Human Rights Abuses Escalate in Myanmar
By Ana Medina
The Myanmar government started a military crackdown in its western Rakhine state to search for the individuals responsible for the murder of nine policemen. According to BBC News, UN officials believe that the Myanmar government has been using this event as an excuse to deliberately target and eliminate the Rohingya community. Allegations of rape, massive killings, and burning houses are causing major concern among the international human rights community.
One of the ethnic minorities in Myanmar, the Rohingya, are said to be descendants of Arab traders and other groups that have lived in the area for decades. Nevertheless, the Myanmar government refuses to recognize them as legal citizens of the state and instead they are categorized as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In a Buddhist-majority nation, the Muslim Rohingya community is distrusted and unwanted.
According to Reuters, approximately 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past three months. The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has openly asked the Myanmar government to stop all attacks against the Rohingya Muslims. Razak has also requested the Islamic community, as well as the international community, intervene in what could be considered another genocide. Also, he stated that Malaysia would grant 10 million ringgit ($2.25 million USD) for the humanitarian aid, and send a food flotilla if the Myanmar government agrees to allow this aid to reach affected areas. Last year, Malaysia was able to pressure Myanmar’s ambassador to speak against the current treatment towards the Rohingya. It is not uncommon for members of the Association of South East Asian Nations to intervene in each other’s affairs. Additionally, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been heavily criticized for her inaction and failure to speak up against the situation.
As reported by The New York Times, a United Nations human rights envoy recently came back from a 12-day visit to Myanmar to evaluate the situation. During the time there, U.N. rapporteur Yanghee Lee stated that they were able to meet with government officials including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and other Cabinet ministers. Myanmar’s military commander, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, refused to see her. Lee also went over the government’s explanation for the houses burnt down. According to government officials, it was the residents themselves who burnt the houses down in hope of getting international aid to build better ones. In addition, Lee explained that she worried for her own life because while conducting interviews with local people who were willing to talk about the situation, many citizens expressed severe concern for their fate after the interview concluded.