UN officials have described the situation in the Asian country as “textbook ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims
Despite the international plead to take actions on Mynamar, the country is still enduring a situation of excessive violence against the Rohingya, an ethnic group and Muslim minority predominantly living in Rakhine State, in the nation’s west.
It is not the first time that the Rohingya, the world’s biggest stateless minority, face institutionalized discrimination as well as a systematic denial of their rights. According to a recent analysis published by Foreign Affairs, this situation can be greatly explained by ethnical and religious reasons.
Besides being considered as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” by various government and civil society factions, the country’s 2008 Constitution does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group. At the same time this minority does not follow Buddhism, which is strongly connected with Mynamar’s national identity. Therefore the so-called “War on Terror”, targeting a large number of Muslims in the world, has become a powerful tool for the nation’s elites to refer to the Rohingya as “terrorists”.
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Between 2002 and 2016 Human Rights Watch reported that Mynamar’s government was responsible for crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, when Buddhist monks and ethnic Rakhine villagers carried out killings with help from the state security forces.
This year, on August 25th violence escalated in the region when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s attacked on government posts in Rakhine State. Since then security forces operations have allegedly resulted in mass arson, killing, rape and destroying hundreds of villages as well as forcing more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
A few days later United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed: “I have condemned the recent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. But now we are receiving constant reports of violence by Myanmar's security forces, including indiscriminate attacks. This will only further increase radicalization.”
While the Rohingya continue to escape from violence by crossing into Bangladesh, UN aid agencies and international organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have stressed the need of humanitarian aid and assistance for the newly arrived refugees, in order for them to access shelter, food, clean water, among other things.
Read Also: The uncertain future of Rohingya Muslims
A call for action
Beyond humanitarian aid and assistance, some NGO’s are requesting actions aimed directly at Mynamar’s state. Recently Human Rights Watch demanded the United Nations Security Council to refer this government to the International Criminal Court, “because of its failure to investigate mass atrocities against ethnic Rohingya”. The organization also urged UN member countries to pursue processes for gathering criminal evidence to advance prosecutions in the ICC and other courts.
In the mean time 58 NGOs sent an open letter to Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, to encourage the U.S. government to impose targeted economic sanctions authorized under the 2008 JADE Act and the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The letter also invites the U.S. administration to consider travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals responsible for acts of gross human rights violations committed against vulnerable groups such as the Rohingya.
Amid heavy international criticism against Mynamar’s government, its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, visited for the first time Rakhine state during the past days. Most of the region has been deserted due to the on-going violence, which Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, UN human rights chief, pointed out as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. During the visit the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi shared a message of peace, but did not address the different accounts of civilians and international community of what is happening in the country.
Latin American Post | María Ximena Plaza
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