On Aug. 25, 2017, Myanmar launched a deadly crackdown against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority in the country.
The brutal and inhuman crackdown, which had been evidently planned and prepared for weeks in advance, was purportedly the country’s response to “Rohingya terrorism.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya homes were torched, mosques were desecrated, and approximately 700,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh to live as refugees in squalid conditions.
As the first anniversary of the military action the U.N. termed as “genocide” approached, more than 15,000 Rohingya refugees demonstrated at the Kutapalong refugee camp in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh.
The refugees had to get special permission from Bangladeshi authorities to stage the protest.
The one demand the Rohingya refugees had united to rally behind was complete, holistic justice. This meant not only that punitive action be taken against the civil-military axis that had engineered and executed the genocide, but also that the Rohingya be recognized as legitimate citizens of Myanmar.
THREAD - impressive photos of displays of peaceful protests by #Rohingya refugees in #Bangladesh commemorating “25 August Black Day” on the one year anniversary of the violent purge from #Rakhine #Myanmar. /1 pic.twitter.com/Fsb1WkhqOT— Edward Rees (@ReesEdward) August 25, 2018
"Our mothers and fathers are from Myanmar," Mohammad Elias, member of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH) told Al Jazeera. "We were also born there but still they made us suffer. They didn't let us get an education. They didn't even let us pray in the mosque."
Elias added that he wanted his people to be citizens of the country.
The publication also reported the protestors were adamant that the perpetrators of violence be brought to justice in the International Criminal Court.
As it is, the chances of any of these two demands being met look bleak.
Resettlement of Refugees:
The most persecuted Rohingya Refugee Protest in Bangladesh on rohingya genocide remembrance day. pic.twitter.com/qmcT9CWsTK— Canadian Rohingya Press (@CRP_Rohingya) August 25, 2018
Last year, Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar about the repatriation of refugees forced out of their homes in 2017.
However, Rohingya activists argued the deal was dangerously ambiguous and did not clarify if the minority community will be given citizenship or herded in concentration camps.
Since then, the deal has been stalled. Rohingya activists have also not pushed for a deal that did not shield them from being forced out again.
The country’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, also seems less than enthusiastic about giving back Rohingya the homes that were wrenched away from them.
After a recent speech in Singapore, when she was asked about state-sanctioned genocide in Rakhine state, she chose to speak instead of the need to develop tourism in the region.
The Disinterest in Accountability:
#Rohingya Women Protest in Bangladesh on Rohingya #Genocide Remembrance Day.— Muslim Cyber Army (@MCAOps) August 25, 2018
Since Aug 2017 about 18,000 Rohingya women and girls have been raped by the Buddhist extremist & military.https://t.co/QAIDWTuzrX#OpRohingya pic.twitter.com/QdYmHw77vx
While the Rohingya were protesting in Bangladesh, Myanmar’s Commander-In-Chief Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was shopping for even more weapons in Russia. According to his Facebook post, he was feasting his eyes on a “dynamic” display of more than 26,000 pieces of weaponry.
The only time Myanmar conducted an investigation into the violence, it jailed seven army officials for the murder of ten Rohingya.
In a news item that was swiftly deleted from its website, a Myanmar television network announced on its website the men had been released. Two Reuters journalists who covered the investigation have been detained and will likely face a jail sentence of fourteen years after their trial.
As a member of the Malaysian Parliament asserted, the international community has to step up to take action against the perpetrators. So far, the international community he referred to has been disappointingly disinterested in justice.
The U.S. State Department has grappled with the word “genocide,” arguing the massive ethnic cleansing is not really genocide. Although the country has placed targeted sanctions on army officials, top brass like Min Aung Hlaing have been spared.
China and Russia have been fierce defenders of Myanmar, as it buys weaponry from both these countries. China has also invested in the country’s mineral deposits, many of which are housed in Rakhine state.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain