US double standards worsen Rohingya crisis

By Bi Shihong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/18 14:23:39

In a meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore on November 14, US Vice President Mike Pence chided Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, "The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes which resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh is without excuse. I'm anxious to hear about the progress you're making in holding those accountable who are responsible."

On September 24, the US State Department released a report entitled "Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State." This may become a legal basis for further US sanctions or punishment for the Myanmese military.

But does the US accusation hold water? Washington still lacks understanding of the complicated political, ethnic and religious situation in Myanmar. Its pressure has not helped alleviate the vexed issue and the volatility of the situation, but only worsened the scenario.

Without the military's cooperation, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) can hardly solve the Rohingya issue. At this point, if the US-led Western countries further strengthen economic sanctions against Myanmar, the nation, which has already been caught up in an economic bog, will find it more difficult to solve the Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingya issue is actually a historical problem which involves ethnic, religious and other complex factors. The fundamental cause is poverty, which is intertwined with international relations. Rohinya people have been largely living miserably after being treated unfairly for a long time. That has driven them to rebellion time and again.

The Rohingya people are Muslims. If the NLD government is vocal in its support to the group, it is likely to anger the majority Buddhist population in the country and even invite opposition from the military. In that case, the NLD's political power will be eroded thus impeding government reforms, economic and social development.

When the Rohingya wanted to flee Myanmar, neighbor Bangladesh's refusal to accept them led to their present predicament.

Responding to Pence's accusation, Suu Kyi said "In a way, we can say that we understand our country better than any other country does and I'm sure you will say the same of yours, that you understand your country better than anybody else does… So, we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening and how we see things panning out."

The US sharp criticism of the NLD and Suu Kyi will not change the stance of the Myanmese government and military. Moreover, it is not right to answer violence with violence; talks and necessary assistance are the way out.

As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar and Bangladesh, China has been helping the two countries take the right path to resolving the issue while adhering to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. China proposed a three-phase solution to help solve the problem in Rakhine state - a ceasefire, encouraging Myanmar and Bangladesh to keep interacting and working toward finding a long-term solution.

China believes that the Rakhine issue can be addressed by a solution acceptable to both Myanmar and Bangladesh through consultations between the two neighboring countries. Meanwhile, extensive infrastructure development in Rakhine state should be taken up. China has provided much assistance to meet the needs of Myanmar and Bangladesh, including emergency material assistance. With the help of Beijing, Dhaka has gradually become more inclined in helping solve the issue.

Rakhine is resource-rich but underdeveloped, making poverty the root cause of turmoil and conflict. The international community should understand Myanmar's predicament and cooperate with the country to help it face the situation.

It should also take note of the government's proactive efforts to end the crisis, such as relief and resettlement work in Rakhine, a large number of infrastructure projects, boost to agriculture, healthcare, employment and vocational training.

We are looking forward to seeing Myanmar get rid of its plight and embark on the path to harmony, stability, development and prosperity with the collaboration of Bangladesh and goodwill of the international community. It is also hoped that the US can respect and support other countries to follow their own path, instead of criticizing them while practicing double standards.

The author is a professor at Center for China's Neighbor Diplomacy Studies and School of International Studies, Yunnan University.

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