A stark warning from the UN in mid-December that genocide may be taking place in Myanmar has been met by an awkward silence around the world, indicating a limited appetite for forceful humanitarian intervention, even in the most extreme cases.
The persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority is beginning to resemble the plight of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, albeit on a smaller scale. After failing to stop the Rwanda slaughter, when up to 1 million people died, the international community vowed it would never happen again. Now, it seems, the nightmare is back.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, previously described systematic attacks on the Rohingya by Myanmar’s military and civilian militias as ethnic cleansing, an assessment shared by the US.
But in a BBC interview last month, Hussein went a big step further. “You cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed … It wouldn’t surprise me in the future if the court were to make such a finding on the basis of what we see.”