Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been in the process of what some view as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population from the Rakhine State. Extensive murders, rapes and arsons have taken place between the two groups, leaving the minority population with little hope to survive if they were to stay in their region. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have left their oppressive country for others such as Malaysia, Thailand and primarily Bangladesh. Journeying through murky waters while facing innumerable conditions along the way like starvation and disease create a narrative of a displaced people solely searching for somewhere to settle and receive ethical human treatment.
The history of Rohingya Muslims dates back to the 19th and early 20th century, a time when the Arakan Kingdom was a formidable force and British-Indian rule was in effect in India’s southwest region. The advent of Burma’s independence in 1948 granted sovereignty to the Burmese government to treat the Rohingyas immorally on several spectrums including citizenship, marriage and childbirth. Tactics implemented in Burma’s 1948 citizenship policy created an atmosphere where they could not legally become citizens, in turn leaving masses of people stateless. Recent reform in the 1990s has allocated minimal rights to the Rohingyas through the usage of white cards, which are symbols of temporary residency in Myanmar and a form of identification. However, white cards do not give full or even partial citizenship to the distressed population of Muslims under persecution and play a role in enthralling the current mistreatment of the Rohingyas.
Marriage for Rohingyas is only feasible if they go against the regulations of their religion. In order for two Rohingyas to get married, a picture of the bride without her headscarf on must be shown to authorities along with proof that the groom has shaved his face, both of which are in contra with Rohingya tradition. Along the lines of childbirth, Rohingyan couples are only allowed to have two children. When these elements are implemented all at once on these individuals their lives become much more strenuous and ill-fated, leaving them no other choice but to flee in hopes of a better life elsewhere. The lack of action from the country’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, also appropriates their decision to journey away from their homeland. If the leader of your country won’t even flash a hand to help, what else is there to do?
Bangladesh continues to be a hotspot for Rohingya refugees but living conditions and lack of quality food create more problems for them as refugee camps continuously become overcrowded. Nearly one million refugees are scraping away at rations donated by the international community to survive, and the number continues to grow.
What will be the solution to this situation? On behalf of Myanmar, military action would need to cease and full recognition of Rohingyas would be a necessary element for reform. Even if this were to become a reality, the amount of ethical tension and discrimination that would be at the forefront of Rohingya Muslims’ lives in Myanmar and the Rhakine State might prove to be just as detrimental and destructive as its military interaction with them. Solving this series of callous events will require extensive amounts of help from the international community to help this group of people that has been ravaged for simply existing.
-Lawrence Jones III