Thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims are trying to reach Bangladesh amid reports of abuse by the Burmese army
A United Nations official was recently quoted saying that Myanmar’s western 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 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.
The Rohingyas are considered to be illegal immigrants by Bangladesh and there is serious resistance to the Rohingyas mixing with the extant Bangladesh demography.
The 1.1 million Rohingyas are viewed as one of the worlds’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.
The Rakhine region has been on military lockdown since Oct. 9, when nine border police guards were killed in what appear to have been coordinated attacks on three security posts.In a surprising turn of events it is observed that not much coverage is seen on the torture of Rohingya Muslims by the Burmese authorities who have labelled them as jihadists. Serious humanitarian crisis faces the Rohingyas who are denied food and medical aid in the conflict torn zone. The Rohingyas are forced to live in camps in unimaginable conditions.
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.
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. While it may be worth more TRPs to cover Iraq and Syria and the fight against the Islamic State, it may well be remembered that highlighting the case of the downtrodden also remains an important facet of media reporting. It is in effect a word of caution to the powers that control the media.