On March 21, a man in Meiktila, Burma seized a young girl and held a knife to her throat.
“If you follow us, I'll kill her,” the man told police. While this is a common situation in more volatile (and sometimes even more stable) parts of the world, what is truly shocking about this incident was that the man was a Buddhist monk, to whom killing is supposed to be abhorrent.
That day, a Buddhist mob armed with swords and machetes chased nearly 100 Muslims in this central Burmese city, with the end result being 25 dead Muslims (at least two of which were confirmed by a Reuters cameraman to be children). In the following four days another 43 were killed and nearly 13,000 people, mostly Muslim, were driven from their homes and businesses. This was all carried out in plain view of the police, who along with the local and central Government did nothing to stem the tide of violence. This ethnic and religious violence has been the reality of the Burmese people since 49 years of military rule ended in March 2011, and the reality isn't looking to be changing any time soon.
March 21 is just a small snapshot of a greater campaign of ethnic hatred and violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslims by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, though by this point it has spread beyond ethnic boundaries and has expanded to target all Muslims regardless of ethnicity. The leaders of this violence? The very same monks that campaigned and protested against the Juntas that held Burma thrall. At the forefront is the 969 Movement, a group of monks that sound more like Neo-Nazis than Buddhists. They are lead a monk named Wirathu, who describes himself as the Bin Laden of Buddhism. Previously arrested in 2003 for inciting Anti-Muslim riots, Wirathu was freed last year during an amnesty for political prisoners and has done nothing but incite violence ever since, with his overall goal being the genocide of every Muslim in Burma.
The successive Governments of Burma have not been much kinder. Though the Juntas have always persecuted the Rohingya and have been accused in the past of provoking riots against them, the neglect and violence faced by the Rohingya has only escalated since the election of President Thein Sein. The new government shows little difference in policy when it comes to the plight of the Rohingya; They are still denied Burmese citizenship and treated as illegal immigrants, subjected to arbitrary taxation, used as forced labor and otherwise treated by the government as subhuman. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has been tight lipped on the situation, saying nothing beyond warning of spreading violence needing to be dealt with by rule of law.
The first of the riots like what happened on March 21 occurred in the northern Rakhine State; the May murder, rape, and robbery of an ethnic Rakhine woman. Locals claimed the four culprits were Rohingya and on June 2, a mob attacked a bus they believed the culprits to be on. Ten Muslims were slain in the violence. Riots broke out for a week before calm was restored, only for more violence to break out fresh in October. More than 100,000 have since been displaced and over a hundred slain.
The sole reason this topic has even received any attention has been the Internet's favorite/hated Hacktivist Collective, Anonymous. Two weeks ago, Anonymous launched a Twitter campaign in an attempt to raise awareness of this otherwise ignored situation, but even still not much attention has been paid to the ongoing situation.
Despite the ethnic cleansing, the religious persecution, and the forcing the Rohingya into concentration camps and calling them refugee camps, no one except Saudi Arabia (whose King Abdullah ordered $50 million of aid sent to the Rohingyas) seems ready to do anything other than throw weakly worded concerns and condemnations in Burma's general direction. Genocide is once more being allowed to happen and the world is once more leaning back and sitting on its hands.