Members of the Rohingya community living in refugee camps in Bangladesh and those still living in Myanmar staged rallies for “Genocide Remembrance Day” this week, marking five years since nearly 750,000 Rohingyas living in Myanmar were forced to leave the country, with accusations of murders and rapes taking place during this time as well. The United Nations labelled these events as genocide, but the Government of Myanmar has refused to acknowledge it and has even attempted to hide any evidence of these crimes. Most Rohingyas now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, but it is estimated that 600,000 are still living in Myanmar in internment camps. In many of the protests occurring this week, members of the Rohingya community listed a series of demands for the Government of Myanmar and the international community to uphold, including “justice for genocide victims, restoration of citizenship rights, repeal of Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, repatriation, compensation for property destruction, and safety guarantee under UN supervision after repatriation.”
Many members of the Rohingya community are calling on the international community to stop ignoring this genocide and help all Rohingya people, including those residing in refugee camps and Myanmar. Rohingya community leader Sayed Ullah told France 24 News, “All we want is a safe and dignified return to our homeland. Unfortunately, our cries have fallen on deaf ears. The international community is not doing anything.” UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer echoed Mr. Ullah’s calls for urgent action from the international community, stating that “Generations could be affected if we fail in our obligation to protect the Rohingya and all the people of Myanmar, their fundamental rights, and dignity.”
It is integral that the international community listen to the demands of the Rohingya people and help them achieve repatriation in Myanmar and ensure that those still living in Myanmar are safe and treated fairly. The international community has done little to address the horrific actions of the Government of Myanmar, and as the Rohingya community is one of the most persecuted groups in the world, it is integral that urgent action is taken.
Influential countries that Myanmar is reliant on for trade could impose sanctions on the Government of Myanmar until the Rohingyas are granted full citizenship in the country. There could also be a call for an outside investigation conducted by the International Criminal Court into the genocide in order to ensure that justice is achieved. Much of the international community has practically ignored the atrocious genocide and has practiced continued discrimination against the Rohingyas, so it is therefore integral that the international sphere step up, and acknowledge this tragedy while urging the Government of Myanmar to recognize this social group as both citizens and human beings.
In 1982, the Government of Myanmar passed the Citizenship Law, which granted citizenship to those living in Myanmar who could trace their family residency in the country prior to 1823. Many Rohingyas have historically migrated throughout Southern Asia due to persecution, so this law was intentionally crafted to keep Rohingya people from being recognized as citizens of Myanmar. Myanmar is a Buddhist-majority country, and in 2014, the government did not include Rohingyas in the census, stating that they are “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.” The genocide of Rohingyas occurred in 2017 after the Government of Myanmar exiled hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from the country. The Rohingyas still living in Myanmar are being denied access to education and paid work, and many international aid organizations have been blocked from sending aid or visiting Rohingya internment camps.
The horrific and rarely recognized genocide of Rohingyas living in Myanmar was a historic act of inhumanity that deserves to be discussed, and the demands of the Rohingya people must be acknowledged and granted in order to achieve any kind of justice. The international community must urge the Government of Myanmar to grant citizenship to all Rohingyas and ensure that they are treated fairly in order to bring safety and security to this historically unfairly persecuted group.
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