Indifference of the world towards the humanitarian crisis of the Burmese Muslims by Nazila Isgandarova*

July 24, 2012, Tuesday/ 18:04:00


Not many international organizations are taking action and urging their governments to put pressure on the Burmese government to stop the massacre of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The world’s major media corporations also seem to be indifferent to the recent events in Myanmar, where thousands of the Rohingya Muslims have been massacred in the Arakan region in a few days.

According to The Platform, a UK-based human rights organization, 6,000 homes belonging to Rohingya Muslims were burned during the unrest. A group of UK-based NGOs have indicated that 650 Rohingya Muslims were killed from June 10 to 28 of this year and 1,200 went missing, while more than 80,000 others became displaced as a result of rioting, arson and rape

The London-based Equal Rights Trust reported that the Burmese army and police also play a leading role in recent arbitrary violence against Rohingya Muslims. The United Nations listed the Rohingya Muslims as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world. The country, for years, suffered from the lack of investment, the standards of intellectual property and the predictability of sustainable growth. Burma is also one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

The Rohingya Muslim massacre took place before the Obama administration’s permission for American companies to invest in Myanmar’s oil and gas resources. Very recently the US eased sanctions against the Burmese government but urged Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, to make a macro change in economic and political fields.

Thein Sein was a former junta general. He was elected by the Burmese parliament in 2011 with a promise of making a true change in Burma and drawing international investment to the extensive timber, gem and natural gas resources of the country. Thein Sein promised the US he would make changes in his military relationship with North Korea.

The US offered to help the Rohingya Muslims, who were displaced by unrest. But Thein Sein and his government did almost nothing to improve the human crisis in the region. The government still denies the right of citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, subjects them to forced labor, requires them to seek government permission to marry, confiscates their lands, restricts them from traveling from one part of country to the other part, and forbids them from having more than two children per family. The Rohingyas are still considered “resident foreigners.”

The Burmese opposition leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who very recently delivered her Nobel acceptance speech at Oslo’s city hall, is also silent about calling on the Rakhine nationalists to stop the genocide and about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims.

It seems the Rohingyas are forgotten in the midst of international pressure on the country to make democratic changes. They also pay a hard price for the disagreement between the government and the opposition. That leaves a question in minds: Why does the UN not condemn the massacre? Where are the Muslim countries to stand up and defend the rights of Rohingyas in this holy month of Ramadan?

Even Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner the Dalai Lama is mysteriously keeping his silence. There is only Thein Sein’s ironic solution to the problem: “Expel all the Rohingya or turn them over to the UN as refugees!”


*Dr. Nazila Isgandarova is an adjunct faculty member at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto.

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