The irony is cruel. The persecution
of the Rohingyas has intensified in Myanmar with the change of guard — from
the junta to a democratic dispensation under Aung San Suu Kyi. The democratic
world had expected quite the contrary, if not a distinct measure of improvement
in the condition of the stateless minorities of Rakhine province — a wandering
group near the Bangladesh border… floundering in search of a home. The latest
offensive by the Myanmarese military is strangely of a piece with Suu Kyi’s
silence on the issue ahead of the momentous transition early this year. No less
deafening must be her muted response at this juncture.
Now that she is in power, though
not as President, there can be no compelling reason to almost tacitly condone
the offensive.The plot thickens as satellite images have revealed the
destruction of no fewer than 820 homes in the three weeks of this month. In the
net, the Rohingyas have been displaced further still in course of what has been
packaged as “counter-insurgency operation”.
We do not know what the provocation
for the latest onslaught was. Yet we do know that Human Rights Watch has called
for the UN’s intervention, asserting
that “these alarming new satellite images confirm that the destruction
in Rohingya villages is far greater than what the government has admitted”.
Human rights is at stake as must be
the purportedly democratic government’s credibility. The withers of the Suu Kyi
administration in Naypidaw remain unwrung. Far from coming to the rescue of the
minorities, the government has acknowledged that helicopter gunships were used
in support of ground troops in the military operations. The civil
administration must have been privy to the army’s action, indeed an offensive
that has made a travesty of the democratic engagement.
Thus far, the government and GHQ
have advanced only an unsubstantiated charge — that nine police officers were
killed by “unidentified assailants” on the Bangladesh border. On closer
reflection, the junta doesn’t play the second fiddle in the overall construct
and it will be painful for the democratic bloc, not least India, to reflect
that the post-transition government has been thoroughly insensitive to the
stepped-up persecution. Its silence runs parallel to the military offensive.
It becomes direly imperative for
Myanmar to stop the offensive and no less crucially to grant citizenship to the
Rohingyas, who have lived in Rakhine for generations. Persecution is the thread
that binds the generations, and the democratic change of guard has done but little
to assuage the suffering of the stateless.
Actually, however, there has been a
palpable worsening of the human rights situation. And this must be contextualised with the caveat of
Human Rights Watch — “The government should simply look at the facts and take
action to protect all people in Myanmar, whatever their religion or ethnicity”.