Historically Burma was never a peaceful state, politically that is. The region, which recently was named Myanmar, was always economically viable for merchants but no institution of democracy was there to guide the nation to graduate into a developed constitutional state.
People there, by and large were restive and did not taste the freedom in real terms. The land of monks and military, this was always a place of intrigues and oppression. However the history of the country is interesting. It makes a great read if you go through the prehistoric accounts until today.
From pre historic days till the independence of the country in 1948 there have been small kingdoms, dynastic rules and city states over the period of time. The wars that these rulers fought were furious. It was only during the rule of Taugoon dynasty in the 16th century (1510 -1752) that the land saw administrative, economic and social reforms. The time also gave rise to comparatively peaceful and prosperous smaller states and kingdoms in the 17th and 18th century.
Long periods of conflict ridden times had made the people of the land grow restive and prone to war and conflict. From Pyu rulers to the last kingdom - all had gotten involved in wars, big and small. The Anglo-Burmese conflict that lasted more than 50 years from 1824 to 1885 ended with British colonial rule. British rulers did try (under their typical colonial programs) to bring about all kinds of reforms and tried to help turn the agrarian society to a modern capitalist state system. However, once the British left in 1948, the new born country plunged into a prolonged civil war, that saw rise of significant number of ethnic groups.
All fought for their rights and some for their liberation, once again. So the unfortunate innocent minorities were made victims of conflict, destruction and eventual poverty. Thereafter, the country just could not rear its head from continuous wars inside the society.
Fast forward to this day, the current onslaught of the hapless Muslims by the monks and military is only a continuation of the decade old oppressive character that these rulers and so called religious practitioners had. Military has been ruling this country for decades. There has been no real development, like old time China, the doors were (and actually still are) closed to the world.
The so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, appeared to be the champions of the poor and freedom hungry people, put up stiff resistance to the military regime for a long time. She was put under house arrest. She spent indoors nearly 20 years, not compromising with the ruling junta.
However she had to give in. The army rule was strongly rooted (still is) and these uniformed leaders did not budge from their positions. The ruling body agreed to free Suu Kyi on several conditions, one of them, being, she cannot be the president of the country, ever. This was how the constitution was inked.
The soft attitude of the army regime was mainly due to the long overdue changes that the people deserved. It was also pressure from the international community to free Suu Kyi and let an acceptable civilian rule come in place. Suu Kyi was freed to exercise her rights as a politician and later her party won the elections to have the majority in the parliament. However, her dream to be the President of the country was restricted by the new state document. The reform process started in 2010.
Suu kyi had to work out a compromise plan with the military junta that gave her liberty to walk free and also get involved in political acts. In fact, it was a power sharing agreement. Army still has seats in parliament. They have dominant say in the government. The state still runs under their thumbs. Suu Kyi was frustrated by the condition put up by the army.
Later she came out bursting in public. She made it known in clear terms that she wanted to be undisputed leader of the country. She still desires absolute power in her hand. She doesn't support the Rohingyas. She does not recognize the crisis situation of the minorities. She refrained from condemning the atrocities committed by the securities forces. She still turns away from the real catastrophe.
This shows the actual character of the Burmese ruling elite. All are communal and tyrannical. Suu has insulted millions of her own people and the world conscience. Amidst this backdrop, there is this current crisis. The government says the crisis erupted when some Rohingya refugees attacked the members of the armed forces. Thereon, the crisis expanded and worsened.
Today thousands of Rohingyas are driven away from their homes, many have been killed. According to government handout, the security forces have killed 370 attackers. Actual figures speak of much higher number. Till now, 2600 houses have been burned down by the Burmese security forces in Rakhine estate. Nearly 150 thousand Rohingyas are now in Bangladesh passing days of extreme hardship.
So we have two sides of the story. One, the Burmese authorities claim that the current situation is the result of the criminal acts of the Rohingya refugees and the other side is the visible picture of humanitarian crisis and atrocities by the security forces. We are faced with a real tragedy. Every day hundreds are making their flights into Bangladesh, being stopped by our border guards, they are stranded under open skies in rough weather. Dead bodies are found floating in the shores of the bay.
It's time that we take up the issue with the United Nations immediately. Although the world leaders are already voicing their concern but nothing is happening. Burmese leaders (military and the influential Suu Kyi), if are against these hapless minorities. The monks of the land make it more difficult.
Bangladesh should stand up and show her skills in diplomacy, and if necessary also talk in the aggressive tone that the Burmese rulers are using. We just can't be complacent with the rouge neighbor. They show total disregard to our sovereignty and in the name of security they carry out minority purging. If this is allowed to happen, things will soon turn catastrophic. We shall be left with yet another genocide. How can we see million perish right in our own yard?
The writer is a columnist, biographer and peace activist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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