The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar rank among the most persecuted communities in the world. Their plight has been woefully underreported by the international media, despite many human rights organisations and international aid agencies recognising their maltreatment as genocide. As per recent reports, thousands of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape military operations that have left scores of people dead and as many as 30,000 displaced.
In the past decade, the UN has often accused the Myanmar military establishment of seeking to cleanse the country of its Muslim ethnic minority. No country seems willing to grant them asylum. Bangladesh stepped up border patrols and summoned their ambassador to complain about the exodus. The Rohingya Muslims primarily occupy the Rakhine territory close to the Bangladesh border in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Their historical claim to the land comes from fifteenth century when a large number of Muslims voyaged and settled in the Arakan Empire of Burma. During the colonial period, much more had made the journey from the then Bengal Province to the Rakhine province in Myanmar. The Buddhist majority view them as Bengali immigrants with no claim to Myanmar. Since its Independence in 1948, successive regimes in Myanmar have taken a repressive stance towards the Rohingyas, depriving them of their rights with brutality and intolerance. This has often been compared to apartheid.
Under the new NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, there has been a tremendous effort towards building a nation which reflects democratic values. But her administration’s inability to stop or even contain the violence against the Rohingyas remains a black mark.
The government had done little to stop their systematic exclusion from the political process. The recent disenfranchisement of the community confirms this. The innumerable casualties in state-sponsored massacres, communal violence, and the dismal condition of the Internally Displaced Peoples’ Camps for the Rohingyas have resulted in grave physical and psychological damage. The constant persecution has caused them to flee Myanmar to seek haven in other countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, among others. These “asylum seekers”, however, remain at the mercy of the countries they solicit asylum in.