The Rohingya - Adrift on a Sea of Sorrows
By Eric Margolis
May 31, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - When is genocide
not really genocide? When the victims are small, impoverished brown
people no wants or cares about – Burma’s Rohingya.
Their plight has finally commanded some media
attention because of the suffering of Rohingya boat people, 7,000 of
whom continue to drift in the waters of the Andaman Sea without
food, water or shelter from the intense sun. At least 2,500 lucky
refugees are in camps in Indonesia.
Mass graves of Rohingya are being discovered in
Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). Large numbers of Rohingya are fleeing
for their lives from their homeland, Burma, while the world does
nothing. Burma is believed to have some 800,000 Rohingya citizens.
This week, the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace
Prize winners call on Burma and its much ballyhooed ‘democratic
leader,’ Aung San Suu Kyi, to halt persecution of the Rohingya. They
The Rohyinga’s persecution has been going on for
over half a century, totally unobserved by the rest of the world.
Burma’s government claims they are descendants of economic
immigrants from neighboring Bengal who came as indentured laborers
to the British colony of Burma in early the 19th century.
Interestingly, the British Empire created a
similar ethnic problem by bringing large numbers of Tamils from
southern India to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to work the British tea
But Bengalis have been on Burma’s Arakan Coast for
centuries. What sets Rohyingas apart is their dark skin and Islamic
faith. Burma seems determined to expel its Muslims for good,
treating them like human garbage. It’s the kind of brutal ethnic
cleansing, racism and genocide that we recently saw unleashed
against Albanian and Bosnian Muslims and Catholics in Bosnia and
I’ve been watched the steady rise of a weird form
of Asian racism among some militant Buddhists in Burma and Sri
Lanka. The first sign was anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka a decade ago
led by fiery Buddhist monks.
But wait a minute. I have always been very
attracted to Buddhism as a gentle, sensible, human faith. My first
book, “War at the Top of the World,” was inspired by my
conversations with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. I like to meditate
in Buddhist temples whenever I’m in Asia.
So from where did all those screaming,
hate-promoting Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka and Burma come from?
Clearly, from deep smoldering fires that we knew nothing about. The
bloody Sri Lankan civil war between the majority Sinhalese and
minority Tamils was largely initiated by militant monks. One also
remembers Vietnam’s self-immolating monks.
The same phenomena erupted in Burma, a nation rent
by violent regional and ethnic tensions that have raged since 1945.
But who initiated a campaign of hate and pogroms against the Arakan
Muslims who were quietly, minding their own business and eking out a
living? As soon as Burma’s military stepped back from total rule,
the anti-Muslim violence went critical.
The triple-sainted (at least in the Western media)
Aung San Suu Kyi refuses to hear foreign pleas that she do
something. Burma will hold elections in November and she wants to
avoid antagonizing Buddhist voters – even when her nation in
I stood in front of her in Rangoon years ago when
she was still a prisoner of the military junta, listening to her
platitudes about human rights and democracy. I thought then and now
that like all politicians, her words were not to be given too much
credit. Maybe those fools on the Nobel Peace Prize committee could
revoke her Peace Prize and, while they’re at it, Obama’s.
Thailand wants no Rohyingas; Indonesia says only a
few thousand on a temporary basis. Australia, which is not overly
fond of non-whites, say no. Bangladesh can’t even feed its own
wretched people. So the poor Rohyingas are a persecuted people
without a country, adrift on a sea of sorrows.
What of the Muslim world? What of that
self-proclaimed “Defender of the Faith. Saudi Arabia?” The Saudis
are just buying $109 billion worth of US arms which they can’t use,
but they don’t have even a few pennies for their desperate
co-religionists in the Andaman Sea. The Holy Koran enjoins Muslims
to aid their brethren wherever they are persecuted – this is the
true essence of jihadism.
But the Saudis are too busy plotting against Iran,
bombing Yemen, and supporting rebels in Iraq and Syria, or getting
ready for their summer vacations in Spain and France, to think about
fellow Muslims dying of thirst. Pakistan, which could help, has not,
other than offering moral support. Neither has India, one of the
world’s leading Muslim nations.
In the end, it may be up to the United States to
rescue the Rohyinga, just as it rescued Bosnia and Kosovo. That’s
fine with me. I don’t want the US to be the world’s policeman; I
want it to be the world’s rescuer, its SOS force, its liberator.
We should tell Burma to halt its genocide today,
or face isolation and sanctions from the outside world.
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning,
internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in
the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles
Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation –
Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news
sites in Asia.
© 2015 Eric Margolis