Nowhere to call Home
With this campaign of genocide going on (alongside the factor they live in either the country’s most impoverished provinces or internally displaced peoples camps), it is no surprise that many Rohingyans (or foreign residents to give them the title they’re called under the Rakhine state action plan) flee on “floating coffins” (to quote the UNHCR) and try to seek Asylum, primarily in countries within south-east Asia. Often though, all they find is more brutality.
Human traffickers cruelly and extortionately take advantage of them; camps erected by those traffickers have been found in the jungles of Southeast Asia, a dozen contained mass graves and torture implements. Amnesty International go into great detail about all this in their report ‘Deadly Journeys’. If they make it past this exploitation and the perilous journey itself, many nations reject them (or only offer very temporary accommodation); Aceh (a semi-autonomous Indonesian province) has been the best so far in accommodating for those who flee.
Australia unsurprisingly refuses them, with many ending up in the thoroughly inadequate detention/internment camps, which Tony Abbot loved so much. WikiLeaks released a US cable from 2005, that revealed that the Bangladeshi Government purposefully give the minimum amount of support and resources to their Rohingya camps in order to stop them feeling at home. They have also created a mafia system/culture by having the police give power to specific “Majhis” within the camps. Wikileaks have a plethora of old and new documents that provide deeper insight into this issue. The huge numbers of those fleeing via trafficking is surging, however the Myanmar government still try to cover this up behind a flimsy countenance.
However, if they don’t flee many Rohingyans find themselves confined in small shanty villages and camps. Thousands currently reside in the squalor of Da Paing. These internal camps are regularly blockaded by the Myanmar security forces, preventing vital rations from making it to the intended recipients. Médecins Sans Frontières, the international aid agency, was evicted by the government last year. Ironically, the 2010 elections actually were more democratic than last year’s for the Rohingya; this is the case since 750,000 who were eligible to vote in 2010 had their papers destroyed and confiscated in February. Elections aren’t the only thing they’re excluded from, they were even excluded from the march-April nationwide 2014 census.
December 2015 saw four Rohingyan men murdered at government checkpoints. Add to this the fact that the pugnacious Arakan National Party won the most seats in the Rakhine legislature during the 2015 election (if not for the military’s ossified seats the ANP would have had a complete majority).The Mandalay riots of July 2014 proved the situation is now so volatile that a facebook post can trigger chaos. At an ASEAN conference regarding the issue of asylum seekers and ‘boat camps‘, the Mynamar government referred to the Rohingya as Bengali immigrants and furthermore refused to apologise for its campaign of segregation. It is clear that the time for action and protest against this institutionalised stigmatisation is now. We need to get the issue out further into the open, as local Myanmar press are either lying or self-censoring, and the Ministry of Information is going out of its way to keep foreign journalists out. A really scary development that has arisen out of this though is that this campaign is now paying the government even more in terms of ‘political dividends’ as rebel groups have now agreed to work with the government in lieu of fighting them, and help patrol the Burma-Bangladesh border in order to keep out illegal immigrants.
Many of you might see that the plight of the Rohingya is somewhat synonymous to the plight of the Palestinians, as well as the plight of the Tartans of the Crimean Peninsula (and to a much lesser extent some of the Sunnis in Balochistan). However, a more intersectional approach in terms of protest has not been taken yet, with many choosing to just focus on campaigning for the Palestinians as they are the most well known, and ergo give off the best virtue signal. To advance the rights of indigenous Muslim minorities worldwide, a broader approach needs to be taken, with said activists merging their resources. This article has only scraped the surface. For more coverage I thoroughly recommend all Al Jazeera’s work on the topic, Rohingya Blogger, the work of groups like Fortify Rights (who are compiling evidence of genocide alongside Yale Law School), and Human Rights Watch too. The Yale team might be heading to the Hague in the near future, as they believe that they have evidence that shows a violation of the 1948 UN convention on genocide.
Just because this is a “slow-burning genocide” does not mean that it doesn’t require immediate global attention. The NLD need to be pressured by the outside world, as although they are actively culpable for what they have done to the Rohingya, the military dictatorship has gone out of its way over the years to deeply stoke up these racial tensions within the party and the nation. Hopefully more activists in America will use the Alien Tort Statute.
“The NLD remain indifferent and as a consequence implicit in the annihilation of the Burmese Rohingya”
Penny Green (Professor of Law and Globalization, Queen Mary University)