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The UN Security Council held its first meeting on Rohingya in nine years last Thursday (September 28, 2017).  The language was harshly critical of Myanmar.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the situation as a “human rights nightmare” and “urged Myanmar to end its military operations”.  The number of Rohingya refugees has meanwhile mushroomed to more than 500,000.  All the members tiptoed carefully around the word ‘genocide’ … for a very good reason.  Accepting such triggers action on their part.

During the Kosovo crisis when Serbs were expelling Kosovars, the Clinton administration, reluctant to get involved, invented the euphemism ‘ethnic cleansing’.  It has remained a favorite substitute.

What does the Convention on Genocide actually state.  Well, Article 2 lists five acts each of which constitute genocide:

(a)  Killing members of a group.

(b)  Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

(c)  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction   in whole or in part.

(d)  Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(e)  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The systematic attacks, rapes, killings, burning of villages, destruction of crops, livestock, shooting at fleeing villagers, mining of borders to hinder return are activities so obviously violating acts (a), (b), (c) and (d), there is no counterargument.  The Myanmar military and the government by implication are unquestionably guilty of genocide.  The real issue is who wants to do something about it.

Among the border states, Bangladesh does not want to upset the Chinese who are pragmatic supporters (for economic reasons) of the Myanmar regime.  India is afraid to set a precedent where its own activities in Kashmir are called into question.  With deaths there rumored at 100,000, bodies in unmarked graves and countless injured, there appears to be a prima facie violation of counts (a), (b) and (c).  On the eastern side, Thailand is exposed for its own equivocal relations with its minority Muslim community.  The rest of the world?  Well, they have their own interests … generally geopolitical.  So they talk.

Meanwhile, a seven-member international panel of judges chaired by Daniel Feierstein of the Center for Genocide Studies at the National University of Tres de Febrero has found the Myanmar government guilty of “crimes against humanity and genocide”.  It delivered its verdict after hearing testimony from more than 200 victims.

The panel made 17 recommendations to end the crisis and restore peace.  It called on Myanmar to permit the UN Human Rights Council to conduct a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations against its Muslim population including the Rohingya.  Not well known is the fact that 4 percent of Myanmar’s population is  Muslim of which 2 percent are (or used to be) Rohingya.

The panel also called for all discriminatory laws and policies to be reversed and for the government to restore full citizenship to the Rohingya and other ethnic groups.  Finally, it urged Bangladesh and other countries to permit the Rohingya to settle until their rights are restored and they can return home.

On the quieter side is a rebuke from Aung San Suu Kyi’s alma mater.  St. Hugh’s College at Oxford University has removed her portrait which was displayed in the main entrance.  By chance Theresa May the current British Prime Minister is also an alumna and probably even more furious.  Again in Oxford, the City Council is to meet to consider revoking Ms. Aung San’s Freedom of the City award.

The French director Barbet Schroeder has completed his Trilogy of Evil series with “The Venerable W”.  The documentary released last June is a chilling look at the Myanmar Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu whose Islamophobic vitriol has fueled violence against Muslims.  A true artist seldom minces words and in this case does not really have to:  Wirathu speaks for himself.  That is what is chilling.

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    UN has to take firm steps to stop Myanmar government from violating human rights and protect rohingyas. The USA and west are maintaining stoic silence in the matter. This is regrettable