More than 30,000 Rohingya Muslims have already fled and thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims are trying to reach Bangladesh amid reports of abuse by the Burmese army.
The alleged charges against the Burmese army are very serious – rape, mass slaughter, burning entire villages and loot, all extremely serious human rights violations.
However Bangladesh has not labelled the Rohingyas as refugees and the Bangladeshi establishment is drafting policies to stop the Rohingyas from entering their borders. This has given rise to refugee crisis in Bangladesh.
A United Nations official was recently quoted saying that Myanmar’s western Rakhine (formerly Arakan) State has been witness to Burmese authorities carrying out a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims with military atrocities continuing in the garb of combating Islamic militants in the region. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing the country and entering into Bangladesh to save their clan from getting extinct.
The European Commission is allocating €300,000, equivalent to Tk 24,941,382, to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees, who have recently fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
“Most of the Rohingya families who have recently crossed the Naaf River have arrived with nothing, and are therefore in critical need of humanitarian assistance,” said Roman Majcher, Head of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) office in Bangladesh. “The support from the European Commission will not only ensure that their urgent needs are addressed, but will also contribute to help them cope with what they have just gone through by providing them with psychological support.”
The EU-funded financial assistance will focus on immediate relief and assistance to Rohingya refugees in terms of food and nutrition support, as well as the provision of non-food relief items such as sleeping kits, hygiene parcels and warm clothes etc.
The 1.1 million Rohingyas are viewed as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been crossing the border for decades to seek refuge in one of several refugee camps near Cox’s Bazaar, a major population centre. However moves to staunch the flow of these migrants continue by the Bangladesh government.
In 1962, after General Ne Win’s Coup, the condition of the Rohingyas worsened. Win’s policy of “Myanmarisation” or racial purity of the Bama ethnic group led to increasing tortures on the Rohingyas. The Burma Citizenship Law (1982), was passed during the Ne Win period wherein the Rohingyas were not listed as one of the country’s 135 “national races” entitled to Burmese citizenship.
The Rohingyas are considered to be illegal immigrants by Bangladesh and there is serious resistance to the Rohingyas mixing with the extant Bangladesh demography.
Aung San Suu Kyi who is considered as the democratic face of Myanmar, has made few statements on the crisis. This is indicative of the tenuous hold on a semblance of democracy that she is maintaining. It is an acknowledged fact that the transition to a democratic set up has been more lip service than anything else, and Suu Kyi is well aware of how quickly things could revert to the earlier military ‘junta’ that ruled over Myanmar for decades and still maintain a stranglehold over politics in the country.
The military still controls the key Ministries of Home Affairs, Border Affairs and Defence with activists like Suu Kyi playing minor roles in decision making processes. Owing her well known public persona, it is convenient to keep her as the facade for international interactions such as those with President Obama. This gives a tinge of legitimacy to the state of affairs in Myanmar today, which was under crippling sanctions by the international community during the rule of the military junta.
Theorizing Mediatized Conflict as in the case of Rohingya Muslims is an arduous task since there is a very thin line between fact and fiction shown on television news these days. With the commercialisation of the broadcast industry and the entry of corporate houses in mainstream media world, profit making and not ethical news reporting has become the new motive.
Profits are made through sensationalism for which often catchy headlines and news production with images, animations and dramatic recreation of events are used for higher TRP’s. This negative role of media today however is a new characteristic feature of the news industry. Ethical journalism has been replaced by sensational breaking news and exclusive phenomenon.
But the media often referred to as the fourth estate is a powerful tool that can bring about great revolutionary changes in the society.
Conversely, as is evident from the case of beheading cited above, the media’s reach can negatively impact a sensitive society such as Myanmar, with instant reprisals coming forth to the already beleaguered Rohingya community. It is this inherent fear that is stopping the Rohingya Muslims from interacting with the reporters.
In a bid to legitimize its actions in the international media the Burmese authorities have labelled the Rohingyas as jihadists. With increasing focus on the radical Islamic threat in the west, this is a subtle subterfuge to shift the pivot of media attention from the serious humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingyas; being denied food, medical aid and the right to live in dignity in the conflict torn zone, the Rohingyas are staring at extermination in the presence of a couldn’t care (or wouldn’t care) less world.
In a world torn by conflicts perceived as much more serious and apocalyptic, it seems the plight of the Rohingya Muslims has taken a back burner. When reporting from a conflict zone results in barbarous beheadings, then it is high time the world stood up and took notice of what is going on. Highlighting the case of the downtrodden still remains an important facet of media reporting. When their actions result in such extreme reactions, it becomes imperative to do something about it.