The US Called Out Myanmar's Crimes Against The Rohingya a Genocide, but Are Words Merely Enough?
Updated: Jun 2
Written by Zainul Mostafa, Research & Advocacy Analyst of Bait Al Amanah
Recently, the United States officially declared the Myanmar military acts committed against the Rohingya community amounted as crimes against humanity and genocide. This declaration is ground-breaking and provided a sense of hope to the Rohingya community. For many decades-long, the Rohingya people have been murdered, raped, persecuted, and forced to leave their homes and country. Amidst all these tensions, the international community has remained silent until very recently. The major superpowers have a strong influence not only on the world order but also in influencing public opinions and shaping public discourse, acknowledging issues, and exerting pressure on other countries and groups. The silence of the US and the Western powers in the past has not only perpetuated the Rohingya crisis, but additionally, it further fueled the ambitions of the Myanmar military to exterminate the Rohingyan people. We have seen rife outcries and swift responses by the US and the Western pact regarding the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Equivalently the Rohingya crisis deserves the same level of dejection and disapproval had there been no double-standard practice by the bigger powers.
When one of the world's leading superpowers made recognition of an issue, it surely signals a significant matter. The declaration will have implications, but it gives optimism to Rohingyas that one day the criminals who have inflicted pain and maltreatment will be brought before retributive justice. During the 2017 campaign of terror, almost two-thirds of the Rohingya population were forced to flee Myanmar. A whole generation of the Rohingya people was terrorized and traumatized and this generation of Rohingya now feels that their pain and sufferings are finally seen and heard by the international community.
The Myanmar military has done almost everything within its power to systematically suppress the Rohingyas in Myanmar. The Junta has brought in policies that prohibit the Rohingyas from enjoying the basic citizenship rights which their fellow citizens could enjoy greatly. Rules are created to prohibit the Rohingyas from leaving their town, and the result of the rules violation is arrest and detention. The number of Rohingyas in detention and prison is also very high, which is no surprise, considering the barbarism displayed by the Myanmar Junta. Many restrictions were put on us to marry and procreate, and we are not provided access to education, health, and basic life necessities. Following the military coup in Myanmar that occurred in February 2021, the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar are further subjected to strict policies and different forms of violence.
In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees live in camps that are unfortunately very displeasing and lack basic life necessities. The main reasons why the Rohingyas’ lives become even more threatening as refugees are that they are not allowed to work, travel and study. The stagnant life progress will cause these Rohingya refugees to come to an impasse and ruin their future. Some of these refugees try to make a living by taking risks to go to other countries such as Malaysia by sea route and thus risked in facing severe consequences such as falling into the hands of human traffickers and facing fatal circumstances.
The recognition of our suffering is remarkable, but we are expecting further vocal actions to garner stronger support from the international community. Given the longstanding history of the Rohingya crisis, I believe we have come past the time when only recognition matters. It's about time the US should match its own words by championing efforts and taking actions in favour of the Rohingya people. The US as a major power should try to convince the UN Security Council to charge the military leaders who are responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Rohingya in the International Criminal Court (ICC). While the case brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is seen as a progressive step, taking it to the International Criminal Court will produce more effective results in ways that the Myanmar Junta can be made despondent by depriving its weapons such as arms embargos and imposing financial sanctions. The generals of the Junta will be facing huge losses when financial sanctions and penalties are imposed on them. It is high time that the US acts strategically as part of its foreign policy move thus regaining the trust it has once obtained as a reliable partner on the international stage.