Tinmaung: Canada must step in to help the Rohingya. here’s how

At the very least, Canada can advocate for access to education for young Rohingya in refugee camps. Nearly half a million children have been deprived of education.

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Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the last Rohingya massacre, which wiped nearly 400 Rohingya villages off the world map. Five years later, survivors of the massacre languish in the world’s largest refugee camps with minimal basic human rights and very few basic services, forgotten by most of the world.

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Canada, one of the first Western countries to declare the situation a genocide, has done little lately as its priorities have shifted almost entirely to other global developments.

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On August 25, 2017, Myanmar’s military launched its « demining operation », during which almost half of all Rohingya villages were burnt down. Tens of thousands of civilians, part of this ethnic minority, were massacred and an unknown number of mass graves were erected. Nearly a million survivors have been forced into refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, some with severe trauma after witnessing people killed with machetes, children burned to death and gang rapes of women and children. girls. Many international civil society organizations and governments have declared the situation a genocide; the current Biden administration in the United States recognized it as genocide in March of this year.

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Survivors who managed to escape to refugee camps in Bangladesh saw some hope in the early years, when almost all international humanitarian NGOs flocked to the camps to provide aid. Over the years, aid began to dry up and the number of NGOs in the area dwindled. Economic activity in the refugee camps has always been prohibited, so there is no possibility of creating self-sufficiency. No formal education of Rohingya children is allowed in the camps as they are considered transient guests; worse still, the informal education centers were often closed by the camp authorities.

For those who remained in Myanmar, the situation gradually deteriorated. After the February 1, 2021 coup, the military regained control of the country, with Min Aung Hlaing, the general who led the clearance operation, assuming full authority. Freedom of movement, education and livelihoods became even more restricted, and the Rohingya, being the poorest, continued to suffer disproportionately from the effects of Myanmar’s severe economic downturn, resulting from internal unrest. Political and ethnic armed groups opposed to the military coup, such as the National Unity Government and the People’s Defense Forces, gave little or no recognition to the Rohingya who had little money or weapons to bring.

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Canada initially showed leadership in the Rohingya crisis, becoming the first country in the world to declare the situation a genocide, revoking Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship and committing $300 million in humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees. But since then, Canada has been absent from international forums where the plight of the Rohingyas is discussed.

Canada can become a party to ongoing Rohingya genocide cases at the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice, a promise the federal government has made a few times but has yet to deliver. . Canada can also ensure, as an impartial entity, that the Rohingya have a place in the democratic groups it supports in Myanmar. Canada can also leverage its relationships with countries like India, which host large populations of Rohingya refugees, to treat them with dignity and guarantee them their basic human rights. Canada can rally its allies to provide financial support to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has appealed for the remaining half of the $880 million needed to support refugee camps for 2022.

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At the very least, Canada can advocate for access to education for young Rohingya in the camps. Nearly half a million children are deprived of education, according to Human Rights Watch. When the current Minister for International Development took office, he explicitly expressed his interest in the education of marginalized children around the world. Support for the education of young Rohingya refugees would at least give these children hope that their future may possibly be different from their present and their past.

from Toronto Raiss Tinmaung is founder and president of the Rohingya Human Rights Network.

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