By Shantanu Mukharji
December 31, 2017
In a significant statement issued recently on the ongoing Rohingya crisis, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee (entry to Myanmar banned by the authorities) singled out Russia and China for their alleged failure to prevail upon Myanmar to stop the military crackdown on the Rohingyas. These two countries also came under scathing attack for restraint in criticising Myanmar for unending human rights abuses inflicted upon the Rohingyas.
Earlier, in what appeared to be a belligerent move, Russia had warned many countries against interference in the internal affairs of Myanmar. It is therefore clear that China and Russia, two major powers, have offered their endorsement and carte blanche support to Myanmar’s military actions and alleged atrocities perpetrated upon the Rohingyas. It is equally pertinent to state that since 2007 China backed by Russia has sabotaged several efforts taken by the Security Council on Myanmar using the veto power.
Also, China’s unstinted support helped Myanmar military generals going above the law for decades. This impunity gave them license to carry out the killings. It’s now perhaps the appropriate time for China to reassess its strategy so that in future it is not branded as a collaborator in genocide in Myanmar. If, for instance, China supports a UN move to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court, there will be no dearth of evidence to prosecute the alleged offenders.
Meanwhile, experts assess and with cautious pessimism that because of the unbridled Rohingya crisis, Myanmar should not become another Rwanda or Bosnia. Internationally acclaimed jurists, Justice Patricia Wald of the US, Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa and Sir Geoffrey Nice of the UK looked worried in the wake of resurfacing of a report called “Crimes in Burma” which was prepared in 2009 by the Law School of the Harvard University. While examining the report, the experts state that UN documents have included a range of human rights and humanitarian rights’ violations in Myanmar since long.
The international human rights clinic of the Harvard Law School prepared the report factoring four types of crimes perpetrated in Myanmar: forced displacement of the population, sexual violence, murder and torture and such crimes had been duly reflected at regular intervals from 2014 incorporating abuses upon other ethnic groups specially in Kachin and northern Shan states. The report added that fleeing villagers destroyed houses, crops and planted land mines in civilian areas.
Taking the cue from the Harvard report, the Law School of the Yale University in the following year documented atrocities unleashed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingyas. It particularly highlighted the excesses of the alleged Buddhist monks on the Rohingya Muslims. The UN investigation team which wanted to go to Myanmar on a fact finding mission, following the reports of these atrocities, was denied entry. They described the atrocities as a “text book example of ethnic cleansing”.
As seen from the above elucidation of the Rohingya issue so aptly internationalised by the west, the entire focus of academia is on Rohingya linked developments and it is giving a handle to the US and allies to come down heavily on powers like China and Russia. This looks nothing but sheer politics.
In the meantime, in a disturbing development, Thai intelligence services had started seeing use of Rohingya refugees (now at a monstrous figure reaching 640,000 in various Bangladeshi camps) by jihadists. They allege that the refugees are being misused by Islamic insurgents operating in the country’s southern provinces. Needless to emphasise that Southern Thailand provinces including Narathatiwat, Pattana, Surathani and areas bordering Malaysia are gripped with radical Islam and the areas often erupt with terror happenings. Though no evidence is at hand yet, but it will not be surprising if with Dr Zakir Naik’s present stay in Malaysia, these areas get a boost to foment radicalism and terror.
Mae Sot on the Thai Myanmarese border remains the hub of hosting training camps for insurgents of all kinds. A prominent Indian journalist and a security expert recently reported that Khalistan terrorists and Lashkar linked terrorists came to notice undergoing a training course in facilitating improvised explosive devices.
Further, very recently Rohingya jihadists from the Harakah Al Yakin were noticed with crates of AK 47 rifles. In this context it is worth mentioning that Arakan Rohingyas Salvation Army (ARSA) had been trained by Pakistani ISI as well as by Bangladesh-based terror group Jamait ul Mujahideen (JMB) raising security concerns in the region about a spurt in radicalisation and ultimate terrorism.
In sum therefore, on the one hand we see reports emanating from Western quarters on atrocities on Rohingyas which are purely of academic interest while on the other a segment of the Rohingyas are being armed to the teeth, indoctrinated and trained by undesirable elements which in all likelihood will abet the growth of radical Islam and eventually terror. This looks plausible as the actors involved are against any kind of peace and tranquillity in the region. Affected areas will not be confined to Myanmar alone. Bangladesh and southern Thailand may feel the heat too. All round alertness seems called for.
Bangladesh is on a tinderbox with a huge number of Rohingyas on its soil. All Rohingyas are not ultras and all Bangladeshis are not radicalised but a small number may wreak havoc . Twenty-seven year old Akayed – a Bangladeshi who had gone to the US only seven years ago – was so thoroughly brainwashed by radicals in Bangladesh that he detonated a pipe bomb in New York City barely a fortnight ago. There are thousands of Akayeds the world over, radicalised and committed. How do the authorities neutralise them? The new year will see multiple security challenges .