Four years on from the Rohingya genocide

Since the genocide in 2017, mass persecution of the Rohingya has decreased. Despite this, we are no closer to dealing with its implications. The Rohingya are a minority group from the Rakhine state of Myanmar; the largest Islamic group in the country. The group has been persecuted since the mid-1970s, notably, with the revocation of their citizenship in 1982. This reached a climax, however, in 2017 when civilian mobs and the military attacked Rohingya villages; raping and killing the people. This led to a mass exodus from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh, with many classing it as genocide. Currently, the Rohingya are the largest stateless group in the world; and the largest concentration of Rohingya is in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Even as refugees, they are not treated as poorly as they were in Myanmar during the genocide, but these camps are basic, and the international community is doing little to help them.

Since 2017, whether these attacks can be defined as genocide has been contested. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, and former state counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, called the claims of genocide against Rohingya Muslims “incomplete and misleading,” though it’s worth mentioning that she governed Myanmar during the ‘genocide.’ Until a court officially rules it as genocide, this is purely speculation. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN’s top human rights official, stated to the United Nations Human Rights Council that “the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Human Rights Watch agrees, describing the situation as a “possible genocide,” due to “government persecution and genocide.”

Considering the circumstances, Bangladesh has done well to try and accommodate as many refugees as it has. However, more could be done to support the Rohingya that it has accepted. Despite its recent economic growth, Bangladesh isn’t the richest country in the world, and to be able to do more, it would likely need economic help from external sources. Myanmar, on the other hand, needs to be more heavily condemned by the international community for causing the genocide in the first place. To ensure the best outcome for the Rohingya, Myanmar should switch its stance on citizenship and maybe even pay reparations to the community in order to welcome the Rohingya back.

Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya began in 1977 with ‘Operation Dragon King’. This saw the Rohingya become forcibly displaced from their homes, with Myanmar arguing that the group originates from East Bengal. In the 1980s, leadership of the country changed, and Burma became Myanmar. This new leadership, however, only led to an increased military presence in the Rakhine state. By the 1990s, Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to send Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar and refuse entry to Bangladesh. By 2003, only two Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh remained, yet to this day, the refugees in these camps struggle with malnutrition and disease.

Unfortunately, there is no clear future or path to peace for the Rohingya. In February, the military retook control of Myanmar, after years out of power, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and the previous leadership. This puts the future of the entire country at risk, including the Rohingya. It’s difficult to know the extent to which this will affect the Rohingya, but the chaos will shift focus away from their cause. As there are still Rohingya in Myanmar, this change in leadership will affect them, and could lead to further persecution. As Bangladesh isn’t willing to make the Rohingya in their country citizens, a longer-term plan is required. Whether that is repatriation, or further migration, their future is uncertain and continues to be deeply worrying.

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