Fri, Jan 15, 2016 - Page 9 News List

Nobel Peace Prize winners complicit in crimes against humanity

The Rohingya are locked up in concentration camps in Myanmar, a crime against humanity that Nobel Peace Prize winners and the UN are turning a blind eye to

By Nicholas Kristof  /  NY Times News Service, SITTWE, Myanmar

Illustration: Mountain People

Soon the world is to witness a remarkable sight: A beloved Nobel Peace Prize winner presiding over 21st century concentration camps.

Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s genuine heroes, won democracy for her nation, culminating in historic elections in November last year that her party won in a landslide. As the winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is also inheriting the worst ethnic cleansing you have never heard of, Myanmar’s destruction of a Muslim minority, the Rohingya.

A recent Yale study suggested that the abuse of the more than 1 million Rohingya could amount to genocide; at the least, a confidential report to the UN Security Council said it might constitute “crimes against humanity under international criminal law.”

Yet, Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be planning to continue this Myanmar version of apartheid. She is now a politician and oppressing a minority like the Rohingya is popular with mostly Buddhist voters.

Another Nobel Peace Prize winner, US President Barack Obama, who has tremendous influence on Myanmar (and who has visited twice since his re-election in 2012), is not showing much interest either. Obama and former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton helped lure Myanmar to democracy and a pro-Western orbit — significant achievements — and it might spoil the parade to fuss too much over 67 quasi-concentration camps in which many Rohingya are confined.

What all this means in practical terms is that Muhammad Karim is dead at 14.

Muhammad lived in a giant concentration camp with tens of thousands of Rohingya. The government has taken away citizenship and statehood from the Rohingya over the years and they are deprived of free movement. Muhammad wanted to sneak away by boat, paying human traffickers to join a tide of desperate Rohingya boat people seeking passage to Malaysia.

“We wouldn’t let him, because it was too dangerous,” his mother, Sara Hatu, said.

Then Muhammad suffered a scratch on his heel. Nobody thought much about it, but soon he had trouble opening his jaw.

He apparently had caught tetanus. Like most of the children in the concentration camp, he was not able to get vaccinations, including a simple tetanus shot.

After he got sick, the local medical assistants and the on-and-off clinic could not help him. Finally his mother got special permission for him to leave the camp to be hospitalized, but by then it was too late.

“After two days, he came back as a corpse,” his mother said.

Just meters from Muhammad’s hut another family is also mourning. Bildar Begum, a 20-year-old woman, contracted hepatitis A, neighbors said. Hepatitis A is normally not life-threatening, but she also could not get the medical help she needed and she died late last year, leaving a two-year-old son, Hirol.

“If she was not Rohingya, she would surely still be alive, I can say that 100 percent,” said Enus Monir, a community leader.

Now Hirol is starving — at 28 months, he weighs just 8.6kg. On the WHO weight-to-age sheets, he is off the charts. The minimum on the charts is the third percentile and Hirol is far below that.

Some of the families in the camp have substantial savings in the banks in Sittwe a few kilometers away, but because they have been locked up since 2012 they cannot access their own bank accounts to feed their families.

The international response has been pathetic. Partly that is because Myanmar makes it difficult for aid groups and journalists to see the Rohingya, so they are largely invisible.

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