According to recent reports, Muslims in Myanmar are in a tragic human plight. Some reports say 650 of the nearly one million Rohingya Muslims have been killed as of June 28 in classes in the western region of Rakhine. Also, almost 1, 200 Muslims are missing and over 90,000 have been internally or externally displaced. Muslims are not considered full citizens of Myanmar according to the Constitution. The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, claiming they are not natives and classifying them as illegal migrants despite the fact that they have lived in the country for generations. Muslims living in the Rakhine region of Myanmar are deprived of basic rights including education and employment. They are also subject to forced labor, extortion and other coercive measures. Clearly, this is a tragic human rights violation. Who is helping and who should help?
In the years of military rule the global community avoided ground interference and chose to use external means of pressure like economic sanctions. Much of the global community was unwilling to get directly involved due to the dangerous and instable state of the military government. However, with the rise of democracy in the country the global community is becoming more involved and willing to aid the rights of citizens and address human rights violations. However, the United Nations has still not agreed to dispatch peacekeeping forces to Myanmar. Several Islamic states or states with a large population of Muslims have lashed out at the United Nations for keeping silent on the ongoing massacre of Muslims in the Rakhine region. Iran in particular is pressuring the United Nations to dispatch peacekeeping forces. Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said, “Why don’t you dispatch peacekeeping forces to Myanmar to prevent the killing of Muslims as you sent peacekeepers to Syria?” Many Islamic countries are disappointed that though the United Nations sent peacekeepers to Syria, do not see Myanmar as in need of such assistance. This is likely the cause of the global community strategy of stepping back from assisting Myanmar during the military rule, and creating awareness of this tragedy again is a slow process with more publicized and larger news events like Syria and the Arab Spring.
In contrast to peacekeeping troops of the United Nations, some scholars that regional countries or the ASEAN should take the reigns on peacekeeping in Myanmar as it is a regional problem, as the ethnic conflict in the country is spilling into neighboring countries. Some suggest that the Myanmar government should invite regional troops to be stationed in conflict areas while it works to settle the disputes politically and permanently. Since this is a regional problem, neighboring countries would be more willing to dispatch troops than the United Nations. Allowing regional troops into Myanmar will show Myanmar’s new commitment to peace and ending conflict. Also, since one of the most damaging characteristics of Myanmar as a failed state is its ethnic conflict and rebel groups, with regional troops acting, the government can focus on the long term success of the political legitimacy and economic growth.
Though Myanmar has progressed well in the last few years, there is still more that can be come to help the people and support political legitimacy and effectiveness. Status quo strategies, like peacekeeping are likely to be more effective in Myanmar at this time since the democratic government is so new. There is still a lack of government legitimacy and resentment for the global community stepping back for such a long period, therefore direct intervention, trusteeship, or shared sovereignty would not likely be supported by the citizens.