From the Editor-in-Chief: Rohingyas … and a suppressed report

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, October 12th, 2017
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It is quite an eye-opener. If the United Nations representative in Myanmar did commission a report on the global body’s strategy in dealing with the Myanmar government on the Rohingya situation and then suppressed it, it worries everyone. And it does so because not long after the report was prepared by the independent analyst Richard Hornsey the Myanmar army and other security forces launched their action against the Rohingyas on the ground that a Rohingya militant group had attacked some security outposts and killed soldiers. The attacks did take place, but the retaliation from the authorities was extremely disproportionate. It forced more than 500,000 Rohingyas to seek shelter in Bangladesh.


It was just this kind of situation Hornsey had warned against through his research suggesting that the UN mission in Myanmar was unprepared to handle it unless it undertook serious contingency planning. The report was commissioned by Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN resident coordinator in Myanmar. In the event, it was Lok-Dessallien who suppressed the report for reasons that have never been explained. Maybe the UN representative was reluctant to accept the criticisms Hornsey had made, all with a good purpose, about the world body’s lack of preparedness to cope with a possible conflict arising out of the situation. The suppression of the report inevitably led to the ethnic cleansing we see in Myanmar today. The military has been engaged in this macabre task since the end of August. The UN’s failure is once again a reminder of what the global body failed to do in Rwanda in 1994. There were all the signs of a genocide about to drag the country’s Tutsi and Hutu tribes down and yet the UN did nothing. The consequence was genocide.


The Rohingyas present a similar case today, one which calls for an explanation from UN headquarters. The global body is dedicated to promoting and maintaining peace. But the Myanmar instance demonstrates the inability of some of its officials to do what needs to be done. Obviously, Lok-Dessallien ignored the report because she did not like it. The question now is one of whether the United Nations conducts business on the personal likes and dislikes of its highly salaried officials, most of whom come from the West and perhaps do not have a very clear understanding of the realities they are expected to deal with.


Richard Hornsey’s report is a 28-page document but has served little purpose, thanks to the UN representative in Myanmar. Where does that put new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres?

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