Rohingya crisis Current Affairs - 2019

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US slaps sanctions against Myanmar’s military chief for killing of Rohingya Muslims

The United States of America has slapped sanctions against Myanmar’s Military Chief Min Aung Hlaing and three other top officers for gross human rights violations, including killing of Rohingya Muslims. The announcement in this regard was made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Key Highlights

Following the US sanctions, Myanmar’s Army Chief and others namely Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Aung Aung and Brigadier General Than Oo along with their immediate family members have been banned from entering US. In 2018 US had designated two other generals Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw and General Maung Maung Soe.

With this move US has become 1st government to publicly take action with respect to most senior leadership of Burmese military.

Arguments by US

Ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas is an example of continued and severe lack of accountability for military and its top leadership.

US State Department has taken action against Army Chief and others after finding credible evidence of their involvement in violence 2 years ago (in 2017) that led to fleeing of 740,000 Rohingyas over border to Bangladesh since the violence erupted.

US remains deeply concerned about human rights situation in Myanmar, mainly in conflict-affected Rakhine State and other violence-affected areas of Myanmar like Kachin state and Shan states.

Who are Rohingya?

Rohingya are an ethnic group, largely comprising Muslims are one of the largest stateless populations in the world.

This group predominantly lives in Western Myanmar province of Rakhine state. They speak a dialect of Bengali, as opposed to commonly spoken Burmese language.

Although they have been living in South East Asian country for generations, Myanmar considers them as persons who migrated to their land during Colonial rule and thus Rohingyas are not granted full citizenship. According the 1982 Citizenship Law of Burma, a Rohingya (or any ethnic minority) is eligible for citizenship only if he/she provides proof that his/her ancestors have lived in country prior to 1823 or else, they are classified as resident foreigners or as associate citizens (even if one of the parent is a Myanmar citizen).

Rohingya Crisis

Rohingya’s, one of the most persecuted community in world, are not recognised as citizens of Myanmar and face widespread discrimination from authorities.

Prior to their exodus from Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingya have already been living as refugees in several neighbouring countries.

The plight of Rohingya’s reached its peak in Myanmar during August 2017 when country’s military cracked down on minority group in Rakhine State sparked mass exodus.

Inn Din village Massacre

The massacre in Inn Din village in Rakhine state of Myanmar in September 2017 was a mass execution of Rohingyas by Myanmar Army and armed locals. The officials and soldiers involved in brutal killings were released on the directions of Commander in Chief Hlaing. US have accorded this as a mockery of accountability for military and its senior leadership.

Malaysia joins the International Criminal Court

Malaysia has ratified the Rome Statute making it the 124th State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though Malaysia had helped to negotiate the Rome Statute, it has been long been reluctant to ratify it. Ratification after 20 years is seen as a welcome move.

Why Malaysia has acceded to the Rome Statute after 20 years?

  • The downing of flight MH17 and the Rohingya crisis have focused Malaysia’s attention on the ICC.
  • After the election of Mahathir Mohamad for his second stint as Prime Minister in May 2018, there has been a significant shift in the relationship between the Malaysian government and monarchy. The earlier reluctance to ratify the Rome Statute has largely stemmed from a concern that the King, as the head of the armed forces could be held responsible for crimes committed by those under his command Mahathir’s relationship with the Sultans and the King is notoriously tense. During his first period as prime minister (1981-2003), Mahathir “stripped the sultans of their power to veto state and federal legislation”, removed their legal immunities, and established a special court to prosecute royal cases.
  • The election of Mahathir and appointment of a new Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, has seen the main legal obstacles to ratification removed.
  • The ratification has also stemmed from ambition to see Malaysia playing a more active role in ASEAN and the United Nations.

International Criminal Court established by Rome Statute is a permanent international court with jurisdiction over those most responsible for committing the most serious human rights crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.