What is really happening in Rakhine state, Myanmar?
Many people have told me that they do not know what is happening in Rakhine state and would really like to hear more from someone who lives here. So, here is my attempt explain what has been going on this year, causing the so called “genocide” of the Rohingya people.
The Rohingya people are Muslim Info-Ayran people from Rakhine state Myanmar, and around 1.3 million of them live there. The majority of Rohingyas live in the north most township of Arakan state, also know as Rakhine. The main issue surrounding the Rohingya people is whether they should be considered Burmese or not, as some historians claim they are indigenous to Rakhine state, whereas the government’s official stance is that they are mainly illegal immigrants who migrated into Arakan following Burmese independence in 1948 and after the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. As a result, the Rohingya people are often denied political representation and are so economically and geographically isolated that tens of thousands have fled on dangerous voyages in the hopes of reaching Malaysia. The international media and many human rights organisations claim that they are the most persecuted group of minorities in the world.
This is what has happened so far this year:
On October 9th 2016, local police claimed that Islamic militants attacked 3 security outposts along the border with Bangladesh, resulting in the killing of 9 policemen. Since then, more than 100 people have been killed, more than a dozen of women claim to have been sexually assaulted and at least 180,000 Rohingya people have fled for their lives including 150,000 aid-reliant Roingyas who have fled without food and medical care.
Since this event, according to the Times, humanitarian workers and independent journalists have been banned from affected areas, as the Burmese army carry out their so called “clearance operations”. The government headed by Nobel Peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, said that those killed were jihadists.
On October 10th, humanitarian aid was completely halted and subsequently banned. Troops were deployed in the area to surround 3 towns (Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung) in northern Rakhine state.
Within 2-3 days of the lock down more than 800 muslims arrived at the capital of Rakhine state, Sittwe. Furthermore, more than 1,200 Rohingyas have sought shelter in the nearby town called Buthidaung.
On October 27th, Fiona MacGregor, a Scottish journalists for the Myanmar Times, reported that rights groups have recorded dozens of sexual-assault cases allegedly committed by Burmese security forces. Immediately after the publication of this article, she was instructed not to report on situation in Rakhine state until further notice. She was then fired a week later.
On November 1st, state controlled media began to publish op-ed claiming that Islamic militants are attacking security forces and should be purged, as well as accusing international media for working in collusion with terrorist groups.
On November 2nd, a delegation of nine diplomats and one UN official visited parts of Rakhine state for the first time since October 9th. Although, they were allowed to speak to some villagers, their visit was tightly controlled. During their visit authorities detained 2 Rohingya men, and the US Ambassador to Burma insisted that they were to be freed immediately, but their request was denied. It has been reported that the people who spoke to the delegates were later detained and beaten.
On November 3rd, Rakhine state police chief said local police would begin arming and training civilian security forces of non-Muslim residents.
On November 12th, the burmese army opened fire with helicopters near village in Maungdaw, a town in Rakhine state. This resulted in another 15,000 people displaced. The government said 69 so called “Violent attackers” were killed.
On November 15th, Burmese state media introduced the “Ture News Information Team of Defence Service”, which singled out local and regional media outlets for publishing “fabrications” about casualties and damaged property.
On November 18th, the UN was allowed to deliver limited food assistance to about 7,200 people in four villages. Although, this will not last them long. More than 3,000 children under 5 have malnutrition and 50% of them are seriously dying.
The UN special reporter on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, called the government to take immediate action. “The security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smoke screen of having allowed access to an international delegation,” Lee said.
Trinity Donohugh is currently attending High School in the UK and is one of the Founders of Discuss for Change. She is passionate about politics, international affairs and Computer science. She is the founder & CEO of the student led non-profit Girlsforcs (www.girlsforcs.org). She is also the co-founder of the social enterprise Khonaa (www.khonaa.com). She is also an alumni of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program 2016.