What Happen to Rohingyas : A note from 20th School of Peace and Conflict Transformation

Rohingya's People. [source image : Al Jazeera]

Amanasia.org – On March 1st, Ishak Mia, Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance Program for ARF in Bangladesh, depicted the grim realities faced by Rohingyas in Myanmar and the two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where they were forced to flee. Since the 80’s, Myanmar deprived them of citizenship and persecuted them: entire villages were burned to the ground, families were separated and killed, and women and girls were gang-raped. It is estimated that approximately 9000 Rohingyas have been killed during the genocide and that more than 1,5 million fled to Bangladesh since the beginning of the crisis.

Cox’s Bazar has become the largest refugee camp in the world and, despite the humanitarian relief, the Rohingya remain in an extremely precarious situation. Recently, ARF completed the construction of 100 mid-term shelters for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar camp.

On Monday 2nd, Sumit Dutta, Counsellor and Psychologist, gave a lecture on Mental Health, Peacebuilding and Conflict Management. Conflicts occur at various domains- Interpersonal (between two persons), Inter-group (between two groups- families, religions, races, communities, nations etc.). Such conflicts being overt are recognizable and hence easier to address, not to say managed. But there is another level of conflict that occurs within a person- Intra-psychic, that is far harder to recognize (often manifesting at the unconscious level) and so that much more difficult to address and thus resolve.

An individual is the smallest integral unit of society which is constituted of various levels- family, neighborhood, locality, organization, community, village/town/city, district, state, region, nation, league of nations. So, if one is at conflict with her/himself only, it’s more likely that s/he will have the same with others. Now if the unit of society is disturbed, society at large will obviously be not in peace. Hence Peace-building needs to be started at the individual level. To that end, the mental health of each person needs to be maximized to ensure proper handling of other conflicts at different social levels.

Before dinner, two talking circles were organized – women and men talking circles. The aim of this exercise was to exchange on the challenges faced by the participants in their personal and professional life.

On March 3rd, the participants headed to the regional cultural center SEA-Junction, located in the Bangkok Art Cultural Centre. The director of SEA-Junction and Professor Rosalia Sciortino presented shortly the activities of the center and gave a lecture on “Gender, Conflict, and Peace”. The lecture focused on the persistence of gender traditional roles, on gender-based violence and on the importance of women’s participation in peace processes, as it guarantees long-lasting institutions. In the afternoon, the participants headed to Thammasat University and watched the documentary film « Chinese Whispers » by Rani P Collaborations.

This graphic novel looks at how the May 1998 riots in several cities in Indonesia were triggered by political engineering that intentionally evoked racial sentiments. The homicides and rapes committed against Chinese-Indonesians, and especially women, have been forgotten in Indonesian collective memory. The author of the documentary insists on the need to embark upon a transitional justice process to heal.

On March 4th, the Executive Director of the organization Focus on the Global South, Shalmali Guttal, gave an inspiring talk about neoliberalism, as an economic system and as an ideology, and its implications for peace. Sadly, she wasn’t able to come in person at IIPDS and she gave her lecture on Skype. Her thesis was that the progressive imposition of neo-liberalism after WWII led to the rise of corporations, to a disengagement strategy of public investment and increasing inequalities between the rich and the poor. However, there is a limit to how long people can get exploited and the grassroots have the power to impulse change and promote alternative systems. In that context, the climatic emergency could be acting as a trigger for action.