Myanmar claims “no evidence” of crimes against humanity in shameful military cover-up

Military authorities in Myanmar have claimed that the UN’s multiple allegations of abuse of the Rohingya community are “fabricated.” Meanwhile, refugees continue to suffer across the region.

By Oliver Ward

The plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar is again being denied and ignored as a military investigation has declared there is no evidence of the crimes against humanity alleged by the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR).

At best this is negligence on the part of Myanmar’s government. At worst this is a deliberate cover up designed to hide the horrors described by the more than 90,000 Rohingyas that have already fled the country.

Myanmar’s Army officials maintain their refusal to admit to any wrongdoing

The OHCHR report included an accusation that a six-year old, a five-year-old and an eight-month-old were slaughtered with a knife. It also contained accusations of gang rape and the destruction of schools, mosques and shops by the Burmese military.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi assured the world that the military would conduct a thorough and credible investigation in the wake of these attacks. Army Chief Aye Win has just completed his enquiries and predictably declared the allegations repeated by the United Nations reports to be fabricated.

“Out of the 18 accusations included in the OHCHR report, 12 were found to be incorrect, with [the] remaining six accusations  found to be false and fabricated accusations based on lies and invented statements”, a military approved statement read.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch said the Myanmar military is covering up abuses. “Their duty is to cover up what’s happened there, not to expose this” as “blanket denial of wrongdoing is one of their [the Myanmar military] old tactics”, he explained.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s resistance to external, impartial investigations by the United Nations shows she has no interest in factfinding. This makes her conduct as condonable as those in the military instigating the coverup.

Where are the Rohingya refugees now?

Bangladesh 500,000
Pakistan 350,000
Saudi Arabia 200,000
Malaysia 150,000
India 14,000
UAE 10,000
Thailand 5,000

(Source: Al Jazeera)

The latest estimates  suggest 94,000 people have been forced from their homes as a result of ongoing violence. This includes approximately 74,000 people who have gone into Bangladesh and 20,000 people that have fled to the northern part of Maungdaw Township. There are also 226 Rakhine and Mro evacuees who continue to be hosted at two locations in Maungdaw Township.

Rohingya people are no more welcome in Bangladesh than Myanmar

While the Myanmar leadership continues to close its eyes to the struggles of the Rohingya their persecution continues. In Bangladesh, recent reports say Rohingya people that have fled for their lives are not getting the same level of medical care as Bangladeshis.

Fighting continues in Kachin, Shan and Kayin states. This is pushing more internally displaced people to move into disease-ridden camps with limited access to healthcare.

Dr Nur Kabir, a Rohingya doctor operating in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, described how “when Rohingya people went to non-Rohingya doctors they were not given proper treatment”.

Many Rohingya made the dangerous journey into Bangladesh aboard boats. They often endure months at sea in the Bay of Bengal at the mercy of unscrupulous people smugglers before arriving in Thailand, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

Medical provisions are in short supply in the camps these people come to live in. The army is no longer blockading the Rakhine state but there are still only limited supplies available.

Kabir said he has been  forced to risk his life. He returned to his wrecked village in Myanmar to bring all the medicine he could across the border. He has also used credit to get low-cost drugs and then charged his patients a small fee for medical services.

The Rohingya who fled now face persecution in their new host countries

Life in Thailand is no easier for fleeing Rohingya people. Policies pursued by the Thai government have led to scores of Rohingya deaths. The Thai military have towed boatloads of Rohingya out to international waters and set them adrift with little food or water. The bodies of refugees were washing up on beaches across the region.

The Malaysian government has sent aid to support Rohingya communities. This has not been welcomed. Buddhist monks and demonstrators greeted the March arrival of a large aid ship with signs which read “No Rohingya.” Myanmar authorities were originally not even going to allow the boat into their waters.

The remaining Muslim population in Myanmar are facing serious restrictions

The Muslims who have remained in Myanmar are facing intense restrictions on where they can practice their faith. Islamic schools have been chained shut. The government has placed severe restrictions on the construction of religious buildings.

As an example, a Buddhist mob pressured local authorities in the Thaketa township of Rangoon to close the religious schools. They have not been reopened. The people of the township now have to walk for several hours to reach a mosque from which they can practice their faith.

If a peace agreement were reached, conditions for Myanmar’s children might improve

A decent peace agreement is the Rohingya’s best hope for a settled life, but harmony still eludes Aung San Suu Kyi. The latest round of talks have begun but there is little reason for optimism. Violence is increasing in the north of the country and key players like the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) were not even present for the negotiations.

The current position of the Rohingya make them the most persecuted people on the planet. Their screams fall on unsympathetic ears as host countries turn on helpless families seeking sanctuary. As the humanitarian situation worsens, when will Aung San Suu Kyi make meaningful progress to address the situation? How many more Rohingya children must die?