Myanmar Seizes 228 Rohingya Fleeing The Persecution Of The Military Government

In an attempt to flee persecution in their home country, a group of two hundred and twenty-eight Rohingya set out on waters near the northwestern shore of Sittwe, Myanmar. The Myanmar Navy detained them shortly after that. Among those arrested were thirty-three children and five boat workers, according to Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). All onboard are now being managed by police and immigration officials. Reuters notes that the pictures distributed by local journalists depict “people huddled together on the floor of a long wooden boat, including several veiled women clutching small children.” Though shocking, this has become an everyday reality for the Rohingya people resembling other attempts to escape.

According to Statecraft, a non-partisan, global affairs daily, there was no immediate response from Myanmar’s military government, though a local official later confirmed the detainment; he refused to provide additional details. Beyond Southeast Asia, there has been little international attention on the incident with no official address from prominent political leaders. Despite this, there has been much deliberation on how to address the broader conflict. Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to initiate a “constructive and peaceful dialogue and reconciliation, as per the will and interests of the people of Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims.” The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, rejected the resolution based on “one-sided allegations.” Further progress is yet to be made.

This week’s events reflect a complex history of the relationship between the Rohingya and the Buddhist-majority state of Myanmar. The Rohingya are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group and Muslim minority who dwell in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Reuters reports that Myanmar does not recognize the group of about one million as an indigenous ethnic group. Despite residing in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya are accused of being illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh who also refuse to recognize them. Furthermore, the group is exempt from the privileges of citizenship in both nations, including access to healthcare, education, and freedom of movement as enforced by the military government.

Though this conflict goes back to the 1970s, it has escalated significantly in the last five years. In August 2017, the Tatmadaw attempted to drive out the Rohingya with “genocidal intent,” as later labelled by United Nations investigators. Statecraft reports that over 730,000 Rohingya fled the country to escape the assault. The Tatmadaw torched approximately 300 villages, killed 10,000 Rohingya, and raped an unnumbered amount. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have found sanctuary in Bangladesh and other neighbouring nations; yet still, they are labelled as “illegal immigrants.” Other Rohingya are settled in refugee camps in Myanmar with brutal living conditions and restricted freedoms, as evidenced by the occurrences of this week.

This history of violence frames the recent detainment of Rohingya in the Myanmar seas. Seventy men, one hundred and twenty-five women, and thirty-three children are now in the hands of Myanmar officials who have a track record of brutality. The inhumane treatment of these stateless people is horrifying. Further, the lack of international attention and interference is inexcusable. It is more urgent than ever for the United Nations and other allies to demand a social and political reformation in Myanmar to liberate these persecuted people.