Rohingya Crisis & The International Organisations

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Chronology of Rohingya Crisis

It is easier for the international community to label Rohingya as ‘the most persecuted minorities’ as a sign of condemnation towards Myanmar’s authority, because to fix an issue within a sovereign state is most likely impossible. The Rohingyas community had settled down at Rakhine State as early since 12th century. In fact Rakhine state was once an independent kingdom before Burman King Bodawpaya took over the area before Burma actually had its sovereignty. Rohingya in 1911 are considered as an Indian ethnic group population, but later in 1921 they were categorised as Arakanese. It was then colonization occurred, Britain had separated Burma from India, Japan occupation on Burma against the British. Burma Independence Army (BIA) then resisted against Japanese rule and with the help of Britain, in 1945 Burma liberates from Japanese led by Aung San (Father of Aung San Suu Kyi). Rohingya was in betrayal as the British did not grant them autonomy of Arakan as they promised.  

After the independence of Burma in 1948, U Nu became the Prime Minister, it was then the political chaos began. Rohingya were not included in the Union Citizenship Act passed which defines which ethnicities could gain citizenship (International Human Rights Clinic 2015 reports). 1962, U Nu’s faction was ousted in military coup led by Gen Ne Win whom then formed a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party. After the military coup, life of Rohingya became harder, they were only given foreign identity cards which limits their access to proper jobs and education. Silently, since 1970s there were many crackdowns have been done by the military on the Rohingya in Rakhine State, forcing hundreds of thousands of them to flee to neighboring countries significantly Bangladesh and Malaysia.

A new citizenship law was passed in 1982, Rohingya were still not considered as one of the country’s ethnic groups. Many basic rights were violated, their access to education, works, travel, marry, religion practise and healthcare were denied and restricted. 1986, Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) was formed to protect the rohingya community as well to fight for justice. Riots and repression were beginning to take place in late 1980s, thousands of anti-government people were killed and National League of Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. 1990, NLD won the general election but did not recognised by the military. The continuous persecutions on Rohingya had spark comments from ASEANs’ three Islamic state and Middle Eastern-NGO like the Mecca Muslim World League.

There were repartition agreement between the year 1992-1997 that had brought back 230,000 Rohingya to Rakhine State. However, the situation did not change much throughout 20th century. In 2007, China and Russia veto a draft US resolution at the UN Security Council urging Myanmar to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups. After series of violence, bombing and riots, beginning 2010, things starting to reform in Myanmar, where Aung San Suu Kyi were given her rights, some political prisoners were freed, partly-free election were held and development of foreign ties with Myanmar. In 2012, President Obama offered “the hand of friendship” in return for better reformation and reconciliation with the Rohingya minority.

In 2013, there were religious clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Meiktila resulting 10 death. This had raised the religious tension within the state. In 2015, the opposition NLD won enough sit in the parliamentary elections to form government but the persecution continues. In 2017 The UN human rights council decides to set up investigation into alleged Rohingya human rights abuses by the army and the outcome was just as devastating and despairing as the world thought.

Efforts by International Organizations

There are more than a million Rohingya refugees are at the shelter in Bangladesh to seek refuge at the moment. The United Nations report detailed that there are uncountable more still stranded in Myanmar struggling to find a way out of the country in order to escape persecution and abuse. UN has stood forward in leading other countries to provide protection, necessities and other means of support to the unfortunate Rohingyan Refugees.

In particular, there is United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which focuses on practical ways to realize the rights of children and women as priority, to provide emergency food and healthcare to women and children. In addition, the vaccination campaign against measles, rubella and polio from UNICEF works together with World Health Organization (WHO) to provide the vaccines, syringes and vitamin A capsules for Rohingya children.

There is also United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which known as the UN Refugee Agency to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. (UNHCR website, 2009). It can be said that, UNHCR is distributing emergency aid and shelter materials to Rohingya refugees in order to gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and physical injury. Besides, UNHCR provides life-saving assistance with the focus on essential household relief items such as blankets, shelter materials, food cans, sleeping mats as well as upgrading Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) to decrease the risk of the outbreak of diseases to pregnant women, young children and the elderly are especially defenseless.

Unfortunately all the efforts done by International Organization such as UNICEF and UNHCR is only temporary and short-term in helping Rohingya day by day.

Possible Solutions & Conclusion

Since the world system is an anarchy and each nation-states are bound to respect one and another’s sovereignty, there is not much of serious punishment or impulsion action can be done. No matter how powerful and strong influential an International Organisation is, like UN, any state can chose to nullify, void or simply ignore the voices, statements and condemnation done by such bid International Organisations. That is just how the system works, to bridge one state’s internal affairs or issue is as if, open a chance to bridge any state’s sovereignty. Therefore, as long as the state has its own mind on their own matters, there’s no chance for International Organizations to take control over such injustice.

However, in another perspective, only International Organisation can interfere the issue in the name of human rights violations. The idea is the same, to violate ones human rights is as if, open a chance for violation of human rights to occur on another human beings. In this perspective, International Organization can do something, which is to put pressure on the subjected state, through influencing discussion with the members’ state as to seriously take this matter into account.

 In the case of Rohingya, the crisis can be solve if the Myanmar itself changes its domestic policy and state to embrace the differences of all ethnicities they have and make advantage out of it. The perspective of Myanmar itself shows the immaturity of the government and leadership failure in governing the country. Dialogues between states and International Organisation should continuously be done to fix the hole in the mentality of the country. Until then Rohingya crisis will remain as crisis, and what International Organisation can do is to convince and ease the situations.

Aisyah Hadi is a Political Science degree holder from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Currently pursuing her study in Master of Strategic and Defense Studies in Universiti Malaya (UM).

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Ajar Demokrasi editorial stance

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Aisyah Hadi

Aisyah Hadi

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