Myanmar should stop the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya
AMID a genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslims, officials in Myanmar have the gall to claim that the Rohingya are burning their own villages, attacking security forces and committing extremist acts. These claims are vehemently denied by the Rohingya and squarely contested by the international community, with evidence of systematic persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilante groups.
The UN says more than 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, amid reports of Myanmar laying mines along the border between the two countries, seriously hampering their ability to return to their homeland. Myanmar refuses to accept them, and has taken numerous steps since 1962 to deprive Rohingya of their civil and political rights, including citizenship rights.
Malala Yousafzai, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have joined the growing uproar against this systematic persecution. They have called on Aung San Suu Kyi, fellow Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s state counsellor, to take decisive action to curb the unrelenting violence and peacefully resolve the crisis. Let us hope such calls will find receptive ears.
Myanmar’s government is using indiscriminate military force. Recent operations, including attacks on Rohingya villages and ill treatment of civilians — including torture, rape and extrajudicial killings — are a matter of grave concern for the international community, in particular Muslims worldwide.
Far less threatening problems have been discussed at the UN Security Council, so what is stopping it from addressing what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) terms a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”? May good sense prevail soon. The Security Council should shoulder its primary responsibility of maintaining global peace and security.
What is particularly worrying is that some countries are shielding Myanmar in UN forums. India has gone to the extent of supporting the violent crackdown and deporting Rohingya refugees. This has been widely criticized by Indian and international human rights organizations. Based on its international obligations, “India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations,” said the UNHCR.
Despite this, there has been worldwide condemnation of Myanmar. Religious, political and civil society leaders have called for immediate international action to alleviate the suffering of Rohingya refugees, and have stressed the need to pressure Myanmar to uphold its obligation to ensure the rights and security of all its people, including the Rohingya.
Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have also taken a firm stand. During their recent summit in Astana, OIC leaders urged Myanmar to honor its obligations under international law and human rights covenants; to stop discrimination against and displacement of Rohingya; and to facilitate their return.
They also urged Myanmar to allow the OIC to open an office in Yangon to provide humanitarian aid to all victims of violence. This could open channels of communication that could help resolve the crisis peacefully.
The OIC joined UN calls for Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the International Advisory Commission on Rakhine State regarding citizenship, freedom of movement, humanitarian and media access, education, health care, development and reconciliation, among other things.
Myanmar must understand that resolving this crisis is in its own best interest. Violence begets violence. Only a comprehensive dialogue and reconciliation process based on universal human rights values, infrastructure development and community engagement will bring lasting peace, which we all want to see in a country headed by a Nobel laureate.
Marghoob Saleem Butt is executive director of the Jeddahbased Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), an advisory body on human rights issues established by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He is a diplomat by profession. He holds a masters in political science from the University of Punjab (Pakistan), and a postgraduate diploma in diplomatic studies from Oxford University (UK).