ACCORDING to aid workers inside Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, as of last Friday, more than half a million Rohingyas have poured into the country from Myanmar. More than 60 per cent of these refugees are women and children under the age of twelve. It is feared that young Rohingya men are either butchered by the Myanmar security forces or are being detained and tortured or lynched by security forces and Buddhist neo-fascists, and some may also be hiding in jungles to escape the killing fields. They are victims of a very sinister genocidal campaign inside Myanmar that has become a national project to eliminate Rohingya presence in this Buddhist majority country.
The United Nations have condemned vehemently the criminal activities of Suu Kyi’s government and her ‘rapist and arsonist’ military/security forces. The UN secretary general has called it a ‘text book case of ethnic cleansing.’ The US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday, September 28, called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims until the military puts sufficient accountability measures in place. It was the first time the United States called for punishment of military leaders behind the repression, but stopped short of threatening to re-impose US sanctions which were suspended under the Obama administration.
‘We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be - a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,’ Haley told the UN. Security Council, the first time Washington has echoed the UN’s accusation that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State was ethnic cleansing.
‘The Burmese military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing,’ Haley said. ‘And any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place,’ Haley said.
Meanwhile, international aid groups in Myanmar have urged the government to allow free access to Rakhine State, where an army offensive has sent more than 500,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, but hundreds of thousands remain cut off from food, shelter and medical care. Many refugees have died while trying to get into Bangladesh. The United Nations said lately that at least 15 refugees, including nine children, drowned when their boat capsized off the coast in bad weather.
The Myanmar government has stopped international aid groups and UN agencies from carrying out most of their work in the north of Rakhine state, citing insecurity since the August 25 insurgent attacks. Aid groups said in a joint statement they were: ‘increasingly concerned about severe restrictions on humanitarian access and impediments to the delivery of critically needed humanitarian assistance throughout Rakhine State.’ ‘We urge the government and authorities of Myanmar to ensure that all people in need in Rakhine Sate have full, free and unimpeded access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.’
The sad reality is that despite all condemnations from the world leaders and worries and concerns of international aid agencies and human rights activists, Myanmar is not going to change her criminal course. Its rouge government, since the time of Ne Win, has learned how to ignore world opinion and reinvent its savagery.
The other grim fact is that our world media have had a very small attention span and that soon the ongoing genocidal crimes of the murderous Myanmar government and its neo-fascists within the general public will all be forgotten only to be rudely awakened with another surge of violence inside and refugee exodus from Myanmar. At this rate, I am afraid that not a single Rohingya would be left behind in that of den of extreme intolerance.
Last week, I got a call from my cousin (Sheikh Fariduddin Ahmed Chowdhury who was one of the Dhaka University student leaders of the 1969 students’ movement in the then East Pakistan) in Chittagong who had gone to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to personally find out the condition of the Rohingya refugees and provide humanitarian aid. He was simply horrified to learn of their plight first hand. He said he had never seen a people in such a hopeless and despair condition in his life. To the refugees, the world has failed to stop their suffering and life has lost all its charms and meaning to live long; they are totally hopeless.
It is there that — what’s next — is crucial for us to ponder about and find an answer to that may help us all to avoid a repeat of the current events.
‘Boycott Myanmar’ seems to be a good slogan and tactic to try given that all other earlier activities of human rights activists and conscientious global citizens have failed to put the moral compass right for our powerful world leaders. The latter have not done anything to stop the bleeding process other than airing empty words that don’t bite. Talks will surely not sober a rogue and pariah state that has known and learned that it has its backers in China, India, Israel and Russia (each with their own criminal records of persecuting and oppressing minority Muslims) — to name just few countries.
We have also seen the failure of the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement in making a difference for the Palestinian people for the same reason — Israel has its powerful patrons within the UNSC. No matter what this ‘other apartheid’ state does, with patrons like the USA it need not fear the world opinion. Thus, we had dismal failures to repeat elsewhere the success of the South African experiment.
This experience sums up our dilemma vis -a-vis Myanmar! As Dr. Shwe Lu Maung, a living authority on his native Rakhine state, told me the other day when a person chooses not to wake up and pretends to sleep he would ignore the cries and screams of others; even a bucket full of hot water thrown at him may not do the trick. That is what is happening with Suu Kyi and her criminal government, the rapist and arsonist military and the neo-fascist lynch mobs and monks! As part of a national project to eliminate Rohingyas from the soil of its ancestors, these criminals will continue to do what have proven to expedite their criminal plan. They are all living in a state of self-delusion and -denial of their evil!
Perhaps the only way we could stop these killers is to hang them high — of course, via Nuremburg type trials. Will that ever happen in our time? I am not sure. The Rohingyas, sadly, don’t have celebrity lawyers like Amal Clooney to start the process of incriminating Myanmar government and its murderers.
All said and done, we can surely try a BDS campaign for Myanmar. Who knows what did not work for Israel may work for Myanmar, after all, Myanmar is not Israel! If European countries and the USA plus Japan can be influenced by the moral justification to boycott Myanmar, others may find it difficult to trade with it.
In a world and time when sub-human demons and devils are increasingly directing the world affairs affecting all our lives, it’s becoming an uphill battle — a very steep one indeed — to make a difference and alter the course scripted by them. And yet, the struggle must go on for the humans to earn their true humanity! After all, the great Persian poet Shaykh Sa’di (1231–1291CE) wrote more than seven centuries ago:
‘Adam’s sons are body limbs, to say;
For they’re created of the same clay.
Should one organ be troubled by pain,
Others would suffer severe strain.
Thou, careless of people’s suffering,
Deserve not the name ‘human being’.’
— Tr H Vahid Dastjerdi.
Dr Habib Siddiqui is a peace and rights activist.
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