While security forces and Buddhist vigilantes are carrying out a vicious, mass-scale scorched-earth policy in the Muslim-majority Rakhine state, burning down entire Rohingya villages, is Suu Kyi simply adopting an ostrich-like policy? writes M Aminul Islam for South Asia Monitor
By M Aminul Islam
Moving stories about the escalating violence and tales of the doomed, downtrodden, exploited and oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar are shaking the conscience of people everywhere. We have been witnessing the unfolding brutality—bouts of bloody attacks on darker-skinned Rohingya -- over weeks.
Based in the coastal state of Rakhine, Rohingyas are now the world’s most persecuted community. Their desperate plight is touching and poignant. The UN rights chief has described the current situation as “a textbook example of a systematic ethnic cleansing”. Hundreds of thousands who have fled Rakhine, off-limits to journalists and international aid, have taken refuge in Bangladesh.
It is being said that Myanmar is systematically slaughtering Rohingya civilians and Aung San Suu Kyi is condoning the ethnic cleansing in which villages are burned, women raped and children slaughtered.
The latest military crackdown on the de jure stateless Rohingya is the worst possible way to rid the Buddhist-majority country of this ethnic group. The ongoing clearance operation, as rights groups say, is indicative of a final campaign to rid Myanmar of the “parasites”. Media reports and satellite images show security forces, aided and abetted by Buddhist militiamen, burning Rohingya villages to the ground, gang-raping women and killing civilians.
How does the global conscience countenance such extrajudicial killings?
What actually happened on August 25?
The Kofi Annan Commission published a final report on its investigation into the past Rohingya persecution, the 2012 attacks and subsequent statelessness of the Rohingya, with a charter of recommendations. Hours later, a few armed Rohingya militants, spearheaded by an emergent Rohingya militant group ARSA, made guerrilla-style ambushes on 30 police outposts.
The army, as retribution, led a huge counteroffensive across northern Rakhine state. And gory racial violence erupted, with hawkish Buddhist hardliners and jingoistic vigilantes teaming up with the state torture machine to stamp out Rohingya militants. Human rights agencies report mass killings and gang rapes by the armed forces in actions that can only be termed crimes against humanity.
The international media is giving seamless coverage of the orchestrated and state-sponsored annihilation of the Rohingya in the name of insurgency, on grounds that they are Bengalis.
What an absurd excuse the paramilitary junta is using in its hate campaign against the Rohingya. Among westerners, as an Op-Ed in the New York Times said, Suu Kyi is a paragon of liberty in the same breath as Mandela and Gandhi, thanks to her decades-long campaign against Myanmar’s kleptocratic junta. However, to the Rohingya, the Nobel peace laureate and the country’s de facto leader is the embodiment of evil.
Suu Kyi, the widow who defied Myanmar’s dictators, was under house arrest for 15 years and led a campaign for democracy, was a hero of modern times. But today, she is the chief apologist for this cleansing of the Rohingya, who are mostly denounced as terrorists and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh!
Ethnic cleansing is an understatement. A Yale study suggests that the brutality toward Rohingyas might qualify as genocide. How can Suu Kyi condone the racial exploitation of the Rohingya in their homeland? Is not it an example of 21st century apartheid? The ‘Nelson Mandela’ of Myanmar has gone blind to the matter of repressing the Rohingya.
While security forces and Buddhist vigilantes are carrying out a vicious, mass-scale scorched-earth policy in the Muslim-majority Rakhine state, burning down entire Rohingya villages, is Suu Kyi simply adopting an ostrich-like policy?
A rights group also accused Suu Kyi of ‘burying her head in the sand’ amid this massacre. Voices have been raised to strip Suu Kyi of her Nobel Peace Prize.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought global intervention to find a permanent solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis and urged the United Nations to create international safe zones in Myanmar to protect all civilians in Rakhine. She called on the UN to immediately send a ‘fact-finding mission’ there to ease the violence.
Hasina reiterated her call for unconditional implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission recommendations and called for ‘sustainable return’ of all the Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homes in safety and security, with dignity.
It is imperative that the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s five-point formula be implemented at the earliest to prevent further mayhem.
It is ironic that the winner of ‘Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought’ has failed to dedicate her life to the defence of human rights. At a time when the world needs her moral leadership, her silence on the plight of the Rohingya of Rakhine is really shocking. The global conscience must awaken to act urgently and correctly to confront and end this evil.
(The writer is a joint news editor at the Bangladesh Post. He can be reached at email@example.com)