Yesterday my friend, Dougal, sent me this photo.
Happy because I remember this baby well. He was so cute and he kept sticking his tongue out at me. I just wanted to hold him and hug him forever.
Sad because he has no safe future. He is a nobody in the eyes of his government. He does not have a citizenship. In the eyes of his country he is a person who has entered the nation illegally. That his parents, grandparents, and ancestors before that were also born in Burma seems to be of no consequence. He will not have the right to own any land. He will not be allowed any jobs in the government. He will need a permit to get married. He will not be allowed more than two children. He will be barred from higher education. He will most likely be among the 80% of all Rohingyas who are not able to attend any school at all. He will be subject to forced labor. He may not even be alive next time I go to the camp where he is currently living. Because when I was there, the people were begging for help. They had no food, and lacked shelter. They had fled their destroyed villages. “If food does not arrive soon, we will all die,” the people lamented in fear.
Yesterday the President of Burma, Thein Sein, was in Norway. He was welcomed like a hero. He got to have dinner with the prime minister and other dignitaries. Next to him by the table was the Prime Minister, and the CEOs of the nation’s two leading businesses. The Telenor, a giant telecommunications company, and Statoil, Norway’s oil company #1. They want to go to Burma to invest. I assume there was no talk about this little boy and his people by the dinner table. That would have been uncomfortable and awkward. It may have made it so that they would not get a lucrative business contract after all.
The Prime Minister said: “It is a strong signal that he (Thein Sein) has chosen to visit Norway as the first country in Europe. We hope there are possibilities to strengthen the economic ties between the nations. The president told me there are about 7% of the population with access to mobile phones, but that he would like to increase it to 50%. Telenor (The norwegian telecommunication giant) is a big telecom company that can help reach that goal.”
When asked about the Rohingya, he simply said: “We brought up this issue (the conflict in Rakhine), of course. It is a serious situation. We ask that all people who live in Myanmar are treated with respect according to the human rights. But there are disagreements regarding citizenship. In that regard we have encouraged dialogue, but we will not demand that Myanmar’s government give citizenship to the Rohingyas. “
I don’t know what you think about this, but this is what I think this illustrates: Money is more important than people, especially if the people happen to be dark-skinned, poor and Muslim, like the Rohingya. Would our leaders look this little boy in the eyes and tell him that, I wonder.