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In Myanmar, monks protest over US Embassy using “Rohingya’ term for Bengali Muslims

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Monks in Myanmar, Wikimedia Commons

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April 28, 2016. MYANMAR: Buddhists monks along with several other protesters confronted the United States for using the term ‘Rohingya’ to refer a Bengali Muslims ethnic minority group. On Thursday, the protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, Yangon, and carried slogan boards proclaiming “No more use of the term ‘Rohingya”, “U.S. Embassy get out if you say more,” and “We request the present authorities of the state to announce the truth that Rohingyas are not Myanmar citizens at all.” They marched from the Yongon University to U.S. Embassy confronting the statement issued on April 20.

The protestors -many were Monks- insisted that the ethnic minority of Muslims should rather be called ‘Bengalis’ and regarded as illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh as there is no ethnicity of ‘Rohingya’ in their country. Despite many of the ancestors of the minority group have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are denied of basic rights and even citizenship as the country officially does not recognize Rohigya as an ethnic group.

The protest was ignited by the statement of U.S. Embassy referring minority group as Rohigya and expressing sympathies for the people, who drowned off the shore of Rakhine State on April 19.

Many of the people of the group are living in poor conditions in filthy displacement camps after being forced to flee their homes over the conflict erupted in the western state of Rakhine in 2012 which raised tensions between Buddhists of Rakhine and the Muslim group. They are restricted to travel freely in the country, to higher education and even to marry or have children without official permission.

Earlier this month, United Nations had given 100 days to Myanmar’s current civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to improve living conditions for this minority group.

Prepared by Pashciema with input from VOA.

 

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UN Appeals to Aid Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Has Bangladesh, UN Calling for Help

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Rohingya refugees
Rohingya refugees wait in an area following a boat capsizing accident, in Teknaf. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The U.N. refugee and migration agencies are jointly appealing for $877 million to aid 855,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled violence and persecution from Myanmar three years ago, and more than 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis hosting them.

More than half of the money will provide vital services, including food, shelter, clean water and sanitation.  The rest of the appeal will be used for health, protection, education, site management, energy and environmental needs.

Shahriar Alam of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says his government has welcomed this large exiled population within its midst.  But he acknowledges their presence poses challenges and that the solution to the plight of the Rohingya refugees is repatriation to Myanmar when that becomes possible. But this is unlikely to happen, he says, without the vigorous support of the International community.

“We expect that U.N. member countries to do more and work closely and do everything possible to put pressure on Myanmar to take their citizenship back in a manner, a repatriation that is safe, voluntary, and dignified,” Alam said.

Rohingya refugees
Coast guards escort Rohingya refugees following a boat capsizing accident, in Teknaf. VOA

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi agrees that Bangladesh deserves support for hosting nearly one million Rohingya.  He laments the short attention span of the media and the international community who quickly move from one crisis to another.

As a consequence, he says the Rohingya have become largely forgotten.  He agrees with the Government of Bangladesh that the solution continues to be in Myanmar.

“The problem is that things that need to be done there to create conditions for refugees to return from Bangladesh into Myanmar are too slow or not happening yet–freedom of movement, return of internally displaced people that are in camps in Rakhine State,” Grandi said.

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Grandi says those who return should be granted housing, land, and property rights and be given the education and training they need to be able to work.  But the most fundamental step of all, he says, is for the Rohingya to be given a path to citizenship.

The Rohingya who have lived in Myanmar for generations were stripped of their citizenship in 1982. (VOA)