Around 80,000 Rohingya Muslims in northwestern Myanmar cannot receive humanitarian aid by the U.N.’s World Food Program due to a severe military clampdown.
However, disruption of food aid is just one of the many grave abuses, including extra-judicial killings and rape, being carried out against the embattled ethnic community in the Southeast Asian nation.
The situation for the Rohingya people went from bad to worse after nine Burmese police officers were killed on Oct. 9 in three separate attacks, targeting border guard outposts in the Rakhine (aka Arakan) state, near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
The attacks, according to Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, were carried out by Aqa Mul Mujahidin, a militant group purportedly trained by Taliban in Pakistan.
While the Burmese government declared Aqa Mul Mujahidin, a non-local group, the mastermind behind the Oct. 9 events, it also accused members of the local community of aiding them, without providing concrete evidence, whatsoever. (FYI: Rakhine is home to about 1.1 million members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya.)
Even more puzzling is the fact that the government named the Rohingya Solidarity Organization complicit in the attacks. But the said militant group is believed to have been operationally defunct for years, maybe even decades.
Despite the lack of sufficient proof against possible Rohingya involvement, Myanmar’s military launched an operation, indiscriminately targeting the Rohingya community.
As per the latest numbers reported by independent news organizations, the army has killed at least 100 Rohingya civilians, including men, women and children, in just two weeks — again, all based on mere speculation.
Meanwhile, state media figures differ greatly, stating “no more than 33 people” have been killed at the hands of security forces during the crackdown.
The Rohingya people claim the military is using the border attacks as an excuse to further persecute the already-beleaguered, stateless community.
Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a human rights group based in Asia, said the army is implementing "typical counter-insurgency measures against civilians,” such as "shooting civilians on sight, burning homes, looting property and arbitrary arrests.”
So far, the Rohingya in Myanmar were largely under attack from extremist Buddhists as well as the government’s deafening silence. However, the purported involvement of the country’s security forces signals an even worse time for a community that’s been persecuted for decades.
It’s not like the Myanmar military’s role in repressing the Rohingya people is totally unheard of. In 2014, the Women’s League of Burma alleged Burmese soldiers were raping Rohingya women to “demoralize and destroy the fabric of ethnic [minority] communities.”
Still, the security forces partaking in hostilities against the Rohingya could embolden Buddhist extremists and bolster their hate campaign, thereby causing state-sanctioned bloodshed.
The latest bout of unrest comes only a month after Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi oversaw a special nine-member panel to address the Rohingya crisis.
It was a small but much-needed step taken by any Burmese administration in years to find a solution to resolve the conflict between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority group.
However, considering the violent and extra-judicial force the military is using against the Rohingya people, it is difficult to believe a resolution is possible anytime soon.