More than 100 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in a recent wave of sectarian violence in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.
The deadly violence peaked on Tuesday night, but people have been killed every day this week, said Hla Thein, the vice chairman of the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD).
Myanmar army forces allegedly provided the Buddhists with containers of petrol to set ablaze the houses of Muslim villagers and force them out of their houses.
The Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas and has classified them as illegal migrants, even though the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origins, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Kamran Bokhari, Mideast and South Asia director at the Stratfor, from London, to further discuss the issue.
He is joined by three additional guests: Nurul Islam, with the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, from London; Sarnata Reynolds, with the Statelessness-Refugees International, from Washington; and James Jennings, the president of Conscience International, from Atlanta. The following is a rough transcription of the interview with Bokhari.
Press TV: Just the way this was reported, Kamran Bokhari, is very enlightening. Let’s look at the way, for example, when we’re seeing what has occurred compared to, for example, a Pakistani girl that was shot, of how the media picked up on that but here we have all these deaths occurring. Why is it that the media is picking and choosing one girl over all these deaths that are occurring in the same area of the world?
Bokhari: It’s very simple, because the media is a business, you know; and depending on which media we are talking about, there is emphasis on one story over the other.
Clearly, the “AFPAC” region, as it’s called in North America, is sort of taking center stage in addition to the Arab Spring.
Issues like the Muslims of Myanmar who are neither in Myanmar as citizens, as my co-panelist just pointed out, and they’re neither welcome in Bangladesh, an issue like that really sort of doesn’t register in terms of the editorial policy. I guess if there was a shortage of issues elsewhere, this would pick up.
At some point it becomes a sort of fatigue. I recall a few months ago, this was getting a lot of attraction in the international media. But it all depends on the timing. If there are other issues that are considered more burning, then obviously other issues that are not considered equally important won’t get a whole lot of coverage.
Press TV: I’m sorry but this is not convincing me and I’m sure it’s not convincing a lot of our viewers, Kamran Bokhari, of why this is going on. We could look at facts. There’s about 135, based on research done, ethnicities that live in Myanmar. It doesn’t explain the fact of why they’re being treated this way. If it’s a question of where they come from, they’ve been living there all this time.
Again, it doesn’t explain why they have to be treated – we’re talking about women being raped, there’s executions, and there’s very gory details behind some of the killings taking place, so people are asking why?
Bokhari: There’s never one answer or a good answer for why to any conflict. There’s no shortage of conflict around the world especially in that part of the world. We’re having a huge conflict in Syria, and one can ask the same question why is it happening?
To answer your question, the issue is very simple. There’s a group of people that have no place and they’re sort of shuttling between two nation states, both of whom do not want them or at least not in large numbers.
If they do allow them to come in, they place a great deal of restrictions on them, which any government would do from its security point of view.
If you look at it from the point of view of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi government, as one of the panelists rightfully pointed out, is a poor country. They don’t have the resources.
The fear is that if you allow ‘X’ number of these people to come in and settle down, then that sets a precedent, then somewhere they have to draw a line from their national security point of view.
Likewise, the authorities in Myanmar, and I’d like to point out that I do see a difference in the way the Myanmar government is viewing these people and those Buddhist forces that are clashing with these Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. There’s sort of the center local divide.
I seriously don’t think they are on the same page because from the point of view from the Myanmar government, yes, they’d like to be able to contain the number of refugees that come in from Bangladesh or people who are undocumented and trying to make a permanent home in Myanmar.
But at the same time, it’s not in the interests of the Myanmar government, the central government, or even the local authorities to see such violence escalate because it destabilizes that part of the country, and then it could spread from there to other adjacent parts; so it becomes a bigger problem for government.
I think that the government is having a hard time sort of dealing with both interests, an interest in containing this issue which sort of intersects with the local Buddhist interests, and at the same time making sure that this violence doesn’t spread.