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    Q&A: “The U.N. Is Too Slow to Respond to Crisis”

    June 10, 2013
    the situation in Myanmar deteriorates, thousands of Rohingyas have fled the
    country in search of a safe haven. 
    Reports continue to
    emerge depicting inhuman and squalid conditions in the temporary camps where
    these displaced people live. 
    Local officials in
    the Rakhine state of Myanmar recently called for the strict implementation of a
    “two-child policy” on Rohingya Muslims. Even though this announcement has been
    condemned by human rights groups around the world, the crackdown on Rohingya
    Muslims in Myanmar is far from over. 
    In an interview with
    IPS correspondent Sudeshna Chowdhury, Dr. Wakar Uddin, director general of of
    the Arakan Rohingya Union, a non-governmental organisation incorporated in the
    United States, urged the international community to stand up for the Rohingyas
    of Myanmar, also known as Burma. 
    While the
    international community has taken note of the sectarian violence against the
    community, “it is not enough,” Uddin said. 
    Critics of the United
    Nations often cite examples from history when the world body failed to prevent
    such tragedies, such as the Rwanda genocide and more recently, the death of
    civilians in Sri Lanka. 
    “How many Rohingyas
    have to die for the international community to respond to the ongoing crisis?”
    asks Uddin. 
    Excerpts from the
    interview follow: 
    Q: What are the
    larger implications of a two-child policy on the Rohingya Muslim
    A: This two-child
    policy is a tool employed to reduce as well as control the population of
    Rohingya Muslims. It is an ethnic cleansing policy filled with hate. The policy
    is specifically for Rohingya Muslims who are unwanted and hated by the
    government as well as some extremist Buddhist elements. Some experts would say
    that it is also a genocide policy. 
    The population of
    Rohingyas in Myanmar has grown like the population of any other ethnic group in
    any part of the world. It is about three million now. 
    In fact, this
    two-child policy was there in Myanmar since 1994. However, it lacked serious
    enforcement. But surgical and forced operations were prevalent in remote
    pockets of the country. This is why it wasn’t reported widely. But now local
    authorities are actually stepping up the implementation of the directive. 
    The authorities are
    trying to eliminate the population by driving them out of the country as well
    as putting a cap on the birth of Rohingyas. So they are controlling the
    population growth in both ways. Eventually, there will be no Rohingyas left in
    the region and then one can easily grab all their land. 
    Q: So, this is not
    just about sectarian violence? 
    A: A significant
    amount of land in the Rakhine state, also known as Arakan state of Myanmar, is
    owned by Rohingyas. Areas within this region are rich in hydrocarbons, natural
    gas and other resources. So, the goal is to grab these lands that belong to the
    The extremist
    elements are trying to drive Rohingya people out of the country by making false
    claims. They are saying that the Rohingyas had illegally infiltrated the Arakan
    State of Myanmar, and that they actually belong to Bangladesh and to the state
    of West Bengal in India. 
    But what is important
    to understand is the fact that the Rohingya history in the country of Myanmar
    dates back many centuries. 
    Q: Is the violence
    spreading to other parts of the country as well? 
    A: The Burmans are
    the majority ethnic group in Burma. Therefore, what we are seeing is the
    “Burmanisation” of the country. 
    The aim is to
    eliminate other minority groups in Myanmar. In places like the Kachin state,
    people are now asking for autonomy. To begin with, violence was mainly directed
    against the Rohingya Muslims. But now you see Muslims, who are not even
    Rohingyas, being targeted by the ruling class. Slowly Hindus and Christians,
    too, won’t be spared as the violence escalates in the rest of the
    Q: What is the
    current situation of those who are displaced? 
    A: The most
    vulnerable are the women and children. From lack of medicines to malnutrition
    to squalid conditions – you name it. Monsoons are coming so the situation is
    going to deteriorate further. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) are
    therefore at a huge risk. 
    What is most
    disturbing is the emergence of sex slave camps where Rohingya women are raped
    and used as “sex slaves” by Burmese forces. These women have nowhere to go. The
    authorities provide them with food and shelter. In return they exploit
    While incidences of
    rape do get reported in the media once in a while, there is no systematic data
    collection or records that can give us an estimate of how many women have been
    Q: How are the
    neighbouring countries and the international community dealing with this
    A: Some of these
    Rohingya Muslims took shelter in neighbouring countries, such as India,
    Thailand and Bangladesh. But we are talking about three million people here.
    Absorbing them will not solve the Rohingya issue. The root cause of the problem
    needs to be addressed here. One has to give them their rights. Proper education
    and jobs will help solve this crisis. 
    As far as the role of
    international community is concerned, it is only now that people outside Burma
    are paying some attention to the plight of the Rohingyas. 
    As members of the
    Rohingya diaspora, we have to continuously work towards keeping the discussion
    alive, and keep reminding people that the Rohingyas are suffering and a
    permanent solution is important to solve the crisis. 
    But the international
    community, like the United Nations, is very slow in responding to such
    emergencies. Moreover, it is too bureaucratic in nature. Historically, the
    international community has been very slow in its response when it comes to
    intervention during such situations. 
    So, those capable of
    intervening wait until a certain number of people die. Before that they do not
    take action. 
    Also one must
    understand that until very recently Burma was a closed country. International
    media did not have much access to the region. It was only after the mass
    killings last year that the international community, including the media, took
    notice of the Rohingya crisis.