Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stop Rohingya Muslims persecution: U.S.

DHAKA — After decades of silence, the United States on Sunday, February 8, urged the South East Asian nation of Myanmar to stop prosecuting its Rohingya Muslim minority.

"The U.S. was aware of the fleeing of Rohingyas from Myanmar for persecution," Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters in Bangladesh.

"It's a matter of concern and the U.S. wants that Myanmar stops the persecution of Rohingyas."

The plight of Rohingyas has been making international headlines since about 400 Rohingyas landed on Indonesia's shores on two separate boats over the past month.

The two boats are believed to have been among nine carrying about 1,200 Rohingya believed to have landed on Thai shores late last year.

Thai authorities reportedly beat them and dumped as many as 10 wooden boats far out to sea with no motors and hardly any provisions.

They bore scars which they said had been inflicted with wooden sticks and rifle butts.

More than 550 Rohingya Muslims are feared to have drowned in the last two months after being towed out to sea by the Thai military.

Besides the two boats that came to Indonesia, three arrived in India and one in Thailand.

The three other boats are unaccounted for.

* State persecution

Many of the Rohingya survivors said they had left their homes in Myanmar's western Arakan state because they were being forced to embrace Buddhism.

They accused the military authorities in the mainly Buddhist country of chopping their fingers off if they tried to pray.

Rohingya Muslims are believed to be descended from Arab and other Muslim traders who travelled and settled in the area more than 1,000 years ago.

They are estimated at more than five percent of Myanmar's 50-million population and live in the northern Rakhine state, one of the poorest and most isolated.

Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982.

They are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home and are required to obtain an official permit to move from one town to another.

Rohingya Muslims are even required to get official permission before marriage and the marriage approval can take two years or more.

The couple must sign a commitment not to have more than two children.

This litany of abuse and harassment has and continues to push more Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar.

Bangladesh says there are some 200,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country, in addition to the 21,000 housed in two UN refugee camps.

It is estimated that 100,000 Rohingyas are living in Malaysia, only 10,000 of them are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Source : Islamonline
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