Burma Bleeding

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, we were all stateless beings. Under the shadow of the nearest biggest guy with horses and throwing or stabbing weapons to be sure, but stateless; no borders except those around the royal game preserves. Along the trading routes peoples of different hues and tongues mixed, changing hues and tongues as random encounters encouraged. Being stateless was not only not a crime, it was unknown. Not so today. If the state hasn’t entirely supplanted clan, ethnicity and religious feeling as the central sense of belonging in people, it has the structural, legal and military upper hand. ‘You may not feel your identity is with me, but you belong to me,’ the State Avatar might say.

Open Society We Are Rohinga

We Are Rohingya from Open Society

So, when a significant body of people are in fact stateless, serious consequences flow. As they are with the Rohingya Muslims, come from Bangladesh decades ago, fleeing turmoil there and seeking security and livelihood along the Burmese coasts.  Here is a very short history from The International Observatory on Statelessness:

The British annexed the region after an 1824-26 conflict and encouraged migration from India. Since independence in 1948, successive Burmese governments have considered these migration flows as illegal. Claiming that the Rohingya are in fact Bengalis, they have refused to recognize them as citizens. Shortly after General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) seized power in 1962, the military government began to dissolve Rohingya social and political organizations. The 1974 Emergency Immigration Act stripped Burmese nationality from the Rohingya. In 1977, Operation Nagamin (Dragon King) constituted a national effort to register citizens and screen out foreigners prior to a national census.

The resulting military campaign led to widespread killings, rape, and destruction of mosques and religious persecution. By 1978, more than 200,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh. The Burmese authorities claimed that their flight served as proof of the Rohingya’s illegal status in Burma.

Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya were declared “non-national” or “foreign residents.” This law designated three categories of citizens: (1) full citizens, (2) associate citizens, and (3) naturalized citizens.

Clearly the road to the current troubles has been paved over time with the aggregate of animosity and the concrete of legal fiat.  Changing the direction of the road is going to take significant work — beginning with  rescinding the discriminatory laws, application of the highest moral appeal from Aung San Suu Kyi, and on the ground community organizing by tough international mediators — in all the affected communities — and calling on the best in the Buddhist and Muslim faiths to overcome the worst.

The new de-Gerneraled Myanmar state is in sorry shape, despite the exuberance of recent elections but it has no choice but to build itself into its best self right through the troubles at hand.

The news today is that some 20,000 have been displaced.  Time is slipping by.


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