PHUKET: The UN General Assembly's approval of a resolution urging Burma (Myanmar) to provide ''full citizenship'' to its Rohingya Muslim minority is a year-ending breakthrough for commonsense and human rights.
All Burma needs to do now is to say the word for a genuine transformation to begin. And the word Burma needs to say is, of course, ''Rohingya.''
President Obama urged Burma to show tolerance towards the stateless Rohingya on his 2014 visit. Now the UN is going one step further.
Whether the repressive government of Burma changes course or presses on with its abhorrent program of ethnic cleansing will prove to be one of the epic themes of the Southeast Asian region for 2015.
For years now, the emerging democracy has been pushing Rohingya Muslims into the sea to remove the despised group that a Burmese envoy once called ''ogres,'' an underclass who undermined the notion of Burmese being a monoculturally light-skinned, good-looking people.
The world has taken some time to recognise the abhorrent racism inherent in what was happening inside Burma. But a declaration by the UN General Assembly is difficult to ignore, even for Burma.
That the cause of the problem is being sheeted home to Burma, where it belongs, is also good news for Burma's neighbors.
''This is a call of the international community that Burmese leaders in Naypyitaw should not ignore,'' a spokesman for one leading rights organisation said today.
Phil Robertson, deputy director in Asia for Human Rights Watch, added: ''Particularly important is the resolution's language demanding that impartial and thorough investigations be done into violence against the Rohingya in 2012 - something that the Burmese government has continually ducked in its efforts to evade accountability for crimes against humanity that were committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine (Arakan} state at that time.
''Most observers agree that enabling the return of Rohingya to their communities and ensuring peaceful co-existence as called for in the resolution will only be possible if those responsible for instigating and perpetrating violence against the Rohingya are tried and put away for their crimes.
''But at the moment, we're a long way from that - and the Rohingya people's lives in Burma are a living hell, facing official impunity to commit violence against the Rohingya combined with severe restrictions on freedom of movement that impacts their livelihoods and access to education and healthcare.
''Facing such a situation, it's no wonder that the Rohingya are continuing to flee Burma in boats and landing in desperation in Thailand and elsewhere.''
Despite being downgraded this year to Tier 3 - the lowest level - in the US State Department's mid-year Trafficking in Persons report, a turning point appears to be underway in Thailand.
The realisation is dawning that a genuine attempt must be made to halt human trafficking and persecute the perpetrators.
For years, Thailand has ignored the rapes, the needless deaths and the regular beatings that have been a part of the secret traffickers' jungle camps in Thailand, along the Andaman Sea coast and the southern border with Malaysia.
Signs are encouraging that change may be coming in 2015.
'''Rather than looking the other way as local police and officials in Thailand exploit fleeing Rohingya,'' Robertson said today, ''Bangkok should be organising a regional response among other Asean countries to demand that Burma comply with the resolution the UN just adopted and find sustainable, rights-respecting solutions for the Rohingya to live and work in peace in Burma as full citizens.''