You probably have never heard of the Rohingya, as they are arguably one of the world’s least known and more persecuted indigenous groups. They are making the news lately, however, as their culture and very way of life is under attack by the Myanmar government. A number of leaked documents have come to light that reveal the deplorable and insidious nature of these crimes.
The South Asian human rights organization, called Fortify Rights, recently released an 80-page report that details the abuses that the Rohingya people are suffering, with the added twist that the Myanmar government has given these various abuses their consent and blessing. Some background is needed in order to fully understand the situation.
Rohingya in Myanmar are widely considered to be illegal immigrants and are not widely welcome due to their practice of Islam. Myanmar is a predominately Buddhist country, and tensions erupted in 2012 which resulted in 88 deaths and the displacement of nearly 100,000 people. There was evidence during these riots, according to various United Kingdom-based NGOs, that both the Burmese police and military played a large role in the persecution of the Rohingya.
The abuses that the Rohingya are enduring have been ignored by members of the international community; however, the sanctioning of these abuses by the government of Myanmar is a new development. The report that was published by the human rights organization Fortify Rights gives a behind the curtain look at what is really occurring to the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
The sheer number of ways in which the Rohingyas are limited or hindered by the regulations and sanctions is quite astonishing. The sanctions seem to be an attempt to drive the Rohingya’s from Myanmar. On July 23, 2012, Myanmar Minister of Home Affairs Lieutenant-General Ko Ko told parliament that the authorities were “tightening the regulations [against the Rohingya] in order to handle traveling, birth, death, immigration, migration, marriage, etc…”
There are over 1.5 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, but a 1982 citizenship law stripped their citizenship status. To complicate the matter even more, the government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as a group. For example, the United Nations and the government of Myanmar are working together to conduct a nation-wide census. However, there is no “Rohingya” nationality to select as an option, the Rohingya will have to identify themselves as “other.”
The government of Myanmar has also imposed a two-child policy on Rohingya who live in the northern townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung. Fortify Rights obtained “Regional Order 1/2005,” which only applies to the Rohingya. It states “Starting the date of this regional order, those who have permission to marry must limit the number of children, in order to control the birth rate so there is enough food and shelter.
The Rohingya are in dire need of assistance from the outside world. The fact that there is no rampant violence occurring on a daily basis does not mean that the Rohingya are in any less need of assistance. The sanctions that are being placed on the Rohingya are being used as a tool to eliminate their presence inside Myanmar and the international community has to step up and help protect them.
– Arthur Fuller