Stop the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
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There is a verse of a poem written by the great Arab poet Abu Al-Tayyib Al-Mutanabbi more than a thousand years ago that states that some facts are undeniable.

In the present day, this describes the pathetic condition of the Rohingya Muslims who have been subjected to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. This has been the testimony of all international human rights organizations as well as prominent international figures who have been able to visit that country, which was closed to the outside world for more than half a century.

Thousands of Myanmar Muslims have been killed at the hands of Buddhist extremists with the blessing and connivance of the security forces. Tens of thousands of others have perished while fleeing to escape persecution in their country. The mass graves unearthed recently in Thailand are clear proof of the extent of the atrocities being perpetrated against these hapless people.

Those who survived death and who are languishing in camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere account for hundreds of thousands of people. All of this happen at a time when the elected leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, vehemently denies all the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the army and the security forces.

In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council constituted a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations, such as murder, displacement, looting, rape, and the burning of houses and places of worship by members of the Myanmar army and security forces against Rohingya Muslims.

It is obvious that the regime in Myanmar is a racist. This is evident from the law that they have enacted entitled “Protection of religion and race.”

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Attack on military post

This was in response to an attack on a military post allegedly by some Rohingya insurgents in October 2016. The mission was headed by the noted Indian woman lawyer Indira Jaising with Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and Christopher Dominic Sidoti (Australia) as members.

The response of the Myanmar government was not in favor of entertaining the UN mission. The country’s de facto leader Suu Kyi and her government refused to grant visas to the mission members and she justified this by saying that sending such a panel to Rakhine state would lead to a further worsening of the conflict between different sections of society in that region. The government also denied the entry of media persons, relief workers and human right activists to Rakhine state where Rohingya Muslims are facing ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The head of the UN Human Rights Commission has replaced Jaising with Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman who was earlier in charge of making an assessment of the human rights situation in North Korea. The UN rights chief did not cite any reasons for this change. However, some observers pointed out that Jaising was removed following her remarks to a section of the media that Rohingya Muslims are exposed to the danger of genocide, and that this was no longer a secret.

What prompted the Myanmar government to oppose the UN fact-finding mission and was it because of its chairperson, who was eventually replaced? Will the government entertain the new mission and facilitate it to discharge its duties by granting them visas and allowing them access to the places where the victims reside?

Or will the government continue denying visas to members of the mission based on the false justification that sending such a panel to Rakhine state would further exacerbate the situation, as if the intentions of the current government are different from the intentions of previous governments that deprived Muslims of their most basic human rights?

Handiwork of authorities

Many think that the incumbent government has treated the Rohingha more brutally than previous ones, especially after the October attack. This attack might have been the handiwork of the authorities to justify their atrocities against Rohingya Muslims after branding them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh even though their existence in the region can be traced back for centuries to a time when they had their own emirates and kingdoms in the Arakan (Rakhine) region.

It is obvious that the regime in Myanmar is a racist. This is evident from the law that they have enacted entitled “Protection of religion and race.” Rohingya Muslims are deprived of citizenship, as well as all rights that citizens enjoy, in addition to freedom of movement besides imposing restrictions on marriage and childbirth. The authorities are involved in encouraging Buddhist extremists to get rid of Rohingya Muslims by killing and expulsion. Now the state and its army and security personnel are carrying out ethnic cleansing.

Since last October, more than 1,000 people have been killed and over 75,000 have been expelled while large numbers of women have been victims of rape. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighboring countries.

According to UN reports, Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world. The situation for Rohingya Muslims has further worsened since Suu Kyi and her party assumed power in Myanmar. All evidence shows that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and her party govern a countr that is practicing ethnic cleansing and mass murder.

In this scenario, the United Nations, its organs and affiliated organizations, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and all its members, especially the Muslim neighbors of Myanmar, should shoulder the responsibility of protecting this defenseless people from the atrocities, which are as a clear as broad daylight.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on August 3, 2017.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @DrAliAlghamdi.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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