Myanmar Rohingya Crisis

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Myanmar's crisis includes the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, who are considered a minority group in the Buddhist region. The massacres were committed by Myanmar Army and Police officers as part of a military operation in Rakhine State. In August 2017, militants from the Rohingya minority conducted organized attacks on 30 police stations throughout the region. In reaction to the attacks, the nation conducted a major military campaign to track down the insurgents. As a result, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have migrated to Bangladesh from Rakhine State. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are now crossing the border into Bangladesh, causing a humanitarian crisis. Bangladesh has claimed that it cannot accommodate the thousands of refugees from Myanmar and the countries resources are completely strained. In September 2017, Bangladesh authorities deployed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) armed troops to turn away all refugees from Myanmar. The Bangladesh troops send the Rohingya people back to their country where the majority are killed or seriously injured due to the military crackdown in the country (Gee 43). Engulfed by the fear of persecution in their country and the challenge of being turned away by the Bangladesh troops, the Rohingya people started using the Naf River as a crossing point. Crossing the river is done during the early morning hours or at night and is a very risky exercise. Hundreds have died in the attempt to cross the river and enter Bangladesh.

Reactions into the Rohingya Crisis

The Rohingya crisis has sparked heated debates and enraged reactions from different people across the world. Human rights group Amnesty International as well as the United Nations has referred to the military crackdown in Myanmar as crimes against humanity. Both groups have criticized the military for targeting unarmed civilians in the claim that they are searching for Rohingya insurgents. On 26th August 2017, Pope Francis at the Vatican described the military crackdown in Myanmar as the persecution of religious Rohingya minority and stated that it is completely unacceptable. The Pope asserted that the minority Rohingya Muslims deserve recognition in the country and their human rights should be respected by the Myanmar government (Mahmood et al. 1846). The United Nations cautioned Bangladesh against turning away Rohingya refugees from Myanmar stating that the refugees are fleeing to get asylum. Malaysia has too criticized persecution of Rohingya people terming it as a genocide and calling for international intervention. Malaysia termed the violence against the minority Rohingya people as ‘ethnic cleansing' which should not be allowed to happen.

The United States raised their concern about the escalating crisis in Myanmar and the refugee humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh. Rex Tillerson called for the global community to speak in support of the Rohingya Muslims. The secretary asserted that the violence and persecution against the minority group in Rakhine State should cease (Jones 17). The Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has come under heavy criticism for her silence on the Rohingya crisis. Suu has been known as a government critic who fights for rights of the oppressed people. In 1991, Suu Kyi was given a Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for democracy in Burma. However, she has fallen below the expectations of the world and has failed to stop the persecution in Rakhine State. During her September 2017 speech, Suu Kyi stated Myanmar does not fear scrutiny over the persecution of the minority Rohingya crisis (Letchamanan 91). World leaders have condemned her for failing to stand with the minority Muslim group and for being complicit in crimes against humanity. The State Counsellor has failed to condemn the military government actions against the Rohingya people.

Factors Fueling the Rohingya Crisis

There are several factors escalating the persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. First, the minority group is considered stateless since 1992. The Myanmar government has failed to recognize them as its citizens and does not consider them among the 135 official ethnic groups in the country. However, according to historians and Rohingya ethnic groups, Muslims have been in Myanmar since the 12th Century (Milton et al. 56). The government claims that the Rohingya people came from either Bangladesh or India during the widespread migration of workers between 1824 and 1948. Myanmar was an Indian province and hence such migration was termed as internal. The Myanmar failed to recognize the migration that happened during the British colonial rule, termed it as illegal and refused the Rohingya people citizenship of the country. Majority of Buddhists term the Rohingya as Bengalis and have refused to accept them as one of the ethnic groups in the country.

Secondly, the military government has suppressed the voice of human rights activists to avoid exposure of the extrajudicial killings against the Rohingya people. Even the State Counsellor Suu Kyi has been compromised and seems to partake of the persecutions against the minority group. Thirdly, the Rohingya people do not have official national identification cards as they were given foreign identity cards in 1982 by the Myanmar government (Mahmood et al. 1848). Being stateless, it is difficult for the Rohingya to establish a case against their persecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Without citizenship, it is difficult for the Rohingya to have rights to work, travel, practice religion, or study, and their movement is limited to within the Rakhine State. Most people are poor as they do not have sufficient education to secure employment opportunities in successful companies. Majority of Rohingya face discrimination at school and in the workplace. Their rights are not respected by other ethnic groups in the country and hence it is difficult for the Rohingya to intermingle with others. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is supported to fight for the rights of refugees has been silent on the Rohingya crisis (Kennedy and McCoy 802). The ASEAN members who include Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand have not spoken on the crisis.

Possible Interventions to the Crisis

There are several ways in which the Rohingya Muslims can be assisted. However, there is no easy solution to the crisis, but great assistance should come from the Myanmar government who have the right to protect its citizens. The United Nations has urged countries to generously contribute food and other necessary items to support the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as they face a humanitarian crisis. World leaders have urged the State Counsellor Suu Kyi to stop supporting the military government in their atrocities to the Rohingya Muslims. Global leaders assert that Suu Kyi should speak against the Rohingya persecution and call out for intervention from the international community (Milton et al. 62).

The Australian authorities has offered to pay the Rohingya refugees in order to return to their country. This move by the Australian government is aimed at avoiding a humanitarian crisis in refugee camps. A total of 25,000 Australian Dollars has been set aside for Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar even when the military is hunting them down. However, the intervention by the Australia seems to put the Rohingya at the risk of being killed by the Myanmar military. Further, Rohingya refugees are urged to stay at the refugee camps and wait for the crisis to end. At the refugee camps, different human rights groups such as the United Nations have pledged to offer material support. People from Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Bangladesh have held demonstrations to show their support to the Rohingya Muslims. The protestors have condemned the persecution of Rohingya people by the Myanmar military forces.

Conclusion

The prosecution of the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar is completely unacceptable. The crisis started when 30 police stations were attacked by Rohingya insurgents on August 2017. The international human rights groups such as the United Nations have condemned the military crackdown in Myanmar terming it as ‘ethnic cleansing'. Thousands of refugees are crossing into neighboring countries such as Bangladesh in fear of being killed. Villages and houses of the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar have been destroyed and torched. Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been killed by the military forces who claim they are searching for the insurgents. However, the Myanmar military has killed innocent civilians and caused others to flee their villages. The number of refugees in Bangladesh is very high and there is a risk of plunging into a humanitarian crisis if the Rohingya crisis is not handled properly. The United Nations (UN) is leading a campaign to support Rohingya refugees and find an immediate solution to the Myanmar Rohingya crisis.

Works Cited

Gee, John. "Rohingya Issue Creates More Waves in Region." The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 36.2 (2017): 43.

Jones, William J. "Myanmar’s Rohingya: Human Rights Abuses and Systemic Violence." Journal of Urban Culture Research 14 (2017): 16-33.

Kennedy, Jonathan, and David McCoy. "WHO and the health crisis among the Rohingya people of Myanmar." The Lancet389.10071 (2017): 802-803.

Letchamanan, Hema. "Myanmar's Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia: Education and the Way Forward." Journal of International and Comparative Education (JICE) (2017): 86-97.

Mahmood, Syed S., et al. "The Rohingya people of Myanmar: health, human rights, and identity." The Lancet 389.10081 (2017): 1841-1850.

Milton, Abul Hasnat, et al. "Trapped in Statelessness: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14.8 (2017): 32-78.

January 13, 2023
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