The scholars of the journal article, “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya” discuss how, “since 1978, the Rohingya, a Muslim minority of Western Burma [Myanmar], have been subject to a state-sponsored process of destruction” (p.683). The Rohingya people have deep historical roots in the Rakhine State and were recognized officially both as citizens and as an ethnic group by three governments of independent Myanmar. However, in 1978, General Ne Win’s socialist military dictatorship launched a state-wide campaign against the Rohingya in Rakhine State of “violence, killings and ostracization that aim both to destroy the Rohingya and to permanently remove them from their ancestral homes in Rakhine State” (p.683). The military has and continues to burn their homes to the ground and commit mass sexual violence, torture, and murder of the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar in search of freedom. While many have gone into Malaysia or Thailand, most have gone into Bangladesh. There, the Rohingya stay in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp.

Kutupalong, Bangladesh

While the Rohingya have received some accommodations and resources in Kutupalong, they have also received animosity from some Bangladeshi locals. Some citizens argue that the enormous influx of Rohingya into Bangladesh is having detrimental impacts on their economy and resources, which are already strained by overpopulation and poverty. The Bangladesh-local in this video discusses how, because the Rohingya are willing to work for much cheaper than the Bangladeshis (who are protected under labour unions), companies are hiring Rohingya persons over Bangladeshis. 

On March 16th, 2018, the UN and its partners launched a Joint Response Plan (JRP) (article available here) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis “calling for US$951 million to continue delivering lifesaving assistance from March to December 2018”. However, as of August 2018, “the JRP remained just 32 percent funded”.

Against the will of the Rohingya people, Myanmar has undertaken repatriation efforts to relocate the Rohingya back into the genocide they fled in Rakhine state. Little intervention has been made by global actors to protect the Rohingya from repatriation. Consequently, on September 7th, 2020, the UN announced that “Dozens of Rohingya refugees [were] believed to have died in the Andaman sea after spending more than 200 days afloat, owing to a ’collective unwillingness’ of countries to take them in” (article available here). This echoes the voices of Rohingya persons in this video who state they “would rather die… than go back”.

Rohingya Water Crossing Image no.1

Rohingya Water Crossing Image no. 2

Rohingya Water Crossing Image no. 3

The lack of attention and priority given to this humanitarian crisis by states, organizations and persons around the world and the refusal of many important actors to condemn this phenomenon as a genocide is closely tied to political interests in the region. At the cost of this indifference is the suffering of millions of human beings.

About the Author

I am a student of secondary education at the University of Alberta particularly interested in the experiences of intersectional identities in politics and history. In my writing and teaching, I focus on Indigenous relationships with capitalism, kyriarchal systems of power and oppression, identity (re)construction and negotiation in traditional culture and in diasporic and/or (post)colonial societies, and policy on refugee crises.