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August 31, 2019

The Rohingya report


August 31, 2019

Will the Rohingya get justice? Will Myanmar’s military be charged with genocide? The questions have become even more pertinent after a UN report that was released recently. An independent panel of investigators under the UN Human Rights Council has accused the Myanmar military of ‘genocidal intent.’ One of the examples cited by the report is the sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017. The report confirms that hundreds of women have been raped, out of which around 80 percent were gang raped by the Myanmar military. The report also confirms that the military crackdown on the Rohingya in the Rakhine state drove more than 730,000 Rohingya out of the country in August 2017. The UN report has rejected Myanmar’s claims that the military campaign was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents. Denied access to Myanmar, the UN investigators travelled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia to collect the stories of those who managed to survive the horror in Myanmar.

Now, the onus is on the world to bring the Myanmar military to account. What is clear is that Rohingya refugees will not take the world’s silence silently. This week, almost 200,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazaar camp took out a protest to mark Genocide Day. They prayed and shouted slogans as well as making it clear that they would only return to Myanmar will full citizenship rights, safety guarantees and the prosecution of the Myanmar military. The UN had already set out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military in its last report in August 2018, which included derogatory language, discriminatory policies, organized plot of destruction, and extreme brutality. Now, the mission has added another factor: sexual violence. The denials by the Myanmar military mean that the last accusation has put it on the defensive.

The report also makes clear that there are no attempts within Myanmar to bring those responsible to accountability. The real challenge is going to be to get justice for the Rohingya. In a world where many genocidal criminals are free, perhaps there is little hope for a conflict that has received such little attention as the Rohingya. While the UN continues to report genocide, the countries that matter have other things on their mind. The collective voice of the Rohingya adds moral weight to the UN report. Just as in the case of Kashmir, it is long past time the international community moves beyond issuing statements of concern and start waking up to the gravity of the crimes being committed by the Myanmar government.

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