Myanmar’s military appears to have resumed scorched-earth tactics against Muslim Rohingya that were of such “devastating cruelty” last year, according to the United Nations, that they most likely constituted “crimes against humanity.”
Tens of thousands of desperate Rohingya are fleeing Rakhine State, where a government operation began after attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on Aug 25. Since then, Myanmar’s military reports nearly 400 people have been killed, mostly insurgents, but Rohingya reaching Bangladesh report widespread atrocities by the military, including deliberate killings of civilians. The insurgents said they were reacting to abuses by the military, which reportedly moved a battalion into the region about a month ago, prompting concern from the United Nations about the Rohingya’s fate.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya’s basic human rights, including citizenship in the country of their birth, and has subjected the minority to persecution so egregious that hundreds of thousands have fled or languish in camps. The International Crisis Group warned in December that the root causes of the Rohingya insurgency are crushing persecution and the cruelty of the military. The solution, the group underlined, is to work to end discrimination against the Rohingya and to moderate the military’s response, precisely the opposite of what is happening now. Last Wednesday, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, called a meeting of the Security Council about the violence.
The continuing persecution of the Rohingya represents a colossal moral failure on the part of Myanmar’s democratically elected government, led by the Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The military retains considerable power, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi must tread carefully. But that is no excuse for her ridiculous accusation last week that international aid groups were supporting the insurgency, a charge that puts both aid workers and the people who depend on them in danger. The United Nations’ human rights envoy for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said she was “astonished” by the strict limitations Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government placed on her July visit to the…