Friday, February 28, 2014

Myanmar's Anti-Rohingya Campaign Continues

Myanmar's president has asked parliament to consider an intermarriage law, spearheaded by an extremist monk that is aimed at "protecting" Buddhists. The proposals include a law "to give protection and rights for ethnic Buddhists when marrying with other religions", as well as a ban on polygamy and legislation to "balance the increasing population".

An anti-Rohingya monk called Wirathu has campaigned for a law to force non-Buddhist men wishing to marry a Buddhist woman to convert and gain permission to wed from her parents, or risk 10 years in jail.
"We have tried continually to have a national protection bill. Now it has started to come true with the president's message. We are so glad," Wirathu told AFP.

In the West we have a  one sided view of Buddhist monks as being entirely peaceful and enlightened, but they have a history of authoritarian dictatorship and repression just like most religions.

The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres has been ordered to cease operations in Myanmar by the Myanmar regime. MSF said it was deeply concerned about the tens of thousands of people it was treating, particularly for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. MSF is one of the biggest providers of healthcare in Rakhine. Since 2004, MSF has treated over 1,240,000 malaria patients in Rakhine state alone. It provides emergency assistance to tens of thousands of Rohingya people displaced by recent violence.

A presidential spokesman alleged to the BBC that Medecins Sans Frontieres was biased in favour of Rakhine's Muslim Rohingya minority. The government says that MSF has prioritised the treatment of the Rohingya community over local Buddhists. MSF said no other medical organisation in the country operated on a similar scale, and that its actions were always "guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality". The BBC says MSF is one of the few agencies providing treatment for Rohingya who would otherwise be turned away from clinics and hospitals.

 A massacre is alleged to have taken place of Rohingya Muslims near the border with Bangladesh. The UN claimed that as many as 48 people may have died, but the Burmese authorities said there had been no casualties. Then much to the annoyance of the government, MSF confirmed that their medics had treated 22 patients near the site of the alleged attack. It suggested something serious had happened and may have been the final straw for MSF. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut  asserted their actions had clearly demonstrated the MSF bias.

Myanmar has  faced criticism from rights groups over a controversial "two-child policy" in parts of the western state of Rakhine. Minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine face a slew of restrictions that have led the United Nations to consider them as one of the world's most persecuted peoples. Two waves of deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in 2012 left more than 200 mainly Rohingya people dead and around 140,000 displaced.

Yangon (Rangoon) Myanmar's biggest city has become more attractive to investors but the poor are squeezed by rising cost of living. It is the commercial capital of Asia's second-poorest country and the sixth-most expensive city in southeast Asia. Affordable housing is being torn down, replaced by high-rise condominiums and office buildings. Rents have quadrupled in recent years, while local wages remain depressingly low for many. About one-third of children under five are malnourished. Many spend at least half their salary putting food on the table. Forty percent of Yangon's five million people are "poor or extremely poor", according to the United Nations. With such social problems the Myanmar ruling class do what all elites try to do - divert attention by seeking scapegoats to blame. 

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