Genocidal intent there for decades, experts say

FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya Muslim woman cries as she holds her daughter after they were detained by Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers while crossing the India-Bangladesh border from Bangladesh, at Raimura village on the outskirts of Agartala, January 22, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Jayanta Dey/File Photo

Denial of Rohingya citizenship, systematic deprivation and violation of basic rights by the Myanmar authorities over the decades were not mentioned by any of the lawyers at the ICJ – making their arguments weak that there was no genocidal intent, analysts said.

"Genocidal intent was not only in 2016 or 2017 in the military crackdown against the Rohingya. Myanmar took up a genocidal policy since 1962. It was a slow genocide that found its momentum in 2017," said former Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad.

He responded to the arguments presented by Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other lawyers on the second day of the hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.

The Gambia, which filed a lawsuit against Myanmar, accusing it of genocide against the Rohingya on November 11, presented its arguments on Tuesday. Yesterday was the turn of Myanmar. Its salient features were that Myanmar military's attack on August 25 in 2017 was a response to the attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and that there is no sign of ongoing genocide in Rakhine now.

Suu Kyi said the Gambia has not taken into account the ongoing internal armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military. She said that Myanmar has taken a number of initiatives for establishing harmony and peace and development in Rakhine state.

Munshi Faiz, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said even the incidents since August, 2017 are considered, there are a lot of questions over that.  

 "Myanmar army were mobilsed in Rakhine in high numbers for some five months before the August attack by ARSA. Many think it was a drama staged," he told The Daily Star by phone.

The Rohingyas were living in Rakhine for generations. They were citizens and had all rights before the 1982. That was the time when the citizenship law denied Rohingya the citizenship. The problem began actually after the Second World War when the Rohingyas took the side of the British, while Myanmar was supporting the Japanese, he said.

Restrictions on freedom of movement, denial of basic rights including education, health, marriage, birth, Rohingya ethnicity – all were aimed at eliminating the Muslim group, he said.

"The denial by Myanmar lawyers that there is no ongoing genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine now is also a lie," he said, adding that Rohingyas are still not denied citizenship, their movements are restricted, their ethnicity is not recognized.

Myanmar has deliberately promoted the racial narratives that caused religious and ethnic conflicts between the Rohingyas and some other ethnic groups, Munshi Faiz Ahmad said.

There comes an obvious question as to why there is now an armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military. It's because Myamar is a state that is oppressive towards its ethnic groups. Rohingyas are the worst victims of it, he said. 

Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, director at the Centre for Genocide Studies at Dhaka University, said Myanmar lawyers have made no mention of the rapes by the Myanmar army though it is an important element of genocide.

"They focused only on the incidents of 2016 and 2017, but not the slow genocide that has been happening since 1948," he told The Daily Star by phone from The Hague where he is attending the ICJ hearing.

If there is no violation of Rohingya rights now, why Myamar has not been allowing the independent journalists, UN investigators and UN's Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, he posed a question, he added.

Fortify Rights Senior Human Rights Researcher John Quinley said they have documented how the Myanmar government is trying to erase the Rohingya.

"There is an ongoing genocide in Myanmar…there is an urgent need for provisional measures," he told The Daily Star by phone from Malaysia.

Barrister Sara Hossain said it was very disturbing to see how Suu Kyi, once an icon of democracy and human rights, was denying the serious forms of human rights violation of the Rohingyas.


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