News Analysis: Nobody's people
The latest wave of Myanmar's killing of Rohingyas and the preceding world reaction to the continued genocide happening in the Southeast Asian country have truly put these hapless people at the risk of complete annihilation. It now seems there is nobody to stand by them, nobody to stop the murderous behaviour of a nation that sits at the cradle of so many great civilisations.
What is equally worrying is that the Rohingya crisis has all the latency of becoming a major crisis relating to terrorism for the whole of Southeast Asia. But the reactions of the South Asian neighbours do not truly reflect that concern.
The new spate of killing started, as if as a counter slap, just after a day of a report by a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan that came down heavily on Myanmar for the pogrom and urged the country to scrap restrictions on movement and citizenship for its Rohingya minority.
Myanmar's new mindless behaviour was emboldened by at least two events. In March this year, China, backed by Russia, blocked a UN Security Council statement on Myanmar. Just a month before, the UN human rights office had accused the country's military of mass killing and rape of Rohingya Muslims.
The short draft press statement was to stress the importance of humanitarian access to all affected areas in Myanmar.
And then 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. No concerns were raised, at least not publicly, about the Rohingyas, the continued violence on whom now shatters the country's “internal peace”.
Today, China is truly a world power and holds the key to peaceful future of the region. It also has a big influence on Myanmar. When this mighty country shows such a lenient and supportive attitude towards Myanmar, the plights of the Rohingyas look bleak.
China today leads the world in many a good cause, from fighting climate change to saving endangered species and implementing mega projects for building communication network to connect China and the world under the One Belt, One Road initiative. Therefore, its role in Myanmar looks puzzling.
The other Southeast Asian neighbours who had been sitting on the fence so far have also realised the danger that a rootless people pose. The Kofi Annan Commission has clearly highlighted that “the northern Rakhine state may provide fertile ground for radicalisation, as local communities may become increasingly vulnerable to recruitment by extremists”.
In May, Thailand hosted a regional conference to discuss the Rohingya issue that was participated by the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. However, a defiant Myanmar refused to send any representative.
Their main concern was the boatpeople from Myanmar who are fleeing persecution. They do not want these “stateless” people at their door. Violating international laws, they have warded off the boats from landing. Only the Philippines, despite being so far away from the epicenter of the genocide, has announced that it would allow the Rohingyas in.
Before the Thailand meeting, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in an extraordinary conference of foreign ministers of its member countries in Kuala Lumpur in January urged Myanmar to ensure that the security forces act in accordance with the rule of law and that all perpetrators of acts of violence be held accountable.
It urged the Myanmar government to abide by its obligations under international laws, international humanitarian laws and human rights covenants and take all necessary measures to stop the violence and discrimination against Rohingyas.
So international actions stopped short of any effective steps to help the refugees and to give them shelters even as the persecution goes unabated.
And so Rohingya influx into Bangladesh continued, because we are their closest neighbour. Since the last macabre killings, rape and looting in October last year, nearly 100,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border. That has made the situation even more complex here with the Rohingya camps already overflowing with previous refugees, posing a great threat to internal security as well.