The Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign is not the only group receiving horrific reports from the ground in Arakan state, Myanmar, telling of ever more indiscriminate killings, torture, disappearances, torchings, lootings and clearances of Rohingyas and their homes in village after village, conducted by the military authorities and their supporters, backed by the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The story continues the wilful and systematic operation against all Rohingya that has been reported by Rohingya, other eyewitnesses, media, NGOs and others over and over and over again across the world since 2012 and before, but which those with power and influence in this world have consistently chosen to ignore.
Each time we tell the story, there are more and more atrocities, more and more crimes against women, men and children, and there are fewer Rohingya left. The situation in Arakan, their homeland, becomes ever more horrible and precarious, and the thousands upon thousands forced to flee (to where?) increase by the day.
Despite the protestations of innocence from Aung San Suu Kyi , the military and the state authorities, there is not a single shred of evidence that she or they have done anything to protect the Rohingya from systematic vilification, violence, dispossession and dislocation on a massive scale.
In the last weeks, she has allowed hate-speakers like the monk Wiratu to go to Arakan and stir communal division. She has allowed the stirring of hate towards the UN and international humanitarian aid agencies. She has allowed the build-up of troops in the area to proceed with impunity.
Why was all this allowed? Was this all part of a plan to unleash yet again the forces of the Burmese state against the remaining Rohingya population, whose very history and identity of course Aung San Suu Kyi is denying and whose rights to citizenship and protection have been unilaterally revoked.
One can understand why the word ‘genocide’ is used, if by ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of an ethnic group not necessarily by their immediate destruction but through a coordinated plan of different actions aimed at destroying the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of the group, hand in hand with the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such a group. This definition is widely used, attributed in the first place to Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish jurist.
This is exactly what the Burmese military government have been doing for years to the Rohingya, and which has actually intensified since Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the elections. It is horrific that we have to report yet again more mass killings, torture, violations of women, men and children, and the chasing out of Rohingya from village after village, house after house, yet that is what we have to do.
The utterly sad thing is that no one is listening; this goes on and on, and the Burmese military and government continue to act with complete impunity and no accountability.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s credibility as anything approaching a champion of human rights is in utter shreds; she and her government are complicit in the denial of crimes against humanity, and complicit in this latest round of state-sponsored violence.
Her and her government’s refusal to let any independent verification of what has been happening in recent months in Arakan state, her and her government’s refusal to let any media or independent agency in to verify what is happening now, tells us all we need to know about her willingness to do right by the Rohingya and the principles of humanity. She is allowing whatever violence is being done to the Rohingya to be done. It is horrific.
Recommendations for action
It is hard to make any recommendations.
For 30 years people have been making the same recommendations. For the last five years, the same recommendations. Stop the violence. Protect the Rohingya. Protect human beings. Let humanitarian aid in to those areas which so desperately need it. Let independent people in to verify what has happened. Bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity, whoever they are, to justice.
But no one has managed to do anything to stop the grisly story unfolding towards its inevitable end.
As one of our Rohingya friends says: There is no point asking for anything. No one is paying attention. They all have their own agendas; the Rohingya are not part of it. So please ask the international community to supply arms to the Burmese military, to congratulate Aung Suu Kyi for her attack on the Rohingya people, to encourage her to speed up the clearance operations, and to wipe out the Rohingya once and for all. This will bring a final end to our misery.
It is hard to argue with that: because that is the desperately sad reality of the situation.
Who or what is going to stop it?
PS There are now more than 2m Rohingya who have been chased out of Arakan state, living scattered round the world.
Many of them, like in Malaysia, still have no rights or security in their ‘new’ home. In Malaysia, Rohingya share with all refugees the situation where they have no rights, including no right to work or to education.
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