Myanmar’s military butchers should be brought to justice
“Genocide” is a word so laden with human depravity and horror that it should never be uttered lightly.
So the fact that United Nations investigators have named top military officers in Myanmar and accused them of “genocidal intent” in their vicious persecution of the country’s Rohingya minority should make the world sit up, take notice and — finally — do something meaningful.
Because genocide means nothing less than the mass extermination of humans, especially those of a specific race or ethnic group.
And after meticulously examining what has been happening in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the UN factfinding mission had no qualms about asserting this week that genocide is precisely what the country’s top military leaders have planned and tried to execute. The investigators did not choose their words lightly.
Mass killings. Rape. Homes burned and entire communities reduced to ashes. Official policies to alter the demographic composition of Rakhine state.
These have become reality for the Rohingya over the past few years. And these constitute the damning case against many of Myanmar’s leaders. Ethnic cleansing is too soft a phrase to capture the fiendish brutality of their deeds. Instead, their actions constitute “the gravest crimes under international law,” according to the independent UN mission.
The victims in all this are the Rohingya, a Muslim, ethnic-minority group. Their tormentors belong to Myanmar’s overwhelmingly Buddhist majority.
Conservative estimates say more than 10,000 Rohingya have perished in this concerted campaign of hatred. More than 725,000 others have been forced to flee home and country. They now languish in crowded refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. And at least 37,000 Rohingya buildings have been wholly or partially razed.
Nor is responsibility confined to a cabal of generals. The once revered Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was condemned by the investigators for not using her authority as the country’s de facto civilian leader to defend the Rohingya.
If Canada does nothing else, it should revoke the honorary citizenship it bestowed upon her.
The world has long known about Myanmar’s atrocities. And the world has largely let it happen.
Strongly-worded condemnation in diplomatic communiqués, economic sanctions — all have been tried and failed. In theory, military action might have worked. In practice, foreign interventions often end in new and unanticipated bloodshed.
Now, the UN report should provide fresh impetus for the international community to act. The UN has never before levelled such strong accusations of genocide.
The world knows who is suspected of these crimes against humanity. For the sake of the Rohingya, living and dead, and in the interest of upholding widespread principles of human rights, the people named should stand trial.
This won’t be easy. Myanmar’s government has not agreed to be held accountable to the International Criminal Court. Nor can the UN Security Council be counted on for help. China, a permanent council member, will not support hauling Myanmar generals before a judge. Prosecuting anyone will be difficult.
Even so, every nation that supports human rights and the principle of a binding international law should join together to hold the people responsible for the carnage in Myanmar accountable for their actions. In addition, Myanmar should face an international arms embargo.
After all, the UN investigators aren’t suggesting Myanmar’s military was merely stealing from people or discriminating against them. The accusation is “genocidal intent.” Bringing the criminals to justice and justice to Myanmar is a moral imperative for us all.