Myanmar’s ‘genocide’ comes into closer view


Rohingya refugees perform prayers as they attend a ceremony organised to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2018. PHOTO/AFP/Dibyangshu Sarkar

At the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, Rohingya are crying out for justice. A new UN fact-finding report is a meaningful step in that direction

On August 25, along a muddy road outside the Kutupalong refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh, hundreds of young Rohingya Muslim men and boys marched together through a light morning rain chanting: “We are Rohingya. We want our country.”

Most of the boys wore homemade red bandanas cut from old cloth, while two teenagers at the back of the procession held a sign saying “Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day.”

Noor Allah, 30, sat under an awning at a nearby teashop watching the young men march past. He could not join the protest because he still suffers pain in his left hip from a bullet wound he suffered when the Myanmar army stormed his village on the night of August 30, 2017.

“Thirty villagers were killed that night,” he said. “I lost two of my uncles.”

Noor says he survived by wiping his face with blood and pretending to be dead when the soldiers checked the bodies. Once they passed, he fled into the jungle with his brother, never looking back to see his home.

For ten days, he nursed his injury as he waded through the jungle without food or clean water, searching for the Bangladesh border. Like more than 700,000 other refugees who fled the violence beginning last August, he has come to accept his new life in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Noor pointed to the stream of men and boys marching up the muddy street.

“We heard that in Myanmar, they are celebrating the one year anniversary,” he said. “They are saying that Rohingya should not be allowed to return. But we are protesting here to tell them that we remember our homes.”

The morning march was part of a coordinated protest across the camps that saw tens of thousands of Rohingya join in the largest political demonstration since their mass exodus from Myanmar began one year ago.

“We demand justice,” shouted a fourteen year-old boy who was marching with his friends. Like many other protesters, he was wearing a red headband and had a red shirt with a handwritten message: “August 25, Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day.” “So we will walk to the border and tell Myanmar what we think. We will send a message to the world.”

The international community is starting to respond more forcefully to those dire calls.

A United Nations mandated fact-finding mission released a report on August 27 recommending that Myanmar’s military leaders, including the commander in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for their various actions in ethnic minority areas.

The report drew on over a year’s worth of interviews and research and calls into question the Myanmar government’s and military’s consistent denials security forces committed atrocities during their clampdown in Rakhine state.

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