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The Rohingya holocaust in Myanmar

By Abhishek Kaushal

The Rohingya Muslims were a lesser known minority before severe acts of violence took place against them in the Western part of Myanmar (Burma), known as the Rakhine state. Since the unrest erupted in 2012, thousands have been displaced, raped and tortured in what has turned into a brutal ethnic cleansing stemming from religious sentiments.

The recent flash report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) unravelled some harrowing truths about the inhumane acts committed by Myanmar’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims. According to Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, the Government of Myanmar might be seeking to expel the Rohingyas from the land of Burma altogether.

Where it all started

In May 2012, in Western Myanmar, three Muslim men were charged with the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, which triggered the brutal revenge killing of ten Muslim men by furious Buddhists in the Toungop region of Rakhine in June 2012. What happened next was hidden from the outside world.

Rohingya Muslims have been historically deprived of the basic rights granted to a citizen and have been termed as ‘illegal immigrants from Bangladesh’ or ‘Bengalis’. The 2012 violence led to their temporary voting rights being revoked as well, thereby entrenching their status as outcasts in Myanmar.

Plight of the Rohingya Muslims

Since the outbreak of the violence, nearly 130,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to live in camps with inhumane living conditions. Others who have fled the country are mostly settled in the Cox Bazar district in Bangladesh, pledging never to go back.
Prominent Buddhist leaders in Burma have been silent with respect to these clashes.

In a BBC interview, Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, when asked about the same, termed it as a normal dispute between two religious groups, resulting in casualties on both sides. Her role has been questioned by more than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates due to her inaction against the Rohingya crisis.

However, after recent UN investigation reports which validated the crimes against the Rohingya Muslims, she was forced to act, promising to form an unbiased international investigating committee to look into the crisis.

Does the Rohingya cloud have a silver lining?

There is no easy solution to the Burmese predicament. Bangladesh intervened into the allegedly domestic matter of Burma by holding talks with the Burmese Embassy in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, which now houses over 70,000 Rohingya refugees, has been criticised for its plan to relocate them to to the inaccessible and uninhabitable island of Thengar Char which is surrounded by pirate infested waters.

The ASEAN’s silence regarding this issue is glaring, albeit not surprising,  considering the state-centric approach of ASEAN, with only Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak condemning the violence. However, with countries like Indonesia facing the heat from their majorly Muslim populace, an ASEAN intervention is on the cards.

More perplexing than the ASEAN’s silence is the fact that most Muslim majority nations in the Middle East have not commented on the issue and the Western world has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of these Rohingya Muslims.

What follows next is yet to be seen but one thing is for sure –  if no action is taken, the Rohingyas’ in Burma will become a thing of the past.


Featured image source: The Independent