For the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar, the November 8 elections do not carry with them the promise of respite from ethnic and religious persecution. The silence by celebrated human rights activist and the current opposition leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, on the continued violence against the unrecognized ethnic minority, only serves to highlight the pervasiveness of hatred against the Rohingya throughout Myanmar.
The 1982 Citizenship laws of the South-East Asian state do not recognize the Rohingya as one of the 135 recognized ethnic groups, meaning that most Rohingya are unable to obtain citizenship and the civil rights that being a recognized group entails. Despite the fact that most Rohingya cannot vote, government policies against the Rohingya people remain a hot button issue, with Suu Kyi’s party being accused of supporting the Muslim minority.
Suu Kyi’s words were very carefully chosen, as she addressed the crowd in the state of Rakhine, the site of much of the 2012 violence during which 88 were killed, over 10,000 displaced and thousands of properties were destroyed.
“It is very important that all people, regardless of race and religion, living [here] must be safe… we can have peace in our country only if the people feel safe both mentally and physically,” Suu Kyi said during last week’s rally.
Suu Kyi’s failure to outwardly criticize the human rights abuses against the Rohingya, has also been sharply criticized by the international community, especially in light of her position as a highly influential Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Aung San Suu Kyi is a necessary voice in the global discussion of the situation within Myanmar. The crisis facing the Rohingya is reaching stratospheric proportion, with the situation within Burma being described by observers from the Simon-Skjodt Centre for the Prevention of Genocide as fulfilling the preconditions for genocide.
A group from the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide traveled to Burma [Myanmar] and returned saying, “so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. With a recent history of mass atrocities and within a pervasive climate of hatred and fear, the Rohingya may once again become the target of mass atrocities, including genocide.”
Of the thousands who flee persecution in Myanmar, through human traffickers, hundreds do not survive the journey. The Rohingya have frequently been described as the most persecuted minority in the modern world, and the failure of the regional and international community to act swiftly and humanely was illustrated in the recent Rohingya Refugee Crisis. The inaction by Aung San Suu Kyi does not startle in the face of the consensus within the predominantly Buddhist state, that the Muslim minority are a threat to their existence. Ultimately, Suu Kyi is running to be the second democratically elected leader of this country, and the attacks against her by Buddhist nationals that she is supporting Muslims over the Buddhist population, have prompted her silence in the face of human adversity. If Suu Kyi fulfills her mission of democracy in her beloved home, her actions as a leader will be the true test of stance on the Rohingya, with her record on human rights, her leadership could heal the wounds left by the military regime.
Written by Sahra Magan