The very mention of Myanmar or Burma brings to our mind the picture of a military junta which has continued to ride a roughshod over the people for many decades and of Aung San Suu Kyi who is leading a frontline battle against the junta. None needs to be informed that a majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhists; but none knows about the various minority groups and ethnic minorities in the country. The iron curtain erected by the junta so closely blocked information that we are still in the dark about the country.
The Burmese socialism adopted by the military junta during the cold war was built on xenophobia. The country has closely sequestered itself from foreign countries and interventions. But we hear, see and read about the cleansing of the Rohingya, a racial and religious minority in the country. It was on account of the intervention of the Amnesty International and the UN that the world could know about the Rohingya people despite the strict censorship of the government on news.
The hunt against the minorities was started after a woman in the Rakhine sect, a Buddhist faction, was allegedly raped on July 6. The ethnic cleansing was/has been jointly masterminded by the army and the fascist sections among the Buddhists. The United Nations Council for Human Rights reported one week after the genocide that around one thousand people were killed and as many were found missing. Around a month after the genocide, the number of people who were killed and found missing is beyond the scanner of all agencies. Around 25 years ago, UNCHR has said that the Rohingyans are the minority community who suffer the worst form of human rights violation in the world.
Rohingyans who hail from the Arkan province in Myanmar live in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia. They are 1.1 million in population, of which 0.8 million live in Burma and the rest migrated. The migrants came to India as well. People from Bangladesh migrated to Burma at different times and settled in the Arkan province. Burma was at that time a British colony. Now the propaganda is that Rohingyans are all from Bangladesh, though it is further from truth. The genocide is part of the hunting of minorities in Burma which has started ever since the military junta established itself in the country under the leadership of Nevin in 1962. The state recognized ethnic minorities not based on their ethnic peculiarities but on the regional peculiarities of people in different regions where the majority are Buddhists. So Rohingyans were not even recognized by the administration as Burmese citizens.
The International community took a strong stand against the violence orchestrated with the blessings of administrations against people who were denied citizenship. The continuing discrimination and harassment of the state pushed the Rohingyans towards being refugees. Not only did the state deny them citizenship by fabricating history but it resorted to ethnic cleansing by orchestrating riots. The visuals of the army getting involved in the genocide by stealing and murder were spread wide. Bangladesh, which first received refugees from Rohingya, has recently closed down its Burmese border. They have not been ready to open the border yet, despite the continuous request from UNCHR. The UN has not yet been able to rehabilitate the refugees, who are numbered around 10,000. Meanwhile, Indonesian media reported that the army was shooting down from helicopters refugees who were fleeing to Australia and other countries. Though the events were reported by Washington Post, Guardian and Al Jazeera, foreign media could not step over the iron curtain. Though the US and several European countries have imposed embargo on Myanmar, they have listed the ban. The US is entering in several commercial deals with Myanmar. Understandably, the US eyes the oil and mineral wealth of the country which still remain unexhausted despite the inefficiency of the government.
The stand of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose fight with the military junta has earned her the Nobel Prize for Peace, is dubious and has invited criticism. She said she was unsure if Muslim Rohingyans at the centre of clashes were nationals. “We are not certain exactly what the requirements of citizenship laws are,” said Suu Kyi. Asked if the Rohingyans should be regarded as Burmese, she said, “I do not know.” She has only asked her party activists not to take part in the violence. This reveals the uncalled-for realpolitik of a human rights activist who is so cautious as not to miss the support of Buddhists in the Rakhine province. Though Suki can’t be claimed to be a racist, as she has once fallen in love with a Pakistan national, her dubious stand has raised concern over the future of ethnic minorities under the national democracy she vouches for. No West-Asian country has responded to the issue. The support of Iran and the new dispensation in Egypt remains to be the only silver lining.