“Those people who are sort of harassing some Muslims, they should remember Buddha”
The Dalai Lama has spoken out for the first time about the Rohingya refugee crisis, saying Buddha would have helped Muslims fleeing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Around 313,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh in recent weeks after violence flared in neighboring Myanmar, where the stateless Muslim minority has endured decades of persecution, report BBC. Aid agencies say they are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical aid, and that current resources are inadequate.
On Monday, the UN human rights chief said the ongoing Myanmar military operation against the minority Rohingya people appears to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the full humanitarian situation in Rakhine state couldn’t be fully assessed due to Myanmar’s refusal to give access.
“Last year I warned that the pattern of gross violations of the human rights of the Rohingya suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity,” he said in his opening statement at the Human Rights Council 36th session.
The top Buddhist leader is the latest Nobel peace laureate to speak out against the violence, which the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar says have killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Rohingya.
“Those people who are sort of harassing some Muslims, they should remember Buddha,” the Dalai Lama told journalists who asked him about the crisis on Friday evening.
“He would definitely give help to those poor Muslims. So still I feel that. So very sad.”
Myanmar’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist and there is widespread hatred for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and labelled illegal “Bengali” immigrants.
Buddhist nationalists, led by firebrand monks, have operated a long Islamophobic campaign calling for them to be pushed out of the country.
Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been condemned for her refusal to intervene in support of the Rohingya, including by fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu.
Archbishop Tutu, who became the moral voice of South Africa after helping dismantle apartheid there, last week urged her to speak out.
“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” Tutu said in a statement.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Myanmar’s government bluntly rejected a ceasefire proposed by militants in Rakhine after more than two weeks of bloodshed.
Rohingya militants known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) had offered to pause “offensive military operations” until October 9 to give access to aid groups to address the “humanitarian crisis.”
The statement called on the Myanmar government to do the same.
However, Zaw Htay, the spokesman for State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, told CNN they would not be accepting the offer.
“We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists,” Zaw Htay told CNN.
The US Department of State said Saturday it is “very concerned” about the violence unfolding in the region, but stopped short of criticizing the country’s government or its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The predominantly Buddhist Myanmar considers Rohingyas Bangladeshis but Bangladesh says they’re Burmese. As a result, they’re effectively stateless.