Tragedy of Rakhine

… Aung San Suu Kyi has much to answer

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 22 2017 11:02PM | Updated Date: Sep 22 2017 11:02PM
Tragedy of Rakhine

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has much to answer. Though she did finally speak on the unfolding tragedy of Rakhine state in Myanmar, she wasn’t forthcoming on questions the world is asking on ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the country, she is supposedly governing. The pro-democracy campaign launched by Aung San Suu Kyi over a long period, for which she won international acclaim and Nobel peace prize has proved to be a plea for majoritarian democracy. As and when the minorities needed her support to save them from ethnic cleansing, Aung San Suu Kyi failed them. And, she continues to fail them, by siding with the narrative of military junta and Buddhist extremists. 

In the face of strident global criticism, Myanmar’s State Counsellor--Suu Kyi said in a televised speech that, "It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abdicate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violation and unlawful violence." She added, "We are committed to the restoration of peace, stability and rule of law throughout the state." In sharp contradiction of what she said, it is precisely peace which eludes her country, rule of law as well, as ethnic cleaning goes on unabated. The word and deed of Aung San Suu Kyi signals maintaining the relationship between her government and the military junta, ethnic cleansing is hardly the priority that it deserves.

The author of 'Myanmar's Enemy Within’ Francis Wade told AFP, “She's signalling that her chief priority is the relationship between the government and military and that the pogrom (massacre) is secondary to that.” Wade is rightly in concluding that the balance of power between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military junta matters to her much more than the human tragedy unfolding in Rakhine province. Maintaining the balance is at best a futile attempt, the endeavour being highly fragile. The space that the army has created in the supposedly civilian order makes State counsellor--Suu Kyi a captive of the powers that be. For her, it is the exercise of power without the needed levers. Yet, she hangs by it rubbishing the acclaim she was held in globally for her democratic activism. The plight of Aung San Suu Kyi is sad indeed; the Nobel laurate has become a captive of military junta and Buddhist extremists.   

The ethnic cleansing in progress has already provided the army’s CNC-- Min Aung Hlaing brawny points. Contrary to the general run of the past, he is emerging as an unexpectedly popular figure. The upswing in popularity defies deep mistrust of the military. As the CNC and the men he commands get one-up on Aung San Suu Kyi, so called State Counsellor is seen taking cover by going with the extremists baying for blood of Muslims of Rakhine. Francis Wade underlines, “This obviously raises questions about the quality of leadership she seeks to bring, but also that the political game in Myanmar is worth the sacrifice of entire communities.” Wade is right in raising the query, as questions on leadership Suu Kyi is providing multiply by the day. The butchering of Muslims in the unfolding tragedy of Rakhine continues unabated, with the refugees pouring by thousands in the neighbouring Bangladesh and in some instances—India. 

The brutal regime in Myanmar is already making attempts to wash their hands off their citizens by assigning the Muslims of Rakhine as Bengalis. This is a crude attempt to justify exodus. Even if it is taken to be fact, still being of Bengali ethnicity may not deprive a genuine citizen of his citizenship. World-over in Border States people of an ethnicity rhyming with people of a neighbouring country is a known phenomenon. It can not be taken as a valid plea for denying them citizenship rights. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi seems to echo the view of military junta and Buddhist extremists by her selective attitude vis-à-vis people, Myanmar might be willing to take back, if at all international pressure works to reverse the exodus. Given the fact that they are fleeing in tens of thousands, any reversal of the exodus might be an arduous process. Bangladesh in the meantime is bursting at its seams by bearing the brunt of exodus. It is country thickly populated with limited landmass, and hardly with a surfeit of resources.  

India with more or less 40,000 Myanmar refugees has expressed inability to accommodate them citing security reasons. The official view though has been challenged on several grounds. Most of the police reports reveal that apart from petty crimes, nothing incriminating has been registered. As for as charges of money laundering are concerned, paupers with petty existence as refugees could hardly be called labelled as money launderers with nefarious designs, such as taking recourse to and spreading terrorism. Tele-anchor: Karan Thapar in a newspaper column (Hindu: 20.09.17) quotes PM Narendra Modi relating to a gathering of students, “Had we not forgotten the significance of our own 9/11, there would have been no 9/11 in 2001.” India’s 9/11 relates to Swami Vivekananda telling World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on 09.11.1893, “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.” On ethical grounds that is indeed some food for thought for Modi regime, while the fate of Rohingya refugees hangs in balance, with Indian Supreme Court taking a call on their fate.

The fate of Rohingya refugees poses a challenge to global conscience.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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