Regina Leader-Post - - NP - TERRY GLAVIN,

Now that 40 per cent of Myan­mar’s per­se­cuted Ro­hingya peo­ple have been driven out of their home­lands in the dirt-poor back­wa­ters of Rakhine state, it’s be­com­ing clear that the great­est dis­grace is that no one who has been pay­ing the slight­est at­ten­tion has any ex­cuse to be sur­prised. And now, an­other clearly fore­seen con­se­quence of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s cold in­dif­fer­ence to the catas­tro­phe in­flicted upon Myan­mar’s aban­doned Mus­lim mi­nor­ity is that the jihadists are cir­cling, as they al­ways do in these crises, like vul­tures over a field of ripe corpses.

“A text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing” is the way the United Na­tions’ High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights de­scribed things on Monday. Pre­dictably, when the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil met to dis­cuss the hor­rors on Wed­nes­day, all the Rohingyas got by way of re­lief was yet an­other exquisitely crafted state­ment de­plor­ing the vi­o­lence. On Thurs­day, Hong Liang, China’s am­bas­sador to Myan­mar, con­grat­u­lated Myan­mar’s gener­als on their sav­ageries, and ad­vised the world to leave them alone. “It is just an in­ter­nal af­fair.”

By Friday, the work­ing week at UN head­quar­ters had ended with an­other 100,000 or so Ro­hingya chased and burned out of Rakhine. They’d fled across the bor­der into Bangladesh. By the UN’s count, 389,000 Ro­hingya peo­ple all told, more than half of them chil­dren, have fled Myan­mar’s de­prav­i­ties since Aug. 25.

No end to their suf­fer­ing is in sight. The United States is do­ing noth­ing. Leg­is­la­tion to deepen the Pen­tagon’s mil­i­tary ties with Myan­mar’s gener­als con­tin­ues to trun­dle its way through Congress. Canada is do­ing noth­ing. A pe­ti­tion to re­voke the honorary Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship granted to Aung San Suu Kyi, the for­mer cham­pion of democ­racy and now Myan­mar’s dis­graced State Coun­sel­lor, has gar­nered more than 20,000 sig­na­tures. But from Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s of­fice, it’s been mostly si­lence, and a let­ter to Suu Kyi, ask­ing her to be nice.

Suu Kyi has deftly and con­sis­tently re­fused to con­demn or even ac­knowl­edge the bar­barism Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to in­flict upon the Ro­hingya. The pe­ti­tion­ers who want her Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship taken away say she has be­trayed the Cana­dian ideals of “democ­racy, free­dom, hu­man rights and the rule of law” that Ottawa cited in grant­ing her the hon­our in 2012. Suu Kyi’s name sim­ply can­not be ut­tered in the same breath with the names of other honorary Cana­di­ans, and there are only five of them: Nel­son Man­dela, the Dalai Lama, the Aga Khan, Malala Yousafzai, and the Swedish di­plo­mat Raoul Wal­len­berg, who res­cued Jews from the Nazis.

If Suu Kyi is al­lowed to re­tain her honorary cit­i­zen­ship, the Cana­dian Ro­hingya Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive pro­poses that she be in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble charges un­der the Crimes Against Hu­man­ity and War Crimes Act. The 17-year-old law holds Cana­dian cit­i­zens to ac­count for the crime of geno­cide, and in­cludes com­plic­ity in geno­cide and the fail­ure to “take all rea­son­able steps” to pre­vent crimes against hu­man­ity.

The pogroms car­ried out against the Rohingyas since Au­gust quite read­ily ap­pear to con­sti­tute such crimes. And these are atrocities that ev­ery­body saw com­ing.

Dur­ing the au­tumn months of 2016, dozens of Ro­hingya civil­ians were mas­sa­cred, roughly 65,000 Rohingyas chased into Bangladesh, and tens of thou­sands more were rounded up and locked away in con­cen­tra­tion camps. Last De­cem­ber, Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak called for in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ven­tion to pre­vent a geno­cide. More than a dozen No­bel lau­re­ates pleaded with the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to in­ter­vene. No help came.

Two weeks ear­lier, an ex­haus­tive In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group study warned that the un­leash­ing of ex­ces­sive mil­i­tary force against an emerg­ing Ro­hingya in­sur­gency would back­fire, hor­ri­bly. It has. The re­sult of years of dead-end diplo­macy, dither­ing and dec­la­ra­tions about how de­plorable things were in Rakhine: a hu­man­i­tar­ian night­mare, and the prospect of South­east Asia shud­der­ing in the con­vul­sions of Is­lamist holy war.

Two weeks ago, the In­done­sian Is­lamic De­fend­ers Front called on vol­un­teers to wage ji­had in Myan­mar to de­fend the Ro­hingya against the Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity bel­liger­ents run­ning Myan­mar’s govern­ment. In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo warned that things were spin­ning out of con­trol: “Real ac­tion is needed, not just state­ments and con­dem­na­tions.” What Wi­dodo got for his trou­ble: more state­ments and con­dem­na­tions, and a bomb thrown at the Myan­mar em­bassy in Jakarta.

“The savage treat­ment meted out to our Mus­lim broth­ers shall not pass with­out pun­ish­ment,” al-Qaida an­nounced in a state­ment re­ported by the SITE In­tel­li­gence Group on Wed­nes­day. “The govern­ment of Myan­mar shall be made to taste what our Mus­lim broth­ers have tasted.” Not to be out­done, Iran’s Mohsen Rezaee, a se­nior Khome­in­ist law­maker and the for­mer com­man­der of the Iran’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps, is call­ing for a multi­na­tional Is­lamic army, the “Army of the Prophet,” to in­ter­vene in Myan­mar.

On Aug. 24, for­mer UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan re­leased a re­port Suu Kyi com­mis­sioned, to ex­am­ine res­o­lu­tions to the Ro­hingya cri­sis. The re­port stated the ob­vi­ous: grant the Rohingyas a way to ob­tain Myan­mar cit­i­zen­ship, which they have been de­nied since the mil­i­tary coup of 1962. In fact, Myan­mar fur­ther en­trenched the Ro­hingya’s state­less­ness in a 1982 cit­i­zen­ship law, on the fic­tional grounds that all Rohingyas are merely Bangladeshi in­ter­lop­ers. Suu Kyi’s elec­tion in 2015 changed noth­ing for the bet­ter. It’s when things started to get even worse.

“Un­less con­certed ac­tion — led by the govern­ment and aided by all sec­tors of the govern­ment and so­ci­ety — is taken soon, we risk the re­turn of an­other cy­cle of vi­o­lence and rad­i­cal­iza­tion,” An­nan con­cluded. It took less than 24 hours for that cy­cle of vi­o­lence to be­gin again. The rag­tag Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army (ARSA) at­tacked 30 po­lice and army posts across Rakhine, killing 12. The mil­i­tary re­sponded with a ram­page.

Sol­diers burned hun­dreds of homes, de­stroyed en­tire Ro­hingya vil­lages and killed an es­ti­mated 1,000 peo­ple. Suu Kyi has re­fused to al­low UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors to travel to the af­fected areas to in­ves­ti­gate the car­nage. In­stead, her govern­ment has re­sorted to cheap pro­pa­ganda: the Rohingyas are burn­ing their own vil­lages to make the Myan­mar govern­ment look bad, and the ARSA fight­ers are ter­ror­ists and jihadists. Suu Kyi called re­ports of the army’s atrocities “fake news.”

A closely guided press tour fol­low­ing the mil­i­tary ram­page ended badly, how­ever. The BBC was pre­sented with pho­to­graphs al­legedly catch­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims in the act of set­ting their own homes on fire — but the ar­son­ists turned out to be Hin­dus dressed up as Mus­lims. The tour in­ad­ver­tently led the jour­nal­ists to a vil­lage that was still burn­ing, where the army was al­low­ing Bud­dhist ar­son­ists to walk away from the crime scene with items looted from the aban­doned Ro­hingya houses.

“We are not jihadists,” an ARSA spokesman who goes only by the name Ab­dul­lah told the Bangkok Times in the af­ter­math of the Aug. 25 at­tacks. ARSA is un­in­ter­ested in im­pos­ing any ver­sion of Sharia any­where in Rakhine, he said. “Our sta­tus as a rec­og­nized eth­nic group within Myan­mar must be re­stored.” That’s pretty well the sub­stance of ARSA’s de­mands: cit­i­zen­ship and civil rights within Myan­mar. “As long as our de­mands are not met, re­sis­tance will con­tinue and, if un­ful­filled, those de­mands will be up­graded to an­other level.”

But Ab­dul­lah was not clear about what “an­other level” might mean, and ARSA’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to toxic Is­lamist in­flu­ences is grow­ing, just as the ji­hadist at­trac­tion to the Rakhine chaos in­creas­ingly threat­ens to plunge the re­gion into sec­tar­ian blood­let­ting. Only about five per cent of Myan­mar’s 55 mil­lion peo­ple are Mus­lims, but about half of South Asia’s peo­ple are.

ARSA was founded in Mecca, Saudi Ara­bia, by a group of Ro­hingya refugees. As reck­less as a re­sort to armed strug­gle may be, the group’s pol­icy of hit­ting only mil­i­tary tar­gets and not civil­ians un­der­mines the claim that it is merely a “ter­ror­ist” or­ga­ni­za­tion.

None­the­less, in Myan­mar it is not only against the law for jour­nal­ists to de­scribe ARSA as any­thing but a “ter­ror­ist” group, it is also prac­ti­cally il­le­gal to even use the term “Ro­hingya.” Myan­mar’s de­fence min­is­ter Aung Hlaing makes no bones about it. “We have al­ready let the world know that we don’t have Ro­hingya in our coun­try,” he said in a speech on Myan­mar’s Armed Forces Day, back in March. “Ben­galis in Rakhine state are not Myan­mar cit­i­zens and they are just peo­ple who come and stay in the coun­try.”

While Mus­lim and Bud­dhist pop­u­la­tion shifts be­tween Chit­tagong in what is now Bangladesh and Rakhine have been on­go­ing since the days of the Bri­tish Raj, the Rakhine “Ben­galis” have oc­cu­pied what is now Myan­mar for cen­turies. Deny­ing the Ro­hingya their iden­tity, and deny­ing them cit­i­zen­ship while the rest of the world does noth­ing, just throws fuel on an al­ready smoul­der­ing ji­hadist fire.

If the UN won’t act, who will come to the Rohingyas’ aid?

Rakhine had al­ready been cited by Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi three years ago as an im­por­tant new front for ji­had. In re­cent weeks, in Al-Qalam — the pro­pa­ganda sheet reg­u­larly is­sued by the out­lawed Pak­istani ter­ror­ist group Jaish-e-Mo­hammed — JEM founder Maulana Ma­sood Azhar called for ur­gent ac­tion on be­half of the Rohingyas. Myan­mar would soon hear "the thud­ding sound of the foot­steps of its con­querors,” he wrote. Pak­istan’s Tehreek-e-Tal­iban and Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Muham­mad Saeed have also ex­horted Mus­lims to wage ji­had in Myan­mar or oth­er­wise come to the as­sis­tance of ARSA — no mat­ter that ARSA in­sists it doesn’t want their help.

Even the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group warns that ARSA’s lead­ers might soon be forced to re­con­sider their in­de­pen­dence and their re­jec­tion of ji­had. The ICG’s study last De­cem­ber con­cluded: “If the govern­ment mis­han­dles the sit­u­a­tion ... it could cre­ate con­di­tions for rad­i­cal­iz­ing sec­tions of the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion that ji­hadist groups might ex­ploit for their own agen­das. To avoid that risk re­quires a mod­er­ated mil­i­tary re­sponse, well-crafted po­lit­i­cal strat­egy and closer co­op­er­a­tion and in­tel­li­gence shar­ing with Myan­mar’s neigh­bours and the ASEAN (As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions) bloc.”

But no well-crafted po­lit­i­cal strat­egy is on the hori­zon. The Myan­mar mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to ram­page across Rakhine state, and thou­sands of Rohingyas — 10,000 a day now, at least, with a sur­feit of “fight­ing aged males” among them — con­tinue to pour into over­crowded, makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh.

This is not just a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.” It is a text­book ex­am­ple of how ji­hadism thrives in all those places where in­ter­na­tional-com­mu­nity plat­i­tudes are all that’s on of­fer to per­se­cuted Mus­lims with noth­ing left to lose.



Ro­hingya Mus­lims in a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Nearly 400,000 Ro­hingya refugees have fled the atrocities in Myan­mar.

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