With serious dangers of spinning out of control, Rohingya crisis needs an immediate attention of international community. UNSC needs to intervene to nullify Myanmar’s 2008 legislation that deprives Rohingya population of its citizenship rights; post a UN Peace Enforcement Contingent to create a buffer zone between Rakhine state and rest of Myanmar; declare Rakhine state as “Autonomous Rohingya Zone”; and set a future date—at least after a decade—to hold a UN supervised referendum in Rakhine to determine whether Rohingya populations wants to retain Autonomous status within Myanmar or become an independent republic. Kofin Annan Commission report provides initial document for action.
In a demarche ambassador of Myanmar, Mr. U. Win Myint, was called to Pakistan’s Foreign Office on September 08 and the Foreign Secretary conveyed a strong protest of the government and people of Pakistan at the ongoing violence against the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. Pakistan called for effective measures to prevent the recurrence of such violence, providing security to Rohingya Muslims and upholding their rights to live and move without fear and discriminations, urgent investigations into recent violence against the Rohingya Muslims and holding accountable those involved in these serious crimes. Swift implementation of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission was also emphasized. These include: urgent and sustained action to prevent violence, maintain peace, foster reconciliation, assure unhindered humanitarian access and address the issue of citizenship.
Since the beginning of political liberalization reforms in 2011, Myanmar has been tense due to an unwarranted uptick in extreme Buddhist nationalism, and phenomenal rise in the frequency of anti-Muslim hate speeches. Analysts had long been warning that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya would lead to homegrown militancy as well as support from international terrorists. Yet international community displayed apathy.
The UN acknowledges that Myanmar’s army “may have committed ethnic cleansing”. A last year’s anti-Rohingya security crackdown in Maungdaw, invoked a UN report on human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity. This report UN documented “mass gang-rape, killings – including infants and young children – brutal beatings, and disappearances”.
While dynamics at play in Rakhine are mostly driven by local fears and grievances, the current crisis has led to a broader spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, raising anew the spectre of deadly communal violence, not only in Rakhine state but across the country. This has further amplified fears that the situation is spinning out of control. Bangladesh and India—have displayed a hostile attitude towards fleeing victims of violence.
Turkey’s foreign minister has urged Bangladesh to open its doors for Rohingya Muslims and offered to bear their expenses. Mevlut Cavusoglu said on September 02, “If Bangladesh opened its doors for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, Turkey was ready to cover their expenses”. “We have also mobilized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We will hold a summit on Arakan [Rakhine state] this year. We need to find a decisive solution to this problem,” he added.
In her recent article in South Asian Voices, captioned “India’s Discriminatory Rohingya Policy: In conflict with core values”, Shivani Singh writes: “Under the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, the state revoked the citizenship rights of Rohingyas… These actions were followed by military crackdowns against the group… which led the United Nations in 2013 to describe Rohingyas as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. In light of a series of army crackdowns beginning in November 2016, the status of Rohingya refugees has again come to the forefront”. In March this year, India had ‘dissociated’ from the UN resolution to dispatch an ‘independent international fact-finding mission’ to investigate the alleged human rights abuses by security forces against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.
On current Indian behavior Shivani commented, “Apart from flaws in the legal framework, there is another aspect…anti-Muslim policies undertaken by members of the BJP government…The statement by India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, that Rohingyas are “illegal immigrants infringing on the rights of Indian citizens” only furthers the government’s agenda of targeting Muslim minorities…This is especially the case given that far larger refugee communities—such as Sri Lankans and Tibetans—have not had to face similar threats of deportation and loss of livelihood, particularly at a time when their community is being brutally persecuted in their home country…India may not be a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but it is bound by customary international law on non-refoulement, which prohibits countries from returning refugees to a country where they are likely to face persecution”.
Leader of Myanmar, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is under intense criticism about her indifference over the plight of the Rohingyas. Myanmar’s current political system is a power sharing arrangement between the military and the elected political parties. Defenders of Suu Kyi say she has limited ability to control Myanmar’s notoriously abusive military, which is effectively independent of civilian oversight. Luke Hunt in his September 07 piece, “Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis Escalates”, reports: in ‘The Diplomat’ commented: “With another humanitarian crisis beckoning, Suu Kyi has done little to curb her military from (use of) excess force… In Rakhine, stories of children being shot at point blank range, women raped, and satellite photos clearly showing swathes of villages ablaze have become the stuff of daily headlines.”
Malaysian Foreign Minister has questioned Suu Kyi’s silence. “Very frankly, I am dissatisfied with Aung San Suu Kyi,” adding, “[Previously] she stood up for the principles of human rights. Now it seems she is doing nothing.” Indonesia’s Foreign Minister met Suu Kyi as well as Myanmar’s army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw on September 04, in a bid to pressure the government to do more to alleviate the crisis. “This humanitarian crisis has to stop immediately,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo commented. The Maldives has also announced on September 03 that it has severed all trade ties with the country until the government of Myanmar takes measures to prevent the atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims. Iranian Foreign Minister added: “International action crucial to prevent further ethnic cleansing – UN must rally.” There were also protest rallies in Russia’s Chechnya region. In Pakistan also people took to streets on September 08, earlier its foreign ministry had issued a strong statement urging for ending violence against hapless Rohingyas.
Aung San Suu Kyi made her first public comments on the fate of her country’s persecuted Rohingya minority on September 06. She claimed during a phone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that her government was fighting to ensure “terrorism” didn’t spread over the whole of Rakhine state. “We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection…So we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights”, Suu Kyi said.
As the Rohingya crisis attracts global attention, Al Qaeda in Yemen has called for retaliatory attacks against Myanmar while the Afghan Taliban have urged Muslims to “use their abilities to help Myanmar’s oppressed Muslims”. According to Luke Hunt: “One senior Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen has called for attacks on Myanmar authorities in support of the Rohingyas. It was Khaled Batarfi, who urged Muslims in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia to raise arms in support of their Rohingya Islamic brethren and go to war against what he says are the enemies of Allah. ‘So spare no effort in waging jihad against them and repulsing their attacks, and beware of letting down our brothers in Burma,’ he said in a video message, released by al-Qaeda’s al-Malahem media foundation”.
A legitimate struggle for political rights within Myanmar is taking a dangerous direction, it may be at the threshold of getting hijacked—and thus getting delegitimized.