Open letter, the truth behind the riots in Rakhine, Myanmar

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Dear Selectively Deaf and Dumb International Community

by Su Kyaw on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 2:37am ·

On the 28th of May an innocent girl was raped and murdered at Kyauk Ni Maw Village in the Rakhine State( West Burma). All hell broke lose after a local news channel reported the rape to have been committed by a rogue ” Kalar” ( a derogatory term used for Burmese Muslims). An uneasiness and stirrings of the ugly riots were to come, pervaded through the whole state.

Now the Rakhine state has two main religious dichotomies: Rakhine Buddhists and Rakhine Muslims. These two are often at odds with each other. I’m not taking sides just because I’m a Muslim myself but injustice in all forms is universal and I cannot just sit and shut up when something monstrous on that scale is taking place, unchecked.

The fuse was struck on the 3rd of June when a 300 strong Rakhine Buddhist mob, stirred to anger and fervent hatred by the local news channel, waylaid a truck carrying 10 muslims( one of them was female) and beat them to a pulp. The female had a bamboo stick shoved up her private part amidst the beating. The humiliation and torture of the 10 clueless victims did not end there. After they were beaten to death, the mob urinated, defecated and vomited on the corpses having gotten themselves into a drunken stupor in the process.

Now the civil unrest between these two religious dichotomies have started spreading over the rest of the country. Any form of critical, analytical or reasonable thinking is clouded by years and years of hatred and prejudice against each other until it became a boiling pot of kerosene waiting for a single match to be struck.

Getting down to a post mortem of event that triggered this brewing civil unrest, there are a few points to be taken into account:

1) The news channel that instigated the religion oriented hate crime released the identity and photos of the “culprits” before police had even started an investigation with the words ” Raped by 3 Kalars”. These particulars were then wildly circulated all over the net and through word of mouth. This is in clear contravention of accused’s right to a fair trial under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

The universal golden rule of ” Innocent until proven guilty” seemed to have been reversed in this case in direct contravention of:

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

2)    People that were totally unconnected to the suspects were brutally assaulted and murdered. The accusation was meted out to them in a physically fatal way without giving them a right to appear before a judge and defend themselves for a crime they had nothing to do with. Their only fault was that they were “Muslim” or “Kalar” and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This in direct contravention of the following articles:

Article 5

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

I’m not blaming the Burmese Buddhists as a community, way of life or the everyday individual. Neither am I saying that Burmese Muslims are all innocent. That would be an immature way of thinking. Life is not black and white; rather it’s a huge canvas of grey. I blame the current unfolding of events on collective ignorance and the opportunists who take advantage of this abysmal IGNORANCE and use it for their own gains. I also blame the state authorities who OMITTED to carry out their duties in a proper way. I’m sad that the poor Buddhist girl had to go before her time. I’m sad that the massacre victims had to go before their time in a brutal way. But I do not hold hate for the people who committed the crimes( both the purported muslim rapist and the 300 strong buddhist mob).

I just do not think religion nor race nor gender should be a discrimanatory benchmark by which you decide who should suffer more or who should suffer less. Irrespective of what religion one professes, we all want the same things: love, affection, security, peace. And we all fear losing these same things. At the end of the day we’re ALL human beings, irrespective of whatever race or religion one is identified by. A wrong is a wrong, for example- rape, murder and torture- in any world religion and universal code of ethics.

Even an atheist would realize that these are fundamental rights one does not breach without harming the soul of humanity. Therefore the bottomline is that, neither religion nor race define an act, whether good or bad. One should look beyond the barriers of religion and race to what connects us, the common thread of what makes us human beings. I really hope these instigators and the instigated have some sense knocked into their thick skulls and the people in power remedy the situation before it’s too late. Murder is still murder no matter who does it.

I really hope the international community will do something about this situation before another srebenica type massacre happens. Or ethnic cleansing. Just because people feed into that ignorance without getting to the root of the matter in a diplomatic and transparent way.

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