Rohingya Crisis in the Lens of Human Rights

Rohingya, in other words, who are known as Asia’s Boat people is a Muslim minority population living mainly in the state of Arakan in Myanmar. The crisis regarding Rohingya minority group in Myanmar started after 1970’s onwards and recently it becomes the top discussed the topic in the International arena because of the military launched a crackdown against Rohingya in August this year 2017. It called Rohingya insurgents after an attack on an Army post in Myanmar. The Rohingya people face harsh persecution as Myanmar government does not recognize them as citizens. In refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh also they are facing problems as people without the state.

read the fact you should know about Rohingya crisis

The table shows the genesis of Rohingya people in Myanmar:

8th Century: The Rohingya, a people of South Asian origin, dwelled in an independent kingdom in Arakan, now known as Rakhine state in modern-day Myanmar.
9th to 14th Century: The Rohingya came into contact with Islam through Arab traders. Close ties were forged between Arakan and Bengal.
1784 The Burman King Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Bengal.
1790 Hiram Cox, a British diplomat sent to assist refugees, established the town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where many Rohingya still live today.
1824 to 1942 Britain captured Burma—now known as Myanmar—and made it a province of British India. Workers were migrated to Burma from other parts of British India for infrastructure projects.
1942 Japan invaded Burma, pushing out the British. As the British retreated, Burmese nationalists attacked Muslim communities who they thought had benefited from British colonial rule.
1945 Britain liberated Burma from Japanese occupation with help of Burmese nationalists led by Aung San and Rohingya fighters. Rohingyas felt betrayed as the British didn’t fulfill a promise of autonomy for Arakan.
1948 Tensions increased between the government of newly independent Burma and the Rohingya, many of whom wanted Arakan to join Muslim-majority Pakistan. The government retaliated by ostracizing the Rohingya, including removing Rohingya civil servants.
1950 Some Rohingya resisted the government, led by armed groups called Mujahids. The insurgency gradually died down.
1962 General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party seized power and took a hard line against the Rohingya.
1977 The junta began Operation Nagamine, or Dragon King, which they said was aimed at screening the population for foreigners. More than 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, amid allegations of army abuses. The army denied any wrongdoing.
1978 Bangladesh struck a U.N.-brokered deal with Burma for the repatriation of refugees, under which most Rohingya returned.
1982 A new immigration law redefined people who migrated during British rule as illegal immigrants. The government applied this to all Rohingya.
1989 The army changed the name of Burma to Myanmar.
1991 More than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled what they said was forced labour, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army. The army said it was trying to bring order to Rakhine.
1992 to 1997 Around 230,000 Rohingya returned to Arakan, now known as Rakhine, under another repatriation agreement.
2012 Rioting between Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists killed more than 100 people, mostly Rohingya. Tens of thousands of people were driven into Bangladesh. Nearly 150,000 were forced into camps in Rakhine.
2016 Rohingya militant group Harakah al-Yaqin attacked border guard posts, killing nine soldiers. The army retaliated. More than 25,000 people fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, bringing accounts of killing, rape and arson. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government denied the atrocities.



Bangladesh View on Rohingya Crisis:

Bangladesh is already overpopulated and its economy is in the process of development. The country also has the status of refugee producer as people from Bangladesh cross the border and entered India illegally for economic purpose. Although this country regarded as refugee producer at the same time it is hosting refugees from Myanmar since 1978. In the year of 1978 Operation King Dragon against Rohingya, resulted around 200,000 people fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. After this incident UN, intensive mediation helped the process of a joint statement from two governments side acknowledged that the Rohingya are lawful Burmese residents.

After that in 2012, 2015, 2016 and recent 2017 Rohingya refugee influx happened in Bangladesh. The recent persecution in Myanmar resulted in approximate 400,000 Refugee influx in Bangladesh according to UNICEF. To tackle the situation at first Bangladesh government tried to push them back but their number was so huge and the government, at last, allowed them to enter in Bangladesh.


Humanity or Diplomatic Failure?

In recent refugee influx and the acceptance by the Bangladesh government raised the question is Bangladesh gave shelter because of Humanity or the country failed to tackle the situation in a diplomatic way. The question arises because, in the beginning, Bangladesh tried to push back the refugees like Thailand and other countries. But at the end, Bangladesh government has to accept the refugees but not the others. India and Other countries gave financial assistance but not shelter to Rohingya Refugees.

In an interview with AL Jazeera PM Sheikh Hasina stated that it is Myanmar government’s problem and they should take responsibility. Bangladesh is not in the position to help the Rohingya. World community and Humanitarian organizations should ask Myanmar government regarding this humanitarian crisis.

But unfortunately Bangladesh Government has to accept the refugees and after visiting, Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazaar Prime minister projected as ‘Mother of the Humanity’ again stated that Bangladesh would give support to Rohingya minorities with the available limited resources. And regarding Myanmar government, she said the government should not allow the military force to attacks on civilians. Myanmar government should take them back because they are their citizen and they can’t deny that.

Now according to a specialist, still there is a risk of terrorism as the Rohingya minorities all are not registered. Immediate after the arrival the donation and relief work monitored by the governmental agencies as a terrorist could take the advantage of this situation and motivating them to do some aggressive activities.

From Bangladesh Government side initiatives has taken to bring the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis to the international forum like United Nations, European Union, ASEAN and OIC. Bangladesh also proposed to establish ‘a safe Zone’ within Myanmar by the UN. But Bangladesh has been facing this Rohingya refugee influx since 1978 and till now it is happening on a regular basis. Bangladesh failed to take any diplomatic step to stop this problem and every time more than hundred thousand Rohingya added as refugees. Now in many places in Cox’s Bazaar Rohingya, people are more than the local population and it is creating problems for the locals. Complaints are coming from local people that at first, they were helping them out of pity and humanity but now as the Rohingya becomes more in number they are treating the locals as a minority and snatching their properties also. In local government level officers also acknowledged this and stated that in remote areas the government employees are also so less and because of less number they cannot tackle the problems. This is really a worrying situation for Bangladesh government as there is a chance to transform this Refugee problem into a major communal problem in Bangladesh also.

read the core debate on Rohingya issue

Rohingya Crisis and Human Rights Violation in Myanmar

Communal mistrust and violence are common in Buddhist Burma, especially with Muslim Rohingya. Although Buddhism believes in non-violence, and Myanmar government with the de facto leader as well as Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the communal violence and marginalization of Rohingya Muslims caught the eye of Human rights organization. The U.N high commissioner for Human Rights has called the security creak down. Suu Kyi has done nothing to tackle the situation and also her government denied visas to a United Nations human rights team charged with investigating the crisis and international organizations have been prevented from delivering aid.

But Suu Kyi has described the Rohingya insurgents as ‘Terrorists” and dismissed the worldwide condemnation, saying that international outlets have created “a huge iceberg of misinformation.”

In a speech last week, Suu Kyi refused to criticize the Army and offered a sustained exercise in moral equivalence. “There have been allegations and counter-allegations,” she said. “We have to listen to all of them.”

13 October Suu Kyi announced plans to set up a civilian-led agency with foreign assistance to deliver aid and help resettle Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine state.

“There have been a lot of criticisms against our country. We need to understand international opinion. However, just as no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do, no one can desire peace and development for our country more than us.” Aung San Suu Kyi stated in a TV speech.

Yes, we cannot deny the realistic perspective regarding the situation of Suu Kyi in Burman Buddhist majority state Myanmar, especially in Rakhine state where most official positions are held by Buddhist Rakhine. But as a peace prize winner, everyone expected more from Suu Kyi regarding the handling of the communal violence’s and the preference of Human rights as well.

A survivor from the communal riots in Myanmar who are able to flee in Bangladesh expresses that, the Myanmar Army has done mass shooting and firing on Rohingya Muslims. They rape the Women and burned children’s in front of the family members. Human rights violation is happening and it is important that the international community treat more carefully regarding the Rohingya issue. Ethnic persecution and cleansing could be the breeding ground of the world of terror and it could spread over the whole region as well. So ASEAN, SAARC and other International and Regional organizations should create consciousness and stand against any kind of ethnic persecution and Human rights violation.




Alma Siddqua Rothi

MSS student, Center for South Asian Studies, Pondicherry University, India.

studied, International Relations, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.




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