Lächeln und schweigen

Kyaikto Pagoda (Golden Rock), Mon State, Maanmar Foto: Stefan Fussan, Blattgold am Golden Rock, Kyaikto Pagode, Myanmar, beschnitten

Heute protestierten Mitglieder der Partei ‚Myanmar National Movement‘ (MNM) und Mönche der faschistischen 969-Bewegung vor der Botschaft der USA in Yangon.

Nein, nicht gegen die Transpazifische Partnerschaft TTP, auch nicht gegen das eher wirtschaftsinteressengestützte Menschenrechts-Engagement der USA in Südostasien.

Sondern gegen die Verwendung des Wortes „Rohingya“:

US Embassy used the fake term „Rohingya Community“ in its announcement (dated 20-4-16) of condolences those who died when the boat capsized near Thae Chaung in Sittwe on April 19th.

Es lohnt, die ganze Verlautbarung zu lesen. Knapp zusammengefasst beleidigt das Wort „Rohingya“ laut MNM die 8 Hauptethnien und 135 Minoritäten in Myanmar. Jeder, der das Wort benutze oder die „Rohingya-Story“ unterstütze, sei ein Feind Myanmars. Wenn die USA solche Sympathien mit „Lügen-Bengali“ habe, solle sie sie selbst aufnehmen.

Slogans shouted and circulated at today’s US embassy protest in Yangon:

„You are our enemy! Peace be upon you!“


Frontier Myanmar, Hein Ko Soe & Sean Gleeson, 28.4.2016: Nationalist protest rebukes US for Rohingya statement

The statement that sparked the protest, issued by the US Embassy last week, expressed condolences for the families of the victims who died when a boat capsized in rough waters near the Rakhine capital of Sittwe. At least 21 people died in the tragedy, with at least seven of the victims aged eight or under.

Most of the passengers were Rohingya Muslim residents of Sin Tet Maw camp in nearby Pauktaw Township. They had moved there in the aftermath of the communal violence which rocked the state in 2012, claiming hundreds of lives.

Myanmar’s former government and much of its population refuses to recognise the nation’s Rohingya population, estimated to be as many as 1.1 million people, and instead consider them to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Many of those self-identifying as Rohingya have documentary records proving their ancestry in Myanmar goes back generations. The Rohingya community was permitted to vote in the 2010 election before being disenfranchised by the last government in 2015, in an apparent response to pressure from nationalist groups.

The embassy’s statement added that it welcomed the new government’s commitment to “improve conditions for all people in Rakhine State and promote reconciliation, peace and stability”.


Die Situation der Rohingya in Myanmar ist unverändert bedrückend. Soeben wurden neue Reisebeschränkungen erlassen (bzw. längst existierende zu Papier gebracht), die Rohingya daran hindern, Krankenhäuser in Yangon aufzusuchen, sondern sie an Krankenhäuser in Sittwe verweisen, in denen sie nicht die gleiche Gesundheitsversorgung erhalten wie Buddhisten, Schmiergeld für Überweisungen und für die Reiseerlaubnis nach Yangon zu zahlen hätten.

Maung Maung Sein, another Rohingya representative present at the meeting, told The Irrawaddy that the new rules would place extra financial strain on those in the camps.

“We need security to travel to the hospital in Sittwe. We have to pay at least 20,000 to 30,000 kyats (US$17 to $26) to rent a car to travel from the camp to the town,” he said, adding that patients would need food and accommodation in order to be able to stay in the hospital away from their homes. Paying for this expense is made particularly difficult by limitations placed on the Rohingyas’ ability to seek employment in the region.

Maung Maung Sein explained that Rohingya who could afford to do so once sought treatment in Rangoon, reportedly after obtaining permission from an immigration officer for the journey; without the correct paperwork, Rohingya attempting to travel outside of the region can be imprisoned.

“There were brokers who could help get recommendations from Immigration. We had to pay a lot of money to get the recommendation,” he said.

Burmese government authorities have allowed some clinics to open in the displaced people’s camps, but challenges regarding staffing and patient access remain ongoing.

Doctors and nurses from the camp hospitals will not be eligible to provide the recommendation needed for travel to Rangoon to seek more advanced treatment.


CNN, Katie Arnold 1.4.2016: Myanmar’s shame: Living inside Rohingya ghettos

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims live a life of hardship and oppression that a recent report found to be tantamount to genocide. More than 140,000 people live in overcrowded Internally Displaced People camps, with little access to food or healthcare. Thousands of others reside in segregated villages across the state where the most basic of freedoms are denied.

Despite their suffering, other Rohingya like Kyaw Aung, refuse to leave their homes and what they consider to be their homeland. „Even if our future is dark, I will not leave … I have my ID card, I am a citizen of this country,“ he says. His identity card was issued in 1959 but the government of President Thein Sein, a former general who has led Myanmar since 2010, revoked ID cards for minority groups such as the Rohingya last year.


Frontier Myanmar, AFP, 28.4.2016: Migrants found abandoned in Thai forest a year after smuggling crackdown

More than a dozen Rohingya refugees abandoned by people smugglers have been found in a southern Thai forest, police said Wednesday, almost a year on from a crackdown which has forced traffickers to find new routes.

Muslim Rohingya, an ethnic minority from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state who are forced to live in apartheid-like conditions, have for years fled their homeland seeking work in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

„Fourteen Rohingyas, including kids as young as a few years old, were found at around 6am (Wednesday),“ police captain Panuwat Chomyong, a highway officer in central Chumpon province, told AFP.

Smugglers abandoned the group ahead of a police checkpoint, Panuwat said, adding they had initially entered Thailand through Kanchanaburi province, a much more northern entry point than those usually used by traffickers.

The discovery suggests new routes are being sought by migrants and smugglers following Thailand’s belated crackdown on the grim and lucrative trade last May, which has seen boat crossings over the Bay of Bengal almost entirely cease.


Radio Free Asia 21.4.2016: Myanmar Disputes Bangladesh Account of Deported Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar dismissed on Saturday a recent assertion by border control authorities in neighboring Bangladesh that they had this month deported at least 340 Muslim Rohingyas – without any resistance from Myanmar counterparts.

Zaw Htay, spokesman for the Myanmar President’s Office, said his office had heard nothing about the case and that his country’s border guards would have had no authority to accept Rohingyas without consulting with the president.

„The President’s Office has no knowledge of the case in question,“ Zaw Htay said in a post on his Facebook page.

„To take back over 300 Bengalis without scrutiny, the immigration authorities would need permission from the President’s Office and they cannot do it of their own will,“ the spokesman added, using the term by which Myanmar refers to its Muslim nationals in the western part of the country.

„Hence, let it be known that it is not true that over 300 Bengalis were taken back without objection and any security checks,“ said Zaw Htay.

The President’s Office could not be reached for clarification on whether he meant the Rohingya were not repatriated at all or whether they were returned after security checks.

There was no information about the fate of the 340 people the head of Bangladesh’s border guard told RFA had been sent back in April.

“Over the last 20 days, we caught illegal Myanmar nationals, photographed them and sent 340 of them back to their homeland,” Lt. Col. Imran Ullah Sarker, chief executive of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), told RFA on Thursday.


(Nachtrag 26.7.2016)


Aung San Suu Kyi lächelt und schweigt.



10 Kommentare zu „Lächeln und schweigen

  1. Human Rights Watch, 26.4.2016, Dispatches: Burma’s Rohingya Muslims in Desperate Straits

    Fortify Rights:
    22.3.2016: Testimony of Mr. Matthew Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. Get it Right This Time: A Victims-Centered Trafficking in Persons Report
    ebenfalls im März: “Everywhere is Trouble” A Briefing on the Situation of Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia
    26.2.2016: Facilitate Right to Return and Reparations for Displaced Muslim Rohingya

    Esther Htu San, 19.4.2016 „Ich wusste nur, dass ich wegwollte

    Auf einmal war es zu spät, eine Rückkehr unmöglich: Das Boot stach in See, und der zwölfjährige Hussein Ahmed hockte, mit den Knien an die Brust gepresst an andere schwitzende Leiber, mit Hunderten anderen Rohingyas im Laderaum – ohne zu wissen, was die Zukunft bringen würde. Schlepper hatten für ihn umgerechnet 77 Euro an Menschenhändler an Land gezahlt.

    Nachdem sein Vater vor drei Jahren starb, waren er und seine Familie in ein Camp in Ohn Taw Gyi außerhalb von Sittwe, der Hauptstadt des südwestbirmesischen Staates Rakhaing, gezogen. „Menschenhändler überredeten mich und vier andere Jungen, aus dem Dorf in das Boot zu steigen“, sagt Ahmed. „Ich wusste nicht, was passieren würde, ich wusste nur, dass ich wegwollte aus dieser verzweifelten Lage.“ Seine Mutter erfuhr erst später, wozu er sich entschlossen hatte.

    Nicola Glass, Juli 2015, US-Bericht zu Menschenhandel: Freihandel wichtiger als Freiheit

    Dass auch Malaysia einen besseren Status genießt, kommt auch nicht von ungefähr: Washington will die Verhandlungen über das Freihandelsabkommen Trans-Pazifische-Partnerschaft (TPP) abschließen, zu dessen Unterzeichnern auch Malaysia gehören soll. Das Land hatten die USA 2014 noch auf die schwarze Liste gesetzt. Doch ist es US-Firmen untersagt, Geschäfte mit Partnerländern der Kategorie drei zu machen.

    „Die Entscheidung ist hauptsächlich politisch und reflektiert in keinster Weise die Lage des Menschenhandels im Land“, kritisierte die in Bangkok ansässige Organisation „Fortify Rights”.

    Das gelte auch für Birma (Myanmar), das auf der „Beobachtungsstufe” der Kategorie zwei verblieben ist. Zwar sei es kein TPP-Partnerland, werde aber von der Obama-Regierung trotz der sich verschlechternden Menschenrechtslage als „Erfolgsgeschichte der US-Außenpolitik” betrachtet.

    Im Blog von Dr. Paul Fuller gibt es einige Einträge zum 969 Movement

    The following video has recently (letztes Jahr) gone viral among followers of the 969 and Ma Ba Tha movements. In Burmese the video is introduced with the following: ‘Those who haven’t been to, or haven’t heard or seen a 969 Ma Ba Tha fun preaching ceremony, say, sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.’ A translation of the lyrics to the song have been offered by Dr Maung Zarni, with many thanks:

    “We will fence our nation with our bones”

    Buddha’s Wisdom shines over our land
    In defence of Bama race and Buddhist faith we will stand at the front line.
    These people (the infidels/Muslims) live on our (Buddhist) soil.
    They drink our water.
    They break our rules.
    They suck our wealth.
    And they insult us the host.
    They destroy our youth.
    Alas, they are just one ungrateful, worthless creatures.

    We are one Buddhist brotherhood, now joining hands as One.
    We shall pledge to join hands as One.
    We do pledge to join hands as One.
    We will be loyal and faithful to our Race and our (Buddhist) Faith.

    We will only do business with those who share our Buddhist faith.
    We will only marry those who share our Buddhist faith.

    Hey, shall we
    talk about our national affairs.
    Let our nationalist consciousness awake!

    We will fence our nation with our bones.
    If you show us your (hateful) sword
    We will surely reciprocate in kind.

    We will fence our nation with our bones.
    If you show us your (hateful) sword
    we will surely reciprocate in kind.

    We will fence our nation with our bones.
    If you show us your (hateful) sword
    We will surely reciprocate in kind.

  2. Erschreckend, wie die Rohingya behandelt werden, ich möchte zwar nicht in ein Buddhisten-Bashing einstimmen, aber das ist unter aller Würde und grenzt an Verbrechen, wie mit diesen benachteiligten Menschen umgegangen wird. Solidarität und Unterstützung, bitte!

    1. ich möchte zwar nicht in ein Buddhisten-Bashing einstimmen, aber das ist unter aller Würde und grenzt an Verbrechen, wie mit diesen benachteiligten Menschen umgegangen wird.

      Ich hoffe nicht, daß Sie den Eindruck gewinnen konnten, ich würde irgendetwas auch nur in der Nähe eines „Buddhisten-Bashing“ betreiben. Es geht um die 969-Bewegung und das sind Faschisten.
      In Myanmar findet nix statt, was „an Verbrechen grenzt„, sondern der Genozid an den Rohingya geht ungebrochen weiter, was kaum jemanden interessiert.

      1. Es ist, scheint’s wichtiger, wenn ein Schulklopoet eine Staatsaffaire samt Gesetzesänderung verursacht.
        Ein Genozid dringt erst ins öffentliche Bewusstsein, wenn er TV-gerecht als Seifenoper präsentiert wird. Vor dem Fernsehmehrteiler „Holocaust“, dem Völkermord zur Prime-Time, war die Shoa in deutschen Medien, in der Wirtschaftswundergesellschaft ein Nischenthema, wenn überhaupt.
        Heute schafft ein kleines totes Kind am Strand ein paar Tage Aufmerksamkeit.
        Der Schulklopoesie gelingt es augenscheinlich länger und rüttelt am Regierungssitz. Brave new world.

  3. Aung Kyaw Min, Myanmar Times: US embassy asked to refrain from using ‘Rohingya’: official

    Bowing to nationalist pressure, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday requested the US embassy in Yangon refrain from using the term “Rohingya”, according to an official.

    The move follows increasing dissent from nationalist protesters after the US embassy released a statement expressing condolences for victims of a boat sinking accident who were reported to be Rohingya.

    Nationalists swarmed the US embassy in an unauthorised march along University Avenue Road on April 28. The nationalist activists and monks, backed by Ma Ba Tha – or the Committee to Protect Race and Religion as it is formally called in English – demanded the embassy retract the statement and accused the US of interfering with Myanmar affairs.

    Rohingya are not recognised as among the 135 official ethnic groups and are referred to as “Bengalis” by those who do not support their right to self-identification.

    In a statement released on May 2, Ma Ba Tha encouraged people to ignore the US embassy statement, and treat the country as if it had broken diplomatic ties with Myanmar. The term “Rohingya” is “fake” and those who use it violate the sovereignty of the state, the statement said.

    The nationalists planned to stage another, much larger rally outside the embassy on May 5, with a protest column marching in from Ayeyarwady Region. But the organisers said if the Myanmar government denounced the embassy for meddling in identity politics beforehand, the protest could be called off.

    U Soe Lynn Han, deputy director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the US embassy was advised to avoid using the term “Rohingya” in the future.

  4. NYT, Editorial Board: Aung San Suu Kyi’s Cowardly Stance on the Rohingya

    The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar that has been systematically denied the most elemental rights: citizenship, freedom of worship, education, marriage and travel. Tens of thousands of the Rohingya were driven from their homes by violence in 2012; last year many tried to flee persecution and deprivation in desperate sea voyages.

    Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate — does not want to call them Rohingya, the name they use, because nationalist Buddhists want to perpetuate the myth that they are “Bengalis” who don’t belong in Myanmar. She has also asked the United States ambassador not to use the term. Her advice is wrong and deeply disappointing. The Rohingya are every bit as Burmese as she is.

    There are many possible reasons Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — whose 15 years under house arrest made her one of the world’s best known and most respected political prisoners — might be reluctant to publicly embrace the Rohingya cause. It has been barely a month since she became leader of Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since 1962, with the title of state counselor, and she no doubt fears antagonizing the Buddhist nationalists who angrily demonstrated outside the United States Embassy in late April after the embassy referred to the “Rohingya community” in a letter of condolence for Rohingya victims of a boat sinking.

    Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi may fear that publicly calling these people by their name would upset the national reconciliation process, as a Foreign Ministry official said, or worse: that it would rekindle the terrible violence that erupted in 2012 between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State.

    There is no question that Rakhine State, one of the poorest in Myanmar, is a complex tinderbox of sectarian resentments that requires the most cautious of political approaches. But these simply cannot be based on a perpetuation of the systematic persecution and marginalization of the Rohingya in Myanmar’s social and political life. They certainly cannot be based on denying the Rohingya even their name.

    In the end, the reason Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t want the Americans to say “Rohingya” doesn’t really matter. What matters is that a woman whose name has been synonymous with human rights for a generation, a woman who showed unflinching courage in the face of despotism, has continued an utterly unacceptable policy of the military rulers she succeeded.

    Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi would be wise to reconsider her stance immediately. Her halo has been a central factor in Myanmar’s reacceptance into the world community after decades of ostracism, but already there are calls by human rights groups in the United States for President Obama to renew sanctions against the country before they expire on May 20.

  5. Wai Wai Nu, Myanmar Times: Why Rohingya? Equality and identity in Myanmar

    I belong to an ethnic group that, according to my government, does not exist. In the past few weeks, ultra-nationalist protestors have proudly proclaimed, “There are no Rohingya in our country.” And then the NLD government requested foreign embassies to refrain from using the term “Rohingya”, reportedly stating that “the controversial term does not support the national reconciliation process and solving problems”. Their statement was disappointing because it was a capitulation to the hardliners and because I, as a Rohingya, want nothing more than national reconciliation. I want to live in a Myanmar where all of Myanmar’s peoples can live together in equality and peace.

    I was born in Myanmar, my parents were born in Myanmar, and their parents were born in Myanmar. My family members have served in the Myanmar government and fought for Myanmar democracy. My father served as a teacher in government schools in Rakhine State for 30 years and was elected as a member of parliament in the 1990 elections. My mother, sister, father, brother and I were all imprisoned because of my father’s work alongside Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD in the democratic opposition. Even so, under the new NLD-led government, describing my ethnicity, language and culture has become a “controversial” political act.

    It has not always been like this.

    Growing up in Rakhine State, I knew myself to be Rohingya, and was thought of as such by my ethnically Rakhine neighbours. Depending on the context, we also referred to ourselves, and were referred to, as simply “Muslims”. Sadly, we were also frequently called “Kalar”, a derogatory name forced on us by our Rakhine and Bamar neighbours.

    To be Rohingya is, in our language, to be the people of Rohang, the geographical region in modern Rakhine State that we have inhabited dating back to at least the Mrauk-U Kingdom in the 15th century. If you go to Mrauk-U today you will find inscriptions in our language at ancient historic sites.

    Before the 1980s, the Myanmar government freely used the word Rohingya to describe us in many contexts. My family’s “household list” maintained by the local government in northern Rakhine State, where a majority of Rohingya live, listed our family’s ethnicity as Rohingya. My elder brothers’ birth certificates state Rohingya as their ethnicity.

    The debate over the word Rohingya is much more than an argument over terminology. The effort to scrub the Rohingya name from Myanmar’s official lexicon has been part of a broad campaign by the previous military government and hardline Buddhist ultra-nationalists to label us as “foreigners” and “invaders” and deny our right to inhabit Myanmar. These groups have labelled us as “Bengali”, to suggest that we are from Bangladesh, despite the fact that we have resided in Myanmar for generations.

    In part, we feel strongly about our identity as Rohingya because we have seen a direct correlation between the denial of our identity as a “national race” in Myanmar and the deterioration of our rights. Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, only certain “national races” identified by the government automatically qualify for citizenship.

    When the government created its list of national races, Rohingya and several other Muslim groups were omitted. In the 1990s, the government targeted our community with discriminatory policies, including restrictions on movement, marriage and childbirth. Under the previous military government, we were subject to many of the same abuses that other ethnic nationalities of Myanmar suffered, such as forced labour, arbitrary detention and sexual assault.

    Since 2011, when the first nominally civilian government took power, conditions for Rohingya have deteriorated even more rapidly. Mass violence in Rakhine State in 2012 resulted in hundreds of our community being killed and hundreds of thousands internally displaced, while thousands more have risked their lives to flee the country by sea. We were omitted from the first census held in 30 years. The vast majority of our community was denied the right to vote for the first time in the historic November 2015 elections that brought the NLD to power. Our candidates were singled out for disqualification. We have been segregated from our Buddhist neighbours and restricted in our movement. We have been denied access to hospitals, schools and jobs. As the situation for us has gotten worse, the call for us to deny our identity has gotten stronger.

    Meanwhile, we watch as our brothers and sisters who have also suffered under the military dictatorship – democratic activists, ethnic nationalities and other marginalised groups – approach the new “democratic era” with great hope. We too have had hope, but wonder why we have been left behind. If the NLD is really concerned with “national reconciliation” as they suggest, they should seek to include all Myanmar’s peoples in the process. The first step is to allow us to join our brothers and sisters as equals, as human beings with the right to decide the name we think best reflects our culture and our history.

  6. Poppy McPherson, Guardian: ‚No Muslims allowed‘: how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar

    At the entrance to Thaungtan village there’s a brand-new sign, bright yellow, that bears the message: “No Muslims allowed to stay overnight. No Muslims allowed to rent houses. No marriage with Muslims.”

    The post was erected in late March by Buddhist residents of the village in Myanmar’s lush Irrawaddy delta region who signed, or were strong-armed into signing, a document asserting that they wanted to live separately.

    Since then a couple of other villages across the country have followed suit. Small but viciously insular, these “Buddhist-only” outposts serve as microcosms of the festering religious tensions that threaten Myanmar’s nascent experiment with democracy.

    “Now that the post-election dust has settled, it’s business as usual for religious extremists throughout the country,” says Matthew Smith, executive director of the human rights organisation Fortify Rights. “Without a stronger counter-movement, this brand of religious discrimination will continue to flourish. Violence is inevitable.”

    The Patriotic Youth Network in Thaungtan denies links to extremist nationalist organisation Ma Ba Tha, which has waged an anti-Muslim hate campaign in recent years.

    The firebrand monk Ashin Wirathu has been accused of inciting deadly riots through his Facebook page, where he posts unsubstantiated rumours about Muslims.

    A spokesperson for the religious affairs ministry says he has not heard about “no-Muslim” villages. “Basically [complaints] should come from the regional level,” he said. He could not be reached to answer further questions.

    Bangkok Post/AFP: Rohingya boat dead ‚forced‘ to travel by sea – witnesses

    At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a packed boat capsized in choppy waters on Tuesday as it approached the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, according to the United Nations.

    Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.

    „It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport… we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine,“ Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, told AFP from Sittwe.

    The boat’s passengers had received special permission to travel by boat to the market in Sittwe from Paukaw — a journey through the mouth of a wide river that then skirts several kilometres around the coast to the capital.

    Achadtaya Chuenniran, Bangkok Post: Rohingya detainees escape, one shot dead

    Twenty-one trafficked Rohingya migrants broke out of their detention cell and escaped in the southern province of Phangnga early Monday.

    Three were quickly recaptured and a fourth was shot dead by pursuers. who said they fired in self defence when a small group of the escapees attacked them.

    Police said that the illegal migrants used a hacksaw blade to cut the bars of a second-floor cell at the Phangnga immigration bureau in tambon Tham Nam Phud and fled about 3am Monday. Fifteen of them escaped down a nearby canal, which adjoins Phangnga Bay, and the six others fled uphill.

    Pursuers caught up with the six escapees on Thong mountain. Three were arrested and one was killed.
    The officials said they fired a gun to protect themselves from attack by the desperate migrants. One Rohingya man was hit and killed by the bullet.

  7. Tej Parikh, The Diplomat: Will Genocide Be the True Cost of State Building in Myanmar?

    “If we mix religion and politics then we offend the spirit of religion itself,” said Myanmar’s independence hero Aung San, addressing his Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League party in 1946.

    Seventy years on, for his daughter and globally revered human rights icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, the doctrine has changed.

    Deeply entrenched nationalism has blurred the line between religion and politics as Myanmar seeks to build a viable state. And it’s pitting the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s pragmatism against her principles—with the lives of the nation’s Rohingya minority at the center.

    “[Aung San]…wanted the Buddhist Sanghas [associations] to retain their traditional roles and abstain from politics,” writes author Nilanjana Sengupta in her book A Gentleman’s Word. “Their contribution to nation building could be in spreading the message of brotherhood and freedom from fear but not in inflammatory communal politics.”

    But since Aung San’s assassination in 1947 and independence the year after, xenophobia has been stoked by the successive nationalist agendas of Myanmar’s leaders. With the dominant Buddhist and ethnic Bamar population—estimated at 89 percent and 68 percent respectively today—minorities were considered a hindrance to nation building.

    Attempts by the state to homogenize language, culture, and religion gained impetus among the nation’s monkhood, an institution with gargantuan civilian sway.

    Nationalist Buddhist groups like the 969 Movement, championed by Ashin Wirathu (dubbed the “Buddhist bin Laden” by some) amassed a stronger platform for their xenophobic rhetoric under former-President Thein Sein’s censorship-loosening reforms since 2011.

    The nation’s Muslims, four percent of the population, have been their top target. Rakhine state’s Rohingyas are subject to violence, discrimination, and economic exclusion. Numerous attempts to flee have seen hundreds drown at sea and thousands displaced in refugee camps, and the government afford humanitarians limited access. They are “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities,” says the UN.

    And early last month, Suu Kyi’s government—once a glimmer of hope for the minority— requested the very term “Rohingya” be renounced, failing to recognize the community’s rights as part of Myanmar’s 135 official list of ethnic groups.

    Suu Kyi’s stance is not new. Since violent riots broke out between ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya in 2012, she has remained passive, neutralizing questions by pointing out aggressions against Buddhists and downplaying the concern of international bodies.

    For some, Suu Kyi was just straddling the political line, cautious not to alienate an electorate largely sold to an entrenched islamophobic narrative. In the lead up to the National League for Democracy’s landslide election victory in November, an Al-Jazeera source reported that she deliberately purged the party of its Muslim candidates.

    For an election that received plaudits from U.S. President Barack Obama, the Rohingyas were ineligible to vote, and currently there is not a single Muslim parliamentary representative.

    Suu Kyi not only had to pander to the electorate, but also to the military which traditionally bands around nationalism and is constitutionally entitled to 25 percent of seats. But it was assumed her humanitarian streak would return once in power, more willing to tackle electorally sensitive issues years before the next election. However, Suu Kyi’s latest constraint may be the pressures of state building.

    After 27 years of playing the pro-democracy activist opposition, the NLD are in uncharted territory. In November, U Win Htein, a party spokesman, said the Rohingya would not be the party’s priority.

    Suu Kyi inherits an inefficient, unskilled, and corrupt bureaucracy, alongside a promise to deliver economic development. Elevating the strife of an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million minority may pale in comparison, particularly when factoring in a likely lengthy reconciliation process, financial resources, and potential for social instability.

    Suu Kyi is aware of the sacrifice, diplomacy, and compromise that comes with taking office. “I’ve been a politician all along. I started in politics not as a human rights defender or a humanitarian worker,” she said in a 2013 CNN interview. She will have to negotiate shrewd deals with international suitors and make controversial decisions on large construction projects. Not all parties can be satisfied.

    Bound by the realism of statecraft, Suu Kyi may be playing a long game. Forging peace between Buddhist and minority communities is likely to be more delicate, iterative, and convoluted than external observers can appreciate.

    During U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Myanmar last month, Suu Kyi asked for “enough space” to address the “emotive” Rohingya issue. On May 31, it was announced she would lead a new Central Committee for Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State, though the details remain sketchy.

    The global community is growing impatient with a woman who has come to embody revolution and democratic values. Some have suggested her Nobel Prize be revoked for failing to act definitively on her sermons, while others fear Suu Kyi sees reason in the nationalist logic of Myanmar’s past.

    The fact that she may be carefully treading the line between religion and politics is a bitter pill to swallow for her followers who feel short-sold, particularly when the Rohingya “face the final stages of genocide,” according to an 18-month study by the U.K.-based International State Crime Initiative, published last year. “The marked escalation in State-sponsored stigmatization, discrimination, violence and segregation, and the systematic weakening of the community, make precarious the very existence of the Rohingya,” it adds.

    The clock is ticking on Suu Kyi, with her legacy deeply intertwined with the fate of Myanmar’s long-persecuted minority.

  8. Joe Cochrane, New York Times: Lives Still in Limbo, One Year After Southeast Asia Migrant Crisis

    Only 46 have been resettled by a third country.

    “It’s not easy,” said Mr. Mohammed, 24, who was on the green-and-red fishing boat packed with men, women and children that journalists found adrift in the Andaman Sea last year. “Like I’m happy I’m alive, but mostly I’m unhappy. But I’m always thinking, third country, third country, third country, please, please.”

    Most of the 1,622 Bangladeshis who landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have been sent home, with the rest expected to follow this year.

    Many of the Rohingya made it to Malaysia clandestinely, blending in with the tens of thousands of Rohingya already living and working there. The Malaysian government has long turned a blind eye to this migration. But the price for the migrants is a life in the shadows, without official status and prey to exploitation by unscrupulous employers, corrupt police officers and loan sharks.

    Last month, the first Rohingya refugees from the 2015 crisis were resettled. The United States took in 43, and Canada three. Aid workers said the United States was considering taking in more refugees and was encouraging other countries to do so.

    The flow of migrants out of Myanmar and Bangladesh has ebbed, for now at least, because of increased patrols by those countries, as well as Thailand and Malaysia, according to international aid organizations.

    The crackdown has deterred migrants and driven up the price, said Alistair Boulton, assistant regional representative for protection at the United Nations refugees office in Bangkok.

    “The price of the voyage has tripled or quadrupled,” he said.

    Yet demand remains high, thanks to poor conditions in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and officials fear that smuggling could pick up again after monsoon season winds down in September.

    “Human smuggling is more profitable than drugs or guns, so these guys presumably running this are not amateurs,” said Joe Lowry, a spokesman for the Organization for Migration in Bangkok.

    “If the international community and the regional governments drop their guards, this will happen again,” he said. “People want to go where there are jobs; people want to escape persecution.”


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