By David Stout
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to discredit an Al Jazeera documentary that will air this weekend in a report published in both editions of the New Light of Myanmar today.
“The documentary will include accusation of genocide against the so-called ‘Rohingyas’,” read the statement. “The Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar [Burma] strongly opposes and rejects the attempt made by Al Jazeera to broadcast the documentary by exaggerating and fabricating the incidents in Rakhine [Arakan] State.”
Rioting broke out in western Burma in June and October, which left hundreds dead and more than 100,000 people displaced. The violence brought to the fore long-simmering tension between Arakanese Buddhist and the Muslim Rohingya, who are seen as illegal immigrants and despised by many across the country.
In the seven-point statement, the government asserted that it had provided “shelter, relocation and rehabilitation of the homeless victims of the conflict” and had taken action to prevent the outbreak of further violence and enforced the rule of law in the restive state.
In the statement, the ministry used the heavily stigmatised term “Bangalis” to refer to the Rohingya, which implies the ethnic group are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
“It’s deplorable the ministry would once again release a public statement failing to recognize the Rohingya by name, implicitly denying their existence as a group,” said Matthew F. Smith, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.
“The government has discriminated against the Rohingya as a matter of state policy for decades, security forces have in fact been involved in attacks since June, and humanitarian aid to the Rohingya population has in some ways been gravely restricted.”
According to the report, the documentary is set to air from 8 to 12 December in Arabic and will be broadcast in English from 9 to 13 December.