Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 7:21 AM

Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Muslims in Myanmar

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

A ship carrying hundreds of Rohingya Muslims sent out a distress call asking to be rescued Tuesday, saying they were abandoned by their captain without fuel and have been without food or water for three days…

Most are trying to reach Malaysia… They have been prevented from disembarking, in some cases for two or more months, because a crackdown on human trafficking networks in Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh has sent agents and brokers into hiding. In some cases captains are abandoning their vessels, leaving men, women and children to fend for themselves.

(The Associated Press, May 12, 2015)


Unfortunately, the lack of media coverage is such that most people have no idea Asia has been grappling with a migration crisis that rivals Europe’s:

The latter has seen tens of thousands of African migrants wash up on European shores (most notably Lampedusa’s) and untold numbers drown in the Mediterranean Sea. But the former has seen almost as many Rohingya migrants wash up on Asian shores (most notably Malaysia’s) and untold numbers drown in the Bay of Bengal.

Indonesia Rohingya Boat PeopleMore to the point, like their African counterparts, the Rohingyas are fleeing all manner of persecution and privation, which, in this case, can be summed up in two all too familiar words: religious cleansing.

Myanmar policy’s message to Muslims: get out…

The Rohingya have faced discrimination for decades. They have been denied citizenship and evicted from their homes, their land has been confiscated, and they have been attacked by the military. After one such attack in 1978, some 200,000 fled to Bangladesh.

(New York Times, November 6, 2014)

As it happens, I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for Western media and governments alike to show as much interest in and concern about Rohingya migrants as they’ve been showing in and about African migrants.

Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Buddhist Monks Terrorizing Myanmar…,” August 14, 2013.


Reza Aslan I am not. But I believe I can assert without fear of contradiction that, more than any other religion, Buddhism has a reputation for inspiring peace, harmony, and non-violence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.28.29 PMThis is why reports last year about Buddhist monks behaving like Islamic terrorists struck me as utterly surreal. In fact, so much so that, instead of commenting on the contradictions inherent in their behavior, I commented on the failure of their de facto secular leader to condemn it:

Nothing demonstrates the extent to which she has been co-opted quite like Suu Kyi’s deafening silence about the ongoing religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Especially given that the UN has called Myanmar’s Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’

Yet when challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurred, saying self-righteously that she was not taking sides to preserve her impartiality to help them reconcile. But just imagine how much worse the religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it?

(“Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2012)


MYANMAR-MILITARY-ARMED FORCES DAYThat was two and a half years ago, folks. Since then, Aung Suu Kyi has used her moral authority to seek political accommodation with Myanmar’s military rulers at the expense of religious freedom for its Rohingya Muslims.

I wonder what my critics have to say about viral pictures of Suu Kyi sitting quite comfortably yesterday as a solitary figure among hundreds of military men as they presided over the hallmark of all dictatorships, the annual military parade. For there can be no denying that these pictures provide clear vindication of my informed cynicism.

(“Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 28, 2013)

HE The Dalai Lama andrew duffApropos of moral authority, I hasten to note that the Dalai Lama has been far more forthright in condemning Myanmar’s devilish.

Alas, it appears the Dalai Lama’s spiritual control over the behavior of Buddhist monks is no greater than his political control over the governing of Tibet (from where he has been exiled for over 50 years).

For, despite his entreaties, Buddhists are continuing their crusade of religious cleansing against Muslims.

(“Buddhist Monks Terrorizing Myanmar…,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 14, 2013)

Suu Kyi’s lack of common cause with the Rohingyas is made all the more dismaying when one considers that she won the Nobel Prize for her struggle for democratic freedoms in Myanmar. For a little perspective, just imagine the shock and dismay if, after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela had agreed to serve in a parliament still controlled by Apartheid leaders, then stood by as Nguni people (who compose the majority of South Africa’s Black population) went on a tribal-cleansing crusade to rid the country of Venda and Sotho people….

rohingya-burma-muslim-420x215In any event, I continue to hope against hope that the klieg light of media coverage will finally shine on Myanmar’s unfolding genocide. Especially given all of the media coverage Myanmar’s military leaders are buying to advertise newly developed tourist enclaves, which must have Cuba’s military leaders salivating to emulate.

I am acutely mindful that African migrants are fleeing failing African states (most notably Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia), where leaders have no ability to enforce law and order, let alone prevent migrants taking to the Mediterranean Sea.

Therefore, continual media coverage of their plight has done little to improve living conditions at home.

But Rohingya migrants are fleeing this developing Asian nation, where leaders have the ability to prevent not only monks from waging their genocidal religious crusade, but also migrants from taking to the Bay of Bengal. What’s more, like China’s leaders, Myanmar’s would clearly prefer to rely more on economic growth (for which tourism is like water) than military force to sustain their authoritarian rule.

Therefore, a little more media coverage of the Rohyingas’ plight would force Myanmar’s military rulers to act – if only to prevent damning media images of Muslims fleeing oppression from undermining promotional media images of foreigners visiting tourist sites.

Related commentaries:
Buddhist monks
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