That the Myanmar military regime is a brutal one is beyond doubt . It has been trying all manner of violence — from brutal blood-letting to mass torture — and is in no hurry to put an end to it.
It is small wonder the United Nations is calling the regimes’ atrocities as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The brutal regime is also embolded by the inaction of the international community which has been long on criticisms but short on everything else. Evidence is there for everyone to see: sattellite pictures of burning Rohingya villages and ground reports of bloody murders from UN bodies and NGOs.
The latest evidence is the Koe Tan Kauk ‘model’ village for ethnic Rakhine migrants built on villages once settled by Rohingya Muslims.
On Sunday, 70 Rohingya fled from violence-prone Rakhine state on a boat to Malaysia. The journey is perilous one, but the Myanmar regimes’ atrocities against them is forcing the Rohingya to seek refuge in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.
On April 3 another boat carrying 53 Rohingya, mostly children and women, arrived in Malaysia amidst reports of continuing brutalities. In Bangladesh alone, there are close to 890,000 Rohingya housed in camps.
It is therefore heartening to hear British MPs calling on their government to impose arms sanctions on Myanmar, though it comes late in the day. Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North even went a step further asking the British government and the international community to bring the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court.
During a select committee debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Ms Jones did not mince her words: “The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya from Burma is a tragedy that shames all of us. Their current situation stands as a reproach to the international community, which has proved either unable or unwilling to act as the Burmese Government have violated every international norm of right behaviour. It has tarnished for ever the name of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once a beacon for those who believe in democracy and human rights. It has led to Bangladesh, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, having to take in a huge number of refugees. Bangladesh accepted more refugees in three weeks than the whole of mainland Europe took from the Mediterranean in a year.”
Malaysia has repeatedly called on Myanmar and the international community to stop the atrocities against the Rohingya but very little meaningful action has been taken by UN or Security Council members. Malaysia has relentlessly pushed for the resolution of the Rohingya refugee crisis at Asean, OIC and UN levels.
Sadly, Malaysia’s voice remains a voice in the wilderness.
The Rohingya are older than Myanmar, which means they must be treated as any other Myanmar citizens. Myanmar must allow them to return but before it does so it must genuinely address the causes for Rohingya’s flight from their home.
The Rohingya had endured enough; they must not be forced to return to face state-sponsored violence. “Never again”, the world community said after the 1994 Rwanda genocide. It is time to keep the promise.