Image Credit : Asia News

(22 Sept, 2017) Over the past week, one of the most-watched events, was Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech on the Rohingya crisis. The Myanmar leader’s remarks were extensively covered by the global media. As expected, reactions from outside Myanmar were mixed, while many Myanmars rallied around Daw Suu, as the Nobel Peace Laurette is fondly known in the country.

The Rohingya problem has been simmering for decades at least, and it has boiled over in recent years. It is also a very emotional issue for countries in the region. In Indonesia, the special counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88, had killed terrorists who were planning to attack the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta in 2013. In Kuala Lumpur, a massive demonstration was held in the Malaysian capital in November, 2016. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s presence at the rally prompted sharp protests from Nyapyitaw.

The Rohingya crisis is a complex issue. Myanmars overwhelmingly see the Rohingya people as Bengali refugees. This is something which all Myanmar leaders have to deal with, as it limits the political and practical options. The escalation of violence between the communities, and the involvement of the global IS threat, had further complicated matters. External criticisms of Daw Suu, in turn, have triggered resentment in Myanmar. Add to this mix is the fact that the military is solely in charge of security matters, and NOT answerable to the political leadership. A quarter of the total seats in both houses of the Myanmar parliament, are reserved for the Tatmadaw – as the military is known.

While some Myanmars are suspicious of the military, they are also supportive of the military’s handling of the Rohingya crisis.

The sum of it all is the crisis is not going to be resolved any time soon. Like any crises, the Rohingya problem requires protracted engagement and communications by all sides. This is easier said than done, and it cannot be avoided. And we are not talking about political spin here. Without understanding the facts and the considerations, there is little hope of tackling the complex crisis, let alone resolve it. It will not remove all the criticisms for sure. It is not meant to be. It helps however, to let the world know YOUR side of the story. And it also allows you to engage the people who can do that effectively.

Communications, engagement and analyses are the essential components of a holistic strategy. This is particularly so in the age of the new media, where ground sentiments sway political decisions. In a matrix environment where domestic and external politics intertwined, effective communications need to reach out to all audiences. Analyses also help to identify the gaps and the kind of responses needed. This is a protracted process which requires commitment and focus.

Daw Suu’s speech has set the ball rolling. We hope a sincere hearing of the untold sufferings, will lead to a better understanding and compassion. Only then, can we hope to start on the journey of healing.