Over one million Muslim Rohingyas live in the north-west of Rakhine, a state in the mainly Buddhist country of Myanmar. Thousands are now fleeing Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh in order to escape war and persecution, although currently neither country is willing to give them citizenship or recognize them as an ethnic tribe. Consequently, the Rohingya have no place to call ‘home’. To turn back now would mean facing a regime that deprives them of both free movement and state education, as well as a government army that has unleashed systematic torture and massacre upon the entire ethnic group.
The United Nations has now reported that the army is carrying out “ethnic cleansing”, despite State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi denying that genocide has been committed. Myanmar’s civilian leader and a renowned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to condemn or put an end to this deplorable act. Although she does not directly control the army, her inability to assert her authority is directly affecting hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Rakhine.
Once a defender of human rights in the West, Aung San Suu Kyi has also failed to stand up to General Min Aung Hlaing, whose soldiers are accused of rape, murder and genocide. Instead she has publically stuck to the military’s line that Rohingya Muslims are illegally squatting on Burmese territory, despite them being there since 1928. The latest military crackdown began on 25 August 2017, during which ninety thousand Rohingyas fled to relief camps across the Bangladeshi border. To make matters worse the Yangon government, spurred on by a surge in ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups publically encouraging Islamophobia, has constantly blocked UN agencies from delivering food, water and other necessities to around two hundred and fifty thousand people in Rakhine.
Rohingya Muslims have been stateless since 1982 and are not considered one of the country’s one hundred and thirty-five official ethnic groups. Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to discuss the plight of Rohingyas and has labelled them “terrorists”, but the UN states that it is “very likely” that the military has nonetheless committed grave human rights abuses in Rakhine. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” about the ongoing violence in Rakhine.
Whilst the people continue to suffer because of the ruthless actions of the military, the matter cannot be hidden. Aung San Suu Kyi must condemn these massacres and do all in her power to protect the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar. To show your support and solidarity, please join the protest on Sunday 10 September at 1pm outside the Myanmar Embassy in London. These innocent lives are being lost and the world is silent. Leaders are silent. Theresa May is silent. Silence is not an answer. We have a humanitarian and moral duty to support the innocent Rohingya Muslims. To sit back and let this happen is both disgraceful and unacceptable.