Another tragedy at sea . . .
At least 17 Rohingya, some of them children, died after their boat capsized on May 21 in the Bay of Bengal while trying to flee to Malaysia. An estimated 90 Rohingya were on board, and 50 remain missing. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar, have been subjected to harsh persecution by the government and military. In recent years, much of the attention of international media and humanitarian organizations has been on the suffering of the nearly one million Rohingya refugees residing in crowded and squalid camps in eastern Bangladesh. However, another 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar. The boat that capsized departed from western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
From bad to worse . . .
Until recently, some international stakeholders, including the government of Bangladesh, held out hope, albeit faint and remote, that some Rohingya living in Bangladesh could return to Myanmar so long as there were substantial improvements to their humanitarian and human rights conditions. But on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military staged a coup against the country’s elected government and has since imposed draconian measures against the Rohingya to control their movements. The pretext is the fear that the Rohingya are collaborating with the Arakan Army (AA), a separatist ethnic armed organization that has been increasingly effective in its violent confrontation with the state. Although the AA emerged from the grievances of Buddhists based in Rakhine, since the coup, it has made common cause with the Muslim-majority Rohingya by incorporating them into its movement.
Justice delayed . . .
The timing of the recent tragedy coincides with an important date in the international effort to hold Myanmar officials accountable for atrocities committed against the Rohingya. That includes Min Aung Hlaing, who led the February 2021 coup and installed himself as president. Yesterday, Myanmar was supposed to have submitted a report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is presiding over a 2019 lawsuit against Myanmar based on allegations of genocide against the Rohingya. Canada was an early behind-the-scenes key supporter of the multi-country legal effort. There have been no reports on whether the Myanmar government complied with the recent ICJ deadline.
- Canadian Red Cross: Myanmar refugee crisis
- Human Rights Watch: Developments in Gambia’s case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice
- New Straits Times: Opinion: Myanmar regime continues ‘slow death’ conditions against Rohingya