Myanmar and Rankine state background
The tears of Rohingya Muslims shook the world once more. UN and other human rights organizations are really concerned about the situation building up in Rakhine state, Myanmar. This is not the first time the world witnessed the ill treatment of Rohingyas by the Burmese government. Many call it as the ”Ethnic cleansing”. But the case of Rohingya’s is yet not clear to many.
The governments must mainstream the minorities and the nationalist. For long term solutions, political dialogue is inevitable otherwise the region will not taste peace for long
The South-East Asia is one of the most understudied regions in the worlds especially from the Geopolitical, religious and strategic point of view. Before coming towards the current crisis, the things must be put in the factual context. Rohingya during 8th century had the Independent Kingdom in Arakan, now know as Rankine state in a modern Myanmar. In 1784, Burma king Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and thousands fled to Bengal. In the 12th century, Muslim Arab traders came and Islam spread across the South-East Asian region.
Even though the region remained the center of Buddhism, many prominent Islamic personalities belong to this South East Asian region including the likes of Ibn Batuta who lived in Malaysia. In 1942, Japan captured Burma from Britain. Three years later, Britain re-captured Burma from Japan with help of Burmese nationalist led by Aung San. Rohingyan wanted a separate state for Arakan. In 1948, during the partition, as Majority of Bengali’s and Rohingyans were Muslims, they voted for Pakistan. But just like Kashmiris, Rohingya’s are still struggling for the right to self-determination.
Start of crisis
Thailand’s government had done many efforts to stop this Nationalist issues turning into Ethnic but every time Thai government gives privileges to minorities the government
Later in 1962, General NE Win and Burma socialist seized power and rift between the Arakan and Burma got worse which led to 1977 operation ”Dragon King”. The operation resulted in the forced immigration of 2, 00,000 Rohingyan’s toward Bangladesh. But in 1982, Bangladesh passed a new law declaring all the immigrants during British rule as ”illegal”. From 1990 to 2012, these people were stuck in between Burma and Bangladesh. They don’t have the nationality of either country and they can’t own property. The majority is living in camps with no basic fundamental rights. No food, no water, and no shelter.
But the situation is not simple as it looks. The current ethnic cleansing in Burma has its roots in the deadly riots of 2012 orchestrated by Extremist Buddhist on Rohingyan Muslims who turned this nationalistic issue into ”Ethno-National” Issue. The anti-colonial forces in both Srilanka and Myanmar were mostly led by Buddhist, which gave less space to the Muslim nationalist. The rift between the Muslims and Buddhist is not only limited to Myanmar but is part of greater ”Regional ethnic conflict” spread across South-East Asia.
Similarly, Buddhist movement in other parts of South-East Asia is expanding its influence. Now with the crisis in the region turned into ”Ethno-Nationalist” conflict
The case of Srilanka, Thailand, and Malaysia is similar to Burma where the Separatist nationalist conflicts are now turned into ”Ethno-Nationalist” conflicts. The Majority of Muslims living in Srilanka belong to Morr and Maly ethnic communities. During the 26 years long Srilankan civil war, Tamil Tigers on a number of occasions attacked Muslim villages killing hundreds of Muslims while thousands more were expelled from their homes.
This operation by the ”Tamil Tigers” was aimed to establish mono ethnic Tamil state in Srilanka. Thailand is facing the same difficulty with different nationalist and religious separatist groups aimed at independent state in Malay, Pattani region of Thailand, which is also known as Southern border Provinces (SBP) .
Rise of Buddhist terror
The whole Muslim villages turned into ashes in few minutes. The heat of anti-Muslim violence ignited by Burmese bin laden Ashin Wirathu intensified and reached Sri Lanka
The South-East Asian region after 2001 has witnessed the rise of ”Buddhist extremism”. The extremist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, of group 969 was jailed by the Burmese government in 2002 for the hate speech. On the other hand in Thailand during the same period, Malay insurgents attacked Buddhist monk, teachers, and Thailand government officials. During that period none of the countries of South-East Asia was facing Islamist militant threat but were separationist nationalist movements spread across the region.
The crisis gave birth to extremist Buddhist movements in Thailand, Burma, and Srilanka. In 2007, some Buddhist scholars in Thailand made a call to declare Buddhism as the state religion in the new constitution but this demand was later turned down by the constitution committee. Most of the South-East Asian countries like Srilanka. Myanmar and Thailand’s Constitution give special privilege to Buddhism, even though the state is officially secular. In 2003, Ashin Wirathu who called himself ”Burmese Bin laden”, famous for spreading extremist ideology, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for hate speech.
During the 26 years long Srilankan civil war Tamil Tigers on a number of occasions attacked Muslim villages killing hundreds of Muslims, thousands were expelled from their homes
He was released by the authorities in 2012 along with other political prisoners. The results of his release were worse than expected. Deadly anti-Muslims riots in Meikitla, Tellingly and Oakkan started killing hundreds of Muslims. The whole Muslim villages turned into ashes in few minutes. The heat of anti-Muslim violence ignited by Burmese bin laden Ashin Wirathu intensified and reached Srilanka. In June 2014, deadly anti-Muslim riots in Srilanka led by Buddhist monk Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, who is described by some as Srilanka Ashin Wirathu, started.
Many prominent Islamic personalities belong to this South East Asian region including the lights of Ibn Batuta who lived in Malaysia. In 1942 Japan captured Burma from Britain
The fascist extremist Buddhist group, Bodu bale Sena (BBP), meaning ‘Army of Buddhist power”, was held responsible for the deadly riots. Similarly, Buddhist movement in other parts of South-East Asia is expanding its influence. Now the crisis in the region has turned into ”Ethno-Nationalist” conflict. Many Jihadist groups are emerging in the region, the heat of war will only intensify if the actual issues are not addressed properly. Governments in the region must protect the rights minorities before the situation gets worse.
Thailand’s government had done many efforts to stop this nationalist issues from turning into ethnic but every time Thai government gives privileges to minorities, the government faces a backlash from extremist Buddhist organizations. The extremist ideology prevailing in the region must be addressed by the intellectual scholars. The governments must mainstream the minorities and the nationalist. For long term solutions, political dialogue is inevitable otherwise the region will not taste peace for long.
Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist. He is an independent Geo-Political Analyst, commentator and keen observer of International relations. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.