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November 10, 2019

Rohingya plight

Editorial

 
November 10, 2019

How long will it take before there is action against the genocide committed against the Rohingya people? In another failed attempt, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Asean leadership to work on solving the Rohingya crisis. Strangely, Guterres asked the Myanmar government to take responsibility and work towards safe repatriation. Is this a request that one can make from a government that committed genocide in the first place? Both the moral and humanitarian dimensions of making such a request concedes the grounds of action to the Burmese state, rather than the rest of the international community to get justice for the Rohingya people. In similarly non-committal fashion, Guterres asked the Asean leadership to collectively address the Rohingya issue while maintaining a policy of non-interference. This simply does not make sense from any perspective.

It is no longer Myanmar’s responsibility to address the issues faced by the Rohingya people. It is the world’s responsibility to punish those in the Myanmar state that committed the atrocities in the first place. Taking such a non-confrontational attitude is part of the reason the Asean leadership took a weak tone on Myanmar’s role in the Rohingya crisis. Almost 700,000 Rohingya remained abandoned in refugee camps in Bangladesh where no one wants them. Repatriation is out of question and would be equivalent to throwing the Rohingya people to the mercy of the Burmese army once again.

There is a need to recognise that the Rohingya refugees will not return until there is accountability and change on the ground in Myanmar. Soft appeals to conscience will not work – simply because if there was some humanity remaining, it would have been witnessed before the genocide. There have been no signs of remorse, simply because there has not been the right kind of pressure on Myanmar. In the Asean region, it is only Malaysia and Indonesia that have advocated a more proactive position on justice for the Rohingya. The rest remain happy with providing limited humanitarian aid. No doubt this is a situation that needs to be addressed. Myanmar’s neighbours in the region can play a significant role, but the UN leadership will need to stop taking a soft tone on the matter.

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