Following a brutal August military crackdown against the Rohingya community in Myanmar and an ensuing refugee crisis, which spread to Bangladesh, both the countries have been in talks for repatriation since January.
However, Myanmar is still not safe for repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
The answer lies in a recent statement by a United Nations representative, following her recent visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
“The unfolding tragedy in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar [Bangladesh] rightly captured the world’s attention, but we cannot, and must not, forget the plight of over 400,000 Muslim people still living in Rakhine State who continue to face a life of hardship and marginalization due to movement restrictions,” stated Ursula Mueller, the UN’s deputy relief chief, adding the Rohingya
Meuller reiterated a well-documented fact. Despite living in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for centuries, Rohingya Muslims are not considered an official ethnic minority. The exclusion has kept the community deprived of citizenship rights, which also means they cannot vote. Other basic human rights such as education and medical care are also denied to Rohingya Muslims.
The marginalization became worse in 2012 when, under the leadership of Buddhist extremist monk, Ashin Wirathu, Rohingya Muslims were labeled as the enemies of Buddhism. The propaganda resulted in communal clashes, driving away hundreds of Rohingya Muslims into neighboring countries aboard flimsy boats.
With the passage of time, the situation deteriorated as the country's military, in the name of a counterrorism response against alleged Rohingya militants, launched an indiscriminate crackdown against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine state, where a majority of the stateless people used to live, in August. Only this time, the violence was silently witnessed and, in a way, sanctioned by a democratically-elected government led by de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
The unrest led to yet another bout of refugees to flee into Bangladesh. Myanmar's military also committed hundreds of murders of innocent Rohingya villagers and raped and tortured countless women, all of which has been extensively documented by independent news organizations.
Since the beginning of 2018, talks of repatriation between Bangladesh and Myanmar have been going on but it isn't exactly a viable solution to the multifold predicament surrounding the Rohingya community as they continue to be marginalized in the country they are being sent back to.
Mueller added in her statement that she had discussed the problem with Aung San Suu Kyi and "offered the support of the United Nations to address the humanitarian needs." However, considering the Nobel laureate has, so far, been criminally silent over the abuses against Rohingya Muslims, more than just lip service will be needed to solve what can eventually turn into an intractable crisis.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters