Friday, June 15, 2012

For The Rohingya...

 (A Myanmar Rohingya woman wears traditional make-up 
in the village of Takebi, north of the town of Sittwe REUTERS)

The Rohingya in Myanmar are among the world’s most persecuted ethnic minorities. This month a state of emergency has been declared after weeks of sectarian violence. Over three hundred houses and a number of public buildings have been razed. The government has responded, as they usually do, by imposing curfews and deploying troops.

The latest violence is symptomatic of a long an oppressive history of discrimination for which the Buddhist-majority government is to blame. The Rohingya are labelled illegal immigrants from Bangladesh thus rendering them stateless, despite many of them having lived in the country for generations.

Human rights violations of the Rohingya people have been recorded since 1978, when over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh following a military campaign which directly targeted civilians resulting in widespread killing, rape and religious persecution including the destruction of mosques.
The vast majority of Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh, unable to return due to the negative attitude of Myanmar's ruling regime. Despised by the Buddhist majority they are denied citizenship, education, freedom of movement, employment, the right to own property or marry without state permission and are used as forced labour on roads and at military camps.

Their persecution has forced Rohingya men to migrate in droves as “boat people”, risking their lives on the sea to seek work opportunities outside Myanmar and those who cannot pay for the journey will be sent to work on rubber plantations by the human trafficking rackets run by the Rohingya mafia with police connections or sold as slaves to fishing trawler owners.

Over the past 20 years the the military junta has emphasized Buddhism as the religion of the 'true' Burmese people while the persecuted Rohingya minority are Muslim making the religious dimension of the conflict all too apparent.

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