By Charles Santiago
We all thought that’s the end of Myanmar’s charade. We believed the latest report by the United Nations will leave Myanmar with no space to maneuver or manipulate.
We are dead wrong.
Myanmar’s presidential spokesman, Zaw Htay, said the allegations of atrocities against the Rohingya are harsh.
According to Zaw Htay, there will be an immediate investigation by a commission led by Vice President U Myint Swe and necessary action will be taken if there is “clear evidence of abuse and violations.”
Aung San Suu Kyi has responded by saying the government would need more information.
This is outrageous.
The UN report is based on the testimonies of 220 out of 69,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh following an escalation of violence since October last year.
It says thousands of Rohingya children, women, and men have suffered gang rapes, killings, beatings, disappearances, and other acts of cruelty at the hands of Myanmar’s police and security forces.
Witnesses testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food.”
The investigators concluded that Myanmar may be guilty of crimes against humanity.
The mission head, Linnea Arvidsson, said that the testimonies are similar to ethnic cleansing.
Therefore, Myanmar cannot have the luxury of time to conduct another investigation as hundreds more could die while the military investigates itself.
Myanmar has not shown any remorse to the butchering of the minority Rohingya.
Neither does it have the political will to stop the killings.
It’s therefore imminent that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been vocal in his condemnation of Myanmar, leads an ASEAN campaign to exert pressure on the rogue state to immediately stop the violence.
ASEAN governments must now strengthen their call for human rights accountability, an independent investigation, access to humanitarian aid, access to diplomats, the media, lawmakers, and other key stakeholders to visit Arakan and the rights of refugees.
ASEAN civil society must take up a more vocal role in voicing their concerns about crimes against humanity and push for protection mechanisms for the Rohingya to be put in place immediately.
As suggested by Arvidsson, the UN Human Rights Council must refer the senseless violence perpetrated against the minority community to the UN Security Council, which in turn has the power to recommend the issue to be taken up at the International Criminal Court.
It is also imperative that an arms embargo be imposed on Myanmar. Also, senior military officials involved in committing the atrocities should be immediately suspended and investigated for crimes against humanity.
This is the time for foreign governments, corporates, media, political leaders, interfaith groups, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and ASEAN parliamentarians to come together to oppose the grave travesty of human rights against the Rohingya.
If we do not act now, thousands more will die as the Burmese military will continue to kill with impunity.