The Sri Lankan government has rebuked radical Buddhist monks who attacked Muslim Rohingya refugees, and has vowed to take action against police who failed to protect their safe-house.
A cabinet spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, articulated the government’s denunciation regarding last Tuesday’s storming of a UN safe house . The safe-house had been sheltering 31 Rohingya refugees, 16 of whom are children and seven women: “As a Buddhist, I am ashamed at what happened,” Senaratne said.
The former safe-house was a multi-story building near the capital Colombo. As the terrified helpless refugees clustered together upstairs, the mob broke down the gates, destroying windows and furniture.
Fortunately, there were no reports of casualties among the refugees who had to be relocated after being subject to such aggression. But two police officers were wounded and admitted to hospital.
Senaratne said police had been ordered to take disciplinary action against officers found to have neglected their duty to protect the refugees. “This is not what the Buddha taught. We have to show compassion to these refugees. These monks who carried out the attacks are actually not monks, but animals,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhist monks work in tandem with their ultra-nationalist counterparts in Myanmar and seem to have quite close links. What they have in common is their tendency to organise violent aggression targeting Muslim minorities in their respective countries.
One of the attackers who stormed the shelter posted a Facebook video captured by his radical group Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (Sinhalese National Force) calling others to join them.
In his live commentary, the radical monk introduced the helpless refugees: “These are Rohingya terrorists who killed Buddhist monks in Myanmar,” pointing to Rohingya mothers with small children in their arms.
Five months ago, after they had been found drifting in a boat off the island’s northern coast, the Sri Lankan navy rescued the 31 Rohingya targeted by this attack.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has urged Sri Lankans to show empathy for civilians fleeing persecution and violence.
Since August 25, almost half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar towards neighbouring Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims have long been the target of state-backed persecution and discrimination in the predominantly Buddhist country.