Myanmar’s President Thein Sein says Rohingya Muslims must be expelled from the country and sent to refugee camps run by the United Nations.
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The former junta general said on Thursday that the "only solution" was to send nearly a million Rohingya Muslims - one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- to refugee camps run by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UN says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Ghulam Taqqi Bangash, professor at the SZABIST University, from Islamabad, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Perhaps you can give us a history fact check. Who are the Rohingya Muslims since, perhaps, many are not aware of them? And if you could tell us about their past and also the fact that they have been marginalized for some time now.
Bangash: Yes. Historically, they belong to three different countries. Some came from China, some from very old times from Bangladesh, and some from a third country but that is history.
Now they stand as such, as you see, they are being eliminated. This ethnic cleansing is absolutely an international tragedy. This has been going on for the last 30 years but nobody knew about it. The persecution was there but it was not of such a huge scale as it is now.
Now the problem is that the government says that these people do not belong to Myanmar. This is something which is not acceptable. It is an international tragedy. It is something that those people belong to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
They say that they are Bangladeshis; this is absolutely incorrect. Part of them were Bangladeshis in the sense that, well, they were not Bangladeshis, they were Pakistanis, in the real sense, when we go back to history before the independence of Myanmar in 1948.
This is absolutely incorrect that they are outsiders, that they must be thrown out. This is ethnic cleansing and the Myanmar government is lucky in the sense that the Muslim world, the majority of the Muslim peoples around the world do not know about this tragedy.
We in Pakistan, for example, have always respected and always treasured, we feel proud of the Buddhist traditions in Pakistan. Right here in the suburban area of Islamabad, we have a huge Buddhist civilization, monasteries and all Buddhists are welcome to Pakistan and everywhere. People from around the Buddhist world come here.
But this is very strange. It’s a paradox for me to know that the Buddhists who were historically so peaceful people, they were non-violent, most of their history they were non-violent, and now certainly this is a huge shock. It is a catastrophe!
Not owning them, that is the government and even this Nobel prize winner, the lady [Aung San Suu Kyi] is so criminally silent about the problems of this minority in Myanmar. This is not acceptable.
The more Muslims know about this around the globe, the more there will be problems for the Myanmar government.
Press TV: Every fact that not only you have presented but our previous two guests have presented brings up the simple question -- Why? Why has this happened? Why has this been going on for such a long time? And why, for example, hasn’t the UN accepted them? Isn’t this their job? It’s odd for them not to want to serve these refugees, for example, and in addition not to put efforts as to accommodate them otherwise. It just seems very strange, the whole situation and then, for example, for the UN to react this way.
Bangash: You see, the problem is that southeast Asia is becoming much more inconspicuous on the economic map for the United States of America. The Americans actually want to coax them, not only Myanmar but the other countries -- that is Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, all these countries -- so that they do not have better relations with the People’s Republic of China. That is a part of the problem.
Recently, the American Secretary of State has, you see, the sanction issue. They should rather strengthen the sanctions against Myanmar until this problem should be solved but they are not doing that.
The Americans want to have better military ties with the government which the international journalist community including your good self very much know that the election was not fair.
Of course, there are internal problems, other problems which contribute, that the system is antiquated, it is very old, including the banking system, the labor community, the economic isolation. All those aided to the miseries of the [different] communities in Myanmar including Buddhists and the Muslims.
This does not mean that one should be so criminally silent about the plight of this ethnic cleansing.
Now the situation is that more and more people -- because the journalist community, although it is not as free as it should be, now at least they can write, although they are punished and several cases have been lodged against them in the courts. Still, now the situation for the journalist community is better in Myanmar.
In the coming days, what I can predict is that more and more Muslims around the world will know about this, and the situation can become very grave. For us in Pakistan, if the Pakistani public knows about this, then there will be problems in Myanmar, because that is something which we do not want.
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