More than half a million Rohingya fled from northern Rakhine state across the Burma (Myanmar) border into Bangladesh over a three-month period, according to the UNHCR. The Rohingya are predominantly Muslim although there are some Hindu adherents.
Reports state that authorities launched a counter-offensive after insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked more than 30 police stations in northern Rakhine in August. Many Rohingya elders condemned the group’s violent tactics. Burmese official sources state that almost 400 insurgents and 13 members of the security forces died. In response, troops are alleged to have raped and killed civilians as well as having burnt down villages.
Burma’s constitution accords a “special position” to Buddhism while recognising other religions including Islam and Hinduism. The constitution adds that: “The abuse of religion for political purposes is forbidden.” But the Rohingya are not a recognised minority – and the official Burmese military view is that Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or their descendants.
Studies by human rights watchdogs have outlined that the extent of discriminatory treatment against Rohingya in Burma include denial of citizenship and marriage restrictions. It can take up to two years to obtain approval and any couple attempting to marry without approval can be arrested. Upon marrying, the Rohingya are required to sign a document stating they will not have more than two children. Many Rohingya do not have land rights and routinely endure forced labour – working one day a week on military or government projects. Buddhists in the region are usually not required to do this. Rohingya are also unable to travel freely; those trying to leave the country have been subjected to harassment and beatings by Burmese security forces, but then allowed to leave, and told never to return.
Reuters, 7th & 22nd September 2017; All You Can Do is Pray: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State (Human Rights Watch, 2013); Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School), Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims: Is Genocide occurring in Myanmar’s Rakhine State? A Legal Analysis (Fortify Rights, October 2015); Al Jazeera, 18th April 2018