Has Violence Won Against The Rohingya?

In the past month, approximately 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the Myanmar border to Bangladesh in an attempt to escape the hostility of Myanmar’s Rakhine state. To date, the UN’s refugee agency reports that these Muslims walked through jungles for days in order to escape brutal treatment, all the while facing scarcity of resources such as food and water.

The Bangladeshi government is not enough to care for the sudden influx of destitute refugees. The neighbouring country was already home to an estimated 400,000 Rohingyan refugees before the escalation of hostile treatment towards Rohingya Muslims in August. This treatment pushed 270,000 more Muslims across the border, where Buddhists have ravaged Rohingyan towns and set villages ablaze.

Myanmar itself considers the migration of these Muslims a solution and an opportunity, not a misfortune. The Rakhine state considers the hostility a mere vehicle to finally eradicate an unwanted and ultimate burdensome population of outcasts. For years, the Rohingya Muslim population has been treated as illegal, denied basic human rights, and tolerated in an indifferent, if not belligerent, manner.

This unresolved issue has become a contentious international concern. Arguably, the most straightforward solution is for the Rohingya population to return to Myanmar and demand basic human rights. However, such an outcome is far from realistic: there is no evidence to suggest that the national treatment of the minority would improve. Conversely, the international pressure to accommodate the Rohingya Muslim population may breed even more hostility. Not only would the local Buddhist population hold the sentiment that the Rohingya population does not deserve attention, but also the Muslim population may become further ostracized.

Another suggested solution to the volatile political situation is asking Aung San Suu Kyi, co-founder and head of NLD government as a “state counsellor” to call for a peaceful solution. However, her position on such an ideal has been made clear in her speeches. Ms. Suu Kyi refused to condemn the military regime for its brutality in Rakhine, heightening the tension between the displaced Muslim population and the state. She has also blamed terrorists (specifically the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) for brutality against the Rakhine state.

Ms. Suu Kyi is seemingly encouraging the brutality against Muslims, rather than calming the volatile political environment that surrounds her regime. Not only has Aung San Suu Kyi failed to reconcile the ethnic divides of the country, but also, she has inflamed the situation by failing to criticize violence.

The final solution is for the Rohingya Muslim population to stay in Bangladesh as refugees. Although not ideal, this resolution may be most realistic, coånsidering the unpredictability of the political climate with the neighbouring nation. Bangladeshi authorities and government are already failing to meet the demands of the destitute Rohingya population. Arguably, it is impossible for the Muslims to settle down in the densely-populated, already under-resourced Bangladesh outskirts.

In summary, the Rohingya Muslim population faces a bleak future if no innovative, peaceful solution is found. Not only will they be subject to ostracism in Myanmar, but the hostility will be heightened if they return home once more. Hopes of Suu Kyi motivating the Myanmar population to opt for peaceful solutions are low and staying in Bangladesh will no longer guarantee safety to the Muslim population. In this situation, it seems that violence has won.

Karen Cheung