Sunday, August 25, 2019 marks two years since more than 730 thousand Rohingya refugees fled violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. 200 thousand Rohingya rallied to mark “Genocide Remembrance Day” in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The abrupt exodus in 2017 was sparked by harsh counter-insurgency involving mass rapes, killings and the burning of homes towards the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) by the Government of Myanmar. Rohingya took shelter across the border in Bangladesh joining around 450 thousand others who had previously left Myanmar. The targeted violence Rohingya endured at the hands of Myanmar’s government has been called by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in September 2017.
Today, almost one million Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar, one of the country’s poorest and most densely populated areas. These camps – known as Kutupalong – “constitute the largest refugee camp in the world.” On Thursday, Bangladesh set up a voluntary return scheme but Rohingya are demanding for Myanmar to grant them citizenship before returning. Rohingya are not recognized by Myanmar’s government as citizens or an ethnic group, rendering them stateless.
Amnesty International said that the ongoing violence in Rakhine “makes immediate repatriation dangerous and unsustainable” and calls on Bangladesh to provide schooling for children in the camps, adding that it would have long-term benefits for Dhaka and the Rohingya refugees. Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, told an informal Security Council meeting on accountability in Myanmar on Thursday, “It is our fervent belief there will be no meaningful return of the Rohingya population, not sustainable and secure development in any of the ethnic regions of Myanmar, and no long-term peace, unless there is accountability and transformation of the Burmese military.” With Wakar Uddin, a Rohingya born graduate student in the U.S. telling the council if accountability is not addressed, “[t]his crisis will linger.”