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Burma's Persecuted Muslims_The-Times-0204 13

Burma's Persecuted Muslims_The-Times-0204 13

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Burmese Muslims
Burmese Muslims

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Published by: shahidac on Apr 04, 2013
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Burma’s Persecuted Muslims
 Amid an easing of political repression, there ishorrifying communal violence
Published at 12:01AM, April 2 2013
 After nearly half a century of dictatorship and impoverishment, Burma suddenly embarked on internal reforms in 2010. Progress has been moderate but sustained, with greater openness, the lifting of press censorship and the freeing of politicalprisoners (most prominently Aung San Suu Kyi). But one distressing and brutalfeature of life in Burma remains: violence against civilians.Satellite photographs released by Human Rights Watch, the campaign group,show widespread destruction in the central city of Meiktila. Riots directed againstMuslims broke out last month. Over three days, more than 40 people were killed,scores more were injured and thousands were driven from their homes. Thephotographs show the scene before and after the riots. An area of some 24hectares has been razed, with row upon row of houses attacked and burnt.Meiktila is only the latest instance of violent persecution of Burma’s Muslims.State media have reported more than 160 outbreaks of violence in 15 townships. Itis scarcely conceivable that the police have had neither warning nor the ability topacify the violence in any of these cases, and there have been few arrests. Theseattacks are not some spontaneous and unpredictable uprising, nor are they adequately described as communal violence. They are evidence of what was knownin Bosnia 20 years ago as ethnic cleansing —itself a euphemism, whose chillingreality of expulsion and murder was nonetheless impossible to obscure.The worst attacks have happened in Rakhine State, on the Western coast of Burma. It is home to a Muslim and stateless minority called the Rohingya. Afterthe rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman a year ago, rioting directedagainst the Rohingya Muslims killed hundreds. As many as 100,000 Muslims may have fled their homes in Sittwe, the state capital. Refugees have been living insqualid conditions for months.The Muslim victims in Meiktila are not Rohingya but a long-establishedpopulation whose descendants came from India. Though tensions betweenMuslims and Buddhists have existed for decades, the ferocity of the violence issomething new. President Thein Sein has said that there will be a stern response,
Page 1 of 3Burma’s Persecuted Muslims | The Times02/04/2013http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3728463.ece
and so there must be. But the story is still more disturbing than he implies. Thereare strong indications that the displacement of Muslims is intended to bepermanent, and that the traces of Muslim life and worship are being eradicated with official connivance.That is another disturbing respect in which the Bosnian catastrophe offers anaugury. Xenophobia and ethnic expulsion were tolerated and then promoted; andutter horror was in the end visited upon a European Muslim population.Burma’s authorities need not only to declare that the lives and livelihoods of Muslims will be safeguarded. They should acknowledge that the Muslims inBurma are not an alien population but a people with rights, whose displacementshould be reversed. So should Ms Suu Kyi, whose heroism in standing against theoppression of Burma’s military regime has sadly not been matched by any vocalstand in defence of persecuted Muslims. Countries, including the UK, that havemade openings to Burma in the new political environment should use theirdiplomatic weight. The victims of violence and arson need protection. Burma’ssecurity forces, which have so grievously failed, need to start providing it.
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40 minutes ago
Derek Tonkin
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There is currently much speculation about the origins of the Muslimpopulation of Meiktila. Recent visitors there generally agree that theMuslim families go back several generations and are of 19th CenturyIndian origin. But whether most of them came originally from Bengal (likethe 'Rohingya') or from further north in India is not altogether clear. The1940 Baxter Report of the Burmese Government on Indian immigrationlisted Meiktila as one of five towns in Upper Burma with a sizeable"Indian" population.By the 1930s there were already serious outbreaks of communal violencein Burma resulting from uncontrolled migration from India into Burma. Atone point there were more Indians -Hindus and Muslims -living inRangoon than Burmese. The Baxter Report recommendations on
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Derek Tonkin
Page 2 of 3Burma’s Persecuted Muslims | The Times02/04/2013http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article3728463.ece

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