On Friday, the United Nations general assembly passed a resolution, with 134 countries voting in favour of it, condemning the human rights abuses in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. Myanmar has been urged by the UN to protect all ethnic minorities and bring human rights abusers to justice. The resolution follows proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where the Gambia brought the case of genocide against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar army on behalf of a dozen other Muslim countries. Independent research by the United Nations has found gross human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims, such as indiscriminate killings, the burning of entire villages, children being assaulted and women being gang-raped. Strong evidence has been found that the Myanmar army acted with the intent to wipe out an entire ethnic minority.
The Myanmar army has defended their actions by saying they were clearing out ‘international terrorists,’ and that Rohingya refugees are illegal immigrants. However, the actions of the Myanmar security forces have been described as “the gravest crimes under international law.” Despite strong evidence being found that the Myanmar army acted with intent to wipe out an entire ethnic minority, Aung San Suu Kyi, the political face of leadership in Myanmar, continued to deny allegations of genocide earlier this month, whilst on trial at the ICJ. This former Nobel peace prize winner has faced great condemnation by the international community for allowing this gross scale ethnic cleansing to occur.
The condemnation of the Myanmar army’s actions by the UN and the international community is a necessary first step to providing justice for Rohingyas. However, UN resolutions are not legally binding, and the most they can do is exert external political pressure on Myanmar to stop these human rights abuses. The sad reality is that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are unlikely to get political justice for the torture and abuses which they have faced.
Tensions with the Rohingya Muslim minorities in the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar have been occurring for decades. In the summer of 2017, around 1 million Rohingyas were forced to flee the country following indiscriminate violence and torture by the Myanmar army towards them. There are currently around 900,000 Rohingyas residing in refugee camps in Bangladesh, 80% of which arrived between August and December 2017. Satellite evidence from the BBC shows that previous Rohingya villages in the Rakhine State have been converted to police barracks and government buildings.
For the Rohingya refugees, they have no place they can call home right now. They are unwanted in Bangladesh and unable to return to their home country Myanmar. Around half of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. As a global community, it is vitally important that we continue to advocate for their justice, security, and rights, otherwise, a whole future generation of children risk being neglected. This avocation can take the form of continuing to condemn the Myanmar army’s genocidal actions, taking economic sanctions against Myanmar and continuing to exert political pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi to acknowledge the gross scale human rights abuses which have occurred.
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