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Myanmar must protect Rohingya

By The National

The United Nations human rights office report on the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar could not be more damning. The report includes first-hand accounts of the “killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”. The most horrific thing is that this is nothing new. The world has known of the plight of the Rohingya for many years, and much of the international community has chosen to turn its back. But some countries, especially those in the Muslim world, have spoken out.

The UAE, which has promised more humanitarian aid to the Rohingya, made its position clear even before the report was released. “What is happening now is a slow genocide being carried out against the Rohingya Muslim minority by racist-motivated nationalism,” Dr Maytha bint Salem Al Shamsi, Minister of State, said at an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers from the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation last month. Malaysia, which has accepted thousands of Rohinyga refugees and has sent humanitarian aid to them, says the crisis must end.

This is an issue of basic human rights; it is not about faith. Certainly, Myanmar is a majority Buddhist nation but it has many ethnic and religious minority groups. There are about 1.1 million Rohingya in Rakhine, yet the Myanmar government denies them citizenship despite the fact that they have called the country home for countless generations. Instead, it is attempting to force them into Bangladesh or other neighbouring countries.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the de facto leader of Myanmar, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her defence of democracy in the face of military oppression, and yet she has allowed her country’s war on the Rohingya to continue. It is time for the entire global community to apply whatever pressure it can to stop the killings and rapes, and demand that the Rohinyga are afforded their rights. The UN has the indisputable evidence, it must now follow through.