Members of the Rohingya community living in refugee camps in Bangladesh and those still living in Myanmar held rallies this week for “Genocide Remembrance Day”, marking five years since nearly 750,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar have were forced to leave the country, with accusations of murder and rape also taking place during this time. The United Nations called these events genocide, but the Myanmar government refused to recognize it and even tried to cover up any evidence of these crimes. Most Rohingya now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, but an estimated 600,000 still live in Myanmar in internment camps. In numerous protests that took place this week, members of the Rohingya community listed a series of demands that the Myanmar government and the international community must uphold, including “justice for the victims of the genocide, the restoration of the rights of citizenship, repeal of Myanmar Citizenship Act 1982, repatriation, compensation for destruction of property and guarantee of security under UN supervision after repatriation.
Many members of the Rohingya community call on the international community to stop ignoring this genocide and help all Rohingyas, including those residing in refugee camps and in Myanmar. Rohingya community leader Sayed Ullah said News from France 24, “All we want is a safe and dignified return to our homeland. Unfortunately, our cries fell on deaf ears. The international community is doing nothing. The United Nations Special Envoy for Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, echoed Mr. Ullah’s calls for urgent action by the international community, saying that “generations could be affected if we fail in our obligation to protect the Rohingyas and all the people of Myanmar, their fundamental rights and their dignity. .”
It is essential that the international community listen to the demands of the Rohingya and help them secure their repatriation to Myanmar and ensure that those still living in Myanmar are safe and treated fairly. The international community has done little to address the horrific actions of the Myanmar government, and as the Rohingya community is one of the most persecuted groups in the world, it is essential that urgent action be taken.
Influential countries on which Myanmar depends for trade could impose sanctions on the Myanmar government until the Rohingyas are granted full citizenship in the country. There could also be a call for an outside investigation by the International Criminal Court into the genocide to ensure justice is served. Much of the international community has virtually ignored the atrocious genocide and has practiced continued discrimination against the Rohingya, so it is essential that the international sphere steps up and acknowledges this tragedy while urging the Myanmar government to recognize this social group in as citizens and human beings.
In 1982, the government of Myanmar passed the Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to people living in Myanmar who could trace their family residence in the country to before 1823. Many Rohingya have historically migrated throughout South Asia in because of persecution, so this law was intentionally designed to prevent Rohingyas from being recognized as citizens of Myanmar. Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, and in 2014 the government did not include Rohingyas in the census, saying they were “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. The Rohingya Genocide happened in 2017 after the Myanmar government exiled hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from the country. Rohingya still living in Myanmar are denied access to education and paid work, and many international aid organizations have been prevented from sending aid or visiting Rohingya internment camps.
The horrific and rarely acknowledged genocide of the Rohingya living in Myanmar was an act of historic inhumanity that deserves to be discussed, and the demands of the Rohingya people must be acknowledged and granted in order to achieve any form of justice. The international community must urge the government of Myanmar to grant citizenship to all Rohingya and ensure that they are treated fairly in order to bring safety and security to this historically unjustly persecuted group.