Burma desperately needs to improve international standings but will it really recognise Rohingyas as equal citizens.
Burma Times Special Report: January 4, 2015
The UN general assembly resolution of December 30 urging Burma to recognise Rohingyas gives the beleaguered community basically everything it aspires for – – rights on par with all other citizens of the country. By contrast it urges Burma to do everything it wants not to do. So naturally the question arises if Burma will abide by the resolution.
An UN general assembly resolution is difficult for any country to ignore, even when the country is Burma. Additionally though once an international pariah, Burma has opened up to the world, especially the western world. So Burma is not in the same league as it was five years ago, and the country does more to appease international opinion than in the past when it was regarded alongside other pariah states e.g. North Korea.
If there are instances when a state has ignored UN resolutions, one needs to remember only one word – – Israel. The country has managed to ignore one resolution after another, without any meaningful consequences, though it did malign the Jewish state’s reputation throughout the world. Can Burma do the same?
Israel is a powerful economic and military power. Burma, despite some disturbing similarities, is not Israel. Israel is a bosom friend of America, and public opinion in the superpower state is still overwhelmingly in favour of the Jewish state, in spite of recent setbacks. Not so for Burma. Israel’s impressive PR machinery is also much superior to anything Burma can muster.
Even a few years ago, Burma was regarded in the west as a pariah state, alongside North Korea. Things have changed and international recognition followed by investment is flowing into Burma. But Burma has a long way to go before it can convince the world it has really changed. Concerns by nobel laureate Aung Saan Suu Kyi, the opposition leader widely respected in the west that reforms have stalled is another setback for the military backed regime in improving their worldwide reputation.
Of course the regime’s purges of the Muslim community that ironically increased following the reforms have been too much to ignore from the very beginning. Human rights activists and influential sections of the world media, some initially excited by the regime’s reforms have been forced to question if the ‘fundamental brutality of the rulers’ have really changed or if this is just a rouse to consolidate power and wealth with international trade and investment. As the regime in cohorts with local anti-Muslim groups continue the ‘slow burning genocide’, the international community, albeit belatedly has come to the conclusion that something needs to be done.
Analysts say that Burma’s much needed international standings will depend on how the government deals with the resolution passed by the 193 member strong general assembly.
The regime’s resolution
The UN resolution for example calls on Burma to recognise Rohingyas as full citizens. Burma will deal with this by giving some Rohingyas citizenship but maintaining that others are recent migrants from the neigbouring Muslim majority state of Bangladesh. Here the world body has long seen through the blatant lie promoted by the regime and the influential anti-Muslim groups in the region. The UN urges that Rohingyas be allowed to identify themselves as Rohingya instead of ‘Bengali’. Nevertheless the regime has regarded the word Rohingya as taboo and is unlikely to change their stance.
Even if the regime gives citizenship to some Rohingyas and even allows the ‘scandalous’ word Rohingya (that would be a revolution by itself), these citizens will not be allowed outside their ghettos or refugee camps on the pretence that they face security problems. For more information see http://burmatimes.net/myanmars-rohingya-see-little-benefit-new-citizenship-effort/
The security problem is a real concern with local anti-Muslim groups ready to pounce on Rohingyas. So the UN resolution says that the government should take charge and promote peaceful co-existence. With powerful anti-Muslim terrorist groups on the prowl in Arakan, only the military can do that and it might make a show of protecting Rohingyas. But expecting the military to protect Rohingyas is like asking a fox to guard a chicken coop. The military won’t protect Rohingyas sincerely and will then express their profound apology for their shortcomings. The military might then ask for more assistance from military powers such as America to strengthen their armoury for ‘promoting peaceful co-existence’ and unfortunately America has been a willing partner of the military for the last few years. In this regard and many others, the Burmese government is already looking for ways to transform barriers into opportunities.
A citizenship for the stateless community would also mean that they would have equal access to healthcare and educational facilities, something that the Burmese government have been asked to ensure by the UN. But Rohingyas cannot even go out of their designated zones, and medical care is not available there.
One pregnant women who was desperate to go to a mainstream hospital was poisoned and killed. Hospitals in the Arakan state don’t accept Rohingya patients and even the most diligent Rohingya child will not dare to go to a Rakhine school.
The UN calls for an end to hate speech. This is pervasive throughout Arakan and much of Burma. Here Burma can be more subtle and stop this flow of hate speech while maintaining purges against the Rohingya all the same.
On the bright side, Burma will be forced by the weight of international opinion to ease the persecution. But that will not last long. Even then, that will be a welcome breathing space for the Rohingyas inside the country for whom life has been mildly speaking ‘intolerable’.
It is difficult if not impossible to say how much the UN resolution can benefit the Rohingyas. Only time will tell how much Burma obliges by the resolution. If it did so sincerely, Rohingya troubles would be over! That is sadly unlikely. It remains to be seen if the international community will relieve the Rohingyas by following up the pressure.