By Maria Simeonova, STAND Canada Policy Director
The Myanmar government continues to willfully neglect the ongoing atrocities against 1.1 million marginalized Rohingya through inflicting destruction on Rohingya homes, arson, rape and the forcible relocation into internal displacement camps (IDP camps). A recent military crackdown ensued following alleged evidence that Rohingya militants orchestrated attacks against the border guards, resulting in at the death of at least 1,000 Rohingya. Human rights organizations working in Bangladesh fear that number could be higher than reported. However, that information cannot be verified given that the Myanmar government denies any assertions that ethnic cleansing is taking place and will not allow external aid and monitoring groups into the affected regions.
According to international organizations’ reports, predominantly female refugees have been crossing into Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military escalated its offensive in the Rakhine State mid-November 2016. Described as a “calculated policy of terror” carried out against Rohingya men, the butchery of an undesired people will endure until the government of Myanmar grants the Rohingya status, a voice and a place in society.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) envoy implores an inquiry into of human rights abuses of the Rohingya in March 2017 following reports that at least 70,000 people have crossed into Bangladesh since the October attacks recounting major human rights abuses. The Bangladeshi government’s suggested solution to address the increasing volumes of Rohingya is to relocate them to Thengar Char, an uninhabitable island that appeared eight years ago which is susceptible to a multitude of storms and tidal waves. If this proposal succeeds, many Rohingya refugees residing in Bangladesh believe their chances of survival would be better in Myanmar rather than on the remote derelict island.
The Myanmar Army concluded “clearance operation”, a four-month sweep of the Rakhine state to ensure the eradication of the purported security risks. Although police presence remains, the curfew has since been lifted. Urgent appeals for help continue to pour in from Rohingya facing daily persecution. Following a UN request to examine the situation in the Rakhine State, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi publicly assured that an internal probe and investigation would take place, but did not permit a UN sanctioned envoy to settle international concerns.
Regional players are refraining from taking a viewpoint against Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya. As a result of geopolitical placement and religious orientations, India in particular supports political leanings defined as “pragmatic engagement”. Rather than outspokenly expressing concern regarding the plight of the Rohingya, neighboring countries choose to represent the situation as an internal affair for Myanmar to resolve as the government deems appropriate. This is a disconcerting approach by Myanmar’s neighbors, who prefer to focus efforts on Myanmar’s substantial natural resource wealth instead of expressing interest in advocating for human rights.
It does not bode well that Suu Kyi officially denied the occurrence of ethnic cleansing on April 5. Now that the Rohingya issue is broadly publicized, the international community can no longer sit idly by without taking assertive action to change the plight of the Rohingya.
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