Friday 10 August 2012

The Rohingya tribe of Burma

Ex-British Colony Burma is faced with major international scrutiny for its treatment of the Rohingya people. It has been just less than a year since Burma had its first general election after the military rule from1962-2011. In 1982 Burma passed a citizenship law which as a result meant that 135 ethnic minorities in Burma were left unrecognised by the state. As a result many people were left jobless and without any official recognition by the state.

The Rohingya are a minority tribe in the West of Burma in 2012 it was estimated that there are around 800,000 Rohingya living in the region and according the UN the Rohingya are amongst the most discriminated against race in the world. The official belief of the Burmese military government was that there Rohingya were refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh and therefore they should not be recognised as citizens of Burma.

However it is very much disputed where the Rohingya actually come from. Some historians state that the Rohingya were people from a ship wreck from a trading ship that came from Arabia were as some state that the Rohingya come from Afghanistan. According to Aye Chan professor at Kanda University of International studies the Rohingya term did not exist until the 1950’s yet this does not mean to say that Muslims did not exist in Burma before the Rohingaya as Muslims also known as the Mohammedians came to the country in the 8th century.

Japanese troops in Burma 1942
During Japanese occupation (1942) a major power vacuum was created when the British pulled out of the Arakan state. This meant that the local Buddhists and Muslims started fighting and so did the Burmese Nationalists against the British loyalists Rohingya resisted the invasion and as a result they were given weapons and aid by the British to try and resist the Japanese movement towards taking power in Burma. The Japanese retaliated by torturing, killing and raping the Rohingya Muslims as a result 22,000 Muslims fled to India. As a way of paying the Rohingya for their loyalty to the British they were rewarded administration in the state of Arakan which was short lived as the state was incorporated with Burma later in 1948. Quickly the Burmese replaces Muslim civil servants and Muslim police officers with Burmese police officers. The refugees who fled to India and Bangladesh ect were seen as illegal immigrants who were not allowed to return back to there home land.

Laws were passed that a Rohinya needs to ask for governments permission to get married and also sign a contract stating that they will not have more than two children according to a BBC report breaching of either of these laws can mean imprisonment for up to 7 years. It is also illegal for the Rohingya to travel without official permission and owning land is also against the law.

For many years the Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh were 28,000 people have been granted official UN refuge and the rest live in horrid and ‘grim’ conditions without jobs and official recognition as people. A large influx of people were also reported to have immigrated to Arabia to grant refuge and start life there but recent Islamic extremism has meant the Saudi Authorities have tightened their borders making it increasingly harder for the Rohingya to travel.

Alleged Murderers of Ma Thida Htwe 
The violence and long lasted tention was reignited on the 28th of May, It was reported that daughter of U Hla Tin, of Thabyechaung Village named Ma Thida Htwe aged 27 was brutally raped then killed by three Muslim men. These men were later arrested. However on June the 5th a bus of pilgrims were attacked by local around 300 Taunggup people after reading pamphlets and posters ordering the locals to take notice of the attacks of muslims upon local women the deadly clash left 10 Muslims dead. A separate report suggests that the local culprits of this atrocity allowed all the Burmese and Arakanese ‘looking’ passengers of the bus to disembark the bus and run away and killed the ‘Indian looking’ 10 people.

The killed were:
1.      Tay Zar Myint (30) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
2.      Aung Myint (40) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
3.      Maung Ni (47) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
4.      Ni Pwe (56) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
5.      Aye Lwin (50) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
6.      Tin Maung Swe (53) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
7.      Zaw Nyi Nyi Htut (36) from Myaung Mya Town of Irrawaddy Division.
8.      Aung Ko Ko Kyaw (27) from Myaung Mya Town of Irrawaddy Division.
9.      Driver Naung Naung (30) from Sandoway Town of Arrakan State.
10.  Conductor Nyi Nyi Htun (25) from Sandoway Town of Arrakan State.

Intikhab Alam Suri, President, Human Rights Network states that the Killing in the bus was fuelled by the fact that a 28 year old Buddhist woman embraced Islam after marrying a Muslim of the region and this sparked tensions resulting in the killing of the 10 passengers on the bus.The violence has escalated over the month it is unclear as to how many deaths have occurred however it is clear that there is a clash between sectarian violence and the oppressed Rohingya.

What other countries are doing?

Bangladesh- Bangladesh has increased there border security to ensure that the Rohingya do not cross the borders into Bangladesh this has meant that the country’s government has come under major scrutiny and criticism
Iran- According to press TV Iranian lawyers and professors has urged ‘strong protest against the Myanmar violence to the international community and the so-called “advocates of human rights.”
Pakistan - Moazzam Ali Khan the foreign ministry spokesman issued a press report stating the governments concern over the situation however no action is taken.
United states – Hilary Clinton state secretary has also raised concern about the conflict and asked both sides of the clashes to ‘exercise restraint’.
United Kingdom- Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne told the BBC that the coalition government is  ‘deeply concerned' by the situation and that the UK and other countries would continue to watch developments closely.

It is important to note that the occurrences in Burma that are recorded in this article may not be entirely a fact despite cross references and a wide range of source’s being used.

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