Amnesty International had described the Rohingyan Muslims who reside in the Rakhine province in Myanmar, as the most persecuted racial minority in the world.
The brutal atrocities that have been carried out by the military regime and the Buddhist extremists in Myanmar against that community for decades are shocking. These cruelties take place with the tacit approval of the international community.
It was following the genocide by the military troops in the month of August and September last year that the Rohingyan Muslims recently dominated the headlines. The inhuman acts of cruelty by the Myanmar army against a community that is poor and helpless was virtually heart-wrenching. It was after that genocide that about 10 lakhs of Rohingyas fled Myanmar and migrated to Bangladesh crossing the mountains, forests and sea. When one comes to know that hundreds lost their lives due to hunger and illnesses during that crossover, one could gauge the depth of the cruelty they have been facing.
What is more important is that Myanmar does not recognise Rohingyan Muslims as citizens. The people of that community have been spending their lives as orphaned souls without citizenship anywhere. The majority community in Myanmar sees the Rohingyas with racial prejudices. The government in that country has succeeded in injecting hatred in the minds of the people towards the Rohingyas. Media and the courts are no exception to this. Amidst all these prejudices that struck Myanmar, Wa Lone, (32) and Kyaw Soe Oo, (28), two Reuters journalists who are also Myanmar citizens, had been sincerely reporting the happenings in Rakhine to the world. They were arrested by the Myanmar police in December last year for informing the world of the cruelties carried out by the army, andchargedwith offences under sections of the Official Secrets Act. On September 3, the Myanmar court which upheld the crimes charged against them, sentenced both of them to seven years of imprisonment.
The verdict of the Myanmar court violates even the fundamental principles of press freedom. The two journalists had been in prison for reporting on the happenings in the country, since December last year, even without getting a bail. The court has ordered to seven years of imprisonment for them. No action was taken even after they revealed in the court that they were subjected to police torture after the arrest. The authorities denied permission to Wa Lone to see his newborn child who was delivered on August 10. If this is the plight of reporters of a media house that is famed across the world, one could only assume the attitude of the Myanmar government towards the hapless Rohingyas.
There is no point in expecting that in Myanmar's social milieu loaded with racial prejudices, the arrest of journalists will create any rumblings. Their arrest at least became news only thanks to the reputation of the news organizations for which they were working. The regime in Myanmar is an absolutely reactionary one that throws to the wind all civilized values. A leader like Aung San Syu Kyi is just a decoration for them. In order to function as per democratic norms, the Myanmar regime will have to be brought under intense pressure from the international community. As a thoroughly insolvent people with no bargaining strength worth the name, Rohingyans are powerless to make any impact on global politics. The million Rohingyan refugees, ravishing in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh, are still struggling for their living each day.
On the other hand, almost all countries are making political relations and diplomatic moves as driven by their political and economic interests. In the meantime, the lives - and living conditions - of Rohingyans are not a matter of concern for them. Therefore, it would be meaningless to expect world powers to take any initiative in the mater. What has to be done is for social movements, voluntary organizations and human rights groups to come out with greater force and exert a huge pressure on the international community. It is getting high time that such a collective surge, cutting across countries' borders has come up.