FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — Amidst commendable progress in Burma’s democratization, one voice in the country has been consistently silenced. The Rohingya people are quickly becoming the ethnic minority whose fate will likely be remembered as a “casualty” of democracy – a type of collateral damage symptomatic of states that make the transition from military regimes to full-fledged democracies. In the shadow of Burma’s democratic parading, the fact remains: the Rohingya, a 500,000 Muslim-minority group based in the Arakan region, remain amongst the most persecuted people on the planet — having suffered extreme persecution and discrimination throughout history.
The persecution of the Rohingya is not a novel phenomenon. The Hmannan Yazawin – known in English as the Glass Palace Chronicle – is the standard account of Burma’s pre-colonial Konbaung Dynasty; it boasts the first reported execution of a Muslim man in Burma in 1050 AD. His name was Byat Wi, and legend has it that he was killed because the king feared his “elephant-like” strength. Byat Wi’s nephews also perished under the reign of Mo, Burma’s king.