Rohingya refugee crisis: Unending brutality, impotent world
12:00 AM, September 05, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:41 AM, September 05, 2017

News Analysis: World concerned, but result zero

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This is a humanitarian disaster.

Around 400 were killed during the ongoing brutal crackdown on the Rohingya by the Myanmar security forces in the last 10 days. Nearly 90,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homes entered into Bangladesh territory. Their exodus towards Bangladesh to escape violence continues.

The Telegraph of UK in a report on September 2 says, fears of mass atrocities against the Rohingya civilians were growing after eyewitness accounts emerged of children being beheaded and people burned alive.

The brutal actions by Myanmar forces targeting the Rohingya meet the criteria of genocide as set by the UN in 1948, but the UN and world leaders still could not take any effective steps to stop the atrocities.

 After escalation of the violence, the UN chief, on August 29, expressed deep concern over reports that civilians have been killed during security operations in Myanmar's Rakhine state and appealed for aid access as thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar for life.

However, his call did not give the Rohingya hope as the UN is struggling like previous years to exert adequate pressure on the Myanmar government to stop brutalities on Rohingyas, termed by the UN as one of the most persecuted communities in the world.

Amid growing concern over violence on the Rohingya, the UN Security Council on August 30 discussed the situation in Myanmar.

There was no formal statement from the 15-member council following the closed-door meeting but British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said there were calls from council members for de-escalation.

Britain requested the meeting on Myanmar, but diplomats said China was resisting stronger involvement by the UN council in addressing the crisis, according to an AFP report.

It remains unclear whether further action was planned, but the issue is expected to be discussed during the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly this month.

The UN seems unable to take any strong action against Myanmar due to China's role.  In March this year, China, backed by Russia, blocked a UN Security Council statement on Myanmar. The short draft press statement was to stress the importance of humanitarian access to all affected areas in Myanmar.

In May, when Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's ruling party chief, met Chinese President Xi Jinping, she was assured that China would continue helping Myanmar achieve internal peace process.

Earlier, on January 12, 2007, the Security Council also failed to adopt a draft resolution on the situation in Myanmar due to vetoes by China and Russia.

In that draft resolution, the UN would have called on Myanmar's government to cease military attacks against civilians in ethnic minority regions and begin a substantive political dialogue that would lead to a genuine democratic transition.

Persecuted for decades, the Rohingyas have been facing intensified brutalities since 2012. Over the last five years, UN, the global body, and other international organisations have kept voicing concerns over human rights violations against the Rohingya and urging the Myanmar government to take effective measures to end the persecution. But the situation has continued to slide.

Take some examples of the UN's responses in the past.

The deadly clashes between the Buddhists and the Rohingya in June 2012 left around 100 dead and displaced around one lakh people.

After the violence, the then Myanmar president announced that the Rohingya posed a threat to national security and that they should be settled in any third country that is "willing to take them."

On August 6, 2012, UN secretary general's Special Advisor for Myanmar Vijay Nambiar and UNHCHR chief Navi Pillay called for an impartial investigation into the deadly violence.

On September 25, 2012, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar released a report on the human rights situation, saying the country continued to grapple with serious human rights challenges.

Four days later, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met Myanmar President Thein Sein and discussed the human rights situation. The Myanmar president committed to address the root causes of the violence.

But he forgot his commitment as fresh violence erupted next month in Rakhine state, home of the Rohingya.

In such a situation, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar on October 25, expressed his concern over continuing violence in Rakhine and called upon the Myanmar government to prevent further violence and to resolve longstanding concerns including the "endemic discrimination against the Rohingya community."

Five days later UN experts on Myanmar minority issues and internally displaced persons released a statement expressing deep concern over continuing inter-communal violence in Rakhine state and reminded the Myanmar government of its obligation to protect those affected by violence, particularly the Rohingya Muslims.

As the situation remained unchanged, the UN General Assembly on December 24, 2012 adopted a resolution expressing concern about the situation of the Rohingya and called upon the Myanmar government to address discrimination, human rights violations and violence affecting various ethnic minorities.

Again, nothing changed. The UN Secretary General on August 13, 2013 released his annual report to the UN General Assembly on the human rights situation in Myanmar, raising concern over human rights violation against the Rohingya and the plight of the wider Muslim community.

He called upon the government to address the issue of Rohingya citizenship and hold accountable those who were disseminating hate literature and killing innocent people.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee passed a resolution on November 21 2014, expressing serious concern about the situation of the Rohingya and urged the Myanmar government to end discrimination against the Rohingya. The UN General Assembly on December 29 adopted the November 21 third committee resolution.

The UN also kept expressing concern throughout 2015 and 2016.

Apart from the global body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, US, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch kept voicing their concerns and urged the Myanmar government to stop persecuting the Rohingya.

Amid global concerns, another spell of deadly violence against the Rohingya took place from October last year.

A month later, the OHCHR, the UN rights agency, in a statement said Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya could be tantamount to crimes against humanity. In a report in June last year, it also voiced the same concern. 

A UN report in February this year said the military crackdown on the Rohingya had led to gang rape, the killing of hundreds of civilians and the forced displacement of as many as 90,000 people.

An Amnesty International report released in December last year said Myanmar's security forces were unlawfully killing, raping and burning down houses in a campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

“The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the AI report said.

New York based Human Rights Watch in a report said the security operations led to numerous reports of serious abuses by government security forces against Rohingya villagers, including summary killings, rape and other sexual violence, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, and arson.

There was a strong call for proper investigation into the incidents of killing, raping and arson to punish perpetrators.

In face of growing pressure, the Myanmar government formed an inquiry commission to investigate the deadly violence.

But the commission consisting of the government's own men has come up with bizarre findings. It claimed the commission found the allegations of killing, raping and human rights violations against the Rohingya groundless.

"The investigation commission found there was no possible evidence indicating any crime against humanity or any act of ethnic cleansing in support of allegations by the United Nations office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)," said Myanmar Vice President U Myint Swe in a press statement in July this year.

The vice-president, who chaired the commission, said the accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing were part of a smear campaign by "external forces."

He launched a counter attack on the international community who voiced concerns about the Rohingya saying that the foreign interference had worsened the situation and made its resolution more complicated.

An even more disturbing development was a statement on August 27 in a Facebook post from the office of Suu Kyi that accused international aid workers of helping “terrorists”, a word it used to refer to the Rohingya. This statement came at time of increasing anti-Muslim sentiment being encouraged by hardline religious leaders in majority Buddhist Myanmar. Human rights groups reacted sharply to this statement saying Suu Kyi must stop “profoundly irresponsible” accusations which could jeorpardise the lives of aid workers in the Rakhine state.

The findings by the government's investigating commission give a clear indication that Myanmar does not care about global opinions and no amount of outrage by the global community can force the regime to take measures to stop persecuting the Rohingya.

The records presented above show how Myanmar has been persecuting the Rohingya with impunity for years. This time may not be any different from past for either the Rohingya or the Myanmar government. 

If things remain unchanged, the plight of the stateless Rohingya may continue for an indefinite period.

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Grameenphone and Robi:
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