The escalating violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state has led to authorities declaring a state of emergency last month.
What’s the back story?
The actually cause of the sectarian dispute is unclear, although some commentators cite the killing of ten Rohingya Muslims by ethnic Rakhine after the rape and murder of a Rakhine women. But according to Amnesty International, Rohingya Muslims have long suffered from human rights violation dating back to early World War II.
Discrepancies in reports
As of today (Monday, 23rd July 2012), the number of people displaced or killed in the violence ranges widely from one source to another. The President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation in UK (BROUK), Tun Khin, claims 650 Rohingyas has been killed, 1,200 missing, and more than 80,000 displaced. While Myanmar authorities have released a lower estimate at 78 dead, 87 injured, and 52,000 displaced, since the violence begun.
Authorities take charge
With violence escalating at an alarming rate, the government stepped in and imposed a curfew in Rakhine state, and has deployed troops to the area since the violence broke out on June 8th. But the continued violence in the state led authorities to declare a state of emergency on June 10th.
The non-governmental organization says that Rohingya Muslims have continued to suffer from human rights violation under the Burma Buddist junta since 1978, with many fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result. Some 24,000 Rohingya Muslims currently reside in Malaysia, most of them trying to distance themselves from the violence in their home land.
World media goes silent
Muhammad Hossein Nikzad, a senior student of political science, talked about the dire situation in Myanmar, and revealed the alleged atrocities the Buddhist Rakhines are committing.
Terming it genocide, Mr. Hossein questioned the flagrant inattention of the global media, stating that only a few second-rate news websites and some of Iran’s news agencies have covered this disturbing news.
Another Rohingya spokesman says authorities are arresting and detaining hundreds of people in the area where Rohingya Muslims live, but the government has dismissed the allegations as groundless and biased.
Adding to the confusion, Win Myaing, a government spokesman for Rakhine State told news agency, Associated Press (AP), that the claims are totally opposite of what is happening on the ground, and added that the state was calm.
Rights group have admitted that the communal violence has eased in the region since the unrest and subsequent declaration of a state of emergency. Unfortunately, the same group claims violence by the security forces – put in place by the government, appears to have increased.
In a BBC report,
“Most cases have meant targeted attacks on the minority Rohingya population and they were bearing the brunt of most of that communal violence in June and they continue to bear the lion’s share of the violations perpetrated by the state security forces”, Amnesty researcher, Benjamin Zawacki.
The report continues,
Chris Lewa, director of The Arakan Project, which focuses on Rohingyas in the region, also told our correspondent that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims had been arrested, with allegations that some had been beaten and even tortured.
No end in sight
With the alleged violence form both Rakhine Buddhists and Myanmar authorities continuing, added to the fact that Bangladesh are turning refugees away (saying they cannot afford to help the Rohingya Muslims anymore). The Rohingyas find themselves cornered by religious violence at home, blocked from escaping to the north (Bangladesh) and west (Bay of Bengal), and no guarantee of safety to the south (Myanmar).
The holy month of Ramadhan truly seems bleak for the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine, Myanmar.
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