It’s estimated that over 100,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar over the past two years in the face of state-condoned hostility from Rakhine State’s Buddhist majority. over the past two weeks about 900 Rohingya a day have been boarding ships to sail someplace, anyplace, else, Thailand usually, and many more have attempted to make their way overland to Bangladesh, from whence the Burmese government officially insists, with some but not much evidence to support it, that they illegally migrated in the first place.
It’s been a while since we really talked about the Rohingya here, but needless to say their situation has not improved over that time. Newsweek’s Nic Dunlop visited one of the nine Rohingya refugee camps in Rakhine and described the suffering:
One Rohingya I spoke to, who didn’t wish to be identified, described Thin Taw Li as a concentration camp. But unlike the concentration camps of Nazi occupied Europe, there were no barbed wire perimeter fences and no watchtowers; people were free to move between the camps. On occasion I saw armed police, but their presence was fleeting. What was happening was more insidious. There was no need for barbed wire.
The Rohingya have been terrorised into collusion as well as submission. And, like Burma under military rule, they are closely monitored. The camp leaders, Rohingya selected by the police to work for them, have been given mobile phones and ordered to spy on the camp populations. “They are like government informers,” a refugee told me.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, recently presented her findings to the UN General Assembly. After a 10-day visit to the area last July, she described the situation in the camps as “deplorable”. The report, while acknowledging Burma’s reforms, warns of backtracking and lists continuing abuses suffered by the Rohingya including: summary executions, disappearances, torture, forced labour, forced displacements and rape. “The government must meet its obligations,” says the report, to provide “lifesaving assistance” and adequate basic services including “access to livelihoods, food, water, and sanitation, and education.”
Myanmar’s Buddhists justify their naked aggression toward the Rohingya in historical terms, arguing that Buddhism was chased out of most of South Asia by Islam, and that the Rohingya represent some kind of vanguard of a new Muslim invasion of Myanmar. But Muslims in Myanmar are less numerous than Protestant Christians and people who practice traditional folk religion, all of whom are dwarfed by the country’s 80% Buddhist super-majority. In other words, there is no justification for what is being done to these people, historical or otherwise.