Anti-mi­grant protests set in Myan­mar’s Rakhine

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Bud­dhist hard-lin­ers in Myan­mar’s trou­bled Rakhine state are plan­ning a day of protest against lo­cal au­thor­i­ties help­ing des­per­ate boat mi­grants found adrift in the Bay of Ben­gal, or­ga­niz­ers said Sun­day.

Rakhine, one of Myan­mar’s poor­est states, is a tin­der­box of communal ten­sion be­tween its Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity and a heav­ily per­se­cuted Ro­hinghya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity, many of whom live in dis­place­ment camps af­ter deadly un­rest erupted there in 2012.

A re­gional mi­grant cri­sis is up­end­ing a frag­ile equi­lib­rium that has since set­tled on the state.

Tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya have fled Myan­mar in re­cent years, along­side Bangladeshi eco­nomic mi­grants, pri­mar­ily headed for Malaysia and In­done­sia.

The ex­o­dus largely went ig­nored un­til a crack­down on the peo­ple smug­gling trade in Thai­land last month caused a re­gional cri­sis as gang­mas­ters aban­doned their quarry on land and sea.

Some 4,500 Ro­hingya and Bangladeshi mi­grants have since washed ashore in the re­gion while the U.N. es­ti­mates around 2,000 oth­ers are still trapped at sea.

Af­ter years of turn­ing a blind eye to the ex­o­dus, Myan­mar’s navy in the last fort­night dis­cov­ered two boats with more than 900 mi­grants who were brought to west­ern Rakhine state.

Myan­mar in­sists the ma­jor­ity of the mi­grants are from Bangladesh and has vowed to send them across the bor­der. It has also stuck to its line that Ro­hingya are not flee­ing per­se­cu­tion.

The coun­try is yet to clearly state what will hap­pen to mi­grants who are not deemed to be from Bangladeshi ter­ri­tory.

The res­cue op­er­a­tions have stirred anger among Bud­dhist hard-lin­ers and cit­i­zens in Rakhine who want the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to cease help­ing any mi­grants.

Lo­cal groups met in the state cap­i­tal Sit­twe on Satur­day and vowed to hold a protest next week­end.

“The meet­ing de­cided to stage a protest on June 14 against keep­ing Ben­galis from Bangladesh in Rakhine State,” Soe Naing, a co­or­di­na­tor for so­cial pro­grams in Rakhine who at­tended the meet­ing told AFP.

“We will con­tact other towns in Rakhine state as well to join in protests on that day,” he added.

Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment does not rec­og­nize the 1.3 mil­lion Ro­hingya living in Rakhine as cit­i­zens. In­stead it classes them as il­le­gal im­mi­grants from neigh­bor­ing Bangladesh, even though many trace their ori­gins back gen­er­a­tions.

The Ro­hingya face daily prej­u­dice and a raft of re­stric­tions on their move­ment, fam­ily size and ac­cess to the job mar­ket.

Many Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists in Rakhine want them pushed out of the re­gion al­to­gether and are op­posed to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment of­fer­ing stranded boat peo­ple any help.

“We will ask to send them back. The Bangladeshi gov­ern­ment has to ac­cept them. Our gov­ern­ment must pres­sure Bangladesh as well,” Soe Naing said.

Some 150 of the 900 mi­grants are ex­pected to be sent back to Bangladesh on Mon­day af­ter au­thor­i­ties on both sides of the bor­der agreed on their ori­gins.

But the oth­ers cur­rently lan­guish in limbo in­side a se­ries of fetid scrub­land bor­der camps as au­thor­i­ties wran­gle over which coun­try they be­long to.

Nei­ther na­tion has shown a will­ing­ness to ac­cept them and rights groups are con­cerned some could be pushed to the wrong side of the bor­der.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.