Wed, Oct 18, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwanese should care about Rohingya atrocities

By Parris Chang 張旭成

For years, Taiwan has been acclaimed as a beacon of democracy, freedom and human rights in Asia. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government led by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has also launched the New Southbound Policy, seeking to increase Taiwan’s cultural, economic, educational, healthcare, scientific and social interactions and cooperation with nations in Southeast and South Asia.

In this context, it is regrettable that the Tsai government, the DPP and the human rights groups in the private sector have failed to show concern regarding the human rights disaster in Myanmar, where Rohingya have been oppressed and slaughtered.

The UN last month expressed concern over the plight of Rohingya, but was unable to go any further.

Whereas Article 1 of the UN Charter states that its purpose is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples,” international politics often prevent the UN from fulfilling this and other lofty purposes.

China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and Myanmar’s ally, used its influence to shape the content of the UN statement and forestall any UN actions to help Rohingya.

Rohingya, an ethnic and Muslim minority, have long been belittled and persecuted as outsiders in their own country.

According to Human Rights Watch, Rohingya have been present in Myanmar since the 12th century. After British rule ended in then-Burma in 1948, the new government claimed that Rohingya were illegal migrants from India [now Bangladesh], not legal citizens of the new nation.

Many Rohingya were stripped of citizenship by a law in 1982. In 2015, the government banned hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from voting in national elections.

Burmese Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing justified the army’s attacks on Rohingya by saying that it “has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar,” and claimed that the mass violence that has displaced so many was “an organized attempt of extremist Bengalis in Rakhine State.”

However, independent observers say the Burmese army has burned Rohingya villages and targeted civilians in a campaign of rape and slaughter.

A satellite analysis by Human Rights Watch showed that at least 210 villages have been burned to the ground since the offensive began on Aug. 25.

Bangladeshi officials say that landmines had been planted on the Burmese side of the border, where Rohingya were fleeing.

Burmese State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi — who led Myanmar’s democratization drive and became the nation’s de facto leader after the elections in 2015 — was severely criticized for failing to prevent the persecution of Rohingya.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof issued a scathing attack on Sept. 12, saying it was a shame for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who became the chief apologist for the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been a human rights icon in the international community for decades, but she needs to recast her role as a politician after assuming political power.

Thus on Sept. 19, she declared in front of Burmese government officials and foreign dignitaries that “the security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the code of conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians.”

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