Burma’s Gaza?
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, January 24, 2022
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COVER STORY

Burma’s Gaza?


By MIN KHET MAUNG MAR — APR, 2009 - VOLUME 17 NO.2


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(Page 2 of 2)

One other township in Arakan State has a large Rohingya majority—Buthidaung, where more than 80 percent of the 279,000 inhabitants are Rohingya.

Building on Rakhine prejudice and exploiting social tensions, the current military regime has progressively tightened restrictions on the Rohingya, denying them not only citizenship but also the most basic rights.

Freedom to travel is severely curtailed, and permission has to be sought from local immigration departments for journeys even within Arakan State. Permits are issued for a maximum of 14 days.

A main street in Maungdaw. (Photo: Min Khet Maung/The Irrawaddy)
The travel restrictions make life difficult for the Rohingya on many levels, including education. The university in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, has no faculties for medicine or engineering, meaning that young people wanting to study those subjects must enroll at universities in Rangoon. But that option is denied Rohingya students, who have difficulty enough trying to cope with the discriminatory practices and bureaucracy of Sittwe University.

Some restrictions are patently racist—one, for instance, requires Rohingya couples to sign an agreement that they will have no more than three children when seeking official approval to marry.

Many Rohingyas hope the general election planned for 2010 could bring about a relaxation of restrictions or even an end to them.

For one young Rohingya, who graduated from university two years ago, citizenship is the most important right he would like to see restored. “If democracy is restored, then we must be given the chance to ask for citizenship,” he said.

Yet the Rakhine historian warned that social tensions could increase if the Rohingya are granted citizenship and land ownership rights.

“If the government does not solve the problem wisely,” he said, “ this could be a hot spot of the future—another Gaza.”



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