By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
6 September 2017
It is very obvious that what is happening in Rakhine state of Myanmar is ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Rohingya Muslims. The first to acknowledge this fact is the United Nations, headed by its Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
He expressed grave concern over the persecution of Rohingya that continues unabated despite the issuance of many reports by the United Nations and its affiliated organs warning the Myanmar government over this issue. All these reports showed that Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted among minorities in the world.
The reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have also confirmed this. Similarly, several prominent global figures and Nobel laureates such as South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Buddhists in Tibet, had warned long time ago that what is happening in that state amounts to ethnic cleansing.
But the Myanmar government led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was supposed to be a champion of human rights, denies the reports about such an ethnic cleansing, saying: “I don’t think ethnic cleansing is going on there. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.”
She also termed the issue as a dispute between two communities who are equal in their rights and duties, saying “It is a matter of people on different sides of the divide.” It is unfortunate that there are some people who accept even this claim as true.
How can the world close its eyes to the atrocities being committed against unarmed civilians? There are hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who are languishing in refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India after they have been subjected to killing, looting, rape, and burning of their homes, mosques and villages.
These forced them to flee in search of refuge from persecution and escape from being killed by extremist Buddhist organizations as well as by police and army personnel. Those who escaped the killing either drowned in the sea after becoming victims of exploitation and extortion by smugglers, human traffickers, and their agents. The mass graves unearthed recently in Thailand are the best proof of the genocide and ethnic cleansing being perpetrated against the Rohingya people.
The human rights activists believed that the assumption of power by Suu Kyi would help improve the situation of these oppressed people taking into account of the fact that she had been subjected to some sort of oppression after being placed under house arrest by the military junta.
At that time, the entire world stood by her and honored her with the Nobel Peace Prize in the hope that she would continue to remain a champion of human rights. But everyone was disappointed after realizing that she was not a better choice than the military junta because she has sacrificed all her credentials and ideals of a human rights champion for cheap political gains.
Suu Kyi’s rule
Moreover, things have gotten worse after she came to power. During the time when the military junta was in power, it was the Buddhist extremists who committed such crimes. But under Suu Kyi’s rule, it is the turn of the army and police who are perpetrating the crimes.
The role of Suu Kyi, the de facto ruler, has been restricted to the denial of taking place of any such crimes apart from justification of these crimes and perhaps even encouraging them. Suu Kyi’s racist mentality against the Rohingya Muslims was evident from her angry response after the interview conducted by the BBC journalist Mishal Husain.
After facing heavy criticism from the international human rights organizations and even her fellow Nobel laureates, Suu Kyi constituted a panel, called Advisory Commission on Rakhine State in Myanmar, whose members were carefully selected under the chairmanship of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. While embarking on this mission, Annan said that his mission did not include human rights.
It was very obvious from his statement that the commission is useless and its members are false witnesses whose mission is just to give a good certificate for the wrongdoing of those who had chosen them, in addition to giving the government more time to get rid of a large number of Rohingya Muslims. This was what really happened.
During the one year period since constituting the commission in September last year, thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed and more than 120,000 have been driven out of their homes. A large number of villages have been burned down — this time by soldiers and policemen.
The Kofi Annan Commission has miserably failed to address the real problem of the Rohingya Muslims — the genocide and ethnic cleansing they have been subjected to. Nearly half of the Rohingya people were either killed or expelled from their homes and are living in refugee camps in other countries.
The commission justified its failure by pointing out the similar fate of the fact-finding mission, constituted by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate into the crimes being committed against the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state.
Despite all these, the scale of violence against the Rohingya has shot up, with a surge in mass killings and ethnic cleansing following the release of the Kofi Annan Commission report because the government’s plan is to eliminate Rohingya Muslims either through killing or threats of killing and that created a wave of fleeing out of the country.
The international community and the United Nations have to recognize this fact and must take the initiative to halt the genocide and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims that has become crystal clear and it no longer needed any more evidence.
The government of Myanmar will not implement even the recommendations of the Annan Commission unless it is forced to by the international community and unless members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) act to carry out their humanitarian and religious duty towards this hapless people.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on September 6, 2017.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @DrAliAlghamdi.