As the world continues to battle the coronavirus crisis, there are some marginalised communities who face greater threats from the authorities. Outcry over the atrocities committed against the Rohingya and Uighur minorities are on the rise as Myanmar and China’s officials have been accused of genocidal acts.
UNITED NATIONS’ WARNING TO MYANMAR
On 3 September, Myanmar’s military opened fire at two villages before burning down over 160 houses. With two men being shot dead, thousands of villagers fled for their lives, and even those housed in the quarantine centre did not feel safe either. When questioned, a spokesman rejected the claims and accused the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed group, of being the aggressor.
Conflict in the Rakhine state started in 2012, before becoming a site of violent military campaigns against the Rohingya in 2017. This resulted in the mass migration of 730,000 Rohingya people across the border towards Bangladesh.
However, this year, as more COVID-19 cases were recorded in that area, a partial lockdown was enacted. While Aung San Suu Kyi promised to provide food and monetary aid to those affected, the media blackout continued, and humanitarian access was restricted.
It has also been reported that at least four civilians died in an artillery shootout a week later.
With more accusations being made, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, noted that Myanmar’s actions could be counted as war crimes and crimes against humanity. She also mentioned that other minorities in Myanmar are increasingly victimised by armed conflict and civilians are unjustly killed, tortured and arrested.
OUTCRY FOR UIGHURS’ JUSTICE
Apart from Myanmar, China is also under scrutiny as it has been accused of ethnic and religious cleansing. This comes as several activist groups, including Genocide Watch, Uyghur Human Right Project and European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, have signed an open letter, seeking the United Nations Human Rights Council to start an investigation regarding the mass killing of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
China attempted to justify the detention of over 1 million people in internment camps as part of its “counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures”. However, many rejected it and accused China of crimes against humanity.
Nonetheless, China has openly invited European Union observers to come to Xinjiang, although the EU is still unsure if they are permitted to move freely within the region. Michelle Bachelet also added that she is working with the Chinese authorities to visit Xinjiang to gain a better understanding.