Burma Continues to Deny Genocide. But Pictures Tell a Different Story.

COMMENTARY Asia

Burma Continues to Deny Genocide. But Pictures Tell a Different Story.

Mar 2nd, 2018

Commentary By

Dan Lee

Spring 2018 member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation

Olivia Enos

Policy Analyst, Asian Studies Center

A burned out village in northern Rakhine, an area of Myanmar populated by the Rohingya minority group. Photo taken on Feb. 11, 2018. Andrew Parsons/i-Images / Polaris/Newscom

Mass grave sites, primarily composed of the murdered bodies of Rohingya Muslims, are currently being bulldozed over by the Burmese government.

This heinous operation is the government’s latest effort to absolve itself of its sins, erasing all evidence of the ethnic cleansing campaign it conducted last year.

The numbers are staggering: Over 6,700 Rohingya have been killed and more than 640,000 displaced since last August. Yet the Burmese government continues to deny any responsibility in the ethnic cleansing.

Last September before the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council, Burma’s national security adviser, U Thaung Tun, dismissed reports of the Rohingya crisis as “merely subjective and emotionally charged accounts of the media,” and emphatically denied any form of ethnic cleansing in the country. He also said that the Burmese government “will never espouse” policies of genocide.

Satellite imagery, however, reveals the dark reality. With foreign media outlets and the U.N. being denied access to Rakhine—the state that most Rohingya fled—satellite images are the only source of visual evidence of the brutal crimes being committed there.

>>> See the satellite images showing the removal of a Rohingya village.

Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is essentially the head of state, received criticism from the international community for her limited statements and actions to defend the Rohingya. She is, however, in an unenviable political position due to the current Burmese constitution, which continues to grant the military disproportionate power in the Burmese political system. As such, there is little hope that the Burmese government will be able to right the wrongs committed against the Rohingya.

With the U.S. Senate unanimously voting to support new legislation to address the human rights crisis in Burma and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passing the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Actwith no objections, there is a bipartisan consensus that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya must be addressed.

The U.S. government should pursue new sanctions against those perpetrating violence in Burma, and prohibit military-to-military engagement with the country.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

More on This Issue