Rohingya boat people: Myanmar’s shame

May 24, 2015

Phnom Penh

Rohingya boat people

Myanmar’s shame

Poverity, politics and despair are forcing thousands of Rohingyas to flee Myanmar. The authorities remain woefully indifferent to their plight

Since 2012 all the Rohingya villages and camps have been totally cut off from predominantly Rakhine towns like Sittwe. This has made it almost impossible for inhabitants to make a decent living. Tall wire fences are now being erected, completing their isolation. One Rohingyan says he used to have a good taxi business in Sittwe. Now he uses his motorcycle to carry a few customers in a small village. He makes about one-third of the money he used to. Most Rohingyas are farmers or fishermen. The former cannot return to their fields; the latter have few boats left and are driven away from fishing grounds by Rakhines if they manage to get out to sea.

The local authorities insist that this forced isolation is for the Rohingyas’ own good, to protect them from further attacks. Rohingyas, however, see it as the culmination of a long-standing policy of apartheid, depriving them of the last benefits that they enjoyed living among Rakhines. No Rohingya student, for instance, has been allowed into the university at Sittwe during the last three years. They are not allowed into the township hospitals unless it is a life-and-death situation. “It’s really inhumane stuff,” says an aid worker.

Any hopes among Rohingyas that the country’s turn to quasi-civilian rule in 2011 after decades of military dictatorship might improve their lot have evaporated. While life is improving for many others in Myanmar, it is not for Rohingyas. They are unwitting victims of a deadly political game for control of what some Burmese proclaim to be the “New Myanmar”. Thus, for instance, while the rest of the country is preparing for a general election in November—the first democratic one in a quarter-century—a sleight of hand involving their voting documents has effectively deprived Rohingyas of the right to participate. Last year, during the first national census for years, Rohingyas were only allowed to register as “Bengalis”. In protest, most of them boycotted the count.

The government is pandering to a growing anti-Muslim hysteria in the country. Such sentiment has been encouraged by hardliners in the army and the ruling party who calculate that humiliating the millions of Muslims in Myanmar plays well with many Buddhist Burmese. It is often supported by the more chauvinist Buddhist monks as well. The hardliners have an election to win; they believe that playing to anti-Muslim feeling might give them an advantage over the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party.

Even Ms Suu Kyi, however, a Nobel peace-prize winner who campaigns relentlessly for human rights and the rule of law, has been loth to stand up for the human rights of Rohingyas. For some of her supporters, this has been extremely disappointing. Her low-key response has made it easier for the government virtually to ignore the boat-people crisis. By May 19th there had been no mention of it in the government-run Global New Light of Myanmar, an English-language newspaper. Rohingyas are not technically “citizens”, so the government feels that it can wash its hands of the problem.

Clearly ministers feel that they have no wider moral or humanitarian obligation to people whose families have lived and worked here for, in many cases, over a century. In the face of such callous indifference from all quarters in Myanmar, it is hardly surprising that so many thousands are taking to the sea. Unless the situation changes, the only guarantee is that even more will try to flee at the start of the next dry season, with the same appalling results.

5 thoughts on “Rohingya boat people: Myanmar’s shame

  1. Ever since Transparency International was allowed to visit nation states the word shame has been obliterated form our vocabulary. Taking a leaf from the Book of TI everything that people and the state do has become transparent. Not because they wanted it to be transparent but because of the internet. Look all over the Third World and you will get a picture of what I am. trying to say. My only worry is that transparency is like watering the plant. Too much water will eventually kill the plant.

  2. What if the Rohingyas are non-muslims ? What will happen to Malaysia then ? Myanmar rejects them because etnicity. Does PBB recognise this ?

    In reality Malaysia played her role very well. Since the “tongkang time including viatnamese boat people” I don’t mean to be racist here, but fact is fact. There will be extra burden on our gov. cost, logistic and placement – the thruth is that they will exist for a very long-long time . Such a big relief for Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    Malaysia must be strict. ASEAN must be on alert. Its pointless just to stay in one pack, but still counts on self-interest.

    Why must Malaysia be blamed on such inhumanty ? Why not Myanmar, Bangladesh and part of their motherland ? Rohingyas have been denied for years and lived without soul.

    So do Palestine…. (your previous article)

  3. I must say my piece on this matter. Many Myanmar people believe that much of the so called Rohingyas are in fact Bangladeshi who corrupt officials sold national ids to over many years. ..Many of them do not speak the Myanmar language which a Rohingyas of old all do..There is definitely a big population of Bangladeshi. Having said that there are Buddhist extremists who sought to gain political capital by persecuting Muslims. The situation is very complicated and its not simply a case of moral but competency of governments…

  4. “Rohingya boat people: Myanmar’s shame”


    Just to share this…

    “Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese MP, pro-democracy campaigner and “MI6 puppet” is in town to celebrate her election in Burma and the receipt of her Nobel Peace Prize.

    It will be her first chance to visit the grave of her husband, whom died a few years back of cancer. Aung decided not to attend his funeral in case she was refused permission to re-enter Burma.

    She has received a heroines reception from the British Media and plaudits from the controlled politicians of all political parties. Bono, the front man for Soft Rock, Bubble-Gum Band U2, was apparently overawed by her.

    She is no doubt receiving instructions as to how best to manipulate the newly elected Government into giving the western multinationals access to Burma’s considerable natural resources.

    If there is one thing of which I am sure, it is that the British do not give a toss about Liberty, Democracy and common decency, any more than they give a damn about the oppressed people of Burma.

    The British, in the past, have already stripped Malaya and Burma of all of their riches, as they have done to most of the countries in the region.

    The plaudits and fawning which Aung has received is reminiscent of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, after the publishing of the Gulag Archipelago, relating his years in captivity. For a while he too was an international hero, until he let it slip out that the slaughter of millions of people in the USSR was carried out by Jews. That is a no-no.

    The west, after all, did not know that the Jews carried out the Russian Revolution and wasted no time in slaughtering sixty-five million people most of them Christians. Little was heard of Solzhenitsyn thereafter, he died in obscurity.

    Another lovable, cuddly, little hero of the west, the Dalai Lama, is in the UK at the moment.

    He too is an MI6 and CIA asset.

    Like Aung, he has spread a lot of gossip about the Chinese which was not altogether truthful.

    He chooses to make no comment about the illegal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which involved the British, whom are the main critics of the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

    The Dalai Lama was also involved in rather a lot of shady behaviour involving children.

    These two characters, from the same neck of the woods, had a little get together in London, one can only wonder what they found to talk about.

    They would appear not to have a grain of personality between them, their only claim to fame hangs on the fact that they have been selected as symbols, by the west, to further, as yet unspecified actions, at some point in the future.

    The British have been having talks with their friends in the Burmese Army in recent times, so it must have been in the interest of Britain to allow the election of Aung, we will have to wait to see how it all pans out.”

    All The Stooges Come To Town –

    You be the judge.

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