In one of its recent reporting the Guardian reports that at the entrance to Thaungtan village in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta a brand-new signasserts, “No Muslims allowed to stay overnight. No Muslims allowed rent houses. No marriage with Muslims.”
Al-Jajeera also reports of similar rise in systematic eviction, rape, loot and arson of Rohingyas (the Muslim ethnic minority of Myanmar’s Delta) by the military. Similarly Bangkok Post also reports how in a recent incident soldiers in Shey Kya village in Rakhine State “raided their (Rohingya) homes, looted property and raped them at gun point.” In the same Al-Jajeera report it quotes Yanghee Lee, the UN envoy on human rights in Myanmar, who said that she had received “repeated allegations of arbitrary arrests as well as extrajudicial killings occurring within the context of the security operations conducted by the authorities in search of the alleged attackers”.
Myanmar Government neither denies nor confirms these recent outbreaks of violence against Muslims in Myanmar. Instead it claims that some of the army actions are responses to ‘400 strong rebel actions’ of Rohingyas. But this claim of ‘armed resistance with foreign support’ is yet to be verified by any credible source.
This is an irony for Myanmar Muslims for they made important contributions in every aspect of Myanmar’s development – economic, political and social – including that Muslims in Myanmar played a key role in its independence movement first against the British then against the occupying Japan so much so that U Razzak, a Muslim from upper ‘Burma’ who believed in unity in diversity worked closely with Aung San, the Father of the Nation (Aung San Suu Kyi’s father ) and was Minister of Education and Planning in Aung San’s shadow cabinet who was assassinated along with Aung San on the fateful July 19, 1947.
Sadly, history does not seem to play any part in influencing Myanmar’s present day relations with Muslims – persecution of Muslims in Myanmar by now has become not only relentless but more brutal.
Saddest part is also that Nobel Laureate Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi once West’s voice of freedom and democracy who now heads the Myanmar government seems also to have a short memory of history that she herself once was a victim of state persecution. So far Aung San suu Kyi has chosen to remain either deafeningly silent or disturbingly evasive to the on-going horrific acts of violence against Muslims in her country. What is also quite tragic is that in recent times when a handful of conscientious Myanmar citizens condemned and protested in Yangoon against what seems like a well-organized plan of persecution,her police baton-charged the protesters for ‘disturbing public order’.
I, however, do not expect Aung San Suu Kyi or for that most institutions to come to much help in the cause of Myanmar’s Muslims and so far as Aung San Suu Kyi is concerned I expect the least for by now she has become a prisoner of her own ambition and thus is unlikely to do anything that would risk her own self-seeking agenda.
I also do not think the so-called free world would do anything differently either for they are a prisoner of geo-politics where self-interest has taken precedence over principles – they need a friendly Myanmar government in their China containment strategy and thus last thing they would do is annoy Myanmar’s government (more accurately, its army) and close its containment conduit that it believes it has opened by befriending an army that is known for its unenvious record in human rights abuses.
Nor do I expect Bangladesh, Myanmar’s oppressed Muslims’ closest Muslim neighbour to do much about the issue either for their government is but a prisoner of another government where the latter is nothing but a cahoot in the cabal of West’s imperialist geo-politics and also that its brand of politics resonates well with that of Myanmar’s sectarian political culture.
Bangladesh’s one and only Nobel Peace Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus is also not saying much for he is but a prisoner of fear.
The world body of Muslims, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) simply has neither the gal nor the moral standing to do much about the issue either for its members are too busy killing and demonizing each other – their own Muslims.
UN, the only body that can and has been raising its concerns from time to time is also a prisoner, of its structural incongruities that enables it to report but not regulate.
Only the people that irrespective of religion, caste, colour or nation they belong to, that believe in human rights as the fundamental tenet – the right to live and co-exist with each other with equal rights and privileges – can make the difference and fortunately, they are not in millions but in billions. They must unite and raise their voices internationally and most importantly within their own countries.
They must petition their respective senators, congressmen, parliamentarians whoever and get their governments to raise their voices in the strongest of terms against these dastardly acts of persecution and repression of Muslims in Myanmar that are happening on a daily basis for as Desmond Tutu oncereminded, “remaining silent at the time of injustices is to be on the side of the tyrants”.
M. Adil Khan is a Professor at the School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia and former senior policy manager of the United Nations