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The Rohingya Refugees, Adrift

Editorial by the New York Times

Rohyngia girl in a refugee camp

Rohyngia girl in a refugee camp Credit Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The famous US daily's editorial board dedicated its recent column to the plight of the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority of Myanmar which is persecuted and made stateless by the Burmese junta. Many of them are escaping to neighbouring Thailand, but they remain at risk of human smuggling as proven by the unveiling of mass graves in this country. The US, the EU and the UN have put pressure on the Myanmar government to stop this persecution, but to little avail. The junta has expelled Doctors without Borders and other organisations and the situation of the Rohingyas has kept worsening. We publish the most important excerpts from the Times editorial in the hope the cruelty of both the junta and smugglers can be prevented and when necessary, as too often it is, severely punished.     

Thousands of people, both Muslim Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking jobs in Malaysia, have been abandoned at sea recently in Southeast Asia by smugglers fearing arrest as Thailand cracks down on human traffickers. At least 8,000 people are in peril, yet the Southeast Asian nations off whose shores they drift have been reluctant to save them.

Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya is the root of this crisis, explains the article, adding that  

Its government has even blocked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from discussing the Rohingyas’ plight.

Then a few data are given for a better understanding of this people's plight: in the last three years, about 140,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar have been driven from their homes by state violence. 40,000 Rohingyas are in camps within several hundred yards of the coast, with monsoon season arriving within weeks. In the first quarter of this year, the United Nations estimated that 25,000 people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh. Just this week, more than 1,500 refugees from the two countries have shipwrecked in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Last June, the United States downgraded Thailand and Malaysia to the worst category in its annual human trafficking report. But the government of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in Thailand in a coup a year ago, is only now cracking down on smugglers. After a mass grave at a smugglers’ camp was discovered in Thailand on May 1, the government acted quickly to arrest a suspect and three local officials. Bangladesh has also moved forcefully against smugglers, arresting more than 100 suspects in recent months.

The problem - according to the Times - is that while governments are finally taking steps against smugglers, they have shown little mercy for their victims. Thailand has deported many Rohingyas back to Myanmar, where they face continued persecution and death threats. On Tuesday, the Indonesian Navy turned back a ship packed with refugees.

Given the breadth of the crisis, Southeast Asian leaders must find a way out of this deadlock. The governments of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia bear a moral responsibility to take emergency action to avert catastrophic loss of life and to offer protection to victims of human trafficking.

The New York Times Editorial Board

Analysis by The New York Times Editorial Board

13 May 2015

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Crimes of genocide and against the humankind

the denial of the individual's value

The first legal definition in the domain of mass persecution dates back to 1915 and concerns the massacres of the Armenian populations perpetrated by the Turks, which were followed by the trials of the perpetrators before the Martial Court. In the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 the Great Powers use the terms "crimes against civilization" and "crimes of lèse-humanity". In the aftermath of Second World War, face the Holocaust tragedy, the Military Tribunal of the Nurnberger Trials against Nazi officials started the proceeding by stating the crimes on which it was competent... On 9 December 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously approved the Convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which is considered as the most heinous crime against Humanity. 

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