The hearing against Myanmar at International Court of Justice (ICJ) closed last Thursday. While the world awaits the date for provisional measure, I tried to go through the social media posts of a few of my friends from Myanmar. Life being busy and noisy all the time, we hardly talk but settle in seeing each other through social media activities. Unfortunately, I didn't find a single post related to the hearing.
I met a bureaucrat from the Myanmar government this July in Jakarta at a regional conference. The conference was two days long, so we had a chance to meet in a couple of sessions. In the closing dinner, we shared the same table with few others from India and the Philippines. The Rohingya issue subtly been raised. I asked the government official how he sees the genocide, jailed journalist, and locked up critic thing. He said Suu Kyi has nothing to do, she is just following what the people of the country want. Not only the military, the majority of the people expect the Rohingyas to leave the country. He also mentioned a few of those against this atrocity were subject to threats from the government and social bullying. I couldn't continue the conversation frequently after a few minutes, I began to pitch my voice higher than usual.
When the Rohingya influx officially started in 2017, I was in the USA as a Fulbright Humphrey Fellow. This a State Department Fellowship where mid-career professionals from around the world go to the USA for a year of professional development programme. Most of the days, we would attend seminars or conferences, give a lecture at university, meet relevant professionals, get mentorship from industry experts, or research our projects.
Naturally, every debate or discussion at that period started or ended with the Rohingya issue unfolding. How the press from different countries were reporting the Rohingya issue, was also a key point of discussion. I was the only fellow representing Bangladesh among 12 journalists from Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Asia. Everybody had questions, doubts, and of course, apprehension of the future of the Rohingyas.
I was unhinged and cautious when talking about what's going on with the Rohingyas. I made sure all the information, data, and history I was giving were well grounded. I spoke to several people who were covering the Rohingya exodus first hand. Some of them are reporters and editors from Bangladesh; some work for international platforms. I ensured I was saying the right things at various global platforms about the world's most persecuted minority, also about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
One of the local radios of Arizona called me for an interview in mid-September. The show was on world affairs, and they had a segment on Rohingya crisis. I decided to go because I wanted to present the facts right in front of people out there. At the end of the show, one of the comparatively young editors said, I have grown up hearing Suu Kyi's name as a champion of humanity, I wouldn't buy a thing of what you said! I told him, politicians are flawed, it takes a lifetime to make a reputation like that, I don't know how and why someone would throw that away like this!
A couple of months later, we had a panel discussion on "Refugees around the world, risks, challenges, and opportunities" at Arizona State University. The four-member panel consisted of four journalists, me included. The other three were representing Europe, Middle East, and Africa. We discussed the nature of the crisis each continent face, what refugees bring to the new country, and how the press covers the issues. The question struck me the most was from my friend from China. She asked, how would you convince significant powers like China and India to take any action in the refugee crisis when, apparently, they have nothing to do with it? I said, if such a humanitarian crisis in their neighborhood doesn't move them, then I won't be able to convince them at all.
Rohingya issue was unfolding throughout 2017-2018. At the end of my year in the USA, we went to present in an international conference of educators and journalists at Las Vegas. This was yet another panel on refugee crisis around the world. Here, I met a PhD candidate who was researching on sullied political leaders. I think he described Suu Kyi the most convincing way. He said, she is a very articulate, elegant, and resilient politician, but her moral authority is flawed. If you are a leader with erroneous moral beliefs, it is bound to surface one way or another.
Kazi Mohua is a freelance journalist based in Canada.