The plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees without any protection, or the guaranteeing of their basic rights is part of a larger campaign to whitewash the crimes of the Myanmar government and to, once more, defer the protracted crisis of the Rohingya.
Although the cruelty experienced by the Rohingya goes back decades, a new ethnic cleansing campaign began in 2012, when 100,000 Rohingya were forced out of their villages and towns to live in prison-like makeshift refugee camps.
In 2013, more than 140,000 were also displaced, a trend that continued until last August, when the bouts of ethnic cleansing culminated into all-out genocide involving all security branches of the government, and defended by Myanmar officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The latter was celebrated for decades by western media and government as a democracy icon and human rights heroine.
However, as soon as Suu Kyi was freed from her house arrest and became the leader of Myanmar in 2015, she served as an apologist for her former military foes. Not only did she refuse to condemn the violence against the Rohingya, she even refuses to use the term ‘Rohingya’ in reference to the historically persecuted minority.
Suu Kyi’s support for the military’s relentless violence has earned her much contempt and criticism, and rightly so. But too much emphasis has been placed on appealing to her moral sense of justice to the point that no strategy has been formed to confront the crimes of the Myanmar military and government, neither by Asian leaders nor by the international community.
Instead, an unimpressive ‘international advisory board’ was set up to carry out recommendations by another advisory council led by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General.
Expectedly, the advisory board is proving to be nothing but an instrument used by the Myanmar government to whitewash the crimes of the military. In fact, this is the very assessment of former US cabinet member and top diplomat, Bill Richardson, who recently resigned from the board.
“The main reason I am resigning is that the advisory board is a whitewash,” he told Reuters, asserting that he did not want to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government.”
He, too, accused Suu Kyi of lacking ‘moral leadership.”
But that designation no longer suffices. Suu Kyi should be held accountable for more than her moral failings but, considering her leadership position, she should be held directly responsible for crimes against humanity, together with her top security and army brass.
Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch is one of the leading voices among rights groups who are calling for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague. Even though Myanmar is not a signatory of the Rome Treaty, such a referral is the only way to take a non-ratifying state to the ICC.
This step is both legally defensible and urgent, as the Myanmar government has showed no remorse whatsoever towards the horrible violence it has meted to the Rohingya.
Robertson also called for ‘targeted sanctions’, which will most certainly get the attention of the country’s rich and powerful elites that rule over the military and government.
In recent years, Myanmar, with the help of the US and other Western powers, was allowed to open up its economy to foreign investors. Billions of US dollars of foreign direct investments have already been channeled into Myanmar and six billion US dollars more are also expected to enter the country in 2018.
That, too, is a great act of moral failing on the part of many countries in Asia, the West and the rest of the world.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘‘Whitewashing’ Genocide in Myanmar.’