The international community must open its eyes to the horrors that are being visited upon the Rohingya
Enough is enough
The discovery of mass graves containing the bodies of mostly Rohingya Muslims has prompted Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak to vow that he will find those who were responsible. He does not have far to look. Burma’s president Thein Sein and his military backers and violent Buddhist monks are jointly guilty of the massacres and persecution that have caused so many Rohingya to flee.
Without the enormity of the officially-sanctioned savage repression of Burma’s main Muslim minority, without the denial of their citizenship rights, without the displacement of entire communities and their herding into concentration camps and without the thuggish bigotry of Buddhist gangs led by supposedly peace-loving monks, there would be no Rohingya refugee crisis.
It is this catalog of failures by a Burmese state which has been welcomed back into the international community, with open arms and firmly-closed eyes, that has created this catastrophe. It has been the failure of 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to protest vigorously against the appalling treatment of the Rohingya and other Burmese Muslim communities that has allowed the Sein regime to get away with massive human rights crimes.
Thai and Malaysian people traffickers compound these failures. Their operational tactics have now become clear. They bring their Rohingya victims by sea to the border area between Thailand and Malaysia and hold them in remote jungle camps. Once incarcerated, the migrants are told that they need to pay more money so that they can be taken on the final stage of their journey. They are given phones to call relatives to wire the human traffickers more cash. Meanwhile, female migrants are raped and abused. Those who protest or whose families cannot pay the extra cash are shot or beaten or hacked to death and buried in shallow graves.
While it is entirely right that the Malaysian prime minister has committed himself to tracking down these traders in human misery, it seems clear that these animals could not have been acting alone. The border between his country and Thailand is a military area with bases on both sides. At some level there must have been a deal struck to allow the traffickers to operate freely. The military and police in both Thailand and Malaysia surely have some awkward questions to answer.
Then there is the wider issue of the international response to the Burmese government’s deplorable behavior. The vast commercial opportunities in Burma appear to have completely blinded Western governments to the wicked realities of the country. What is happening to the Rohingya is very close to genocide. There may be no Nazi-style gas chambers and crematoria, but the Burmese regime is intent on destroying its unwanted Muslim minority through persecution, calculated neglect, terror and arbitrary murder and abuse.
This has to be stopped. The international community must open its eyes to the horrors that are being visited upon the Rohingya. The action needed is obvious. All economic ties and advantages that have been returned to Burma must be stopped immediately. Burma must be forced back into political isolation. The International Criminal Court must prosecute those who have encouraged and condoned the barbarities. Moreover, it must be made crystal clear to the Burmese that their return to the world fold will not be contemplated until they have given formal and substantive recognition to the rights of their Rohingya citizens, ceased their persecution and brought to book those who have organized it.