Over the weekend the Free Rohingya Coalition, a global network of activists, commemorated the “Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day”, with vigils and events.
On that day one year ago, armed forces in Myanmar took part in a brutal mass killing, rape and arson against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state. The rememberance day coincided with the release of a damning report by the UN that highlights ‘genocidal intent’ on the part Myanmar officials towards the Rohingya, and explicitly called for investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military generals, to the full extent of international law.
The UN has further described the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar as the ‘Palestine of Asia’, recognising them as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Tragically, this seems to have done little for their cause. In spite of the injustice, murders, rape, beheadings and violence the Rohingya community is subjected to daily, but they have yet to receive the justice they deserve.
Aung San Suu Kyi continues to deny accountability or knowledge of the suffering of the Rohingya Muslim minority, which forced more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh where they reside in limbo. I have reported on the unprecedented bloodshed and plight of the Rohingya community for years and it is my strong opinion that nothing has changed.
Aung San Suu Kyi, politician and ironically enough—a Nobel Peace Laureate—continues to callously dismiss the ill treatment of the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims affected by her policies. Despite the fact that the UN has described the treatment of the Rohingya as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, frustratingly little headway has been made.
Aung San Suu Kyi grotesquely wields her political position to delay or pin down a repatriation date for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar.
She states: “It's very difficult for us to put a timeframe on it by ourselves unilaterally, because we have to work with Bangladesh in order to do that”. Suu Kyi’s reluctance to commit to Rohingya repatriation comes as no surprise given her past reluctance to accept the Rohingya Muslim minority as part of the social fabric of Myanmar, and the consistently discriminatory stance she has taken towards the Muslim minority.
Suu Kyi is but a mirror of official state policy. This is clearly seen in that the Rohingya are not considered one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups despite having lived in the country since the 12th century. It is this official denial of the Rohingya’s status in Myanmar that empowers the state with the ability to deny them citizenship while providing domestic cover for discriminatory practices.
On the news of a discussion of the repatriation, villagers in Myanmar have already announced that they will leave their homes if Rohingya refugees return. If the villagers wish to leave, this remains their sovereign choice, but the Rohingya have every right to rehabilitate and rebuild their lives in Myanmar after having this basic decency and right stripped from them.
Here, critical questions must be posed.
Even if Myanmar’s government is drawing up agreements for the return of Rohingya Muslims, where are the assurances and steps taken towards guaranteeing their safety? Where are the assurances that another atrocity rooted in xenophobia and religiously-motivated fascism will not take place? To what extent can the Rohingya Muslim minority achieve peace and stability in the country after all that has come to pass?
There can be no assurances from an immoral leader who cannot even acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya, while failing astonishingly in protecting the people of her country.
It is imperative that we do not forget the plight of the Rohingya or be desensitised to their suffering. They have been through one of the most harrowing experiences in recent history. Many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fear returning to Myanmar because they cannot relive those distressing memories and are unsure of what will happen to them under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership.
It is heart-wrenching to see innocent civilians, babies and children losing their lives. For the sake of our humanity, and theirs, we cannot continue to look on in silence without acting and speaking up for those who have been harmed and wronged.
If we, as a global community, step up to remember the Rohingya, their plight and their struggles; coming together in a unified call for action to bring them justice we will amplify their voices and bring pressure to bear until they receive the justice they deserve.
The Rohingya deserve to have a peaceful and prosperous life, and this can only be achieved once those responsible are held accountable to the full extent of the law.
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