Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya: state­less, per­se­cuted and flee­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Scores of Ro­hingya Mus­lims have been killed in a Myan­mar army crack­down since early Oc­to­ber, when sword-wield­ing as­sailants raided po­lice posts in the re­mote marsh­lands bor­der­ing Bangladesh. The mil­i­tary struck back with ground clear­ances, most re­cently backed by he­li­copter gun­ships. Ac­cess to the con­flict ar­eas is heav­ily re­stricted, but wit­ness tes­ti­mony has seeped out al­leg­ing mass rapes, indis­crim­i­nate killings and the raz­ing of en­tire Ro­hingya vil­lages by Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forcesclaims they deny. It is the latest chap­ter in the grim re­cent his­tory of the Ro­hingya, a one mil­lion pop­u­la­tion re­viled across Myan­mar as il­le­gal im­mi­grants and de­nied cit­i­zen­ship. The fol­low­ing is a fact box on the Ro­hingya.

Who are they?

The Ro­hingya are a state­less Mus­lim eth­nic group de­scribed by the United Na­tions as one of the world’s most per­se­cuted mi­nori­ties. Us­ing a di­alect sim­i­lar to that spo­ken in Chit­tagong in south­east Bangladesh, the Sunni Mus­lims are loathed by many in ma­jor­ity Bud­dhist Myan­mar who see them as il­le­gal im­mi­grants and call them “Ben­gali” even though many have lived in Myan­mar for gen­er­a­tions. Most live in im­pov­er­ished west­ern Rakhine state, but are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship and smoth­ered by re­stric­tions on move­ment and work.

The UN refugee agency says well over 120,000 have fled Rakhine since re­li­gious vi­o­lence in 2012 - an ex­o­dus that con­tin­ues, de­spite the per­ils of the sea jour­ney.

Last year, thou­sands were stranded at sea after a well-worn traf­fick­ing route through Thai­land col­lapsed after the dis­cov­ery of scores of shal­low graves on the Malaysia bor­der. There are around 300,000 Ro­hingya liv­ing in Bangladesh’s south­ern coastal dis­trict bor­der­ing Myan­mar, the vast ma­jor­ity of whom have fled Myan­mar in re­cent decades. Bangladesh rec­og­nizes only a small por­tion as refugees and reg­u­larly turns back those try­ing to cross the bor­der.

On Oc­to­ber 9 armed men am­bushed bor­der posts killing nine po­lice­man and es­cap­ing with guns. Se­cu­rity forces were sent in, vow­ing to re­pel the at­tacks. Nearly 30 civil­ians died in the en­su­ing clashes. That num­ber has surged over the fol­low­ing weeks as troops clear re­mote vil­lages. The govern­ment says the at­tacks amount to an in­sur­gency. They ac­cuse a pre­vi­ously un­known Pak­istani Tal­iban-trained mil­i­tant of lead­ing the at­tacks and ral­ly­ing hun­dreds of dis­grun­tled Ro­hingya to his cause. It is hard to ver­ify those claims, although videos of armed men have emerged ap­pear­ing to back them up. Se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions are on­go­ing. The vi­o­lence has re­vived calls from rights groups for Myan­mar to rec­og­nize the Ro­hingya’s rights to cit­i­zen­ship and end their per­se­cu­tion.

What’s Suu Kyi do­ing about it?

Myan­mar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been con­spic­u­ous for her near si­lence dur­ing the latest un­rest. Speak­ing on a trip to Ja­pan last month the No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate vowed a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the vi­o­lence but shied away from crit­i­cis­ing the mil­i­tary, who con­trol all se­cu­rity matters. She is also ham­pered by the po­lit­i­cally in­cen­di­ary na­ture of the issue in Myan­mar. The Ro­hingya are not of­fi­cially rec­og­nized as an eth­nic group, partly ow­ing to a 1982 law stip­u­lat­ing that mi­nori­ties must prove they lived in Myan­mar prior to 1823 - be­fore the first An­glo-Burmese war-to ob­tain na­tion­al­ity. —AFP

SEOUL: In this file photo, South Korean Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Park Kwan-yong (cen­ter) is sur­rounded by Na­tional Assem­bly of­fi­cials after an­nounc­ing the im­peach­ment of South Korean Pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun at the Na­tional Assem­bly in Seoul. In 2004, for­mer lib­eral Pres­i­dent Roh was im­peached by the Assem­bly on al­le­ga­tions of in­com­pe­tence and il­le­gal elec­tion­eer­ing. But the im­peach­ment trig­gered a strong pub­lic back­lash that helped his party win big in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions; the Con­sti­tu­tional Court then ruled that his in­frac­tions did not war­rant re­moval from of­fice. —AP

TEKNAF, Bangladesh: Six year-old Noor Sa­hara, a young Ro­hingya girl whose mother is miss­ing and who crossed over the bor­der with her neigh­bor Roshida and her nephew, poses for a pho­to­graph near a refugee camp in the south­ern Cox’s Bazar dis­trict yes­ter­day. —AFP

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