The Triopoli Post, August 1, 2012
“Monks who played a vital role in Burma’s recent struggle for democracy have been accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in the country by calling on people to shun a Muslim community that has suffered decades of abuse,” The Independent reported Wednesday as efforts to bar humanitarian assistance and encourage Burmese people to dissociate themselves with the Muslim Rohingya community came to light.
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group who lived in the Arakan region in western Myanmar in Burma for centuries. They have been described as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.” and in recent years they have been stripped of their citizenship (under 1982 citizenship law). They are forbidden to travel without official permission, banned from owning land and are required to sign a commitment to have two children or less.
A number of leaflets have been distributed by several monks’ organisations instructing the public to distance themselves from the Rohingya community, even describing them as “cruel by nature” and alleging their “plans to exterminate” other ethnic groups in one instance.
“In recent days, monks have emerged in a leading role to enforce denial of humanitarian assistance to Muslims, in support of policy statements by politicians,” Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan project, a regional NGO said.
She added: “A member of a humanitarian agency in Sittwe told me that some monks were posted near Muslim displacement camps, checking on and turning away people they suspected would visit for assistance.”
Observers are shocked by the actions of the monks who are usually associated with helping the needy. The eruption against the Rohingya sparked off following the alleged rape and murder of a Burmese woman by three Rohingya men.
The Young Monks’ Association of Sittwe and Mrauk Oo Monks’ Association both recently gave statements advising locals not to associate with the group. Over-crowded camps away from the Rakhine population have been used to accommodate displaced Rohingya people, where health and malnutrition are reportedly rapidly worsening.
Local nationalist and religious groups are continuing to hinder aid workers efforts, and a number of monasteries sheltering Rakhine people, have refused international aid, claiming it has Rohingya “bias”.
Over the past few weeks, ethnic violence has continued in the Rakhine state in the west of Burma.
Recent evaluations by various humanitarian organisations have concluded that the conflicts have resulted in over 80 dead and up to 100,000 living in a “desperate” situation.
The Burmese President Thein Sein has not condemned the continual persecutions against the Rohingya, but has instead insisted that Bangladesh (on the Burmese border) should take in the Rohingya population, number 800,000. This effort to segregate and drive out the ethnic minority followed an attempt to transfer responsibility of the Rohingya peoples to the UN refugee agency.
Thousands of Rohingya have continued to flee to refugee camps in deplorable conditions in Bangladesh ever since 1982, which was declared to be in a state of emergency last month following the unexplained arrest of 10 aid workers. Foreign media have yet to be allowed into the conflict region.