Friday September 30, 2022

Four years on

August 27, 2021

Soon after the brutal military campaign against the Rohingya started, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 200 Rohingya villages were destroyed and burned by the military, and an estimated 13,000 Rohingya were killed.

Today, more than 890,000 Rohingya refugees are sheltering in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region: the biggest cluster of refugee camps in the world. Some 92,000 Rohingya refugees reside in Thailand, 21,000 in India, and 102,000 in Malaysia. The Rohingya also make up a portion of Myanmar’s 576,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

As we mark the fourth year since the events of August 2017, it is important to remember that the suffering of the Rohingya has not ended. The community continues to face various forms of violence and tragic death due to their forced displacement. Many suffer under horrendous living conditions at refugee and IDP camps, some have drowned in an attempt to escape and find shelter in other countries. Local authorities at host countries have also sometimes been responsible for the victimisation of Rohingya refugees, with Bangladesh, for example, moving tens of thousands of them to Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, where camps are unlivable.

While the US government has paid some attention to the military coup in Myanmar, condemned it and issued sanctions, it has done little to address the violence against the Rohingya. The State Department is yet to declare the human rights abuses and mass atrocities against the Rohingya a genocide, despite clear and mounting evidence of the crime.

It is important to note that, even before the August 2017 violence, the Rohingya suffered from extreme forms of discrimination, notably being denied citizenship under Myanmar’s Citizenship Law and being segregated from other civilians to create “Muslims-free” spaces. These targeted campaigns and systematic violence by the military resulted in the Gambia filing a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice. There is ample evidence that genocide is being committed against the Rohingya, and it is past time that the US names it as such.

Now more than ever, a genocide declaration is necessary as the Myanmar military cracks down on civilian dissent amid an ever-growing death toll and continuing atrocities against the nation’s ethnic minorities. In August alone, the military has indiscriminately shot ethnic Chin civilians, shelled villages in Shan state, and attacked clinics and health centres amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Refusing to call the crimes of the Myanmar military what they are allows the regime to continue undisturbed its campaign of violence across the country.

Excerpted: ‘It is past time to call the violence against Rohingya genocide’