The plight of Muslims in Burma

In various circles of the civilized world, efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi against Myanmar’s military junta and her efforts for peace are spoken loudly of. Time and again she has been hailed as the epitome of peace, liberty, and human rights. But the Muslims in Myanmar who are fleeing in droves to find shelter in neighboring Bangladesh, believe she is nothing but pure evil.

One such Rohingya who managed to flee Myanmar said that Aung San Suu Kyi has done nothing for his community. In fact, if anything, they have done something for her – they have supported her campaign in desperate times.

This Rohingya is one of the many Rohingyas who fled Myanmar military crackdown, a crackdown that appears to be a clear sign of ethnic cleansing. And that too right under the nose of San Suu Kyi, the vanguard of peace, who in her capacity as state counselor, is charged with the duty of overseeing Myanmar’s military.

The attacks, according to Rohingya seem to be the result of deliberate efforts and meticulous planning. They are far from random acts of terrorism. Recalling the horrors of the attack, one Rohingya recounted how deadly missiles were fired at their homes, following which, soldiers swarmed their community to set the houses on fire. Soldiers riding helicopters could clearly be seen firing rocket-propelled grenades at the village.

Militants contend they are doing this to restore the rights of Rohingyas and to bring an end to apartheid. However, it barely makes sense how the mass destruction and assaults over unarmed innocent civilians can bring peace.

Whatever’s happening to Rohingyas is not new. Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted people on the face of earth. If you look at statistics, almost one million of them have fled the country in search for cover since 1970s. And half of these found refuge in Bangladesh. When asked about their views, Buddhists of Myanmar said that Rohingyas have never been able to fit into the bigger historical narrative of the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi is being accused of failing to live up to her father’s dream to build a multi-ethnic Burma. Under her watch, her father’s dream of an ethnically diverse Burma has crumbled in the largest of ways. Caving to pressure from Budhist extremists, she failed to realize she had a duty to heal the fractured society.

Aung San Suu Kyi went so far as calling the whole thing false. Blaming the violence to terrorists, she labelled the whole thing as mere distortion of truth. But whether or not it is an act of military, and whether or not the military is answerable to her, she must realize lives are being taken – lives of innocent men, women and children. Lives of unarmed civilians who mean no harm to anyone. Whether or not she has any direct control of the situation, she is answerable to the world at large – to the people who once lauded her for her Nobel peace award, people who are calling into question her claim to this award.

Aung San Suu Kyi has a duty to people who supported her peace activities in past. She has a duty to put her foot down and question the inhumane treatment being meted out to innocent civilians. She has a duty to put an end to the barbaric treatment that she herself vowed to stop in the past. Her commitment to peace and deliberations, her efforts to uphold the values of democracy, and her respect for human rights all amount to nothing if she stays silent at a moment when the world is in grief over the harrowing atrocities in her own country.

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