A refugee crisis is underway in Myanmar, as hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya people flee violence at the hands of the government security forces. The Myanmar military has torched villages of the minority Muslim population, and Amnesty International has accused the government of an ìorchestrated campaign of systematic burnings.î
Reports have also emerged that the security forces have been shooting dead those Rohingya who make it out of the burning villages. The UN has become increasingly vocal on the matter, with the High Commissioner for Human Rights calling the crisis a ‘textbook case of ethical cleaning”. Controversy has increased over the role of Aung Aan Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who has failed to intervene on behalf of the Rohingya people, and has even denied that killings are taking place, despite widespread and comprehensive evidence.
The history behind the Rohingya persecution is complex. Laws dating back almost three decades effectively preclude the Rohingya people from becoming citizens, thus denying them many forms of representation and legal protection.
Whilst Myanmar has been making democratic reforms, much of the goverment is still controlled by the military, which lacks oversight and citizen control. The military has targeted the Rohingya people several times since the late 1980s, and the UN describes the minority as amongst the most discriminated against in the world. The military has been driven by a nationalist sentiement which does not recognise the Rohingya as indiginous to Myanmar.
Ms Suu Kyi pulled out of the UN General Assembly meeting scheduled for this week, presumably to avoid increasing international condemnation. Once regarded as the worldís leading humanitarian, Ms Suu Kyi’s reputation continues to suffer globally as increasing numbers of Rohingya flee for neighbouring Bangladesh and India.
This too has led to problems however. India is relucant to accept the refugee influx for a number of reasons, not least because of the flooding that has caused havoc and thousands of deaths in the country. India already has a large undocumentated immigration problem and is unwilling to host potentially hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Meanwhile, the UN mulls over an intervetion if the situation deteroriates further.