An assessment by Yale University Law School as part of an investigation by Al Jazeera has uncovered “strong evidence” of a genocide coordinated by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya people.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority originally from Bangladesh who have resided in Myanmar for generations – yet the government has rendered them stateless since 1982 and considers them to be “illegal immigrants”. This means they will be denied the right to vote in the General Election on November the 8th. According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya are often described as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”.
According to Tun Khin, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation President – “Because of that law [the 1982 citizenship law], today more than 1.3 million Rohingya are not citizens of Burma and are denied the right to have food, denied the right to have medical treatment, denied the right to have movement, denied the right to have children, denied the right to have education and it leads to state-sponsored violence against them, and burning down their houses and pushing them to the camps.”
The government of Myanmar – who are being accused of committing and encouraging acts of violence against them – denies their very existence, prohibiting the use of their name and pressuring foreign officials to not even utter the word Rohingya. According to the Burmese President Thein Sein, “There are no Rohingya in Burma”.
It’s statements like this that are – according to University of London professor Penny Green, the director of the International State Crime Initiative – “part of a genocidal process”. “President Thein Sein is prepared to use hate speech for the government’s own ends, and that is to marginalize, segregate, and diminish the Muslim population inside Burma” she added.
Green’s International State Crime Initiative believe the government to have been behind the 2012 Rakkhine State Riots – in which violence erupted between the Muslim and Buddhist residents after a reported rape on a Buddhist woman by Rohingyans led to the killing of 10 Muslims by Buddhists, resulting in 88 deaths on both sides and more than 90,000 being displaced.
“It wasn’t communal violence,” said Green. “It was planned violence. Express buses were organised to take Rakhine Buddhists from outlying areas to take part in the aggression. Meals were provided – it had to be paid by somebody.”
The Al Jazeera investigation also uncovered a military document that uses hate speech to spread fear among recruits that the Myanmarese are “in danger of being devoured by Muslims”. The investigation also alleges that the government pays Buddhist monks to stir hatred to provoke further ethnic tension and to work for pro-government organisations.
One monk who is prominent in the anti-Rohingya movement is Ashin Wirathu – dubbed ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’ by TIME Magazine in 2013. He leads the 969 Movement, an anti-Muslim nationalist movement opposed to what they see as Islam’s expansion in the Buddhist majority Myanmar. Both Wirathu and the 969 Movement encourage boycotting of Muslim-run shops and the support of legislation proposed by President Thein Sein that would send Rohingya to another country.
As Myanmar’s first properly contested election takes place on the 8th of November, it is hoped that the status of the Rohingya would be a topic discussed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However her NLD Party has no Muslim candidates and her silence over their plight is alleged to be due to her needing the support of the majority Bamar ethnic group. Seeing no place for them selves in the newly democratic country, many Rohingya are now fleeing to other South-East Asian countries on boats – risking their lives for the hope of a better life.