Help the helpless

That could resemble the precursors to the genocide in 1994 with systematic discrimination, hate propaganda, violence and exclusion that neither the local community nor authorities seems interested in preventing. It is time for the international society to get involved.

Peace-agreement overturned
Myanmar opened up to the world community in 2011 after nearly 50 years under a brutal military dictatorship. The current government, led by President Thein Sein, has implemented a variety of reforms to bring the country towards democracy and the international society has responded supportively with removing trade sanctions and speeding up investments. The authorities and ethnic minorities of Myanmar are now working for a nationwide peace-agreement, but the conflict between the Rohingya Muslims and nationalistic Buddhists in Rakhine threaten to overturn the entire peace process.

Systematic Discrimination
Since 2012 the Rohingyas have been exposed to violent attacks from nationalistic Buddhists who perceive them as illegal immigrants that they want out of the country. 120,000 have been forced to flee within Myanmar and now live under prison-like conditions with limited freedom of movement and lack of access to basic healthcare in what was supposed to be temporary refugee camps. UNs special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, reviles a situation where Rohingyas are exposed to systematic discrimination and human rights violations from the local community, authorities and security forces.

In January 48 Rohingyas became victims of a massacre the authorities denies having taken place. In February Medecins Sans Frontieres, as the most important contributor in health assistance to Rohingyas, was expelled from Rakhine by authorities. Last week a range of NGOs in Rakhine were attacked by locals in what is speculated to be an organized attack against organizations that are helping the Rohingyas. At one side are the nationalistic Buddhists who fire up under turbulent sentiments in the local community with hate propaganda and violent protests, on the other side are the authorities who allow and maintain the systematic discrimination. The political opposition has not shown will to act on behalf of the Rohingyas, and prominent politicians like Aung San Suu Kyi has remained silent on what is going on. It is feared that the situation will escalate further and disturb the entire peace process.

When not the locals, the authorities or the political opposition will engage on behalf of the Rohingyas, who will? It is about time that international actors get engaged in the serious human rights violations that are being committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar. It is about time that international actors make stronger demands and use their political influence to put a stop to the gruesome situation the helpless Rohingyas now live within.


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