Burma Times Special Report: 08 December, 2015
When a man reaches the twilight years of his life, he might expect to rest after a lifetime of hard work. But 80 year old Noor Bashar could not afford this luxury. He still had to worry about putting food at the tables, in a part of the world where food is scarcely available. A desperate Noor, along with 10 other people left their village and set off through the mountains ignoring the chilly cold.
Four days later their desperate search for work and food ended. As they made their way through the cold mountains, they were apprehended by the security forces and taken into custody. Their crime was leaving their village, a serious offence in the eyes of the authorities in this state known as Arakan in Western Burma. Noor along with his fellow ‘escapees’, were given rigorous sentences on the very first day of 2015, a month a half after being apprehended.
The timing was also significant for another reason. Scarcely 48 hours earlier, the UN General Assembly had passed a resolution urging the government of Myanmar to recognise the Rohingyas as equal citizens. The resolution clearly stated that like all other citizens of the country, the Rohingyas should be allowed free access to all parts of the country. The resolution fell on deaf ears at the court of Buthidaung township where the judge passed the rigorous imprisonment sentences that gave up to five years for these 11 Rohingyas, for the crime of leaving their village.
Currently, the estimated million Rohingyas inside the country are forbidden from leaving their designated zones, or the IDP camps. In these Rohingya areas, access to food and healthcare is extremely difficult to come by, and many are surviving in near death circumstances.
Another clause in the now much talked about UN resolution urges the government to allow the Rohingyas to identify themselves as ‘Rohingya’. Burma views the minority Muslim community as illegal immigrants from the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. Yet in the days following the landmark UN resolution, the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department stated that only those Rohingyas who would be willing to be identified as Bengalis can take part in the citizenship verification process that they hope to resume this month.
The department also announced with much satisfaction that 10,000 people in the State has been willing to identify themselves as Bengalis and take part in the process. The move is another blatant violation of the UN General Assembly resolution. See more at http://burmatimes.net/rohingyas-continue-identified-bengalis/
Meanwhile as Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights rapporteur for Burma lands today at the Sittwe (Akyab) airport to assess the situation, she will be greeted by anti Muslim protesters. She might reminiscent on some particular clause in the resolution- – the ones calling for the government to ensure peaceful co-existence in the state and ending hate speech against the Rohingyas.
In this week following the resolution, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims continue as unabated as before. While it is still too early in the day, everything is a grim reminder that Burma wholeheartedly plans to ignore the UN resolution.