Last month, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims came into the focus of the world media with the heart-wrenching images of them being stranded at sea.
Following these harrowing scenes, many people across the world came to know the details of the humanitarian crisis they have been through: their villages have been torched, hundreds of thousands of them were forced from their homes and crammed into concentration camps while some others were forced into slavery. Ultimately, these dire circumstances left this minority group no better option than getting on leaky boats and fleeing for better shores.
Now the international community is savvy about this outrage that offended every reasonable conscience by means of international press coverage and social media. While desperate men, women and innocent children are being caged in their own country, deprived of any essential needs, stranded at sea or held for ransom in a nearby jungle, this worldwide awareness will surely bring some prospects of a better future for the Rohingya people.
However, being aware of the problem in no way contributes to tackling their plight or the mass migration it entails. Efforts to resolve the issue must be profound and permanent, and they must address the root causes rather than simply providing interim relief.
Looked at from this perspective, the odds of any resolution seems very dim. Why?
The main party responsible for this atrocity is the government of Myanmar. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur for Burma, says that human rights abuses committed by Myanmar's security forces against the Rohingya are widespread and systematic. And with a recent official declaration, the government of Myanmar stated quite bluntly that it has no intention of softening its stance against the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority.
This was a clear message that the government would not curb its grotesque human rights violations, and that message echoed loud and clear in the international media.
Despite having lived in Myanmar for many generations, the Myanmar government does not acknowledge Rohingya Muslims as Burmese and denies them the rights of citizenship. They are confined to specific areas where they can live and work under inhumane conditions. Even humanitarian assistance by international aid groups to these ghettoised people is forbidden by the state authorities in Myanmar.
Despite this policy adopted by Myanmar, some Western states and the Asean countries have made great efforts to promote Myanmar, which was until quite recently a military dictatorship, as a rising star of democracy.
However, during the peak of violence against the Rohingya, Human Rights Watch brought evidence of their pronounced affliction: “The October attacks were against Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities and were organised, incited, and committed by local Arakanese political party operatives, the Buddhist monkhood and ordinary Arakanese, at times directly supported by state security forces.
“Rohingya men, women and children were killed, some were buried in mass graves, and their villages and neighbourhoods were razed.”
It is not possible to forget the instances of recurrent assault and genocide committed to eliminate the entire Muslim population living in the country.
Then how can the so-called forerunners of democracy be deaf and dumb to this apparent extermination, which is actually deteriorating all pillars of human rights?
The reason for such gilded grandstanding of democracy is not hard to imagine: economic interests. Many countries, among them China, the Asean countries and the United States being among the foremost, are most eager to reap the rewards of Asia’s largest – and the last, except for North Korea – untapped market.
Those governments and corporations seeking economic benefits, especially the manufacturing industries, consider Myanmar a new playing field for access to low-cost labor.
As we can clearly see, it is flagrant economic self-interest that explains the motive behind the efforts to burnish Myanmar's democratic credentials while simultaneously ignoring the obvious and horrific state-sanctioned discrimination against the Rohingya Muslims.
First off, the international community must make its presence more keenly felt on the government of Myanmar. Through economic sanctions focused on Myanmar’s newly-flourishing and key industries, the Myanmar government can be compelled to soften its discriminatory policies against its own minority and persuaded to stop brutalising them.
The US and the European countries play this trump card when it comes to a country like Russia, so the fact that it is not played against Burma clearly reveals the course of action taken by the interest-ridden Western countries and multinational corporations.
While providing humanitarian aid to the Rohingya Muslims is a must, we must be aware that such actions can only be a source of temporary relief. The ultimate goal must be to eliminate the root cause of the problem and provide a durable solution to give the Rohingya Muslims the quality of life that every human being deserves in this world.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Malaysian Insider & Rohingya Blogger: