(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Camps are "more like prisons")
During the past week I have been seeing more and more tweeters sounding the alarm that the next wave of ethnic cleansing is about to strike in the Arakan. Almost a year ago I would have thought this was a tad bit overly dramatic. Today however it feels closer to reality than ever before.
These days the Rohingya within Burma are living in a situation where they are waiting for the next boot to drop. Their lives are in constant danger as the radical Rakhine continue to rally Buddhists to their cause. All the while they are starved in camps that the UN says are "more like prisons". More of the Rohingya die daily of hunger and disease in villages that are locked down behind blockades the government has erected.
For the Rohingya it always feels as though the next wave of violence is persistently lingering over the horizon.
So what could the next wave of violence look like if it were to happen tomorrow?
After the last two outbreaks of ethnic cleansing in the Arakan the Rohingya were effectively disarmed and rounded up into camps or confined to their villages and ghettos. This has left the Rohingya unable to mount any effective form of defense against attacks from well organized Nasaka backed mobs or Rakhine nationalist that were not disarmed after the fighting. It is important to also note that Rohingya prior to the fighting had only been able to use agricultural tools and common household items to fight back. The Rakhine on the other hand have the support of modern weapons and vehicles to readily move their forces onto target. Thus the mere "fighting strength" of the two communities is already disproportionate.
When you factor in the length of time that the Rohingya have been starved and deprived of communication with family and friends the ability to organize is depleted as well. With no ability to openly communicate with neighboring villages or camps the Rohingya are isolated. They are for lack of better words the proverbial sitting ducks in this situation.
In addition there is no reason for the Rakhine to wait for an excuse to attack either.
The initial violence was blamed on an alleged rape and murder of a "Rakhine" Buddhist woman. The result was an untold number of Rohingya arrested, raped, murdered, and made homeless. Of course there were a handful of Rohingya that fought back to save their homes and loved ones and these were killed or arrested while their attackers went free. But the fact remains that the initial campaign of ethnic cleansing was a result of a planned campaign in which a rape was exploited and rolled into a larger crime.
After the campaign began the Rohingya were sent off to concentration camps or had their homes turned to ghettos. This was intended and has been carried out to further isolate the targeted community. It leaves the victims vulnerable to further exploitation and potential extermination. It was the same method used in Poland with the Jews in Warsaw. It was the same method used in Bosnia by the Serbs to exterminate Muslims.
All of this leaves one to guess that if the "ethnic violence" returns it will be targeted at a community already living under siege. If or when the next stage of this campaign of ethnic cleansing begins it has the possibility of being the Rakhine extremists' version of Hitler's "Final Solution".
If it begins as early as March (an estimate given by tweeters following the genocide) then we are almost guaranteed to see Burmese police clearing out ghettos and emptying the camps. Mass executions could be possible as Rakhine extremist find that they have no ability to deport or drive out the thousands of Rohingya caught in their ghetto liquidations. Rohingya attempting to flee would face Nasaka forces ready and willing to shoot first and ask questions after the killing is finished.
Now by this point many people reading this probably think that I'm jumping directly to the worst possible scenario. For many the thought of this sort of thing happening in our time is uncompromisable. We are supposed to be living in a modern age of civility and tolerance. Burma however lives in an age and culture of ethnocentrism and Junta law. And this sort of tragedy is already taking place on a daily basis in the Arakan region of Myanmar whether our Western press and media like it or not.
Rohingya within Burma are living a day to day life as they wait to see if their government will kill them all or just let this latest outburst of violence build upon a long history of oppression and discrimination. For them, it is not a question of if the next wave of violence will happen... it is when it will begin.
(note not all sources are listed)
Democratic Voice of Burma