The faces of plight-stricken children, many of them are orphans by now, the blank looks of old people just uprooted from their habitats and the trauma of women separated from their family members for long are caught in the ugly game of geo-politics
SHAMIM A. ZAHEDY
Although UN Security Council has called for ‘prompt steps’ to end violence after expressing concern about excessive force by Myanmar military, substantial, pragmatic and visible actions are not yet in sight to put an end to the long-drawn crisis spanning over five decades with the former military junta stripping the Rohingya of their status as citizens in 1962.
The former Myanmar junta put the final nail in the coffin in 1982 when it issued a new law on citizenship, asking the Rohingya to prove they lived in Myanmar prior to the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1823.
But most Rohingyas were denied paperwork in favour of their claim, making them the world’s largest stateless community and of one of its most persecuted minorities.
Rohingya people, who speak a dialect similar to that spoken in Chittagong in Bangladesh, are said to have migrated to Rakhine state, previously called the Kingdom of Arakan, in large numbers during the British rule (1824 to 1948) in the 1830s as farm labourers from neighbouring Bengal province, which was also under the British rule.
However, many Rohingya people say that they are the descendants of Arab, Turkish or Mongol traders and soldiers who in the 15th century migrated to once independent Kingdom of Arakan, which is now known as the Rakhine state of Myanmar, or former Burma. The place has become restive since Myanmar denied Rohingya citizenship and started persecuting them.
The history is the Burmese conquered the Kingdom of Arakan in 1784. Later the kingdom went under the British following the first 1824-1826 Anglo-Burmese war.
Historical records also say for centuries the small Muslim minority community lived peacefully alongside Buddhists in the independent kingdom.
In the modern age, the Rohingya got the status of citizenship of Burma with voting rights in 1948 when Burma gained independence from the British.
In the medieval age, Kingdom of Arakan, because of its geographical proximity, enjoyed special ties with the southeastern parts of Bengal in the areas of politics, trade and culture.
Famous Bengali poets Daulat Qazi (1600-1638) and Alaol (1607-1680) were among the eminent courtiers of Arakan.
Despite the facts that the Rohingyas have their roots deep in Myanmar soil that are at least as old as over 150 years, the community have been subject to the persecution over the decades.
But the unfortunate stateless community in its own state, which is deprived of their access to education, health facilities and even free movement, failed to grab the attention of the 193-member United Nations, which is entrusted, through its charter, to take action on the issues confronting humanity, such as peace and security.
Murder of thousands of innocent people, rape of countless women and torching of numerous houses to drive the occupants away over the last 50 years by the Myanmar government forces perhaps have not been enough to seek sustainable action to stop the crimes against humanity from the global body and the world community, who advocate humanity, democracy and peace.
This small community of some 10 million plus people in Myanmar was targeted just because of their ethnicity, religion and colour of skin, much to the frustration of the ‘have-nots’. Ironically, the perpetrators of the textbook ethnic cleansing in Myanmar have managed to have friends around themselves.
The faces of plight-stricken children, many of them are orphans by now, the blank looks of old people just uprooted from their habitats and the trauma of women separated from their family members for long are caught in the ugly game of geo-politics.
China, Russia and India have overtly or covertly sided with Myanmar government on Rohingya issue having their political and trade interests in the country rich with mineral and natural resources.
According to Russian media, Russia has warned against foreign intervention in Myanmar.
“Attempts at intervening in Myanmar’s internal affairs may have only one net effect – still deeper interreligious discord,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
“It is essential to remember that the wish to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state may merely bring about further inter-religious discord,” she said, adding that Moscow supports “efforts for promoting the inter-religious dialogue in Myanmar among the spiritual leaders of all confessions.”
In the beginning of latest attack on Rohingyas in Rakhine, China said in a statement that it condemns the violent attacks occurred in Rakhine, and “as a friendly neighbour,” it supports Myanmar’s efforts to maintain peace in the region.
China fell short of condemning the persecution on Rohingyas.
Again, in UN General Assembly, China said it supports efforts by the Myanmar government to protect its national security. However, this time Beijing also said it ‘expresses sympathy with those who have fled into Bangladesh’.
It came as a huge shock when Indian Prime Minister Modi during his trip to Myanmar fell short of denouncing the atrocities on Rohingya people.
India-Myanmar Joint Statement issued on the state visit of Modi reads, “India condemned the recent terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State, wherein several members of the Myanmar security forces lost their lives. … They called on the international community to end selective and partial approaches to combating terrorism and, in this regard, jointly called for the expeditious finalization and adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the United Nations General Assembly.”
However, India called for ‘restraint’ in Rakhine only after Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali met Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar in New Delhi.
The silence of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia following the recent outbreak of violence is also curious.
The latest military action in Rakhine has forced more than 400,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh in the space of only three weeks. Earlier, the series of military crackdowns on Rohingyas in 1978 and 1991-2 prompted hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh.
Despite the fact that the UN has censured the ongoing crimes against humanity and issued warnings to Myanmar, the exodus of human population, perhaps the biggest in the modern history in such a short period, to Bangladesh has not stopped.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the 72nd annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York, its Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations and allow unhindered humanitarian access.
But the UN must spell out the next steps if the Myanmar authorities fail to pay heed.
Mere warning and condemnation do not help.
Apart from early resolution to the crisis and sending back the Rohingyas to their homeland, the perpetrators of the state-sponsored systematic killing, rape and arson must be brought to book in an international criminal tribunal. Only that can stop the future recurrence of the atrocity.
First Appeared :
20 September, 2017 09:23:41 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 September, 2017 12:09:13 AM
The writer is the Executive Editor of The Independent.