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Human Rights Violations Against Rohingya Muslims in Burma

Burma, a country notorius for its harsh military rule that resulted in decades of human rights violations including genocide, recruiting child soldiers and carrying outsystematic rape, has been under major political reform since the current government took office in 2011. Civil liberties have been increased and many political prisoners, most notably Aung San Suu Kyi, have been released. However, despite these promising steps it remains doubtful whether the country and especially its military establishment have cleaned their act for good.

During 2012, the Rakhine State riots pinned Burmese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims against each other, resulting in 100 000 displaced people and close to 200 deaths. A major sign of worry was the discrimination from the side of the military and the police during the riots: almost all of the detained were Rohingyas, and there were multiple reports of torture and beatings to death of detainees.

The displaced Rohingya Muslims have been pushed to temporary settlement camps which according to a UN report released on Thursday resemble prisons. Human rights groups also report of Buddhist monks leading bans on doing business with the Rohingya as well as threats to aid workers helping them. Many have tried to escape on boats to neighboring countries, where they have been rejected or even killed as this week in Thailand where the military shot 2 people.

This recent outbreak of violence and the ensuing discrimination of the Rohingya Muslim minority is just bringing to light a century-long oppression of this ethnic minority, which is considered by the Burmese government as an immigrant group and thus not eligible for citizenship. Particularly alarming is the involvement of the military and the police in the abuses, given Burma's history.

The UN report released on Thursday says that Burmese political reforms, while promising, still leave a lot to doubt. There are still a number of prisoners of conscience and persecution of ethnic minorities continues to take place. More should be done to ensure that the reforms ensure civil liberties for every Burmese.

We invite you to watch the following films on the topic of Rohingya Muslims and Burma:

  • THE FLOATING MAN by Syed Jobair Ahmed begins when the Bangladesh navy rescue a drifting trawler in the Bay of Bengal. The trawler contains 33 Rohingya people, all are dead except one. TV reporter, Farzana, doesn't waste any time in getting her interview with the lone survivor; a man named Abul Kashem. Through the interview, Kashem takes us on his journey of painful memories from his homeland in Burma, along a road of hearbreak, cruelty and despair to his illegal escape as he fled the past in hope of finding a more peaceful future.
  • MY ROHINGYA by Thananuch Sanguansak is the story of a woman reporter from Thailand whose coverage of the Rohingya people began in early 2009 after the Western media reported that the Thai navy was putting illegal Muslim Rohingya refugees aboard boats with no engines and leaving them on the high seas to fend for themselves. The Thai reporter becomes a backpacking journalist, travelling to different places to meet Rohingya immigrants of different ages in a bid to find out why they decided to leave their motherland. She also visits a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
  • THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE by Rex Bloomstein is a film about the Burmese comedian Zarganar, a man of rare courage and unflagging humility. One of the first to speak out against his government and a supporter of the 2007 ‘Saffron Revolution’, Zarganar, a former dentist whose name means ‘tweezers’, has been in and out of prison his entire life, culminating in his current 59-year sentence for treason.
  • BURMA VJ: REPORTING FROM A CLOSED COUNTRY by Anders Østergaard tells the story of the 2007 protests in Burma by thousands of monks by using smuggled footage.

 

WATCH THE CINEMA FOR PEACE TRAILER OF THE WEEK:

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"The Floating Man" by Syed Jobair Ahmed


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"Burma VJ" by Anders Østergaard


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"My Rohingya" by Thananuch Sanguansak

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"This Prison Where I Live" by Rex Bloomstein