Op-Ed: The Latest In A Long Line of Abuses Against The Rohingya
Over time it's very easy to become desensitised to reports which relay 'the number of dead..' or 'the number of displaced..' etc when we face a barrage of humanitarian disasters, war-torn communities and the like on a daily basis.
But when you hear about the same community facing the same abuses but just on increasing scales over the period of a generation, more than 50 years, and there is a general apathy towards their silent suffering, we must awaken our senses that we live in a world that readily bows down to fast cars, fast fashion and now seemingly fast news.
I oversimplified the latest scenario of the plight of the Burmese Rohingya earlier in a Facebook post to make the issue as easy to digest as possible. For context sake, this a copy:
Rohingya since June 2012 have been systematically moved towards IDP camps where the conditions are beyond appaling. As a last resort, the Rohingya have tried to flee these conditions and as Bangladesh have strictly denied access beyond their borders, they are faced with no alternative but to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia who have been typically receptive towards Rohingya migrants. In order to get there though, they have to often pass Thailand. Many human traffickers have in the past intercepted the boats and then taken Rohingya captive in 'slave camps'. the traffickers then hold the captives families to ransom, if they pay up they are passed to other traffickers who take them onward. if they don't pay, they are beaten and many have been killed. a few days back mass graves were found of those killed by the traffickers. The Thai authorities are now stringently pushing boats on and not allowing to come to Thailand. In previous months, Rohingya boats have then gone on to Malaysia and Indonesia. Over the weekend about 1500 or so landed in Aceh in Indonesia and Langkawi in Malaysia. As a result, Malaysia and Indonesia have now said they will not allow any boats of Rohingya in. This means those boats can't head back to Burma where the brutal leadership would punish unbearably, they can't risk being in the custody of the murderous traffickers in Thailand and they cant go to Bangladesh where they have been aggressively turned away for the past 2 years. So their fate? Almost certain death in the Andaman sea.
And what is being done about it? Nothing. No international pressure, no regional political pressure, no mainstream media coverage. Nothing.
And the saddest thing of this latest crisis the Rohingya face is the absolute silence from political powers, media outlets and even global aid agencies. The reality is the Rohingya issue is simply not 'fast news' enough. It doesn't have an immediate threat to any Western powers. It doesn't have any resonance with petrodollars. It doesn't even have any bearing on Government within Burma. And because there is no monetary, geographical or political motivation, the lives of Rohingya are not controversial enough to report or to act upon or to rush to assistance.
But the reality is that there is approximately 6,000 Rohingya men, women and children who are stranded in the Andaman Sea who do not have enough space to lie down on their broken fishing boats where up to 500 are crammed. There is nowhere for them to use a toilet with dignity. There is no water to drink. There is no food to eat. They can see the shores of Aceh and Langkawi. And they hear the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities say that is not welcome on shore, not even for medical attention. There is no chatter or cries on these boats. There is just silence. And a realisation that they will lose their lives at sea. That their silence is reciprocated by the world, our political leaders and our media. The lives of these 6,000 will not change anything politically, monetarily or geographically.
But our silence will forever have an impact on their humanity.