The Sunday Leader

Understanding Third World Conflicts – East And West

The attack on Rohingya refugees accommodated by the UNHCR in a house at Mt. Lavinia by a group of Sri Lankans led by saffron robes clad men is a matter for regret by all citizens and a cause for national concern. The monks have led the mob that crashed through the high gates of the compound and hurled abuse at these hapless people accusing them of killing Buddhist monks in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

This is typical of mob frenzy, abusing unknown and unheard of people in a language they do not understand.

These refugees are desperate people whose homes were destroyed, their near and dear killed, who fled their country in a boat on a perilous journey to the unknown across the vast Bay of Bengal and were found drifting by the Sri Lankan Navy off the Northern coast near Velvettiturai.

This heinous conduct of the mob has been officially condemned by Foreign and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera as a cabinet minister and a Buddhist describing the mob as: ‘A group of thugs in robes’. This attack on hapless people in the name of defending Buddhism is sheer insanity.

The chaotic state of the economy and political instability created by an Opposition lusting for power prevents Sri Lanka from helping the exodus of Rohingya – an estimated 500,000 by the end of the week. But it is duty bound to protect the refugees in question under international law and sheer common decency.

Sri Lanka experienced a close parallel in 1983with the Rohingya experience when Sinhala mobs ran riot after 13 soldiers on patrol were ambushed and killed by the LTTE. The most recent outbreak of violence in Myanmar happened when a so called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police posts in the Rakhine state killing 12 policemen. The Myanmar army that has a history of being accused of attacking Rohingya, is then said to have unleashed all its fury on the civilians resulting in the exodus to Bangladesh.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the undisputed leader of the Myanmar people, though she swept the polls last year, is tied down by a constitution drawn up by the military for the military. She exercises no executive power over the armed services, when the violence broke out she remained silent. Being critical of army conduct would have drawn the ire of the army and being deprived of any power she now holds. The Myanmar Buddhists are resentful of the Rohingya, do not even consider them citizens of Myanmar and refer to them as Bengalis. Militant Buddhists Organisations such as those led by Monk Asin Wirathu are critical of Suu Kyi’s policies. Criticizing the army and expressing sympathies with Rohingya could have led to her removal placing Myanmar solely under army control.

Western leaders and their media are sill lambasting her for not coming out against the army while expressing sympathy for Rohinga while the mayhem was in full swing.

She addressed diplomats and on TV the nation on September 19 expressing ‘deep feeling’ for all people caught up in the conflict; not attaching blame on any group; pledging repatriation of all those who have fled subject to a verification process; inviting outsiders to Rakhine to see for themselves and appealing to the world to give time for Myanmar to emerge from military rule.

President J. R. Jayewardene too faced a similar situation in 1983 with the rank and file of the army enraged after the massacre of 13 soldiers and Sinhalese mobs running riot and directing their venom at him. He remained silent during the mayhem probably because anything he said during those frenzied days would have outraged not only the rank and file of the army but also the Sinhala mobs. It was only days later when tempers simmered down that he made himself heard.

The Western world and even the UN in whose Security Council of five members -three of Western nations – have yet to come to grips how racial and religious riots involving thousands or even hundreds of thousands in the Third World should be doused. The rioters in Third World countries do no react the same way as those in the West and their attitudes to law enforcement or media strategies are quite different. Yet the thinking is that the same strategies that could contain riots in London or Paris could be applied in Mumbai, Yangon (former Rangoon) or Cairo. Appeals made by leaders who have fallen foul of mobs at times of riots will not restore calm but only exacerbate violence.

The West expects that the criticisms made by their leaders which quite often go against the rioters in faraway countries should be voiced by leaders of rioting countries. For instance Suu Kyi was criticized for not blaming the army for the Rakhine riots. Had she done that she would have been once again under house arrest and the Junta in full control. Visiting firemen – the international journalists – fly in with their set formulae for any problem which is given global publicity. The opinions expressed by these independent journalists free and independent as well as the institutions they work for rarely differ. If they are not given entry to a country, then something terrible is happening and there is a ‘big cover up’.

The UN is as gullible. Antonio Guetteres, Secretary General, the new boy on the East River block New York, promptly declared the Myanmar violence as ‘genocide’. Did that help calm the flame throwers and fire eaters in the Rakhine state?

Even 72 years after its establishment the world body has much to learn about Third World conflicts.

3 Comments for “Understanding Third World Conflicts – East And West”

  1. Hamlet

    I wish the Comments on this page would stop referring these “Saffron Robed Thugs”, as Monks.
    A Buddhist Monk has vowed to take the ‘Noble Eightfold Path to Nirvana!
    What these people are doing, is creating More bad Karma, and Repeated Bad Rebirths!

  2. wijelion

    Excuse, that saying all citizens, apart from the ‘bastards’ the true sinhalese support the eviction. You have forgotten the fact that the bloody government lied to people about these so called refugees. besides these are unwanted trouble makers from another country, we have our own brothers and sisters from the north and east , in camps in India and in SL, how about you bias reporters write about them

  3. Helmet

    It is comical that this news item compares the political situation in Myanmar to the situation in Sri Lanka in 1983 when the then president of Sri Lanka with a 5/6 th parliamentary majority and the president him self claiming that he can only not make a man woman, chose not to act (to stop the violence).

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