The Burma Crisis

The Burma crisis is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of these times. The Rohingyas are a Muslim ethnic group mainly found in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. This minority has been subjected to persecution for decades. Since late 2017, lakhs of the Rohingya population have fled Burma’s Rakhine state to escape the military’s large scale ‘clearance operations.’

The Rohingya refugee crisis or the Myanmar crisis are just other names of the Burma crisis. To understand what led to this situation we must look back at the timeline of Myanmar.

Background

In 1962, military rule was established throughout Myanmar. Due to this, the Muslim population in Rakhine was overpowered by the Buddhist majority and militants. In 1982, an official announcement was made in the Myanmar which declared 135 nationally recognized ethnic groups. The Rohingya Muslims, however, were not part of that list which led them to being stateless and having no citizenship. Around 2012, targeted violence broke out against Rohingya Muslims in which many were killed and were rendered homeless.

In 2014, the first official census in decades was conducted in which the Rohingya were not included. During the year 2015, democratic elections were conducted in which the Rohingyas were not allowed to participate. Around October of 2016, armed conflicts began in Rakhine which made thousands of Rohingyas flee to Bangladesh. During 2017 and 2018, several attacks happened, and violence erupted which made lakhs of Rohingyas settle in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. [1]

Present Scenario

The state’s so-called ”clearance operations” has made Rohingya Muslims remain at risk of crimes against humanity and war crimes. A report in 2018 stated that more than 28,000 Rohingyas were killed since November 2017. The same report also estimated that lakhs of Rohingya Muslims have been beaten and their houses have been looted. The Rohingyas have been subjected to different forms of violence since these clearance operations started. The crimes are not just limited to the extent of beating and looting their houses but thousands of Muslim women and minor girls have been subjected to rape, gangrape, and other crimes related to sexual violence [2]. According to the United Nations reports nearly 690,000 Rohingya people had fled Rakhine state till January 2018 because of the atrocities they were subjected to and took shelter in neighboring countries either by way of sea or land.[3]

Several people argue that Muslims have a masterplan to take over their country. The Buddhist monks often give hate speeches about Muslims and called them a threat to their country and culture.   The majority population often forms a link between Rohingya Muslims and terrorism which makes them more vulnerable in the name of national security.

The Refugee Crisis

Due to persecution, being stateless, and losing their status of citizenship, the Rohingyas were forced to move out of Rakhine for their survival. They are living as refugees in many countries such as Bangladesh, India, etc. But these camps are overcrowded, and the living conditions are not even close to the minimum mark for a healthy life. Malnutrition among children, lack of opportunities to earn money, no access to clean water are some of the major concerns. Most of them are suffering from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc.; the constant life of instability, leaving the home which belonged to them and the constant fear in their minds largely impacts their health. The camps they live in have no guarantee of standing still as there is always a risk of cyclones or floods. [4]

The Responsibility to Protect the Rohingya and International Response

2005 World Outcome Document included the Responsibility to protect which is also known as the R2P principle. Responsibility to protect ensures that the state will protect its population from ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. If the states fail to do so, then the international community has a responsibility to do the same.

But there has been an ineffective international response in the Rohingya crisis. The only response that the United Nations Security Council gave was to adopt a presidential statement in November 2016, which stressed the primary responsibility of the government to protect its population.

China has blocked attempts to meaningfully address Myanmar’s abusive treatment of the Rohingya at the United Nations Security Council, using its veto to create stronger diplomatic ties with the Burmese regime. India and Bangladesh are also putting stress on pushing back Rohingyas who are staying as refugees.

During November 2019, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK filed a case in an Argentinian court under the principle of universal jurisdiction. They urge the prosecution of senior Myanmar officials responsible for the genocide. On 14 November Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court authorized the Chief Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation into crimes against humanity that may have been committed against the Rohingya which led to forced deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. [5]

Conclusion

What is happening to the Rohingyas is just another example of fear of identity. The fear in the minds of the majority population that minority will overrule them, fear of losing superiority, and control are some of the factors that give birth to such a crisis. 

What is required in these situations is instant and supportive action as condemnations alone are not enough. The ineffective international response and limited media coverage are one of the main reasons behind this unresolved issue for decades. Myanmar must comply with the orders of the International Court of Justice and all the laws leading to discrimination against the Rohingya Muslims should be amended or repealed. Providing humanitarian relief and helping Rohingyas in seeking asylum are some of the ways how the international community can help them immediately.


[1] https://www.mercycorps.org/blog/rohingya-refugee-crisis-facts#what-is-rohingya-crisis

[2] Michelle Nichols (16 November 2017). “Rohingya crisis: Burmese military guilty of widespread rape of fleeing women and girls, Human Rights Watch says”. The Independent.

[3] Aung & Yimou Lee (1 February 2018). “Reuters reporters arrested under Myanmar Secrets Act denied bail”. Reuters.

[4] https://www.glo-be.be/en/articles/life-dignity-rohingya-refugees-bangladesh

[5] http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/crises/crisis-in-burma

Ayesha Gupta from Gitarattan International Business School

“Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun!

Editor: Sanskriti Sood

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