I wrote a recent piece in The Federalist on the hysteric Western liberal media coverage of the Rohingya crisis is looking very similar to the ones during the early days of Libyan and Syrian civil wars. Naturally, the reaction to that, was…let’s say…quite extreme.
Anyway, here’s what we are seeing now. the same appeal to emotions, same arguments of ethnic cleansing, and genocide, without any understanding of the history and context of the crisis. It will soon lead to arguments of regime change, and sanctions, if UN peacekeepers. And it is specifically for that reason, every neighbouring country should be wary of the situation in Myanmar.
With more than 310,000 people having fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, there are daily reports of violence in Myanmar border. The UNHRC, which bizarrely had Saudi Arabia as a chair, of all countries, noted that Myanmar is apparently having an ethnic cleansing. An official was quoted by Guardian, saying, “I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population.”
The Rohingya issue is not new. It originates from the forced demographic change during the British times, when the northern Myanmar was socially engineered by the British colonial governance, to provide for cheap labour. It created centuries of sectarian tension and separatism, and worse, anti-Burmese violence in the 40s and 50s. Over 50000 Myanmar Buddhists were killed in the 1940s, a wound that still lives in Myanmar. Recently, since the 1980s, the Rohingya separatism, acquired an Islamist character. It is important to note that there’s a huge connection between Islamists in North India, and Xinjiang, and Rohingya and the Moro Liberation front. While most of these groups started with political or economic demands, over time, they have acquired a religious character which cannot be negotiated with.
It is in this time, the latest Rohingya crisis started. People will remember that last time, China and Russia blocked any action against Myanmar government. This time also, India found solidarity with Myanmar. The reason is simple.
India, China and Myanmar, even with different forms and types of governments, however face an existential problem with Islamism and jihadism. India as it is, has over 40000 Rohingya, most of them located in north of the country, as well as in the zones next to Bangladesh, where the authorities think that they have huge demographic repercussions for the native population. The Rohingya is also according to memos of Indian security agencies, are a particularly high breeding ground for Islamic jihadism which will have long term consequences. Similarly, in Myanmar, they are considered outsiders, who came to Burma, and now want a separate state of their own. Myanmar has seen what happened to the Coptic Christians and Yazidis, Jews and Pandits, and they have arguably learnt their lessons.
The combination of these two factors are huge. The fact that the Rohingya population, would never integrate in Myanmar, and secondly, they will have huge security implication for both the neighbouring great powers of India and China, is not a fact that is lost on careful observers of the crisis.
Most importantly, however, it is important to understand that the hysteria about Rohingya is essentially a reaction by liberal internationalists who are now threatened with a record of their failed foreign policy. Since the heydays of Arab Spring and Liberal interventionism, the foreign policy of humanitarian interventions has been used time and time again. However, that foreign policy is under scrutiny ever since 2003. The Rohingya crisis is now offering a chance to the same ideologues a chance for a new global battle. But there is needless to mention, no good options in Myanmar. A war or intervention will only exacerbate the situation insanely, not to mention that neither India or China would support a Western backed force next to their border, and the subsequent chaos and inevitable rise of Islamism. With ISIS now waging Jihad in Philippines, there should be an urgent focus on that.