Issue Brief on “Atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya”

The Rohingya are on the run again! Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing their homes in Myanmar and seeking shelter elsewhere from the escalating violence. The violence erupted again on October 9, 2016 after a number of “unknown assailants” (that the government claims to be Islamic militants) attacked three security outposts along the border with Bangladesh killing 9 policemen. Since then, the government of Myanmar has mounted a massive security operation against the Muslims (majority Rohingya) in the country. More than 100 people have been killed, hundreds have been detained by the military, more than 150,000 aid-reliant people have been left without food and medical care, dozens of women claim to have been sexually assaulted, more than 1,200 buildings appear to have been razed and at least 30,000 people have fled for their lives.

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group living primarily in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. Small factions of Rohingya also live in neighbouring states of Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Rohingya trace their origins in the region to the fifteenth century when thousands of Muslims came to the former Arakan Kingdom. Many others arrived during the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s when Bengal and the Rakhine territory were governed by colonial rule as part of British India. Since independence in 1948, successive governments in Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, have refuted the Rohingya’s historical claims and denied the group recognition as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups. The Rohingya are largely identified as illegal Bengali immigrants, despite the fact that many Rohingya have resided in Myanmar for centuries.

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