There is strong evidence that Myanmar’s Rohingya people are facing genocide at the hands of the country’s Buddhist rulers, leaving the ethnic minority group with little choice but to either die at the hands of local persecution, or put their lives in the hands of “people-smugglers” and attempt to flee the country on overcrowded vessels. This has come to light in a recent investigation conducted by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit into the maltreatment of Muslims in the Southeast Asian state.
The country is due to head to the polls in what is being labelled as Myanmar’s first ‘free and fair’ elections in 25 years; however the claim is contencious. Not a single Muslim candidate has been registered by any of the competing political parties, while the ruling leadership have allegedly gone to great lengths in order to make the election ‘Muslim-free’.
“Most of the world is looking at this election as being a positive thing because it certainly represents a change in Burma from the dark days of military rule, but they are really ignoring the plight of one million people who are basically facing genocide there,” said Phil Rees, manager of the Investigation Journalism Directorate at Al Jazeera.
Rees says the biggest problem Rohingya are facing is that very few within the country are willing or eager to speak up about their plight. Most notable has been the silence of Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi who has made no mention of the Rohingya issue.
“There are (nearly) 1 200 candidates from her party, and what one person told me was that there’s been a purge of Muslims in her party as they don’t think Muslims can win the election, because the government has deliberately stirred up anti-Muslim sentiment (amongst the public),” he explained.
The situation in Myanmar has also proven how a government has, to great affect used Islamophobia to stoke anger and fear amongst the broader public. According to Rees, this includes the widespread use of anti-Islamic propaganda, particularly in branding Muslims as ‘foreigners’ and ‘invaders’ to the country.
“They’re creating this politics and culture of fear, and they’re doing that for their own political ends. I think there is also a much wider narrative in the world today, where Islamophobia can be used by politicians to serve their own political interests. The long term effects of that however are extremely damaging for all community,” he stressed.
The full Al Jazeera documentary into ethnic discrimination in Myanmar can be viewed via the following link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/exclusive-strong-evidence-genocide-myanmar-151024190547465.html. VOC