UN Secretary General Calls on Myanmar to Put an End Rohingya Violence

Dr. Mozammel Haque

There is a real concern at the United Nations from the humanitarian side. UN says that more than 123,600 Rohingyas have crossed over to Bangladesh in 11 days since 25 August, 2017, adding to the 400,000 already taking refuge there. On Tuesday, 5th of September 2017, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation at a press briefing. He said, “I appeal to all authorities in Myanmar, civil authorities and military authorities to put an end to this violence. And in my opinion it is creating a situation that can destabilise the region.” UN chief warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation.

 

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar as he appealed to the country's authorities to end violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - mostly women and children - have crossed the border into Bangladesh in the past 11 days, fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to alleged attacks by Rohingya fighters. Since the latest round of violence began on August 25, at least 400 people have been killed in the ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive.  

 

"The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilisation," Guterres told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday. "The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need," he added.

 

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has criticised leader Aung San Suu Kyi. De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Laureate is failing to protect Rohingya Minorities.

 

Introduction

Myanmar’s Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless minority and endure severe restrictions on their movements. They are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries. Most of Myanmar’s estimated more than one million Rohingya Muslims live in northern Rakhine state. They face severe persecution in the Buddhist-majority country, which refuses to recognize them as a legitimate native ethnic minority, leaving them without citizenship and basic rights. Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012. That set off a surge of anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country.

 

Rohingyas received international attention after the 2012 Rakhine State riots which resulted in the Rohingya refugee crisis of 2015 and a subsequent military crackdown between 2016 and 2017. A large number of Rohingya fled to the bordering areas with Thailand Bangladesh and Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Nearly 100,000 Rohingyas are estimated to live in camps established for internally displaced persons inside Myanmar. The Rohingyas are not recognised by Myanmar as native ethnic minority and are often denied citizenship and basic rights. 

 

Current violence

Around 27,400 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, United Nations sources said, a week after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state, prompting clashes and a military counteroffensive. The army says it is conducting clearance operations against “extremist terrorists” and security forces have been told to protect civilians. But Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say a campaign of arson and killings aims to force them out.


A total of 87,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since violence erupted in neighbouring Myanmar on 25 August 2017, the United Nations said Monday, the 4th of September, amid growing international criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi. Thousands of the stateless Muslim minority have fled the mainly Buddhist nation and poured over the border since the latest round of fighting broke out, piling pressure on the already overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. Around 20,000 more were massed on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine and waiting to enter, the UN said in a report.

 

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is facing extreme trouble in coping with this refugee crisis. Nearly half a million Rohingya refugees are already living in the bordering areas of Bangladesh many years. Most of those entering Bangladesh are women, children or elderly men, and the refugees say that many young men have stayed behind to fight. The UN said most of the new arrivals were in the squalid camps already housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees around the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar. International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is working with Bangladesh Government to provide food and other basic necessities for the refugees, but the efforts still fall short to meet the need.


Dhaka had stepped up border controls after the latest round of violence began 10 days ago, but the UN said recent arrivals reported there had been no attempt to stop them from crossing. The UN said most of the new arrivals were in the squalid camps already housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees around the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar. But many lacked shelter from the heavy monsoon rains and an AFP reporter on the ground said hundreds of new makeshift shelters had sprung up on the outskirts of the sprawling camps in recent days. “It has been raining frequently since last week. We have to keep our children safe from being sick,” said Amena Begum, a newly arrived mother of five. Refugees in Cox’s Bazar have alleged their families were massacred and villages torched by security forces and Buddhist mobs.

 

UN and other Human Rights Groups

Rights groups alleged massacres of Rohingya in remote villages led by Myanmar security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs. Fortify Rights, an NGO with a focus on Myanmar, said eyewitnesses alleged mobs shot and hacked down Rohingya villagers — including children — in a five-hour “killing spree” in the village of Chut Pyin in Rathedaung township on Sunday afternoon. But in a complex situation, further muddied by the swirl of claims and denials by both sides, more accounts emerged accusing Myanmar forces of killings and widespread abuse. However, Human Rights groups accused the army of carrying out massive abuses, including killing, rape and burning down more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.


Since 25th August, 2017 some 60,000 have escaped from Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to the UN. Local reports say there are at least 10,000 more people waiting at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. About 18,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have crossed into Bangladesh in the last week from 25-30 August, 2017, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday, 30 August, seeking to escape the worst violence in Myanmar’s northwest in at least five years. The IOM also said it was difficult to estimate the number of people stranded in the no man’s land at the border between the neighbours, but added there were “hundreds and hundreds” of people stuck there.

 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is struggling to provide basic humanitarian support for the rapidly rising number of refugees, an IOM staff member said on condition of anonymity. Local Bangladeshis are trying to help, but “the situation is so grave that Bangladesh can’t handle it anymore by itself,” said a government official on condition of anonymity. Sanjukta Sahany, a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on the border with Myanmar said the Rohingya crisis was not just an issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh but of international concern. Ali Hossain, Cox’s Bazar district’s top government official told the Associated Press that its resources were under huge stress after some 87,000 Rohingya entered Bangladesh since October last year and another 18,000 since last Friday 25th of August 2017.


Aid agencies estimate about 73,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence erupted. Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for UN refugee agency UNHCR told Reuters on Sunday, 3rd of September. The UN refugee organisation on Tuesday, 29 August 2017 urged Bangladesh to continue to allow Rohingya fleeing violence to seek safety. It said it was ready to help Bangladesh with assistance for the refugees.

 

Muslim World: Reaction and Response

Muslim anger is growing in Asia as there seems no letup in violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim refugees.  The crisis threatens Myanmar’s diplomatic relations, particularly with the Muslim majority countries in South East Asia where there is profound public anger over the treatment of the Rohingya.

 

We have already noticed how the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Human Rights groups and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) responded to the situation, the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The people and government of the two Muslim majority countries, Indonesia and Turkey raised their voices and demanded immediate action. They condemned the atrocities treatment of Rohingyas by the Myanmar authorities. 

 

Turkey: Turkey has called on the international community to put pressure on Myanmar’s government to stop the killing and displacement of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.  Turkey, both at the government and public level is leading the people and demanding early resolution of the crisis.

  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority. “There is a genocide there,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. “Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators.”


Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya, continued his telephone diplomacy with the leaders of Senegal, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. He is expected to discuss the crisis on the phone with the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh this week. Meanwhile, Cavusoglu spoke with former UN Secretary-General Annan.

Turkish President also said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month, adding that he had already talked to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other Muslim leaders.

 

Similarly Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey has so far delivered more than $70 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingya, but delivering aid is not enough. “In two weeks, we need to hold a meeting in New York with the UN secretary-general, leaders of Muslim countries, international organizations, the head of the UN Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Kofi Annan, and other leaders to solve this issue,” he said. “We’ve called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). We’ll organize a summit this year on the issue. We have to find a definitive solution to this problem.”


Cavusoglu also urged the Bangladeshi government to “open its doors” to Rohingya Muslims, and pledged to cover all costs to accommodate them.


Turkish Civic societies: Similarly, the Turkish civic societies, the lawyer, academic and research organisation has expressed their views how to resolve the problem. Talip Kucukcan, a lawmaker from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, said Ankara has taken the lead in raising awareness about the plight of the Rohingya, and calls on the international community to take effective steps to prevent a humanitarian disaster. “A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding, while the international community pays lip service to the slaughter and forced migration of Muslims,” he told Jeddah-based English daily, Arab News.


“The lack of response around the world indicates that UN and other agencies are becoming useless entities,” he said. “Ankara couldn’t remain silent over the plight of Rohingya Muslims, not because Turks belong to the same religion, but due to Turkey’s emphasis and investment in humanitarian assistance worldwide.


Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, and provides humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries regardless of religion or ethnicity, said Kucukcan.

 

Democratic illusion: It is interesting that the academic scholar found two obstacles in the resolution of the issue which coined “democratic illusion.”  Dr. Altay Atli, a research associate at Sabanci University’s Istanbul Policy Center, said Turkey can draw global attention to the tragedy and facilitate multilateral steps to resolve the issue. “I see, however, two obstacles in this respect,” Atli told Jeddah-based English daily Arab News. “One is related to what I call ‘democracy illusion’ in Myanmar. There’s a democratic transition, the junta has left, there were elections, but democratization takes time.” With the international community buying into this “democracy illusion,” it turned a blind eye to ongoing undemocratic practices, including the situation of ethnic minorities, he said.


Furthermore, Western countries want to access Myanmar’s natural resources and counterbalance China’s influence there, Atli added. “The second problem relates to the OIC’s inability to act in unison, make binding decisions and enforce them,” he said.

 

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, and provides humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries regardless of religion or ethnicity, said Kucukcan.

Indonesia

Indonesians have expressed grave concern and anger following reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim refugees in Myanmar. Both at the Government level and public level they expressed their views to halt the violence in Myanmar.

 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sent his foreign minister to Myanmar to urge its government to halt violence, he said. “Earlier this afternoon, the foreign minister has departed to Myanmar to ask the Myanmar government to stop and prevent violence, to provide protection to all citizens, including Muslims in Myanmar, and to give access to humanitarian aid,” Widodo said.


Meanwhile, a few meters from the rally, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir met with representatives of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Muhammadiyah, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Islamic Students Alumni Association and the Islamic Students Association. Muhyiddin Junaidi, head of the MUI’s international relations department, said they conveyed to Marsudi and Fachir the concerns of the Indonesian people over the Rohingya issue, and urged the government to take firmer action against Myanmar.


The Foreign Minister is set to leave for Myanmar next week, and is expected to meet with Suu Kyi and National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun.

 

Indonesian civic societies: Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation Muhammadiyah demanded Muhammadiyah the government to reconsider its silent diplomacy.  Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization demanded that the government reconsider its silent diplomacy with Myanmar because it had not ended Rohingya suffering. Recounting the horror of Myanmar Army’s attack, Abdur Rahman, a 46-year-old Rohingya who fled Chikon Jhuria village in Rakhine to Bangladesh, said: “I can’t believe I’m still alive.”

 

Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, on Thursday demanded that the government reconsider its silent diplomacy with Myanmar because it had not ended Rohingya suffering. Given the number of victims, Muhammadiyah called on ASEAN to put aside its policy of non-interference in member states’ domestic affairs, and take common responsibility in protecting the Rohingya people. “We demand that the (Indonesian) government consider the possibility of designating a certain area to temporarily shelter Rohingya refugees,” said.

 

The Indonesian Humanitarian Alliance for Myanmar (AKIM) — which unites 11 civil society and charity groups, including Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization NU, Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Walubi) — said it is spending $2 million on health, education, economic and relief programs for the next two years. “We began the programs in mid-2017. We fix roads and provide food and shelter. In the near future, we’ll assist with education facilities,” AKIM Chairman and NU representative Ali Yusuf said Thursday. “The most important thing is that our programs are inclusive for all affected communities, regardless of ethnicity and religion,” he said, adding that the root cause of the conflict is economic, and all communities are deprived of economic opportunities. “This is why our programs have nothing to do with religion. It’s about empowering communities that need empowerment,” he said.

 

Marsudi said the programs are in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’s report issued last week. The commission is led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “We hope the Myanmar government will protect everyone in Rakhine state, including the Muslim community, and provide access for relief missions so the humanitarian situation won’t get worse,” Marsudi  

 

Society of Professionals for Rohingya Humanity: On Saturday, 3rd of September, 2017, up to 100 people under the banner of the Society of Professionals for Rohingya Humanity staged a rally in front of Myanmar’s Embassy in Jakarta, urging member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to end the “genocide” of the Rohingya ethnic group. “We also want Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN to be suspended,” said the group’s coordinator Ichsan Loulembah.


They demanded that Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi put more effort into ending the violence. Otherwise she “doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and we demand that it be revoked,” Said Reza, a spokesman for a communication forum for mosque youth groups in Indonesia, told Jeddah-based Arab News at the rally.


Indonesian Chamber of Commerce: The deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Suryani Motik, said the rally participants came from various business, political and religious backgrounds, and shared the same concerns over the Rohingya people’s ordeal. They also “demanded that ASEAN hold an extraordinary meeting to urge Myanmar to end this atrocity, or their membership should be suspended,” Muhyiddin told Arab News.

 

Muhyiddin said according to Marsudi, if Jakarta exercises megaphone diplomacy, Myanmar may block Indonesia’s ability to channel humanitarian aid to the conflict-torn Rakhine state. “Even though we and the government have different views, in principle we agree that Myanmar should stop violence against Rohingya people immediately, and we support the government’s effort. We hope it will be successful,” Muhyiddin said.

United Kingdom

British Parliament: In the United Kingdom, people are very much concerned about the situation in Myanmar. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Peer in the House of Lords in the British Parliament, tabled on the first day of the session of the House on the 5th 0f September, 2017 the following questions to Her Majesty’s government in the House of Lords:

 -“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any representations to the Myanmar Government regarding the recent violence against the Rohingya community?

-  To ask Her Majesty’s Government their assessment of refugees fleeing violence in the Rakhine region of Burma?

- To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much they are contributing towards training the Myanmar military in the name of development?

- To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Britain is or will be contributing towards the humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees and the amount of the contributions made to date?

- To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the Bangladesh Government in their efforts to accommodate Rohingya refugees?

 

Meeting on Rohingya: Islamic Information Centre Oxford is organising a meeting later this month where some special guests and participants would come and participate for making decision to find the best way to approach the United Nations in presenting a document to prove that Genocide happened, as the recognition of Genocide in Myanmar by the UN is vital to bring justice. International Criminal Lawyers would be explaining the best procedure to present a proposal to the United Nations.

 

Rohingya Muslims: The Silent Genocide: Last Friday, 8th of September, 2017, Rohingya Minority Crisis Group organised a solidarity meeting with the persecuted Muslims of the Rakhine state in Burma, titled Rohingya Muslims: The Silent Genocide, at the London Muslim Centre, London.

 

Peaceful Demonstration in Oxford: Today, the 9th of September, 2017, there is a peaceful demonstration against massacre of Rohingya people in Myanmar in Oxford, UK.

 

Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution. Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is a “partner in crime” with the army against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, Salah Abdulshkoor Alarakani, director of the Rohingya Media Center, told Arab News on Sunday.

 

Malala Yousafzai: De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, has come under increasing fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military. She has made no public comment since the latest fighting broke out. “Over the last several years I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment,” Pakistani activist and fellow Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said in a statement about the Rohingya crisis on Twitter.  “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.” Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, called on her fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the “shameful” treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, saying “the world is waiting” for her to speak out.


Activists from Indonesia, home to the world’s biggest Muslim population, on Saturday called on the Nobel committee to withdraw Suu Kyi’s peace prize during protests outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, state news agency Antara reported.