The Rohingya are an ethnic minority who live in the western part of the country in Rakhine State. Many can trace their families back a very long time. Today, more than a million of them live in the country, most in the western coastal state of Rakhine, where they make up around a third of the population.
They speak their own language, which isn’t recognized by the state. But they’ve been subject to decades of persecution by the Myanmar authorities. And in the eyes of many people in Myanmar, they are viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Rohingya have faced repression since the 1970s, but more intensively since 2011, when the government transformed from a military administration to a civilian one.
There had been hope at that time that their situation would improve, but their repression has only intensified. They remain left off a national list of 135 recognized ethnicities in Myanmar.
Now, the Rohingya cannot access the same resources and services that Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist citizens can. Despite this lack of recognition, they are not allowed to leave their settlements in Rakhine without government approval.
Many live in Rakhine in impoverished camps, and others spend periods in internally displaced people’s settlements in other states after fleeing violence. More than a hundred thousand, are confined to internal displacement camps.The latest crisis comes from a series of events that took place on August 25.
In the early hours of August 25, a couple of dozen police posts were attacked by this new insurgent group of Rohingya Muslim militants. And they killed 11 members of the security forces and an immigration official. Since then there have been clashes here and there, according to the government. And the government says it’s killed hundreds of alleged militants and sent tens of thousands fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.
The tens of thousands who have most recently fled violence in Rakhine state have left everything behind, left a region paralysed by murder and mayhem, and have no choice but to seek a haven in Bangladesh. They join the ranks of many tens of thousands more of their people who took to the seas in boats, seeking safety on the waves but finding little else.
In the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, fierce clashes between security forces and Rohingya militants have left hundreds dead. In the past 12 days, around 123,000 Rohingya have fled the country and crossed into Bangladesh.
The UN Human Rights report ,on the treatment of the Rohingyas, released in February. The crimes reported revealed were horrific.
It documents the mass rape of women and girls, some of whom died as a result of the sexual injuries they suffered. It shows how children and adults had their throats slit in front of their families.
It reports the summary executions of teachers, elders and community leaders; helicopter gunships randomly spraying villages with gunfire; people shut in their homes and burnt alive; a woman in labour beaten by soldiers, her baby stamped to death as it was born.
It details the deliberate destruction of crops and the burning of villages to drive entire populations out of their homes, people trying to flee gunned down in their boats.
The persecution of the Rohingya also highlights the silence of Aung San Suu Kyi, destroying another myth of ethics and human rights. A woman whose campaign for human rights won her the Peace Nobel now stands embarrassingly silent in case her broader political strategies are affected.
Aung San Suu Kyi, seen as a national hero in Myanmar and the face of a free civilian government, has come under intense international criticism for failing to openly support the Rohingya. Pressure is mounting on Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de-facto leader and a Nobel peace laureate, to intervene decisively and curb the military operations.
More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition asking the Nobel committee to rescind the prize awarded in 1991 for her democratic activism during the years the country was run by a military junta.
Not only has Aung San Suu Kyi snubbed and obstructed UN officials who have sought to investigate the treatment of the Rohingya, but her government has prevented aid agencies from distributing food, water and medicines to people displaced or isolated by the violence. Her office has accused aid workers of helping ‘terrorists’, putting them at risk of attack, further impeding their attempts to help people who face starvation.
She has not only denied the atrocities, attempting to shield the armed forces from criticism; she has also denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. This is in line with the government’s policy of disavowing their existence as an ethnic group, and classifying them, though they have lived in Myanmar for centuries, as interlopers.
While India lacks an official refugee policy, it has long allowed illegal immigrants to settle and integrate locally. Over the past two years, the Narendra Modi government has eased the rules for Hindu, Sikh and Jain refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh to gain Indian citizenship.
But the government says the 40,000 illegal Rohingya immigrants in India ,apart from the 14,000 registered with the UN and living in the world body’s camps in the country ,would be deported.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi , to push the country’s leadership to provide assistance to Rohingyas in the violence-hit Rakhine state. The rights body also said the Modi government should “reaffirm” its commitment to protect Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers in India instead of “threatening” them with deportation.
The Amnesty’s plea came on a day Union Minister Kiren Rijiju asserted that Rohingyas who have crossed over to India are illegal immigrants and stand to be deported.
Rohingyas are illegal immigrants and stand to be deported, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said, asserting that nobody should preach India on the issue as the country has absorbed the maximum number of refugees in the world.
“I want to tell the international organisations whether the Rohingyas are registered under the United Nations Human Rights Commission or not. They are illegal immigrants in India,” Rijiju told reporters here.
The minister of state for home said that since they are not legal immigrants, “they stand to be deported”. “As per law, they stand to be deported because they are illegal immigrants. We are a nation with great democratic tradition
“India has absorbed maximum number of refugees in the world so nobody should give India any lessons on how to deal with refugees,” he added.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on August 18, issued a notice to the government over its plan to deport Rohingya staying illegally in India, asking the government to report in four weeks.
The Commission added hopefully that the Supreme Court had declared that fundamental rights are applicable to all regardless of whether they are citizens of India. The NHRC came up with a memorable line that Rohingya refugees “are no doubt foreign nationals but they are human beings.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization. He urged the U.N. Security Council to press for restraint and calm in a rare letter to express concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
Guterres called for the Muslims of Rakhine state to be given either nationality or legal status, and voiced concern about violence that has since late August forced nearly 125,000 people to flee and risk destabilizing the region.
“I have condemned the recent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. But now we are receiving constant reports of violence by Myanmar’s security forces, including indiscriminate attacks,” the Secretary-General told journalists in New York, expressing concern about the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine. “This will only further increase radicalization.”
The European Commission has called upon the Myanmar authorities to give “unrestricted” humanitarian access, including for aid workers, to the Rakhine state.This is critical to reaching 350,000 vulnerable people in the state, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said in a statement from Brussels.
“They must be allowed to do their job to try to prevent the further deterioration of an already serious humanitarian situation.The European Union is committed to supporting all efforts to bring a return to aid deliveries in Rakhine state and is working tirelessly with all stakeholders to achieve this.”
“I call on all sides to de-escalate tensions and fully observe international human rights law, and in particular to refrain from any violence against civilians,they must not be turned back or deported”,Stylianides said.
“We greatly appreciate the hospitality extended by the government and people of Bangladesh for many decades.The assistance and protection of the Bangladeshi authorities regarding these new refugees is crucial until the situation in Rakhine state has stabilised and they can safely return,” read the statement.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has described the violence as a genocide and said Turkey would compensate Bangladesh for taking in the refugees.
On Monday, demonstrations were held in the Russian republic of Chechnya, where the leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, compared the treatment of the Rohingya to the Holocaust.