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MORE than 20,000 Muslims have been decimated and displaced by the extremist Buddhists in Myanmar. It is also one of the most appalling arsenals in recent times.
The world’s liberal conscience and human rights groups went vitriolic when the Taliban gutted down Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. No one can either defend what the Taliban did. But I want to ask a simple question from Pakistan’s so-called liberal and pro-western sections of society: where is there liberal conscience now?
The NGOs and private sector human rights organisations, which anchor themselves on European liberalism and financial grants, went berserk on the Kohistan girls killings which turned out to be a canard. When Muslims reacted violently, and wrongly,
against the caricatures published in liberal Scandinavia, and when Facebook was temporarily blocked, the liberals of Pakistan went out of their dens to tear apart the orthodox and fundamentalist elements.
I wonder why the liberals’ conscience remains sleeping when Muslims are subject to torture and genocide. Even Pakistan’s public and social media’s response is very lackadaisical.
IT was painful to read the report, ‘Myanmar conflict spurs hatred for Asia’s outcasts’, by Todd Pitma (June 15). This is in the backdrop of recent ethnic clashes between the Rohingya Muslims and Burmese Buddhists after a mob lynched 10 Muslims in apparent retaliation for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by Muslims.
Asia’s more than one million ethnic Rohingya Muslims are considered by rights groups to be among the most persecuted people on the earth. “In Burma they’re told they’re illegals who should go back to Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, they’re told they’re Burmese who should go back home.
They have been persecuted for decades, and it’s only getting worse,” according to Chris Lewa, a rights worker. Some say they are descended from 7th century Arab settlers and that their state was conquered by the Burmese in 1784.
Recently, Bangladeshi coast guards turned back many boatloads of terrified Rohingya refugees trying to flee the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and even shot some of them.
Rohingya’s must get government permission to travel outside their own villages and even to marry. They are also barred from having more than two children.
In 1978, Myanmar’s army drove over 200,000 Rohingya’s into Bangladesh. Some 10,000 died in squalid conditions and the rest returned to Myanmar. The campaign was repeated in 1991-92, and again a majority returned.
In 2009, five boatloads of haggard Rohingya migrants fleeing Myanmar were intercepted by Thai authorities. They were reportedly detained and beaten, then forced back to sea, emaciated and bloodied, in vessels with no engines and little food or
water. Hundreds are believed to have drowned.
The same year, Myanmar’s consul general in Hong Kong — now a UN ambassador — described the Rohingyas as ‘ugly as ogres’ in an open letter to diplomats!
Obviously, there’s extreme hostility against these people. Besides other Asian countries, tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have made it to Pakistan. There’s Burma Colony in Karachi where a large number of them live peacefully. The UN and
OIC must take notice of the longstanding persecution of these unfortunate folks. The attention of our Myanmar friends is drawn to a wise teaching of Gautama Buddha. “Hatreds never cease by hate, but by love alone; this is an eternal truth.” To their UN
ambassador, the words of the Buddhist teacher Josei Toda may be instructive: “We don’t love others when we find them beautiful, we find others beautiful when we love them.”
UN and humanity
MORE than 20,000 Muslims have been killed in Myanmar by police, army and Buddhist extremists. Is this just and humanity?
Now I would like to ask the United Nations and human rights organisations, where are they? It is time the OIC took appropriate action to stop this violence and helped Muslims in Myanmar.
Rohingya people in Myanmar have been burnt in their villages and had to take refuge in the jungle. They have been turned away from where they might find sanctuary, while almost 90,000 have been forced out of their homes.The United Nations and humanitarian organisations must take notice of this bloodshed and the Security Council must probe into Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.
SHAHZAIB A. K. YUSUFZAI
Human rights campaigners are warning that further ethnic cleansing in Burma, which is being exacerbated by land clearances due to economic developments surrounding the Shwe Oil/Gas pipeline, could be imminent.
The Shwe pipeline, which ironically means Golden in Burmese, is due to open later this year. It will allow oil from the Gulf states and Africa to be pumped to China, bypassing a slower shipping route through the Strait of Malacca. It will also ship gas from off shore western Burma’s Arakan State, to southwest China.
Last year there were two massacres against the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim-minority population who inhabit Arakan state, including the strategic port of Sittwe, which is the start of the pipeline on the Burmese coast. There are credible reports that the Burmese military is involved in the ethnic cleansing.
Banktrack has repeatedly called on international banks such as Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland to stop financing the pipeline or the companies involved in it, until the protection of community rights along the route could be guaranteed, but this has not happened.
Described by the UN as being amongst the most persecuted people in the world, the Rohingya have been described as the “world’s most forgotten people“. The massacres against them occurred in June and then again in October, with over 120000 now living as displaced people in camps in the state of Arakan, and many more having left for Bangladesh and further afield.
After the first massacre in June, Human Rights Watch argued that “Burmese security forces committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists”. At the time, they estimated that “many of the over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care.”
Events worsened last October when another massacre took place. Again Human Rights Watch argued that “attacks and arson” in late October “against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State “were at times carried out with the support of state security forces and local government officials.”
Last week the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission warned that “We are extremely concerned about the increase in propaganda against the minority Rohingya in Burma. It suggests that there is a high possibility of a third massacre against the Muslim minority”.
The Chair of IHRC, Massoud Shadjareh said, “There is a hidden genocide taking place in Burma, and we must speak out before even more of the Rohingya are murdered. The international community need to come together and stop a third wave of violence taking place.”
Speaking to Oil Change International this morning, leading human rights campaigner Jamila Hanan, who is based in the UK and is founder of Save the Rohingya, said: “We are anticipating a third massacre of the Rohingya on the same scale which took place in Rwanda. We have been informed that this will take place sometime between now and mid-April.”
Hanan continued: ““There is a definite link between the oil development and the elimination of the Rohingya. The Rohingya are being cleared out of Sittwe which is being developed as a deep sea port to take oil tankers from the Middle East. There is huge number of economic developments around the port of Sittwe as a result of the new pipeline.”
The strategic port of Sittwe, where many Rohingya are based, and where the pipeline starts, is just one factor. Another are lucrative oil blocks which have previously been off limits due to sanctions. Next month, Burma plans to launch a much anticipated bidding for 30 offshore oil and gas blocks April, which is likely to receive bids from oil majors such as Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips, amongst others.
“Our politicians must put their own economic interests aside and act urgently to prevent this imminent human disaster, “says Hanan. “Never before has the public been so informed through social media that a massacre was about to happen – our governments must not be allowed to sit back and do nothing.”