March 10, 2015
The world must move more decisively to save the lives of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
The latest UN report on ethnic strife in Myanmar is a damning indictment of the country’s leadership. Yanghee Lee, a UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said she saw no improvement for displaced Rohingya Muslims since her previous visit last July to investigate allegations of mistreatment of them by the Buddhist majority in Rakhine state. She observed a growing atmosphere of fear, distrust and hostility during her latest visit in January. She was showered with abuse during that visit by the country’s hardline Buddhists. The condition of Rohingya Muslims is pathetic that many people told the Special Rapporteur that they had two
options: to stay and die or to leave by boat, said Lee’s report to the UN Human Rights Council.
The international community and UN have been baffled by the situation in Myanmar where the majority Buddhist government and Buddhists are on a campaign to kill or force out Rohingya Muslims from the country. It’s a unique situation in that the government is unwilling to act or answer international concerns. Even Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her stunning silence on the issue. Western pressure hasn’t worked. Buddhist leaders inciting tension and killings are not controlled or brought to justice. Police and army who are supposed to protect the victims align themselves with the attackers. And President Thein Sein speaks for Buddhist extremists than support the underprivileged. And to make matters worse, the mostly stateless minority is likely to be the main loser from a new law initiated by the Rakhine National Party that restricts political party membership to full and naturalised citizens. Moreover, the country’s Constitutional Tribunal has stripped voting rights in an upcoming constitutional referendum from all temporary registration card holders. President Thein Sein has said these cards would expire this month. Expectations were high for Myanmar when the country emerged from military dictatorship to embrace democracy. Instead of focusing its energies on economic development and progress of the nation, and in rebuilding relations with the world, the government got embroiled in the ethnic tensions in the country.
The events in Myanmar will have a spillover effect. It’s leading to human trafficking as people are smuggled or trafficked out to Thailand and Malaysia. Tension is also escalating near the Chinese border, prompting a state of emergency. It’s time for the UN and international community to do a rethink of their Myanmar policy. The government of Thein Sein has been dismissive of international criticism and it’s time for tough action, like introduction of sanctions. The world’s silence on the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar is dangerous and deplorable. The world must take up the responsibility for protection of Rohingyas.