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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Lee

Myanmars Crimes Against Humanity

In August 2017, a militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched an assault on police stations and army posts in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Branded as terrorists, the government reacted by mounting a brutal military campaign in the name of reinstating stability in the country's western regions. This destroyed at least 300 Rohingya villages, murdered 6,700 Rohingyas and triggered a historic mass exodus of 600,000 Rohingyas to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Thailand to escape persecution by the mendacious government. While Rohyingya Muslims have been facing institutional discrimination for decades, the world was finally getting a glimpse Myanmars conspicuous crimes against the Rohingyas: blatant, callous ethnic cleansing.


Source: New York Times The Rohingya Muslims are a ethnic minority in Myanmar, a Buddhist majority country. They are the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with nearly 1 million of the 4.5 million worldwide primarily concentrated in the Rakhine state. Their history dates back to the 15th century, when the Rohingyas migrated to the former Arkan Kingdom. More arrived in the 19th and early 20th century when Rakhine was governed by colonial rule as part of British India. After gaining its autonomy from Britain in 1948, successive governments in Myanmar have fervently refuted the Rohingyas historical and ancestral claims and ultimately denied them recognition as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups, leaving them with no legal documentation. This cycle of discrimination has been perpetuated through various forms of legal diminution including exclusionary citizenship laws as well as restrictions on marriage, education, employment, and religions freedom. New laws that would create a wedge between the Rohingyas and their access to full, legal citizenship were introduced in conjunction with the militia junta that seized power in 1962. Their status is reduced to temporary residents, binding them to carry identification cards known as white cards that were issued to many Muslims both Rohingya and non-Rohingya in the 1990s. However, these cards were not proof of citizenship rather a calculated mechanism to single out religiously nonconforming subjects. Most recently, the government has forced the Rohingya to carry national verification cards that officially identify them as foreigners, going as far as to exclude them from the 2014 census.

In November 2019, Gambia filed the first international lawsuit against Myanmar accusing them of breaching the UN Genocide Convention. When petitioned by the International Court of Justice, Myanmar's de facto leader and renowned humanitarian Aung San Suu Kyi astonishingly denied all allegations of genocide against the government. Three months later, the panel of 17 judges unanimously ruled that Myanmar must take "all measures within its power" and emergency measures to protect the Rohingya from further persecution and violence. These conditions included the prevention of killing, and further inflicting "serious bodily or mental harm" to members of the Rohingya, as well as preserving evidence of possible genocide. Hoping to clear its name, Myanmar conducted its own investigation into the incidents in 2017. The country's Independent Commission of Enquiry admitted that members of the security forces may have committed "war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law", but insisted there was no evidence of genocide or genocidal intent.

With resources depleting in refugee settlements like Kutupalong, Bangladesh, that is currently housing more than half a million escapees with no desire for repatriation, we can donate to NGO's (eg. Unicef) to funnel basic human necessities to destitute settlements. An easier alternative would be to simply share and draw attention to their stories of oppression and censure of their faith and identities. As we enter an increasingly progressive era, we must expose ourselves to socioeconomic issues beyond our first world bubble.

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