Nature of Rohingya crisis not up to Washington to define

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/23 22:53:39

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed in a written statement Wednesday that "the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya." Ethnic cleansing, according to the definition of a UN commission of experts, means "a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas." Leveling such an accusation causes a worldwide sensation. The question is whether the US can define the nature of the crisis.

The root cause of the Rohingya crisis lies in the historical conflicts between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state. After deadly attacks by so-called Rohingya Arsa militants in October last year, Myanmar launched a military crackdown in the region. The operation was aimed at terrorists.

Nay Pyi Taw has been coping with the turmoil. As long as the government continues to govern, only it can be counted on for the final and thorough resolution of the current crisis, not the US.

The ASEAN Chairman's Statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit offered no description of the alleged persecution the local people are suffering. All it said about the crisis was a number of ASEAN leaders encourage Myanmar to "take immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine … (and) address the refugee problem through verification process" and support the Myanmar government in its efforts to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities.

This is a signal that ASEAN does not welcome interference in Myanmar's domestic affairs by outside forces. The last thing it wants is to witness Myanmar fall apart. That's why ASEAN accepted Nay Pyi Taw's entry into the bloc in 1997 despite pressure from the West not to do so.

US sanctions toward Myanmar from 1988 to 2016 were not aimed at Myanmar, but to enlarge Washington's own strategic influence in the area by giving support to pro-US forces. However, the approach severely deteriorated the living conditions of the ordinary people of Myanmar.

When Rwandan suffered from genocide over a decade ago, the US was among the first countries to receive the information. But then US secretary of state Warren Christopher decided not to use the word "genocide," because once it was designated as such, the US was obligated to abide by the UN Convention to adopt a rescue operation.

Yet when the Darfur region of western Sudan was plagued by war, the US hide behind NGOs and attempted to link the genocide there to the Beijing Olympic Games.

Rohingya Muslims need a solution, not a definition. For Myanmar's residents, what they desire is stability, not more chaos and disturbance.

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