umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.05.27 | 08 Sha’ban 1436 H
On Wednesday, 27 May, Radio Islam hosted a “Rohingya Day” when our entire programming spotlight was on the history, discrimination by the government, economic marginalisation and human rights abuses against the Rohingya people.
The hashtag we had selected for Twitter - #riRohingyaDay began trending at number 2 in South Africa by 7.50 am, and internationally by 8.30am. #RohingyaCrisis, a hashtag we ran concurrently also trended.
Guests included David Kramer and Adv. Shabnam Mayat from Protect the Rohingya; Nay San Lwin from the Burmese Rohingya association of Germany; Human Rights Watch and activist Bilal Abdul Kareem who has just returned from Aceh, Indonesia and met with the Rohingya "boat people".
International crackdowns on human trafficking over the last three weeks have highlighted the plight of 3000 pitiful Muslim refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh dumped on Southeast Asia's beaches. They’ve been stranded after smugglers abandoned their rickety boats on the way to Malaysia. 3500 more refugees are currently adrift in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, drowned, lost at sea, or blocked by Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian authorities from reaching land.
The U.N. estimates that 86,000 people, mainly Rohingya, have fled by boat in the two years since clashes erupted between the majority Buddhist and Muslim populations. They’ve thus been susceptible to smugglers and human trafficking.
In 1982, Myanmar approved a law that officially restricted citizenship to members of ethnic groups it said had settled in modern-day Myanmar prior to 1823. The Rohingya were not considered one of those groups and its members effectively became stateless.
The lack of citizenship deprives Rohingya of basic rights, including access to education, freedom of movement, land rights, the protection of their property and the right to marry freely.
Hatred for the Rohingya in Rakhine state stems from frustration and anger under years of authoritarianism that are now being directed towards Muslims. The tensions between Buddhists and the Rohingya led to major violence in 2012 and 2013, when clashes left hundreds dead and forced 140,000 Royingya people to flee their homes for temporary refugee camps outside the state capital, Sittwe. The anti-Rohingya sentiment transgresses Rakhine state's border and is widespread among Myanmar's Buddhist population. Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, said in 2012 that the “only solution” to the sectarian strife between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine was to expel the Rohingya to other countries or to apartheid camps. Such hypocrisy exists on this subject that even Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Myanmar, has failed to speak out about it.
The Rohingya problem will only be resolved when and if the international community puts pressure on Myanmar to improve the lives of the Rohingya community. Ultimately it is only Burma, Allah willing, who can solve the problem. A series of meetings have now been called in the region to address the crisis, but Myanmar is refusing to attend them.