Myanmar – A Swap Emerging

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STUTI AICH

Myanmar seems to be encouraging Buddhists from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts to settle on lands left behind by Rohingyas who fled the country’s Rakhine state.

Nearly 50 families from remote hill and forest areas on the Bangladesh side, have relocated to Rakhine state in mainly Buddhist Myanmar lured by promises of free land and food for five to seven years.

Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. © Getty Images

The families from the ethnic Marma and Mro tribes have left their homes in the Bandarban hill district, local councillor Muing Swi Thwee said. He said 22 families departed from their villages in the Sangu forest reserve last month.

 

Ethnic Marma and Mro tribes have left their homes in the Bandarban hill district, local councillor Muing Swi Thwee said. He said 22 families departed from their villages in the Sangu forest reserve last month

 

These families too are extremely poor and they are migrating to fill up the land abandoned by the Rohingyas.

Observers say Myanmar authorities are carrying out methodical social engineering schemes in northern Rakhine in the absence of the Rohingyas.

The Government is working on a series of government, non-government and army sponsored projects to transform the area since the military sees it as a frontline of its fight against encroaching Islam.

Officials said they suspect political motives behind the migration.

“We think perhaps they (Myanmar) want to make some news using these people, that Buddhists are being tortured and repressed in Bangladesh and that’s why they have left the country,” said one official of Bangladesh on condition of anonymity.

 

Many a time’s organised religions are hijacked to assemble and mobilise certain groups of people against each other to achieve certain, often political ends. It is quite clear that Buddhism has been mobilised to turn the wrath of the unsympathetic state and the majority against a hapless minority whom they do not see not as a part of their own

 

How do we reconcile the perception of Buddhism as a philosophy of peace with this ugly reality of Buddhist–led pogroms in Myanmar ?

The answer is more complicated but one aspect is, of course, the politicisation of religion, in this case, carried out in the name of nationalism and national identity. Many a time’s organised religions are hijacked to assemble and mobilise certain groups of people against each other to achieve certain, often political ends. It is quite clear that Buddhism has been mobilised to turn the wrath of the unsympathetic state and the majority against a hapless minority whom they do not see not as a part of their own.

An army crackdown sends thousands fleeing in Myanmar. © AFP

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for camps in Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a crackdown last August, which the US and UN officials have termed ‘ethnic cleansing’.

United Nations’ Assistant Secretary–General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, is travelling to Myanmar.

She will be there for a week and observe first–hand the impact of the crisis in Rakhine State and the conflict in Kachin and Shan states, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary–general, said in a press briefing.

Her mission will include meetings in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, as well as field visits. During her stay in Myanmar, Mueller is expected to meet with people impacted by the humanitarian crises, senior Government officials, and humanitarian partners. She will also discuss ways to improve the humanitarian response in Rakhine state. ■

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