I’ve selected certain sections of this Foreign Policy Journal story on the Burmese Muslims—the Rohingya—an ethnic group seeking resettlement in the West, that add to our knowledge of the situation. For new readers, we have a Rohingya reports category that goes back 3 years which now contains 92 posts for your review.
I had a lot of interest in writing about Rohingya during a period when our State Department was trying to figure out if we were going to resettle these “swashbuckling” and “not so cuddly” refugees. Those are words used by, Antonio Graceffo,* the author of this report in describing the Rohingya, but now we are taking Rohingya refugees to the US— so are Canada, Australia and some European countries. The door has been opened.
Graceffo suggests that the Rohingya are basically forgotten by the humanitarian crowd at the UN and elsewhere, but that is not true. They have well-organized advocacy groups around the world helping them push their story of persecution and suffering. We know, we have heard from some. Even some federal refugee contractors are pushing for Rohingya resettlement, see USCRI here. And, they are increasingly successful in resettling Rohingya in the West as I just said.
So here are the things I’ve highlighted from this report. Persecution is across the board.
They (Rohingya the author met) made comments like, the Buddhists did this to us, the Buddhists did that to us. But I know from my own experience, the Burmese government hates all of the ethnic minorities. They do horrible things to them equally. They persecute Christians and other Buddhists alike. It’s not because of religion, but because of race. In Arakan State, the area where these men come from, there are basically only two types of people, Rohingyas and the government/military people. And the government/military people just happen to be Buddhists. So the only experience these people ever had with Buddhists was of being mistreated and repressed by the Burmese government.
Malaysia is a Muslim country so the Rohingya can stay while other Burmese religious groups cannot.
The Rohingyas are not the only refugees from Burma, who have sought asylum in Malaysia. The Rohingyas told me that Buddhists could get resettled in third countries but Muslims couldn’t. This was a half truth. The Muslims have the distinct advantage that they can remain in Malaysia, legally, and eventually obtain the right to work. And a lucky few will be given citizenship. That option is not open to other ethnic groups from Burma.
Rohingya are pirates and that plays against them in resettlement decisions.
Another issue that plagues the Rohingyas is that they are not cuddly or cute. The Straits of Malacca are the second highest piracy area in the world, and most of the piracy is done by Rohingyas. In southern Thailand, armed Rohingya groups have been encountered who were working as mercenaries in the conflict there. And of course, right now, a lot of countries are not as welcoming to young Muslim men, of foreign origin, between the ages of 16 and 29. In general, refugee status and resettlement is easier for Buddhists or Christians.
Maybe it’s easier for Buddhists and Christians, but we are bringing Rohingya nevertheless. They don’t get along with other Burmese ethnic groups here either and its causing some additional tension in some resettlement locations.
*Martial artist and TV host is the expert:
Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.