Fresh clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims were reported on August 6,2012, from the Kyauktaw township in the Rakhine State of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh. The violence was triggered off by claims of the alleged recovery of some guns from a boat belonging to some Rohingyas by Arakanese Buddhists belonging to the village Ywar Nyar.
2. The Buddhists undertook searches for guns suspected to have been smuggled in by the Rohingyas following an incident in which some Rohingyas were accused by the Buddhists of burning down a Buddhist-owned rice factory in the Taung Pauk village.
3. The violence led to the burning down of houses belonging to both the communities in Apauk Wa, Shwe Haling, Gut Pi Taung and Ywar Nyar villages. Earlier, the situation in the Kyauktaw area started getting serious on August 2, 2012, the full moon day of Buddhist Lent, when a group of Rohingyas allegedly destroyed an Arakanese Buddhist-owned bus station.
4. The 88 Generation Students Group sent a team to the Rakhine State to make an on the spot study of the situation. On its return to Yangon, Ko Ko Gyi, its leader, said he would be prepared to support the call of the UN Special Rapporteur For Myanmar for a Truth Commission to find out the truth provided it enquired into the allegations made by the Buddhists as well as the Rohingya Muslims and its enquiry covered not only allegations of violations of the human rights of the two communities, but also Myanmar’s concerns over the impact of the Rohingya problem on Myanmar’s national security.
5.Ko Ko Gyi said: “We found during our trip to Arakan State that local Arakanese aid groups put up signboards saying ‘Unwelcome UN and NGOs Aid’ in front of their refugee camps. This will continue to happen if [the UN] treats local people unequally.”
6.In a statement issued in Paris on August 6,French Deputy Foreign Minister Vincent Floreani called on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Rakhine State. He said: “We call on the Burmese authorities to protect all civilian populations, without discrimination, and to investigate possible abuses.” Meanwhile, there were reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will travel to Myanmar on August 9 to meet President Thein Sein and discuss how to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced.
7. Prominent members of the Buddhist community in the Rakhine State have expressed their unhappiness over what they allege as the pressure being exercised by Catholic and other Christian organisations on Western Governments to exercise pressure on the Myanmar Government to show a more sympathetic and accommodating attitude to the Rohingya Muslims.
8.The United States has endorsed an appeal of the UN High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR),Geneva, urging the Bangladesh Government to reverse its order asking two French and one British humanitarian relief organisation to stop providing relief to any fresh group of Rohingyas illegally crossing over into Bangladesh. The Bangladesh’s contention is that these organisations had been permitted to provide relief to Rohingyas who had crossed over in the past and who are registered as refugees.
9.The three organisations ordered to stop the distribution of humanitarian relief are France’s Doctors Without Borders and Action Against Hunger and the UK’s Muslim Aid, all of which had set up humanitarian relief distribution centres in Cox’s Bazar, near the border with Myanmar.
10.The Bangladesh authorities have said their country is already struggling to cope with the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled ethnic violence in the 1990s and are living in camps near Cox’s Bazar. They say the NGOs are undermining the government’s efforts to deter more refugees from entering the country.
11.In a statement issued on August 7, the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” over the Bangladesh ban. The same day, the UNHCR appealed to Bangladesh “to ensure that NGO assistance continues to be provided to unregistered people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state. If the order is implemented, it will have a serious humanitarian impact on some 40,000 unregistered people who had fled Myanmar in recent years and settled in the Leda and Kutupalong makeshift sites.”
12. Sentu Mian, an official of the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Bangladesh Government, said the aid provided by these three organisations to Rohingyas had served to encourage an influx of refugees from the latest clashes between the Muslims and the Buddhists. He added: “We found that they [the NGOs] have offered rations and financial support to unregistered Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. These activities work against the interests of Bangladesh and so we decided to impose a ban on them.”
13.The Dhaka Police are reported to have arrested nine Rohingyas who had been brought in by agents. Monirul Islam of the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told the local media that an investigation was underway regarding hundreds of stolen passports, in a case believed to have “a Rohingya link.”
14.In the meanwhile, the local media in the Rakhine State has alleged that Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakr Bashir, who is currently imprisoned for supporting a jihadi training camp in Aceh, northern Sumatra, has demanded that the Myanmar Government stop harming Muslims or face the anger of his fighters. While the Muslim Governments of the region have been cautious in their statements on the situation in the Rakhine State, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Jemaah Islamiya of Indonesia have reportedly expressed their solidarity with the Rohingyas. (8-8-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: email@example.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )