Monday, September 9, 2013

Seeking a Home of Tolerance; Rohingya and Muslim Solidarity

"We respond to the screams of Rohingya." It was the message written on the piece of paper that was found after bombing at Ekayana Tempel, in Duri Kepa, West Jakarta on August 5th 2013. Rohingya is one of minority ethnics in Myanmar. According to UN document, there are 800,000 Rohingya people living in Myanmar that mostly located in Western Rakhine State, which has been swept by sectarian violence in recent days.

Myanmar recognized the diversities of ethnic minorities in The 1982 Citizenship Law, as it is mentioned on the chapter II about citizenship, as it is quoted;

 Nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D. are Burma citizens.

However, according to Abdul Kadir, council of Asian Muslim Action Network from Myanmar, during Session of intra inter faiths Dialogues in Bangkok on 1 September 2013, these ethnic minorities should be able to proof that they lived in Myanmar prior to 1185 B.E (1823 A.D)- before the first Anglo-Burmese war. With this law, Rohingya as one of ethnic minorities in Rakhaine state has difficulties to show their evident saying that their ancestor has settled during 1823 A.D.

Ma Wai Wai from Young Women’s Network for Arakan highlighted that conflict in Arakan was not only about identity or citizenship but more about the crisis of the current government which needs support from the (majority Buddhist) population. In the 1948 citizenship law there were 144 ethnic minority groups in Burma including Rohingya, but in the 1982 law, there were only 133 ethnic groups left. 11 groups were excluded, one of them is Rohingya. Most of those groups are Muslim. With the progress of democratic reform, gradually people have withdrawn their support from the military regime, however this has also caused demands for full rather than partial democracy.

In line with that, the Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which published in June 2013, highlighted that one of root causes of violence in Arakan State is Land Rights. The Economic development in Burma is able to resolve crisis, but at the same time increase violation of human rights, event dead of many people belonging to ethnic minorities. As I quoted from the report, the Land Rights as one of major problem cause ethnic minority react violently to Burmese government because insensitive development. For instance in Kachin state, building of the power dam in north of Myitkyin, the capital city has removed thousands people, without displacement. Instead of employing local people, 10,000 migrant workers from China were imported to come.

Similarly, lands are being confiscated to build a pipeline that will transport natural gas found in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of Rakhine State in western Burma, through the middle of country and across Shan State in the east, for sale to China, where the pipeline will terminate. This causes displacement of people, land taken by the state without fair compensation, human rights abuse and violence. If people complain they are gone to detention jail or disappear.

The violent conflict in Arakan State is not simply about identity card citizenship for Rohingya people, but economic interests interplayed with an identity crisis. More than 200 people died in the 2012 violence and thousand people fled from the country to seek asylum. The rest are living at camps. Perhaps, it was also triggered by sentiment of ethnic religious campaign of “burmanization”, which provoked by General Ne Win who led a coup d’etat in 1962 to clear up Burma from the outside world and to create a socialist state. The country wanted to unite nationality with character of Buddhism. It is called “Operation Nagmin” in 1977 which aimed to scrutinize the citizenship status of all individuals and to expel foreigners. In Rakhine State, this policy led to extreme violence and massive human rights violations against the Rohingya and the “mass exodus” of an estimated 200,000 Rohingya across the Burmese-Bangladeshi border. Now, thousand of them are staying temporary in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and others to seek security and a home of tolerance.

A home of tolerance?

Though Indonesia is not a country entitles to give asylum to people, but there are 276 Rohingya reported by Ditjen Immigration, are now staying in Medan, Riau, Manado, Yogyakarta, Aceh, Bogor, Jakarta, and some other places to request a shelter before continuing to Australia as a home of tolerance for them. The existence of Rohingya in Indonesia gain empathy and support from civil societies as Muslim brother and sister. For instance, about Jakarta Legal Aid Institution (LBH Jakarta) has received 18 people who used to resettle in Malaysis for thirty years. Dompet Dhuafa, on of charity organization provided foods, and other necessity for Rohingya in Jakarta during. In Medan, UNHCR provide Rp 40,000 allowance everydays. In Jember, as reported by Tempo on 18 April 2013, 68 Rohingya arrested by the police and put in Hotel. Under coordination of Branch of Nahdatul Ulama, people of Jember donated some aids. In one side it teaches people of Indonesia to show their strong solidarity in helping Rohignya, but on the other side, this can be used by a certain group to sharpen intolerance to non Muslim.

The message of bombing of the Ekayana temple justify my second argumentation that an intolerance group has taken this change to deepen hatred among people towards non Muslim. Indonesian people should take this incident as an effort to break up our unity and destroy characteristics of Indonesia people who have been well-known as friendly, tolerant, respect to diversities, accept pluralism and multiculturalism. People of Indonesia should show to the world that Indonesia can be a home of tolerance for everyone who seeks helps. Rohingya are human being. They should be treated as human being as part of our brotherhood and sisterhood. When I met them at Indonesia Legal Aid two months ago in Jakarta, they said if Indonesia would give us a home, they might not continue to go to Australia. ***

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