This was how United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres defined the humanitarian situation in Myanmar (formerly Burma) as he called out the countries for support and help.
Often described as the world’s most persecuted minority, the Rohingya are not considered one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.
Until today, the violence and persecution continues—affecting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya that has resulted in their exodus to neighboring countries over the course of several decades. With its worsening condition, the UN has called it “the most urgent refugee emergency in the world.”
When the Burmese Union Citizenship Act was passed in 1948, the Rohingya were not included in the list of ethnicities eligible for citizenship. Rohingya families were then allowed to apply for identity cards—at least until the military coup of 1962 that rid the country of the constitution and established a military junta. Foreign cards were then made available to the Rohingya, followed by the new citizenship law that rendered the Rohingya stateless. Due to their stateless status, their rights and liberties were—and still are—extremely limited and restricted.
Since the 1970s, around 624,000 have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries—and 300,000 are in desperate need of aid, as per the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva. In every military crackdown, refugees were reported to have been abused—raped, tortured, or murdered by Myanmar security forces.
In November 2016, the government has been accused of carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya by a UN official followed by several allegations. Contrary to the stories of the Rohingya, Myanmar has systematically rejected allegations, saying “There is no ethnic cleansing and no genocide in Myanmar.”
Just in August 25 of this year, Buddhist militants retaliated by burning down villages, arresting and torturing men, raping women, and killing children right after Rohingya extremists or the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked the police and army posts in the state.
Moreover, different rights groups have documented fires burning in at least 10 areas of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. In addition, hundreds of civilians who attempted enter Bangladesh have been pushed back by patrols to Myanmar. In fact, over a one-month period between August and September, at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were already killed in this “ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar’s Rakhine, as stated in the data gathered by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders. Children under the age of five have also become victims of this genocide with numbers rising from 730 and counting.
This mass exodus has reportedly overtaken the Mediterranean migrant numbers in this “unprecedented” human crisis. And as the number of deaths continue to rise together with the number of Rohingya fleeing to neighboring countries, different governments express their deep regret and share sympathy with what happened.
However, in the recently concluded ASEAN Summit in Manila, Southeast Asian leaders kept silent over accusations of the Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, but expressed support for the country’s efforts to bring peace and harmony to northern Rakhine state. Unfortunately, majority of the people across the globe are still unaware of, by far, the worst genocide in modern history.