Saturday, 4 August 2012

Masterminds behind the Rohingya ethnic cleansing in Burma

Todays Zaman, 3 August 2012 

The tragic cruelty and the carnage of Rohingyas that occurred in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan (now known as Rakhine) state, is assumed to have been caused by Dr. Aye Maung, member of parliament and chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) because in his interview with Venus News Journal on June 14, 2012, he said, “The Rakhine state should be established in the way Israel was initially established.”
That's the dream of the Rakhine people. They want to drive out Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine (Arakan) state, their current leader Dr. Aye Maung asserted in that interview.

In the last week of last month, a RNDP statement indicated, “Bengalis must be segregated and settled in separate, temporary places so that the Rakhines and Bengalis are not able to mix together in villages and towns in Rakhine state.” “Repatriating non-citizen Bengalis to a third country in a short period of time must be discussed with the United Nations and the international community,” the statement added. The RNDP also issued a statement early this year against a job announcement by CARE International in Myanmar, an NGO working in Arakan state, for using the term “Rohingya.”

“By resorting to a strict policy of ethnic cleansing, Aye Maung, an MP and chairman of the RNDP, is oppressing the Rohingya, who have lived in Arakan state for centuries, while his parents only emigrated to Arakan state in 1953-54 from Bangladesh. His citizenship should be verified as he is a non-citizen Bengali-Magh,” said Htay Lwin Oo, an activist from the United States. There were many Buddhist settlers in Arakan state after the independence of Burma, but the regime never raised the issue because the agenda is only to drive out the Muslims. The Rakhine people are officially accepted as an ethnic people of Burma and in Bangladesh too, while Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Burma and recognized as refugees in Bangladesh.

As an armed group of Rakhines in exile, the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), which was founded in 1968, struggling to get back its lost Kingdom, held meetings in Malaysia last year where an attendee asked a question about the struggles and aims of ALP, which wants an independent Arakan state. ALP's struggle is not for federalism but for independence, ALP members told the Bangladesh-based Narinjara news agency. ALP and the Rakhine state government held peace talks early this year, but the two sides have still not reached a cease-fire agreement. A recent RNDP statement said, “The government and Rakhines must combine forces to lay down a security protocol for Rakhine state and the Rakhine people.” It seems that the RNDP wants to bring ALP's forces into the region to oversee the Muslims.

“In recent months, there have been an increasing number of anti-Rohingya activities, including seminars in Rangoon and Arakan state organized by the RNDP and anti-Rohingya demonstrations,” Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, recently said in the British parliament.

Ever since the 1970s the Rohingya have been accused of being illegal Bengali immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, although the Rohingya enjoyed a variety of rights that were provided to all citizens after the independence of Burma. The preceding regime imposed many restrictions on Rohingya marriage, travel, religious freedom, forced labor, etc. The Rohingya have been denied citizenship since the 1982 citizenship act was passed when the dictator Ne Win was in power. Two out of three lawmakers at the time of the 1982 citizenship act were Rakhines.

Many Rohingya men have been arrested. Many Rohingya villages, houses, mosques and properties were burned down during the recent unrest. Rohingya shops were looted by mobs. Nowadays, the shops are being relocated by the authorities as per the plan of the RNDP. All the Rohingya were driven from the town, and there is no guarantee that they will get back their land where they lived for centuries. “The actual death toll is a bit difficult to determine, but Tun Khin confirmed that “as many as 650 Rohingyas were killed, 1,200 are missing and more than 80,000 have been displaced.” Some elderly people died due to a lack of medical treatment. Rohingya refugees are facing a food crisis as donors are not allowed in the area where Rohingya Muslims are sheltering. The foreign minister of Burma rejected humanitarian assistance offered by the Malaysian government.

According to the Burmese presidential website, President Thein Sein told the UNHCR chief that Burma will take responsibility for its ethnic nationalities, but it is impossible to recognize illegal border-crossing Rohingya who are not native to Burma. He asked UNHCR Chief António Guterres to recognize Rohingya as refugees and operate camps inside the country till they can be resettled in a third country that is willing to take them. But the UNHCR chief quickly rejected that idea, saying: “The resettlement programs organized by the UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it's not related to this situation.”

*Nay San Lwin is an activist and the vice president of the Burmese Rohingya Association in Deutschland (Germany). He can be reached via Twitter @nslwin.

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