I've been reading about the war in Burma/Myanmar. It's a conflict between the Buddhist Burmese majority and approximately 800,000 Royhingya Muslims in the Arakan (Rakhine) State. They are among the world's least wanted and most persecuted people.
I'll try to explain what's happening. The Media have been remiss in reporting the story.
"Human Rights Watch accused authorities in Burma, including Buddhist monks, of fomenting an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority that killed hundreds of people and forced 125,000 from their homes," This campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State has been going on since June 2012. October 2012, tens of thousands of Muslims were terrorized and forcibly relocated, denied access to humanitarian aid and have been unable to return home. It's a humanitarian crisis.
Most of us are familiar with Buddhist monks self-immolating in the name of freedom but I don't see any of that going on in Burma in the name of freedom for the Muslims.
I've often been chastised for my belief in the Judeo-Christian God of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. "He's barbaric; the teachings are the cause of all wars." I'm told more people have been killed in the name of religion than any other reason. Not true, but believed anyway.
I'm told Buddhism is the better way. It's not a religion with a God; it's a philosophy. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like "Christian," "Muslim," "Hindu" or "Buddhist"; that's why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism.
Buddhists go out of their way to protect life -- even bending down to remove a creature form a path for fear of killing it. Wouldn't hurt a fly. Maybe, but killing others doesn't seem to be a problem for the Buddhists in Burma/Myanmar. Buddhists are human. Underneath that thin layer of civility lies the barbarian within.
"Buddhists are supposed to be peace-loving people, so why are they attacking the Rohingya?" In Rakhine State up to 1000 Muslims have been killed, 8000 homes razed, 140,000 people displaced 94 per cent of whom are Muslim. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Buddhist mobs are living in primitive camps described as "open air prisons," that are off limits to foreigners.
Rohingya villages not evacuated or destroyed are under guard: "essentially creating ethnic ghettos that lack access to food, water and medical supplies." There are checkpoints and barricaded crossroads. This forced segregation is particularly pronounced in the state capital Sittwe where Muslims once made up nearly half of the city's population of 180,000. Its once-bustling streets are now entirely Muslim-free.
U Kyaw Hla Aung, 73, an activist lawyer living within one of the camps (described as a guarded prison) for displaced Muslims, reported the Buddhists (Arakanese) are destroying mosques and Muslim houses. There's extortion, torture, rape, killings and mass graves. He described it as a "hidden genocide." He has video of people being marched out of Sittwe at gunpoint, carrying their few possessions on their heads.
These people suffer from tuberculosis, diarrhea and malaria. Yet, U Sa King Da, the 38-year-old leader of Sittwe's 200-strong Young Monks' Association, who describes the Rohingya as "polygamous . . . and incestuous," accused the Muslims of setting fire to their own houses, deliberately contracting tuberculosis, and starving their children to garner international aid and sympathy.
The UN and Doctors Without Borders are afraid to work here because their workers have been targeted by Arakanese activists. It's next to impossible to report on atrocities in the ghettos and IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps when the host country prevents access. Perhaps that's the reason the "media" has been remiss in reporting from this area.
July 2013, Ban Ki-Moon , Secretary general of the UN urged the Myanmar government to resolve the problem of nearly 1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims, living on the border with Bangladesh, who since 1982 have been denied official ethnic status and rights of citizenship. President Thein Sein of Burma had tried to convince the UN to help "resettle" them.
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the group "would expect a strong international response" to any attempt to deport the Rohingya. HRW staff who recently returned from Arakan reported torture against the Royhingyas. "I saw these youths burning the testicles and penis of old men with a cheroot [Burmese cigar] and also hitting young Muslim detainees with an iron rod and pushing a wooden stick in their anus."
Meanwhile, there's growing support from a radical Buddhist organization 969 who are campaigning for a boycott of Muslim products and businesses and a ban on interfaith marriage. The Rohingya can't marry without obtaining permission. They can't own land. They're denied citizenship and are restricted from leaving the area. There's also in place a decade old law restricting these Muslims to only two children per family. Some of these laws are straight from Nuremburg.
Where is this "strong international response promised by Human Rights Watch?
At the very same time in July, Islamic nations called in the United Nations to halt the "tyranny" the Muslims are enduring. "The most basic human rights and human values are being stepped upon by the current government and by the radical elements within Myanmar." Djibouti's U.N. ambassador and head of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) group at the U.N., called the action against Rohingyas "ethnic cleansing" and "there has to be an end to the persecution."
When Arab states demand action against Israel and approve resolutions, the United Nations responds immediately. Why is there silence, now? Why is this organization not following the request of the Muslim Arab states to protect the Rohingya?
After all the violence against the Rohingya, the reports from Human Rights watch, UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, eye witness accounts, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi called it a "huge international tragedy," in late 2012. Then added: "Don't forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides."
Held under house arrest, finally allowed freedom to speak, when she's most needed, she failed to live up to the courage of her convictions. She's another false idol who has migrated into people's minds.
Her spokesman made matters worse by questioning whether the Rohingya ethnic group even exists.
"Apartheid-like policies have segregated Buddhists from Muslims, many of whom fester in primitive camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) with little hope of resettlement." What are these policies? Separate living areas for one group based on religion and according to human rights groups, racism. Many Rohingya face discrimination because they resemble darker-skinned Muslim Bangladeshis and speak a distinct Bengali dialect.
When Rohingya Muslims were forced into refugee camps, Buddhist families from Bangladesh were resettled in their abandoned neighbourhoods. Essential services in these refugee camps, such as health care, water, sanitation and education are woefully inadequate and in most cases non-existent. They have a much poorer living standard: open-air prisons, checkpoints, barricades and face ethnic cleansing: a hidden genocide.
This is taking place in a country in the process of exploiting its natural resources. "Rumors of extensive mineral wealth in Rakhine [Arakan] State would add or perhaps are now adding fuel to the existing ethnic tensions," said the Harvard Ash Center in a July 2013 report. That might explain the response from The Europe Union, a stickler for human rights. It has lifted trade and investment sanctions.
I've heard not a word from the United Church of Canada or CUPE, Canada's largest public union or recall cries from Naomi Klein or Noam Chomsky against this apartheid state or the potential environmental damage from proposed pipelines.
So dear readers, why do you think the media isn't reporting on this atrocity in the making? Is it that Buddhists are the oppressors? Is it that it's too difficult to report from this part of the world? Or is it that these people just don't count?
Follow Diane Weber Bederman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@DianeBederman