A mid-week blog means that an event is occurring that is linked to the subjects featuring regularly in this blog. One of these is the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, a people barely recognised by the Government, who see them as migrants and their descendents, and unaccepted by their neighbours. Living in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, bordering Bangladesh, the Muslim Rohingya has lived cheek by jowl alongside a Buddhist Rakhine majority and their relationship has been fraught with tension, confrontation, and violence. This has been at the hands of both sides and the situation has not been helped by a history of insurgency by ethnic Rohingya militants, one that had faded into history but reignited in 2016, triggering a major military response and recent attacks have resulted in a major operation by the Myanmar army. In both instances there has been a commensurate escalation in the Rohingya refugee crisis. The blunt truth is that the Rohingya have been disenfranchised and oppressed, there has been an escalation in terrorism and insurgency as a consequence, and the Army dominated Myanmar Government has responded by sending its forces to crush the Rohingya as a people. As is the wont of military rulers, for they still hold power, the response to dissent is to systematically crush anything and anyone who bears any relation to the people challenging them.
The Myanmar Government claims that the Army is conducting a ‘clearance operation’, but in truth they are clearing Rakhine State of all Rohingya, not only insurgents. The Government also claims that they are protecting all the citizens of Rakhine State, but in truth they are party to the systematic oppression of an ethnic group they have no love for. All countries in the international system have the right to maintain security within their own borders to ensure peace and security, but they don’t have the right to oppress when they doing so. What is happening in Rakhine State is the culmination of decades of the treatment of a minority group as second class citizens, if they can actually be termed ‘citizens’ in the conventional sense. The solution to the problems in Rakhine State, which have many authors but include the Government and their predecessors, appears to be the removal of part of the problems through the clear and final eradication of their presence in Myanmar. If this is not triggering alarm bells, then it should.
Tragically, not only is what has been called ethnic cleansing taking place on a massive scale in clear view of the world and with campaigners having been warning of it for years, a people is being systematically displaced, killed and raped. This has now escalated to the point where a cacophony of sound warning of major human rights violations is being matched by the sound of a people dying in plain sight. Before long the people may not be heard of at all. There will be only silence.
The warnings have reached the highest possible level at the UN and the world is hardly ignorant of what is happening in Myanmar as human rights organisations have been documenting it and have collected all the evidence needed to demonstrate the horror of what is happening to the Rohingya. Their oppressors do not see it, for the proponents of hate have been spewing their bile into the ears of their followers for years, presenting the Rohingya as a threat, and the Myanmar Government has made it clear over the years that the Rohingya are not really ‘citizens’. The portents are there of an impending doom that will see the end of the Rohingya in Myanmar and stain their oppressors for a lifetime, adding the Rohingya to a small and tragic list.
It can be stopped. First, by spreading the word of what is happening and saving not only the Rohingya, but also those who are oppressing them from themselves. Secondly by mitigating the consequences and sending aid to Bangladesh, who cannot cope with the refugees and are turning them away. Thirdly, by applying international pressure to the Myanmar Government and reaching the people so that they understand what is happening as monstrous things are happening in their name. Myanmar has reached the brink of a Genocide, which may already have begun and will be seen for what it is when it is over, but what the Government needs is not simply condemnation, but support in turning back from the brink. They need to understand that the international community will help them in this, but will also punish them severely if they continue with their current course of action. There will also be a reckoning, and those responsible will be held accountable, but it is their choice as to whether or not they mitigate their crimes by changing course and halting, then reversing, the damage they have done.
For more information see the earlier blogs on the Rohingya and:
Dr Carl Turner, Site Coordinator