Saturday, September 1, 2018

Genocide: - agony of Rohingya

Will generals who ordered Myanmar massacres escape justice?

Shame: Rohingya women, in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, demand justice. Photo: AP/Altaf Qadri Shame: Rohingya women, in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, demand justice. Photo: AP/Altaf Qadri

Mary Fitzgerald
September 1 2018 2:30 AM
This week a country whose de facto leader is a once-celebrated Nobel Peace Prize laureate found its army chief and five other generals accused of genocide by the UN.
The country is Myanmar (Burma), the army chief is a man named Min Aung Hlaing, and the Nobel laureate is Aung San Suu Kyi, whose fall from grace over her handling of army massacres of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority has been nothing short of extraordinary.
It is almost a year since the wave of violence the UN says was driven by genocidal intent by the Myanmar military began following attacks on several police outposts by Rohingya fighters. The army - whose grip on Myanmar has not loosened much despite the country's transition from junta to fledgling democracy - responded ferociously with a scorched earth campaign against Rohingya communities.
On Monday, the UN's Human Rights Council catalogued the horrors of that military operation in chilling detail, noting commonly cited figures of some 10,000 Rohingya lives lost were most likely greatly underestimated.
"People were killed or injured by gunshot, targeted or indiscriminate, often while fleeing," the report reads. "Others were killed in arson attacks, burned to death in their own houses…Rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale… Children were killed in front of their parents."
During the onslaught, the report notes, at least 392 villages were partially or totally destroyed.
This was not the first time the Myanmar army had targeted the Rohingya, Muslims in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
As a minority, they have long suffered discrimination by a government that refuses even to recognise them as citizens, subjecting them to restrictions on employment, healthcare, education and marriage.
In recent years, persecution has taken many forms including mob violence - often incited by prominent Buddhist monks - has been abetted by the military. The UN report notes that shortly before last year's eruption in Rakhine, the southern region where tensions between Rohingya and Buddhists often flare into violence, the army sent considerable numbers of extra security forces to the area.
Military chief Min Aung Hlaing declared they were solving the "Bengali problem" once and for all. All this, according to the UN report, means he and other senior generals should be tried for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
And where does Suu Kyi stand in all this? Hopes that she, a former political dissident who famously suffered years of house arrest, would bring an end to the long-running repression of the Rohingya when she was elected in 2015 soon evaporated.
When the military crackdown was launched last year, Suu Kyi remained silent. Later she offered only mealy mouthed words that many interpreted as simply excusing what was happening. She appeared to have little sympathy - publicly expressed at least - for the 700,000 Rohingya (around two-thirds of the entire population) that were driven into refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh as the military campaign escalated this year.
Her stance has sparked not just deep disappointment among those who lauded her sacrifice for the cause of democracy in Myanmar but also calls, including from other Nobel laureates, for her Nobel prize to be withdrawn.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has said she will not be stripped of the honour. "It's important to remember that a Nobel prize, whether in physics, literature or peace, is awarded for some prize-worthy effort or achievement of the past," said Olav Njoelstad, the committee's secretary. "Aung San Suu Kyi won the prize for her fight for democracy and freedom up until 1991, the year she was awarded the prize."
As for the prospect of Myanmar's military top brass actually facing justice for their crimes, there are no guarantees they will ever make it to trial.
The army has denied most of the charges laid against it, claiming the number of Rohingya deaths has been exaggerated. Only seven soldiers who participated in one well documented massacre have been sanctioned.
Suu Kyi's civilian government is largely beholden to the army and has shown its true colours on the issue anyway. Myanmar could be referred to the International Criminal Court but this would require UN Security Council agreement - unlikely due to vetoes of China and Russia, both close to the Burmese army.
And even if a referral to The Hague was made, getting the generals there to face trial would not be easy.
Irish Independent

No comments:

Post a Comment