More than 65,000 Rohingya refugees have reportedly ‘fled’ Myanmar’s Rakhine state since Naypidaw began its crackdown on the ethnic minorities hailing supposedly from Bangladesh.
A scathing United Nations (UN) report chronicled harrowing accounts of mass rape, murder and arson of the nation’s defenceless people – all of which are crimes against humanity – whose only crime it now seems is to be born as a Muslim in an otherwise Buddhist nation.
The plight of the Rohingya mirrors that of the 1970’s Vietnamese boat people compelled to take to the very dangerous high seas arising out of the victory of the communist forces in April 1975.
But the Rohingya are not a people with a radically, different and violent political ideology gravely at odds with their political masters.
They are plainly simple folks, who settled in the country through no fault of their own and have today, been forced to face the wrath of their tormentors.
“Over the past week, 22,000 new arrivals were reported to have crossed the border from Rakhine state,” the UN’s relief agency said in its weekly report.
“As of 5 January, an estimated 65,000 people are residing in registered camps, makeshift settlements and host communities in Cox’s Bazaar” in southern Bangladesh, said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya’s came in for some very withering criticism by Malaysia’s premier, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. In breaking with the ASEAN spirit of non-interference in one another’s internal affair, he caustically commented at a rally in Malaysia last month saying, “this is a Nobel Prize laureate”, in clear reference to the nation’s president’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
In an interesting development the Rohingya plight comes amidst an increasingly strident and repressive climate in Myanmar following the ascension to power of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.
Many observers and ordinary Myanmar citizens had expected the party – a large number of whose members are former political prisoners – to bring a swift end to prosecutions brought under broad and repressive laws. Instead, they have sky-rocketed.
According to excerpts of a report from the Financial Times (FT), the ruling party is facing mounting international criticism 10 months into its rule with several cases brought forth by powerful members of the NLD itself. Cases are so common that the law has become a running joke on Facebook.
“If someone is teasing us we say, “I’m gonna sue you with 66D!”says Maung Saungkha, a poet and activist who is campaigning to reform the law.
The FT report cited Maung Maung Tun was slapped with a defamation suit in December for writing an article criticizing state-owned newspaper The Mirror.
“I did the right thing by revealing the truth about the person who did wrong,” he told the Myanmar Times at the time. “But the one who did right is now accused. The world is absolutely upside-down.”
He says he has received death threats. “I feel very disappointed, very sad,” he says. “Now it is getting worse than before in terms of freedom of press and freedom of speech … For the state media, the minister [of information] has changed but nothing else has changed.”