South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Myanmar must be held accountable for its crimes first

The permanent representative of Bangladesh to the UN has presented to a Security Council Open Debate the idea of reconciliation as a critical enabler to resolve the Rohingya crisis which is noble yet rather optimistic in the otherwise dismal reality. Referring to various successful models in other countries, Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to adopt reconciliation strategies in a transparent, objective manner and by including the whole of society. The permanent representative has talked about a dialogue between the Rohingyas, the rest of Myanmar society and the Myanmar authorities. He has also called upon Myanmar to promote active participation of women and young people and ensure accountability and justice for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

While this would be the most desirable conclusion to this man-made human catastrophe, we cannot help but wonder how realistic it is given the fact that Myanmar has shown no sign of getting off its high horse and even trying to find a reasonable solution to the crisis they themselves have created. Bangladesh has done way more than its fair share in tackling the Rohingya crisis. Apart from hosting close to a million Rohingya for over two years at huge environmental and economic cost, it has also complied with whatever demands Myanmar has made including providing a list of Rohingya refugees. The international community has provided huge funds and humanitarian aid to the refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Kofi Annan Commission, endorsed by Bangladesh, has given clear conditions under which repatriation will be possible. Now a case has been filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to try Myanmar’s genocidal campaign against the Rohingya. Yet all this has fallen on deaf ears as far as the Myanmar authorities are concerned.

So far Myanmar has not shown any sign of being sincere about a safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya refugees nor has it been able to convince the international community that conditions in the Rakhine State are any different from the time of the Rohingya exodus. On the contrary, the head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.” Myanmar, moreover, has denied the atrocities and has audaciously stated that it will contest against the case filed at the ICJ.

Considering such an obdurate stance by Myanmar, a reconciliation strategy does seem a little farfetched. At this point consistent pressure on Myanmar to accept its culpability in committing genocide and sincerely creating a safe, conducive environment for the Rohingya refugees to voluntarily return, seem to be more realistic.


Updated On: November 22, 2019