News / Asia

Muslim Groups Increasingly Worried About Fate of Burma's Rohingyas

A Muslim Indonesian holds a banner during a protest in front of the Burma Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2012.
A Muslim Indonesian holds a banner during a protest in front of the Burma Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2012.
Muslim groups worldwide are increasing pressure on the Burmese government to stop human rights abuses committed against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

The plight of the technically stateless group in Burma's western Rakhine state has long been a concern of the global Muslim community. But attention has intensified in recent weeks after longstanding tensions erupted between the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, leaving dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International say Rohingyas are the victims of state-sanctioned violence and discrimination in a country that has a long history of mistreating ethnic minorities.
 
But others, including the government of Iran, have gone much further, calling the conflict a religiously inspired "genocide" and spreading what observers say are doctored photos and fabricated stories of the conflict.
 
Several extremist groups have also joined the conversation, including the Pakistani Taliban, which on Thursday threatened to attack Burma to avenge the abuses against the Rohingya population.

Outside pressure may not help
 
Increased attention from Muslims globally could help pressure Burma's government to give more rights to Rohingyas, says Jim Della-Giacoma of the International Crisis Group. But he adds that it could also make the situation worse.
 
"This is an issue around which Burmese or ethnically Burman nationals rally around, and that is part of the problem," says Della-Giacoma. "So any sort of threats from outside groups would only enforce or harden that nationalism and definitely not help the problem."

Rohingyas reject Taliban threats
 
Maung Kyaw Nu, a former political prisoner turned activist who works with Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, says he not only doubts the threat of an attack should be taken seriously, but the message runs counter to his group's goal of a peaceful solution.
 
"Even we don't like it," he says. "You know my political attitude toward Burma is to restore the peace and the rule of law so that we don't like this kind of group, and we condemn them, you know, not only regarding Burma, regarding any area particular area in the world."
 
Despite the rejection from some prominent Rohingyas, Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, an NGO that monitors Rohingya issues, says there may already be repercussions from the outside threats. Lewa said that Burma's military reportedly arrested 38 Muslim religious leaders in northern Rakhine state Thursday following the terror threat by the Taliban.
 
"It appears that [the Burmese military] has responded in arresting a number of imams and mullahs from Maungdaw and Buthidaung along the border with Bangladesh," says Lewa, who says a number of other religious leaders have been arrested recently in a crackdown seemingly aimed at preventing protests during the religiously important month of Ramadan.
 
The violence and discrimination against Rohingyas is not genocide according to Lewa, who says such exaggerations are partly the result of recent statements from Burmese President Thein Sein. The president said earlier this month that deportation or refugee camps were the only solutions for the Rohingyas, who are denied citizenship in both Burma and neighboring Bangladesh.

Not just about religion
 
Benjamin Zawacki, a Burma researcher at Amnesty International, insists that it would be a mistake to view the conflict through only religious lenses, saying it should be viewed in the wider context of Burma's struggles with ethnic minority groups.
 
"I think that religion is clearly a part, but my assessment is that it is more secondary than it is primary in terms of why these violations and this discrimination takes place," says Zawacki.
 
Not only do Rohingya have a clearly different physical appearance from the majority of Burmese, says Zawacki, they have also adopted what some consider to be a "foreign" or "minority" religion.
 
But he says the widespread prejudice and discrimination against Rohingyas in Burmese society is partly the offspring of government policies that limit the rights of the minority group.
 
"If you look at the sort of discrimination that Rohingyas have faced for decades, it's very much part of the institution," says Zawacki. "The restrictions on marriage, the restriction on education, the restriction on movement - these are all systems within Myanmar [Burma] society."
 
Zawacki says these kinds of policies have the effect of making Burmese citizens feel they are justified in treating Rohingyas differently from other groups. Rights groups such as Amnesty International say the crisis can begin to be resolved when Burma amends its 1982 citizenship law that says Rohingyas are not citizens.
 
Many were encouraged that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week called for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities. But Zawacki said she should go a step further, and clearly state that Rohingyas should receive the same rights as all other Burmese citizens.

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by: Waiss from: Ali
July 27, 2012 4:08 PM
I think this horrific situation is a great litmus test for Burma and Miss. Aung San Suu Kyi, lets see how she and the new Burma handles it not with just words but ACTION.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 28, 2012 8:51 AM
There is no simple action good enough to address religion disputes. Why don't Indonesians adopt all Rohyngyans ?

by: same from: kl
July 27, 2012 10:34 AM
what did u mean ethnic rohingyas who illegal immigrate from bangladesh,u have to learn myanmar history,original ethnic myanmar are buddhist,myanmar language,cultural and face like thailand.rohingyas are same bangladesh as cultural,face,ethnic,language,religion and appearance.who were lying to world??????why??????HAVE TO LEARN MYANMAR HISTORY.DO NOT TALK RUMOUR TO WORLD.THANK YOU
In Response

by: lol from: one earth
July 29, 2012 12:03 AM
You need to learn myanmar history. Arakan is not a part of Myanmar until 1770s. There are proof that Rohingya people live in Arakan for centuries. You can read it in "A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire" written in 1799. http://www.soas.ac.uk/sbbr/editions/file64276.pdf. page 55. " I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation.
The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. "
In Response

by: Dany from: Karachi
July 28, 2012 5:54 PM
@GlockMonk
By the way I talked about human rights not Muslim rights. And I haven't met anyone who supports the killing of monks in any uprising. Those killings shall be resisted as much as this killing should be.
And by the way I can't understand this concept that if Rohingyas are not ethnic burmese then they should be killed. What type of brutal thinking is that ?
And to hell with all Muslim countries because I not there interpreter (but your are for monks). I am just talking about my individual thoughts and for that I think no new born baby can rape a girl so what is the point of burning them Mr. Monk ?
And if you do not have any first hand experience of watching burning new born babies in burma (doesn't matter muslim or someone else) then i can give you second hand experience by sharing those pictures with you that are already circulating everywhere but I think you don't want to watch them or you call them "photoshoped" because you people are the biggest hypocrites in the history who preach "so-called peace" and execute the worst barbarism.
After Nazis the award of brutality should now be given to "budhists"
In Response

by: Abu Lahab from: US
July 28, 2012 4:55 PM
@ Sehra,

There were riots in Assam, India involving Bangladeshis too. Before saying who's the citizen and who's not, lets get to the question of why a particular group can't get along with anyone no matter where they are in the world. We can see this is Nigeria, Sudan, Mid East, India, China, Thailand, and the Philippines, etc...
In Response

by: Believer from: Geelong
July 27, 2012 6:24 PM
Whether Rohingyas citizens or not, I can't tolerate with the killing of innocent people (especially women and children). Don't they have a sense of mercy? They are brutally murdered! This must be stop as soon as possible. This is against the basic right of humanity!
In Response

by: Zafar from: Australia
July 27, 2012 5:47 PM
Well now everyone jumps to talk about human rights and actocities against muslims in burma, Americans are growing impatient, indians will ban something, world is concerned and Al Quida is going to kill or take action against Burmese govt or ministers...
Now the same question does not apply to Muslims in china.. where they are persecuted day in and day out.. Al Quida and muslim world is shut...
When Tibet was attacked brutally and innocent 10000s were killed communist govt Nixon and Johnson were dancing Tango with Mao and his gang of land grabbers and goons...
These big counteries cant stand united against biggest cheat china in the world and now playing cop to small counteries...
Al Quida needs to shut up... they are bunch of idiots and unedcuated people driving stupid mentality and only bombs democractic counteries where there is equal rights given to muslims...compared to china and russia... dont have guts?
that sounds strange
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 27, 2012 4:39 PM
we all have to look,who are the people,trigting this fight between different ethinic group.It is now clear those who have intrest in selling arm and de etablising world for the sake of small gain,want to kill innocent human being in world
In Response

by: Nik from: US
July 27, 2012 3:42 PM
Rohingyas have been in Arakan for centuries. Burma (ethnic myanmar Buddhists) invaded Arakan in the 1700s and made it part of the Burma state. Now the monks in Burma decide Rohingyas are not part of Burma because they look different. Why is the world letting this happen to Rohingyas. If Iraq deserved to be invaded to 'free its people' then how come Burman which is the worst oppressor of its minorities has not warranted an invasion to free the people who are truly being persecuted. What is happening in Burma is ethic cleansing, it is a genocide.
In Response

by: GlockMonk from: US
July 27, 2012 2:36 PM
@Dany; So you're concerned about the basic human rights. Where was your concern, when we were getting killed by the thousands during the 1988 uprising in Burma? Oh what about monks who were killed by the thousands during the 2007 uprising. Oh I see, they were not muslims, so you don't give a damn? What happen to your concept of basic human rights then, or that only applies to muslims? A classic example of a hypocrite!

Rohingyas are not part of Myanmar ethnic people. They are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and yet, kind and peace loving buddhists from Rakhine state tolerated them for many years. However, once the muslims started to rape, steal, commit acts of violence against the generous hosts (the Rakhine people), then the Myanmar army must act to maintain peace, and order in the region.

And from my first hand experience, the Myanmar army does not discriminate, whether you're a buddhist, a christian, or a muslim. If you happen to be on the receiving end of the muzzle, then it's a fair game for them. Also, if all the muslims in the world are so touched by the situation of the stateless rohingyas, then they should relocate them to their respective countries. So far, no muslim country has opened their borders for the rohingyas on a wide scale basis. A nother fine example of fine muslim hypocrisy.



In Response

by: Sehra from: India
July 27, 2012 1:37 PM
For your kind information myanmar is not for only burmese, burma is made up of all kind of religions, roingyas are born in myanmar and they have ful right to be citizen, they are human not animals that u can throw them any time from your country.
In Response

by: Dany
July 27, 2012 11:59 AM
Even if they migrated from Bangladesh a long time a ago does this really justifies this brutal action against them ?
Don't you believe that killing innocent people (especially children) just because of religion/ethnic difference is against the basic human rights ?
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