Monday, June 01, 2015

Trying To Make Sense Of The Myanmar/Rohingyas Situation

It is easy to side with the Rohingyas  as we see them being displaced and even persecuted by some Myanmarese and often led by right wing extremist Buddhist groups. Anyone who visited their ghettos in Myanmar would be appalled.

Before we blame Myanmar, the government and the people, for the atrocities, it is necessary to try and understand how/why there is so much hatred, which led to the inhumanity we currently are witnessing.

Trying to understand the situation is important to make sense of the probable workable solutions. You cannot just throw the ball here and there. Over simplified solutions include:

- "asking the Myanmar government to sort out the issue before more refugees die trying to get out of Myanmar"

- "sending them back to Myanmar"

Even the democracy champion Aung Sang Suu Kyi has remained cautious with her statements on the issue. When the Dalai Lama asked her to help to sort out the problem, even she said it is not so simple, in fact it is a highly complicated issue. It would be easy if it was pure genocide, pure racism ... but there is bad blood that runs much deeper than the surface. You do not get so much hatred just based on race issue or just on having different religion.

Desmond Tutu and George Soros have basically called for a total restoration of citizenship, nationality and basic human rights to the Rohingya. If only it was that simple. The model answer masks the hard facts and deep seated hatred that would make such solutions untenable over the long run.

Soros said he visited a Rohingya settlement in January and saw parallels to his youth as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe.  “You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya,” he said. That was a heartfelt comparison but unlike the Jewish people, who were basically persecuted based on their faith, the situation is quite different for the R. They are not as blameless as the Jewish people.

Myanmar refuses to recognize the term Rohingya and calls the people Bengali instead, suggesting that they come from neighboring Bangladesh. Officials in Myanmar said they would not attend the government meeting in Thailand if the term Rohingya were used.

WIKIPEDIA:  According to Rohingyas and some scholars, they are indigenous to Rakhine State, while other historians claim that they migrated to Burma from Bengal primarily during the period of British rule in Burma,[15][16][17] and to a lesser extent, after the Burmese independence in 1948 and Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.[18][19][20][2][21]
Muslims have settled in Arakan since the 16th century, although the number of Muslim settlers before the British rule is unclear.[22]After the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, British annexed Arakan and encouraged migrations from Bengal to work as farm laborers. The Muslim population may have constituted 5% of Arakan's population by 1869, although estimates for earlier years give higher numbers. Successive British censuses of 1872 and 1911 recorded an increase in Muslim population from 58,255 to 178,647 in Akyab District. During World War II, the Rakhine State massacre in 1942 involved communal violence between the British-armed V Force Rohingya recruits and Buddhist Rakhine people and the region became increasingly ethnically polarized.[23]
In 1982, General Ne Win's government enacted the Burmese nationality law, which denied Rohingya citizenship. Since the 1990s, the term "Rohingya" has increased in usage among Rohingya communities.[16][21]
As of 2013, about 735,000 Rohingyas live in Burma.[2] They reside mainly in the northern Rakhine townships, where they form 80–98% of the population.[21] International media and human rights organizations have described Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.[24][25][26]
Many Rohingyas have fled to ghettos and refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh and to areas along the border with Thailand. More than 100,000 Rohingyas in Burma continue to live in camps for internally displaced persons, not allowed by authorities to leave.[27][28] Rohingyas have received international attention in the wake of 2012 Rakhine State riots, and more recently due to their attempted migration throughout Southeast Asia in the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis.
By WWII half the population of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Burma’s capital city at the time, was Indian and Indians represented 16% of the total population. When the Japanese invaded in 1942, half a million Indians fled from Burma overland into India mostly on foot. When Ne Win took over in 1962, the government nationalized Indian businesses and disenfranchised the Indians. This led to another exodus of about 300,000 Indians. Those who stayed cannot be citizens and are barred from owning businesses, working in the civil service or serving in the military.5 

There are a great number of indigenous minorities in Burma, a detail most of us know little about. In fact there are 135 distinct ethnic groups as first defined by General Ne Win’s government in 1962, a list still used today. The major ethnic populations in Burma are: Bamar, 68%; Shan, 9%; Kayin, 7%; Rakhine, 3.5%; Chinese, 2.5%; Mon, 2%; Kachin, 1.5%; and Indians, 1.25%. The percentage of the balance of the 135 minorities is too small to mention here. The unrecognized ethnic groups are Anglo-Burmese, Burmese Chinese, Panthay, Burmese Indians, Gurkhas, Pakistanis and lastly, the Rohingyas.6 There are no census figures for unrecognized groups. They are simply in the country illegally.
During the years leading up to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, the Rohingyas fought in the Mujahid Insurgency. They wanted the northern part of Rakhine, where Muslims were concentrated, to be annexed to Bangladesh. A Mujahid is one who struggles for Allah or Islam. Literally it is an inner struggle. The Burmese resented this disloyalty.

Then there is the well organised militant group, the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, which was formed in 1982 by the remaining Mujahideens who were defeated by the Burmese army in 1978's Dragon King Operation. The RSO has incited a lot of fear and hatred because they developed strong ties with extremist groups in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. To make matters worse, in the 90s the RSO act as a conduit to supply fighters to be trained and some even serve under Al Qaeda.
No one wants them, not Bangladesh. Bangladesh is too poor. Not Thailand or Malaysia, India or Australia. Not the Arab countries. These people represent a terrible financial burden and no one is coming forward to help them. The UN calls them one of the most persecuted minorities on earth and with good reason.
It is racism... yes, it is discrimination ... it is religious intolerance... yes. But mainly it is an ethnic cleansing. There is no other word for it. The Rohingyas are invisible to the Burmese. They aren’t citizens. They are foreigners and they want them gone. No one wants to take responsibility. We can take Myanmar to task for it but what about bloody ASEAN ... the very formation of ASEAN must stand for something. ASEAN is a grouping to foster closer cooperation, ok... no meddling with each country's politics ... c'mon, this is bigger than internal politics. 

The humanity and the inhumanity of it. ASEAN must take a stand, they must come up with some viable solutions. The silence is deafening, no one wants to say anything cause if they do, they would have to be the first to absorb some of the refugees. You cannot expect just UNHCR or the US or other developed nations to take the lead... when the issue is at our doorstep.

Unfortunately there are no easy solutions. I do not think you can carve out a land just for them. They should not remain together as the legacy issues are too strong. Possibly the best is for an ASEAN unit to tabulate and ascertain the real Rohingyas and each country in ASEAN to accept a number according to their population and resources. If we are talking of just over 1 million... its going to be less than 100,000-200,000 per country.

For example, Indonesia 200,000 ... Malaysia 100,000 ... Thailand 100,000 ... Brunei 50,000 ... Singapore 50,000 ... and the rest taken by Australia, NZ and the US. Somehow I think Singapore would strongly oppose that solution... sigh.

If we choose to shame and force Myanmar to do the right thing and take them back, and give them proper citizenship... I think that will mask the underlying hatred and discrimination... which will only blow up again and again in the future.


Charlie Lee said...

The Truth on the Issue of Rohingyas
By tinkoko11 | Posted June 9, 2012 | Myanmar

On 8 June 2012, a tragedy struck the Arankan State of Myanmar. The native Arankanese civilians were severely attacked by Rohingya terrorists, who are the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It was a well-organized attacked by a Muslim insurgent group called Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). RSO was formed in 1982 by the remaining Mujahideens who were defeated by the Burmese Army in 1978's Dragon King Operations.
Over the past decade, RSO has developed connections with similar Muslim extremist organizations in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their aim is to create an autonomous state on Arakan land uniting the existing illegal Rohingya immigrants in Arankan State and Rohingyas from Bangladesh. Over the years, RSO gains their finances through criminal activities such as smuggling of guns and drugs between Bangladesh and Arakan State. They also receive massive funds from charities from Islamic organizations from middle east nations.
During 1990s, with the help of an extreme Sunni Muslim Organization HuJI, RSO managed to connect to Al Qaeda. Soon, thousands of RSO members were sent to Libya to attend terrorist training courses arranged by Al Qaeda. They even served in Al Qaeda army as porters and mine clearance specialists.
In 2001, the authorities from the United States seized several videotapes and records from an Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan. One of the records showed that the RSO of Burma is listed as the followers of Al Qaeda. A tape which showed a group of RSO participating in the Al Qaeda's operations was found as well. According to their findings, the US academic claimed that the largest Al Qaeda cell in South-East Asia is supposed to somewhere near Myanmar-Bangladesh border. They also expected that the number of RSO terrorists would grow.
With strong funding from Arab nations, Rohingya advocates have successfully bribed exile medias of Myanmar and have them fabricated pathetic tales about how the Myanmar Government violated human rights on Rohingyas. Evidently, photographs of Han Yaung Wai, the Chairman of Democratic Voice of Burma, were released. In the photographs, he was seen signing a suspiciously Rohingya-promotion-agreement with some Arabs.
Due to the massive population growth of Bangladesh, it is obvious that the Rohingya aka the Bengali of Bangladesh native have been eyeing the neighboring Arankan land. Over the years, with the help of corrupted immigration officers, they have managed to infiltrate into the Arankan State. It was once reported locally that an average of 800 Rohingyas are sneaking into the country a day. These illegal immigrants bring more harm than benefits to the country by committing gang rapes, smuggling of firearms and drugs, conducting racial attacks especially on the Arankan land. However, due to the weak channelling of local medias, none of the incidents nor the crimes committed by them were made known to the international entities. The truth about Rohingyas which very few people know is that Rohingyas are not just stateless refugees. They are terrorists who try to invade the Arankan State of Myanmar.

William said...

Hmm....They dont look like a terrorist to me, they looked like REFUGEES.