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Rohingya Representative Poses in Front of Former Oppressor's Image
Conflicting Message and Insensitivity in Arakan Rohingya Union's Q1 2023 Newsletter Photo
This image, featured in the Arakan Rohingya Union's Quarter 1, 2023 newsletter, depicts Reza Uddin, Director General of the organization, standing alongside Mr. Moe Zaw Oo, Deputy Foreign Minister of the National Unity Government. While the presence of the esteemed minister is not an issue, I have concerns with the overall message conveyed by the photo.
The photo sends a conflicting message. On the one hand, we see a representative of an oppressed minority standing before the picture of a former oppressor, which could suggest a call for reconciliation and forgiveness. However, given the context that the former oppressor is responsible for genocide against the Rohingya (and the fact that the deceased brother of the current ARU Director General, Dr. Wakar Uddin (the previous Director General), was at the International Court of Justice during the case when Aung San Suu Kyi defended the Myanmar military), the image appears tone-deaf and insensitive.
Was it not disconcerting to see the face of the former ruler behind him? Did it not create a sense of unease in Reza Uddin, reminding him of the unchecked power her regime had? By not acknowledging the atrocities committed against the Rohingya, and the ongoing struggle for justice and accountability, the photo undermines the efforts of those seeking to hold oppressors accountable and achieve justice for victims. It also risks appearing to downplay the severity of the crimes committed against the Rohingya during the time of Aung San Suu Kyi’s rule, and sends a message that forgiveness can be achieved without acknowledging and addressing past wrongs.
The ARU's misguided gestures continue in the same newsletter. It conveys gratitude to the Chinese authorities for managing the stakeholders in the ongoing pilot repatriation of 1,000 refugees, completely ignoring the fact that repatriation without ensuring the safety and rights of the Rohingya people is not a sustainable solution. The war raging across Myanmar creates a volatile situation for refugees to return, yet the ARU seems to have turned a blind eye to this reality. Congratulating China on the pilot repatriation without considering these critical factors is not only foolish but also downright irresponsible.
I have reached out to Mr Reza Uddin, and hope to update readers with his responses.