Asia Watch

Rohingya exodus: Suu Kyi must facilitate return and citizenship for the persecuted community

Finally breaking her silence on the Rohingya exodus, Myanmar’s state counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her government would like to understand the root causes of the refugee crisis and investigate charges of human rights abuses.

Sep 21, 2017
Finally breaking her silence on the Rohingya exodus, Myanmar’s state counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her government would like to understand the root causes of the refugee crisis and investigate charges of human rights abuses. With an estimated four lakh Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh since a brutal security crackdown began in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last month, for Suu Kyi to claim ignorance of ground realities is disingenuous. Perhaps the extent of global condemnation pouring in has made her speak out. She must now accept the refugees back and use her good offices to halt their further persecution.
 
Rohingyas have faced several rounds of purges at the hands of Myanmar’s security establishment. And despite living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for generations, they continue to be denied Myanmarese citizenship, have severe restrictions placed on their movement within that country, and are deprived of access to healthcare, education and other civic amenities. This is like an apartheid regime, albeit applied to a minority rather than a majority. This hostile view of Rohingyas came to be formalised under Myanmar’s erstwhile military junta. With Myanmar’s democratic dawn, it is time to end this view of the Rohingyas.
 
If there are elements among the Rohingyas who have taken up arms and possibly established linkages with nefarious international organisations, then it’s because the community has been brutally persecuted for decades. The current Rohingya exodus and the turmoil in Rakhine state can only be stopped by Naypyidaw. Towards this end, the international community needs to put pressure on Myanmar to definitively end persecution of Rohingyas and allow those who have fled to return. Plus, since Suu Kyi has invited international scrutiny over the issue, she should allow a UN-mandated fact finding mission to visit Rakhine state.
 
Ultimately, Myanmar has to grant Rohingyas citizenship. It can’t expect India or Bangladesh to take in Rohingya refugees, they have limited resources in relation to the populations they have to serve. In this respect, India too needs to come up with a clear and consistent policy on refugees. It can’t cite resource constraints to justify deportation of Rohingyas and yet champion an Amendment Bill in Parliament that creates a route to citizenship for non-Muslim minorities. New Delhi should also use its connections in Naypyidaw and work with other global powers to persuade Myanmar to take back the refugees.
 
Times of India, September 21, 2017

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