This video says about itself:
By Ramzy Baroud:
Tuesday 26th May 1915
The world’s most persecuted minority are being abandoned in their darkest hour, writes RAMZY BAROUD
Abbott’s logic is as pitiless as his decision to abandon the world’s most persecuted minority in their darkest hour. “Don’t think that getting on a leaky boat at the behest of a people smuggler is going to do you or your family any good,” he said.
The whole south-east Asian region is culpable. It has ignored the plight of the Rohingya for years.
While tens of thousands of Rohingya are being ethnically cleansed, having their villages torched, forced into concentration camps and some into slavery, Myanmar is being celebrated by various Western and Asian powers as a success story of a military junta-turned democracy.
“After Myanmar moved from dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, newfound freedoms of expression gave voice to Buddhist extremists who spewed hatred against the religious minority and said Muslims were taking over the country,” reported the Associated Press from the former Myanmar capital Yangon.
That “newfound freedom of expression” has cost hundreds of people their lives, thousands their properties and “another 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes and are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded displacement camps.”
While one may accept that freedom of expression sometimes invites hate speech, the idea that Myanmar’s supposed democracy has resulted in the victimisation of the Rohingya is as far from the truth as it gets.
Their endless suffering goes back decades and is considered one of the darkest chapters in south-east Asia’s modern history.
When they were denied citizenship in 1982 — despite the fact that it is believed that they descended from Muslim traders who settled in Arakan and other Myanmar regions over 1,000 years ago — their persecution became almost an official policy.
Even those who take to the sea to escape hardship in Myanmar find the coveted salvation hard to achieve.
“In Myanmar, they are subjected to forced labour, have no land rights and are heavily restricted. In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects,” reported the BBC.
And since many parties are interested in the promotion of the illusion of the rising Myanmar democracy few governments care about the Rohingya.
Despite recent grandstanding by Malaysia and Indonesia about the willingness to conditionally host the surviving Rohingya who have been stranded at sea for many days, the region as a whole has been “extremely unwelcoming,” according to Chris Lewa of the Rohingya activist group Arakan Project.
The stories of those who survive are as harrowing as those who die while floating at sea, with no food or water.
In a documentary aired late last year, Al-Jazeera reported on some of these stories.
“Muhibullah spent 17 days on a smuggler’s boat where he saw a man thrown overboard. On reaching Thai shores, he was bundled into a truck and delivered to a jungle camp packed with hundreds of refugees and armed men, where his nightmare intensified. Bound to shafts of bamboo, he says he was tortured for two months to extract a $2,000 ransom from his family.
“Despite the regular beatings, he felt worse for women who were dragged into the bush and raped. Some were sold into debt bondage, prostitution and forced marriage.”
Human rights groups report on such horror daily, but much of it fails to make it to media coverage simply because the plight of the Rohingya doesn’t constitute a “pressing matter.”
Yet somehow the Rohingyas seep into our news occasionally, as they did in June 2012 and later months, when Rakhine Buddists went on violent rampages, burning villages and setting people ablaze under the watchful eye of the Myanmar police.
Then Myanmar was being elevated to non-pariah state status, with the support and backing of the US and European countries.
It is not easy to sell Myanmar as a democracy while its people are hunted down like animals, forced into deplorable camps, trapped between the army and the sea where thousands have no other escape but “leaky boats” and the Andaman Sea. Abbott might want to do some research before blaming the Rohingyas for their own misery.
So far, the “democracy” gambit is working, and many companies are now setting up offices in Yangon and preparing for massive profits.
This is all while hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women and men are being caged like animals in their own country, stranded at sea or held for ransom in some neighbouring jungle.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries must understand that good neighbourly relations cannot fully rely on trade and that human rights violators must be held accountable and punished for their crimes.
No efforts should be spared to help fleeing Rohingyas, and real international pressure must be enforced so that Myanmar abandons its infuriating arrogance.
Even if we are to accept that Rohingyas are not a distinct minority, as the Myanmar government argues, that doesn’t justify the unbearable persecution they have been enduring for years and the periodic acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
A minority or not, they are human, deserving of full protection under national and international law.
While one is not asking the US and its allies for war or sanctions, the least one should expect is that Myanmar must not be rewarded for its fraudulent democracy as it brutalises its minorities.
Failure to do so should compel civil society organisations to stage boycott campaigns of companies that conduct business with the Myanmar government.
Ramzy Baroud is the author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).