They are a minority in the state they live in, a state that denies them citizenship despite some of them having lived in it for three generations. The same state limits their travel and forces them to sign agreements to not have more than two children. They are banned from owning land and have often been described as “the world’s least wanted” and “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”.
The Rohingya people of Myanmar have constantly faced human rights abuses by the Burmese regime, which does not list them as one of the national races of of the region, despite settlements dating back to the 15th century. Living mainly in the Rakhine state in Burma, close to the border with Bangladesh, this minority has been the target of horrendous abuse by the security forces of Burma, leading a February UN report issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to brand the acts as crimes against humanity.
News of the report, which can be found on the OHCHR website, cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.
“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?”
Burma’s government has dismissed the reports as exaggerated (video footage and news reports claim otherwise), continuing to deny the ill treatment of this group, and effectively ignoring the massacres portrayed by news reports and conveyed as stories by escaped Rohingya refugees. The government also keeps stating that the conflict is an “internal affair – it’s not an international affair.”, in attempts to draw international attention away from the dreadful events occurring within their borders.
The news article on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website that recounts the UN Report offers more of the High Commissioner’s comments:
“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable, The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”
These violations are ironically happening in a country who has a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, as First and incumbent State Counsellor, and leader of the National League for Democracy party. She also served in many ministerial position and had ample opportunities to denounce the acts or maybe even stop them. She has remained silent and indifferent to their suffering, and once denied that the Rohingya face ethnic cleansing in her country in a BBC interview, which calls into question her Nobel Peace Prize award.
Very little is known about this crisis. Most people do not even recognize the name “Rohingya” and know nothing of their plight. Amidst a very turbulent world, many human rights violations and raging wars, the disaster in Myanmar seems to have taken a back seat.
“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”
I second the High Commissioner’s call and urge all readers to educate themselves on the subject and spread awareness of the plight of this horribly persecuted minority, in hopes that international pressure will one day help end it.