Exclusive report: Our Burmese Observers describe clashes between Buddhists and a Muslim minority

Security forces shoot in the air to scare away rioters in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. Photo by Htoo Tay Zar.
 
 
Police are out in force in the streets of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where violence between a Muslim minority group and local Buddhists threatens to spiral out of control. Because the state is now under emergency rule, it is difficult for international journalists to travel to the zone where the clashes are taking place; however, we were able to reach our Burmese Observers on the ground.
 
At least 21 people have died since Friday in a cycle of revenge attacks between the Rohingya, a Muslim minority concentrated in Rakhine state, and ethnic Rakhine, who belong to the Buddhist majority. (The Rohingya are not the only Muslims in Burma; about 4 percent of the population is Muslim). Rights organisations worry that the death toll could be much higher than reported by officials; however, since all aid workers have been evacuated from the area, these numbers are hard to confirm.
 
Tensions first erupted earlier this month following the rape and killing of a Rhakine woman, allegedly by three Muslims. After news of this incident spread, Rhakine men attacked a bus, beating 10 Muslims to death. Then, on Friday, violence erupted anew in the township of Maungdaw, where security forces reportedly opened fire either on or near a group of Rohingya people. Eyewitnesses have given conflicting accounts as to whether or not the security forces aimed for the crowd.
 
Since Friday, Maungdaw is on lockdown, but this hasn’t stopped violence from spreading to neighbouring towns, and in particular to the state capital, Sittwe. Hundreds of homes have been torched, and several eyewitnesses have reported street battles between Rohingya and Rhakine residents.
 
The Rohingya, who live along the border with Bangladesh, are called “Bengalis” by many in Burma because they speak a regional dialect of Bengali. However, they are stateless. Claiming centuries of lineage in Rakhine state, Rohinhya activists have long petitioned for Burmese citizenship, to no avail. This means they have little access to education or health care and face travel restrictions. The UN estimates that there are about 800,000 of them in Burma, mostly in Rakhine state.
 
This past week, the Rohingya have increasingly been denounced as “illegal immigrants”, “invaders” and “terrorists”, both online and across Burma. In the largest city, Yangon, hundreds of Rakhine held a protest on Monday asking for an end to the violence and for the “removal of Bengali terrorists.” Meanwhile, the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, has appealed for calm and unity.
 
A protest against Rohingya "terrorists" was held at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on Monday. Video published on YouTube by Burma VJ.
Contributors

“My family and I haven’t gone out in days. We’re afraid that if we do, we might get killed”

Maung (not his real name) lives in Maungdaw, where he works as a vendor. He is Rohingya. We were able to speak to him briefly by phone.
 
On Friday, I and many others went to the mosque near my house to pray for the Muslims who were killed in the bus attack. Security forces soon arrived, and asked us to stop praying. We continued, and so they opened fire. One person was killed; two others wounded. Everyone panicked and ran back to their houses.
 
Friends told me that later that night, in the nearby village of Napala, some Rohingya decided to get revenge by burning Rhakine people’s houses. After that, the violence spread to the state’s capital, Sittwe. Maungdaw, however, remains paralysed.
 
There’s a curfew at night, but we don’t dare go out during the day, either. I have a wife and four children; we haven’t left our home since Friday. We’re afraid that if we go out, we might get killed. There are soldiers and security forces everywhere, patrolling the streets. We’ve heard a lot of gunshots, and have seen smoke from nearby houses being burned. I’m afraid we’re going to run out of food. I don’t know what to do. If it doesn’t calm down, we will have to try to flee – but I don’t know where we’ll go, since I hear Rohingya people who are trying to cross into Bangladesh are being turned around.
 
At this point, I believe the goal of the local Rhakine people, backed by the authorities, is to either chase us out, or kill us.
 
Police patrolling a street in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state in western Burma. According to our Observer Htoo Tay Zar, who took this photo on Tuesday, they were helping put out a fire at a Hindu shrine.

“I saw Rohingya and Rakhine fighting each other with homemade weapons, like swords and slingshots”

Htoo Tay Zar is a blogger and designer who lives in Yangon. He travelled to Rhakine state on Monday to take photos of the situation. We video-chatted with him by Skype on Tuesday, when he was in the state’s capital, Sittwe. He showed us heavy plumes of smoke coming from the city’s downtown area.
 
Rohingya people set fire to the downtown area. A lot of the houses are already burned down. They also set fire to a Hindu shrine. When I arrived in the city, I saw local Rahkine people and police trying to put the fire out and save the shrine.
 
Our Observer, through Skype, showed us smoke billowing from downtown Sittwe.
 
They’ve also set fire to many Buddhist temples, so it appears as if they’re trying to turn this into a religious conflict. Some angry Rakhine, in response, tried to burn down a mosque, but the police stopped them.
 
I saw Rohingya and Rakhine fighting each other with homemade weapons, like swords and slingshots. I heard sounds that resembled Molotov cocktails, too. Many Rakhine are guarding their homes with homemade weapons. A lot of the Rohingya have fled to the mountains, but some have remained here in Sittwe to fight. The police are trying to get the situation under control, but they aren’t shooting at anyone – I’ve seen them shoot in the air, just to frighten people.
 
I think this conflict was started by a few Rohingya people, and that not all are to blame. Those who are peaceful should be allowed to stay, and maybe even get citizenship – but not those who are attacking local residents. The Burmese government should consider taking action on illegal migrants, because there are so many Rohingya here in Rakhine state, and they have not assimilated. Most of them cannot even speak the local language or Burmese.
 
A house that was set on fire in Sittwe. Photo by Htoo Tay Zar.
 
A Rakhine resident of Sittwe tries to put out a fire with muddy water. Photo by Htoo Tay Zar.
 
A protest in the country's largest city, Yangon. "Bengali" is what most Burmese call Rohingya people. Photo published on Facebook by Burma VJ.

Comments

Rohingya are not ethnic of Myanmar/ Burma

Rohingya are not ethnic of Myanmar/ Burma. The look, the language, the food everything is the same as Bengali from Bangladesh.

They are illegal immigrant from Bangladesh and they can have strong connections with Al Qaeda supported Rohingya Solidarity Organizaion (RSO), a terrorist organization listed by the US government.

For such riots, Ko Ko Gyi, a student leader of 88 generations said that those problems can be partly due to exile forces and lobbying organizations working in some western countries. He says, ” We want to say that some countries without knowing true history but trying to intervene in rohingya issues might be viewed as a threat to national sovereignty. Rohingyas has no tie with any of our ethnic groups genetically, culturally or linguistically. Because of local political tensions, successive governments have agreed to accept them according to requests frominternational organizations. This is just the sole aid from human right perspective” Ko Ko Gyi says.

“Clearly, this isn’t a conflict between Buddhists and Islamist. And I believe that such problems might not be free from foreign proxies” Ko Ko Gyi says.U Khin Yee, Minister of Immigration, confirmed that Rohingya is not an ethnic group of Myanmar.

Rohingyas are not Myanmar Muslims, they are Illegal Immigrants

There are over 100 races living in Myanmar. But Rohingya is not one of them. Besides, there has never been such word as Rohingya in Myanmar history. So, who are Rohingyas? They are simply Bengalis. They are from Bangladesh. If someone doubts it, I would like to welcome him for a DNA test.

The history of Rohingyas is worse than the Palestinians because they were abandoned by their own mother land, Bangladesh. No other race in the world will be as pitiful as Rohingyas, the abandoned Begalis. They have been living around the border area between Bangladesh and Rakhine, a western state of Myanmar. Moving from places to places where more favorable working conditions were present, they have been sitting on the fence between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Thanks to loose immigration control at the border area for several decades, they managed to acquire both citizenships for Bangladesh and Myanmar. When Bangladesh became more and more crowded due to population explosion, and less and less fortunate enough to find a suitable living, Rohingyas came to choose the Rakhine State as their permanent dwelling place. Add to this, their ambition did not stop there. The homeless people is now finding a new step-mother, Myanmar.

Rohingyas are shouting at the top of their voice, ” We are Myanmars.” ” We are Myanmars.” I would like to reply to their shouts in the same degree of noise. “NO WAY, ROHINGYAS!” You are not Myanmars. We will never accept that you are Myanmars. Blood is blood. Race is race. You can never change it. Rohingya issue was caused by the presence of a bad neighbor which is Bangladesh. It has been a burden for Myanmar as she herself has to deal with her own internal problems. Rohingyas are homeless; and they are orphans. Myanmar is like an orphanage house to those Rohingyas. I would like to repeat the main reason for their misfortune is that their mother country has abandoned them. So, why do the international community want to point their fingers at Myanmar? It is very very ridiculous. They should even thank Myanmar for allowing Rohingyas to stay inside Myanmar although they are not Myanmar citizens. We are nothing to do with Rohingyas.

Myanmar is just a scapegoat to be blamed upon. From humanity point of view, we absolutely feel sympathized with Rohingyas because they are Bengalis and human-beings. But from national point of view, we cannot bear the presence of Rohingyas and various troubles made by them in the Rakhine state. Racial issue is one example. The natives of Rakhine State, Rakhines, are leaving for inner Myanmar and abroad for more prospects of living conditions. At the same time, eac Rohingya is taking a maximum of 4 wives and having a dozen of children without any control. While native Rakhine population growth is stable, Rohingya population is growing very, very fast at an unacceptable rate.

Now, Rohingyas are swallowing the Rakhine State! Maybe someday they might even swallow the whole Myanmar, too. We understand that this issue cannot be solved very easily. All willing international organizations should consider how to help the situations; for example, is it possible to migrate Rohingyas to other places in the world? Is it possible to persuade Bangladesh to accept her own citizens? But there may not be a reasonable and realistic solution to it, I think. Amidst those critical situations, Rohingyas are now showing themselves to the world as they are terrorists by destroying the villages and killing native Rakhine people. Under such circumstances, what can you expect Myanmar Government to do? Rohingyas’ plan is like a time-bomb which is aimed to explode at the targeted time. This is a transition period for Myanmar from long military rule to democratic government.

The Government may not wish to respond very aggressively. Similarly, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nobel laureate, is planning to visit Europe and receive the award. She may not wish a bloody conflict inside Myanmar at this auspicious time, too. Rohingyas are now pushing Myanmar Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into very very tight situation at the stake of their lives. The mouth of International media is eagerly watering to exploit this resulting incident.

We have millions of Myanmar Muslims living together peacefully with the rest of nation. However, we cannot treat Rohingyas equally as our brothers, Myanmar Muslims. Simply because Myannmar Muslims are Myanmars while Rohingyas are just foreigners. Now we can say, Rohingyas are invaders: they are terrorists who are attacking our own people. In short, I’d like to say “We don’t want Rohingyas.” But, how to solve this problem is beyond my knowledge, I confess. Anyway, one thing is for sure. We, the people of Myanmar despite their difference in various faiths namely, Buddhism, Christianity or Islam, will firmly stand together with unity behind the actions to be taken by Myanmar Government. Sorry, Rohingyas. (And sorry, International Media, too) If you want to blame, JUST blame your mother country. Sometimes, bloody ending may be an option which we cannot exclude entirely.

ICY (MMCP)

Your racist. 1 million people

Your racist. 1 million people cant take over your country. And they have no reason to do so.
You accepting the chinese people?. Luckely we INDIAN races is not as ingorant as your burmese people.
We have 200 milion muslims in India. We have +200 milion "east asians" that is INDIAN . No one call them "thai" or wide eyed , or chinese. They are just like us. Its your ancestors ....who came from China...who are now Indian, Some of your people stayed in burm,a camobdia, laos, thailand . Some went to India.

Your a discgrase the buddist world. Its pure racism .. What would your country think if we trow out all wide eyed indians ??? 200 milion and tell that they dont belong to our nation?

Sad to read

Hello.

I am sad to see what the asians dont know there own history. To devide and fight each other makes only the west and capitalism world to control us better. "devide and conquer".

Regarding the Myanmar conflict.

First. The history of Myanmar/laos/thai/kamboja people is they came from an Chinese state in three immigrations. One to Lao/myanmar, one to Kamboja/thailand, and third to South India.

In fact India have more "East asian wide eyed" people than All countries in Indo-china .
LOL . Even in Sri Lanka we have Malays, Sha (todays thai ancestors) .

Its pure racism that Myamar people says Rohingya does not belong to Myamar. If we shuld say the wide eyed asians does not belong to india you would get like 400 milion of your ancestors back :) do you like it ?.

And by the way as sri lankan , and as the people who teached your people about Theravada buddism. I am chocked about who you are so racist. its not in our teachings. Your culture is built on Theravada unerstanding. And many of your cultures , dancing, music, stories is from Sri Lanka and india.

Please respect your where you comefrom.
India is the oldest civilisation outside africa. like it or not like it.

But asians need to be united.

Barking Mogh so called Rakhine are terrorists

@Rakhine Mogh voice. Please do not lie you wrotes here only your thinking ground reality is diffrent.You said Bangalis ilegally entered to the Arakan state can you give me any single proof of that ? There Muslim Rohingyas living since centuries There is many proof that Muslim people from Burma entring to Bangladesh aince decades. In United Nations records you can find that in 1962,1978,1982,1988 and in 1990 people from Arakan state fleed to Bangladesh if you want proof ask to the United nation.

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