MuslimMatters is pleased to announce a new, regular series on the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Burma presented by Fiza Asar, a talented communications professional based in the United Kingdom. She is extremely interested in the “other”-ing of certain peoples by media and the interplay of media with politics, culture and identity-making. Below is the first of inshā'Allāh many enlightening contributions from Sr. Fiza.
ASEAN members divided over Rohingya issue -
and the innocent continue to suffer
Updated: Ramadan, having left us only recently, should have also left in us the spirit of sacrifice and sympathy for those in need. Unfortunately, during this Ramadan, the persecution against Rohingya Muslims of Burma peaked to newer levels. Whilst it was reported that London 2012 organisers approached Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to London in June 2012, right before the Olympics (an avenue where world diversity and unity are celebrated), Muslims in Burma were being murdered, persecuted and fleeing their homes for safety. Last week, we noticed, how ASEAN, member countries of which are increasingly impacted by this crisis, is divided on the issue.
In its press release on Aug. 1, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a press release on August 1st, clearly showed how Burmese security forces had been involved in killings, mass arrests and rapes of Rohingya Muslims. However, the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has still focused on other issues in the region paying little heed to this violation of human rights.
There are over 800,000 Muslims in Rohingya, according to UNHCR. Close to 100,000 Rohingya Muslims are refugees based in camps across Burma, and Bangladesh alone. Despite hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Burma being displaced in the wake of recent persecution, raped and killed as well, we have noticed inadequate media coverage of the topic and even leaders around the Muslim world have not come to the help of Rohingya as should have been.
Bangladesh has refused to allow more Rohingya refugees within its borders. Similarly, Thai authorities have also raised concerns about Rohingya illegal migration to their country for asylum. In fact, since late 1970s, Rohingya Muslims have been routinely forced to return to Burma by Bangladeshi authorities.
In an ASEAN Immigration Intelligence Forum held recently in Phuket, the Thai authorities also complained that Rohingya migrating to Thailand are en route to Australia and therefore Australia's responsibility.
Indonesian authorities in the same forum eagerly proposed solutions. Accommodating the largest number of Rohingya refugees migrating via North Sumatra, in this recent crisis, they felt that it was getting more difficult to relocate them to third countries as other countries did not want them. They too hoped to curtail it and resolve the issue somehow as could not afford to have more refugees staying in the country.
If Rohingya people continue to suffer and other countries increasingly continue to curtail their entry as refugees, the crisis will only intensify further. It becomes more imperative for us to increase media attention to this issue so that organizations like ASEAN, UNHCR and governments of countries become more sensitive to the issue and pressurize Burma into giving justice.
What can we do? Contact big channels like BBC, CNN, and popular local channels within your countries to report on the Rohingya suffering. Write letters or emails to them or give them a call. Please leave comments below if you have other ideas.
Five reasons no one carers about the Rohingya by Youssef Chouhoud
Get the facts about the Rohingya people by Islamic Relief USA