The latest shocking reports and images that Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims suffer at the hands of government forces have failed to rouse the world into significant action. This is true of most governments in the West or amongst Myanmar’s neighbours in the East.
What are the leaders of the civilised world waiting for? Further evidence of the state terrorism – for that is what it is – meted out against this largely defenceless community? When will the self-declared champions of human rights react? It seems very much as if such leaders still place their trust in democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and yet the Nobel Peace Laureate is not living up to the ideals for which she was once feted the world over.
When asked by a BBC correspondent, “Do you ever worry that you will be remembered as the champion of human rights who failed to stand up to ethnic cleansing in her own country?” the Nobel Laureate replied,
No, because I don’t think there’s ethnic cleansing going on.
So what will be the fate of the Rohingya? No one really has any idea. What has been described by the UN as “the world’s most persecuted community” is waiting for a miracle to end the suffering.
The genocide unfolding before our eyes is well-documented, as in this piece by Al-Jazeera. It revealed the appalling suffering and human rights abuses of women and children, young and old, forced to flee and constantly being denied citizenship of their country. It is a powerful reminder to everyone who insisted “never again” after the Srebrenica Massacre of Bosnian Muslims, and for the UN to impose zero tolerance on all serial human rights abusers.
Although the West’s most influential religious figure, Pope Francis, has made a plea for peace and a few British politicians have followed suit, including Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Naz Shah MP, the question remains as to whether or not sufficient pressure can be placed on the Myanmar government to end the violence. A British minister has said that the Westminster “has to go through the UN” but, sadly, we know that the international body is not independent of outside “interests”. There are some powerful politicians and world leaders who are backing the government in the former Burma, directly or indirectly. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for example, has vowed to back Myanmar on this issue, suggesting that the “refugee crisis” has arisen because of “Muslim rebels”.
This is much, much more than a refugee crisis, and it surfaced long before “rebels” came on the scene, so perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye. When we examine the situation a bit closer, we can see that India and China, among other states, are competing for control of Myanmar’s vast deposits of jade and, you’ve guessed it, oil.
According to Russian academic Dmitry Mosyakov, this is a “multi-dimensional crisis” with several hidden agendas for the global powers. On social media, even ordinary citizens around the world are pointing out that the same governments and international bodies which have failed in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and elsewhere are failing again to do anything concrete to help the Rohingya in Myanmar; and they want to know why.
The West has not been slow to react in other places, such as Afghanistan and Libya, to name but two, supposedly to bring “freedom and democracy” in the name of human rights. There is obviously a shocking degree of selectivity in place when it comes to such matters. National and big business interests are taking priority, while peace-loving people are marginalised; this must change. If not, how can we be surprised when people turn to radical measures in response to what they see on the news?
“Terrorism” is threatening everyone in the world, but we should ask our leaders to define the term more specifically, as it is often misused in its application. What is happening in Myanmar is state terrorism, but we don’t see the focus of the “war on terrorism” turning in that direction. This leaves Myanmar’s Army Chief of Staff, General Min Aung HIaing, free to describe military operations to displace Rohingya Muslims from their villages as “unfinished business”; he knows that he can go ahead, unhindered. Any reasonable person knows exactly what the general means; it’s full scale genocide.
Not everyone is silent about the situation, though. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to raise the genocide of the Rohingya in the forthcoming UN General Assembly. “We will speak out,” he insisted, “even if no one else will.”
Turkey’s leader faces an uphill task; General Assembly resolutions are not binding and the UN Security Council – whose resolutions are binding on member states – usually works in accord with the wishes of the US and its allies. They will act if North Korea fires a few missiles, but it is doubtful if they will do anything about Myanmar. We will see.
It is high time for the world’s leading countries to restore trust in the UN’s ability to act as the world’s conscience. They can do so by refusing to accept any human rights abuses, no matter who the perpetrators and who the victims are. Terrorism by state or non-state actors is still terrorism by any other name. If the international community – a euphemism for the US and the West – is genuinely sincere about rooting out terrorism and its causes, then it has to make a start by acting to end the genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.