(AsiaNews) - Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minority
lawmakers have appealed to the government to send troops to restore peace in
the western state of Rakhine torn by sectarian violence between majority Buddhists
and minority Rohingya Muslims. Stung by criticism for not speaking up on behalf
of the abused and marginalised minority, the Nobel Prize laureate has called
for an end to the violence, which has killed so far 180 people and displaced another
110,000, and for more security forces to restore "peace, stability and the
rule of law." Meanwhile, another boat carrying Rohingya refugees sank in
the Bay of Bengal. Also, economic interests increasingly appear to play a role
in the violence.
In a rare
statement on the crisis, the leader of the National League for Democracy said
that the government had a duty to inform public opinion about how it was going
to handle the issue.
For Myanmar, the
Rohingya are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. The latter
however refuses to recognise them as its citizens, whilst Burmese authorities
dare not go against public opinion on the matter. To the disappointment of the
international community, the country's opposition has also failed to come up
with a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The net result
is that the 800,000 stateless Rohingya are one of the most persecuted
minorities on the planet according to the United Nations. So far, no consensus has
emerged on what to do with them, whether to provide them with papers that would
legalise their presence on Burmese territory or allow them to become "naturalised
citizens." In either case, their status would carry fewer rights than full
Meanwhile, off the
coast of Bangladesh at Teknaf, some 320 kilometres south of Dhaka, an overcrowded
boat sunk carrying Rohingya seeking peace and work in Malaysia.
The Bangladesh Coast
Guard rescued 51 people, but nothing is known about the others, who are feared
dead like the passengers of another boat that sank on 28 October off the coast
of Myanmar with only a handful of survivors.
crisis is rooted in ethnic differences between majority Buddhists and minority
Rohingya. The latter are commonly referred to as "Bengalis" or by the
pejorative 'Kalar'; they are Muslim, darker in complexion and culturally
different than ethnic Rakhinese.
That is not the
whole picture though. Certain economic interests could be stirring up sectarian
Although one of
the poorest states in the country, Rakhine has untapped natural resources,
including large oil and natural gas reserves, as some sources have pointed out.
have already planned to build a pipeline from the Kyaukphyu Special Economic
Zone (SEZ) to Kunming, in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Two other SEZs exist,
one in Thilawa and the other in Dawie.