During the recent conflict involving the Myanmar/Burmese government and the Rohingya that has been described as ‘textbook ethnic cleansing,’ the Burmese have continuously denied the UN access to conduct an investigation regarding the claims of genocide. Reports from a myriad of aid organizations have all pointed toward massive amounts of human rights violations, including the murder of 1,200 children under the age of five killed in the first month of fighting, the systematic use of rape as a weapon against civilians, and the destruction of homes and belongings. This violence has led to numbers that aren’t disputed — approximately 700,000 Rohingya have fled from their homes in Rakhine state where they have lived for generations, and over the border into Bangladesh. There, they face crowded refugee camps with poor healthcare and often in unlivable conditions.
These reports are often followed up by the UN requesting access by the Myanmar government. After all, the government denies almost all of the claims of human rights abuse, saying that they are weeding out terrorists among the Rohingya.
Finally, that has changed. Myanmar officials have decided to allow 15 council members from the United Nations Security Council to travel to Myanmar to investigate the claims of human rights abuses. The trip will take place beginning on April 26 and will continue until May 2.
There are several things that could happen here. The Myanmar government is known throughout Southeast Asia for its ability to put up a certain kind of front for foreigners (particularly diplomats or other foreign officials) in order to give the impression that all is well. Naypyidaw has been the capital of Myanmar since 2005, and was built entirely for this purpose. Sources tell SOFREP that it’s a surreal feeling there — pristine and sterile, a sharp contrast from the rest of the country, which is more of a normal Southeast Asian country. They could use this same tactic, hoping to divert and play the UN investigators away from the sites of the human rights abuses, until their time is up.
It’s also possible that they are confident any UN findings will not result in serious action, especially at this point. With the reports coming from so many alternate sources — be it Doctors Without Borders, the Associated Press, aid organizations based in both Myanmar and Bangladesh — the facts were readily available and yet little action came out of the UN. The UN already had people on the Bangladesh/Myanmar border, operating around the people reporting all the abuses, and still little came from it. The Myanmar government may think that, especially since so much time has passed and the public outcries have begun to wane, any findings from the UN will be met with inaction from the UN itself and only a small spike in interest from the general public.
There is no doubt the Myanmar government will continue to extend small olive branches to appease the international community wherever they can, as they have with the largely ineffective repatriation program and the “investigations” into a small handful of alleged human rights abuses.
Featured image: In this Jan. 28, 2018, file photo, Rohingya refugees come out of their homes after the visit of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo at Jamtoli refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The Myanmar state minister overseeing the planned repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh said Thursday, April 5, 2018 that he hopes to talk to them when he makes a visit there this month. | AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File