The plight of Rohingya Muslims is an issue upon which the Western World must act. Arguably a result of the lasting remnants of British colonialism and the damage which it left in its wake, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims is a humanitarian crisis which has been occurring for decades. Thousands of children are going without water, food and proper aid for their injuries and diseases triggered by the ongoing violence in the state from which they are fleeing.
Described by UN official John McKissick as an ‘ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya’ by the Myanmar state, the violent persecution of Rohingya Muslims is ongoing. As Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country, Rohingya Muslims are a minority. Viewed as illegal immigrants by the majority of the population, they are persecuted as a result of the Burmese Citizenship laws of 1982. These declared that full citizenship of Myanmar depended on inclusion in the ‘national races’, a statement which has potentially perturbing connotations. Admittance into this category was only granted to groups considered to have settled in Myanmar prior to the British colonial occupation of 1824. Despite there being evidence of their having been settled in Burma since the 15th Century, Rohingya Muslims were not included. Consequently, they are being subjected to cruel discrimination and mistreatment, denied equal rights to education and employment, and given severely limited access to healthcare whilst being forced to live in intolerable and unhygienic conditions.
The situation of the Rohingya Muslims was made worse by an attack in which nine Myanmar border officers were killed. Although someone has yet to claim responsibility for the attacks, the Burmese government seems adamant that the blame should be placed on the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, a rebel group which has not been heard of since the 1990s. The Rohingya have since faced an increase in violent attacks, with John McKissick claiming that this is the result of the Myanmar Military and Border Guard police engaging in a “collective punishment of the Rohingya minority”. Despite this, the rebel activity in the Rakhine state, where a large number of the Rohingya reside, has not been large in comparison to other states of Myanmar, which were also left in a fragile position due to the civil war. Therefore, the targeting of a vulnerable minority seems to be a result of the behaviour of the Burmese state.
As a result of this oppression more than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled or attempted to flee to Bangladesh. This follows the destruction of hundreds of Rohingya homes by the Myanmar military, forcing the displacement of a great number of Rohingyan men, women and children with nowhere else to go. In the hope of reaching Bangladesh or its surrounding countries, many are currently attempting to cross the Bay of Bengal, a stretch of water which is allegedly more fatal for refugees than the crossing of the Mediterranean.
Despite the UN putting their best effort into bringing aid to the Rohingya people and assisting them in their plight, the actions and constraints enforced by the Myanmar government has made this increasingly difficult. In response to this, Western Countries need to be persistent in their attempts to aid the plight of the Rohingya Muslims. They must maintain the fight against the persecution and mistreatment of Minority groups, alleviating their oppression.
Image: European Commission DG ECHO