Map of Southeast Asia focusing on Burma/Myanmar and Bangladesh

The Rohingya Crisis and Its Aftermath

by Saira Francis, Ursuline Academy of Dallas

The Rohingya crisis was a deadly military crackdown carried out by the Myanmar military on the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, Myanmar. This crisis happened in August 2017, however, the Rohingya people have faced violence from the Myanmar army since the late 20th century.

The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority in the Buddhist-majority country of Myanmar. Rohingya people have never had a good relationship with the Myanmar government. They have been denied citizenship since the nation was formed in 1948, as per the Myanmar Constitution, which defines a citizen as a person of “indigenous race.” The Myanmar government has also stopped them from moving from their state and banned their access to education, government jobs, and other civil liberties. Throughout the years, many Rohingya militant groups have formed due to this harsh treatment. The largest armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), has organized and carried out several armed attacks in the last decade in the hope of better treatment and more rights. However, their biggest one was August 25, 2017, when Rohingya ARSA militants carried out a coordinated attack on more than 30 police posts and an army base, leaving 71 people dead. In response to this, the Myanmar army called the act terrorism and launched a counterattack on the Rohingya people. This military crackdown was so brutal that around 13,000 people died due to the military violence, and by March 2018, over 670,000 Rohingya people had fled Myanmar since August 25, 2017. Most Rohingya people fled to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. Currently, Bangladesh has around 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, and the Rohingya population in Myanmar is around 500,000, which is one-third of what it was in 2017.

Currently, most of the Rohingya refugees still reside in Bangladesh, as Myanmar has remained an unsafe place for them to live; however, the refugee camps in Bangladesh are not ideal either. The camps are overcrowded and underfunded, and water-borne diseases are highly prevalent there. Due to these conditions, many Rohingya refugees have chosen to flee the camps to Indonesia, however, they were immediately turned away. The Bangladesh foreign minister and the Myanmar foreign minister recently met in Uganda and discussed the possibility of Rohingya repatriation. Although they both want this for their own respective countries, due to the continual persecution of Muslims and the general civil unrest in Myanmar, it is improbable that the Rohingya people will agree to go back.

As American residents, there is little we can personally do to help fix the problems in Myanmar that prevent the refugees from returning home. However, there are several things we can do to help from home. The most important thing is to stay informed about this issue. It is very easy not to think about this issue because it might not affect you; however, in order to help, we must know the cause we are supporting. You could also donate money to organizations that provide aid and help fund the refugee camps. Additionally, you could also write a letter or call your government representatives to convey your concern about the human rights violations happening in Myanmar. You might feel like your voice holds no weight, however, together, our voices can change laws, leaders, and people’s lives.

 

The views and options expressed in this article are the student’s alone and are not endorsed or reflect the views of the nonprofit, nonpartisan, World Affairs Council of Dallas Fort/Worth.