An estimated one million Rohingyas were living in Rakhine State in three townships Maungdaw, Buthindung and Rathedaung for generations among the predominantly Buddhist population of 52 million people. The New York Times reported that Myanmar military establishment had prepared a plan much earlier from the exodus to expel the Rohingya Muslim minority from the country in a systematic manner.
In this connection the military establishment, political leaders, radical Buddhist monks and common people, including Aung San Suu Kyi, a human rights activist and nobel prize laureate, who took over in Burma this year after decades of military rule, were on the same page. UN Secretary General decried this human catastrophe as horrendous persecution of Rohingya Muslim in Myanmar. The clouds of mistrust and sense of insecurity existed before decades. According to Scottish Academic, Azeem Ibrahim who recently wrote a book on Rohingyas explained that much of the animosity could be traced to world war II when Rohingyas fought on the British side and many Buddhist in Rakhine fought for the occupying Japanese. However, both sides massacred civilians. After independence Rohingyas hoped to be part east Pakistan but British appeased Buddhist majority and Myanmar became part of Burma. Thus the seeds of mistrust and discrimination against Rohingyas were sown right from the partition when Buddhists became the masters of their destiny.
Myanmar has a long history of political unrest, Civil war, turmoil and conflict following Myanmar independence from Great Britain in 1948. Several regimes ruled in quick succession. Growing economic instability and widespread protest eventually triggered nationwide uprising and the military establishment killed thousands of people during demonstration and imposed martial law supervised by temporary council which ultimately culminated in 1990 election winning a landslide victory for National League for democracy. However in 2010 military Government annulled the NLD and imprisoned all NLD leaders. The military rule national and local Government enacted repressive laws against Rohingyas which include.
1. Denial of citizenship. As per Myanmar citizenship law, in order to be a citizen a person had to provide proof that his or her family had lived in Myanmar since 1948. Many Rohingyas being underprivileged illiterate poor and neglected community for decades lack any record of their family background. After law was enacted the Identity card of Rohingyas was withheld. In fact, this enactment was done with the ill intention to prepare ground for the expulsion of Rohingyas from the country. This is a fact that the Rohingyas are living in Myanmar for generation and the mistrust and ill will was deep in the blood of Buddhist for decades which culminated in their persecution. Buddhism believe in nonviolence as their fundamental principle of faith unfortunately Buddhist Monks were on forefront to dehumanise the Rohingyas. They refer them as snakes or worse than dogs. Otherwise no law on earth can deprive any person from the place where he is born. United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution impressing upon Myanmar Government to grant citizenship rights to the Rohingyas Muslims. But this resolution was tactfully defeated by torching their houses, killing, raping of women and persecution.
2. Forced displacement. In 1978 military began operation Dragon king against Rohingyas selectively by enforcing forced displacement and confining them in concentration camps. They were declared illegal immigrants in spite of the fact that they were living in Myanmar for generations. Eventually those who resisted they were systematically liquidated, killed, women raped and young boys killed. In the background of these repressive measures 9.00.000 Rohingyas fled across the border to different places like Bangladesh Malaysia and Thailand since August 2017. In Malaysia and Thailand boats were towed back to sea. Hundreds died in sea or sank and 12.000 died due to starvation. In order to escape the horrific violence and persecution many stretched over the ocean, walked barefooted for days. hiding in jungles, crossing river and mountains reached Bangladesh. The Myanmar Government confiscated the property of the migrants. However, Bangladesh opened their borders for Rohingyas and stated that we cannot close doors for those who have undergone horrific persecution.
3. Forced labour. The Nay-Sat Kut-Kwey ye(NaSaKa) a security force consisting of police, military, intelligence, customs officer and riot police operated in Rakhine state until 2013 forcing Rohingyas either to pay weekly fee to avoid forced work a fee that many Rohingyas cannot afford or to perform manual labour such as construction work, agriculture work, portering or serving guards and forced labour. In 2008 UN Special Rapporteur reported allegation that Rohingyas had been killed for refusal to perform labour. In 2004 Myanmar court sentenced three people to death on charges of high treason, because they had contacted International Labour Organisation to report forced labour. On appeal, the Supreme Court commuted the sentence but did not clarify whether it was illegal for people to speak to ILO.
4. Religious persecution. Human Right Watch reported that the Government issued military orders demanding that unauthorised mosques be destroyed. Consequently many mosques reportedly 28 were destroyed. In 2001 mob attacked which was supported by security agencies also in the demolition of mosques.
5. Marriage registration and population control. In 1990 Myanmar Government passed a law that require prior permission before marriage. The essential prerequisite for seeking marriage permit is that the person should be cleaned shaved without any beard and women prohibited from wearing hijab covering their head and face. Pregnancy test was made mandatory for marriage because it was alleged that deliveries took place without wedlocks. Women having children without wedlock were sent to prison upto 10 years. On 4 Feb 2011, Myanmar parliament appointed a retd General Thein Sein as President. Rohingyas suffered discrimination and human right abuses which include killing, forced labour, sexual violence, displacement and denial of citizenship, restriction of marriages and religious practices. The New York based group Human Rights Watch has confirmed through satellite imagery burning of thousands of houses, killing and fleeing of Rohingyas from the country. Generous Americans have supported cause of Rohingyas throughout, besides other organs of UNO. Since the beginning of the crisis the UNHCR has done commendable job for providing succour to the refugees. Only USA provide asylum to 85,000 refugees after formal screening. This situation in Bangladesh is akin to what Europe experience in 2015 in the aftermath of Syrian crisis.
Aung San Suu Kyi though a Nobel Prize recipient for human rights has disappointed the world when she categorically refused all charges of persecution against Rohingyas which include killing, burning of houses, rape of women. When these charges have been confirmed and endorsed by international press and electronic media and special representatives of United Nations through videos which are available on the internet. UN officials have confirmed that crimes against Rohingyas were crimes against humanity. Denial of these charges by Aung San Suu Kyi is denial of justice and disrespect of all accredited international agencies including the UNO. Many countries have raised their voice for stripping down the award to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Rohingyas are probably the most friendless people in the world. They just have no one advocating for them at all observed Kitty Mckinsey, a spokeswoman for UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2009. At least 9,00,000 Rohingyas are living as migrants in Bangladesh at the mercy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees who are instrumental in providing basic essentials of life against all odds. It is a big human catastrophe and genocide of the century which every person irrespective of any consideration should realise and provide a helping hand.
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