TOP 10 Events of 2012—No 3
We began the countdown on December 22 at No. 10, and will recall one issue each day until we finish on December 31 with the most momentous event of the year.
No rest for the little elves at www.mizzima.com, we will be working all the way through Xmas and New Year, bringing you the latest and most accurate news from Burma.
3. Mob violence erupts in Rakhine State
|A massive fire in Kyaukphyu Township in Rakhine State, on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2012. Photo: Thein Hlaing / Mizzima|
Many nations have their dark secrets, their third rails, their contentious issues whose emotional resonance can be so raw, so emotionally charged and so undermining, that people often feel it’s best to ignore, to forget, or hope any problem simply goes away. That is, until it rises up and punches you in the mouth.
In the United States, slavery and race relations are the original—but not the only—sins. In Japan, it is the depredations of its soldiery and officials during the Second World War. In China, few seem willing to directly challenge Mao’s foundational legacy, even in light of the hideous death toll of the Great Leap Forward and absurd contortions of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Myanmar’s third rail is the Rohingya issue, and if that rail had a train on it, it certainly went off the tracks in 2012. Criminal actions may have been the triggers, but in no way offered any justification for the mob violence that followed and spread menacingly like a hydra.
By no means were the Muslim Rohingyas always on the receiving end, though it should not be disputed that in the majority of incidents they were the ones losing villages, homes, even lives, and being forced to flee in their thousands.
The plight of these people does not provoke much, if any, sympathy within the Myanmar body politic where—just as with Greece’s dispute with Macedonia—even the right to call oneself by a name of one’s choice is not respected.
Though deeper reasons for the fear and hatred manifest themselves, in its immediate outward form it is a question of dates. Who crossed the border and when? Dusty colonial records and archaeological inscriptions are called into play to buttress perspectives already decided upon. Even the word Rohingya was open for debate, with critics claiming all the people are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Foreign donors and supporters of Myanmar’s democracy movement—long used to painting the country’s democracy activists as paragons of justice and good—are dismayed to see that the road from being a potential martyr to being an inquisitor is not a very long one at all.
Even at the top, in the person of the Nobel laureate opposition leader, the response to this issue has been more than a little evasive when more clarity was hoped for.
This may well herald a parting of the ways between some of the more principled international donors and supporters with Myanmar’s varied pro-democracy groups, as some of the latter, whether through opportunism or as a result of deeply-held beliefs, have decided to pander to the emotionalism of the moment.
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