The deaths of Rohingyas in Myanmar has reached 130 after arson by the majority community, of Burmese Buddhists, in Rakhine state, destroyed 800 houses in a Rohingya-majority township. The Myanmarese government has done nothing to stop the massacre of the Rohingyas, the latest bout of which started in July and is just another episode in the persecution of the Rohingyas. It has been encouraged by the Myanmarese military government, which has even denied them citizenship in the 1982 nationality law. It claims that the Rohingyas are actually migrants from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has vehemently denied this, and has increased river patrolling to stop the exodus. However, Rohingyas are now trying to go to Malaysia, where 24,000 have registered with the UNHCR, and there are said to be thousands more living without registration.
The presence of Rohingyas in large numbers in Malaysia, as well as of 400,000 reported by the UNHCR as in the Gulf states, might be taken as indicating that the Muslim world is dealing with the problem, but the Organisation of Islamic Conference has not taken cognizance beyond sending a fact-finding mission which did not meet with much cooperation from the Myanmarese authorities, and even the aid sent to the Rohingya by individuals or states was not allowed to reach them. Though the massacres which started in July may have highlighted the issue, the problem is now well over three decades old. The essence of the Rohingya problem is their having been thrown into the category of stateless persons by the Myanmarese government’s playing around with its nationality law. The Myanmarese government did so with the Rohingyas as a target, though it seems that there are a number of other ethnic minorities it wishes to deprive of citizenship, leaving behind only ‘pure’ Myanmarese who are all Buddhists. It is probably because Rohingyas are Muslims that they face such persecution.
It is also worth noting that the Myanmarese anti-military opposition has not adopted the Rohingya cause, which indicates that it supports the Buddhist majority. Neither has the USA, which has been pressing the military to allow the opposition some space, intervened for the Rohingyas’ human rights, probably because of its oil interests. The Rohingyas need help, and need it fast, and would look to their fellow Muslims as a matter of right for that help. Their fellow Muslims must also give them that help, not as a favour, but as a duty.