After massacres, Rohingya in Myanmar are dying from neglect

The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority who have been targeted by pogroms in Myanmar, are suffering through another lethal strategy: the denial of healthcare, food and humanitarian aid. After visiting Myanmar for a fourth time, columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote for The New York Times that the killings have shifted from “ethnic cleansing” to “slow-motion genocide.” Kristof talks to Hari Sreenivasan.

After massacres, Rohingya in Myanmar are dying from neglect
After massacres, Rohingya in Myanmar are dying from neglect

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HARI SREENIVASAN:

Since last summer, nearly 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh escaping attacks executions and rape by government forces. The conditions for those who remain in the Buddhist-majority country are hard to know because the Rohingya are isolated in areas where foreigners are mostly banned from traveling. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof slipped around police checkpoints and into remote Rohingya villages in Myanmar to document their plight. In a recent column he describes the situation as a slow motion genocide a massive humanitarian crisis that the rest of the world is all but ignoring. I spoke with Kristof at the New York Times offices yesterday to learn more. You called this a slow motion genocide. How come?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

Originally I call this an ethnic cleansing. But when you go and talk to the survivors and you hear about babies being thrown into bonfires about young men and boys being systematically having their throats cut or being shot and then when that violence has subsided then to see people being systematically denied medical care and in some areas systematically denied food systematically denied humanitarian assistance then I don’t know what else to call that but genocide. This is a deliberate policy aim to make the life of one ethnic group unlivable.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

This is your fourth trip in four years. Have you seen a change?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

Originally there was a lot of fear that this might blow up. Well, then it it did blow up. There was this rebel group that began to attack Burmese government installations and the result was this scorched earth response. And I think that in Myanmar the decision was we just can’t accommodate the Rohingya anymore, we need to drive them out and get rid of them and solve this once and for all. The Rohingya are confined to their villages or to a big huge concentration camp and they’re not allowed to leave the villages for education, for jobs, for medical care. In some extreme circumstances they can get permission and an escort to a medical centre but it’s difficult to get. And so, women who are pregnant end up dying in childbirth or they lose their babies and the kids can’t go to school. And this is just because they are Rohingya.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

One of the people that you profiled in your column was a woman who had just given birth.Tell us about.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

This is a woman called Sono Wara, she’s 18-years-old. This is her first pregnancy. She’s carrying twins, it’s a high risk pregnancy. But because the Rohingya in this village are not allowed to leave to get medical care there’s a traditional birth attendant who tries to help her deliver. She delivers and and both babies die unnecessarily.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

What’s the role been of Aung Sang Suii Kyi?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

Aung Sang Suu Kyi was one of my heroes. And to see her now become complicit in this genocide against the Rohingya is heartbreaking. I think in retrospect that we gave her too much credit for being in favor of human rights broadly of the Burmese people. In fact, I think she was something of a Burma nationalist all along. And I think also that she fundamentally became a politician. And one of the problems is that the old political split in Burma was between the military and democracy – that has changed. So now it’s essentially about how much you hate Muslims. And so for any politician there’s a fear that if they are soft on the Rohingya they will be hurt politically. I think that Suu Kyi sees that, she’s an opportunist and she is afraid of being perceived as friendly to the Rohingya,speaking up for them. And so she’s now a part of this.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

You also mentioned when it comes to hating specific groups that there are active disinformation campaigns there and social media is being used to rile people up.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

I think I and a lot of people thought that you know Internet comes to a country, social media, this frees people from the tyranny of government control of information and it does. But Facebook brought with it these vicious anti Muslim propaganda campaigns that were photos are shown purportedly of the Rohingya slaughtering Buddhists and they are spread around and they’re used to create hatred and to foster a broad desire among many many Burmese that they need to get rid of the Rohingya.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

I know there have been attempts in the U.S. Congress to do something about it but why the inaction right now?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

I think part of the problem is that right now the Trump administration is not terribly interested in human rights around the world. It has its own focuses and that we in the media who normally would be highlighting these kinds of issues were now enormously distracted by President Trump himself. And there isn’t really much of a business model in journalism for covering these kinds of stories and without coverage these kinds of crises persist.

HARI SREENIVASAN:

Nicholas Kristof, thanks so much joining us.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:

Good to be with you.

SOURCE: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/after-massacres-rohingya-in-myanmar-are-dying-from-neglect#audio

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