The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, or Burma, have quickly become the world’s most persecuted minority. While this reality is now well known, a report that predicted the group’s severe plight was allegedly ignored by the United Nations because it criticized the agency’s role in the country.
The study was sent to the UN’s chief in Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien, back in May, urging the agency to launch some “serious contingency planning” due to the imminent and “serious deterioration” of the relationship between the Buddhist majority in the Rakhine state and the Rohingya.
The report also stated that the UN was ill-prepared to deal with the powerful military response the country would undertake, prompting an outbreak of violence against the Rohingya that would lead to a major exodus.
According to a source who spoke to The Guardian, the report ended up being “suppressed” simply because “[Lok-Dessallien] didn’t like the analysis.” No less than three months later, more than 500,000 Rohingya were fleeing the country after Myanmar’s security forces had attacked their villages.
The report, which was commissioned by the UN, reportedly asked independent analyst Richard Horsey to review the UN’s role as a humanitarian mission in Myanmar. And yet, the study was never officially introduced at any official UN meetings.
According to a UN spokesperson, the report was discussed in at least one meeting, which was open to all aid agencies associated with the UN.
During the April meeting, the spokesperson added, the “UN agreed with the document’s outline of some of the challenges of providing peace, humanitarian and development assistance in Rakhine state, and the risk of further outbreaks of violence.”
At the time, the spokesperson added, “the UN in Myanmar was already putting in place some of the changes suggested in the document prior to its release.”
Despite the spokesperson's claims that the suggestions in the report were taken seriously, an unnamed senior aid official told reporters that the study was “kept very low-key.”
It’s difficult to gauge just how much the UN could have done and how many lives could have been saved if the agency had acted directly on the report’s predictions ahead of time.
Still, it’s heartbreaking to think that an agency so powerful would be capable of overlooking an important report demonstrating that, in no time, the Rohingya would be displaced en masse all because leadership couldn't handle the criticism.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton