious and obscene – have been emailed to us or posted on YouTube and Facebook. 

The level of abuse, hatred and anger directed against Burma Campaign UK and other organizations who say that Rohingya should have human rights, and which work with Rohingya to defend their human rights, has been astonishing. 

There has even been a demonstration in Rangoon, outside the British Embassy, which, as well as attacking exiled media in almost exactly the same way the dictatorship used to, accused Burma Campaign UK of “propaganding” for the Rohingya. I doubt anyone in that protest could cite an example of us “propaganding,” whatever that means, but in the current hysteria some people seem willing to believe anything they hear as long as it is anti-Rohingya. 

That they were allowed to protest at all was a good sign, but have those people also used their new freedoms to protest for the release of hundreds of political prisoners still in jail, or to protest against the Burmese Army raping women in Kachin State? 

The hysteria has gone to such levels that some people from Burma are claiming, and, incredibly, others are believing, that Burma Campaign UK somehow stirred up the violence which broke out in Arakan State. They claim that we are responsible for the violence that has taken place

Burma Campaign UK has long faced criticism for supporting human rights for the Rohingya, and for a variety of sometimes bizarre reasons, as well as what may be genuine misunderstandings.

One lie being spread around on blogs, emails and sites like Facebook is that we are making money out of working for Rohingya. Burma Campaign UK has never received a grant for working on Rohingya issues. In any case, all of Burma Campaign UK’s income is spent on campaigning for human rights and democracy in Burma. We are a nonprofit organization. 

Another lie in a similar vein is that Middle East countries fund us. Sometimes it is implied we are funded as part of a Middle East plot to take over Burma and turn it into a Muslim country. It is even claimed that there is evidence for this. When Rohingya activists attended an Organisation of Islamic Conference meeting and set up the Arakan Rohingya Union, pictures were posted on Arakan blogs of the delegation, with captions and an article saying I was in the picture, and this was proof that I and Burma Campaign UK were taking Middle East money. 

The only problem was, I wasn’t in the picture. I didn’t even know the event was taking place. The person in the picture was Harn Yawnghwe from the Euro Burma Office. At the time we thought it funny that people making these attacks could not even tell the difference between a Shan Prince and myself, we never expected it to be taken so seriously, but this lie took hold. It was spread on email and more blogs, on Facebook, and people actually believed it. On my recent trip to Burma, even very senior democracy leaders in Rangoon talked about it. 

One common lie is that we support the Rohingya having a state of their own. We have never said that, and although some Rohingya organizations talked about this decades ago, we have never even heard any Rohingya organization saying they want their own state. There seems to be some great misunderstanding that if the Rohingya are recognized as an ethnic group, somehow that will entitle them to land or their own state. This simply isn’t true, and Burma Campaign UK has never said we support that. 

Another reason we are attacked over Rohingya issues is that we have a Muslim staff member. From the moment Wai Hnin Pwint Thon joined Burma Campaign UK, messages started to be left on our Facebook Page by people from Burma, attacking her because she is a Muslim. 

It was not until years later when she was pictured at a demonstration protesting against the dictatorship’s abuses of the Rohingya that it became Rohingya linked abuse posted on our Page. But now Wai Hnin Pwint Thon is subject to torrents of abuse, much more than our non-Muslim staff and volunteers who were on the same demonstration as she was, and have been on other protests with Rohingya as well. 

Lies posted and spread about Wai Hnin Pwint Thon include that she is secretly Rohingya (she isn’t), she has been accused of working with Rohingya Solidarity Organization (she doesn’t), of wanting to create a Caliphate in Burma (she doesn’t), of taking money from Rohingya (she hasn’t), and even that she has had several children with different Rohingya men (she hasn’t). She has faced not just lies but abuse, much of it sexual in nature.

Many people seem to think that any lie or story they hear about someone with any connection to supporting Rohingya human rights is justification for personal attacks, abuse and even threats. Given that this is the way their leaders behave, perhaps that is not surprising. 

Around a year ago, I tried to engage Dr. Aye Chan in a conversation on why he and his followers spent much more time criticising Rohingya than they did the dictatorship. Aye Chan was incapable of having the discussion without repeatedly making personal attacks. The email conversation was forwarded to various email groups, and my in-box was flooded with abusive emails. When I asked Aye Chan to ask his supporters not to use personal abuse and threats, and to condemn those who do, he repeatedly refused to do so. When leaders not only fail to condemn abusive and personal attacks, but even make personal attacks themselves, their followers will copy their behaviour.

More recently we have been accused of being pro-Rohingya. I am still not exactly sure what that means. Certainly we are pro-human rights for the Rohingya, how could we or anyone else who believes in democracy and human rights not be? 

But the implication is that we are pro-Rohingya, and therefore somehow anti-Rakhine. It is worrying how so many people now see the two as automatically going together. Burma Campaign UK supports the human rights of everyone in Burma, and that includes Rohingya and Rakhine. To talk about Rohingya having human rights does not make us anti-Rakhine. We have campaigned on many Rakhine related issues, including Shwe gas, Rakhine political prisoners, and were one of the few campaign groups actively campaigning for the 34 Rakhine and Karen prisoners in jail in India. 

Burma Campaign UK has been criticised for not doing enough on Rakhine issues, and this is also cited as evidence of some kind of pro-Rohingya bias. But we have never refused any request when we have been asked to work on any Rakhine related issue by any Rakhine community or human rights group. We would do more on Arakan issues, but some members of the Arakan community in the UK will not work with us because we support human rights for the Rohingya. When we tried to meet with Arakan community leaders, it took months to arrange, and only one person turned up. In the past we made repeated offers of all kinds of training and support to the Arakan community in UK, and to groups in exile, and none have been taken up. 

Burma Campaign UK was also fiercely criticized for circulating information from the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK about the recent violence. Circulating information on behalf of human rights groups is a major part of our work. Every year we circulate media releases, briefings and reports from dozens of organisations from Burma, and from international NGOs. 

If any organization working on Arakan human rights had also provide a briefing with information not being reported, we would have circulated that as well. But they didn’t. 

I have tried to have some conversations with some of the people criticizing myself and Burma Campaign UK for bias, asking them for examples. So far no one has been able to provide a single one. Yet the perception remains. 

It seems impossible to dispel the belief by some that working for Rohingya human rights means bias against Rakhine. From our perspective, it seems that this is a deliberate tactic of extremists to polarize the debate and incite more hatred and intolerance. 

Any public comment or photograph relating to the Rohingya seems to act as a lightning rod for more abuse and threats, and this article will probably result in the same. 

But I hope some people may take the time to consider the truth. What possible reason or interest could Burma Campaign UK have in being biased? 

Our agenda is solely human rights and democracy. We have been working relentlessly for this for more than 20 years. Why have people been so ready to believe lies and bad things about people who have worked so hard to support their cause? And why do people not simply ask what the truth is before passing on lies and gossip? 

Even for those who disagree with Burma Campaign UK, is it right that we should receive threats and abuse just for having a different opinion than them? That is the approach and mind set of the dictatorship. It shouldn’t be the way things are done in a democracy. People do need to ask themselves why they are so ready to believe these lies. 

The terrible events in Arakan State in the past month and the reaction of many people to those events, casts a long shadow over Burma. Violence and intolerance took hold. Is this the kind of Burma people want to see in the future? 

Isn’t one of the main reasons for having a democracy that disagreements can be debated and settled politically, not through violence and threats? 

Burma’s democracy movement is an anti-dictatorship movement, but it must also be a movement for human rights, for tolerance and for equality. 

Mark Farmaner is director of Burma Campaign UK.

Sources Here:
(Commentary) – One thing that kept the military regimes in place in Burma for more than 60 years is the ability of the Burmese military to divide and rule. They have used divide and rule tactics between Burmans and ethnics, between Burmans and Burmans and between ethnics and ethnics. They have also used divide and rule tactics between Rohingya and Rakhine.

Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK. photo: screenshotMy older relatives tell me of a time when there wasn’t the same level of mistrust or even hatred between Rohingya and Rakhine. There was no voice of opposition heard from any quarters, including Rakhine, over the recognition of Rohingyas as an ethnic group during U Nu’s era. 

My relatives remember government radio broadcasting in the Rohingya language during U Nu’s time as prime minister. I remember as a child playing with Rakhine friends and visiting each other’s homes to eat.

The reasons for the current level of mistrust and violence between the communities are many, but by far the greatest reason, and at the root of why the situation has become so bad, are lies and propaganda that began to be spread about the Rohingya when Ne Win became dictator.

Ne Win rewrote history, invented Burmese propaganda and lies, and introduced discriminatory policies against the Rohingya. Some of these policies where enshrined in law, such as the 1982 Citizenship Law, while others were in practice, increasing harassment by security forces and discrimination.

Decades of lies and propaganda, underpinned by the 1982 Citizenship Law, which stripped us of citizenship and the rights that come with it, have institutionalized the hatred and discrimination. Of course there were always some tensions, as there often is when two communities of different ethnicities and religions live side by side. But Ne Wins lies and propaganda encouraged those differences, and encouraged hatred, rather than building community cohesion and understanding. 

It breaks my heart to see the situation in Rakhine State today. There is so much suffering. In the recent violence and then the attacks by government forces, mainly Rohingya have suffered, but I know that some Rakhine people have suffered as well.

Aid being promised by Muslim countries and the international community could be used not just to assist in the current humanitarian crisis, but also for long-term projects to fight poverty and promote development in Rakhine State. 

International donors should not just be talking to the government about aid and development. Instead they should talk to local community leaders, and let us work jointly together to promote development that not only helps both communities, but also in the process promotes communal understanding and brings us closer together. Let both sides experience first-hand the benefits of us working together, how it will benefit both communities. Because fighting poverty together, as well as politically struggling for democracy and human rights, united and working together, we are all stronger. 

Rohingyas with a long history in Arakan are an integral part of Burma’s society. All Rohingya people want is to live peacefully in Burma, with our human rights respected. 

Burma is our homeland. It is impossible to force all Rohingya people out of the country. The only solution is for us to work together to find a way to live peacefully together. 

That means Rakhine trying to understand the situation from a Rohingya perspective, and Rohingya also trying to understand the concerns of Rakhine. They are living together with their Rakhine compatriots in the same place, drinking the same water and breathing the same air. 

There is no point in being antagonistic to each other. It hurts all of us, our children and their children to come. Unless both Rohingya and Rakhine cultivate the political will to change this situation, we both suffer. 

Divided we all suffer. The only winner is President Thein Sein and the military and ex-military, which have oppressed us all for so long. Let us revive our traditional relationship for the sake of our children. Let us work together on democratic principles with mutual respect, love and affection. 

That is my appeal to all Rakhine.

Tun Khin is president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. His grandfather was a parliamentary secretary during the democratic period in Burma.

Sources Here:
Rohingya Exodus