Fall from grace
The events in Burma have been particularly shocking and the plight of the Rohingya people particularly dire. Thousands have fled their homes into neighbouring Bangladesh and many thousands have been shot, drowned, tortured, raped or burned alive in their homes as the Burmese army seems to be conducting a programme of what amounts to a crime against humanity. The violence appears to be indiscriminate and has been condemned by the UN and human rights agencies. Amnesty has published details giving background to the conflict.
Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organisations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life. Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response.
A representative from Crisis Response said:
The Myanmar authorities are obliged under international law to treat all those living in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya, without discrimination. Instead they have chosen to treat a whole population as an enemy which may be attacked, killed, deprived of homes and uprooted indiscriminately. The Daily Star (5 September)
Of particular sadness is the role of the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been silent up to now while these appalling events have taken place and is now claiming that there is a ‘huge iceberg of misinformation’ and that the army are responding to terrorist attacks. There have been some attacks but the scale and ferocity of the army response is far beyond what is reasonable.
Many of us remember the years we followed the imprisonment and house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and were cheered when she was released. Her peace prize was well merited but there are calls now that it should be withdrawn. Many Amnesty members would have written letters urging her release. It is heartbreaking to see her at the head of the government making unsupported claims about what is going on in Rakhine State and not speaking out about the terrible actions against the Rohingya.
As ever the British government seems less than energetic in its approach to this crisis in a former colony.
For far too long, British policy toward Burma has deferred heavily to the views of its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was at it again at the weekend, suggesting she use her “remarkable qualities” to unite her country and stop the violence in Burma’s western Rakhine State, which, he said, afflicts “both Muslims and other communities.” This after a fortnight in which hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been reported killed, their homes burnt to the ground, and more than 120,000 desperate people have fled for their lives to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the vicious brutality of the Burmese security forces. This followed a coordinated attack by Rohingya militants on two dozen police and border posts in late August. Security force operations in response to the attacks last year were described by the United Nations as very likely crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch (6 September)
The British government could do a lot more including pressing the Burmese to make the Rohingya citizens of the country. They should also press them to allow aid agencies unrestricted access. Religious freedom should be allowed.
The Burmese government is hoping to persuade the Russians and Chinese to frustrate any sanctions by the UN and Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted to be in conversation with President Erdogan of Turkey – hardly an exemplar of good behaviour.
If you live in the Salisbury area and would like to join us then a good time would be on Monday 18th at Sarum College where Ice and Fire are performing free.