As the UN released a report Monday calling for six Myanmar military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims, Canada’s special envoy to the country believes the federal government has a “significant opportunity” to help resolve the conflict.
Bob Rae told CTV News Channel that the Canadian government will need to talk with other countries about what steps they can take in ending the year-long crisis.
“There’s a significant opportunity for Canada to have a role, provided we’re prepared to meet our own obligations, which is something the government is very committed to doing,” he said on Monday.
Rae visited the Rohingya refugee camps last fall and released a report about the situation in April. The report called on the Canadian government to welcome Rohingya refugees and enforce sanctions on the Myanmar government.
“There were very serious allegations that were made to me about sexual violence, about the burning of villages,” Rae said about his trip to the refugee camps.
Canada has publicly condemned the violence and has committed $300 million over the next three years to help the refugees.
Saturday marked one year since some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled their homes in Buddhist-majority Myanmar following a military crackdown in the Rakhine state. To mark the occasion and raise awareness about the crisis, supporters held several rallies across Canada over the weekend.
On Monday, the UN’s Human Rights Council released a report following a six-month “fact-finding mission” and called for six Myanmar military generals to be tried in the International Criminal Court, to which Myanmar is not a party.
The report details accounts of gang rape, villages being burned to the ground, people being forced into slavery and children being killed in front of their parents. Reporters Without Borders estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed in the year of violence.
Rae says the report took so long to come out because the UN team has been diligent in verifying their findings.
“I think what’s happened is this UN fact-finding mission has taken a lot of time and a lot of trouble to really try to amass as much evidence as they can, to double check allegations, to go back for more interviews and I think that’s why it’s taken the time that it has,” said Rae.
The report is also critical of Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who they say failed to use her “moral authority” and her power as head of the government to step in.
“Clearly (the government was) not able to protect the Rohingya minority,” Rae said. “Even worse….there has been up until now, no real attempt by Aung San Suu Kyi or other members of her government to describe what happened and to make it clear that what took place is completely unacceptable.”
Kyi is a former Nobel peace prize winner and an honourary Canadian. There’s been no indication yet if the federal government plans to rescind her citizenship.
On Monday, the Rohingya Human Rights Network, a Canadian Rohingya rights organization, called on the Canadian government to charge Kyi with being complicit to genocide.
“The Canadian government can no longer equivocate on how it will respond to the crimes committed by Myanmar’s leadership and the role of Myanmar’s defacto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in those crimes,” Fareed Khan, spokesperson for the RHRN, said in a news release.
“If ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’ as the prime minister has often said, then as a Canadian, Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be charged under Canadian law.”