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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Still seeking justice

THE NEWS

The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority based in the Rakhine province of Myanmar, are still a long way off from achieving justice and rights as citizens of Myanmar. After the 2017 genocide, 90,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh where they have been housed in squalid camps with too few resources to sustain them, the parallel government set up in Myanmar by former legislators has asked the Rohingya to join the fight against the military junta which seized power in February this year after overthrowing the NLD government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Rohingya have been told by the shadow government that they will be given citizenship, denied to them since 1982, if they join in the struggle and that the law will be altered to grant Myanmar citizenship to all persons born in the country regardless of ethnicity or other issues.

While some human rights activists have welcomed this step, there are some things that must be remembered. The Rohingya were discarded by Myanmar's people at a time when they were being killed across the country. Even Suu Kyi herself shocked people in 2019 when she went to the International Court of Justice defending the military actions against the Rohingya. After that crisis, when Rohingya were cast into the sea in boats and forced to fend for themselves with many dying in these journeys, they are now being asked to help Myanmar's mainstream parties fight the military which has taken charge. While no one wishes to see the military junta, which has already killed over 800 people in Myanmar remain in power, one does wonder at how conveniently they have been suddenly remembered as people of Myanmar by political actors that had deprived them of such status for so many years. Citizenship is a basic right that should be granted to them anyway, no matter what they decide to do. The spokesperson for the Rohingya people has said the prospect is being considered.

Meanwhile, across the region, persons guilty of crimes against Rohingya are being punished and the crimes committed being looked into. Many of them involve human trafficking of various kinds and the deliberate death of Rohingya people after boats were in danger of capsizing. In Thailand, Malaysia, and in other countries, people are being brought to justice for this. But the Rohingya themselves are still in search of justice. And there is no sign as yet that it is coming their way anytime soon, even while their country now faces a new crisis, which could lead to more deaths, and has shown people what injustice and genocide can mean for people and families.

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