Being the most prominent Buddhist leader worldwide, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader of that religion, should have camped in a Myanmar temple to try and hammer some common sense to fellow monks.
This is because Buddhist leaders in that country have been the main force fuelling hatred of the minority Rohingya people, one of many minority communities and predominantly Muslims.
Currently, they are fleeing in droves to Bangladesh, amidst a crackdown by the military, ostensibly against what the government calls terrorists, an adjective that has become synonymous to “those who disagree with the powers that be.”
There are reports though the crackdown includes summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and forced labour by the security forces, and communal punishments.
It’s possible among members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Arsa, militants who sparked the latest violence by attacking border posts late last year in northwest Rakhine State, harbor of extreme Islam tendencies. After all, the leadership reportedly resides in Saudi Arabia’s towns of Mecca and Medina.
That of course isn’t an excuse to attack whole communities, burn villages and lay mines in escape routes.
That aside, the Rohingya have legitimate concerns. A short history here is in order. The Rohingyas aren’t a new phenomenon in Myanmar.
Fast forward to British colonialism in India and Burma! The favouritism by colonial officials bestowed on them led to resentment, indeed hatred, of the Rohingyas by ethnic Burmese.
A SEPARATE STATE
Indeed by the time Myanmar, then known as Burma, became independent in 1948 a section Rohingyas sought, but didn’t succeed, a separate state in what is now Rakhine State.
It’s also worthy of note that at the time Rohingyas held senior positions in government and politics.
Come 1982 and the military seized power and the resentment by ethnic Burmese, predominantly Buddhists, passed a nationality law that decided migrants from the Indian subcontinent who settled in Myanmar after 1823 weren’t Burmese.
That of course meant several generations of descendants, an illogical move. Additionally, these descendants cannot hold public offices, are denied public education and their movements are restricted.
All this reveals the extent to which animosity by ethnic Burmese—the elite—harboured against the Rohingyas, whom the officialdom and conservative Buddhist leaders describe as Bengalis.
Add to that to what amounts to religious intolerance by the Buddhist establishment, an influential entity in the officialdom.
It’s no wonder then that the United Nations, international human rights organizations and some predominantly Muslim countries consider the Rohingyas a most persecuted—they are also stateless—minority.
That’s where the Dalai Lama comes in. Considering the role the Buddhist establishment has in influencing not just the officialdom but also the populations, the Tibetan should have been a regular visitor to Myanmar since the 1982 to help tamper the fiery monks. Making statements from a far serves little purpose.