BERLIN - The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims was initiated in the 1970s with a long-time plan. Rohingyas were one of the recognized ethnic groups in Burma during the parliamentary government after the independence of the country.
But a 1982 citizenship act was implemented by the world's most notorious dictator Ne Win to make the Rohingya a stateless minority. The act imposes restrictions on Rohingyas in terms of marriage, travel, business and so on.
Getting a marriage contract is a mission impossible for Rohingya Muslims. The application must be submitted to the authorities in advance with assurances to get the contract. The process could take up a couple of year or more, depending on how much the couple can pay bribes to the authorities.
The agreement must be signed by the Muslim couple that they would not have more than two children. The approval of the permission would not be obtained without bribing. As having more than two children is prohibited, the extra children become undocumented children.
Another headache for Rohingya Muslims is the freedom of movement, which is strictly controlled. Moving from one village to another needs an authorization from local authorities, let alone the time spent and money paid to get the travelling approval paper.
It is more restricted for Rohingya Muslims to travel from the capital, which becomes an easy task as long as the person is able to offer huge bribes to authorities. Travelling to Burma's former capital, Rangoon, is impossible for Rohingya Muslims, even if the person can offer attractive bribes to authorized personnel of the government. These travel restrictions cause Rohingya Muslims to lose lives over inability to get medical help.
Many checkpoints are erected across villages and towns to verify travel permissions. If someone fails to present the permission, he will be sentenced to prison. The prison period for violators depends on how much bribes can be paid to authorities.
In some circumstances, Burmese authorities allow visits to neighboring Bangladesh with border-pass passport for a few days. But if the traveler failed to show up on time, he will not be allowed back into the country.
Many Rohingya Muslims, who have been getting medical treatment abroad, have become illegal immigrants in Bangladesh because they could not return back home on time and the authorities refuse to hear their complaints as the government is happy to see Rohingya leaving the country.
Under official restrictions, Rohingya Muslim students were denied the right to study at medical and engineering universities, which are only available in Rangoon and Mandalay.
The regional college is available in the State's capital Sittwe, where Rohingya students have to get travel permits to be allowed to studied, but the permit is only given for a few weeks and the students find no other way but to go back for renewing.
The delay in issuing travel permits by authorities causes the attendance records of Rohingya students not to meet the requirement for sitting for the examination. Some students do not get the travel permit during the examination time. All these restrictions cause only a few Rohingya students continue their study till graduation.
Rohingya are also banned from working as high-ranking officers in governmental sectors since the introduction of the new citizenship act. They don't also have a chance to even work as low-ranking officers. This even applies to businessmen, where Rohingya businessmen find no other option but to pay huge amounts of money to Rakhine (Buddhist) businessmen to get business permits. They are occasionally extorted and habitually jailed without any reasons.
Rohingya working in the Middle East and south-east Asian countries have left their families in Burma, but they do not find a way to return home. Many complain that once a Rohingya Muslim leaves the country, his name will strike out from family registration paper.
Rohingyas are widely used as forced labors. They are forcibly ordered to work till projects are completed as well as in houses of authorities' personnel.
In the wake of the recent communal unrest in Maungdaw Township, Rohingya were used as forced labors to build up the damaged houses of Rakhine Buddhists. Rohingya men were brutally tortured for refusing to carry out the order and some were arrested.
The Rohingya people always have fear. During last month's communal unrest I had conversations with some relatives. They don't feel free to talk about the brutal killing and the attacks. Their properties were looted and the houses were burnt down into ashes. They were forced to leave from the town where their generations lived for centuries. They are in trouble for lack of foods and medical treatments.
Worse still, the Rakhine Buddhist monks and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) are barring assistance from NGOs. Restrictions on access of international media stumble efforts to produce the true news how the violence was taken place there.The Rohingyas are living in an open prison, which can be broken by the pressures of the international community, the United Nations, ASEAN and the European Union. The economic interest of the United States on Burma should be carefully scrutinized again as the ethnics Kachin and Rohingya are still suffering.