Rohingya killings: army must pay

The extreme violence being unleashed on Myanmar’s Rohingyas has been going on for too long with neither its government nor its people or even the international community doing anything to stop it. According to a report released last week by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), soldiers of the Myanmar Army are carrying out mass killings and gang rapes of the Rohingya that constitute “crimes against humanity.” The OHCHR report comes close on the heels of reports that the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in northwestern Myanmar is far more serious than believed. According to two UN officials, the Rohingya death toll in recent months exceeds a thousand, not a few hundreds as previously believed. Since October, when some Rohingya militants were believed to have attacked border posts, the Myanmar military has stepped up its operations against the Rohingyas. According to the OHCHR report, the military has adopted a “calculated policy of terror.” Increasingly, it is only women and children who figure among the Rohingya refugees streaming into Bangladesh, raising doubts that boys and men are being “particularly targeted” and killed by the Myanmar forces.

Even as the Rohingya people, including children, are being tortured, murdered and gang-raped by the Myanmar troops, the world has turned its back on them. Myanmar’s civilian government has done nothing to rein in its troops. The country’s constitution gives it little leverage over the army. However, this is an excuse that seems increasingly flimsy and untenable as it cannot remain silent when a section of its people is being exterminated systematically. Anti-Rohingya sentiment runs deep in Myanmar and the military operations against them enjoy support from politicians and the public alike. Indeed, even those who participated in the country’s struggle for democracy, including its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, have failed to condemn the killings.

The international community’s lack of sympathy for the Rohingya is unconscionable. The fact that the Rohingya are Muslim could be behind the low support being extended to them by some countries. Islamophobia is turning us into unfeeling, cold and callous people. While some Rohingya youth may be picking up arms and exploring ties with global jihadist groups like the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, this is no excuse for ignoring the plight of the Rohingyas in general. The UN must follow up on the report and consider ways to push the Myanmar government to halt its ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. If the Myanmar military is indeed indulging in crimes against humanity, it merits action by the UN, especially since the Myanmar government refuses to halt the killing.
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