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An Atricle in THE NATION
Views or News
THE MEDIA-especially in this century, has become the weapon to get
success in struggle for getting power or winning social cold-wars in our
societies. Every school in America especially high level study compounds such
as colleges and universities fullfill their curriculums and requirements with
media coverages. It means that the media coverages are critical in the academic
environment at some level and, for some people is a bile for daily survival
-what to do, where to go and find jobs, how to know new places, and who is
doing what. Such an important position of media should not be abused or
degraded by some of one-sided reporters like Donald Wilson and David Henley who
recently wrote an article about Burma's muslim cases in THE NATION newspaper on
September 15, 1995.
The article initially seems to promote the ASEAN's actions to take
charges SLORC of its mistreatments against MUSLIMS IN BABEDAN in Rangoon. It
claims that ASEAN should pay attention on Burma's Muslim case to chage or to
review its "CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT" policy. It is politically childish and
socially sick reason that ASEAN would change its constructive engagement policy
because of SLORC's treatment against Muslims in Babedan. I used the phrase
"socially sick reason" because we have been reading such kind of news articles
written by predominant English speaking news reporters who have the
art-of-language ability to shape their opinions in wishy-washy presentation
style. The article, although it seems to help Burma's struggle for democracy,
bears new problem that could cause even war such as in Bosnia because the
article sperates the Burmese into two groups as Buddhists and Muslims.
The usage of these terms which are visually and ideologically having lethal
crisises in the world suggests that Wilson and David fail to realize how it can
cause the worse than the better one. The article should have been covered with
detail research on how SLORC treats Burmese people (understand as citizens of
Burma). There are not only Muslims in Burma but all races and religious
backgrounded people who are being mistreated in Burma.
If the reporters tend to have fair-minded judgement on Burma's cases,
the article should include the mistreatments of SLORC against all Burmese
people in Rangoon, Pagan, Mandalay, and around the whole country where
people are being forced to leave their places. There are many buddhists and
christians in Rangoon who were/are being forced to leave their heritage places
for SLORC's assigned new places. SLORC(State Law and Order Restoration Council)
treats those people with no less harsh than Muslims in Babedan. Why didn't
Wilson and Henley mention about it, and analyze SLORC's brutish power-hungry
manners in Burma? Because of the lack of such fair treatment upon the case, the
article left the immpression to The Nation's readers that Muslims alone in
Burma are selectively mistreated by SLORC, and therefore, the "BURMESE" in
Burma are discriminating people who have different belief and racial
background. It is TOTALLY WRONG and morally misducted view to frame the whole
article to mean that way.
******************The following is article about Muslims in Babedan************
>Bearing the crescent
> Burma's small but wealthy Muslim communities have made easy targets for
> Slorc's policies of hate. But the policy is likely cause
> friction between Rangoon and Asean. DONALD WILSON
> AND DAVID HENLEY of Crescent Press Agency
> Ordinary Burmans are often resentful of the Muslims' financial success, and
> this makes them a useful target for the Slorc when it seeks to
> divert popular antagonism from the government.
>Burma or Myanmar, as that country's military rulers would have it
>called_ is, like Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. Like
>Thailand, other faiths are represented as well, and Muslim_ at
>about 5 percent of the total population_ make up the largest
>religious minority. Not that it's that simple seemingly nothing
>.in Burma ever is.
>A recent report from Rangoon suggests that the country's military
>rulers, the Slorc, are moving against the capital's numerous and
>successful Muslim businessmen, forcing them to close their
>enterprises and move, lock, stock and barrel, into the
>wilderness. But who exactly are these Muslims? What have they
>done to antagonize the Slorc? And perhaps most crucially, in the
>light of Burma's attendance at last month's Asean meeting as
>"observers", what does it mean for Asean solidarity?
>The report claims that, ever since its seizure of power in 1962,
>the Burmese army, or Tatmawdaw, has "cherished the ambition of
>eradicating Muslims and ethnic minorities from the country". The
>"Burmese Buddhist masses", by contrast, have never been
>prejudiced against Muslims, Christians, Hindus, or any of the
>numerous ethnic minorities professing different faiths living in
>Though the first part of this equation is essentially correct,
>the latter part_ that is, the attitude of Burma's Burman
>Buddhist majority, is overly simplified and requires further
>elaboration. The Burmese military isn't always, invariably, as
>evil_ as calculating_ as it is painted: nor are the ordinary
>Burman people quite so tolerant as the tenets of Buddhism should
>ideally make them. Finally, and confusingly, Muslim Burmese
>aren't a homogenous people_ there are at least ten separate
>minority groups in Burma professing Islam. Some are more, secure
>than others_ though all make good stalking horses for Burman
>nationalism, and all live on a knife-edge of insecurity, as they
>have since independence in 1948.
>Muslim communities live scattered throughout Burma, form Kachin
>State in the north to deepest Tenasserim, on the Frontiers of the
>Malay world in the south. Some are truly indigenous, like the
>Rohingyas of Arakan. Others, like the Chinese Panthays, have
>acquired indigenous status through long-term residence which, to
>the Slorc, means having been established within the frontiers of
>present bay Burma since before the arrival of the British in
>Arakan and Tenasserim in 1826.
>By these rigorous standards most Muslims inevitably, are "recent
>arrivals". They do not have indigenous status, and are thus
>handicapped by lack of identity cards and the privileges (such as
>they are) of full Burmese nationality. By and large they are of
>south Asian origin_ albeit from regions as diverse as Chittagong,
>Madras Peshawar_ and their arrival in Burma is associated with
>the time of the British Raj.
>During the century or so that Britain ruled Burma, Indian_ Sikhs
>and Hindus as well as Muslims_ fairly flooded into the country
>changing the demographic basis of the main cities, so that native
>Burmans became a minority in their own capital. In 1948, at the
>time of British withdrawal, the population of Rangoon was 58
>percent Indian. This was deeply resented by the Burmans, who
>devoted the first 15 years of independence_ before the military
>take-over in 1962_ to forcing out these unwelcome migrants.
>Kyaw Nyein, Deputy Prime Minister of Burma in the late 1950s.
>Pretty much summed up what the average Burman felt when he
>described the country in colonial times as " a social pyramid
>with millions of poor, ignorant, exploited Burmese at its base,
>and a few outsiders_ British, Indians and Chinese_ at its apex".
>Independent Burma_ both before and after the military take-over
>of 1962_ subjected these Indian and Chinese "outsiders" to
>considerable political and economic hardship. As a consequence,
>millions fled the country, often "returning" to a homeland they
>had never seen.
>Hindus, Sikhs, the much-disliked Chettiar money lenders, all left
>en masse. The Chinese, too, departed Rangoon_ especially after
>the anti-Chinese ethnic rioting of 1967. Many Muslims left as
>well. But others stayed behind, chiefly because of the roots they
>had put down. Unlike the caste-conscious Hindus, Muslims were
>quite content to marry local Burmese women and raise families.
>This gave rise to a mixed-race community, Burmese-speaking, but
>.Muslim, generally known as Zerbadees.
>Burman nationalists have never known quite what to make of, or do
>with, the Zerbadees. They cannot easily be "sent home" like other
>migrant communities_ they are Burmese born, Burmese-speaking, and
>they identify with Burma. However they are Muslims, not
>Buddhists. It is this community, as well as remaining South Asia
>Muslim migrants from British times, together with their
>descendants that not just the Slorc, but many ordinary Burman
>people deprecate. Like the Chinese, most are city dwellers, and
>they excel at business. Ordinary (Buddhist) Burmans are often
>resentful of their financial success, and_ again, like the
>Chinese_ this makes them a useful target for the Slorc when it
>seeks to divert popular antagonism away from the government.
>These days, however, the Chinese are very much "in" with the
>Slorc. Since the military crackdown of 1988, Beijing has emerged
>as Rangoon's major ally and main source of armaments. Under these
>circumstances, Burma's ethnic Chinese citizens are "off limits"
>as targets of communal hostility _ at least for the present. That
>leaves the Muslims, who were in any case blamed by the Slorc for
>initiating the 1988 riots.
>The most recent instance of anti-Muslim discrimination by the
>Slorc involves Pabedan Township, a district of central Rangoon
>stretching from Shwe Dagon to Sule Pagoda Rofdads, around and
>behind the Bogyoke Zay Market. This area of prime real-estate has
>long been dominated by wholesale and retail agencies selling a
>wide variety of hardware and construction equipment, small
>printing presses and food stalls. Pabedan, perhaps the largest
>trading centre in downtown; Rangoon, is overwhelmingly Muslim
>whilst up to 80 percent of the businesses located there are
>According to reports from Rangoon, Slorc recently issued notices
>to nearly 2000 shop-keepers in Pabedan, requiring them to wind up
>their businesses and move out. Their destination is a township
>called Sawbwa Gyi Gone, well out of town in the direction of
>Mingaladon Airport, where Burmese military personnel have been
>allotted land at a token price. The Muslim shop-keepers have been
>given the choice of purchasing plots of land in Sawbwa Gyi Gone
>at greatly inflated prices, or moving out of town together.
>Slorc has justified this action by branding Pabedan an eyesore,
>out of place in central Rangoon on the eve of 1996 "Visit
>>Myanmar" year. The Muslim community of Pabedan feel otherwise.
>They claim the Slorc's plans to promote tourism are being used as
>an excuse to persecute Muslims _ and they are probably right.
>From a Slorc perspective, the perceived need to make Pabedan fit
>for international tourism dovetails nicely with chance to turn
>some of Rangoon's unpopular Muslim businessmen out of the it_ and
>to make an additional personal killing through land sales at
>Sawbwa Gyi Gone on the side.
>Nor is Pabedan Township the first case f this kind. Four years
>ago the Burmese military authorities closed down two important
>Muslim-dominated business areas in the capital.
>One was at Kyettan, a scrap-iron market Pazundaung Township in
>east Rangoon and automobile and spare parts market close by
>Myenigone Mosque in the township of the same name. Against, the
>majority of the traders were Burmese Muslims. According to
>well-placed sources, part of the land thus expropriated was given
>to the children of high-ranking military officers, who built
>Rangoon's biggest department store, the Yuzana, in the area.
>More recently, at the beginning of 1994 the Burmese military
>authorities issued papers expropriating "prime business locations
>and land" at Oaksu Ward on Tamwe Township, also in Rangoon. About
>80 percent of the families living in the area are estimated to
>have been Muslim, mainly petty traders, skilled workers, and
>white collar employees. When the land was taken over by Slorc
>these unfortunate residents were "ejected to far off satellite
>towns where there are no proper facilities like transport,
>schools,. hospitals or electricity". But to the Slorc out of
>sight is, generally, out of mind, and Burma's Muslims are a
>"forgotten minority" with no-one to champion them.
>No-one, that is, except those regional. states anxious to see
>Burma re-admitted to the community of nations and, more
>particularly, an active, prosperous and democratic member of
>Asean. Malaysia and Indonesia, the most important members of
>Asean's Islamic southern tier, have already made very clear their
>concern for Burma's indigenous Rohingya Muslim minority in
>Arakan. Now, as several major Asean forums approach, it might be
>a good time for Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur_ as well as Bangkok and
>Singapore_ to pay some attention to the plight Burman Muslims.