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Burma’s Misery Globalised February 3, 2009

Posted by Joseph in Burma, civil liberties, Migration, South East Asia.
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originally published on Znet

Out of the pariah state into the tumult of international rejection, the story of Burma’s desperate minorities and the tyranny they flee from.

The Rohinga journey, taking to the sea, from the depths of ethnic oppression is a story that scars the 21st century and ridicules notions of progress and enlightenment, it is time Asia woke up to the vacuum of morality that lies in its midst.

The faces of desperation, the scarred, emaciated bodies that have washed up on the pristine beaches of the Andaman Sea are a rare glimpse into that darkness, a darkness that is intentionally hidden by the regime. Treated like vermin by the Thai police intercepting them, cajoled like cattle they are manoeuvred away from tourists with savage beatings. Whilst many have shown signs of burns from when they’re vessels were set alight by the Thai police.

It is said that over a thousand Rohinga people from South West Burma have arrived in Thailand and been returned from whence they came; the sea. And this month the world has shared in this tragic reaction to the humanitarian crisis these people have fled in their homeland. It is a collusion in many ways, an abrogation of morals form the perpetrating Thai authorities and an eye opening lesson in the lengths that people will go to fight for their and their families subsistence.

The reaction of the Thai authorities shames an otherwise progressive and accommodating society, but this story is one that only has one root cause, a cause that must be tackled at its root. Regional players must recognise this particularly if their security forces are prepared to knowingly commit innocents to the open waves, sending them off with beatings, little food an no engine, hoping that ‘the wind will carry them to India or somewhere’ as one Thai official noted under anonymity to the press.

The root cause however is the Burmese Junta and its oppression of its subjected people, particularly ethnic minorities. This is not simply a tale of lack of rights, freedom of expression or democracy, surrounding countries must recognise and bare witness to systematic crimes against humanity, often committed against ethic or religious minorities because of their descent. These crimes include forced labour, people trafficking, rape, extra judicial killings and heavy handedness that would make Atilla the Hun look like Ghandi, all committed by government forces with impunity.

These crimes are now also not something that can be hidden away, clouded by gas, teak and gem deals, the crimes that the Burmese people are subject to, will increasingly affect their neighbours whether or not those nations choose to have ‘non interference’ foreign policies as they naturally take the perilous choice to flee across international borders.

The crimes are committed by an organised, authoritarian military able to sustain itself on the fortunes pouring in from her ‘non interfering’ neighbours. The Shwe Gas project is a case in point. It will channel the natural wealth of this impoverished land abroad via pipeline. The gas will be extracted from the seabed by a U.S. company; Trans Ocean Inc., the exclusive purchasing rights will be owned by a Chinese one, CNPC, whilst the bulk of the project is owned by the Daewoo Company of Korea, Korea Gas corporation, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Gas Authority of India.

If proof were further needed of the plight of Burmese minority groups, the treatment of ‘the forgotten people’, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently described the Chin people, was examined in a report of theirs. Inhabitants of an inaccessible region on the Burma India border, a border region that is racked with unrest on the Mizoram (Indian) side as it stands. The HRW report highlights the brutality and impoverishment that the Chin flee from only to be ‘unrecognised’ by the Indian government and then left to the mercy of the embattled locals or returned to the brutality. This leaves those who avoid deportation in the precarious situation that so many migrant communities do, as ‘unpeople’, pariahs forced into the hands of exploitative labour and abuse. Incidentally the deportation, by the government is a further crime under international law, stating as it does that returning migrants who they know will be mistreated, is a crime.

The Chin are persecuted for their religion, Christianity, just as the Rohingas are reviled for theirs, Islam. Religion is one plank in the systemic control that the military junta wield; violence is the main one however. For the thousands who do flee, whether because they went to the wrong meeting, ran from forced conscription or labour the trauma these memories produce will eternally remind them who is sadly still boss in their homeland.