Confronting challenges of 'ethnic cleansing'        

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Published: September 16, 2017 21:18:22 | Updated: October 24, 2017 22:34:09

It has already been proved beyond doubt that what is going on in the Rakhine state of Myanmar is nothing but genocide. Myanmar is carrying out 'brutal security operation' against Rohingyas. The United Nations (UN) has already termed it  a 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing'.



The Amnesty International (AI) says an 'orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings' by Myanmar security forces is now underway targeting dozens of Rohingya villages over the last three weeks. According to an UN estimates, some 40 per cent of the total Rohingya population living in Rakhine State have already fled to Bangladesh. In numbers, the figure tends to be 400,000 people. Among them, 240,000 children have fled into Bangladesh over the same period of time.



Reports say Myanmar authorities have now begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh. They are now saying that refugees who have fled the violence will only be allowed back if they can provide 'proof of nationality'.



This measure resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return. Successive governments have since 1962 progressively stripped the Rohingya of their political and civil rights, including citizenship rights -- as acknowledged by Suu Kyi's own appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission. 



Despite severe constraints, Bangladesh government is maintaining open borders for the Rohingya refugees. But it needs international community's support in helping the authorities receive and better assist the refugee population.



Human Rights Watch called upon the UN, other multilateral organisations, and countries to press the Myanmar government to urgently allow humanitarian aid to reach Rohingyas at risk in Rakhine. They should also ensure that adequate assistance reaches the Rohingya refugees who have recently fled to Bangladesh following the military crackdown.



The humanitarian catastrophe that Myanmar's security forces have created in the Rakhine estate has been multiplied by the authorities' unwillingness to provide access to humanitarian agencies. International aid activities in much of Rakhine have been suspended, leaving a huge number of people without food, medical care, and other vital humanitarian assistance.



In another development, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), a US-based international human rights organisation, has urged the US Senate to oppose a provision in the National Defence Authorisation Act that authorises an expansion of military ties with the Myanmar military. The group charged that the defence bill would further enable attacks against that country's Rohingya minority civilians by the military.

Meantime, diplomats of Asian countries in Bangladesh expressed concern over the atrocities in Myanmar that triggered a fresh influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh. They also pledged their support in resolving the crisis and said they will stand by Bangladesh in facing the humanitarian disaster stemming from the Myanmar mayhem.



On its part, Bangladesh reiterated its demand for immediate end to atrocities in Rakhine and called for 'total, immediate and unconditional implementation' of the UN report submitted by Kofi Annan by the Myanmar authorities. The report recommends ascertaining the nationality of Rohingya through verification, if necessary, for taking them back to Myanmar.



The country also urged the global leaders to pursue the Myanmar government for immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations of the report for a permanent solution to the crisis. The country always preferred bilateral solution to this longstanding problem and was successful in repatriating 236,599 Rohingyas to their homeland through a bilateral agreement in 1992. The agreement signed with Myanmar recognised Rohingyas as 'members of Myanmar society'.



The Myanmar's military junta in the 1980s decided that Rohingyas are not Burmese. Accordingly, they stripped the Rohingyas of their citizenship. They used military and political means to make sure that the Rohingyas leave the country. Systematic persecution aiming at ethnic and religious cleansing began.



Bangladesh also proposed joint inspection, coordinated patrolling of border; and 'joint operation' along the border. Unfortunately Myanmar has not responded to these proposals. Rather, the country has been running a malicious propaganda terming the Rohingyas  'illegal migrants from Bangladesh'.



In another development, 12 Nobel laureates and 18 other international personalities sought immediate intervention by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in ending the Rohingya crisis. In an open letter to the president and members of the Security Council, the 30 signatories thanked the UNSC for holding a meeting on Rohingya crisis and urged it to take 'bold and decisive actions' to end the crisis.



Needless to say that the Myanmar army has created conditions that compelled the Rohingya Muslims to flee their motherland and seek shelter elsewhere. It is a clear violation of international law and human rights.  Bangladesh has already given shelter to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. But being a developing country, it has its limitations. It can not bear the burden of so many refugees for an indefinite period of time. Bangladesh hopes that they will soon return to their country and get back their legitimate rights.



Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts need to be geared up and security should be strengthened with the involvement of the BGB forces to prevent any further push-in at the Bangladesh border. The government, in the meantime, should organise a massive publicity campaign to draw world attention and raise the issue at the Security Council.



Analysts, have suggested seven-point steps to implement the Annan Commission's recommendations, including reappointment of the Commission members immediately to constitute a committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The suggestions called for taking immediate steps to stop the outflow of refugees, inviting international observers to visit vulnerable areas on a regular basis, inviting back the refugees who already left the country, building camps within Myanmar for the returning refugees to facilitate their rehabilitation with UN financing and supervision, giving them the citizenship as prescribed in the Commission Report under the exclusive authority of the Implementation Committee and ensuring political freedom and freedom of movement.



According to reports, different countries, including Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Malaysia and Morocco, had already started sending assistance for Bangladesh. The country is confronting a huge challenge in terms of providing shelter as well as other humanitarian assistances to the refugees.



The world is, in fact, anxiously waiting to see that the UNSC plays its due role to bring an end to a humanitarian catastrophe and ensure an atmosphere of peace in the region.



Share if you like