Bolton United for Peace & Burma Action Group hold vigil in Bolton on April 6
Elham Asaad Buaras
Members of Bolton United for Peace and Burma Action Group held a silent vigil in Victoria Square on April 6 to raise awareness on persecution of in Muslims in Myanmar [Burma].
Tensions have grown in northern Rakhine State between the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist majority and Muslims, who make up five per cent of the population but are denied citizenship.
Thein Sein’s Government does not recognise the Rohingya minority as Myanmar citizens and in July 2012 excluded them from a list of more than 130 ethnic races of Myanmar.
Dozens of Rohingyas have been murdered, with thousands more driven from their homes in the riots that started last year after weeks of sectarian disputes.
Whole villages have been decimated. Over three hundred houses and a number of public buildings have been razed.
The Government has responded by imposing curfews and by deploying troops in the region. On June 10 last year a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine, allowing the military to participate in the administration of the region.
Both the army and police have been accused of targeting Rohingya Muslims through mass arrests and arbitrary violence.
A number of monks’ organisations that played a vital role in Burma’s struggle for democracy have taken measures to block any humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas.
Mother-of-one Daubhill was among those to take part in the vigil. The 34-year-old, who is too frightened to be named, said her relatives have been living in “absolute fear” since riots started.
Among those present at the vigil was Labour MP for Bolton South East, Yasmin Qureshi, who has been contacted by her concerned constituents.
“I think the situation is appalling Last year, I met with Burma’s Ambassador to discuss the plight and persecution of the Rohingya community,” she told The Muslim News.
Qureshi has also contacted the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for stronger intervention.
Ibrahim Kala, who helped organise the vigil, told The Muslim News he hopes Bolton’s Burma Action Group campaigns are “replicated” nationally. He also urged people write to their MPs and MEPs on the issue.
“It is crucial to raise the awareness as the Muslims of Burma have been described as the ‘Palestinians of the South Asia’, persecuted for many years and living in very poor conditions. Just yesterday [April 10] we have had family reports of homes being burnt down.
“These are all Burmese Muslim citizens who are being targeted, unlike last year when it was the Rohingyas on the border of Bangladesh.
“Some say the authorities are complicit in this pogrom of ethnic cleansing, which is being orchestrated by an extreme Buddhist group. Whatever pressure the authorities are applying, like the British Government, if they have, seem to be failing. The Burmese military junta either cannot cope or want the violence and genocide to continue. Muslims and Christians bear the brunt of the anger and aggression.”