This week, thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled their homes in Myanmar following an outbreak of violence by governmental forces. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled towards the Bangladeshi border. A total of 87,000 refugees have reportedly arrived already, according to the UN, with more set to join them as fears for their safety have escalated.
As reported by the Financial Times, on August 25th, a group of coordinated Rohingya militants attacked “more than two-dozen police posts, checkpoints and a military base.” This group is known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, and have carried out attacks against government targets previously. Meanwhile, this week, governmental force reportedly responded by moving through Rohingya villages and communities within the Rakhine State attacking innocent civilians and burning homes. Settlements right across Rakhine have been targeted, with at least 10 separate regions showing signs of an arson attack, according to Human Rights Watch. In addition, at least 400 people have been killed as a result of these clashes, with a significant proportion of these being women and children. Furthermore, over 100,000 people have now been displaced by the violence, with this figure set to increase. According to the UN, conditions and resources within refugee camps are being stretched to their very limits. Many families lack shelter from monsoon rains, and aid supplies have not been enough to feed and clothe new arrivals. As such, the situation is only destined to deteriorate as more Rohingyas arrive from Myanmar.
Furthermore, over 100,000 people have now been displaced by the violence, with this figure set to increase. According to the UN, conditions and resources within refugee camps are being stretched to their very limits. Many families lack shelter from monsoon rains, and aid supplies have not been enough to feed and clothe new arrivals. The situation is only destined to deteriorate as more Rohingyas arrive from Myanmar.
Moreover, the violence between these two groups is in danger of spiralling out of control. The persecution of Rohingya’s is nothing new, with violence towards them in Myanmar stretching back decades. The predominantly Buddhist nation has regularly failed to recognize the Rohingya’s as citizens and has received “international condemnation for its treatment of the ethnic minority,” as reported by the Guardian. In fact, Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is facing increasing international criticism for failing to condemn the violence seen this week against innocent Rohingyas. For instance, U.K. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, stated that the treatment of the group is “besmirching the reputation of Burma.” Other prominent critics include Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. On Twitter, Yousafzai called upon Kyi to condemn the violence of her security forces against the Muslim minority. She wrote that “we have seen pictures of small children killed by Myanmar’s security forces. These children attacked no one, but still their homes were burned to the ground.” As the situation has deteriorated, it was recently announced by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) that they will be relocating their aid ship ‘Phoenix’ from the Mediterranean to the coast of Myanmar. This is telling for the severity of the situation.
Additionally, as the situation deteriorated, it was recently announced by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) that they will be relocating their aid ship ‘Phoenix’ from the Mediterranean to the coast of Myanmar. This is indicative of the severity of the situation.
With that said, in recent decades, Rohingyas have found themselves in an impossible position. They are seen as a minority of aliens in an overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, and simply as foreigners in Bangladesh, and they have had little room for manoeuvring. In Myanmar, Rohingyas have been forced to live under apartheid-like restrictions, with regard to their voting and citizenship rights. As well, while the persecution this week is nothing new, it does, however, reveal that it has reached a new scale. The worrying lack of reaction and condemnation from Myanmarese society, as a whole, to the violence seen against the Rohingyas, is also concerning.
Even more worrying though, is the shortage of involvement from Myanmar’s Nobel Peace laureate leader Suu Kyi. As someone who looked to be promoting universal human rights and freedom in the country, her lapse in condemning and halting the violence seen this week is noteworthy. With that in mind, it is evident that a peaceful solution to this outbreak of violence lies predominantly with her. With control over the security services and the platform to integrate Rohingya’s further into Myanmarese society, Suu Kyi holds significant responsibility in rectifying this situation.
Furthermore, these Muslims have dwelt within Myanmar for generations, and hold a basic right to reside there. They have no other alternative than the communities and settlements they have built and lived in. Through encouraged integration and the granting of equal rights to Rohingyas in Myanmar, division and persecution will become less common. This will take time, but an initial step needs to be taken towards it. Reconciliation needs to be learnt with those affected by recent violence, and aid needs to be allowed to reach them. However, it is predominantly up to Suu Kyi to begin this shift.