Let’s Not Repeat the Past

James Goldin, Maroon-News Staff

Currently, there is ethnic cleansing that borders on genocide occurring in the nation of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) against the Rohingya Muslim population. The Rohingya have faced persecution for decades. Since a military coup occurred in 1962, this minority population has been deprived of nearly all its rights. According to a 2009 BBC article on Rohingya migration, the official view of the Myanmar military is that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Using this argument, the government claims that the Rohingya are not citizens of Myanmar and have no legal protections. Travel within the country requires a permit just to move to one specific area, not to mention likely harassment by any military or local officials. The Rohingya population has routinely been subjected to forced labor, has no voting rights and has had its land unjustly confiscated. The Rohingya Muslim population has been dubbed “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities” by the UN Refugee Agency.

The current escalation of the crisis stems from an attack on a border outpost that occurred  on October 9, 2016. A supposed Rohingya extremist from a local terrorist group orchestrated and carried out the attack that killed nine Myanmar officers. Since then, military crackdowns on the population have only increased in frequency and cruelty. Amnesty International reported instances of random arrest, rape, extrajudicial killings and destruction of property through mass arson and looting. 

The Amnesty International Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rafendi Djamin has said that “the Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence.” Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and a scorched earth policy has seemingly been enacted. Villages are burned to the ground, and those who flee are shot. According to The Independent and The Associated Press, videos of dead Rohingya children washing up on the beaches of Bangladesh have been found.

One individual who has been at the forefront of this crisis is Aung San Suu Kyi, who serves as the State Counsellor of Myanmar, a position equivalent to prime minister. Despite being a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, she has refused to take a hard stance against the violence occurring in her country. In a conference that took place on October 12, 2016, Aung said, “Show me a country without human rights issues,” and that “every country has human rights abuses. I am taking seriously allegations of human rights violations in this country.” 

She has been condemned on an international scale. To date, the following individuals/groups have called for a greater action by Aung Kyi or a revocation of her Nobel Prize: Malala Yousafzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Guardian and The Economist

International condemnation however, is not enough. No one wants a repeat of the genocides that took place in Rwanda, Darfur (which is still going on) and Srebrenica. Hopefully in the coming weeks, the UN and the other nations of the world will put stronger pressure of the state of Myanmar to quell these barbaric actions. Sanctions should be a necessary first step. If that is not enough, foreign intervention should be employed. The stain of genocide should not be allowed to exist in the twenty-first century.

Contact James Goldin at [email protected].