The Rohingya crisis reflects intention of the Myanmar government to forcibly oust the Muslims from Rakhine State. The brutal attack on unarmed civilians and placing of landmines along its border by Military in coordination with Border Guard Police and armed Rakhine Buddhists is the proof. Coastal area in Rakhine state is clearly of strategic importance to both China (0ne Belt 0ne Road Policy) and India (Look East Policy).Myanmar government has vested interest in clearing land for development projects that brings oil and gas revenues, transit fees, employment for its citizen- that boost economic growth. In such situations human costs are terribly high.
Myanmar Military and its elected, State Counsellor denies the mayhem but Amnesty International Director says “Given their ongoing denials Myanmar authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on massive scale. But modern technology coupled with rigorous human rights research have tipped the scale against them”. BBC’s South East Asia correspondent on a government organised media trip says “on September 7,2017, at Alel Than Kyaw, we heard automatic weapons fire at in distant and saw four large columns of of smoke indicating villages burned. Rohingya village at Gaw Du Thar Ya,was being set alight by Rakhine Buddhist men in front of armed police.” Both these statements confirms that “huge iceberg of misinformation” come from Myanmar itself.
Myanmar has a military dominated government, wherein, only the Bamar Buddhist group, forms the government, the police and army. In the Parliament the Military has 25% reserved seats. None from the 135 recognised ethnic groups are represented in any of these positions. The present elected representatives, including Aung San Suu Kyi, role is to play second fiddle to the Military regime.
The Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar(2008),The Land Acquisition Act(1894),The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Act(2012), Economic Zone Law(2011), Farm Act(2012 and The Foreign Investment(2012) gives the government the full authority to (A) adopt “Burmanisation”,( implemented since military junta came to power in 1962) and (B) to protect, control and utilize the country’s natural resources. Thus “Burmanisation” and inability to find a formula for sharing the country’s natural resources between Bamar Buddhists majority and 135 Ethnic groups became the main reason for conflict between them. However, as they are not Muslims, they are not affected by the Citizen Law of 1982. They retain their Citizenship, but since the assassination of late Gen Aung San voided the Panglong agreement (1947), conflicts with government continued to bedevil the country.
Rohingyas, not part of 135 Ethnic group, but as they are Muslims, are eyed with suspicion, and since Gen Ne Win’s junta rule(1962) it became a part of the national policy, to plan their living in squalid ghettos and apartheid conditions with severe restrictions on movement, family life, employment, healthcare and education for their children .Discriminated and persecuted, they also became victim of religious hatred led by Ashin Wirathu, branded by Time Magazine as “Face of Buddhist Terror”, is leader of 969 Movement and Ma Ba Tha. Wikepedia reports, in 2012 Ashin led a rally of monks to promote President Thein Sein’s controversial plan to send Rohingya Muslims to third countries. His 969 movement is related to boycott of Muslim owned business. Additionally he has been vocal in citing examples of neighboring countries(Indonesia and Philippines)that Muslims will overtake,dominate and get rid of Buddhists- though there is no such concrete proof specially when demography confirms that Muslims are 4% while Bamar Buddhists are over 89%.To “add salt to their wound,” the Citizen Law of 1982, robs them of their Citizenship and right to vote.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and United Nations Satellite Application Program have captured the images and shared it with international Media(print and electronics),international organizations and international community that prompted action by United Nations Secretary General, UN Security Council, Heads of different UN Agencies and its Special Rapporteurs, European Union, US State Department officials, and 27 eminent personalities that includes 12 Nobel Laureates. Their coordinated efforts brought the following positive results:(A)quick supply from different countries of food, essential medicines and vaccinations, emergency shelter, blankets, other essentials, to immediately rehabilitate the Rohingya Refugees;(B) the pledging by Donor countries of US$434 million for continued relief programmes for Rohingyas and support to host communities in Bangladesh; (C) condemnation of Myanmar Military’s excessive force and urging them to stop further violence; (D) urging Myanmar government to take steps to implement the Kofi Annan Commission Report so than an environment is created to rehabilitate the repatriated Rohingyas from Bangladesh under UN Supervision; (E) to allow a UN Fact Finding Team to visit Rakhine state.
The Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh has received accolades from,United Nations and leaders of the world for accommodating the victimised Rohingyas, and in her speech, at the 72nd UN General Assembly, she said “0ur humanity compels us to stand by them”. She placed her proposals for solutions to the crisis ,the most significant being, implementation of Kofi Anan Commission Report and creating a “Safe Zone” in Rakhine State.
However,”Safe Zone”, similar to one made at Srebrenica (Bosnia’s eastern border with Serbia) by UN and defended by UN Peacekeeping Force, or the recently signed agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh for repatriation, will not solve the crisis or confirm repatriation, because Military and Bamar Buddhists still vehemently hate the Muslims; and this attitude must change. The First priority of Military Junta and the State Counsellor, is to take lessons from Singapore, which is predominantly ethnic Chinese.The new president elect is from minority Malay. After being sworn in, Ms Halima Yacob in her speech said “Although this is a reserved election, I am not a reserved president. I am a president for everyone regardless of race, language, religion or creed. I represent everyone”. Myanmar must have this spirit.
Secondly, U KO NI, constitutional expert and legal adviser of State Counselor, had initiated a dialogue with the Military for some amendments to the constitution that would clip some powers of the Tatmadaw and help Rohingya to get citizenship. Unfortunately he was shot and killed at the Yangon airport. But the government can still discuss with the authorities of USA, UK, Germany ,Canada, Australia and Sweden as to how their constitution have accommodated, both, democracy and immigrants in their country. Suu Kyi had studied in UK and lived long enough to see how immigrants have merged with British citizen, have a secured life and contributes towards national development.
Now Aung San Suu Kyi, should be to reminded of some lines from her Noble Lecture, that she delivered in 2012 “For me receiving the Noble Peace Prize means personally extending my concern for democracy and human rights…..War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever sufferings are ignored there will be seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.”
There are 646,000(and more are still fleeing) Rohingya Muslims, who fled from Myanmar because of atrocities by your military, and they are terribly suffering in different refugee camps in Bangladesh. What can you as Noble Laureate do to alleviate their sufferings? Will the Myanmar government act positively to solve this humanitarian crisis? The world is waiting to see.
Badrul Islam is a Freelancer and Political Analyst. He previously worked for Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and United Nations Agencies in Bangladesh, Somalia and Uganda. He can be reached at email@example.com