September 19, 2019
Latest News

Rohingyas should not return to Myanmar as of now, says expert

By Carlos Sardiña Galache

Bangkok, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- Rohingya refugees should not return home as conditions are still not safe for them in Myanmar, says a former Dutch diplomat who was a member of an advisory commission for the conflict-ravaged Rakhine.

As the world earlier this week marked the second anniversary of the exodus of over 700,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh escaping a brutal crackdown by Myanmar military in August 2017, Laetitia van den Assum regretted that the refugees were still not able to return home.

“It's tragic for the Rohingya, but they shouldn't go back now. The UN has said that the situation is not suitable for them to return,” van den Assum told EFE in a Skype interview from her residence in The Hague.

On August 25, 2017, suspected guerrillas of the Rohingya Salvation Army of Arakan (ARSA) launched a series of coordinated attacks against police posts in the state of Rakhine, which triggered the so-called "cleansing operations" by the Myanmar army that a commission of United Nations investigation called "genocide."

A commission headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and appointed in 2016 by the de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, presented its final report on the situation in the state of Rakhine and its recommendations after a year of work.

Van den Assum was one of the three international members on the commission. She recalls that the genocide of the Muslim minority group of Rohingyas had its footprints in Myanmar government’s decades-long discriminatory policies of inciting hatred against them.

Q.- What do you think about the allegations about genocide of Rohingyas?

A: Genocide does not start with a massive operation like that. It starts with little things. It started many years earlier with the gradual exclusion of the Rohingya from society and that's a decades old process. Things like not allowing people to have more than two children fall straight into the definition of genocide.

The government has ratcheted up hatred for many years, assisted by monks, and the population at large has learned to hate the Rohingya more and more. What happened two years ago was not unexpected, because it was waiting to happen for a long time.

Q. - What has been the role of Aung San Suu Kyi in the Rohingya crisis in your opinion?

A: When we began the commission, she spoke with us, she was very clear and she said, "I want you to be bold, I want you to think out of the box". I think she was sincere when we first were installed. I think that changed after the 9th of October [2016] because then the word "terrorism".

But I think also that if she had really cared she would go to Rakhine to speak with people of both sides, and bringing them together. Occasionally she has organized interfaith prayer meetings but that's not the same as going on the ground and talk to people, showing your empathy but also trying to find solutions. And the solution lies in the communities working together.

Q.- Do you think the military and Suu Kyi's civilian government have the same ideas on Rohingyas or they have different visions on this?

A: She constantly uses law and order, but she doesn't really understand the concept in the way I would understand it, and that's problematic. On the other hand, she has said so many times, also when we were there, that the army was entitled to deal with terrorists, and I have never heard her make a plea or a suggestion that there was not agreement there. By playing the terrorism card you get them both on the same page.

I know Aung San Suu Kyi since 1995, and she is not the kind of person that is able to radiate empathy, and for her, struggle has been hard, she has suffered, and others should not think that, in order to see change, you can do that without suffering.

Q.- Tell us about the repatriation process of the refugees in Bangladesh. Do you think a substantial repatriation is possible in near future?

It's tragic for the Rohingya, but they shouldn't go back now. The UN has said that the situation is not suitable for them to return. The UN cannot, once they're there, fulfil its protection role [...] At the same time, it is a war zone [with the Arakan Army]. How can you return people to that?

But both Bangladesh and Myanmar think they will benefit from showing that they have tried. And Myanmar would be happy to say that they are trying but the Rohingya don't wanna come, so let them stay there, they are "Bengalis" anyway.

Election in Burma is next year, who is going to benefit from bringing back large numbers of Rohingya back? No one!

Q. What future do you see for the state of Rakhine and the Rohingyas?

A: I think that unless there is a real attempt to, and this has to come from the center, to establish a new vision of national identity, and what it means, nothing much will change. And it would be wonderful if these issues were discussed around the election, but everyone is afraid of that discussion. This clinging to old concepts is going to affect the country very badly. It is necessary a nationwide conversation on what it means to be in and from Myanmar. EFE-EPA


News history
US immigration courts' backlog exceeds 1 million cases

By Michelle Hackman.

Pompeo, Bin Salman condemn 'unprecedented' Saudi oil refinery attacks

Washington, Sept. 18 (efe-epa).- United States’ secretary of state and the Saudi crown prince met on Wednesday in Jeddah to coordinate a response to the...

Argentine lawmakers renew emergency food law

Buenos Aires, Sep 18 (EFE).- The Argentine Senate approved on Wednesday a measure to renew a 17-year-old emergency food law amid the worsening economic...

Fed cuts interest rates by a quarter point

Washington, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- The United States Federal Reserve voted Wednesday to lower its benchmark interest rate to a target range of between 1.75...

Trump, Rouhani, Bolsonaro to be UN's main protagonists, many missing

By Mario Villar

28 children die in Liberia school fire

Monrovia, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- At least 28 children have died in Liberia in a fire in a boarding school in a suburb on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia.

Trump steps up sanctions on Iran after oil attacks

Washington, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States said Wednesday he has ordered a significant increase in sanctions against Iran, a move...

Indian students and activists take part in an anti-tobacco campaign rally

New Delhi, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- The government of India on Wednesday announced a blanket ban on electronic-cigarettes, citing health risks to users,...

At least 10 injured as militants attack government office in Afghanistan

Kabul, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- At least 10 people were injured on Wednesday in a suicide bomb and gun attack targeting a government office complex in the city of...

Trump, Rouhani, Bolsonaro to be UN's main protagonists, many missing

By Mario Villar

Spain's politicians unofficially enter campaign mode as repeat vote looms

Madrid, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- Spanish lawmakers on Wednesday unofficially began campaigning for looming repeat elections in a lively prime minister's questions...

Hong Kong protests creating chasm between residents and police

By Shirley Lau.

Juncker: Possible no-deal Brexit remains 'palpable'

Strasbourg, France, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- The risk of a no-deal Brexit remains "palpable," the EU commission's president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs Wednesday.

Alleged Chinese cyber-attacks cast shadow over Australian politics

By Rocio Otoya

Freed Venezuelan lawmaker calls for release of all political prisoners

Caracas, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- The deputy speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled parliament, who was released on Tuesday after spending more than 130...

Netanyahu vows to form new government

Tel Aviv, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- Israel's acting prime minister gave a speech to supporters early on Wednesday following general elections in the Middle Eastern...

Sánchez makes last call to avoid new Spanish elections

Spain will hold snap elections on 10 November, after acting PM Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday (17 September) failed to get either the support of the leftist...

Oil price falls as fears of supply shortage ebb

By Guillermo Ximenis

Pain, resignation hang over central Mexico 2 years after devastating quake

By Gabriela Garcia Guzman

Spain's king names no premier candidate, opening way to new elections

Madrid, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Spain's King Felipe VI on Tuesday did not name a candidate to form a new government after his round of contacts with political...

Greta Thunberg, activists urge Congress to act on climate change

Washington, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, along with a group of indigenous leaders, on Tuesday demanded...

Saïed, Karoui will face off in 2nd round of presidential elections in Tunisia

Tunis, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Conservative jurist Kaïes Saïed and media magnate Nabil Karoui will face off in a runoff election in Tunisia, according to the...

Amazon deforestation driven by mafia networks, NGO warns

Sao Paolo, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is driven by violent mafia networks which the Jair Bolsonaro government has fueled by...

Snowden's memoirs: A call to protect privacy in a digital age

By Lucia Leal

I agree Welcome to We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.