Ethnic cleansing or sectarian violence in Arakan

By Fayas Ahmed

The recent conflict between Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims had left many civilians dead and hundreds of homes burned down since it began in Arakan State since June 3, 2012.
The cause of the violence is mainly because of the rape and murder of the Rakhine Buddhist woman named Ms Thida Htwee by three Burmese Muslims on the evening of May 28, near the Kyauk Nemaw village of Yanbray Township. For which, the culprits had already been arrested by the concerned authority, so, all the local people knew that who the culprits of the crime were. Why the Rakhine mob indiscriminately killed the ten innocent Burmese Muslims on suspicion that they were the culprits of murder and rape case of the said woman.  The three arrestees were sent to Yanbray Township jail.

The latest pogrom against the Rohingyas once again under cores the fault line that exists along race, ethnically and religion. I am shocked to observe how the murder of a Rakhine woman by an outset could trigger race and religious riots in which ten innocent Muslims from Burma proper were mercilessly killed by a mob of 300 hateful Rakhine extremists in Tunggup.

“It surprised me that two arrestees were punished to death sentence within 20 days where another one namely Tat Tat was committed suicide in the police custody, according to official.”

“Tat Tat was severely tortured and died in the police custody. How did he commit suicide?  The death sentence for the culprits is not existed in Burma, earlier,” said a local villager from Yanbray Township.

However, on June 3, a mob of Rakhines including females attacked a bus in Taunggup where ten Muslims were killed in the attack when they were reaching at Taunggup from Sandoway by a bus.  They were returning to their homes in Burma proper through Taunggup Mountain-pass after finishing their religious duty at Sandoway Town of Arakan State. This ten Muslims have no connection to the murder case and even did not know about the murder case.  They only intended to go homes after crossing the Taungup- Mauntain-pass which is situated at the Burma-Atakan border.

This murder case was created by a group of Rakhine leaders, especially the RNDP ( Rakhine Nationalities Development Party) with the help of present government.  On that day (June 3), Tat Tat accompanied by two other Muslim youths went to a nearby Rakhine village to buy Daf (young coconut) to serve the guests in his home. Tat Tat married one week ago. However, he and two others bought some coconuts from the village and carried some coconuts to his home in the evening. But they did not see anything on the way. After their arrival at home, a group of Rakhine rushed to his house and asked the villagers that “Are there any 3-Rohingya youth who came from Rakhine village with coconuts? Villagers reply that, in positive. As a result, some of the Rakhine villagers immediately went to the police station and informed them that three Muslim youths killed a Rakhine girl after rape, and now, the dead body was lying on the road side. So, a group of police accompanied by other Raklhine villagers with lethal weapons went to the Muslim village and picked up the said three Muslim youths and brought to the police station where they were severely tortured. The said dead body of Rakhine woman was brought from other place to create problem between Rohingyas and Rakhine Communities. The Rohingya villagers surprised that how the dead body of Rakhine woman was placed on the road side, said a local from Yambray Township.

Moreover, on June 3, In the absent of actual action to  the culprit Rakhines,  the Rakhine mobs attacked Rohingya villages and Wards in Sittwe and burned down the houses, mosques and business of Rohingyas and the police, Hluntin opened fire and allegedly killed Rohingyas  and  wounded.

The state sponsored violence that broke out last May (28), between  Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine communities  have cost the lives of many Rohingya Muslims and some Rakhine Buddhiists, and over 2,500  homes torched and forced nearly 32,000  people to seek refuge in camps across the State, so far. Some Rohingya Muslims become refugees in their villages and have no food, no medicine and are also not allowed to go out from their homes. As a result, they are not able to buy anything from the market. At present, many Rohingya villagers have been starving.

Why then the latest outcome of ethnic raw nerves centering around a criminal act but allowed centering around a criminal act but allowed to proliferate as a religious-ethnic reprisal by the majority community under military  watch  should  be handled like “ glass with care” approach?

In Maungdaw Town, on June 8, at about 11: 30 am, a Rohingya youth who is  a betel seller named Pi Dine (15), son of Habi, hailed from Shwe Zaar village of Maungdaw Town was chopped to his leg and was also struck to his head by a iron rod by a Rakhine youth nearby old cinema hall of Maungdaw Town because of asking money for quid of betel and the victim was picked up by the Hluntin of Shwe Zaar bridge check-post while he was on the way to his home.  The victim was given treatment in the camp, Later; the Nasaka Director Lt Col Aung Gyi came to the spot and gave Kyat 20,000 for his treatment. However, hearing the news, nearby Rohingya villagers came in the evening to the spot and asked the Nasaka Director to hand over the victim to his parents. At last, the Nasaka director handed over the victim to his relatives.

However, some Rakhine youths were throwing stones to the mosque goers (Juma Prayer) before noon on Friday while they were going to the mosque nearby a Buddhist. Besides, a group of Rakhine youths with lethal weapons were wondering along the road while the Rohingya Muslims were praying in the mosque. Some of the Hluntin personnel were also raised hue and cry while the Muslims were praying inside the mosque. A Rohingya youth was also struck at his head with a stick by a Rakhine youth and got serious wound. This was informed to the Hluntin who were giving security at that time, but they did not take any heed.  Meanwhile, another Rohingya was also catapulted by a Rakhine youth and these incidents were happened in front of the Hluntin forces.

Later, a crowd of Rohingyas came out from the mosque after Juma prayer and marched to the cemetery of Shikdar Para (Myoma Kayandan) to pray for the salvation of the departed souls of the people who were brutally killed on May 3 at Tauggup Town by the mob of Rakhines. But, on the way to the graveyard, the Hluntin stopped them. Meanwhile, suddenly, the Hluntin (security force) opened fire to the mob and killed two young Rohingya boys on the spot.

Seeing the dead bodies, some of the Rohingya villagers became emotion and went to the Bomu Para (Rakhine village) of Maungdaw Town and torched three small houses including a boarding owned by Rakhine.

After that, the situation became deteriorate and the three houses of Natala villagers of southern Maungdaw were torched in the evening by Rohingyas. The government imposed curfew in Maungdaw from 6 pm to 6 am. That night, some of the Rohingya villagers were stranded at Naitor Dill and Ward No.5 who came to Maungdaw Town for Juma prayer in the big Mosque as the Rakhine youths blocked the road with lethal weapons, which Rohingya villagers want to go home.  But, at 3:00 am, Nasaka surrounded the said village and fired to the villagers, so, many villagers were killed and wounded. The dead bodies were taken away by the authority and buried unknown places, a youth from the village said on condition of anonymity.

On June 9, army arrived to reinforce the existing security forces. Government set up refugee camps for the Natala villagers who ran away from their villages after attacking Rohingya villagers. Nasaka gathered all the Natala villagers from Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Maungdaw north in Maungdaw Town to show international community as Rakhine refugees. After getting ration from donors or concerned authority, they returned to their houses. They are the artificial refugees, but who are original refugees in their villages did not get any ration.

The violence began on June 3, and has mainly occurred in Sittwe and Maungdaw. On June 10, a state of military emergency was declared, after which the military became more actively involved in committing acts of violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya including killings and mass scale arrests of Rohingya men and youths ( over 12 years) in Rakhine State. Many Rohingya continue to be victims of violence and cannot leave their homes for fear of persecution, and are thus deprived of their livelihood and most basic needs.

The urgent humanitarian needs of those displaced (IDPs) – including those not in IDP camps – are not being adequately met and there is concern that those displaced will not be allowed to return to their homes as soon as it is safe to do so, thus creating a situation of protracted displacement.

But, spurts of violence continued. The same day on June 10, a twelve year of Rohingya girl who went for routing shopping was shot to death by police. Rohingya houses in Bhomu Para ( village) of Maungdaw town were also set on fire by Rakhines mobs with the help of police and Hluntin.
Over five thousands Rohingya people were residing at refugee camps in Akyab (Sittwe) by June 10. On June 12, more buildings were set ablaze in Sittwee by police, Hluntin accompanied by Rakhine mobs.

While homeless Rakhines are being put in relief camps, distraught Rohingyas are fleeing the country. It is very surprise that there is no any single attack against the Rakhine community by Rohingyas in Sittwee, how the Rakines become refugees in Sittwee.

Everyday, always the Rakhine mobs had attacked the Rohingya villagers or quarters with the help of police and Hluntin. Rohingyas are being kept in the houses by declaring state of emergency from 6 pm to 6 am and the police and Hluntin fire to any Rohingya who is made out of house or on the street. State of emergency is only imposed for the Rohingya people.

“What has happened recently is more of a sign of a long story of really horrible discriminatory treatment of the Rohingyas,” said Asia policy experts.

The present government is continuing the junta’s discriminatory policies towards the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas of Burma have suffered from acute persecution and discrimination for decades. They are  now facing  another crisis.

“There is no change of attitude of new civilian government of U Thein Sein towards Rohingya people, there is no sign of change in the human rights situation of Rohingya people. Persecution against the Rohingya people is actually greater than before, said the ARNO President from London.

The state of Arakan is mostly in habited by two ethnic groups—the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohignya Muslims, the latter having close ethno-cultural affinity with neighboring Bangladesh.

It also seems possible that the US’s latest bid to be friend Burma has given the military backed region and additional atmosphere of authoritativeness and arrogance. As the military backed regime failed to take appropriate measures in stopping the pogrom, a politician said

Some analysts believe the latest out break of violence may be related to Bangladesh’s reported consent to allowing the US’s Seven Fleet to station near Bangladesh’s territorial waters. They think, by generating a fresh influx of Rohingya refugees, Burma may be seeking to strangulate Bangladesh into a discomforted strategic loop.

This is not first time, the Rohingya face systematic onslaught their lives and liberty making the prolonged and mysterious silent of the global community on their recurring plights. Their routing persecution and systematic ethnic cleansing have also being one of the least report episodes in the global media.

The global community can’t have one set the principles for the safe guard of minorities in other parts of the world while Rohingyas face virtual obliteration and dismemberment in the hands of a brutal autocratic regime.
The local Rakhine leaders, the security forces—police, Hluntin jointly collaborated to trigger the latest extermination campaign against the Rohingyas of Arakan State.

In the meantime, hundreds of Rohingya villages in Maungdaw, Akyab (Sittwe), Rathedaung, Kyauktaw have been set on fire affecting the precious lives and livelihood of hundreds of the Rohingyas. Probably hundreds have also killed in this latest genocidal campaign. Rohingyas are victims who are “guilty of nothing after than a desire to flee repression and create a better life for them.”

Under the new regime, while some windows of freedom have opened up, the doors to racism and violence are still wide open. There is a little or no change in the ethnic nationalities areas, especially in Arakan State. The latest extinction campaign against the Rohingya has once again shown the depth of racism.

State sponsored violence which mostly took place in Sittwe and Maungdaw has no call down even though the situation of the ground remains tense. Since Friday (11.6.12) afternoon in Maungdaw area, though the government deployed army, it accompanied by Nasaka have started rounding up and arresting young Rohingya men and raped many girls and women in different villages.

According to a villager from Akyab who fled to Bangladesh said, “They had come under fire from a helicopter and that three of six boats were lost in the sea. Some children drowned during the four days trip, others died of hunger.

Many young men were arrested and taken away and raped many females and some were killed after rape. The arrested males were brought to local Nasaka areas for interrogations and later some were sent to Nasaka headquarters, Maungdaw police station and sent to Buthidaung jail. The fates of them are not known to their relatives and inadequate food is served them. They were also tortured severally in the camp, so their conditions are much deteriorated. There are over 700 prisoners in Buthidaung jail who were recently arrested by army, Nasaka, police, Sarapa and Hluntin.

This is not a sectarian violence but abuses by security agency. As result, Rohingya youths and men fearing arbitrary arrest started fleeing from Maungdaw to Bangladesh just across the Naff River. They left their villages fearing arrest by the Burmese army as the force is conducting raid and picking up males.

“What happens in Burma impact on our security and we should be more concerned to see that the situation is not exacerbated,” said a politician from Bangladesh.

Cruelty toward the Rohingya is not new. They have faced torture, neglect and repression since it achieved independence in 1948. Even now, as military rulers have begun to loosen their grip, there is no sign of change for the Rohingyas. Instead, the Burmese government is trying to cast them out.

State security forces have now conducted mass arrests of Rohingyas,and displaced Rohingyas have tried to flee Bangladesh where some have died in the Naff River and in the sea. The Burmese media have cited early rioting by Rohingyas and have cast them as terrorist and traitors.

On June 10, in the name of stopping such violence, the government declared a state of emergency, but it has used its border security force to burn houses, kill men and evict Rohingyas from their villages.

On Thursday, July 12, the President Thein Sien suggested that Burma could end the crisis by expelling all of its Rohingyas or by having the UN resettle them a proposal that UN official quickly rejected.

We are forced to say that this comment, along with the Burma president’s remark that Rohingyas were not welcome in his country, is denial of history.  The idea of deporting them to a third country smacks of a dubious plan to cleans the area of Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan State and  that the recent instance of violence was perhaps not unplanned but engineered to create a situation to force these people to leave, according to a Rohingya politician.

Rohingya community urges to the world community to urgently respond to this latest outbreak of the crisis and take immediate actions to protect people including women and children from violence and persecution and work to provide emergency assistance to thousands of refugees displaced from their homes by recent violence.

“We have been facing vulnerable catastrophic human tragedy that is deliberately created by a group of racist Rakhine leaders and Burmese government to exterminate completely ethnic Rohingya from the land of Arakan, Burma. It is nothing more than systematic ethnic cleansing.”

Why isn’t this pogrom stirring arousing more international misconduct?

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