#BURMA #MYANMAR: Is there an #orchestrated #campaign to #grant #citizenship to #Bengalis? “Rohingya,”



The cover of Santa Barbara Independent newspaper titled “Burma’s Brutal Buddhists” and the article seen on the website

It has been two years since the riots in Rakhine State left more than 200 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, but the tension still burns between ethnic Rakhines and Bengalis. Both the Rakhine and Bengali communities have suffered from the violence since a tide of migrants rushed in through the western border of Myanmar. However, international media organizations and various associations continue to portray the Bengalis as the population most antagonized by the violence in Rakhine State, and the Rakhine ethnics—and the country as a whole—as discriminating against Muslim communities in the western state.

The international media’s coverage of events has become more aggressive, to the point of insulting Buddhist Rakhines and the religion itself, which is practiced by most people in Myanmar. Religion and national identity are very delicate issues, but international observers have now altered the motive of the violence from an uncontrolled immigration problem to a religious and nationalistic cause. Moreover, Buddhism, a religion of kindness and love, is frequently depicted as violent and extreme.

Since the riots in Rakhine State in 2012, the word “Buddhist Terror” has become popular among the international media. Thanks to TIME magazine’s cover story, “The Face of Buddhist Terror,” which referred to a Buddhist monk as an extremist and a terrorist, the insults against Buddhism intensified. Consequently, copies of the particular issue were barred from distribution in Myanmar and Siri Lanka.

People who have studied Buddhism know that that it is a peaceful religion. Buddhists are proud to practice precepts of kindness and love. They are right to be proud, since no one has ever been harmed in the name of the religion over the course of history. However, international media uses the words “Buddhist terrorists” whenever they describe communal clashes between the Rakhines and Bengalis. They are propagandizing in favor of the Bengalis while completely neglecting the fact that Buddhism is not a religion of violence.

Two years after the TIME article, the Santa Barbara Independent, a weekly newspaper based in California, has published a similarly insulting article. The same Buddhist monk, Wirathu, was featured once again under the headline, “Buddhist Rampage in Burma,” using the country’s former name. Likewise, the article featured one-sided views favoring the Bengalis. The article quoted unreliable and unconfirmed sources stating that Bengalis, who call themselves “Rohingya,” are being tortured and discriminated against. In addition, the case of Duchiyadan village in Rakhine State, which was investigated by various observers including international organizations, was recounted inaccurately. Rumours of a two-child policy were also included in the story to make it look as though the Bengalis are being discriminated against. The article quoted unreliable sources and was one-sided.

The Santa Barbara Independent, which has a circulation of 40,000, portrayed Wirathu as a terrorist just like TIME magazine did. In fact, all the attacks on Buddhism began as attacks on Wirathu that later expanded to insult the Buddhist community as a whole. In the TIME article, Buddhism was portrayed as a new birthplace for terrorism. In the Santa Barbara Independent, the insult was not only against Wirathu but also every single citizen of Myanmar who is a Buddhist.


The article, which appeared on March 6, seems timed with the national census happening in April. This is another way to apply pressure on the government to recognize the Bengalis as “Rohingya,” as the international media refers to them. There may be more occurrences like this, in which international media insult Myanmar Buddhists, favour the Bengalis, fabricate stories as with the Duchiyadan case, and apply pressure on the government. People of our country must be ready for such attacks and accusations.

Myanmar is a sovereign nation. Therefore, rules and laws granting citizenship concern our country alone. All over the world, citizenship laws are drafted to protect countries and the interests of their people. No individual or organization has the right to disturb enforcement of the law. Thus it remains that Bengalis should only be screened according to the 1982 citizenship law. If they qualify for citizenship according to the law, citizenship status will be granted. The truth is that no one—including the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or any other organization, country, or media outlet—can pressure the government to grant citizenship.

This is not a problem that can be solved with mounting pressure. Even though the public and the government have always had differences of opinion when it comes to most issues, they are of one mind when it comes to the Bengalis. This must not be forgotten. So anyone who tries to pressure the government to grant citizenship to Bengalis, or insists on amending the citizenship law, needs to know that they will face opposition—not only from the government but from the public as well.

Zayar Nanda is a senior editor for the Eleven Media Group.


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