In a disturbing development, overnight on Sunday (28th October) two mosques were bombed in Karen state in the townships of Kawkeriek and Kyone-Doe. The attacks which took place some 1,400 km from Arakan follow the fresh attacks against the Kaman Muslim community last week and a meeting held between monks and state officials a fortnight ago where it was decided that Karen Buddhists would cut all ties with Karen Muslims. This recent development, alongside the April attacks by monks and NLD party (Suu Kyi's party) on a mosque in Kachin state, the ongoing Rohingya violence and the attack on the Kaman community all add to a growing sentiment of anti-Muslim violence in Burma.
It makes for difficult reading and a bleak outlook.
Diverse reporting by media
Last week's attacks on the Rohingya and Kaman communities has very slowly been picked up by international media and the public awareness on the issue still remains relatively low. We've also seen a very diverse approach in reporting the violence, some detailed and explorative whilst others have been economical in detail and questionable in nature. A mainstay amongst almost all media reports is the term 'communal clashes' - a frustrating reflection of the anti-Rohingya Muslim violence. Whilst the BBC led with HRW's satelite images - the Independent this morning set out a comprehensive report by Pete Pattison which Restless Beings helped facilitate. And finally the very pro- Rakhine CNN report is spun on the back of growing US interest in potential trade partnerships with Burma.
We've been working closely with a number of publications, channels and outlets to supply the latest information and sources and contacts and will continue to do so - the main hope being that with international reporting comes a certain amount of protection for the Rohingya. And it is the issue of protection which is most pivotal right now. In Pauk Taw township, many have sought refuge in unlikely places having seen their homes burnt to the ground - 3,000 Rohingya remain stranded in a paddy field this evening, whilst a further 7,000 who had sought refuge in a salt field have been given a deadline to move on or face death by tomorrow morning. A further 2 villages were burnt in Pauk Taw this evening with the displaced moving to the salt field - close to 15,000 displaced Rohingya are seeking refuge in the open air of paddy fields and salt fields with threats by armed forces of death unless they move on. They need protection. And right now, Burma, whether its Arakan state governance or Burma central governance are not providing that.
Protection through access for international observers
Whilst President Thein Sein has explained to the world, that the situation will come under control and that the regime is not at fault and that it is merely 'communal clashes' why then isn't any access granted to international observers? The OIC who recently signed a MoU with Burma to send aid and establish an office in Arakan earlier this month found out that on the back of a Monks protest, their office in Arakan would not be granted permission. And what of the UN? When the Special Rapporteur Thomas Quintana visited in July his report was categorically rejected by Burma - why then haven't another set of UN observers gone in to observe the latest violence from last week? Whilst millions of dollars and pounds were raised for the Rohingya over the summer, why have the aid agencies not been given the free access they need to provide relief to the stranded Rohingya? Access and aid is an absolute must given the grave situation for the displaced.
On the issue of aid, many donors have become reluctant to further fund any work being carried out. The main reason for this is because the only areas accessible to the aid agencies is the segregated camps in Sittwe. Donors feel uncomfortable with the idea of separating the Rohingya from the rest of Arakan in these camps. The term apartheid would not be an inept description of the refugees.
Whilst protection for the Rohingya, access to international observers and media and the ability to distribute aid effectively are all short term necessities, ultimately the issue of Citizenship and specifically the repeal of the diabolical Citizenship Law is the final solution. In not so many words, President Thein Sein when meeting with the Chief of UNHCR in June laid out his final solution - either all the Rohingya are taken in by a third country, or the Rohingya must be put into separate camps. On reflection, his words seem prophetic as this segregation into camps is exactly what is being played out. NaSaKa sector 7 of Maungdaw is massively overwhelmed with thousands of refugees - moreso, these refugees are not being given any aid.
Global Day of Action announced
On the 8th of November, Restless Beings will lead the line on a 'Global Day of Action' - from London to New York, Canberra to Kuala Lampur and Tokyo to Brussels, we urge you to join us in our calls for the immediate protection of Rohingya refugees, the access to international observers and media, the free access for aid agencies and the urgent repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law. Lets make our voices count and stand up for human rights. Further details will be released on 1st November.