By Maryam Azish

Myanmar’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims

News ID: 4093361 -
TEHRAN, Sep. 21 (MNA) – The new wave of attacks against Rohingya Muslims has trigged an exodus of nearly 410,000 refugees to neighboring Bangladesh, according to the latest UN figures.

TEHRAN, Sept 21, (MNA) - For several months, Myanmar’s security forces and Buddhist militants have been carrying out atrocities against the Rohingya. They particularly stepped the vicious campaign since August 25.

The Rohingya, who had already been under a military siege in Rakhine since October 2016, are now being brutally killed, raped, or forced to leave their homes as their villages are reportedly being set on fire by majority Buddhists, backed by the military.

A large number of Muslims, including women and children, have been burnt alive, lynched to death or lost their lives while fleeing the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people. Entire villages of Rohingya Muslims have been burnt to the ground.

** Exodus of Over 410,000 Refugees

The new wave of attacks against Rohingya Muslims has trigged an exodus of nearly 410,000 refugees to neighboring Bangladesh, according to the latest UN figures.

The US and its Western allies had for years imposed sanctions on Myanmar to end the military rule and support Aung San Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy campaign,” which won the 2015 election.

They started lifting the sanctions and building warmer ties with Myanmar since the military began transferring power to a civilian-led government in 2011.

Even though Washington has denounced the ongoing violence against the Rohignya, the prospects of reimposing the sanctions remain bleak.

“People are too invested in the last five years of thawing, which is understood by everyone to be strategically sound,” said a US administration official on condition of anonymity. “Long-term, the trajectory is probably tighter relations.”

In a similar call, Refugee International has expressed concern over the crisis and called on the United States to impose stern sanctions against the Myanmar military.

“I believe that in situations like this, the sternest and strongest measures must be taken. Our values demand it and our interest demand it,” said the organization’s Chief Eric Paul Schwartz.

“There ought to be multilateral sanctions against the Burmese military; there ought to be an arms embargo; there ought to be a referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court. The United States should reimpose the sanctions that have been lifted over the past several years. It’s hard to overestimate how dramatic the abuses, how widespread the abuses have been in Burma,” he added.

** Military Cooperation

The United States is not likely to intervene to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmar’s downtrodden Rohingya Muslims and is even drafting a bill to expand US with the Southeast Asian country bordering China – a regional super power the US is trying to contain.

The US Senate will vote on a defense spending bill next week that could expand the Pentagon’s cooperation with the Myanmarese military, The Associated Press reported.

A draft of the bill also allows for courses and workshops on issues like maritime security, peacekeeping and combating human trafficking, the report said.

** International Condemnation

The United States has been facing international condemnation due to its failure to censure Myanmar’s de facto ruler Aung San Suu Kyi over her complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region.  

Some analysts have noted that Washington does not want to strain ties with Myanmar’s government and influential military because of the country’s proximity to China which has given it the status of a knight in the geopolitical game.

**“Pivot to Asia” Policy

According to experts, the US is pursuing the “Pivot to Asia” policy, which is essentially a strategy for containing China. For this, Washington is implementing a policy of engagement with Myanmar, while ignoring the regime’s violation of international law and human rights.

The Trump administration has reluctantly expressed concerns about the state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya but refused to address calls for international sanctions against Suu Kyi’s government. Washington although has expressed keenness in enhancing US-Myanmar military ties, PressTV wrote.  

“Further normalization of the military-to-military relationship with Burma is the last thing we should be doing right now,” said Walter Lohman, Asia program director at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “What a terrible signal to be sending.”

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has said the destruction of homes and villages shows “an effort to ethnically cleanse the region of its Rohingya population and to prevent their eventual return.”

** Dire Humanitarian Situation

Save the Children voiced alarm over the dire humanitarian situation at the Bangladeshi refugee camps hosting Rohingya Muslims.

The international NGO further warned that the refugees there could die from lack of food, clean water and shelter.

Reports say the camps earlier set up in the Bangladeshi border city of Cox’s Bazar are already full as they have the capacity to host 300,000 refugees. Many of the newer arrivals have thus been forced to live in the open air or under structures made from plastic sheeting.

“Many people are arriving hungry, exhausted and with no food or water,” Mark Pierce, Bangladesh country director for Save the Children said in a statement.

The aid agency also called on the international community to fund a $77-million emergency appeal to help the Rohingya, warning that there could be more than 600,000 children in urgent need of aid by the end of this year.

** Blocking Life-Saving Aid

Refugees International has said Myanmar’s that military is blocking life-saving aid, “which we believe amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” The human right group has called for re-imposition of sanctions targeting Myanmar’s military officials.

On Sept 17, forty tons of Iran's relief aid has reached the Bangladesh border with Myanmar, where tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are stranded after fleeing what has been called "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" by the UN.

The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Morteza Salimi, who was on board the flight to the southeastern city of Chittagong, Bangladesh, announced before the flight that Iran is ready to send another 160 tons of aid for the fleeing Rohingya minority, and is also prepared to construct emergency camps for the refugees on the Bangladesh's border with Myanmar.

**Potential for Genocide

More than a dozen Nobel laureates have written an open letter to the UN Security Council warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” in Rakhine state, citing the “potential for genocide.”

Suu Kyi is under fire by the international community and rights groups for allowing the government troops and the Buddhist mobs to further impose a violent clampdown on the desperate minority.

Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, is also heavily criticized by a number of her fellow Nobel laureates, including Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu, for allowing such atrocities against the Rohingya.

Surprisingly, Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese and harshly pushes them back. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.

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