Victims and Violence
A report released by ISCI found compelling evidence of state-led policies, laws and strategies of genocidal persecution stretching back over 30 years, and of the Myanmar State coordinating with Rakhine ultra-nationalists, racist monks and its own security forces in a genocidal process against the Rohingya.
The unstable nature of the relationship the Rohingya Muslims have with Burmese locals goes as far back as 1559 AD when Burmese king Bayinnaung imposed sanctions upon his Muslim subjects and from then on it has been a tale of oppression and bloodshed.
By 1921, despite the colonial powers of the British, the divides between the two groups continued to widen in a fashion similar to genocide. Muslims, regardless of their heritage, were referred to as “Kala”–which roughly translates to “black” and used to racially discriminate them.
At the peak of the poor relations, on 22 September 1938, the British set up an Inquiry Committee to investigate the riots. It was determined that the discontent was caused by the deterioration in socio-political and economic condition of Burmese locals. However, the report was used to incite sectarianism by Burmese newspapers.
In recent times, the persecution entered a devastating phase in 2012 when over 200 Rohingya men, women and children were killed following massacres sparked by the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by three Muslim men. Homes were destroyed and around 138,000 Rohingya were displaced and ended up in what are effectively detention camps.
A further 4,500 desperate Rohingya people live in a squalid ghetto in Sittwe, Rakhine state’s capital.
The Myanmar government’s escalating institutionalised discrimination against the Rohingya has allowed hate speech to flourish, encouraged Islamophobia and granted impunity to perpetrators of the violence.
The systematic, planned and targeted weakening of the Rohingya through mass violence and other measures, as well as the regime’s successive implementation of discriminatory and persecutory policies against them, amounts to a process of genocide. This process has accelerated during Myanmar’s transition to democracy.
The reality of the situation is that, the Buddhists in Myanmar have never accepted Muslims as citizens regardless of migratory patterns and settlements. The Citizenship Act only goes further to prove such a narrative, instead Rohingyas are required to provide multitude of proofs to provide rights to them as Muslims.
The government has shown little concern in addressing the issue and have been known to try to convert them to Buddhism, deport them to other countries and also engage them in government-run projects without remuneration, further adding to their discrimination and persecution.
For many Rohingyas, the alternative is escape. Malaysia’s Muslim politicians, seeking a chance to encourage religiousness, insist that ethnic Malays have a duty to help the Rohingyas. Unless something changes, things will shift from bad to worse for Rohingyas in Myanmar.