Addressing the human rights violation surrounding the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar
In spite of the fact that this “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” has been plaguing the Rohingya minority since 2015, it was only in 2017 that over 500,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh and surrounding regions as a result of their religious persecution in Myanmar. While their government stands as impartial on the matter, the Myanmarese military in addition to several large groups of Buddhist mobs have been consistently attacking the Rohingya, forcing all ages and genders out of the country. The primary reasons for this most recent persecution are the alleged acts of terrorism committed by the Rohingya, such as arson and assault of official Myanmarese military personnel. However, such a crisis for the Rohingya people is anything but surprising; in 1982, the government denied any person of Rohingya origin the right to (then) Burmese citizenship, and just ten years later, over 600,000 refugees fled as a result of oppression and continued military persecution. The Myanmarese state of Rakhine, just south of the Bangladeshi border, is home to around one million Rohingya people. The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group of Muslims, who have long struggled against the government to secure their rights to citizenship. To this day, Myanmarese officials claim that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, who currently are living without legal permission in the state of Rakhine. As a result of this direct segregation, many Rohingya face extremely severe shortages of food and nourishment, initiating conflict with the government and military. Those trying to escape their dire situations in Myanmar have often been victims of violent gang rape, assault, robbery, and murder. In addition to this, truly devastating and destructive rains from the monsoon season in India and Bangladesh have worsened living conditions in the already densely populated refugee camps, making it difficult for the Rohingya to safely leave Myanmar. Despite this, official documentation from the Myanmarese government states absolutely no evidence of systematic and planned violence against the Rohingya people without reason. Another common cause of conflict seen in this situation stems from the religious disagreements between respected Buddhist monks of the Myanmarese Buddhist community and the Rohingya Muslims. The primary reason for this tension is fear from Buddhist nationalists, who firmly believe that Burmese Buddhist culture will be influenced by the practices of the Rohingya. This great sense of nationalism amongst the majority Buddhist community in Myanmar results in much argument (between the Rohingya and the Buddhists) over whether the Rohingya truly belong in Myanmar as citizens.
On August 25, 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants attacked a cluster of police bases in northern Myanmar, resulting in a relentless retaliation from the Myanmarese military. Entire Rohingya communities and villages were burned, while women were raped and men were publicly slaughtered. This brutal response resulted in one of the most rapid exoduses in history, with over 500,000 Rohingya having crossed the border into Bangladesh for safety within the last month. Such figures can be compared to the Syrian refugee crisis, and even the Rwandan genocide of 1994. As previously mentioned, the current conditions in the already overflowing refugee camps on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar are extremely poor, mainly due to the endless rains of the region’s monsoon season. This signifies that the Rohingya are facing increasing struggles with their attempts to flee the country, even in spite of their inability to return to the violent retaliations from the Myanmarese military and Buddhist nationalists.
In reaction to the recent developments, the international community has turned to Aung San Suu Kyi, a leading figure of the Myanmarese National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi has been a strong advocate for freedom and democracy within the country for several years, and is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Suu Kyi has, however, failed to publicly condemn the actions of the military and the Buddhist nationalists against the Rohingya. As a well respected advocating figure for democracy around the world, many believe it is her responsibility to address the acts of oppression against the Rohingya. Undoubtedly, the United Nations has condemned the brutal human rights violations that the Rohingya continue to face. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for UN representatives to be granted entry into the impacted nations, and facilitate the safe return of refugees to Myanmar. Guterres has also noted that the issue of statelessness for the Rohingya is one that must be resolved, and that all members of the ethnic group should be granted citizenship in Myanmar. At this point, the United Nations clearly supports the fact that the Muslims of Rakhine should enjoy the right to “lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services.”
It is the strict duty of the members of the Human Rights Council to address these horrific violations, and effectively find innovative ways to ensure the safety of all in the Myanmarese region.
Guiding Questions 1. How does this refugee crisis relate to other recent refugee crises? 2. Can this situation be handled in a similar light to such crises? What can be changed? 3. Are there countries or groups other than Myanmar that support this ethnic cleansing? 4. How was the United Nations reacted to this information, and what has been done so far? 5. Through what lenses can this crisis be examined? Are there economic, political, or ethnic reasons for this crisis? 6. What is the historical aspect of this crisis, and how has it impacted today’s current problem? 7. What countries are currently in support of the Rohingya, and have directly offered aid to the refugees in need? 8. Have there been any officially stated responses from leading Myanmarese political figures, such as Suu Kyi? 9. What have been the responses, if any, from the Rohingya? What claims/accounts do they make about the way the Myanmarese government has treated them? 10.Does your country have a reaction to these horrific events?