Rohingya Isolated As Rakhine State Establishes ‘Muslim-Dry’ Zones

The stateless Rohingya people have recently discovered that their former home in the Rakhine state has been ‘cleared’ and rehabilitated by Rakhine migrants. Al Jazeera reports that new arrivals from the relatively stable south of Myanmar are being sent north to the Rakhine state to fill the now-deserted land. The Ancillary Committee for the Reconstruction of Rakhine National Territory in the Western Frontier (CRR), a private organization established following the eruption of the refugee crisis and funded by ethnic Rakhines, is now working to rebuild the land and establish a “Muslim-dry” zone. Only a few kilometers away lie the remains of Rohingya people and the ruins of their lives before they were brutally murdered or forced from the country by the Myanmar military.

The majority-Muslim Rohingya minority experienced a horrific event that the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Myanmar believes “bears the hallmarks of genocide.” Francis Wade, author of Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of the Muslim ‘Other,’ comments that “The military has been engineering the social landscape of northern Rakhine State so as to dilute the Rohingya population since the early 1990s.” Despite pressure placed on Myanmar by the international community to acknowledge and cease their actions, Aung Tun Thet, appointed to oversee the rehabilitation of Rakhine, has insisted that “there is no such thing in our country, in our society, as ethnic cleansing, and no genocide.”

Many of those who survived the horrific genocidal events were forced to flee, mostly to neighbouring Bangladesh. However, of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees who escaped, only 374 have been allowed to return to their former homes. Whilst Bangladesh officials have remained skeptical of Myanmar’s willingness to rehabilitate Rohingya refugees, Myanmar has blamed Bangladesh for the delays and for providing “incomplete” information about the refugees. Furthermore, because of their harrowing experiences and the minimal assistance that has been provided so far, many Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar camps are terrified and unwilling to return to what is left of their homeland.

Myanmar’s isolation and their forced removal of the Rohingya population is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, it can be dated back to the late 1970s. Nevertheless, the past seven months have been the worst for the Rohingya, with an estimated death toll of 10,000 people. While the Myanmar government continues to deny its hostility towards this innocent population, neighboring states are concerned about the security threat this crisis brings to the region. Mr. Najib, Prime Minister of Malaysia, commented that “the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter.”

The exodus has been described by the U.N. as “one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.” Regardless of whether Myanmar ultimately repatriates the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, the Guardian reports that there remain questions of the safety and future of the Rohingya people, as no charges have been laid against those responsible for the acts of genocide. Of course, the most effective solution to the refugee crisis would be to see Myanmar open its borders to the Rohingya people. However, the Myanmar government would also need to be willing to cooperate with an international organization like the U.N. or Amnesty International to act as a supervisory body during the rehabilitation process. Until such changes are made and the Rohingya are given safe areas in which to live, the region will continue to suffer from Myanmar’s actions.

Zoe Knight