In a fresh wave of violence, the Burmese army slaughtered hundreds of Rohingya Muslims over the past week. As the world continues to watch on in silence, the latest official statistics place the number of the murdered at around 400.
This new chapter of state-sanctioned genocide began when an armed group, which calls itself the ARSA (Armed Rohingya Salvation Army), reportedly attacked a number of Burmese military outposts last week to avenge decades of army violence and murder.
The Burmese military was swift to respond with the deadliest violence the minority community has witnessed in decades.
Reports streaming from the area suggest the military has torched over 10 Rohingya settlements in the crisis-stricken Rakhine State. The Rohingya people, who have been condemned to statelessness, now have nowhere to take refuge as the military mounts a relentless attack against them.
As a result, nearly 40,000 Rohingya have headed to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations.
Tragically, at least 26 people so far drowned in an attempt to flee the violence.
"Some new arrivals have clothes with them, some even have kitchen utensils, but most leave everything behind. They need immediate shelter and food assistance," a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration told the BBC.
Although the Burmese army insists the operation is being carried out against “extremist terrorists,” a painful history of state cruelty against the Rohingya suggests the motive might be a sinister one of ethnic cleansing.
Much of the state’s willingness to commit violence comes from its outright refusal to recognize the Rohingya as citizens of the Burmese state, a refusal that is enshrined in the 1982 Citizenship Law that does not extend citizenship to the Rohingya despite their deep roots in the country.
The Burmese state is adamant the Rohingya are Bangladeshi citizens, a claim the Bangladeshi government has denied. The affliction of statelessness in an era of the modern nation-states means that the Rohingya are barred from the privilege of state education and are often the target of violence. The Parliament decided to not amend the law just last week.
Even now, many accuse the Burmese military of a disproportionate response. Rohingya activists like Ro Nay San Lwin fear the actions of ARSA have given the military an excuse to “indiscriminately kill,” as it has done previously.
“Many children have been killed,” he told BuzzFeed News from Geneva, “many women, many elderly. They are indiscriminately killing.”
International human rights organizations have condemned the violence.
“This cannot lead to a repeat of last year’s vicious military reprisals responding to a similar attack, when security forces tortured, killed and raped Rohingya people and burned down whole villages," Amnesty International warned in its statement last week.
The U.N.’s statement made it clear that Secretary-General António Guterres is concerned about the situation.
The fate of the Rohingya remains uncertain. Even as they flee the violence in Myanmar, they are not likely to be welcome elsewhere. Indian government has said that it will attempt to return the 40,000 Rohingya in the country. In 2015, the Malaysian government told the Rohingya to go back to their country.
World leaders, human rights organizations and Nobel laureates have only watched from the sidelines as an entire community of people is being mercilessly slaughtered.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Mohammad Ponir Hossain