Last week 84 Rohingya, Kachin and Karen Groups called on France to ensure the UN Security Council refers Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for genocide against Rohingya in Rakhine and crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.
Two weeks ago Penny Mordaunt, visiting Bangladesh, called on the Myanmar government to ‘create the necessary conditions’ to allow the Rohingya to return home. Sadly, evidence suggests hell may freeze before Myanmar does so. Instead their increasingly absurd denials in the face of evidence of ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities continues. Survivor accounts of shootings, burnings of living people, widespread rape and the murder of small children, backed by satellite imagery and mobile phone footage, are dismissed as “wild claims.” Its latest submission to the UN concludes extraordinarily, ‘The complexities and challenges in Rakhine should not be viewed within a narrow lens of human rights for one particular community alone. This may [be] tantamount to discrimination.’
Meanwhile, the Burmese army is still busy addressing discrimination in its uniquely unpleasant manner. Having brutally expelled 740,000 Rohingya whilst posting selfies on Facebook, the 33rd Light Infantry Division has headed to Kachin State. Local aid workers say that wherever the 33rd goes extrajudicial executions and sexual violence follow. A Reuters investigation last year saw them as central to the savagery of the Rakhine offensive, noting that they were lauded on their return home. The EU and Canada imposed sanctions on their commanders last June
Kachin sounds disturbingly similar to Rakhine. Home of a large minority ethnic group, it has a history of resisting central control, sometimes violently, and is rich in natural resources. Myanmar wants control of it for projects like the Chinese One Belt One Road, an economic corridor through Kachin to China’s landlocked region, with vast economic value to China. Kachin rights groups say there are now dozens of Chinese businesses and thousands of Chinese technical experts in the state.
Suu Kyi, though, has turned her personal attention to more important matters – the erection of a seventeen-foot high statue of her father in Loikaw, Karenni state, another oppressed border area with rich natural resources and an ethnic minority resisting control. In a depressingly familiar pattern, the Karenni claim they are abused by the Army with impunity, forced off their land without compensation, and subjected to torture, extrajudicial executions and sexual violence. The erection of the Statue is presumably to remind them who’s boss. Protests against it have been going on since it was announced last year. In July protesters were violently dispersed, and nine charged with incitement and distributing pamphlets on Karenni history. Last month, police used rubber bullets and water cannon on protesters, injuring twenty, and arresting fifty-five.
The eviction of the Rohingya has shocked the world. The lack of restraint at peaceful protest by the Karenni worries the UN. The deployment of the 33rd battalion worries everyone. It really is time someone popped in to collect Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize.