Friday, March 18, 2016

Who has forgotten the Rohingya?

Nearly every leader in the world from the Dalai Lama to the Pope to veteran Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu and to the youngest Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yusufzai has called for the end of Rohingya persecution and restoration of their full citizenship rights. Myanmar military leaders and the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi have publicly refused to heed these calls. The predominantly Buddhist public in Myanmar is overwhelmingly anti-Rohingya, thanks to the decades of sustained state propaganda against this minority. The state’s strategies range from framing the Rohingya as ‘descendants of British colonial era farm coolies’ from the present day Bangladesh who came to British Burma only after the 1820s to painting the impoverished and oppressed Rohingya as potential Islamists intent on importing terrorism from the Middle East. From formulating and spreading the view of the Rohingya as aliens to enacting a national citizenship law to strip the Rohingya of their right of belonging – citizenship – to Myanmar. Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya is an unmistakable breach of international human rights laws.  Human Rights Watch has described the persecution of the Rohingya as ‘ethnic cleansing’ while several major empirical studies published by the University of Washington Law School, Yale University Law Clinic, Queen Mary University of London International State Crime Initiative and Al Jazeera English Investigative Unit have accused Myanmar’s military government of commissioning the crime of genocide and other crimes against humanity. Whether one names Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya policies and practices ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘genocide’ depends on the degree of diplomatic language. Regardless of view it is, nevertheless, in fact, an act of international atrocity crime being committed by Myanmar, a UN member state.

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