UN must strive to put an end to Rohingya persecution
AS THE office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees continues to implore Dhaka to open its borders to Rohingyas fleeing the sectarian strife in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, in line with Bangladesh’s ‘long history of compassion and solidarity’, it is perhaps time to revisit the political roots of the unfolding humanitarian crisis. Regardless of the foreign minister’s insistence that the decision to not open the border to the fresh flux of Rohingya refugees is ‘logical and lawful’, which the UN agency’s acknowledgement that ‘Bangladesh has been bearing the brunt of the forced displacement caused by earlier crises in Myanmar’ tends to lend credence to, the government, as we have argued in these columns just the other day, cannot, and must not, look the other way while an increasing number of Rohingyas flee their burning homes.
That said, however, it needs to be pointed out that the UN and the international community must come out of what may be called its short-term crisis management mindset and bring the pressure to bear on the military junta in Myanmar so that Rohingyas are no longer subjected to persecution either by the state itself or forces that it patronises, directly or indirectly. According to the UN itself, as mentioned in a report front-paged in New Age on Saturday, describes Myanmar’s estimated 800,000 Rohingyas, whom the military junta considers to be foreigners and stripped citizenship of, as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. The international community has time and again decried gross human rights violation by the dictatorial regime in Myanmar. However, such criticisms and condemnations have hardly translated into any meaningful actions to make the country’s military junta to put an end to sustained repression on its people, especially pro-democracy political leaders and activists, and minority communities. Of course, there have been international sanctions on Myanmar but it is the people at large who have borne the brunt of such measures. Besides, the sanction was imposed on different ground.
Of late, the West, especially the US, has gone gaga over the recent by-election in Myanmar, taking it to be an evidence of the military regime’s willingness to bring about the much-needed political reforms, and actually started contemplating withdrawal of economic and other sanctions. The latest spate of violence against the Rohingyas, which, many suspect, may have been encouraged and abetted by the government, would perhaps put a damper on such enthusiasm. Here, it needs to be pointed out that the response of Aung Sung Suu Kyi, the pioneer of the pro-democracy movement, to the unfolding crisis has been rather disappointing. Now in Geneva, Suu Kyi rightly said ‘such communal strife will continue’ until the rule of law is established. However, the people must have expected strong condemnation of the military regime from the Nobel Peace Prize winning leader for persecuting the Rohingya community.
Be that as it may, the UN and the international community need to realise that, while extending support to the Rohingya refugees in immediate term is extremely important, it is even more important to ensure that their citizenship is restored and that they are not forced to flee their homes ever again.
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