Rohingya Refugee Crisis


The Rohingya people have been present in Myanmar since the twelfth century; however, they have traditionally been viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. As such, they have never been awarded any form of citizenship rights, as have been awarded to 135 other ethnic minorities in Myanmar as a result of 1982 law changes. The Rohingya are treated as stateless, and in recent years have been subjected to professed crimes against humanity, which has given them the label of ‘the most persecuted minority in the world’. Due to this persecution, and institutionalized discrimination such as restrictions on marriage, employment, education and so on, a large number of Rohingya have fled to Southeast Asia, primarily Bangladesh. Within these countries, the conditions for the refugees are squalid, and resources stretched thin. The Rohingya are not being accepted fully in any country, and are often sent back to Myanmar from whichever country they have fled to. This has created a hopeless situation for the Rohingya people as a whole.


Where: Rakhine State, Myanmar

Population: 1 – 2 million

Deaths: At least 2,000

Refugees/Displaced peoples: 1 million

Key actors

Despite clear persecution of the Rohingya people, and calls of an ‘ethnic cleansing’ taking place, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar has refused to address the situation.

the huge numbers of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh has created a humanitarian crisis. This has meant refugee camps are at full capacity and resources are scarce.

similar to Bangladesh, authorities in these countries are struggling to deal with the influx of Rohingya, who in turn, are granted little rights.

this group has repeatedly attacked Myanmar border police and military. It is made up of both trained militants and local Rohingya men.

have appealed to international leaders to apply pressure to Myanmar’s government.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned Myanmar authorities of the ethnic cleansing which is apparently taking place, and proclaimed that the crisis has “spiraled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency”. The UN Security Council has called for an end to the violence, but are yet to impose sanctions on Myanmar.

Timeline of the crisis

The Burma Citizenship Law stripped the rights of all Rohingya, effectively making them ‘stateless’ in their own country.

During this period the Rohingya were able to register as temporary residents with identification cards which gave them limited rights.

Religious violence in Rakhine State leaves over two hundred Rohingya dead and close to 150,000 homeless.

A UN national census enabled Rohingya to identify as Rohingya; however, this was backtracked after Buddhist Nationalists threatened to boycott the census.

A constitutional referendum gave the Myanmar government the ability to eradicate Rohingya identification cards and revoke their right to vote.

Assaults on border guards and Myanmar officials in Rakhine State led to nine police officers killed. A military crackdown ensued, which sent an estimated 87,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

ARSA attacks on at least 20 police outposts killed 12 security officers led to military ‘clearance operations’.These operations included burning down whole Rohingya villages, and triggered a mass migration of Rohingya to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya. This agreement has been criticised, as it is unclear whether Myanmar is in a position to house Rohingya with no threat of persecution.

An estimated 4,000 people have been driven from their homes following
renewed fighting between the Myanmar army and rebels in Myanmar’s northern-most
state, Kachin state.

Myanmar announces a deal with two UN agencies for the return of refugees from Bangladesh. However, Rohingya have concerns that the agreement is not comprehensive enough to guarantee their safety

Myanmar fires military general Maj Men Maung Maung Soe, who was implicated by the EU to have been in charge of a series of violent acts against the Rohingya

A UN report accuses six Myanmar generals of genocide and war crimes and calls for them to face trial at the International Criminal Court. Myanmar rejects the findings.

Two Reuters journalists are sentenced to seven years in jail for violation of state secrecy laws. They believe that their reporting on the military’s violence against the Rohingya led to their framing by the police.

The International Criminal Court launches its investigation into the Rohingya crisis

Myanmar and Bangladesh agree to start repatriation of Rohingya refugees. This announcement comes less than a week after the UN warned that the genocide was still in effect in the region.

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