Once, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi stood for a democratic Burma during its regime change in the late 1900s. Now, the State Counsellor is complicit in the ethnic persecution of the Rohingya in her own state. The Rohingya are a stateless, Muslim minority, who predominantly inhabit Rakhine state in Burma and total about one million people. In a mainly Buddhist Burma, the Rohingya are an ethnic and religious minority who are not even recognized as one of the 135 ethnic groups in the country.
Despite their geographic roots and multiple generations who call Burma their home, many are targeted by racial slurs and illegitimate labels of ‘illegal immigrants’ due to their practice of Islam. The government has always severely discriminated against them through laws revoking their citizenship and limiting the community’s ability to attain education, property, and employment. Now, the fledgling democracy is choosing to stand silently as the Rohingya are further persecuted by the animosity of the military and citizenry.
In August 2017, after a clash between the army and a Rohingya militant group known as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Burma’s government officially declared them a terrorist organization. Although the clash was a minor case of disobedience, the Burmese government used the incident to launch a full-blown crackdown on all Rohingya citizens. Burma’s army has been accused of pillaging Rohingya villages, killing everyone from children to adults, burning down houses, tearing apart local infrastructure, stealing property, and raping women.
A recent study from the Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 52 rape victims, found that the Burmese army would often shoot a woman’s entire family in front of them and rape them. The sexual violence inflicted upon these women has lead to an exponential increase in various mental and physical ailments, many of which are not addressed properly due to their status as refugees.
To flee the persecution, about 900,000 Rohingya to date have fled the country. Even when they are able to reach refugee camps, they are almost always faced with a scarcity of food, water and medicine. In late last year, the Bangladeshi government announced that they would likely move the Rohingya refugees to the Bay of Bengal, an inhospitable environment with excessive flooding and a large pirate presence.
The situation is worsening as the monsoon rains begin in southern Bangladesh, causing over 130 landslides and damaging 3,300 shelters with 28,000 refugees, according to a report from Oxfam. The study furthered that a majority of Rohingya were ill-prepared for the monsoon season, having little shelter protection and stored food. As many Rohingya live on temporary shelters on top of mud hills, the monsoon’s landslides are going to impact them severely. It is important to remember that 200,000 refugees are at risk of extreme monsoon weather.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, recently promulgated that the state of Myanmar is guilty of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, a violation of International Law. Currently, Bangladeshi officials have been working with the ICC, International Criminal Court, to decide on Burmese officials needing investigation. The Burmese government, on the other hand, has systematically avoided any effort to fix the problem.
As such, the burden falls on the international community to stop the cruel persecution of the Rohingya. Though the U.N. issued a Joint Response Plan on March 16 to raise $951 million to assist the Rohingya refugees, only 26 percent of the amount has been met thus far. Thankfully, the World Bank has granted the Bangladeshi government $500 million in aid for the cause, but again, it is not sufficient to keep refugees safe during the burden of the Monsoon season. To contribute to the U.N. funds to help Rohingya Refugees receive the care they need, please visit this site.