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Find Rohingya Solution: Politicians Urged

Published: 10/11/2012 05:18:22 PM GMT
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CAIRO - As volatile Burma prepares for US President Barack Obama's visit, political solutions were urged for the exploding situation as radical Buddhists escalated their violent attacks against Rohingya prosecuted Muslim mino (more)

CAIRO - As volatile Burma prepares for US President Barack Obama's visit, political solutions were urged for the exploding situation as radical Buddhists escalated their violent attacks against Rohingya prosecuted Muslim minority.

“He [Obama] absolutely has to raise the issue [of the Rohingya],” Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, a Thailand-based NGO monitoring abuses in western Burma, told The Guardian.

“It's a great opportunity to press the government on the 1982 citizenship law [which denies the Rohingya citizenship].

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“It would be disappointing if he didn't,” Lewa added.

Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.

They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.

The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.

With Obama due to visit the country in a fortnight, renewed sectarian war against Burma's Muslims will be placed on Washington's warming relations with the Thein Sein administration.

Official figures have shown that at least 180 people have been killed in deadly clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine since June.

The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 percent of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.

Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June.

“I saw at least 21 bodies before I left,” said Khamal Alam, a 25-year-old from the Rohingya minority.

Alam fled his home town of Kyaukphyu when Burmese government troops opened fire on the Muslims during latest urgest which erupted three weeks ago.

Arriving at the Thae Chaung refugee camp, Alam found other miserable stories of the religious war running in his home town of Kyaukphyu.

“Nobody died from the sword, only gunshots,” said another Kyaukphyu resident now in the camp.

Political Efforts

As preparations continued for Obama's visit, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged Burma's political leaders to take solid steps towards solving the exploding issue.

“The flare-up in Rakhine State represents a deeply disturbing backward step,” from Burma's reforms after decades of junta rule, the Brussels-based rights group said in a report on the crisis due to be released on Monday cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday, November 10.

“This is a time when political leaders must rise to the challenge of shaping public opinion rather than just following it.

“A failure to do so will be to the detriment of the country,” it added.

The group urged President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to show “moral leadership” if Burma is to stem communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists.

The volatile Rakhine situation needs “decisive moral leadership… by both President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi to prevent it spreading and contribute towards long-term solutions,” ICG's report says.

The leading group also urged the Burmese government to curb nationalist rhetoric from ethnic Buddhists, warning of the threat of rising “identity politics” in Burma.

The ICG report follows comments made earlier this month by Burmese democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in which she declined to show support for Bengali-ethnic Muslims.

Suu Kyi said she will not use "moral leadership" to back any sides in the deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the Asian country.

Burma is about 90 percent Buddhist and the majority are ethnically Burman, but the remaining people are a diverse group of over 100 ethnic and religious minorities.

Treating Buddhism as the state de facto religion, the Buddhist Burman majority was singled out as the trustworthy pillar of national identity.

The latest bout of violence has raised concerns that the violence could spread to other parts of Burma, where Muslims make up about 4 percent of the population.

Reproduced with permission from