Burmese Muslims living in Malaysia demonstrate against the killings of Muslims in Meikhtila, Burma (Reuters)
Everything seems peaceful in Moulmein, the Mon state capital on the southern coast of Burma, in spite of the profusion of “969” logos plastered around the city. In a gold shop in the central market, the sticker – a religious symbol that represents the three jewels of Buddhism — figures prominently above a small shrine devoted to Buddha.
“It is to remind people that this is a Buddhist shop, so Buddhists can buy here, but Muslim customers are also welcome,” explains the shopkeeper.
The now infamous symbol is also being used to promote an extreme form of religious nationalism in Burma and has been linked to a recent surge in anti-Muslim violence, which claimed over 40 lives and devastated thousands of homes across the country in March. Its most vocal advocate and the self-proclaimed “Burmese bin Laden” – monk Ashin Wirathu – has made international headlines for his role in fuelling Islamophobic propaganda under the guise of the “969” campaign.
But the logo itself was designed in Moulmein – a city with a sizeable Muslim population – by the movement’s secretary, Ashin Sada Ma, and launched seven months ago. Sitting in an office stacked with stickers and pamphlets of the multi-coloured image, the 37-year-old abbot from Mya Sadi monastery, talks passionately about his design.
“The lions symbolise bravery, the elephant strength, the horse speed and the ox forbearance,” explains Ashin Sada Ma, referring to the Pillar of Ashoka – an ancient Buddhist effigy of the four animals – which is featured at the centre of the logo. King Ashoka, a third century Indian king who spread Buddhism to Burma, receives luminous praise.
“If someone wants to do something good for the Buddhist religion, the country or the people, he or she must have the spirit of the king Ashoka, with the qualities of those four animals in his heart,” says Sada Ma.
“I fear that some Bengali Muslims are terrorists”
He claims the campaign is intended to educate the young about the value of their Buddhist heritage. “In the modern age, the young people don’t know the jewels of Buddhism; this logo is designed to remind them,” he says.
“When placing the symbol, the person should pray and recite,” reads a set of instructions that go with the logos. “It must be used throughout the country to show unity. If the symbol is used by people of other religions in disguise, they should be sued.”
The logo was formally launched on 30 October 2012, on full moon day of Thadingyut, one of the main festivities of the Burmese calendar. But Sada Ma denies that the Arakan violence, which pitted Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims in June and October last year, influenced the campaign. In fact, he claims it was planned months in advance.
But later he adds that the “Bengalis” – which is how the stateless Rohingya are viewed by the government and many citizens – are fuelling conflict by “migrating” to Burma, even though most have lived in the country for generations.
“If they come, they can easily influence our country,” he laments. “They are trying to improve their lives in our country and our lands. So this symbol and campaign is intended to defend ourselves. I fear that some Bengali Muslims are terrorists and have a mission to Islamise our country.”
Although Sada Ma is adamant that the campaign is not aimed against Muslims, he worries that Islam will spread across Asia. “Only small parts of Asia are Buddhist now; in the past Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and many other places, including Turkey and Iraq, were Buddhist countries, but now they are lost.”
Sada Ma, who was appointed as the “969” movement’s secretary in Mon State shortly after its launch, hastens to add that the campaign – which has spread to every state in Burma – is not a national organisation, but operates autonomously in different regions. “In other places, they will spread the symbol on their own. Other townships use the logo for their own purposes.”
He insists that Wirathu — who has been widely criticised for practicing hate speech against Muslims by urging Buddhists not to marry or trade with them – also acts “independently” from the original “969” movement.
He explains that Wirathu wants Buddhists to be as “united” as Muslims are, although forbidding inter-faith marriages is not the traditional “Buddhist way”. But he stops short of disavowing Wirathu’s ideas altogether. “They are acceptable if they help Buddhism,” he says.
In an interview with DVB in April, the notorious monk sat elevated on a chair with several huge portraits of himself hanging in the background, as he claimed to have discovered a “Muslim conspiracy” to conquer Burma through economic exploitation and inter-faith marriage.
“If Buddhists don’t do anything to stop it, the whole country will be like the Mayu region in Arakan state by 2100,” he said, referring to an area mostly populated by Muslim Rohingya. “Buddhists can talk with Muslims, but not marry them; there can be friendship between them, but not trade.”
Although the latest wave of unrest erupted in Meikhtila in March some months after Wirathu delivered a series of inflammatory sermons in the area, he denies inciting violence. Sada Ma also denies responsibility, pointing to the absence of anti-Muslim violence in Mon state — the birthplace of the campaign.
Many say that “969” is a direct response to the prolific use of the number “786” by Muslims in Burma, claiming that because it adds up to 21 it indicates their intention to “Islamise” the country in the 21st century. But an imam at one of the biggest mosques in Rangoon, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted that Muslims only use “786” to “ask God for help and to have good luck.”
“There is no history of Islamic terrorism or attacks against Buddhists in Burma,” he said, adding that the imams in the city “are using their sermons to appeal for Muslim youths to keep calm and not respond to the provocations of Buddhist terrorists”.
He accused elements of the government of actively backing the “969” movement, Wirathu and anti-Muslim violence in Burma. This is a suspicion shared by many, including Buddhists, who say it gives the army a chance to present itself as the only institution capable of imposing order.
One of them is Ashin Pum Na Wontha, a 56-year-old Buddhist monk with a long history of political activism. He is part of the Peace Cultivation Network, an organisation which promotes inter-faith dialogue, and is one of the few people in Burma who defends Rohingyas as legitimate citizens.
“Both Wirathu and the 969 movement receive financial support from the cronies,” he claimed. According to the monk, “some Muslim businessmen have huge assets in different industries, especially in the central regions of the country, and the cronies covet them.”
He also accused the military of stoking violence in order to “establish a working relationship with the civilian government”; similar to that of 1958, when Burma’s first civilian government — led by U Nu — transferred power to the army in a bid to control the country’s escalating ethnic conflicts.
Whatever the truth of these allegations, the “969” campaign and anti-Muslim sentiments are spreading rapidly through Burma without much government intervention. Most recently it spread to Oakkan, only 60 miles north of Rangoon, renewing concerns that religious riots could sweep the entire country.
Ahmad Azam Ab Rahman (fifth from left) launches the Penang Rohingya Education Centre Sports Day at the Sony Sports Complex in Seberang Jaya. Rahmat Khairulrijal New Straits TimesJune 17, 2013 ESSENTIAL: A non-governmental organisation is setting up three more Rohingya Education Centres in Kedah, Pahang and Johor in the next three years BUKIT MERTAJAM: THE Future Global Network Foundation (FGN) will be setting up three more Rohingya Education…
(Photo: Phuket Gazette) Orawin Narabal Phuket GazetteJune 17, 2013 PHUKET: Police continue to search for the missing 22 Rohingya children who have run away from the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families on Koh Sireh. The children have been missing since early April, says Phuket City Police Chief Sermphan Sirikong. “I have notified the investigation team, and from time to time we patrol Muslim areas to look for them and ask villagers if…
For Immediate Release Following her recent visit to Rakhine State with Refugees International, Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, spoke in a Westminster Hall debate to call for an end to the discrimination against the Rohingya community in Burma and an urgent resolution to their citizenship status. The humanitarian situation Since inter-communal violence broke out a year ago in Rakhine State, Rohingya Muslims…
NLD veteran Win Tin speaks out against the continuing religious conflict in Myanmar. Photo: Mizzima Mizzima News June 17, 2013 Veteran dissident Win Tin on Friday called for the people of Myanmar to work together to solve continuing communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists across the country. “If we see conflict, we must solve it with the given law,” said the National League for Democracy co-founder at an event organized by the…
(Photo: Matias) The Daily Star June 17, 2013 MYANMAR would start repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh but only after the situation in that country became stable. The conditional assurance came at the latest round of foreign office consultations held in Myanmar, between June 14 and 15. There are presently 25,045 registered Rohingya refugees residing in two camps at Kutupalong and Noyapara waiting to be repatriated to Myanmar….
RB News June 16, 2013 Münster, Germany: On 15th of June, Amnesty International Münster has organized a penal discussion on Burma Human Rights situation by the theme of “How to improve Human Rights in Burma” at Münster Community College. More than 50 persons attended the penal discussion including some Burmese nationals with various ethnic backgrounds. The penal was moderated by Dr. Ludger Weckel, co-founder and member of the Institute…
(Photo: Pakistan Observer) Amir Jalil Bobra The Nation PK June 15, 2013 ISLAMABAD – Pakistan should approach International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations (UN) to stop the brutal genocide of peaceful Muslim community in Myanmar (Burma) while OIC and Muslim Ummah should also play their due role in this regard. This was demanded at a roundtable organised by Nazria Council of Pakistan (NPC) on Friday. NPC Chairman Zahid Malik,…
RB News June 14, 2013 Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK President Tun Khin raised the issues of Rohingya IDPs inside Burma as well as about the Rohingya refugees living abroad particularly in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Malaysia at the UNHCR annual consultations Conference which was held in UN International Conference Center Geneva on last Tuesday and Wednesday. During the consultation, Tun Khin asked the conference to address…
Maung Auther RB News June 14, 2013 Maung Daw, Arakan – Captain Htaik Soe of Military Light Infantry Unit 355 and U Tin Tun, head of Police Base, at Kayemyaing, Southern Maung Daw and their comrades are continuously beating and robbing Rohingyas in Southern Maung Daw. According to the reports, they had robbed three Rohingyas in Southern Maung Daw on 11th June 2013. Besides, “between 9:30AM and 1PM on 12th June 2013, they robbed money…
(Photo: AFP/Soe Than Win) AFP June 14, 2013 WASHINGTON — Myanmar’s influential parliament speaker vowed Thursday to press forward with democratic reforms but said the country already had laws against discrimination amid a furor over anti-Muslim violence. Shwe Mann, a former general who is a key architect of reforms and is eyeing the presidency, was visiting Washington, where he said he hoped to study the US democratic system including…
Radio Australia June 14, 2013 European MPs have jointly condemned the violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, and called on the government to do more to protect them. The European Parliament has passed a motion saying it condemns the grave violations of human rights against the Muslim minority in Rakhine state. The motion says it “deplores the failure of the Myanmar government to protect the Rohingyas against organised violence.” The…
(Photo: Phuket Wan) The Nation June 14, 2013 The European Union is committing 200,000 euro to provide humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees being detained in Thailand, the EU Delegation to Thailand announced Friday. The help will be directed to Rohingya men at detention centres and Rohingya women and children at social welfare facilities. TheInternational Organization for Migration (IOM) will take charge of…
Bangkok Post June 13, 2013 BALI – The Myanmar government will next week begin a process of screening the nationalities of about 2,000 Rohingya migrants now being sheltered in Thailand, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Thursday. Mr Surapong said Myanmar Foreign Minister Wanna Muang Lwin had informed him that Nay Pyi Taw had set up a working group, led by Myanmar ambassador to Thailand Myo Tint, to begin examining the nationalities…
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)June 13, 2013The European Parliament Thursday passed a resolution condemning the “grave violations of human rights and the violence perpetrated against Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar.” The resolution urges the government and the whole of Burmese/Myanmar society ” to act immediately to end the human rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslims and to bring the perpetrators of the violent attacks and other related abuses…
(Photo: YATEEM TV) Zoe Daniel ABC News June 13, 2013 There are new allegations that the Thai navy is involved in the human trafficking of Rohingya Muslims trying to flee religious violence in western Myanmar. The ABC has tracked down Rohingya Muslims in Malaysia who claim they were intercepted, brutally beaten and then sold to traffickers by the Thai military. ASHLEY HALL: There are new allegations that the Thai navy is involved in the…
IRIN News June 13, 2013 SITTWE – One year after Myanmar’s worst sectarian violence in decades, tension between the Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in the country’s western Rakhine State remains high. An estimated 140,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly Rohingya Muslims, are spread across some 80 camps and makeshift sites, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Many more who were not directly…
Fighting in several neighborhoods around Kuala Lumpur earlier this month triggered worries in Malaysia that tensions between Myanmar’s Buddhists and Muslim minority had spilled over to a country that hosts hundreds of thousands of Myanmar nationals. (Reuters) Associated Press June 13, 2013 Malaysia’s government on Thursday warned immigrants from neighboring Myanmar not to restart sectarian clashes that recently killed four people. The…
Parts of Lashio, such as this market, were destroyed in the unrest BBC News June 12, 2013 A Burmese Muslim man has been sentenced to 26 years in jail for an attack on a Buddhist woman that led to at least two days of violence in Shan State in May. Nay Win, 48, was convicted for setting the woman alight at a petrol station. After the attack, Buddhist youths armed with sticks roamed the streets in the town of Lashio in search of Muslims. In…
(Photo: Reuters) Karen News June 12, 2013 Britain’s Foreign Office Minister says investigation into ethnic conflict in Burma is needed. Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi noted in parliament that “independent investigative work” is required for “an informed assessment as to whether ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have been committed” in Burma. The statement came on Wednesday, 5 June, in which Baroness…
(Photo: Phuket Wan) RTT News June 12, 2013 The United States on has expressed concern over reports that the Myanmar (formerly Burma) government is planning to implement a population control regulation that restricts ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the country’s west to having a maximum of two children. The U.S. reaction came after Myanmar’s Immigration Minister Khin Yi publicly supported the controversial two-child limit on the Rohingya Muslim…
ISU mengenai penduduk Rohingya yang berlarutan sejak tahun 1982 perlu diselesaikan segera bagi mengelak usaha transformasi yang dijalankan kerajaan Myanmar kini menemui jalan buntu.
KRISIS keganasan kaum dan agama di Myanmar sejak 3 Jun lalu yang melibatkan penduduk etnik Rohingya di negeri Rakhine di barat negara itu, kini bukan sahaja menjadi ‘duri dalam daging’ kepada kerajaan baru Myanmar tetapi juga kepada rantau ASEAN.
Kerajaan baru Myanmar di bawah kepimpinan Presiden Thein Sein kini mengalas tugas berat untuk mencari jalan menyelesaikan segera krisis itu terutama bagi melindungi keselamatan penduduk Rohingya.
Krisis di Rakhine ini memerlukan keikhlasan, komitmen dan kesungguhan daripada kerajaan baru Myanmar bagi mencari punca sebenar, seterusnya menyelesaikannya segera dan untuk selama-lamanya.
Isu utama yang perlu diberi perhatian segera oleh kerajaan baru Myanmar ialah mengkaji semula status penduduk Rohingya yang tidak diiktiraf sebagai rakyat Myanmar, sekaligus menafikan hak mereka untuk menikmati kehidupan sama seperti rakyat Myanmar lain daripada segi pendidikan, kesihatan, sosial, ekonomi dan mengamalkan kepercayaan agama secara bebas.
Maka tidak hairan mengapa Thein Sein mengambil berat terhadap insiden keganasan di negeri Rakhine yang merupakan negeri ‘tanah tumpah darah’ bagi majoriti penduduk Rohingya yang dinafikan kerakyatannya sejak 1982, semasa zaman pemerintahan junta tentera.
Thein Sein yang mengambil alih pemerintahan awam selepas pilihan raya umum Myanmar pada 2010, berasa bimbang krisis keganasan di negeri Rakhine itu akan merebak kerana ia boleh mengugat dasar pembaharuan yang sedang rancak dilaksanakan oleh kerajaannya yang mula mendapat perhatian daripada masyarakat antarabangsa.
Masyarakat antarabangsa termasuk Kesatuan Eropah (EU) dan Amerika Syarikat (AS) dilihat sudah mula berlembut dengan Myanmar dan perlahan-lahan menarik sekatan yang dikenakan ke atas Yangoon sebelum ini berikutan rekod hak asasi manusia yang buruk semasa zaman pemerintahan junta.
Thein Sein juga sudah mula dapat merasakan dasar pembaharuannya juga menerima sokongan daripada parti pembangkang termasuk daripada musuh ketat junta tentera sebelum ini, ikon demokrasi Aung San Suu Kyi yang kini mengetuai pembangkang di Parlimen.
Dalam hal ini, Thein Sein mungkin boleh bekerjasama dengan Suu Kyi yang simpati terhadap penderitaan penduduk Rohingya dengan terlebih dahulu menyelesaikan segera masalah kerakyatan penduduk minoriti Islam di Myanmar itu.
Melihat situasi yang berlaku baru-baru ini membabitkan penduduk Rohingya yang beragama Islam dan penduduk negeri Rakhine yang majoriti beragama Buddha menyebabkan Myanmar kini tidak mempunyai pilihan selain menyelesaikan segera isu tersebut.
Kegagalan Myanmar menyelesaikan isu status kerakyatan penduduk Rohingya bukan sahaja akan mengugat dasar transformasi dan pembaharuan demokrasi oleh kerajaan baru Myanmar tetapi juga boleh menggugat perpaduan dan keselamatan Myanmar.
Dasar-dasar penindasan perlu digantikan dengan dasar-dasar keadilan dengan memberi peluang kepada penduduk Rohingya untuk menjalani kehidupan biasa sama seperti penduduk Myanmar yang lain.
Wakil khas Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB) bagi hak asasi manusia di Myammar, Tomas Ojea Quintana turut menggesa kerajaan baru Myanmar segera menyelesaikan ‘isu pokok’ iaitu diskriminasi ke atas etnik Rohingya.
”Ketegangan (di negeri Rakhine kini) berpunca daripada diskriminasi ke atas etnik dan agama minoriti mengancam pembaharuan demokrasi dan kestabilan Myanmar,” katanya dalam satu kenyataan yang dikeluarkan di Geneva, kelmarin.
Apa yang penting pada masa ini ialah jaminan keselamatan kerajaan terhadap penduduk Rohingya untuk meneruskan kehidupan seperti biasa dan tindakan segera kerajaan dalam menamatkan konflik berdarah di wilayah itu.
Ini berikutan laporan pelbagai pihak yang menyatakan bahawa keadaan di Rakhine semakin meruncing dengan kejadian pembunuhan masih berterusan, walaupun kerajaan menyatakan situasi kini semakin pulih.
Menurut Pertubuhan Hak Asasi Etnik Rohingya Myanmar di Malaysia (MERHROM), terdapat laporan menyatakan masih berlaku kejadian rogol dan pembunuhan, selain ramai penduduk Rohingya yang hilang serta beribu-ribu terbiar tanpa makanan, air, perlindungan dan perubatan.
Selain itu, terdapat laporan mendakwa tentera Myanmar yang dihantar ke wilayah itu meminta rasuah dengan mengugut penduduk Rohingya.
PBB perlu bertindak segera menghentikan keganasan ini, bagi mengelakkan keadaan menjadi semakin buruk dengan menghantar wakilnya atau pasukan khas untuk menyiasat keadaan yang berlaku di wilayah itu.
PBB perlu menggunakan segala mekanisme yang perlu untuk campur tangan segera menangani isu keganasan itu sebelum ia menjadi konflik yang boleh mengugat rantau ini.
Kerajaan Bangladesh juga perlu bekerjasama dalam situasi genting sekarang dengan membenarkan pelarian Rohingya terutama wanita dan kanak-kanak yang menaiki bot, untuk memasuki sempadan negara itu bagi mendapatkan perlindungan sementara.
Selain itu, isu kedua yang perlu diberi perhatian oleh kerajaan baru Myanmar ialah isu berbangkit daripada krisis penduduk Rohingya ini yang sebahagian besarnya menjadi orang pelarian di banyak negara jiran termasuk di Bangladesh, Thailand dan Malaysia.
Di Malaysia sahaja, pada masa ini terdapat terdapat antara 10,000 dan 12,000 orang pelarian Rohingya yang berdaftar dengan Suruhanjaya Tinggi Pertubuhan Bangsa Bersatu Bagi Orang Pelarian (UNHCR).
Nasib mereka ini terutama kanak-kanak Rohingya terabai tanpa mendapat pendidikan dan kesihatan yang sempurna.
Kerajaan baru Myanmar perlu menimbang membenarkan pelarian Rohingya untuk pulang ke tanah air mereka dan menerima kerakyatan Myanmar serta diberi jaminan keselamatan tinggal di negara mereka.
Jaminan keselamatan merupakan syarat utama bagi penyelesaian kepada isu pelarian Rohingya ini, memandangkan sebahagian besar daripada kira-kira tiga juta penduduk Rohingya, lari meninggalkan Myanmar dan memilih menjadi orang pelarian adalah kerana mereka merasakan keselamatan mereka tidak dijamin oleh kerajaan junta tentera sebelum ini.
Dalam insiden keganasan terbaru di Myanmar itu, yang disifatkan yang terburuk dalam tempoh beberapa dekad, lebih 30,000 penduduk di wilayah itu kini menjadi pelarian.
Menteri Hal Ehwal Sempadan dan Keselamatan bagi Rakhine, Htein Lin berkata, ”Hampir 31,900 etnik Rohingya dan Rakhine kini ditempatkan di 37 khemah pelarian di seluruh Rakhine.”
Beratus-ratus etnik Rohingya, kebanyakannya wanita dan kanak-kanak pula cuba melarikan diri ke negara jiran Bangladesh dengan menaiki bot sejak beberapa hari lalu.
Isu orang pelarian Rohingya bukan lagi menjadi masalah dalaman Myanmar dan ASEAN lagi tetapi isu global yang perlu mendapat perhatian badan dunia itu.
Kerajaan Myanmar juga perlu bersedia mengiktiraf pertubuhan-pertubuhan yang mewakili penduduk Rohingya untuk mengadakan perbincangan mengenai nasib dan masa depan penduduk Rohingya.
ASEAN sebagai badan serantau yang turut dianggotai Myanmar boleh bertindak membantu merealisasikan rundingan ini dan seterusnya merangka jalan penyelesaian yang boleh mengatasi masalah penduduk Rohingya selama-lamanya.
Malaysia yang turut menghadapi tempias daripada krisis penduduk Rohingya dengan menanggung kedatangan lebih 12,000 pelarian Rohingya boleh memainkan peranan sebagai orang tengah seperti yang berjaya dilakukan oleh Malaysia dalam isu selatan Thailand dan krisis di selatan Filipina.
One year ago today, the course of Rohingya history took a dramatic turn for the worse.
Years of deep seated hatred for the Rohingya community, having lived on the margins of Myanmarese society, unravelled from a civilian dispute and attack in Arakan, and has since spiralled into systematic ethnic cleansing of the community.
The Rohingya are still continually discriminated for their difference in appearance, religion and language, leading to their desperation, displacement and death.
Reports of renewed anti-Muslim violence have emerged in the Lashio Township of the Shan State in Myanmar. In the same style as Meikhtila, Yangon and Oakkan, houses belonging to Muslims, Muslim schools and mosques are being systematically burnt down.
Reports have come in today that the Rohingya now have to pay for food rations that have been donated to them. The village leaders and those incharge of the IDP camps in Sittwe are in full control over whatever is donated to the Rohingya and take full advantage of thier power. The Rohingya who have very little to nothing to their name once again have been stripped of another right which is owed…
In preparation of the looming Cyclone Mahasen, reports have come in today that the Rohingya have been moved from T.K.P (Thet Kay Pyan village) Madrasa and the village school, aided by the UNHCR. The pictures below show the Rohingya moving from the camp to the T.K.P Madrasa (Islamic school) and the village school – contrary to the Lone Htin (police force), who had planned to…
Whilst calling for more aid and access, the Rakhine Commision report failed to mention Rohingya community by name and instead referred to the community as Bengali settlers. This use of language is believed to have stoked the violence being witnessed today in Oak Kan township.
Violence broke out across three Muslim villages Chew Bon, Kyauk-Tet and Pea-net-Gone late this morning with sustained attacks on villagers shops and places of worship. As of this afternoon, a number of sources have reported that 2 mosques and 2 Islamic education schools have been destroyed and damaged. More than 150 shops have been damaged with high value goods being looted. In contrast to violence in Meikhtila and Arakan state, there have been fewer arson attacks.
The recent news of ‘Bengalization’ of the Rohingya has been a longstanding operation performed by the NaSaKa for number of years, long before last year’s violence where many Rohingya had found themselves forced to change their nationality to Bengali.
However, within the last month, this operation has intensified and is now being carried out under the banner of the ‘The President’s Census’, which is due to take place on a national level next year. Sittwe has been the first area targeted, and now, the operation is not only being carried out by the Nasaka but it also reinforced by key authoritative forces- the Police, Immigration, military and Lone Htain (security forces), expecting the Rohingya to easily accept and succumb to their superior demands. The Rohingya are well aware that this operation will lead to the extinction of their race and naturally, they refused to take part, defying all authoritative forces.
We have been following the work of Greg Constantine for some time now, as he continues to document the struggles of stateless ethnic minority groups, who have had their citizenship stripped from them. Having been lucky enough to meet him in London last year during an exhibition of his book Exiled to Nowhere: Burma’s Rohingya he has now shared his latest work on the…
The last few weeks fears have materialised to reality, as extremist Buddhist attacks have spread further than just within the Arakan region in Myanmar, to Mandalay and now to Yangon (formerly Rangoon).
The opportunistic ‘969’ extremist group, had started the violent rampage in the Meikhtila township of Mandalay, which is now razed to the ground, unrecognizable to the local inhabitants who used to call the area their home.
A policeman keeping an eye on Myanmar nationals rounded up at the Selayang market.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Immigration Department is investigating how 307 people, who were among 1,054 Myanmar nationals rounded up here last week, had fake United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Malaysia cards and documents.
Its Kuala Lumpur enforcement chief James Musa Singa said officers were interviewing them to ascer-tain the source of the forged documents.
“We want to know who are involved. Investigations are still in the early stages, I can’t say more.
“The findings will be forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers in two weeks,” he said, adding that the matter would come under the Criminal Procedure Code.
On Friday, 1,000 Myanmar nationals were picked up by a police task force following clashes between Myanmar Muslims and their Buddhist counterparts.
It was found that 196 of them did not have proper documents while 57 held fake UNHCR Malaysia cards.
On Saturday, police detained another 54 Myanmar nationals in Cheras, Brickfields and Sentul.
UNHCR spokesman Yante Ismail said it was cooperating with the police in its investigations but clarified that some of those who carried fake documents could still have a valid refugee claim.
“If they are in need of international protection but have not registered with us, UNHCR will still advocate on their behalf against arrest and deportation for immigration offences until their refugee claims can be verified,” she said.
Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Amar Singh said the conflict between the ethnic groups had ended after talks between their leaders. “Things are quiet for now after we warned them to stop fighting. We are closely monitoring the situation,” he added.
Rohingya Society of Malaysia deputy president Abdul Ghani Rahman confirmed that the conflict had eased, urging the opposing group, which he called the “969” movement, to respect the rule of law.
“We have no problem with them and we have no heart to fight. I hope they can see this problem and heed the police advice to abide by the law,” he said.
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani urged the authorities to take further steps to ensure the safety of Myanmar nationals in the country.
Seven clashes were reported involving Myanmar nationals in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor between May 30 and June 4.
Burmese shops and businesses are pictured near Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Simon Roughneen / The Irrawaddy)
KUALA LUMPUR — Differing accounts are emerging from Burmese migrants and refugees in Malaysia about recent deadly violence here that has claimed several lives and pitted Burmese groups in Malaysia against each other.
The deaths, which prompted the arrest of hundreds of Burmese nationals by Malaysian police, are being described as spillover from recent Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Burma.
“We don’t know who did these attacks,” says San Win, chairman of the Malaysia Myanmar Free Funeral Service, a Kuala Lumpur-based group that assists Burmese migrants. Flicking through gory photos of roughly stitched victims of the violence, he adds, “but we think it could be the Rohingya people.”
The president of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHOM), Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, disputes this speculation.
“This is not correct,” he says, citing previous attacks by Buddhists on Muslims in Burma, which he says did not prompt sectarian reprisals in Malaysia. “We have to respect Malaysian law and if any Rohingya breaks the law, we don’t support it,” Abdul Ghani adds.
Tun Tun, a Burmese Muslim who has long worked to assist Burmese workers living in Malaysia, says that two Muslims were killed in the recent clashes. Tun Tun, who is head of the Burma Campaign Malaysia, says that seven people have been killed—a number at odds with Malaysian police accounts of the recent attacks, which suggest that four have died, all thought to be ethnic Burman Buddhists.
The attacks have raised concerns that the deaths were the result of reprisal attacks by Burmese Muslims living in Malaysia, retaliating after dozens of Muslims were killed in violence over recent months in various outbreaks of religious violence across Burma.
“It started here after Lashio,” says San Win, referring to Buddhist riots and looting that took place in Lashio, the biggest town in eastern Burma’s Shan State. Those clashes started after a May 28 attack, reportedly perpetrated by a Muslim man on a Buddhist woman, and left around 1,400 Muslims homeless.
“But we always try to maintain friendship here [in Malaysia] with Muslims,” San Win adds.
Similarly, Tun Tun says that though relations between Burma’s Muslims and Buddhists in Malaysia have typically been cordial, there has been a marked deterioration in recent months.
Citing what he perceives to be Burmese media bias and exaggerated claims on social networking websites, Tun Tun says discord between Burma’s Muslim and Buddhist migrants is overhyped.
“Some of the 969 movement supporters brought the anti-Muslim campaign to here five months ago, [since] then both side are not trusting each other,” he says, referring to a push by Burmese monk Wirathu and other Buddhist nationalists to boycott Muslim businesses and, some say, incite violence against Muslims in Burma.
The recent attacks have stalled commerce for Burmese in Malaysia’s biggest city. Next to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, Bangladeshi, Filipino, and Indonesian migrants run shops and restaurants on side streets, a hectic din of sales pitches, frying snacks and belching traffic.
Along the nearby Burmese strip, demarcated by signs reading “Kampung [Malay for village] Myanmar,” business has been down in recent days, according to Thu Ya, who runs a Burmese restaurant just around the corner from central Kuala Lumpur’s main bus station.
“A lot of people are staying home, not as much for the violence, but because of the arrests,” he says, speaking while waitresses in Burmese dress ferried drinks and Burmese snacks to the smattering of lunchtime patrons on the premises. One of Thu Ya’s staff remains in detention after being caught up in the Malaysian police dragnet cast after the recent attacks, which mostly took place in Selayang, about seven miles from downtown Kuala Lumpur.
In the Shan Taung Dan restaurant across the same street, a recent arrival from Mandalay, Burma’s second city, says that though concerned by the recent murders and arrests, Burmese migrants around Kuala Lumpur are trying to revert to “our normal life here.”
The man, who asked that his name be withheld, says he landed in Malaysia just two months ago. “I need to make money,” he says. “Yes, reform is good in Myanmar, but is [happening] slowly. So you cannot yet find a good job at home,” he laments.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 Burmese migrants are thought to be living in Southeast Asia’s third-biggest economy, drawn by the prospect of low-paying, heavy-lifting jobs in construction and on plantations. According to the United Nations, there are almost 100,000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia.
The Mandalay native says that many people are more concerned about being arrested by Malaysian police than anything else. “Many people don’t have documents. That is why they stay home these days,” he says.
Malaysian press accounts report that the country’s Immigration Department is investigating how 307 detained Burmese came to possess fake refugee papers.
Burma’s other ethnic and religious minorities in Malaysia are wary, fearing members of their communities might be dragged into what is now a simmering sectarian feud. Israel Lal Hmun Siam, a Christian ethnic Chin living in Kuala Lumpur, says “people are worried they might be attacked mistakenly.”
Siam, who works for the Chin Refugee Committee, a support group for the estimated 40,000 Chin Burmese in Malaysia, believes that the recent Kuala Lumpur violence is a spillover from Burma.
“If they solve the conflict in Myanmar, then no problem here,” he claims.
That seems far off, however, with MERHOM’s Abdul Ghani interrupting an interview to take what he said was a call from Burma’s Arakan State. “There was more cutting today, 10 people,” he says, referring to what he says was an attack by Arakanese on Rohingya near Kyauktaw Township.
A Burmese government delegation is currently in Malaysia to assess the situation among Burmese migrants after the recent violence, with Malaysian authorities on Thursday warning Burmese migrants not to restart the recent clashes.
But San Win says he thinks the Burmese government is more concerned with maintaining good relations with its fellow Asean nation than with assisting the Burmese in Malaysia. “They just stay quiet when I tell them the problems here,” he says.
Maungdaw, Arakan State: Rohingya villagers from Du Cheradan ( Kilaidaung) village had held U Aung Than, son of U Shwe Lon – a Rakhine -, hailed from Kharay Myin model village in Maungdaw south while a group of Rakhine model villagers came to Rohingya village – Du Cheradan ( Kilaidaung) – to torch the houses, according to a local villager who denied to be named.
Chittagong, Bangladesh: A team of Bangladesh delegation led by the foreign secretary, Md. Shahidul Haque, attended the 7th round of the talks with Burma in Naypaydaw on June 13, according to foreign ministry official report.
Maungdaw, Arakan State: Nasaka (Burma border security force) seized two cows from a Rohingya villager under the Maungdaw Township on June 11, giving reason that someone has to get money from the villager, said a close relative of the victim.
Representatives of the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) plan to meet in Yangon within the next few days to discuss solutions to their political differences and seek a common approach to constitutional reform.
EDITORIAL— Migration is one of humanity’s oldest impulses. The first hunter-gatherers left Africa in the dim recesses of time for reasons we can only guess at but probably had to do with improving their lives. Entire modern nations, such as the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have been built upon successive waves of migration. As in the past, the chance for better lives—whether through a well-founded fear of persecution or a desire to improve one’s economic circumstances—fuels most migration today.