07/23/2012, 00.00
THAILANDIA - MYANMAR

Bangkok, Muslim students protest violence against Rohingya

Weena Kovidhavanij
During the official visit of Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, some students demonstrate against the "massacre" of Rakhine State ethnic minority. Thai army sources explain that the refugees will be "aided", but also deported back to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - This morning a group of Thai Muslim students staged a peaceful protest in front of government headquarters in Bangkok, while Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave an official state welcome to Myanmar President Thein Sein, on a three-day official visit. Meanwhile, Thai military sources confirm that the army is preparing to provide water and food to the Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar, where they are still subject to violence and persecution. However, top officials clarify that Bangkok is not willing to accept refugees, but rather to "help" them with basic necessities and then move them to "other destinations". Among these are two Muslim majority nations: Indonesia and Malaysia.

Sarimachi Ashar, a young student in his fourth year of the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University and president of the Confederation Muslim students in Thailand, leading the little knot of protesters, said that the Rohingya are "treated as instigators of violence," rather than "victims ". He complains that the news of accidents in the Rakhine State of Myanmar have been "distorted" and "misleading" because they have overturned the facts. Students attending the event (a dozen in all), with signs and slogans including "Stop the massacre of Rohingya", also appealed to the Government of Myanmar to give better care to victims of violence and promote policies to protect minority groups.

Meanwhile, Colonel Manat Kongpan, responsible for internal security operations in Thailand, confirms that the Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar are helped with food and water, but will not be accepted by the government in Bangkok. In this regard, the Army is educating people on the coast - especially on the Thai side of the Andaman islands - to warn the competent authorities in case of new landings. According to forecasts, a real exodus from the Burmese border is expected in the coming months, mainly women and children seeking asylum in Indonesia or Malaysia, Muslim-majority nations.

For Professor Umara Pongsapit the problem of the Rohingya, who live in poor conditions, are deprived of citizenship and basic human rights in Myanmar needs to be "urgently" addressed. National and international action is needed, he adds, as well as policies to activate the emergency. Prapasri Petchmeesri, Thai delegate to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Committee for human rights, says that the refusal to grant citizenship to the Rohingya "violates their basic human rights."

In recent days, human rights groups have accused again the authorities of Myanmar and Buddhists, as the perpetrators of violence and violations against the Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine. A state of emergency is still in force and a couple of weeks ago, the UN condemned the arrest of some humanitarian workers, including members of the United Nations itself. The source of violent sectarian clashes, is the rape and murder in late May of Thida Htwe, a young Arakanese Buddhist, later avenged in an assault on a bus load of Muslims, with the death of ten people who had nothing to do with murder or rape of the young girl. Since then, the violence has escalated, and triggered a new mass exodus of Rohingya to the coasts of Thailand and Bangladesh. However, the governments in Dhaka and Bangkok are pursuing the policy of expulsions.

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