LONDON: More must be done by the international community to come to the aid of the Rohingya people and more pressure must be put on Myanmar to reform its behavior, experts said on Friday.
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim and Prof. Michael Charney, speaking at a webinar hosted by the Arab News Research & Studies Unit (ANRSU) and SOAS University of London, concluded that without international pressure the future looked bleak for the Rohingya.
The panelists said much of the response from other countries, especially in the West, to the plight of the Rohingya — which they said bore all the hallmarks of genocide — had been shaped by a belief that Myanmar, under the civilian rule of Aung San Suu Kyi, is on the path to a functioning democracy and a fear that any substantial pressure would bring a return to full military rule as seen before 2011.
But this is not the case, according to Ibrahim and Charney, who were discussing a recent ANRSU report written by Ibrahim titled “What next for the Rohingya?”
Suu Kyi is “not concerned” about the Rohingya or any other ethnic minority, Charney said. He added that a myth had been built up around her in the West, and that the only chance of a positive outcome for the minority in Myanmar would be a forceful challenging of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government and the removal of an “ineffective and opportunistic leader” in Suu Kyi.
Bangladesh has hosted fleeing Rohingya Muslims since 2017 in Cox’s Bazar and more recently on Bhasan Char island and it is playing an active role in helping the Rohingya, according to Ibrahim. But it is under pressure with more than one million refugees within its borders costing $900 million a year to look after, as well as waning good will from Bangladeshis toward the Rohingya.
Ibrahim said that, in the long term, the absorption of the Rohingya into Bangladeshi society — and other sympathetic societies in Asia such as Malaysia and Indonesia — is one solution to the crisis, but this would require assistance from the international community.
While this outcome would likely lead to the diminishing, or even eradication, of the Rohingya identity, he said it was the “most practical outcome.”
Both panelists agreed that the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling in a case of genocide brought forward by The Gambia was a powerful tool and that the court’s actions had to be supported by the international community, something Ibrahim called the “easiest” and “most realistic” way other countries could support the Rohingya, who currently have no global lobbyists working in their favor.
Both Charney and Ibrahim said an overhaul of how Myanmar was governed at a political and societal level was vital if the Rohingya were to be allowed to return home, where they are currently denied citizenship or inclusion in the electoral process.
This could be achieved through targeted sanctioning of Myanmar’s wealthy military leaders and their assets through the Magnitsky Act, something that Ibrahim noted has worked in other parts of the world.
Charney also said persuading China — which has traditionally sided with the NLD and military rulers in the Rohingya issue — to pressure Myanmar to play more active role in returning the Rohingya and including them in the country’s political process could also have an impact.
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