Rohingyas are punished as Bangladeshis: Our govt remains indifferent31 October 2014 Editorial Desk
An editorial published by the New York Times on October 29 highlighted the fact that the Rohingyas were among the most persecute minorities in the world today. It mentioned that the government of Myanmar has created a plan to expel the country's persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority. Under the proposal, all Rohingya who refuse to identify themselves as "Bengalis" (a term used for illegal migrants from Bangladesh) and do not have documentation acceptable to the government will be detained in camps before being driven out of the country. Incredibly, the government appealed to the United Nations last month for assistance with this project. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, not surprisingly, refused to help relocate people being interned by their own government.
Some 140,000 of the estimated 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar are already living in internment camps, forced to flee their homes by anti-Muslim rampages incited by the radical Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu and his extremist group 969, as per the editorial. The conditions in the camps are appalling. In addition to malnutrition, a lack of medical care, employment and education, the Rohingya face beatings and torture by local authorities. More than 100,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar by boat for Malaysia and Thailand. Thousands more have fled overland.
This is only the latest form of persecution. Under a 1982 law, Myanmar denied citizenship to the Rohingya, and last November it rejected a United Nations resolution calling for it to grant them citizenship. Instead, the government of President Thein Sein came up with the new proposal, which falsely holds out the possibility of citizenship at some future time, but only if the Rohingya agree to reclassification as Bengalis and have the required documents, which thousands of displaced people simply don't have — as per the editorial.
It is quite obvious that the Myanmar government has a long term plan to eventually — under the guise of classifying all Rohingyas as Bengalis and not Rohingya, throw them out of the country. This point has as its basis in the statement made by the Burmese President in the aftermath of the violence as Myanmar President Thein Sein reportedly told a visiting United Nations delegation that the government did not recognize the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar, and was planning to install them in refugee camps until another country could be found to take them.
Which country might that be — to the Burmese government only Bangladesh seems to have the potential to take in vast numbers of Rohingyas — as it has not pushed any Rohingyas to India — despite sharing a common border which is far larger than what it shares with Bangladesh. Of course, it could not push India around or ignore it as it can Bangladesh as India has more geo-political clout than Bangladesh.
While Myanmar has recently agreed to take back Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, the fact remains that the numbers who have been repatriated are insignificant compared to the at least 500 000 who have entered into Bangladesh illegally between 1978 and 2014. Most Rohingyas don't want to end up in Myanmar where they have to live in perpetual fear, stripped of almost all basic human rights.
Rohingyas are treated as Bangladeshis and outsiders. The government of Myanmar is trying to force them to come to Bangladesh. But our government is not being active either in diplomatic front or otherwise. We are surprised that the government is not taking the matter seriously. It is the international community that is found worrying about the most illegal policy being pursued by Myanmar. The Rohingyas cannot be denied citizenship of Myanmar for the simple reason that they settled in Myanmar many years before Bangladesh was born. This matter should forcefully be agitated in international forums.