Right now, more than 600,000 Rohingya of Myanmar are cramped into crowded refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, leaving everything behind in a desperate bid to reach safety. These victims were forced to flee from their homes in neighbouring Rakhine state by the actions and brutality of Myanmar’s security forces and troops, forces that turned their weapons on the Muslim minority, aiding and abetting other Myanmarese as they burned homes, torched mosques, looted businesses and shop and engaged in a killing spree of frenetic proportions.
Instead of assisting the Rohingya, the security forces opened fire, killing innocent families by the thousands. It’s hard to know how many Rohingya were killed. Myanmar has cracked down on humanitarian aid and rights’ groups who might shed an objective light into this darkest of many chapters in that nation’s turbulent politics and history. As far the United Nations is concerned, the government overseen by Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi engaged in a classic case of ethnic cleansing. It has embarked on a deliberate and meticulously planned and executed policy of genocide — to the point that Myanmar’s border forces laid anti-personnel mines, a horrible weaponry that indiscriminately kills and maims those who cross their path as the Rohingya tried to reach the Bangladesh border. The silence from Suu Kyi, her government, and the generals who talk of reform on one hand while brutalising innocent victims on the other, and every soldier or bureaucrat in Naypyitaw, is truly deafening.
Last Wednesday, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the junta’s showcase city. But instead of holding back, Tillerson let fly with both barrels, issuing a crushing and rightful condemnation of the actions of the Suu Kyi government and its forces. “We are deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine state,” he said, a stinging rebuke to the Nobel laureate and her government. His words came too as the UN detailed more allegations of mass rape, killings and abuse by Myanmar’s security forces after interviewing refugees now cowering in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh.
Tillerson has called for a credible investigation into the events that unfolded in Rakhine since mid-August. That is a call that must be taken up by the UN and international justice officials. What happened in Rakhine is a crime against humanity, and those responsible must be brought to justice.