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The Treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
A sick 55-year old Rohingya Muslim living with diabetes in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp was denied access to a clinic due to the closing of the clinic by the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Without treatment and medication, the pain after a recently amputated leg forced the man to return home to suffer until his inevitable death (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). Surprisingly, these types of stories are not uncommon within IDP camps and is just one example out of many where basic necessities in order for survival are refused. This is the country of Myanmar, where a copious lack of health care is a more relaxed example of the severe human rights violations that the Rohingya Muslims face daily. Mark Lattimer once stated that “religious intolerance is the new racism,” which clearly resembles the religious violence and hostility imposed on the religious minority group from the Buddhist majority and the Government. This religious intolerance can be attributed to the differences in regard to fundamental beliefs expressed in both religions. It can also be credited to the continuous contradictions of the constitution that the Burmese government enacts through the treatment of the Rohingya population. The question of why all of this has occurred will be addressed in respect to the treatment and abuse of human rights by the Myanmar Government towards the Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar is a country of several major ethnic groups but has dealt with ethnic tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist nationalists for decades. The persecutions were first officially recognized by the government itself, when they refused to recognize Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic minority group, consequently depriving them of Burmese citizenship which had a cascading effect on their conditions of life (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). This is because rather than protecting them, the government simply has disregarded their needs and their protection. Little effort has gone into halting the worsening conditions the Rohingya Muslims live in, and the people are pleading for international assistance as huge transformations are imperative before any dramatic improvements can be realized. The little protection means that The Rohingya community faces human right abuses that amount to genocide, including massacres, segregation in IDP camps, prohibition of health services, restrictions on childbirth, and further mistreatment that affects their quality of life. The military killed, tortured and raped many innocent communities of Rohingya in an attempt to silence the treatment that violated human rights. Furthermore, the Rohingya suffered forced labour, arbitrary detention and physical assaults
which is why in 1991 and 1992, more than 250,000 attempted to refuge to Bangladesh.
IMAGE: Rohingya Muslims protest to Suu Kyi (State Counsellor of Myanmar) to be treated like human beings
Various mass atrocities have taken place in Rakhine State where the Government of Burma has failed to uphold the responsibility to protect the Rohingya under attack. An example of this was in March 2013 when Buddhist monks “set fire to more than 1,500 homes, destroyed more than a dozen mosques, and killed more than 100 people among the minority Muslim population in Meiktila” (Physicians for Human Rights, 2013). The “armed riot police at the scene did little or nothing to intervene to prevent or halt the attacks” and allowed “vulnerable children and others” to be killed (Physicians for Human Rights, 2013). The victims of destroyed property, summing to more than 12,000 in this attack alone, were displaced and moved into IDP camps where movement outside “the fenced and guarded compound” was prohibited (US Department of State). They were forced “to bribe security officials to escort them outside” to access necessities at the Sittwe market (US Department of State). This led to “a food crisis and widespread malnutrition” within the camps (US Department of State). The most horrifying detail is that the Government of Burma, by choice, not only allowed such deadly attacks on the Rohingya population without any investigation to hold those responsible accountable for their actions, but then denied the Rohingya victims life necessities in the IDP camps described by many as “concentration camps” (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). This discrimination from both the government and the Buddhist-majority of Myanmar shows that there is a clear religious intolerance for Islam, which sparks much of the violence experienced in Myanmar. But the question still remains – is there a reason for all of this violence?
The Burma Citizenship Law of 1982 shows us that the people of Buddhist-dominated Myanmar belong to eight indigenous races: the Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Kayah, Mon, Rakhine and Shan, which are divided into 135 distinct ethnic groups. The Kokang, are ethnically Chinese but are categorized under the Shan. The Rohingya, on the other hand, are not counted among the 135 ethnic groups, and so do not have the right to Myanmese citizenship. According to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, Burma’s policies against the Rohingya population do amount to genocide as their actions are “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a ethnical group” through “killing members of the group”, “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”, and by “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). The key point in the definition of genocide is that it must be done with the intent to destroy the group in part, and the atrocities committed by the government have displayed clearly their intentions to kill and do way with the Rohingya population. These actions from the Burmese people show that mass-massacres and genocide to the Rohingya Muslims can occur after the smallest discord between the two groups.
IMAGE: Myanmar offered help from China in the midst of the Rohingya crisis at U.N
Section 354 of the Burmese constitution is all about civil rights and the liberties in the expression of religion within Myanmar. It states that “every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of the following rights, if not contrary to the laws. One of the principles of Section 354 is the ability to express and publish freely their convictions and opinions, this includes the expression of religion and the capability to develop their culture, language. Section 44 also states that “No penalty shall be prescribed that violates human dignity,” Nonetheless, these rights do not apply to the Rohingya Muslims because they are not citizens of the country, yet since Myanmar belongs to the United Nations, the International Human Rights Law still applies to non-citizens of nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights covers this in Article 18, where it states that everyone has the ability to have “…freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” While the rights of the Rohingya Muslims are not recognized by the constitution of Myanmar, the Human Rights document published by the United Nations, of which Myanmar has adhered to, believes in religious freedom and human rights within the country.
The most horrifying detail is that the Government of Burma, by choice, not only allowed such deadly attacks on the Rohingya population without any investigation to hold those responsible accountable for their actions but then denied the Rohingya victims life necessities in the IDP camps described by many as “concentration camps” (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). This is a clear inconsistency between the constitution and real-life, as they do not abide by their own regulations. The government also decided to shut down the lifesaving services of Doctors Without Borders and put the Rohingya community at risk of life without health care (Marching to Genocide in Burma, 2014). However, in a separate incident, 7 soldiers were sentenced to 10 years of prison with hard labour as a result of the slaughter of 10 Rohingya men (The Guardian, 2018), which shows that the government is not reliable for punishments of crimes. Myanmar’s oppression of the Rohingya people is not consistent with the constitution as mentioned in Section 354, but since the constitution does not apply to the Rohingya people, it is a catalyst for the oppression the non-citizens experience from the government.
IMAGE: The aftermath of a Rohingya village being burnt down by the Myanmar military, plans to build military bases in its place.
All in all, the Rohingya community have faced massacres that has resulted in thousands of deaths, violence that has left tens of thousands displaced from their homes in IDP camps that do not provide basic human rights such as lifesaving services, and denial of existence that has limited births. With the discrimination from the government and the Buddhist population, the Rohingya Muslims have now found themselves in a position where they cannot defend themselves. The laws don’t define them as citizens, and as a result, disallow them from having constitutional rights and silences their voice except outside of the country. Unfortunately, the growth of violence has not aspired the international community to act swiftly yet, but the people are asking for help to spare lives while there is still time.
- Abdelkader, E. (2017, September 20). The history of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/the-history-of-the-persecution-of-myanmars-rohingya-84040
- AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL REPORT 2005. (2005, May 24). Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/0001/2005/en/
- Andrews, T., & Sullivan, D. (2014, March 24). Marching to Genocide in Burma – United to End Genocide. Retrieved from http://endgenocide.org/marching-genocide-burma-2/
- Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University. (2008). Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Section 354: Citizen Rights. Retrieved from https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/quotes/constitution-of-the-republic-of-the-union-of-myanmar-section-354-citizen-rights
- Burma: Rohingya Muslims Face Humanitarian Crisis. (2017, September 12). Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/03/26/burma-rohingya-muslims-face-humanitarian-crisis
- Constitution of Myanmar. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Myanmar_2008?lang=en
- Crisis in Burma. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/crises/crisis-in-burma
- Ellis-Petersen, H. (2018, August 27). Myanmar’s military accused of genocide in damning UN report. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/27/myanmars-military-accused-of-genocide-by-damning-un-report
- Physicians for Human Rights. (May, 2013). Massacre In Central Burma:Muslim Students Terrorized and Killed in Meiktila. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/PHR_Reports/Burma-Meiktila-Massacre-Report-May-2013.pdf
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2018, October 3). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html
Images (in order of appearance)
- AP. (). [Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait to receive aid during a distribution near Balukhali refugee camp]. Retrieved from https://cdn2.i-scmp.com/sites/default/files/images/methode/2017/10/01/edd7480e-a4bf-11e7-84b5-dfc1701cb40c_1320x770_114441.JPG
- Getty Images / BBC.Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37172014
- REUTERS/Brendan McDermid. (2017). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres prior to their meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-china/china-offers-support-to-myanmar-at-u-n-amid-rohingya-crisis-idUSKCN1BU070
- REUTERS/Wa Lone. (2017, November 13). Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village. Retrieved from https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/437z8p/myanmar-is-building-military-bases-on-rohingya-villages-it-burned-to-the-ground
 Andrews, T., & Sullivan, D. (2014, March 24). Marching to Genocide in Burma – United to End Genocide.
This pdf document provided an in-depth explanation as to why the Rohingya Muslims are being oppressed in Myanmar, based on factual evidence the authors found in a 4-week research period. It was very useful in the many aspects of the essay and was the main source of information throughout the essay. The document is largely analytical and provided valid primary and secondary sources and was an easy read for the viewer. Furthermore, it defined key terms in relation to the United Nations, so the audience had an understanding of the word in the context that they were using it in. Overall, the source was reliable and had a copious amount of use towards the research of the discrimination of the Rohingya Muslims.
 Physicians for Human Rights. (May, 2013). Massacre In Central Burma:Muslim Students Terrorized and Killed in Meiktila.
The authors of this document (Richard Sollom and Holly Atkinson) had led many investigations in the past into cases relating to human rights violations and work, showing that it is a reliable source of information. The source provided a massive range of primary and secondary sources over 30 pages of different cases of massacres in Myanmar. The information revealed the thesis to be true through the detailed analysis of different human rights violations towards the Rohingya Muslims. These cases of human rights violations were used in the essay to back up the thesis and proved to be effective due to the amount of detail the authors went into with each case. Additionally, the source questions the consistency of the Burmese government, which was also essential to the thesis statement used in the essay. The source credibility is extremely reliable as it was written by a group of human rights activists who went to Myanmar and interviewed various communities of Rohingya Muslims after tragic events incited on them by the government.
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