Date: 8 June 2012.

Burma Needs International Support To Stop the Violence!
Sectarian Violence in Burma could Spark Regional and Global Instability

The sectarian strife in Burma between the Muslim and the Buddhist has dramatically escalated in the past few days. According to the latest media reports, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims torched as many as 14 to 17 villages near the border towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Arakan (Rakhine) State on Friday, 8 June 2012. Also, the Arakanese-owned properties were destroyed by the angry mob of Rohingya Muslims. Allegedly four people were killed, and the government imposed curfew in all these restive areas. This violence began in the form of protests against the massacre of 10 Muslims in Taungup, a southern Arakanese town on Sunday, 3 June 2012. A coach travelling from Taungup to Rangoon was raided by the angry mob who were believed to be Buddhists near Taungup and 10 Muslims onboard were killed as an act of vengeance for the tragic incident last month. An Arakanese woman was allegedly gang-raped and killed by three young Muslims in northern Arakan State last month which ignited all these subsequent incidents of tit for tat. Although small-scale riots of the Buddhist versus the Muslim occurred in certain up-Burma towns in the past, such incidents were rare and usually used as a means to divert the public attention from political problems by the ruling juntas. The conflicts between the Muslim and the Buddhist Arakanese break out often in Arakan State, particularly in the northern part where the Rohingya Muslims are densely populated. The majority Arakanese are devout Buddhists and the conflict between the Arakanese and the Rohingya has significantly soared since the Rohingya began to claim that they are a minority ethnic in Arakan. The issue of Rohingya, whether they are Bengali immigrants or indigenous Muslim minority, has been a sensitive and complicated issue that needs to be resolved with the assistance of the independent and external bodies such as the United Nations, a panel of dignified historians, anthropologists and sociologists (both domestic and international), and essentially the government of Burma, the opposition led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic leaders. The Rohingya crisis has been increasingly highlighted in the media recently, and the Western governments have begun to raise this issue following the inconsiderate and reckless lobbying of a few individuals and organisations. It is sorrowful and unacceptable that the Rohingya are losing their basic rights and freedoms in Burma and across the world being labelled as stateless persons. However, their right to reside in Burma is a matter of immigration and their claim to be recognised as an ethnic nationality has complicated the issue that caused unnecessary consequences. The 1

right to citizenship and the right to reside have been, unfortunately and wrongfully, connected with other rights and freedoms by certain human rights campaigning organisations and individuals working for Burma. This subsequently provoked the Western governments to call on the government of Burma to resolve the Rohingya conflict as a matter of urgency. The Western governments still need to do their home work, and simply echoing the professional lobbyists’ words has now instigated unfortunate and unnecessary consequences in Burma. The Rohingya must be able to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms. Nonetheless, the Rohingya issue is not a straightforward and quick-fix problem that the Western governments fail to realise. If these violent conflicts increased and have become intractable, the current process of liberalisation and a gradual transition to democracy will be disrupted and the military rule will return. This sectarian violence and racial riots could spread not only the entire Burma but across the region which will threaten the regional stability. More importantly, these conflicts could provoke the Islamist terrorists to re-energise their actions across the world. The tension between the Burmese Muslims and the Buddhist majority has been extremely worrying. Therefore, the international media as well as the Burmese media of both local and exiled, and the international community must act and speak carefully with regards to the ongoing violence in Burma. The media, the governments, the intergovernmental organisations, and any non-governmental organisations should avoid using any sensitive and racially and religiously motivated words, descriptions and speeches. The international community needs to support Burma to stop such barbaric acts of both the Muslim (whether they are Burmese Muslims or the Rohingya) and the Buddhist. Unless Burma achieves a genuine transition to democracy and political stability, this prolonged crisis of the Rohingya will not be resolved. Only a strong and fully democratic government can impose systematic and effective immigration rules and regulations, and it can cooperate with the international community effectively to resolve the problem. As long as the Rohingya crisis is not resolved, the vicious cycle of revenge between the Rohingya and the Arakanese, the Burmese Muslim and the Buddhist will continue. If the ensuing sectarian violence grows, not only Burma will face dire consequences but also the entire region and the whole world could suffer the consequences of possible extremist and Islamist terrorism. Therefore, the international community needs to support Burma to end the ongoing violence by making sure that the root cause of sectarian violence in Burma is well-understood, and any necessary supports are provided accordingly.

Burma Independence Advocates Park House 111 Uxbridge Road Ealing London United Kingdom W5 5LB
The Burma Independence Advocates (BIA) is a London-based advocacy organisation and think tank working for the restoration of democratic values in Burma. The organisation is registered as a private company limited by guarantee and was founded in 2009 with the aim of helping the people of Burma achieve the full enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Company number: 7111145.

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