Burma faces worst unrest in years
In 1991, an estimated 250,000 Rohingyas were expelled from Arakan into Bangladesh and took shelter in the Cox’s Bazaar area of Chittagong region.
However, one year later, the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments held bilateral talks on the Rohingya issue and reached an agreement in 1992 to repatriate all Rohingyas to Burma within six months.
However, the de facto process of returning Rohingyas to Burma took several years. From 1992 to 2005, according to Burmese state-run The New Light of Myanmar, 236,495 Rohingyas entered Burma legally and settled.
Thakin Chan Htun, a veteran Burmese politician in Rangoon, said that the Rohingyas’ illegal entry into Burma was inevitable as they left Bangladesh due to economic hardships.
Ko Ko Gyi, a leading activist with Rangoon-based 88 Generation Students Group said that conflict in Arakan State is not religious conflict between Muslim and Buddhist.
While some observers said that the violence is based on “religion,” some others said that it is more based on “racism” as Arakanese and Rohingya historically dislike each other.
A Thailand-based Rohingya activist group known as Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand recently has sent an open letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon asking for the UN to dispatch its peace keeping force to Arakan State to control the violence.
“We urge the UN to send a mission to control the serious situation in Arakan State and save the remaining Rohingyas as quickly as possible," said the letter with the signature of its president Maung Kyaw Nu.
According to local witnesses who include one of my own cousins, Bengali Rohingya are initiating fire-setting of the Arakanese houses.
“They [Rohingyas] set the fires on their own houses and mosque and run away, and afterwards reporting the world that they are the Rakhine [Arakanese] people who set fires on their houses and mosques,” said Wong Aung, an Arakanese activist whose cousin was also a witness.
“Their intent is purely aimed at portraying the Rakhine people as savages while they play the role of victims to receive international sympathy,” claimed Wong Aung.
The violence in Arakan State has so far not affected other religious communities, such as Christians. But President Thein Sein has warned that the spiraling violence could threaten the democratic reforms, tentatively transforming the country after half a century of military rule.
Meanwhile, New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on the government on Tuesday to take all necessary steps to protect communities at risk in Arakan State in the wake of the violence between Buddhists and Muslims. HRW also urged the Burmese government to allow access immediately to international journalists, aid workers, and diplomats.
“Deadly violence in Arakan State is spiraling out of control under the government’s watch,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW.
“Given the Burmese army’s brutal record of abuses in Arakan State, putting the military in charge of law enforcement could make matters worse,” said Pearson.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday also urged a halt to the violence and a transparent investigation.