Sunday, 7 July 2013

We said never again

Most people didn't know who the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were until it was too late, and almost 200,000 of them were dead between 1992 and 1995, particularly 8000 Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred in July 1995 in Srebrenica. The very majority of people didn't even know who the Rwandans were until 800,000 were ethnically cleansed. We failed all those and many more people in the past and we said “Never Again”.

Right now, the fate of Burma's Rohingya people is hanging by a thread. Racist thugs have distributed leaflets threatening to wipe out this small Burmese minority. Already children have been hacked to death and unspeakable murders committed. All signs are pointing to a coming horror, unless we act.

 Torture, gang rape, execution style killings -- human rights groups are using the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe the brutality in Burma. Already more than 120,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee, many to makeshift camps near the border, while others have fled in boats only to drown, starve, or be shot at by coastguards from neighbouring countries. Reports show that violence is escalating -- earlier this year President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency after another round of deadly attacks, and it’s just a matter of time until there is a large scale massacre. 

Genocides happen because we don't get concerned enough until the crime is committed. The Rohingya are a peaceful and very poor people. They are hated because their skin is darker and their Religion and the majority fears they're 'taking jobs away'. There are 800,000 of them, and they could be gone if we don't act. We have failed too many peoples, let's not fail the Rohingya.

Genocides don’t happen when governments oppose them, but the Burmese regime has been leaning the wrong way. Recently, a government spokesperson admitted that authorities were enforcing a rule that limits the Rohingya population to having only two children and forces couples seeking to get married to obtain special permission. And experts report that government authorities have stood by or even participated in acts of “ethnic cleansing.” President Sein has finally been forced to acknowledge what’s happening to the Rohingya, but he has so far refused to implement plans to stop the violence and protect those at risk.

Burmese President Thein Sein has the power, personnel and resources to protect the Rohingya; all he has to do is give the word to make it happen. In days, he'll arrive in Europe to sell his country’s new openness to trade. If EU leaders greet him with a strong request to protect the Rohingya, he’s likely to do it.

Until he does, the risk of genocide hovers like a dark cloud over not just Burma, but the world. Through their trade relations, UK PM Cameron and French President Hollande have massive leverage with Sein -- if they press him to act when he meets with them this month, it could save lives. Let’s make sure they do. We've failed too many peoples, let's not fail the Rohingya.