Thursday, February 22, 2018 | ePaper
Genocide in the Arakan State (Rakhine)
There is one conclusion to be made on the Ro hingya in Myanmar: It's genocide-CNN. Roughly 700,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August 2016. The exodus has been building for years and now it has reached the catastrophe that has been dreaded so long. This is genocide.
Article 11 of the United Nation's 1948 Genocide Convention describes genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to
The Rohingya situation has met all the above criteria to be described as genocide under international law. It may now be treated as one huge act of frenzied violence like the insanity in Rwanda and the holocaust in Nazi Germany. In the historical context all genocide cases bear similar traits. In Rwanda, the Hutu tribal propaganda ran for years calling the Tutsis cockroaches and a threat to the Tutsis that needed to be eliminated. It was a systematic campaign of dehumanization which continued for decades. The same is true of the Holocaust. The Nazi genocide began slowly and then took the form of 'Final solution'. Jews and Gypsies were killed and persecuted as 'sub-humans'. In Myanmar , the extremist monks have been preaching that the Rohingyas are reincarnated from snakes and insects. Killing them would not be a crime against humanity.
Every modern genocide has followed the same pattern. Years of dehumanization campaign ends in the mass murder. Usually these campaigns are led by repressive governments and its military but other political forces also come into play. Such was the case in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda. And now it is Myanmar. The campaign of dehumanization against the Rohingya has been going on for decades since 1947 when Arakan ( now Rakhine) became part of independent Burma (now Myanmar) led by the military Janta since 1974 and over the years events took a turn towards genocide since the outburst of communal violence in 2012. These clashes drove 300,000 Rohingyas out of Myanmar.
Now with the exodus of further 700,000 Rohingyas in eight weeks, large scale burning and destruction of villages by the Myanmar military, wanton killings, rapes and vandalism, it is not only a case of genocide but also an ethnic cleansing. In the present state half of the Rohingya population have been either killed or driven away from their ancestral lands. The U.N. Security Council so far declined to call it a 'genocide' as in such situation the UN becomes legally bound to intervene with peacekeeping missions and other initiatives. China who is building one branch of its New Silk Road infrastructure right through Arakan State ( now Rakhine since 1989) to access the port of Sittwe, will likely veto any such proposal.
According to the New York Times, Myanmar is set to erase an entire history of the Rohingya. In a report released in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the Myanmar's security forces had worked to "effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain." "The Rohingyas are finished in our country', said one Rohingya in Yangon. Soon we will be dead or gone.''
Arakan State which has a recorded history of thousand years was ruled independently of Burma, now Myanmar and Buddhists and Muslims lived there peacefully and in harmony. It came under Burmese rule once for 41 years between 1785 and 1826.Then after the British ruled it from 1826 to 1947 (121 years) it became part of independent Burma, now Myanmar. Now there are three involved in Arakan - the Rakhine Buddhists, the Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar's Buddhist military and government. The government, the military and the Buddhist monks have united against the Rohingya who are Muslims. The UN report also said that the crackdown in Rakhine had ''targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge."
Five years ago Sittwe was a mixed city divided between an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslims minority. Rohingya men sold seafood to Rakhine women. Rohingya professionals practiced law and medicine.
In the Jama Mosque Imam spoke of Rakhine's multicultural heritage. Now the city has been mostly cleared of Muslims. Rohingya men and women have lost citizenship, interned in camps, stripped of livelihood, with no access to schools and health care. Like the Jews in Nazi Germany Rohingyas can not leave the ghettos without official authorization. This is a state-run ethnic cleansing. By the 1980s the military junta stripped the Rohingya of citizenship. Brutal military offensive drove waves of Rohingya to flee the country.
(Writer is a former MP and Former Director General of Bangladesh Management Development Centre)