Burma’s President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in western Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state June 10 following an uprising by the Muslim Rohingya people, in which hundreds of homes of Buddhist villagers were put to the torch. At least seven have been killed since the incident that sparked the violence. The rape and murder of a Buddhist woman was blamed on Rohingyas; a bus full of Muslim pilgrims was then waylaid by a mob, who beat 10 of the passengers to death. The pilgrims, who were returning to Rangoon from Thetsa Masjid in the Rakhine town of Thandwe, appear not to have even been Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are a stateless people; the Burmese government maintains they are “illegal” immigrants from Bangladesh, and periodically rounds them up by the hundreds to deport them across the border—where, far from being welcomed, they languish in refugee camps. (See map.) In Burma, they face harsh restrictions on their movements, and are denied the right to have more than two children per family by law. “The government needs to recognize…that its discriminatory policies against the Rohingyas that [have] denied them citizenship and subjected them to such restrictions need to be lifted,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. “They need to be treated as people of Burma and recognized as such.” (Radio Australia, The Telegraph, June 11; AFP, June 9; The Voice of Rohingya, June 4)
See our last post on Burma.