Humanitarian catastrophe in Myanmar

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
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The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern over the happenings in the Muslim-dominated northwestern Rakhine state (formerly Arakan) in Myanmar.

According to the news agency reports, the UN chief expressed deep anguish over the indiscriminate attacks by the security forces in the country, saying that he is afraid that the current situation might lead to a humanitarian catastrophe with serious repercussions on peace and security beyond the borders of Myanmar. It seems that the US secretary general does not consider what is happening now in Myanmar as a humanitarian disaster, but he only fears of an impending catastrophe.

In Myanmar, more than 3,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed in less than a week and scores of villages and hundreds of houses were burned, in addition to displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. These people fled to neighboring Bangladesh to join similar number of people who had earlier been driven out after their houses were set on fire.

More than half of the Rohingya community in Rakhine is now languishing in squalid camps without an access to basic amenities of life and facing starvation and hunger. If these happenings in Myanmar are not a humanitarian catastrophe in the view of the UN secretary general, what is then the meaning of humanitarian catastrophe?

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the ASEAN group also have a moral and humanitarian responsibility to resolve this crisis

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

When the government of Myanmar refused to grant visas to members of the fact-finding mission of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate into the reports about ethnic cleansing and mass killings of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s National League for Democracy government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, it was evident that she was deceiving the world by pretending to be a champion of democracy and human rights that enabled her to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Suu Kyi then threw away all the values and humanitarian principles that brought her everything that she has attained.

Unfortunately, we did not hear any condemnation or concern by the UN secretary general about her rejection to allow access to the fact-finding mission of the UN Human Rights Council to carry out its investigation against the gross violations being committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

If there had not been any violations of human rights, what then frightens the Myanmar government from barring the fact-finding mission? What makes Suu Kyi, who was once a staunch human rights advocate and for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize, prevent the foreign media and the relief agencies from entering the Rakhine state?

Purging Rakhine

This shows that she wanted sufficient time to purge the Rakhine state of the Rohingya Muslims and the recent incidents are the best evidence for this. At a time when Suu Kyi denied access to the UN fact-finding mission, she constituted a panel, called the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, headed Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations.

The panel took a full year to submit its report, and it avoided any mentioning of the name Rohingya in the report as if it was in line with the desire of Suu Kyi. Annan also announced that the commission’s mission does not include the investigation into anything related with human rights abuses.

Despite the weakness of the Annan Commission’s recommendations, the most important of these recommendations was to grant citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims and the return of refugees who fled to Bangladesh, but will the government of Myanmar and its leader Suu Kyi accept theses recommendations and implement them?

It can’t be ruled out that the recent reports about Rohingyas attacking police stations in Rakhine, were nothing other than fabrications by the army and the Buddhist militants in order to justify their recent crimes of killing, raping and burning of villages and houses. They also wanted to divert attention from the implementation of the Annan Commission recommendations.

The move to raise the issue of attacks by the alleged Rohingya militants was only to justify all the crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslims, which began on the same day when Annan presented his report.

As long as the media and aid organizations are not allowed access to regions where the government claims that the gunmen attacked police stations, it cannot be ruled out that the story is a fabricated one and a lie from this racist woman whose racist mentality was unveiled even before she came to power.

It was also an utter lie when Suu Kyi alleges that it is Muslims who themselves burned their homes and they are killing each other. No one will believe such lies. In fact the reality on the ground made her realize that the lies do not last long and that she could no longer deceive anyone. This was what prompted her to cancel her planned trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, realizing that she would face demonstrations and condemnations wherever she goes.

As for the UN secretary general, he is still afraid of an impending humanitarian disaster even after the catastrophe has befallen the Rohingya. Now, what he has to do is to take decisive measures in order to mitigate the effects of the catastrophe such as taking initiatives to send international forces to protect the world’s most persecuted Rohingya minority in line with the concerned panel’s reports.

Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the ASEAN group also have a moral and humanitarian responsibility to resolve this crisis. If the world does not taking any action to resolve this crisis, it will sound a death knell for the world peace.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on September 20, 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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