The Rohingya Crisis: A modern-day genocide
The Rohingya are an ethnic group, comprising mostly of Muslims, in the Buddhist South-East Asian state of Myanmar. About one million Rohingya reside in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar in conditions of complete squalor. They not only face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, but they are also denied full citizenship rights and are viewed as “Bengali” (connoting them as non-indigenous or illegal immigrants hailing from Bangladesh).
The recent violent clashes between the Myanmar security forces and the ‘Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’ began when militants from the latter attacked several police officers and military posts on August 25, 2017. Thereafter, this minority has been pointedly persecuted, in what may be aptly described as ‘genocide’ or ‘ethnic cleansing’. A Report of the UN stated that government troops have "very likely" committed crimes against humanity since renewed military crackdowns that began in October 2016. [i]Hundreds of thousands of this highly persecuted minority have fled to Bangladesh after making the dangerous journey which is lined with landmines. Those who survived the brutality of the Myanmar Military live to tell tales of summary executions, indiscriminate rape, and violence. These survivors, now in Bangladesh, have limited access to food, water and other relief aid at innumerable makeshift camps. Established camps that have been housing displaced Rohingya since the 1990s have now reached ‘breaking point’ due to the enormous influx of people fleeing the horrid scenario in Myanmar.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Hussein has condemned the violence in Myanmar and said the government should “issue clear instructions to security forces to refrain from using disproportionate force.”[ii] He has urged Myanmar to end its "brutal security operation" against the Rohingya in Rakhine, calling it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". The “Advisory Commission on Rakhine State” [iii] which was led by Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, submitted its final report urging the government of Myanmar to extend citizenship status to the Rohingya. However, the de facto leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been virtually silent on the state violence against the Rohingya. The country has also denied visas to members of a UN probe investigating the violence and alleged abuses in Rakhine.[iv]
The Rohingya who have fled Myanmar face a humanitarian crisis, with aid agencies cautioning shortages of food, water, and shelter in Bangladeshi refugee camps. The Rohingya have been described to be “probably the most friendless people in the world”. Harrowing images of starvation, stampedes, and people stranded on the borders have emerged from Rakhine and Bangladesh, displaying just how unfathomable the conditions in the region are. The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused the most powerful organ of the United Nations, the UN Security Council of ignoring the large scale ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. The Security Council is yet to hold an open, public meeting condemning the modern-day genocide. It remains to be seen how and what the United Nations, as well as the entire international community, tackles this crisis.
[i] Report of OHCHR mission to Bangladesh Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016, September 18, 2017. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/FlashReport3Feb2017.pdf#sthash.ANqkl4Pa.dpuf
[ii] Violence in Myanmar Pushes at Least 18,500 Rohingya Into Bangladesh, September 18, 2017.
[iii] Towards a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine: Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, September 18, 2017. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/FinalReport_Eng.pdf
[iv] Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya? September 18, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/rohingya-muslims-170831065142812.html#government
Author: Jui Masurekar
College: Pravin Gandhi College of Law
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