Ter­ror turns to Myan­mar

Bangkok Post - - OPINION -

The gov­ern­ment of Aung San Suu Kyi should be con­cerned about an al-Qaeda call last week for ter­ror­ists world­wide to “help” the Ro­hingya peo­ple. It is un­cer­tain how many, in­deed, if any at all, will re­spond. The cry for war from the Mideast, how­ever, comes at a cru­cial time. The dan­ger is not by any means re­stricted to Myan­mar. All of Asean and be­yond face a crit­i­cal pe­riod.

The last thing Myan­mar and Asean need is out­side in­ter­ven­tion, but they are re­ceiv­ing it in spades. Al-Qaeda and other in­ter­fer­ing coun­tries and groups will be re­spon­si­ble for their ac­tions. But it must be said that Myan­mar is reap­ing the re­sults of the bad seeds it sowed. Ms Suu Kyi and the Nay Pyi Taw gov­ern­ment were warned. Af­ter an au­tho­rised fact-find­ing jour­ney in west­ern Rakhine state, for­mer UN sec­re­tary­gen­eral Kofi An­nan wrote the Myan­mar regime risked fu­elling ex­trem­ism by its ac­tions and re­stric­tions on the Ro­hingya.

The al-Qaeda de­mand for ji­hadists to jour­ney to the Myan­mar re­gion and en­gage in anti-gov­ern­ment ac­tion is un­wel­come, to say the least. It specif­i­cally called on “mu­jahid broth­ers in the Philip­pines” to pun­ish the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment. The call to ac­tion dredged up tired and stock phrases about a world­wide con­spir­acy against Is­lam, as well as plots to wipe out Mus­lims to seize their prop­erty.

The ter­ror­ist group, along with a home-grown, vi­o­lent group claim­ing to be the Arakan Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Army (ARSA), have hogged the spot­light. Other, more im­por­tant play­ers now are call­ing for di­rect ac­tion to help Ro­hingya peo­ple, op­pose Ms Suu Kyi’s poli­cies — or both. First and most im­por­tantly, a prom­i­nent Ira­nian law­maker has called on the Mus­lim world to raise an ex­pe­di­tionary force to res­cue the Ro­hingya.

Deputy Par­lia­ment Speaker Ali Mo­ta­har’s rab­ble-rous­ing, un­sur­pris­ingly, was grasped and ex­panded upon by Mohsen Rezaee, for­mer com­man­der of the coun­try’s Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion Guards and now head of the Ex­pe­di­ency Coun­cil.

He called for “a Nato-like joint mil­i­tary force” com­pris­ing troops from Syria, Iraq and Sunni Turkey.

Ri­val Saudi Ara­bia, stung by Iran’s call for ac­tion, said it had done more than any coun­try to help the Ro­hingya. Turkey, which has ac­tu­ally sent large amounts of aid through Bangladesh, now is in a war of words with Riyadh.

None of this is good news for Myan­mar and Ms Suu Kyi. It is detri­men­tal to Asean, in­clud­ing Thai­land. See­ing na­tions of the Mus­lim com­mu­nity fight­ing over who is the most sym­pa­thetic to the Ro­hingya is al­most as bad as ter­ror­ists and would-be mu­jahideen vol­un­teers ac­tu­ally ap­pear­ing in Bangladesh or Myan­mar.

At the mo­ment, the is­sue of the Ro­hingya is rais­ing the same type of pas­sion as the Pales­tinian cause of the re­cent past — an is­sue seem­ingly far away but which ex­ploded into ter­ror­ism, even in Thai­land.

If Myan­mar takes any of this danger­ous ac­tion and rhetoric se­ri­ously, it is not show­ing the world it is con­cerned. Ms Suu Kyi could have pre­vented all of it by re­spond­ing in a pos­i­tive and hu­man­i­tar­ian way to the very real prob­lems faced by her Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion.

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son struck the right note last week when he said it is “vi­tal for her to use the moral cap­i­tal” she gained around the world dur­ing her bleak years of house ar­rest.

The suf­fer­ing of the Ro­hingya now has been made unac­cept­able by Myan­mar army atroc­i­ties and what the UN calls geno­cide.

The dan­ger is that if Ms Suu Kyi fails to act, other and more bloody minded groups and coun­tries will.

The call to ac­tion dredged up tired and stock phrases about a world­wide con­spir­acy against Is­lam, as well as plots to wipe out Mus­lims to seize their prop­erty.

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