Myanmar: Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide?

Once again, an event which humanity should have learnt from years ago rears its ugly head. Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar has impacted the lives of thousands of the Rohingya people purely because of their religion. While tensions rise in the West and debates continue over Islamic extremism and its impact on our society, the Myanmar government persecutes Muslims.

The past few months in Myanmar have been, at the very least, a discredit to humanity, as people are displaced, raped and murdered by their own government and military. There have been reports of the forced shaving of an Imam’s beard and the rape of women and girls inside mosques as the military forces the Rohingya community out of their country. Between the burning down of villages, murdering of villagers, and general intimidation, there has been little solace for the victims of this crime against humanity.

The tension between religions in Myanmar has been brewing for decades and has finally reached the point of the systematic rape, murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. At least 582,000 people have fled Myanmar in pursuit of liberty and peace away from the atrocities they have been subject to over recent months.

However, their road to safety has not been easy. A route to Bangladesh via the North-West of Myanmar was the chosen escape route for many, yet, in an interview with Reuters, one man alleges that the Buddhist community now not only refuse a passage through, but have threatened to kill those who attempt to pass. This report emerged back in mid-September; things have not changed much since then.

The UN has recently appealed to Bangladesh to allow the swift and safe passage of refugees into their country as any estimated 15,000 Rohingya people are stranded near the border between the two countries. The US has weighed in, with Secretary of State Rex

Tillerson stating that the US hold the Myanmar military accountable, but failing to comment  whether the US would take any action.

Furthermore, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has described the crisis as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Numerous charities and other organisations have made attempts at alleviating the suffering of refugees, but

is that enough? Should the international community step up and coerce the Myanmar government into cooperating?

The UN? The arbiters of diplomacy and peace? Well, they’re still undecided as to whether or not the crime committed is a case of ethnic cleansing or genocide. Such trivial matters are hardly the work the international community should be deliberating over; leave that until the crisis has been resolved. Although the defining of this crisis is useful in determining whether Myanmar have broken the 1948 UN convention, and could potentially define the UN’s next course of action, this is simply a wasted endeavour. By the time this ethnic cleansing is classified as a genocide, it could be too late.

Lyle Broom

(Image courtesy of Al Jazeera)