June 19, 2024

The History of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Rohingya Muslims have been widely known as the “world’s most persecuted minority.” The ethnic group, being stateless, has suffered years upon years of suppression and the situation has yet to relieve itself.

Rohingya Muslims have been facing oppression, mainly in Myanmar, since the early 1900’s. Recently, however, there has been a significant influx of aggression towards the group. Just one of the many instances was seen last August; The Myanmar military had a crackdown on the Rohingya after supposed suspicions of a terrorist group attacking police posts and army bases conspired. Many witnesses have reported troops firing indiscriminately at unarmed individuals, regardless of gender and age. Approximately 100 people were killed, with new bodies being discovered periodically. Recently, in February, the Associated Press released a video showing five previously-undetected mass graves from the conflict in August. This leads the public to believe that the Myanmar government had reason to keep the casualty count discrete. The government has tried to deny all accusations of “genocide” by stating that the situation is not as bad as it seems. As of now, the UN has not classified the crisis as genocide which is defined as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

When examining the timeline of oppression towards Rohingyas, it is clear that instances of genocide have increased over time. The oppression started once independence was given to Myanmar in 1948 from Britain. Shortly after, the Union Citizenship Act that defined which ethnicities could gain citizenship was passed. The Rohingyas were not included in this act unless the applicant’s families had lived in Myanmar for at least two generations. However, the Rohingyas that attempted to gain citizenship with this exception lacked the required paperwork because it was either unavailable to them or denied to them. Then, a 1962 military coup in Myanmar decreased the quality of life to an even greater extent for the Rohingyas in Myanmar. The after-effects of the coup required all citizens to obtain national registration cards. The Rohingyas, however, were only given foreign identity cards that limited the jobs and educational opportunities they could pursue. This then led to the physical isolation of the Rohingyas from the rest of the Myanmar population. They were periodically pushed to live in the western coastal Rakhine State. The Rakhine State is one of the poorest states in the country, with ghetto camps and a lack of basic necessities. At this point, the refugee crisis started in Myanmar.

Since the 1970s, a number of crackdowns on the Rohingyas in the Rakhine State have forced almost a million refugees to flee the country, migrating to countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia. These supposed crackdowns have been reported as acts of rape, torture, arson, and murder by Myanmar security forces. Recently, multiple laws have passed which made it illegal for Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine to leave the state without government permission. Furthermore, the conflict escalated with the events in October 2016. The Myanmar government blamed what it claimed were fighters from an armed Rohingya group for the death of nine border police officers. As a response, troops started pouring into the villages of Rakhine State and drastic security measures were taken. When asked, the Myanmar government denied the allegations. As of now, the fate of the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar is unknown. The UN is watching over the crisis closely and is willing to step in when necessary.