By: Schondra Aytch
The Myanmar Refugee Crisis is reaching a new level of urgency as the Bangladesh Prime Minister pleas for Rakhine State to take back Rohingya refugees. Recent attacks on Myanmar’s army posts by a Rohingya militant group better known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has ignited violence throughout Rakhine State; home to over a million Rohingya. Myanmar’s military, Tatmada, has reacted against the attack by tightening security on the Myanmar-Bangladesh borders, burning villages and setting rumored landmines in areas where it is common for Rohingya civilians to escape. The international condemnation from neighboring countries as well as the U.S. towards the Tatmadaw’s response has been present and aggressive, yet it seems Burman nationalists have maintained power by using politics to limit democratic and amnesty officials. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is home to over 100 ethnicities, yet their significantly violent relationship with Rohingya people, a Sufi-Muslim nationality, has caused unrest in the Rakhine State. Tracing their ancestry back centuries before the beginning of British-India rule in the country, the Rohingya are still considered illegal immigrants. Discredited by both the national government and Buddhist majority for their historical claims, the Rohingya are neglected mostly through discriminatory policy making.
The 1982 Citizenship Law took away the citizenship of many Rohingya and their right to self-identify. Today, the Rohingya are limited by the government from adequate healthcare and education to restrictions on marriage and traveling. Increasing tensions between the Rohingya and Tatmadaw has caused violent outbreaks forcing many Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. With over 300,000 displaced Rohingya inhabiting the only two Refugee camps in Bangladesh, overpopulation is becoming a serious issue. With the Tatmadaw continuing its aggressive search for Rohingya militants, families-specifically women and children are left vulnerable. Rakhine State being the most underdeveloped and poverty-stricken state Myanmar Refugee Crisis in Myanmar is targeted by human traffickers. Many who rescue Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s borders sell them into slavery, prostitution and smuggling rings. The Rohingya who make it to neighboring countries are left with an unsure future since many regional governments don’t supply identification. As more protests emerge in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia in support of restoring Rohingyas peacefully back to their homes, President Htin Kyaw and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi have been questionably quiet on the matter.
With Myanmar pushing towards a democracy, which prompted their first democratically elected government in 2016, rebellions by Burman-Buddhist patriots and the constitutional power of the Tatmadaw has been more aggressive. Suu Kyi who leads the National League of Democracy and previously been at odds with the Tatmadaw is now receiving criticism for her silence at such a controversial time. Yet, considering that her past support of the Rohingya people didn’t sit well with the Burman majority, her position could be weighing in the balance. Nevertheless, prominent world leaders like Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have disputed that this is the perfect time for rising democratic leaders to confront the Tatmadaw. United Nations High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who called the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” accused the country of a “brutal security campaign.” Myanmar’s national government, who have refused claims of pushing out Rohingya, explained to the international community that they are “firmly condemning terrorist attacks.” Militant group ARSA, who called a ceasefire last week so humanitarian aid could safely travel through Rakhine State was denounced by the government who insisted they would not end their search for Rohingya insurgents; and also denied the United Nations into affected areas.