The Rohingya Crisis--A Reality Check

9 Nov 2017

The international community should not sensationalise Myanmar's lack of action instead it should focus on understanding the nuances of the crisis and formulating a plan of action to end it.

Image Credit: VOA News

Why is it happening ?

Over the past few months, the Rohingya crisis has undoubtedly garnered tremendous salience within the global discourse. In response to the humanitarian atrocities committed against the Rohingya, the international community has been extremely vocal in condemning the deafening “non-position” of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader. Most recently, the nobel-laureate was stripped of the Freedom of the City of Oxford and thousands petitioned for the revocation of her Nobel Peace Prize.


However, while international pressure remains an impetus for resolution, its potency remains pragmatically weak. Evidently, Aung San Suu Kyi’s political calculus prioritises agendas which extend beyond the humanitarian; for example, some postulate that her reluctance to criticise the military’s actions is rooted in her party’s long-term interests to retain democratic popularity. Ultimately, while her reasons for inaction may be left unjustified, what remains clear is the persistence of her indifference towards an international audience.


Why does it matter?

Historically, international institutions such as the UNHCR have played crucial roles in addressing humanitarian crises all over the world. However, the capacity for intervention is necessarily at loggerheads with respect for state sovereignty; in this regard, international criticisms merely incentivise, not necessitate, change. Most importantly, while this discourse surrounding the Rohingya crisis is normatively well-intentioned, it is only benign in so far as it does not distract efforts to provide immediate help to those who most need it.


To be sure, this does not imply a tolerance of ethnic persecution. Instead, there is a pressing need to acknowledge the limitations of international condemnation, to foster cooperation and dedication of resources to relieving the plights of refugees. What the international community should not be primarily preoccupied with is sensationalising the discrepancy between projected expectations on a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and her political actions. Instead, it is essential the international community focuses on the nuances underlying the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, and think realistically about solutions for the future. If Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi remains stubborn and sidelines the expectations of the international community, the least it can do is to offer succour in the face of adversity, and focus on how international institutions can effectively facilitate progress towards resolution.


What can you do about it?

On a macro-level, the Association of Southeast Nations, ASEAN, can adopt a more pro-active agenda in tackling the complex humanitarian situation at hand. In particular, while the principle of non-intervention persists within the ASEAN nations, widening the scope of key institutions such as the AHA Centre (ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance) wields the technical potential of coordinate protection. Furthermore, concretising a thorough risk analysis of ASEAN’s Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) can institutionalise discussion and comprehension surrounding protection, human rights, risks and vulnerability. As a regional bloc, ASEAN has the capacity to engage the government of Myanmar on behalf of the international community, while advancing greater mediation in resolving the existing tensions, buffering the confrontational stance of the international community towards Aung San Suu Kyi’s ethos.


Individually, we can work to shift the focus away from how Aung San Suu Kyi’s fails to act as a Nobel Laureate; instead, seek to understand the intricacies of tension within Myanmar and contribute to an active discussion about how countries can work together in an effective manner. Donating directly to organisations such as One Nation can also go a long way in providing bare necessities for the Rohingya refugees. As again, a reality check in our discourse is due, and the need for concerted, focused and effective efforts has never been more urgent.


Ian Ho briefs from Singapore . He is a candidate for a Bachelors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. 

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