Ethnic Cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingyas: Muslim Population Targeted
LAST spring, a flowering of democracy in Myanmar mesmerized the world. But now, three months after the democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat, and a month after she traveled to Oslo to belatedly receive the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, an alarm bell is ringing in Myanmar. In the villages of Arakan State, near the Bangladeshi border, a pogrom against a population of Muslims called the Rohingyas began in June. It is the ugly side of Myanmar’s democratic transition — a rotting of the flower, even as it seems to bloom.
Cruelty toward the Rohingyas is not new. They have faced torture, neglect and repression in the Buddhist-majority land since it achieved independence in 1948. Its constitution closes all options for Rohingyas to be citizens, on grounds that their ancestors didn’t live there when the land, once called Burma, came under British rule in the 19th century (a contention the Rohingyas dispute). Even now, as military rulers have begun to loosen their grip, there is no sign of change for the Rohingyas. Instead, the Burmese are trying to cast them out.
The current violence can be traced to the rape and killing in late May of a Buddhist woman, for which the police reportedly detained three Muslims. That was followed by mob attacks on Rohingyas and other Muslims that killed dozens of people. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, state security forces have now conducted mass arrests of Muslims; they destroyed thousands of homes, with the impact falling most heavily on the Rohingyas. Displaced Rohingyas have tried to flee across the Naf River to neighboring Bangladesh; some have died in the effort.