“How many Rohingya have to die;
how many Rohingya women will be raped;
how many communities will be razed before you
raise your voice in defense of those who have
– Nobel Women’s Initiative in an open letter
to Aung San Suu Kyi
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”
– Nelson Mandela
The Rohingya people have been present in Myanmar since the twelfth century, however they have traditionally been viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. As such, they have never been awarded any form of citizenship rights, as have been awarded to 135 other ethnic minorities in Myanmar as a result of 1982 law changes. The Rohingya are treated as stateless, and in recent years have been subjected to professed crimes against humanity, which has given them the label of ‘the most persecuted minority in the world’. Due to this persecution, and institutionalized discrimination such as restrictions on marriage, employment, education and so on, a large number of Rohingya have fled to Southeast Asia, primarily Bangladesh. Within these countries, the conditions for the refugees are squalid, and resources stretched thin. The Rohingya are not being accepted fully in any country, and are often sent back to Myanmar from whichever country they have fled to. This has created a hopeless situation for the Rohingya people as a whole.
- Myanmar – Despite clear persecution of the Rohingya people, and calls of an ‘ethnic cleansing’ taking place, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar has refused to address the situation.
- Bangladesh – the huge numbers of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh has created a humanitarian crisis. This has meant refugee camps are at full capacity and resources are scarce.
- Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia – similar to Bangladesh, authorities in these countries are struggling to deal with the influx of Rohingya, who in turn are granted little rights.
- The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) – this group has repeatedly attacked Myanmar border police and military. It is made up of both trained militants and local Rohingya men.
- Human Rights Watch, Fortify Rights, and the Arakan Project have appealed to international leaders to apply pressure to Myanmar’s government.
- The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned Myanmar authorities of the ethnic cleansing which is apparently taking place, and proclaimed that the crisis has “spiraled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency”. The UN Security Council have called for an end to the violence.
- 15 October 1982 – The Burma Citizenship Law stripped the rights of all Rohingya effectively making them ‘stateless’ in their own country.
- 1990s – During this period the Rohingya were able to register as temporary residents with identification cards which gave them limited rights.
- June 2012 – Religious violence in Rakhine State leaves over two hundred Rohingya dead and close to 150,000 homeless.
- 10 April 2014 – A UN national census enabled Rohingya to identify as Rohingya, however this was backtracked after Buddhist Nationalists threatened to boycott the census.
- May 2015 – A constitutional referendum gave the Myanmar government the ability to eradicate Rohingya identification cards and revoke their right to vote.
- 9 October 2016 – Assaults on border guards and Myanmar officials in Rakhine State led to nine police officers killed. A military crackdown ensued, which sent an estimated 87,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.
- 3 February 2017 – The UN released a report stating that the widespread human rights violations against the Rohingya population by Myanmar’s security forces indicate crimes against humanity.
- 25 August 2017 – ARSA attacks on at least 20 police outposts killed 12 security officers led to military ‘clearance operations’. These operations included burning down whole Rohingya villages, and triggered a mass migration of Rohingya to Bangladesh.
- 19 September 2017 – Aung San Suu Kyi denied ethnic cleansing, and said that her government had already begun defending the people in Rakhine State in the best way possible.
- November 2017 – Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya. This agreement has been criticised, as it is unclear whether Myanmar is in a position to house Rohingya with no threat of persecution.
How You Can Help:
- Amnesty International – https://www.amnesty.org.nz/stop-ethnic-cleansing-myanmar
- UNICEF – https://preview.unicef.org.nz/causes/the-greatest-need