Rights group askes to act now to avoid Rohingya genocide
A rights group monitoring the welfare of the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar have called on the international community to take action in order to prevent a “genocide” from taking place in the country.
The Rohingya, which numbers about one million among Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist 52 million population, have lived in Myanmar for generations.
However, most people view them as foreign intruders from Bangladesh which, while hosting many Rohingya refugees, refuses to recognise them as citizens.
Dozens of Rohingya Muslims have been killed since early October when the army launched a crackdown after an attack killed nine police officers. According to UN estimates, 30,000 people have fled in the recent violence, and some refugees have accused the Myanmar military of committing rights abuses, including torture, rape and murder.
“I think it is reasonable right now to be talking about genocide prevention in Myanmar,” Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“We do know that widespread and systematic human rights violations have been perpetrated for a very long time, and there’s been a very grave uptick of those since October.
“We’ve seen genocidal rhetoric coming out of state media in recent weeks. It should spur some action.” Smith also criticised the Western government’s inaction, saying many are “fairly intoxicated with this narrative of political reform” to the extent that the Rohingya situation is “overlooked”.
His comments came after Al Jazeera learnt Bangladesh authorities had been turning back Rohingya men at the border while allowing in women and children based on their need. More than 10,000 people have already crossed into Bangladesh in the last two months, a UN report had said.
Al Jazeera’s Maher Sattar, reporting from Cox’s Bazar near the Myanmar border on Thursday, said that “due to humanitarian concerns, some people are being allowed” in.
“There is no real criteria, it is more an ad-hoc decision-making process, where border guards see someone, and they feel that this person is really suffering, it’s usually women and children, and they let them through,” he said citing border guards. “But most of the men get turned back.”
‘But “on the whole” the Bangladesh government remain “antagonistic” towards Rohingya refugees, pushing them back to Myanmar, he added. Those of having managed to cross the border into Bangladesh have sought shelter at an unofficial Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, where there are 200,000 Rohingya refugees already.