Action needed to end Rohingya suffering - GulfToday

Action needed to end Rohingya suffering

Rohingya Refugee Camps

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes. File/ AFP

While world attention remains focussed on other major issues, the threat of genocide continues for an estimated 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still inside Myanmar and the international community should take up the matter seriously.

The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has made it abundantly clear in a report wrapping up two years of documentation of human rights violations by security forces that counterinsurgency operations against Rohingya in 2017 included genocidal acts.

The Rohingya still inside Myanmar are living in deplorable conditions and facing persecution.

Compounding the problems, the repatriation of a million Rohingya already driven from the country by the army remains impossible.

It is hugely worrisome that Myanmar is denying wrongdoing, destroying evidence, refusing to conduct effective investigations and clearing, razing, confiscating and building on land from which it displaced Rohingya.

The world community cannot remain silent when the UN team has clearly pointed finger at the Myanmar army for fresh war crimes, including forced labour and torture, against civilians in the north of Rakhine state.

The conditions are pathetic. Nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been trapped in camps in central Rakhine since a previous bout of violence seven years ago.

Described as “open-air prisons” by Amnesty International, people there remain reliant on humanitarian aid and are rarely granted permission to leave.

Those outside the camps fare little better, needing special authorisation — and often hefty bribes — to leave their village boundaries.

The most persecuted Rohingya community has long been subjected to tight movement restrictions, making it difficult or impossible to access healthcare, work and education.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and are accused of being illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal two years ago.

It is not surprising that none of the thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh turned up for a planned repatriation to Myanmar recently.

The horrific actions of violence and ethnic cleansing by Myanmar military have left the Rohingya horror-struck. They are genuinely gripped by fear.

Rohingya Muslims have long demanded that Myanmar give them citizenship, safety and their own land and homes they left behind.

Many refugees say that they want to go back under direct UN supervision, not under the Myanmar government. Such a demand is justified, considering how Myanmar has treated the victims.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned that conditions are not right for repatriation.

The mission is absolutely correct in calling for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up a tribunal, like for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The investigation has been vigorous and the panel possesses a confidential list of more than 100 names, including officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to the six generals named publicly last year.

As the mission suggests, foreign governments and companies should sever all business ties with the military. There is a need for a moratorium on investment and development assistance in Rakhine state.

Considering the problem of military impunity under Myanmar’s justice system, the report has aptly called for accountability to be upheld by an international judicial process.

Mission expert Christopher Sidoti has hit the nail on the head by stating that the scandal of international inaction has to end. Unless the United Nations and the international community take effective action this time, this sad history is destined to be repeated.

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