16 Jan
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Convenient scapegoats for all

How the Rohingya people have become convenient scapegoats for all sides

By Saifullah Muhammad

On Jan. 4, Myanmar’s Independence Day, the Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist Rakhine rebel group, launched attacks on four border police outposts in northern Rakhine State, killing 13 police officers. This was three more than during an Oct. 9, 2016 attack by some arrogant and angry Rohingya called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 border outposts and killed nine armed forces.

After the attack in 2016 and the so-called clearance operations by security forces on Aug. 25, 2017, a genocide unfolded in which more than 40,000 Rohingya were killed, approximately 380 villages were burnt and destroyed, more than 1,000 women and girls were raped, about 1,500 people were jailed and nearly one million people were forced to leave the country.

However, the attacks by AA this month brought no punishment – not on the AA or the Rakhine villagers who some border guard police officers openly accused of jointly attacking the outposts.

As unbelievable as it may seem, the Myanmar President’s Office accused AA of having ties with ARSA, whether to stir up the misunderstanding between the Arakan military group’s allies and the ethnic Rakhine support base, or to confuse the international community, so they wouldn’t accuse the Myanmar government of committing crimes against humanity and genocide.

Recently, on Saturday, Jan. 19, Myanmar government accused ARSA of attacking a police van and wounded six policemen, including one police colonel in Maungdaw Township.

AA commander-in-chief Maj.-Gen. Tun Myat Naing denied the allegation and said Myanmar Army sows discord between Arakanese and Muslims. It created conflict. Because the political leadership is not yet stable, people are misled and swayed. It paved the way for problems to create an excuse for its rule in certain places.

The former military government created internal conflict by venting so-called differences in values, beliefs, needs and priorities among the Rakhine and Rohingya. It grew gradually and became critical for both communities.

Similarly, the Rohingya people also rejected the unashamed accusation of the Myanmar government and, instead, saying they believe it is another notorious plan by the government to destroy the remaining Rohingya in Myanmar.

Hundreds of lies and conspiracies on the official website of the Myanmar government and social media pages against Rohingya were exposed by the Rohingya activists and international media, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is still trying to cover up the crimes of the Myanmar armed forces by boldly denying the authenticity.

The United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar has released a perceptive report that details Myanmar’s state violence against the Rohingya. The report is clear that the military’s attacks, which began in August 2017, must be named as genocide. The report demands that top leadership in Myanmar’s powerful military be held accountable for genocide and other international crimes.

The gathering of evidence about this genocide and the involvement of the Myanmar armed forces and others in this heinous crime must take place and the guilty must go through the International Criminal Court.

Although the debate is often good, right now Rohingya need action, not words. They need an end to the genocide and urgent humanitarian assistance and protection for the remaining Rohingya inside Myanmar. Moreover, when feasible, they need a voluntary, safe and dignified return to their homes with their right to citizenship.

The both Rohingya and Rakhine need a little grief time, a little time to gather themselves back together again, renegotiate their hopes and dreams more in alignment like before, and then they will be back in the saddle again.

Genocide never ends without intervention. Canada is the only countries to declare that Myanmar’s crime against Rohingya constitutes genocide. Canada should work together with its allies in this endeavour through multilateral forums of cooperation.

Canada should also organize a meeting of concerned governments, world leaders and like-minded countries to determine concrete steps and procedures designed to end the ongoing genocide and create other protection mechanisms — with or without Security Council consensus — immediately.

If no action is taken and the genocide continues, no Rohingya will remain in Myanmar and regional countries will suffer under the weight of the refugee exodus. It will soon be a big headache for the international community as well.

Saifullah Muhammad is a journalism student in Canada, a Rohingya activist and a co-founder of Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI).

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