Rohingya crisis: ‘It’s not ethnic cleansing. It’s genocide’
London-based renowned Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin, also a regular contributor to Rohingya community blog Rohingyablogger.com, speaks with the Dhaka Tribune’s Tarek Mahmud to discuss the issues of racial discrimination against Rohingyas in detail.
How have Rohingyas faced discrimination in the Rakhine state of Myanmar?
Rohingyas have been subject to racial discrimination since the military coup in 1962.In 1965, a radio program broadcasted in Rohingya language was shut down.
Then in 1974, the Burmese junta launched ‘Operation Jasmine’, locally known as “Operation Sabae”, through which they confiscated many identity cards from the Rohingyas while they were traveling from one state to another.1978 saw another large scale operation, ‘Dragon King’, to wipe out Rohingyas, which resulted in more than 250,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh.
But soon after, although they had been expelled as illegal Bangladeshis, they were repatriated as Rohingyas.Since then, Rohingyas have lost many basic rights.
In 1982, Rohingyas became stateless within their own country after the enactment of the new citizenship law. 10 years later in 1992, the military junta imposed severe restrictions against us, forcing us to live in open-air prisons.
Do the Myanmar authorities impose such restrictions only against the Rohingyas? Why has the Myanmar government acted this way?
Myanmar authorities are targeting the Rohingya population specifically because the Rohingyas are confined within one particular area. But they are not only targeting Rohingyas, they are antagonistic against other Muslim minorities across the country as well.
However, there is a difference between the policies concerning Rohingyas and other Muslim minorities. Myanmar’s policy towards the Rohingya is to simply wipe them off Myanmar’s map through genocide.
They do not want the Rohingya population in the country.They are very well aware of Rohingyas’ lineage and history, but they still continue to propagate the claim that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
With the help of this propaganda campaign, the Myanmar government has garnered the support of the Buddhist majority, which made it easier for them to kill thousands of Rohingyas and drive them out to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.
How do you think the Rohingyas can be repatriated properly?
Firstly, the repatriation agreement should be held up, and the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state must be protected.
Secondly, the United Nations and the international community should oversee the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas back to Rakhine.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will only go back if a safe repatriation process is ensured.
How can the Rohingya diaspora play a role in the repatriation process and in rooting out this racial discrimination?
Rohingya diasporas are trying to help as much as they can, but it is very important that the UN and the international community intervene in the repatriation process.
Most of the countries have agreed with it, with the exception of China and Russia. Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing need to be produced before the International Criminal Court.
Only then will the genocide against Rohingyas stop.China and Russia are obstacles in the process, but we will not give up. There must be justice for all the atrocities the Myanmar government has been committing for almost four decades.
How is the Rohingya crisis affecting the Asian countries in different arenas such as security, health, migration, and others?
The refugee camps in Bangladesh act as a black market for traffickers. I think, after the monsoon season, many traffickers will try to smuggle genocide survivors residing in Bangladesh.
But if the Bangladeshi government is vigilant, this might not occur.
Do you think the Bangladeshi government is tackling the Rohingya crisis in a diplomatic manner?
If not, then what do you think Bangladesh should do?We appreciate the fact that Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees. I think they are doing their best, but it is also true that we will not like all of their activities since they have to be diplomatic at the same time.
As a result, I think countries like the US, the UK, and organizations like the EU and OIC need to stand beside Bangladesh and pressurize the Myanmar government to accept the demands of the Rohingya survivors.
Bangladesh has to be firm with Myanmar about the repatriation process. It must urge the Myanmar military to stop calling Rohingyas ‘extremist Bangladeshi terrorists’ and start recognizing them as their own citizens.
As Bangladesh is a state party of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it has the capacity to refer Burmese criminals to the court.
Bangladesh has been suffering the Rohingya crisis for 40 years. The exodus continues to repeat, again and again. The time has come to take strong action against Myanmar so it stops the ongoing genocide.
How has the international community addressed the Rohingya crisis? What more do you think it should do?
The UN has termed Rohingyas as the most persecuted minority since 1992. But no solutions have been provided yet.Many rights organizations and countries are calling the persecution against the Rohingyas ‘ethnic cleansing’.
But this is not the right term. Scholars and experts have called it a genocide. I believe if the international community starts using the correct term, it will help in stopping the genocide, and actions against the Burmese criminals will be taken faster.
The Rohingyas have been displaced by their government several times already.
What is the future of the Rohingyas?
In short, if the repatriation of Rohingyas is not protected, if the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state is not protected, the exodus and genocide will continue.
That is why we are demanding the safe return of the Rohingyas back to Myanmar.Myanmar State Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her role in the crisis.
How far do you think she is responsible? What she can do, now?
As a Nobel peace laureate, she at least has a moral authority and obligation to speak out against any injustice. But unfortunately, she has put her support behind the genocidal campaign against Rohingyas.
She has sided with military criminals.As the de facto leader of Myanmar, she is fully responsible for stopping all atrocities against Rohingyas. The military has claimed that they inform the government about everything, and have to get permission before acting.
Since she is not willing to do anything for the Rohingyas, except lying to the international community about the Myanmar military’s actions, she should be brought to the International Criminal Court.
Bringing criminals like her to the International Criminal Court is a huge challenge for us, but we will not stop trying. Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be punished.