Genocide of Rohingya Muslims (National Herald Tribune (Pakistan))

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) faced death and destruction many a time during last 900 years. Once again, the present government persecutes them and denies existence of 1.3 million Rhingya Muslims. United Nations officials and independent human rights groups have reported evidence of direct state complicity in ethnic cleansing and severe human rights abuses, blocking of humanitarian aid and incitement of anti-Muslim violence, constituting ominous warning signs of genocide.

They are forced to live in apartheid conditions where they cannot travel, work or even marry without permission. Over 140,000 were forced into concentration camps after their homes and villages were burnt to the ground in 2012. Thousands of them are at sea trapped in crowded wooden boats. With food and clean water running low, their lives are in grave danger.

Instead of heeding their cries for help and rescuing these people fleeing for their lives, Burma’s neighbors are pushing these rickety boats back to sea. Despite much touted political reforms in Burma, recurring violence and looming humanitarian crises raise questions of the government’s ability and willingness to protect civilians. International community has shown complete apathy towards their plight.

The UN and OIC seem satisfied with formation of fact finding commissions instead of strongly raising the issue in international forums and taking measures to stop the genocide of the most oppressed people on Earth. On Saturday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif constituted a federal cabinet committee to suggest measures and relief efforts that Pakistan can undertake for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. The committee met on Sunday to deliberate on the issue of Rohingya Muslims and evaluate Pakistan’s role in alleviating their misery.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has made an impassioned appeal to the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the entire Muslim world and regional powers to not close their eyes to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims. It is unfortunate that Muslim countries have not given serious attention to their plight, and confined to lip service only. Most Muslim countries have not forcefully raised their voice against , and one has to lament over the international community’s inaction and criminal silence on the atrocities in Myanmar. Human rights organisations deserve condemnation for not taking appropriate measures to highlight the persecution and genocide of the Rohingya people. The silence of such bodies raises serious questions about the utility and effectiveness of international forums that proclaim themselves as upholders, defenders and promoters of human rights and democratic values.

In 2012, the OIC had formed fact finding mission, which visited Myanmar. Indonesia’s Deputy House Speaker Fahri Hamzah had called for the suspension of Myanmar’s membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the exodus of Rohingya ethnic. He said Myanmar was not fit to be part of ASEAN because the Myanmarese regime should be held responsible for the ethnic cleansing, which has caused Rohingya tribal people to flee their home country. “As a member country, we regard Myanmar as not suitable for membership of ASEAN. No matter how much we have helped, it has not concerned itself about such sensitive issues,” he said. He also called on the government to make a new law for dealing with refugees or asylum seekers.

More than 140,000 had been forced to flee a bloody conflict with Buddhist people in Rakhine province since 2012. Burma is member of the Asean, but Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia did not use their influence to stop the genocide. They were rather reluctant to give asylum to the wretched of the earth. However, Malaysia and Indonesia had finally bowed to mounting international pressure, announcing that they would offer refugees temporary shelter provided that they are resettled and repatriated by the international community within a year.

When thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar are floating in boats on the south-east Asian seas, much of the world is understandably gripped by this unfolding human tragedy. But what has surprised some is the silence of the Opposition Leader in Myanmar and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. After all, these are the poverty-stricken and disenfranchised refugees from her country who are now the focus of greater attention than ever before.