The death of at least 100 migrants in fight over food that shrank in supplies in boats that carried them at sea near Indonesia has shaken the mind of all people irrespective of geographical, poitical, reigious or ethnic divides, but has not moved the rulers of Myanmar, the place of their origin. Earlier mass graves of migrants were discovered in Thai forests revealing the cruelty the human traffickers did subject the migrants to when they found handing them over to slave buyers difficult. Most of the victims were Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar while a significant number of them were Bangladeshis. The US has termed the Rohingyas as victims of the worst ethnic persecution in history and called for a regional solution of their plight. The other day Myanmar authorities were quoted to have denied responsibility for the migrant boat people – 25,000 now on boats on South East Asian seas according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – and not even Nobel laureate Aung Sung Suu Kyi speaks a word on their miseries as they have been refused enrolment as voters and are being forced to leave their ancestral homes just to remain alive and search for lvelihood.The history of Rohingyas in Myanmar is traced back to 1000 years when Arab traders started settling in the country’s Arakan province. An integral part of India under the British Raj, Burma was separated from the rest of the subcotinent in 1935. The people of Myanmar has had close economic and cultural interactions with the people of the South-eastern provinces of India, especially Bengal. There used to be strong family bonds between the people of Arakan and those of Bangladesh’s southernmost regons of Chittagong and the hill districts. Famous Bangla poet Alaol is from Arakan. But for sometime the Myanmar authorities have been accusing them of being migrants from Bangladesh and have at intervals driven tens of thousands of them into Bangldesh, the latest being in 1992. After protracted negotiations however Myanmar took most of them back thorough checking of documents. The present crisis of exodus of (refugees) migrants from Myanmar is about a decade old. The most shocking part in it being the Buddhist monks who are leading the campaign against the Rohingya Muslims and fomenting the burning down of their homes. However as Bangladesh’s current policy is against allowing them shelter and a number of boat-loads of Rohingyas have been pushed back into the sea over several years, the mgrants have taken the sea route to South East Asian countries, especially Malaysia. Of late syndicates of human traffickers have emerged and started trafficking also Bangladeshis.
Law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh have responded to the discovery of mass graves of migrants including Bangladeshis in Thailand by killing about half a dozen alleged human traffickers in reported ‘shootouts’. An initiative to jointy deal with the problem of migrants with Malaysia has been spelt out. But the problem of desperate migation, as the news reports tell of their plight, can be solved not through rapid action like ‘shootouts’ or urgent diplomatic initiatives, but by sustained efforts to address the push and pull factors leading to migration. At the international plane there is the need for closer attention of world bodies including the Security Council of the UN the prevent the extermination of the entire Rohingya people. The US has urged for a regional solution of the problem, but Burma from where migrants primarily come has refused to take responsibliity. Eviction of the Rohinyas from their ancestral homes by refusing them ctizenship on flimsy grounds cannot be cloaked under the slogan of democratisation. Myanmar cannot achieve greatness by allowing this cruelty, which is a negation of civilisation, to unfold with unforeseen consequences. The world at large should also make Myanmar realise that this would not pay in the long run and save the worst persecuted people on earth. The right thinking people around the world continue to ask, don’t the cries of Rohingyas reach conscience keepers!