More than six months have gone by since the Myanmar government launched the genocidal attacks on the Muslim Rohingya in the northern area of the Rakhine state. We need not dwell on the horrors of this attack, nor attempt to understand the mass psychopathic mind of the Myanmar soldier. But we can ask: “What is this reality?”
Here is my answer.
1. The attack on Bangladesh: The Myanmar state has attacked Bangladesh through the expulsion of 650,000-700,000 persons into Bangladesh.
In the process of this expulsion, about 100,000 persons were killed by the Myanmar military.
There is a lot of debate about this number — the various organizations interested have undertaken studies. But the task is simple — ask each person how many persons were killed in their family. The average is at least one, and there are at least 100,000 families.
This is a heinous crime. On one hand, there is Myanmar’s attack on Bangladesh. On the other, there is the manufacture and supply of yaba to a growing part of the young people of Bangladesh.
The yaba factories are owned by the same generals that have commanded the genocide against the Rohingya. These are acts of war. When the British forced the Chinese to buy opium we called it the Opium War. Since the leadership of the Myanmar state owns the yaba factories, it is just as much war as when the British attacked China.
2. Genocide: The Myanmar government’s attack on the Rohingya people has been identified as genocide. There is enough legal work that supports the three criteria: A specific group has been targeted, widespread murder has been committed, and the intent is to completely erase the specific group off the map.
3. Returning home: The Myanmar government is not going to take many Rohingya back and the Rohingya will be, at best, reluctant to go. The Myanmar government will find excuses not to take people and those it does take will be placed in an equivalent of concentration camps. Bangladesh will have to host most of these one million souls.
4. Help: The developed countries are not really going to help Bangladesh. There is a lot of talk, many terrified visitors, and a clear understanding of what resources are needed to keep one million persons in reasonable condition. But the wealthy countries are not going to provide such funding. These countries have long abandoned any real moral views of the world and have become selfish egoists.
4. Refugees: Furthermore, there is no sign of any willingness on the part of the developed countries to consider taking Rohingya as refugees. The Europeans are already up to their neck in refugees and have little appetite for more.
5. Reality: Bangladesh is going to have to deal with the Rohingya crisis largely on its own. The Bangladesh government has done an excellent job of settling the Rohingya and the NGOs have done good work in emergency conditions. International support has probably reached its maximum.
6. Punishment: The monsters that perpetuated these crimes are going to get away with it and not face justice. There is no serious effort to build legal cases by collecting evidence of these crimes. No attempt to bring sanctions against the leaders of Myanmar. The Chinese government is protecting the criminals by vetoing all actions proposed in the UN Security Council.
7. Fate: Many women and children will be trafficked out of the camps to work in slavery or sexual exploitation in India, the Middle Eastern countries, elsewhere in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Some souls may reach Malaysia, China, and Japan.
8. Fate: Over the next five years, many will die from disease, natural disasters, or drowning.
Many words, little money, no refugees. US is still struggling with the belief that Myanmar can be turned into a sort of democracy and overturn Chinese influence
9. Fate: There will be a slow outward flow from southern Bangladesh as Rohingya struggle to survive and find a better life than the camps provide.
10. Fate: Many young Rohingya will take up arms against the Myanmar regime; most will die as no one will help them.
11. Fate: Many Rohingya will take up the cause of militant Islam. Many will see this as the only path of honour.
12. Fate: I make some estimates of what will happen. Of the 700,000 that have escaped within five years, I predict 130,000 will be dead, partly from natural causes and partly from deaths from accidents, infectious disease, and poor nutrition.
There will be 150,000 babies born, there will be 150,000 trafficked out of the area in some form of slavery (at present, we learn, that the police stop 100 per day — this suggests that another 100 per day are successfully trafficked, hence 150,000 in five years).
I estimate 150,000 will escape from the camps; this will be few in the next two years and then it will increase rapidly. I assume 50,000 will be taken out as refugees to developed countries; mostly children for adoption. The Myanmar authorities will process 300 cases per week on the average, so in five years about 70,000 will return to Myanmar.
A steady stream of young men and women will escape to fight or become terrorists; I estimate 200 per week — slow in the beginning, which will increase as channels develop. That leaves 250,000 still in the camps.
13. The US: Many words, little money, no refugees. The US is still struggling with the belief that Myanmar can be turned into a sort of democracy and overturn Chinese influence. This naive belief blocks effective action.
14. EU: Many words, some money, 50,000 refugees. No effort to punish Myanmar generals. The EU always tries to forget about genocide.
15. China: Complicit in clearing out Rohingya from Rakhine to insure security of the Chinese pipelines and railway. Construct large port facilities and bring 100,000 Chinese workers for industrial estate.
16. India: Complicit. Muslims are bad. Get them out of Myanmar. Trying to compete with China for influence.
17. Japan: Big investments. Look the other way.
Where do we stand
The world leaders have created a freak show. Come and look at all of this misery. Meet women that have been gang raped. Hear stories about babies thrown into the fire. Become fascinated by horror. Smell the excrement. Get on the plane and fly back to your little paradise in New York, Stockholm, or Tokyo.
Bangladesh government is caught in its contradictions. To take effective action it has to accept that the Rohingya are not going to return.
But that is impossible to admit. Better to pretend that this is going to turn out well. Result is paralysis of policy.
The Myanmar generals smile, smug in their success. But hell is waiting. I asked a senior Buddhist abbot in Thailand about what fate is in store for these generals. He frowned and told me: “100,000 years of repeated reincarnations as beetles that eat human feces. The beetles will eat feces from the descendants of the abused Rohingya.”
As an American would say, “what goes around comes around” — mortal justice is faulty, God’s justice is not.
Forrest Cookson is an American economist.