A RECENTLY released report compiled by the UN reveals a shocking picture of the abuse and violence faced by the beleaguered Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

Based on witness testimony, the report documents an ugly series of crimes this Muslim minority group was subjected to during a ‘clearance operation’ carried out by the Myanmar military. Amongst the horrific crimes perpetrated are gang rape and murder, including of children in which, the report says, members of the army and police as well as civilians took part. Another example of the xenophobia the Rohingya face emerged on Thursday, when Buddhist monks and laypersons protested against the arrival of a Malaysian aid ship carrying relief for the community.

The narrative in Myanmar is that the Rohingya are not ‘sons of the soil’ and are ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh. Even if this debatable proposition was accepted, would it justify the atrocities the Rohingya have been subjected to? By all standards of human rights, this community has faced unconscionable and consistent abuse from large sections of the majority; there is simply no justification for this horrendous violence. It is not without reason they have been dubbed the world’s most persecuted minority.

The state of Myanmar, especially supposed human rights champion Aung San Suu Kyi, must investigate the claims highlighted by the report. The global community must also let the Myanmar government know that, if this persecution continues, it cannot be business as usual. Of course, in a global milieu where xenophobia and crude populism have become acceptable, this is a difficult proposition.

Even if the Myanmar authorities cannot accept the Rohingya as citizens, they must treat the community with the dignity all human beings deserve. Otherwise, Myanmar’s attempts at reform — and the credibility of Ms Suu Kyi — will remain under a cloud for letting down these persecuted people, and, in fact, being complicit in the crimes committed against them.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2017

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