By Tengku Emma Zuriana bt Tengku Azmi, Ambassador to Malaysia, The European Rohingya Council
8th February 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: I was deeply disturbed by Hannah Beech’s controversial article in the New York Times, published on February 1, with the title “The Rohingya Suffer Real Horrors. So Why Are Some of Their Stories Untrue?”. While everyone looks with disdain at the barbaric act of Myanmar, a member of ASEAN, against Rohingya, her article exactly narrates the Myanmar’s military version that Myanmar armed forces did nothing to Rohingya and Rohingya are lying. In addition, the essay could create doubts that might shift attention from genocidal issues to trivial ones which are magnified to give a distorted picture to the international community.
It seems to me that Hannah Beech deliberately chose to highlight Rohingya children fond of cricket and man having 6 wives (this is surprising as men are allowed to have 4 wives only). I keep asking myself why must she sensationalized such trivial issues when the resignation of Bill Richardson from Myanmar Advisory Committee in the Rohingya crisis and Foster Klug report by AP News on the discovery of 5 mass graves at Gudar Pyin require urgent international attention. Bill Richardson accused the committee of trying to whitewash the Rohingya crisis. This is a very serious accusation that needs attention.
During my visit to genocide survivors camps in Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh with The European Rohingya Council Chairman, Dr. Hla Kyaw to organize mobile clinic, I still remember a woman who claimed to be a Rohingya tried to gain sympathy by telling sad stories of her missing husband and her child who hadn’t eaten for days. Once the woman left, Dr. Hla said, “She’s not a Rohingya but a Bangladeshi, who is poor and have a difficult life. Her dialect is identical to the Rohingya but some of the words uttered are not used by the Rohingya.”
In the race for survival, occasional lies like this does happen in Cox’s Bazar like any other parts in the world. We should not play the blame game and forget what Myanmar has done to 688,000 Rohingya refugees who just survived Myanmar’s genocidal campaign and are forced to flee their homeland, crossing treacherous sea and inhospitable terrain.
Hannah tried to bring another side of the story within the crisis but her attempt will only strengthen the narrative of Myanmar who wants to wipe out Rohingya from Rakhine so that they can monopolize the rich natural resources with China who already has 70% stake in Kyauk Pyu deep sea port to materialize China’s big ambition: “Belt & Road” infrastructure network.
China, renowned for her human rights abuse of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and also a veto member of Security Council, has in the past, vetoed all resolutions on Rohingya. The reason for doing so is to allow Myanmar time to solve their internal problem as a new democratic state. The lame excuse should not be used as the crisis has affected neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India.
Matters like these should be given attention by professional investigative journalist to help prevent continued persecution and genocide inflicted by Myanmar on the Rohingya instead of echoing Myanmar propaganda on the Rohingya.
The skewed reporting reminds me of social media viral in Facebook in Malaysia by irresponsible netizens who gave a negative picture of the Rohingya without checking the facts in September 2017. It poisons the minds of the locals who look at the Ampang Park melee. We should instead look at reasons for them to be refugees and not blame them for being forced to flee to Malaysia.
The only way to solve refugees problem is not to create refugees, and to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Let us hold hands in helping the plight of the Rohingya.