News / Asia

Burma Monk Protests of Rohingya Denounced by Rights Groups

Buddhist monks stage a rally to protest against ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, Mandalay, Burma, September 2, 2012.
Buddhist monks stage a rally to protest against ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, Mandalay, Burma, September 2, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
BANGKOK —  For a third day, Buddhist monks in Burma are leading demonstrations supporting deportation of Muslim minority Rohingya, raising concerns of rights groups. Sectarian clashes between Rohingya and Buddhists in Burma's Rakhine state this summer left 90 people dead.
 
Burma this week is seeing its largest Buddhist-monk-led demonstrations since a 2007 democracy uprising. 
 
Hundreds of monks began marching Sunday through Burma’s second-largest city, Mandalay, dressed in traditional saffron and orange colored robes. But this time the monks were supporting President Thein Sein’s call for a Muslim minority, the Rohingya, to be segregated and deported.
 
Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for Asia Phil Robertson says the monks' moral authority raises the stakes in the sectarian tensions.
 
“The fact that these monks just several years ago were protesting for democracy and human rights, and are today now protesting for exclusion and potential deportation of a particular ethnic group causes some concern that the government in Burma may in fact listen to these kinds of voices,” he says.
 
Buddhist monks supported students and political activists during the 2007 uprising.  So many monks were involved that it became known as the Saffron Revolution. It was put down by military force.
 
Rights activists note the disturbing irony of monks marching in support of President Thein Sein, who was then acting prime minister.
 
“It was very sad to see such kind of actions taken by the monks who have been heavily oppressed and killed in many cases in 2007 during Saffron Revolution,” says Soe Aung, a spokesman for Forum for Democracy in Burma.
 
This summer violent clashes broke out between Buddhists and Rohingya in Burma’s western Rakhine state. Sectarian riots began in June after Rakhine Buddhists murdered a busload of Muslim Rohingya over an alleged rape. At least 90 people were killed, thousands chased from their homes, and villages burned to the ground.
 
Human Rights Watch says security forces stood by, and in some cases participated, in the violence. Authorities deny the charges and have appointed a commission to investigate the incident.
 
But Robertson says there are questions whether the commission can independently investigate the clashes in Rakhine state, also called Arakan.
 
“There cannot be a whitewash, there needs to be accountability in addition to a sort of far-sighted vision for a way that both of these groups will be able to live in peace in Arakan state,” says Robertson.
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees rejected the government’s proposal to resettle the nearly one-million Rohingya.
 
Burma refuses to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, despite some living there for generations, and brands them as illegal migrants. They have few rights in Burma and the United Nations considers them one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
 
Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking up enough for the Rohingya, despite a campaign promise to support reconciliation with ethnic minorities.
 
Robertson says on this issue the NLD leader’s voice could provide a clearer direction for society to follow.
 
“I think that she should put her weight behind the issue," says Robertson. "You know, this is the time to do it. This is the time to step up and demonstrate leadership. And, we hope she will do it.”
 
Robertson says the international community needs to see the Rohingya issue as the first test case for a multi-ethnic Burma.
 
Burma has 135 legally recognized minorities under a 1982 citizenship law that left out the Rohingya.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid