Themes: Persecution, genocide, citizenship, statelessness, refugees
Myanmar borders Bangladesh, a border defined during British colonial rule. In the 1970s, when Bangladesh (East Pakistan) was struggling for independence from Pakistan, there was an armed uprising by some separatist Muslim Rohingyas in then-Burma who wanted their region to be part of Bangladesh.
In 1982 a law was introduced which denied citizenship to most Burmese Rohingyas. They have been subjected to arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction, house destruction and restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas are not allowed to leave their settlements and have been the subject of a campaign of commercial boycott led by Buddhist nationalist monks – with serious threats against those who trade with Muslims and against aid workers who help them. Like many ethnic minorities in Myanmar, Rohingyas are used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps.
Both the military and Buddhist nationalists have committed repeated acts of violence towards the Rohingya community. The most severe violence occurred in August 2017, following separatist attacks on police outposts. Government troops backed by local Buddhist mobs burnt down hundreds of villages, murdering thousands of people. A United Nations investigation accused the military of carrying out mass killings and rapes with “genocidal intent”.
According to the UNHCR, approximately 720,000 Rohingya refugees have fled targeted violence and human rights violations in Myanmar since August 2017. They join an existing group of 213,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh in previous years. Nearly 80% of Rohingya refugees are women and children.
Burma Human Rights Network