Independent probe into Myanmar?

Independent probe into Myanmar?
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is currently visiting Myanmar to monitor the crisis in the region. Over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the region..

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is currently visiting Myanmar to monitor the crisis in the region. Over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the region since August amid reports of violence by the military. Tillerson has called for an independent investigation into Myanmar's Rohingya crisis.

Background

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. Their origin can be traced back to the 15th century when thousands settled in Myanmar from the Arakan Kingdom. Practicing a variation of Sunni Islam, there is reportedly one million Rohingya in Myanmar. The government of Myanmar has, however, refused to recognize them as one of its ethnic groups. They do not get legal protection from the government. The processes for them to get a citizenship is incredibly hard and often impossible.

Given their persecution, thousands have fled the region in boats. Due to violent riots, since 2012, over 110,000 Rohingya left Myanmar and headed to countries like Thailand and Malaysia. The number of refugees increased exponentially in 2015. Thein Sein, the Burmese President from 2011 to 2016 did little to offer relief to Rohingya.

According to those who fled the region, a fresh bout of violence erupted in Myanmar on August 25th, 2017. Over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the region as a direct result of it. In September, Myanmar blocked all United Nations aid agencies from delivering vital supplies of food, water, and medicine to those affected.

For the first time in eight years, the UN held its first public meeting on the situation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the violence in the region has "spiraled into the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare." He added, “We've received bone-chilling accounts from those who fled, mainly women, children and the elderly.”

Analysis

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is currently visiting Myanmar to monitor the crisis in the region. Over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the region since August amid reports of violence by the military. Tillerson has called for an independent investigation into Myanmar's Rohingya crisis.

Tillerson met with the de-facto leader of Myanmar, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military. Earlier there had been reports that US was deciding over whether or not to impose sanctions on Myanmar as more Rohingya Muslims flee the region. However, Tillerson revealed that sanctions were not on the table stating, “Broad-based economic sanctions against the entire country is not something that I think would be advisable at this time. We want to see Myanmar succeed.”

After his meeting with Aung Sang Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military, Tillerson called for an independent investigation. "Scenes of what occurred are just horrific," he told reporters, adding that it was the biggest crisis Myanmar faced since the transition from military rule. He added, “The US would continue to support Myanmar's transition to democracy, he said, adding: "We want to see Myanmar succeed... I have a hard time seeing how [sanctions] helps resolve this crisis.”

Aung Sang Suu Kyi also addressed the mounting criticism against her. Critics (including former Nobel Peace Prize winners) have condemned her alleged silence towards the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims. She has denied that she has been compliant to the crisis adding “I don’t know why people say I have been silent, I haven’t been silent. what people mean is what I say is not interesting enough.”

On Tuesday, the Myanmar army released the results of an internal investigation in which it exonerated itself of blame regarding the Rohingya crisis. However, reports from the ground (including eye witness accounts published in media portals like the BBC) contradict the finding of the official investigation. Amnesty International said the army's report was an attempted "whitewash" and called for UN fact finders to be allowed into the region. It is possibly the reason why Tillerson has asked for an independent probe into the matter. UN's human rights chief said the situation on the ground seemed like a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Assessment

Our assessment is that the current Rohingya crisis is one of the most severe humanitarian crisis that South Asia has faced in recent times. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled the region to countries like Bangladesh now lies in the balance. An independent investigation will be able to provide some key answers.  

Comments