2015-05-23 14:49:56 UTC
temples in Islamic countries , who can blame them?
Infidels must save their cultures from rampant islamic growth
Myanmar leader signs off on controversial population law over
objections by US, rights groups
YANGON, Myanmar Myanmar's president has signed off on a law
requiring some mothers to space their children three years apart
despite objections by a visiting senior U.S. diplomat and rights
activists, who worry it could be used not only to repress women, but
also religious and ethnic minorities.
The Population Control Health Care Bill drafted under pressure from
hard-line Buddhist monks with a staunchly anti-Muslim agenda was
passed by parliamentarians last month.
President Thein Sein gave his stamp of approval on Tuesday, state-run
media said Saturday, a day after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Anthony Blinken warned during a face-to-face meeting of the potential
As predominantly Buddhist Myanmar started moving from dictatorship to
democracy four years ago, newfound freedoms of expression lifted the
lid on deep-seeded hatred for minority Muslims including Rohingya
Muslims now arriving on Southeast Asian shores in crowded, rickety
Many are fleeing persecution and violence that has left up to 280
people dead and forced another 140,000 from their homes in western
Rakhine state. They are living under apartheid-like conditions in
dusty, crowded camps, with little access to education or adequate
medical care. They also have little freedom of movement, having to pay
hefty bribes if they want to pass police barricades, even for
The population law which carries no punitive measures gives
regional authorities the power to implement birth-spacing guidelines
in areas with high rates of population growth.
Though the government says the law is aimed at bringing down maternal
and infant mortality rates, activists argue that it steps on women's
reproductive rights and can be used to suppress the growth of
Hard-line Buddhists have repeatedly warned that Muslims, with their
high birthrates, could take over the country of 50 million even though
they currently represent less than 10 percent of the population.
"It's very disappointing," Khin Lay, a women's rights activist, said
of the president's decision to sign off on the law. "If the government
wants to protect women, they should strengthen laws already in place
to do that."
Blinken, who met with Thein Sein, the army's commander-in-chief and
other top government officials during a two-day visit to Myanmar this
week, said he expressed "deep concern" about the law and three others
in the assembly aimed at protecting race and religion.
"The legislation contains provisions that can be enforced in a manner
that would undermine reproductive rights, women's rights and religious
freedom," Blinken told reporters Friday. "We shared the concerns that
these bills can exacerbate ethic and religious divisions and undermine
the country's efforts to promote tolerance and diversity."
Burma will not bow to pressure to use the Rohingya name because they
are not a genuine ethnic minority, U Ye Htut, the countrys Minister
of Information and spokesman for Burmese President Thein Sein, has
Speaking a day after Burma joined the international effort to rescue
the Andaman boat people, Mr Ye Htut offered The Independent a longer
perspective on a problem that has seen both Burmas quasi-democratic
government and opposition figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi chastised for
callous rejection of their own Muslim population. In essence, he
located the origin of the issue in the surging movement of other
Asians into Burma after it fell under British control in the 1880s.
His comments yesterday will infuriate those who blame Burma for
discriminatory policies, which they say make a mockery of the Buddhist
faith of 85 per cent of the population. But they help to explain why
the impasse over the use of the word Rohingya appears so hard to
An ethnic Rohingya Muslim woman
Some western countries talk about recognising the Rohingya as an
ethnic minority, he said. But if you look at the historical record,
none of the censuses carried out by the British mention Rohingya.
These were censuses, he said, in which Burmas so-called national
ethnic-minority races such as the Karen and the Shan were
painstakingly logged all ethnic groups who were here for many
hundreds of years before the British came.
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The people the rest of the world calls Rohingya, but the Burmese
government styles Arakan Muslims or Bengalis, were settlers under
British rule, like many others from British India and others including
Chinese and Nepali, he went on. If we give the Arakan Muslims ethnic
minority status, we would have to do the same for Chinese, Indians,
Nepali ... According to the constitution, if one ethnic minority is
the majority in two connected townships, we have to designate it an
autonomous area. Would the Burmese people agree to that in Arakan?
His comments came after Burma, facing sustained pressure from Asean
neighbours and the US, for the first time joined in the rescue effort
for boat people adrift in the Andaman Sea.
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Yesterday evening the Burma Navy rescued a boat with 200 people
aboard, he said. This morning we checked and found that all 200 are
coming from Bangladesh. The captain and crew come from southern Burma
while the ships owner is from Thailand. It was a multinational
operation. They waited one month off the Burmese coast. This was the
mother ship. They were reached by smaller boats with more people. They
waited for the right moment to go to Thailand. The crackdown in
Thailand is the reason why they are stuck in the middle.
Mr Ye Htut claimed that the situation in Arakan state, also known as
Rakhine state, had greatly improved since the communal violence and
ethnic cleansing of 2012, which left 140,000 Rohingya languishing in
squalid camps. The first project is to stop the cycle of violence
between the two communities. In 2012 community relations very bad, but
luckily in the past two years many people living in camps have been
Read more: Myanmar refuses to accept blame for thousands adrift
Rohingya crisis: America points finger at Burma
Migrant crisis: 800 taken ashore in Indonesia
Arakans underlying problem, he said, was poverty. It is the
second-poorest state in the country, with nearly 46 per cent living
below the poverty line. Many people from the state, Muslims and others
too, have been going to the south of Thailand and Malaysia to find
work, mostly because of the economic situation. Thats why we have
started a comprehensive development plan for the state. For the first
time since 1948 there is electricity 24 hours a day. We are using the
economy as a bridge between the two communities.
Arakan has a long coastline, offering great potential for trade with
India and beyond and tourism development. Little of this has happened,
said Mr Ye Htut, because of the former military governments
closed-door policy. Now all that was changing, he said, with
construction of a special economic zone and the commercial
redevelopment of the picturesquely decaying old port and state capital
Another issue that is plaguing the state, he said, is low-quality
education and the creation of Islamic madrassas that divide the
communities. In the past, children in the state studied together. But
in the 1990s some of the Muslims coming back from Pakistan and
Bangladesh brought madrassas and Wahhabi ideas: when Muslim children
finish primary school they are ordered to attend Muslim school instead
of public school, so there is no connection between the two young
generations. We have to create educational opportunities for both
Mr Ye Htut also offered his own explanation for the much-commented
upon silence of Nobel peace prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi and her
National League for Democracy on the humanitarian tragedy playing out
in the Andaman Sea. In the 1990s, under the military government, the
opposition groups in the country and in exile used the Rohingya as yet
another issue with which to attack the military government, he said.
These are the people who took the Rohingya issue to the UN. Thats
why some of the opposition leaders and parties are now very reluctant
to comment on this issue: for 20 years they said that the Rohingya
should be given ethnic-minority status and the military government was
discriminating against them. They bear a lot of responsibility for