It is always difficult to know exactly what is happening in Myanmar, particularly when eye-witness accounts and reliable reports are dismissed by the Naypyidaw government as ‘misinformation’ and ‘fake news’, when false images of atrocities are posted on the web alongside genuine ones, when statistics vary wildly, and when passion and propaganda compete for attention in the international news media with informed and objective analysis.
That said, it is clear that with respect to the current Rohingya crisis, developments in Myanmar over the past year can only be described as a disaster for all concerned, that will have far-reaching consequences. There will be no winners. Everyone loses.
Those who stand to lose most are the Rohingyas, as the stateless Muslims concentrated in Myanmar’s Rakhine State call themselves. Attacks against three police posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in October 2016, and against 30 police posts and an army post this August, have resulted in a massive security crackdown. An unknown number of Rohingya villages have been destroyed by the army, police and Buddhist vigilantes. There have been an estimated 1000 deaths, almost all Rohingyas, and up to 275,000 have fled to makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh.
These developments have been a political and personal disaster for Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader. Since the security forces launched their ‘area clearance operations’ in 2016, she has been condemned for failing to speak out against human rights abuses, described by the UN as ‘devastating cruelty’, possibly even ‘crimes against humanity’ bordering on genocide. More recently, foreign commentators have been scathing in their criticisms of her clumsy attempts to deny the latest atrocities and shift the blame for the unfolding humanitarian nightmare. Calls for her to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize are growing louder.
Please click here to read the full “A big step back for Myanmar” article in The Interpreter by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Associate Professor, Dr Andrew Selth.