Myanmar′s Muslim minority

The plight of the Rohingya: Nowhere to run

Muslim countries and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai have lambasted Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the poor treatment of Rohingya Muslims. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Rakhine. By Soraya Auer

The plight of the Rohingya has cast a dark shadow over the image of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has come under increasing fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or criticise the military.

Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar's junta and Nobel peace laureate, has made no public comment since the latest fighting broke out in Myanmar's western Rakhine state. This prompted criticism on Monday from fellow Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai and Muslim countries in Asia targeting Suu Kyi.

"Every time I see the news, my heart breaks at the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar," Pakistani activist Yousafzai, who famously survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, said in a statement on Twitter. "Over the last several years I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same," she added.

The growing crisis threatens Myanmar's diplomatic relations, particularly with Muslim-majority countries in Southeast Asia, where there is profound public anger over the treatment of the Rohingya.

Threatening diplomatic relations

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met Suu Kyi as well as Myanmar's army chief General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw on Monday in a bid to pressure the government to do more to alleviate the crisis. "Once again, violence, this humanitarian crisis has to stop immediately," Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters on Sunday as he announced Retno's mission there.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it was "deeply concerned over reports of growing number of deaths and forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims" and urged Myanmar to investigate reports of atrocities against the community.

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (photo: Reuters/Simon Lewis)
A laureate of peace? Under increasing fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or criticise the military, Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi recently resorted to the ′fake news′ excuse favoured by others on the world stage. Passing no comment on the plight of the Rohingya, she blamed ″terrorists″ for disseminating a huge ″iceberg of misinformation″ about the situation in Rakhine

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif added in a recent tweet: "Global silence on continuing violence against #Rohingya Muslims. Int'l action crucial to prevent further ethnic cleansing UN must rally."

Muslim-majority Malaysia has also seen public protests since the latest round of Rakhine violence began. "We urge for calm and restraint," Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted. "The dire situation facing our Rohingya brothers and sisters must be alleviated for good of Myanmar and region."

Exodus and humanitarian crisis

More than 125,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled west toward Bangladesh following the worst wave of violence in Rakhine since communal conflict broke out in the region in 2012. The Myanmar army has been accused of launching a violent campaign since 25 August, when Rohingya insurgents killed 12 police.

"Many of the refugees who have poured across the border into Bangladesh have spoken of witnessing horrific abuses by Myanmar's security forces, including killings and burnings of whole villages," said Amnesty International's Asia spokesperson Olof Blomqvist.

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