By Md. Kamruzzaman
A sense of consensus for peaceful co-existence is growing up between the Buddhists of Myanmar and Rohingya Muslims, signaling a great change in the country in near future
Since its independence from the British colony on January 4, 1948, Myanmar [the then Burma] has already passed more than seven decades. But the nationals of the Buddhist majority southeast Asian country have hardly enjoyed the taste of freedom as the country was mostly ruled by military dictators in defiance of the mandate of mass people. Almost 50 years between 1962 and 2011, the country was under military dictators and only 10 years from 2011 to February 1, 2021, the countrymen observed a controlled democracy under the shadow of the military. People, however, tried to cope with the wounded democracy restored after 5 decades through the November 7, 2010 general elections as ‘a good in evil’. But the highly authoritarian military force has shamefully failed to stand with the controlled democracy for not more than one decade. The men with arms dethroned their puppet de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling National League for Democracy party that came to power through a landslide victory in the November 8, 2020 national election and seized the power once more.
During the history of 5-decade-long oppressive martial rule in Myanmar since the first military coup in 1962 to 2011, the armed dictators tortured its citizens especially different minority groups and mostly Rohingya Muslims in a very inhuman way. Just for example, we can mention here the 1978 “Operation Dragon King”, known officially as “Operation Nagamin” during the rule of Ne Win, who was the country’s military dictator during the Socialist Burma period of 1962 to 1988. In that military clampdown nearly 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh though Dhaka was later able to manage the Win administration to take back around 180,000 of its nationals.
Historical records also say that torturing on minority communities mainly on Rohingya Muslims is very common in Myanmar irrespective of civil or military government. Noted Rohingya Historian Dr. Mohammed Yunus in his famous book “A History of Arakan (Past & Present)” has written that from 1942 to 1999 more than 20 major operations of eviction were carried out by the successive governments of Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar’s state force as well as extremist Buddhists engage in brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in any pretext for many years. Professor of International Relations in Dhaka University Imtiaz Ahmed in his book “The Plight of the Stateless Rohingyas” writes: “During the Second World War 100,000 Rohingyas were killed while 50,000 others were drove out to the East Bengal by the Rakhine communalist in collusion with Burma Independence Army [BIA]”.
The persecution continued. Even while a genocide case is currently under the jurisdiction against Myanmar, there are reports of persecution against Rohingya and other minority groups in the country. According to a study titled ‘Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience’ conducted by a consortium of researchers and organizations from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Norway and the Philippines, during the August 2017 crackdown Myanmar army and extremist Buddhists killed over 24,000 Rohingya while 18,000 Rohingya women and girls have been raped. Moreover, 41,192 Rohingya suffered bullet wounds, over 34,436 were thrown into fire and some 114,872 beaten up by Myanmar forces. The estimated number of houses burned is 115,026 while some 113,282 houses were vandalized.
It is a matter of great wonder that during such inhuman offences perpetrated by Myanmar army under the patronization of the government, there were no reports of significant movement by the mass people of the country. Even Nobel prize winner Suu Kyi has failed to show her commitment to humanity and justice in the case of Rohingya. Very regrettably she took the side of Tatmadaw [Myanmar army] while the force committed genocidal offences against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims. The whole world has observed through different digital platforms including satellite images and mobile footages and direct statements by the genocide survivors how brutally thousands Muslims were murdered, women and girls were raped and thousands of residences were burnt to ashes.
Even Suu Kyi took part in the hearing of genocide lawsuit against Myanmar authorities and its military in the world’s top court International Court of Justice in support of the killers. Shocking the world’s humanity, Kyi spoke at the UN court in favor of the Myanmar army and misinterpreted the treatment of Rohingya by the army. Her indecent compromise to power politics has been nakedly unveiled before the world. What a great irony! The same army has dethroned her very disgracefully just within a few months. There is a common philosophy in most parts of the world that when you support any criminal despite your full knowledge about the offences done by him, once that criminal will destroy you. The condition of Suu Kyi reminds all this truth.
However, the most significant aspect of the February 1, 2021 military coup is that the response of the Myanmar’s mass people to the coup is totally different and unprecedented this time. The anti-coup massive movement in the country, popularly known as Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), turned into an epidemic course on Sunday (May 28, 2021). According to different international media reports, 10 to 13 protesters were murdered by police on the day while three others were killed earlier. Above hundred protesters were injured by a brutal anti-movement crackdown. Besides, hundreds of citizens of the country including teachers, students, journalists and human rights defenders have been detained by police. Women, children and aged—none were relieved from the brutal treatment of the police. The whole scenario and behavior of the military regime now in Myanmar recalls us again and again the brutal crackdown on Rohingya in August 2017.
Now the people of Myanmar feel that the ghostly attitude of the army against Rohingya once they ignored has been fallen upon them in course of time. They feel now that if they were vocal against the brutality over Rohingya in the past, the military got a good lesson then and now the military had no way to orchestrate the same-style crackdown. It is not unwise to say that most of the Myanmar military are not at all in human nature after committing gross crimes against humanity for years. But Suu Kyi and the people of the Buddhist majority country mistakenly relied on such a military. So it’s very natural that the conscienceless force will once hit them as they have been accustomed to committing crimes.
If we observe the massive anti-putsch upsurge in Myanmar in the last couple of days we see that people are now repenting for their silence in the past during the brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims. Even many banners carrying by the anti-coup protesters were written with messages about genocide against Rohingyas, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against other national minorities by the Tatmadaw. Banners and play cards are also carrying messages like “We, the people of Myanmar, are no longer afraid of the army’s bullets”. So I see this great movement as a clear signal of noble consensus between the mass people of Myanmar or peaceful Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
Factually, the vital message that the Tatmadaw failed to calculate is that this is the era of information-technology and also the period of globalization. People in this era want freedom and not dictatorship or autocracy. The Myanmar army forgot the recently held Arab Spring. They thought that like the last 50 years of military regime they will be able to control everything forever. But, it was out of their imagination that such a colossal and revolutionary movement will be staged in Myanmar. Even, the world never imagines of such an unprecedented anti-military coup in Myanmar. It is seen that during all previous misrules by the army, the mass people of the country never reacted so strongly.
It may seem to some people that China is in favor of the Myanmar army. So China will help the Tatmadaw. But this time is different because no external country can go against the mass upsurge of another country. The main purpose of China is to earn their interest in Myanmar. Who is in power is not their main headache. Beijing actually wants to ensure their interest. If mass people are in great revolution against the dictatorship it means that this military ruling must be flopped within a short time and a new force will form government through a democratic process. So China is not so foolish that it will go against the mass people of Myanmar, risking their billion dollar projects in the country.
Meanwhile, the role of Rohingya in reply to the military coup is also very wise. Rohingya leaders in Bangladesh, the home to more than 1.2 million stateless and persecuted Rohingya, as well as other parts of the world have been frequently saying that they want democracy and not military rule in Myanmar. Dozens of Rohingay diaspora organizations have also issued statements expressing their solidarity with the mass movement in their motherland and stated that they want to live peacefully in their home country with their Buddhist brothers and sisters and contribute for the welfare of the homeland.
It is my strongest belief that the military dictatorship in Myanmar must be fallen within the near future and it will be a great moment to return democracy in real sense in the country with Rohingya enjoying citizenship rights and dignity and working side by side for the welfare of the country in a democratic environment.
Writer is an Asia-based prize-winning freelance journalist who mainly writes on diplomacy, refugee, human rights and climate change. His articles have been frequently published by Turkish Anadolu Agency, South Asian Monitor and other media outlets including the Aljazeera as content of the Anadolu Agency]