The Plight of the Rohingya

Not in the name of Buddhism

The plight of the Rohingya has been exacerbating while the world was caught up with the Olympics. Scores have already died gruesome deaths and tens of thousands have been internally displaced. Aan Sun Suu Kyi has been silent, contributing to the violence by actually saying that she ‘doesn’t know’ if the Rohingya are Burmese, and continues a trip around Europe hob nobbing with the equally silent elites of the West that recently effectively dropped all sanctions against the military junta that controls Burma.

To give some context from the AJStream video above, the Rohingya have been around since before the state of Burma itself. Like many other people in the region they repeatedly came under the rule of invading forces. The Persians, the Mughals, the British. The argument that the junta uses, and what Suu Kyi has also used, that they are effectively stateless is built on the racially prejudiced law known as the ‘black law’ by Rohingya activists, passed in the sixties when the junta took over. A time when Burma, in its newfound independence from the British, embarked on a national vision defined by the lofty ideals of ethnic purity and economic independence. Sound familiar? I see strange parallels with Sri Lanka’s own anti-Tamil stance in early independence years. Though our historical fling with ultra racism brought us entirely different results. None of them good.

The Rohingya were officially stripped of their citizenship in 1982  and have lived a life of pain, squalor and effective misery since. The recent spate of violence erupted in June when 3 mulisms were accused of the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

Prior to the Junta, the Rohingya enjoyed full citizenship and rights. I am assuming this was mostly in the British time. But the hate and prejudice against them increased over the sixty post independence years and has ironically culminated just when Burma should have been on the path to international acceptance. The Junta recently released Suu Kyi and some political prisoners and opened up the country to US and European businesses prompting those governments to virtually abolish the sanctions regime. And now that the West thinks it has turned Burma into a poster child for democracy, the Junta is carrying out one of the worst atrocities we have seen in this century. The West is silent. Seemingly hating to admit that its most recent success story is a jarring failure.

The news reports carry some horrific accounts (see video above). Neighbors and thugs aided and/or unstopped by armed forces storming Muslim villages; burning people alive, engaging in mass murder, rape and torture. One account tells of a group of children who were tied up and tortured until they lost consciousness, another was an eyewitness account of attackers who planted swords blade up on the ground and skewered babies alive. A group of escapees recount how a military helicopter swooped down and attacked escaping boats killing about fifty in the process.

The burmese president has reportedly stated that the Rohingya must be deported. But deported where? Aside from Burma these people have no home. No foreign country is willing to accept them. This is racism at its uglist, most deplorable and most violent. What we’re seeing is an emerging genocide. And if so, its probably the most ignored news item in the world today.

International media has largely been silent. The Twittersphere and Facebook has largely been ignoring it. Remember when Aang San Suu Kyi was a prisoner? Being a Suu Kyi activist was fashionable, Saving Tibet was in-the thing to be seen doing in 2008, KONY 2012 went nuts until everyone realized the truth, and the guy who made the video turned to be a little deranged. All of these issues got airtime and the global industrial media complex got behind, graphics were made in pastel shades, celebrities endorsed, and people the world over made them go viral. Causes have become brands, people take them up if they like the packaging and the advertising. The personal kickbacks and ego boosts.

The Rohingya though, are not fashionable, not yet. They have no voice, no power. Right now Bangladesh, the neighboring country and a Muslim state to boot, is turning them away guiltless. Makes me sick. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been throwing money at the problem, offering no permanent solutions. Sri Lanka, as a Buddhist nation, faced with a fellow Buddhist country committing atrocities under a false guise of Buddhism has said nothing. Everywhere mum’s the word. The UN isn’t even in the picture. And the Rohingya are caught increasingly between a rock and a hard place both of which are closing in for the crush.
    • Whacko said:

      Thanks! still not exactly a twiitterstorm. And nothing short of a storm seems to get attention

    • Whacko said:

      Thanks! will read 🙂

  1. Ruvi said:

    In comparison to the Rohingya, the Sri Lankan Muslims have it good – infact, very good. People shouldn’t take things for granted – you only realize what you have until its gone.

    • Whacko said:

      Are you serious?

  2. Ruvi said:

    Am pretty serious. Sri Lankan Muslims (and Sri Lankans in general) tend to take things for granted. It’s just surprising you have had nothing to say about all the Muslim-on-Muslim violence that takes place daily. Or the attacks on Christians in Nigeria and the slaughter of Buddhists in Southern Thailand that have been carried out by Muslim groups. Where’s the condemnation? Shias are killed every other day in Pakistan…. what about their plight? The are not “fasionable”?

    • Whacko said:

      I’m sure they are. But this particular post is about the Rohingya. Also are you aware that you sound distinctly racist? You seem to think Muslims are second class citizens of Sri Lanka. And so should be ‘grateful’ for rights that should have been given us anyway. I’m not saying that we don’t have it good here. Muslims are well aware of the respected position we hold in the country, and we love Sri Lanka more for it. But attitudes like yours, if widespread, can maybe cause more communal violence.

  3. Ruvi said:

    Well, no I don’t think I’m racist. A “Muslim” is a follower of Islam; it is not a race. And I do think that, in general, Sri Lankan Muslims take the rights (and privileges) they enjoy in Sri Lanka for granted. I’ve heard some Sri Lankan Muslim commentators say the same thing so I don’t think I am the only one who has such views. To be honest, I don’t think there is any Muslim majority country that provides the same religious freedom to its minorities than does Sri Lanka to its Muslim minority.

    Also, the question must be asked: why have you been so silent on all the Muslim-on-Muslim violence that is tearing apart the Muslim world? Is it okay when Muslims are killing Muslims? Far more Muslims have have been killed in Pakistan (mainly Shias and Ahmaddiyas at the hands of the Sunnis) in comparison to the 400-600 Muslims in Burma – and we are only talking about one Muslim country here. I guess many people are questioning this selective outrage. You seem to want Sri Lanka which is a majority Buddhist country to “say something”, but why should Sri Lanka do so? When has any Muslim country spoken out against the violence/discrimination metered out to religious minorities in the Muslim world “under a false guise of Islam”? Have Sri Lankan Muslims or their representatives spoken out for the religious rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries?

    Have a look at the following article:

    Where are Muslims who are condemning this?

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