by Kellin McGowan (June 2021)
Over one million Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar since 1990, seeking refuge from what has been described as a genocide; 725,000 of this total number have fled to Bangladesh since 2017.
Here are the key players:
Rohingya: An ethnic minority Muslim group in a predomately Buddhist country, the Rohingya face government violence and persecution. Despite the group’s historical ties to the region–ties dating back centuries–the group’s living in Myanmar is considered illegal by the government. Before 2017, most Rohingya lived in Rakhine State.
Myanmar Government: Since the 1970s, the Myanmar government has enacted discriminatory policies targeted at its Rohingya population, including restrictions on marriage, education, and religion. In 2017, Myanmar security forces led a brutal attack against ASRA, a group the government deemed terroristic, resulting in the loss of over 6,000 Rohingya.
United Nations (U.N.): The U.N. has publicly criticized the Myanmar government. The global institution has described the government as carrying out an ethic cleansing, and consequently a genocide.
Rohingya in Myanmar face institutionalized ethnic discrimination and violence, leading to their mass departure of the region. Further, the region in which most Rohingya live is poverty-stricken and suffers from poor infrastructure.
The legalized discrimination against Rohingya has taken place for the past five decades; however, the violence against them has become increasingly signficiant since 2017.
Prior to the military violence, most Rohingya lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Due to the increasing violence, most Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.
Why is it so hard for Rohingya people to seek refuge?
Due to the rapid increase in Rohingya refugees, refugee camps, while continuing to accept them, have had to stretch their resources. For example, the Kutupalong refugee settlement holds 600,000 people despite only having an area of thirteen square kilometers.