After five long years, the Rohingya continue to seek justice
In this column distributed by the Elon University Writers Syndicate, sociology professor Tom Arcaro writes about Rohingyas seeking justice five years after they were victims of genocide by the military junta controlling Myanmar. The column has been published by the Greensboro News & Record, Wilson Times, Johnstonian News and other outlets.
by Tom Arcaro
We recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the start of the Rohingya genocide. This ethnic and religious minority has spent five long years seeking justice.
The facts are both clear and raw. Five years ago, the Rohingya people were victims of genocide by the military junta controlling Myanmar. Since the start of the genocide on August 25, 2017, nearly 800,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Additionally, some 140,000 Rohingya were moved inside the melee and herded into camps in their home countries, where they have remained ever since.
Although the Rohingya diaspora has an almost global reach, most are concentrated in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India, with the vast majority of these genocide victims residing for five years in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.
I hope you care enough to act in partnership with the Rohingya people, the people of Bangladesh and many people around the world who seek a world of justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Five years is a long time to live as a refugee, to have lives, careers, studies and hopes suspended or severely restricted. Five years to seek justice is too long.
Here are more facts that testify to the injustice suffered by the Rohingya people and the challenges that must be overcome to restore their freedom.
The Bangladeshi government, with the support of the United Nations and the humanitarian sector, has welcomed nearly one million Rohingya refugees over the past five years, an incredible ordeal for a nation already burdened by economic, political and climate-related problems. .
The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has provided preliminary pronouncements and rulings indicating that indeed genocide took place. Most members of the global community agree, including the US State Department.
Violence against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar persists. An 18-month struggle by grassroots organizations against the ruling military junta that perpetuates the genocide continues to unfold. A broad alliance of people and organizations seeks democracy and freedom from brutal and bloody autocratic military rule. More international support is needed.
International efforts to combat the genocide have so far been unsuccessful. Geopolitics is complex and involves major world powers, including India, China, Japan, the United States and Russia. The UN has struggled to navigate the complex and sometimes contentious negotiations between the many stakeholders in the region, and progress is slow to non-existent.
Myanmar itself is a victim of past colonial oppression. The country’s military leaders seem more committed to themselves and the wishes of outside governments than to their own people. Myanmar’s government has historically segregated and discriminated against religious and ethnic minorities, no more so than the Rohingya, whose right to citizenship was stripped in 1982.
The United States has joined the growing chorus of nations condemning the Myanmar government for its actions against the Rohingya and calling it exactly what it is: genocide. Economic sanctions, both unilateral and multilateral, have had only a limited impact on the political situation in Myanmar.
What do the Rohingyas want? The vast majority of Rohingya simply want to be safely repatriated to Myanmar, a goal shared by the Bangladeshi government. They seek to return with full citizenship, with real and assured security, and with full rights, a widely supported goal.
Myanmar’s current military government appears to be the only group to reject this goal. Progress towards a political situation in Myanmar that would allow for proper repatriation has progressed at a chilling pace.
Ignoring the situation is not an option, especially for those with the luxury of power. As Edmund Burke told us long ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (people) do nothing.”
That said, what remains to be done? Tell your political representatives enough is enough. Use your voice to join others in renouncing the government of Myanmar and encouraging deeper and more effective sanctions against its ruling military rulers. Our actions can have an impact.
There is a line between those who care and those who care enough to act. Over the past five years, nearly one million Rohingya have suffered the long-term effects of this genocide. They deserve reparations to regain a full life and finally have the right to return home and live in freedom.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Elon University.