THE ROHINGYA STORY: NOT OVER YET
19th April 2018
News coverage of the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar has slowly died down within the last three or so months.
However, it has been reported that within the last few days, Rohingya Muslims are slowly returning to Myanmar. However, it had been claimed by neighbouring Bangladesh, where many of the refugees fled, that those groups never left Myanmar in the first place.
While it can be considered that the worst of the crisis if over, it is very likely that it would take years before the crisis is truly over and for the Rohingya Muslims to make a safe and proper return to Myanmar and to their lives.
Who are the Rohingya Muslims?
Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority group in Myanmar from the Northern Rakhine State.
Currently, the Rohingya are not legally recognised by the state as an ethnic group in the country nor citizens of Myanmar according to Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship law. The Myanmar Government instead views them as illegal settlors, either Bangladeshi or Bengali.
The mass of Rohingya Muslims forced to seek refuge in Myanmar due to hostile military action was heavily reported on in 2017. Reports of killings, rapes of women and girls, stealing of possessions and burning villages were constant updates of the crisis during that period. Even after the so-called end of the Rohingya Crisis, reports of mass starvation and disappearances have been reported in the last few months.
The Myanmar government’s actions are generally considered to be textbook ethnic cleansing. They have also been globally condemned as genocide and has been compared heavily with the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
It is only this January that the military have also admitted for the first time that killings by the military had taken place. On April 11, seven members of the Myanmar military were also sentenced to prison for the killings of Rohingya Muslims.
Former UN General Romeo Dallaire has described it as a ‘very deliberate genocide’ and states that the actions referred to above are ‘all very significant indicators of genocide in operation. They want to wipe them out and they’ve said that’s what they operating to do.’
Article 6 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Courts
For the purpose of this Statute, ‘genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
But, it will take a long time before any alleged crimes which have been committed will be tried before the International Criminal Court, which are still dealing with cases that are decades old. Another issue is the gathering of evidence, as there have also been reports of evidence being destroyed or covered up.
Myanmar Government’s Promise of Return
In January, there were some talks about refugees returning to Myanmar. The United Nations have sanctioned this idea. During that time, some Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have expressed reluctance and even refusal to return to Myanmar. Some commentators have also stated that it may be too soon for the refugees to return to Myanmar.
However, questions remain as to whether the Rohingya Muslims’ return to Myanmar is for the best, and whether they will be able to reinstate their lives peacefully.
Between the government’s slow action in allowing the return of refugees considering it has been months since their promise of allowing the Rohingya’s return, and the fact that it could take years or probably decades before perpetrators of the potential genocide are brought to justice by the International Criminal Court if the case is ever even heard, it would be a very long time before the Rohingya Muslim’s return to normality and life after the crisis.
by Kimberly Nielsen April ‘18