Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision not to attend the next U.N. General Assembly in New York was perhaps intended to shake the Glass Palace again on the Rohingya issue. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has made statements regarding this decision in the past few days, but the language used Wednesday was the strongest it has yet been: The situation of this minority is becoming “catastrophic” and the actions of the Burmese military are “completely unacceptable.”
Guterres’ words — and in diplomatic language sometimes a single term can make an incredible difference — mark an ever higher level in the bar that registers the humor of the international community and the sensibility of humanitarian agencies (both U.N. and others) that cannot provide relief to the 380,000 Rohingya displaced persons who escaped Myanmar in the last two weeks. They fled for the “disproportionate reaction” (again the words of the U.N.) of Burmese law enforcement agencies after the attack by a Rohingya armed group on Aug. 25 at several police stations.
The crescendo started with the statements by the Special Envoy to Myanmar, Korean teacher Yanghee Lee, who in fact was unable to carry out her inquiry. Then, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, used the term “ethnic cleansing” without many circumvents. In fact, he said it is “textbook” ethnic cleansing.