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Myanmar's genocide denial frustrates Rohingya refugees

People who escaped 2017 Rakhine clampdown accuse inquiry team of 'another big lie'

Myanmar's genocide denial frustrates Rohingya refugees

Rohingya men carry an elderly woman as they enter Bangladesh from Myanmar following a deadly military crackdown on the community in Rakhine state in September 2017. (Photo: Piyas Biswas/UCA News)

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have dismissed as “another big lie” a recent Myanmar government report denying “genocidal intent” in the 2017 military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The government-established Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), led by Rosario Manalo, a former deputy foreign minister of the Philippines, submitted its final report to President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Jan. 20.

The full report has yet to be made public and it is still uncertain whether Myanmar government will ever publish it.

The report noted that there were war crimes and serious human rights violations against Rohingya in 2017 but it found “no genocidal intent.”

“There is insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group or with any other requisite mental state for the international crime of genocide,” the commission said in a statement.

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Hossain Johur, 45, a Rohingya from Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, dismissed the report as a “another big lie.”

“No one trusts Myanmar’s government anymore,because it has lied so much and continues to do so. Rohingya have faced brutal abuses that forced them to flee in droves to Bangladesh. It can deny genocide, but the world knows the crackdown was intended to eliminate Rohingya as a whole,” Johur, a former primary school teacher from Maungdaw of Rakhine, told UCA News.

Johur fled to Bangladesh following the 2017 crackdown with his wife and three children.

Abu Taleb, 45, a Rohingya refugee from Balukhali camp, echoed similar sentiments.

“Myanmar has committed crimes against humanity toward Rohingya and as usual continues to propagate falsely to save face from constant international pressure. Myanmar does not want to see Rohingya return to their homeland, and their lies are part of their plan to deny rights and recognition of Rohingya,” Taleb told UCA News.

The ICOE report is just “another gameplay,” said one of the state officials overseeing refugee and relief operations in Cox’s Bazar.

“Myanmar’s denial of atrocities against Rohingya, dillydallying with repatriation and continuous false propaganda show they like playing games and bluffing the international community. Myanmar’s government has lost credibility and nobody trusts them at all,” the official told UCA News on condition of anonymity.

James Gomes, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Chittagong, one of the largest charities operating in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, also expressed frustration over the report.

“The ICJ took the case of Rohingya genocide into consideration as it found merits in the case. If the crackdown was not brutal or genocidal, such a large number of people would not flee their homes and shelter in a foreign land,” Gomes told UCA News.

Despite living in Rakhine state for centuries, Rohingya Muslims are denied basic rights including citizenship in Myanmar. Many in the Buddhist-majority country consider Rohingya recent illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

To escape state-sponsored and Buddhist extremist persecution, many Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and other countries in the past decades.

Bangladesh is sheltering more than one million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled two deadly military crackdowns in Rakhine in response to Rohingya militant attacks on Myanmar security forces.

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