The Burmese state continues to ratchet up the pressure against the persecuted Rohingya minority in new and perverse ways. First, to “protect the race and religion” of the Buddhist majority, premier Thein Shein introduced a bill in parliament that would restrict inter-marriages, religious conversion, and “control population growth,” according to a report in Radio Free Asia:
The Organization for the Protection of Race, Religion, and Belief—headed by monk Tilawaka Biwuntha—had proposed legislation in those four areas in a petition submitted to Thein Sein in July 2013.
Laws “safeguarding the national race and religion” were necessary, the group said, for preventing further sectarian violence in Myanmar, which since 2012 has suffered several bouts of deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims as it emerges from decades under tightly controlled military rule.
Muslims have borne the brunt of the violence, many of them ethnic minority Rohingyas in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
It might surprise liberal, democracy-loving westerners that Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, lauded the decision. “I agree with House Speaker Shwe Mann’s decision on the president’s orders because it is in accordance with the law and the needs of our nation,” she said.
Along with legal measures, the state also is looking to make the Rohingya suffer indirectly. It ordered Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend its operations in Rakhine province, where the Rohingya predominantly reside. As this BBC report states, MSF is one of the largest healthcare providers in Rakhine province:
MSF is one of the few agencies that provides treatment for Rohingya who would otherwise be turned away from clinics and hospitals.
The government says that MSF has prioritised the treatment of the Rohingya community over local Buddhists.
The final straw may well have been MSF’s statement a month ago that it had treated people after an alleged massacre of Muslims by Buddhists near the border with Bangladesh, our correspondent says.
The Rohingya have not been included in Myanmar’s recent democratic and economic liberalisation. In fact, things only seem to be getting worse for them. They are denied citizenship in their own country, and Bangladesh and Thailand, which border Myanmar, refuse to host or otherwise help them. Thai officials have in fact made a profit from imprisoning and trafficking them.