Some elements of Pakistani electronic media who have launched a campaign to discredit ISI and security agencies on the hyped issue of Baloch missing persons have maintained criminal silence on massacre of Muslims in Burma. This issue missing persons is in fact a joint venture of foreign agencies and some of the media anchors in Pakistan. According to a report by Judicial Commission appointed to probe the matter, foreign agencies with a well-organized network and modern equipment were involved in the issue of missing persons and asserted that baseless propaganda was being done pertaining to the number of such people. In spite of this finding, media anchors, in their enthusiasm to please the enemy agencies are pressurizing the apex court to incriminate the security establishment. They are so much pre-occupied with this mission that they have totally blacked-out the news of the systematic elimination of Burmese Muslims.
The Burmese Muslims being killed en mass are ethnic “Rohingya” who trace their name back to a ship wreck in the 8th century CE. According to them, after the Arab ship wrecked near Ramree Island, Arab traders were ordered to be executed by the Arakanese king. Then, they shouted in their language, ‘Rahma’. Hence, these people were called ‘Raham’. Gradually it changed from Raham to Rhohang and finally to Rohingyas.
These Muslims, like those of Bosnia, are now target of the fury of Ethnic Buddhist Rakhine majority, which has the full support of the Burmese government. According to Foreign Policy Journal, The widespread killings of Rohingya Muslims in Burma—a.k.a. Myanmar—have received only passing and dispassionate coverage in most media. What they actually warrant is widespread outrage and decisive efforts to bring further human rights abuses to an immediate halt.
“Burmese helicopter set fire to three boats carrying nearly 50 Muslim Rohingyas fleeing sectarian violence in western Burma in an attack that is believed to have killed everyone on board,” reported Radio Free Europe on July 12.
The relatively little media interest in Burma’s ‘ethnic clashes’ does not mean that the cleansing of Muslims in Burma is not a significant event. The recent flaring of violence followed the raping and killing of a Rhakine woman on May 28, allegedly by three Rohingya men. The incident ushered a rare movement of unity between many sectors of Burmese society, including the government, security forces and so-called pro-democracy activists and groups. The first order of business was the beating to death of ten innocent Muslims. The victims, who were dragged out of a bus and attacked by a mob of 300 strong Buddhist Rhakine, were not even Rohingyas, according to the Bangkok Post (June 22). Not all Muslims in Burma are from the Rohingya ethnic group. Some are descendants of Indian immigrants, some have Chinese ancestry, and some even have early Arab and Persian origins. Burma is a country with a population of an estimated 60 million, only 4 percent of whom are Muslim.
Regardless of numbers, the abuses are widespread and rioters are facing little or no repercussions for their actions. “The Rohingyas…face some of the worst discrimination in the world,” reported Reuters on July 4, citing rights groups. UK-based Equal Rights Trust indicated that the recent violence is not merely due to ethnic clashes, but actually involves active government participation. “From June 16 onwards, 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 boys in North Rakhine State.”
The Western media, otherwise looking for opportunities to present Burma in negative sense, has its own reasons to black-out or play down the unfortunate events. Major reason is that ‘pro-democracy’ Burmese groups and individuals celebrated by Western governments for objecting to the country’s military junta are also taking part in the war against minorities. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 8, Hanna Hindstrom reported that one pro-democracy group stated on Twitter that “[t]he so-called Rohingya are liars,” while another social media user said, “We must kill all the kalar.” Kalar is a racist slur applied to dark-skinned people from the Indian subcontinent
The much respected icon of democracy in Burma is playing as a willing accomplice through her silence. Aung San Suu Kyi is staying on the fence—as if the slaughter of the country’s ‘dark-skinned Indians’ is not as urgent as having a parliamentary representation for her party, the National League for Democracy in Burma. Secretary General of the impotent Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called on ‘The Lady’ to do something, anything. “As a Nobel Peace Laureate, we are confident that the first step of your journey towards ensuring peace in the world would start from your own doorstep and that you would play a positive role in bringing an end to the violence that has afflicted Arakan State,” he wrote.
The US and Britain eye Burma as an investment destination and a “New Gold Rush” for Burma has already begun. US President Barak Obama’s recent lifted the ban on American investment in the country with Secretary Clinton shaking hands with heretofore untouchables of the world. Britain immediately followed suit, as a UK trade office was hurriedly opened in Rangoon on July 11.The violent targeting of Burmese minorities arrived at an interesting time for the US and Britain. Their pro-democracy campaign was largely called off when the junta agreed to provide semi-democratic reforms. Eager to offset the near exclusive Chinese influence over the Burmese economy, Western companies jumped into Burma as if one of the most oppressive regimes in the world was suddenly resurrected into an oasis for democracy.
Nearly one million Muslims are currently undergoing one of the most violent episodes of their history, and their suffering is one of the most pressing issues anywhere in the world. Yet their plight is suspiciously absent from regional and international priorities, or is undercut by giddiness over the country’s “ample resources of hydro-carbons, minerals, gems and timber.”
The mystery is that Pakistan’s media anchors, so busy in ISI-bashing at the behest of separatists, terrorists and their sponsors, are tight-lipped on this issue.
- Rohingya Muslims and liberals (dawn.com)
- Burmese Muslims targeted in communal violence, says Amnesty (guardian.co.uk)