The brutal crackdown on the Rohingya insurgents is in its fourth day. The security forces of Myanmar are locked in a fierce battle with the Rohingya insurgents who, according to media reports, assaulted 30 police stations and an army base on August 25, 2017.
This incident was reportedly a coordinated pre-dawn guerrilla attack against the mighty security forces of Myanmar who are known to have been inflicting ruthless cruelty on the 1.1 million minority Rohingya Muslims living in segregated camps in subhuman conditions without any civic amenities including basic primary health care.
Rohingya insurgents unleashed the armed attack killing 12 members of the security forces whose heavy-handed retaliation has claimed 92 lives of Rohingya militants and forced thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. Amid the escalating crisis, the Myanmar authorities have successfully evacuated 5,000 non-Muslim villagers to check unnecessary casualties.
The pre-dawn raids unleashed by Rohingya militants brought back memories of a similar attack carried out by the same group on October 9, 2016, with the border guard police (BGP) being the target. The October attacks which marked a dramatic escalation in the level of violence in a long-running conflict killed nine security personnel resulting in the unprecedented heavy-handed response from the Buddhist majority state.
The state responded, according to the Rohingya and international human rights groups, with locking down of the area and unleashing a cruel violence killing hundreds of people and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee. According to the media reports, the UN report revealed that Rohingya babies and children were slaughtered by knives during the infamous crackdown last year.[iii).
The decades-old pervasive climate of fear and hatred has resulted in the emergence of Rohingya militancy. The October attacks were a modus operandi of a militant group known as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The insurgent group, previously known as Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY), is led by Rohingya émigrés living in Saudi Arabia and is commanded on the ground by Rohingya with international training in modern guerrilla war tactics.
The group enjoys substantial popular support from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The group also enjoys an overwhelming support from Rohingyas living in Rakhine State amid extensive fear and arbitrary restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Besides, there has been a surge of international humanitarian and political support for the Rohingya cause, especially from Muslim countries that have projected the Rohingya as the Palestinians of Southeast Asia.
In March 2015, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Centre for the prevention of Genocide visited internment camps in Myanmar. They found enough preconditions to conclude that early warning signs of genocide were already in place and a timely action was needed to prevent future mass atrocities or genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Centre enumerated among other things the following reasons to reach this conclusion:
Myanmar excludes Rohingya from citizenship rights under Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law. This law fosters rhetoric that Rohingya are foreigners and should forcibly be evicted from the country. The government restricts humanitarian assistance reaching Rohingya and blockage of information flow in and out of Rohingya communities.
By severely limiting the basic freedoms of the Rohingya, the state indulges in gross human rights violations of Rohingya people. The state also restricts the human rights groups to verify the extent of human rights breaches independently and by and large, denies the allegations of human rights abuses.
Last week, the military and the de facto ruler of Myanmar Ms Suu Kyi had denied allegations of ethnic cleansing or a campaign of targeted violence against the Rohingya. According to the New York Times, the government had, in the aftermath of the October attacks, barred journalists and aid workers from entering the conflict area. This had frustrated the efforts of media groups to do an independent verification of the accusations that the Myanmar military was carrying out a campaign of murder, rape and arson against the Rohingya.
The Southeast Asian nations are known to have a hands-off approach when it comes to meddling in the internal affairs of its member-countries. That is the reason why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states rarely chide the Naypyidaw. Recently, the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called out Ms Suu Kyi for not doing enough to stem the violence against the Rohingya.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a coalition of 56 countries, held an emergency meeting on January 19, 2017, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to call for an immediate halt to military operations in Rakhine State.
The UN and Western Human Rights Groups have often condemned the unbridled violence against the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar but have failed to take any concrete action against the Buddhist-majority state.
Since the Friday raids, around 18,000 Rohingya civilians have fled violence-hit Rakhine State, and many of them are stranded near the countries border with Bangladesh which is blocking their entry into the country despite the UN’s clarion call to Dhaka to let the refugees in. Dhaka has let in 65,000 Rohingya in the aftermath of the October attacks, though the country was already overburdened with the presence of an estimated half-million Rohingya in squalid camps across Bangladesh.
Some of the Rohingya refugees have crossed the Bangladesh-India porous border and have landed in India. An estimated 40,000 Rohingya are thought to be living in various parts of India.
Two weeks ago, India sent shockwaves to the violence-hit Rohingya refugees living across the country when Kiren Rijju, a junior home minister of India, branded them as illegal migrants and declared his government’s intention of their deportation without divulging much about the modus operandi. Human rights advocates, on the other hand, questioned the practicality of rounding-up and ousting thousands of refugees scattered across the length and breadth of the country.
Right-wing groups in the past have often raised demands of their deportation, invoking their illegal entry into India and there being a burden on the economy as well as a threat to the security of the country.
India should not bow to the pressure of right wing forces and fulfil its international obligations to help the UN High Commission for Refugees to attain its responsibilities. The Indian authorities ought to help the refugees instead of ruining them.
India and Bangladesh should be assisted by democratic countries to handle the pressure of the mass influx. India, being a big brother in South Asia should play a bigger role to assist the Rohingya victims. The Naypyidaw should heed the advice of the Advisory Commission led by Kofi Annan, a former Secretary General of the UN. The Commission, formed at the behest of Ms. Suu Kyui, called for urgent action to improve the citizenship status, freedom of movement and human rights of Muslims in Rakhine.
To sum up, the UN Security Council should take immediate and concrete measures to rein in obdurate Myanmar.