Ethnic relations in Myanmar have always been seemingly held on a precipice, a little tilt here or there and there’s an avalanche of rioting, mass killing, and a host of human rights violations.
Horrific details of how the Rohingyas were persecuted by the Buddhists have emerged. One particularly violent and disturbing story is that of a young mother and her two children. The woman’s breasts were brutally hacked off and her private parts mutilated, because according to her captors, "her breasts gave milk to Muslim babies and her womb gave birth to future generations of Muslims." Her son was dragged along the ground with a motorcycle. How the daughter met her end is unknown. Mohamed Salam, the devastated husband of the woman, lives alone with his only remaining child in a camp for displaced persons outside Sittwe. With the allegations that a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered by three Rohingya men a few months ago, riots have escalated again.
Nearly 10,000 houses of the Rohingyas have been burnt, their valuables thrown out. In desperation, many Rohingyas are seeking refuge in other countries.
The UN refugee agency estimates that there are around 28,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees currently in Malaysia, though the number is suspected to be much higher. Malaysia has reached out to Myanmar to try to find a possible solution for this problem, and has urged it "to take stronger action to prevent persecution of Muslims and bring the perpetrators to justice."
There are 11,000 Rohingya refugees in Thailand, but there are disturbing reports that many of them have been locked up in squalid cages for several months. In another recent development, around1,500 Rohingyas have reached Hyderabad, India. Having no knowledge of the native languages, Urdu or Hindi, they are forced to rely on the donations of philanthropists.
One of the most persecuted minority groups in the word, the Rohingyas were thought to have migrated to Burma in the period of British rule from Bangladesh. They have repeatedly been denied citizenship requests. The 1982 citizenship Law has designated three categories of citizens: full citizens, associate citizens and naturalized citizens. The Rohingyas do not belong in any of these categories.
They are given ID cards, but no citizenship status. Additionally, they are not allowed to travel without official permission. They are banned from owning land. They are even required to sign a commitment not to have more than two children.
The Rohingyas even tried to escape to their native Bangladesh — it was estimated that around 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after the 1987 riots, but it seems Bangladesh doesn’t want them there anymore and has denied them state support.
Myanmar must make a concerted decision regarding the state of the Rohingyas, for at the end of the day, they identify themselves as belonging from that country. Otherwise, it runs the risk of possible alienation and ruptures between its ties with other countries in South and Southeast Asia.