Despite the Myanmar government saying it launched an investigation against ‘abuse claims', it is unlikely the government will take action against anti-Muslim extremist groups, as discriminating against Rohingyas is state policy
The most persecuted minority in the world according to U.N. figures, Rohingya Muslims continue to suffer from oppression under the Myanmar government, the army and Buddhist extremists.
Over the past decade, thousands of Rohingyas have been killed since violence broke out in 2008, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homeland for Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries in the region.
Despite the Myanmar government's claims that investigations were launched in response to "abuse claims," it is unlikely that the government will take any action against anti-Muslim extremist groups as discrimination aimed at Rohingyas is seemingly state policy.
The very word "Rohingya" means "from Arakan" and refers to the historical origins of ethnic Rohingyas who fled Arakan for Burma, now modern-day Myanmar, when the British began to colonize Southeast Asia.
Following the collapse of the Arakan Kingdom this ethnic group fled enslavement in their native Arakan for other countries in the region and has faced persecution for centuries.
The country of Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, has refused to grant citizenship to Rohingyas ever since, issuing temporary identity cards known as "white cards" to these internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Amid increasing pressure from Buddhist extremists, the government canceled the Rohingyas' right to vote, previously granted in 2015, immediately before a constitutional referendum was held.
Furthermore, the government interferes in every aspect of their daily lives; barring everything from the establishment of businesses to obtaining work and even marriage. Ongoing violence and discriminatory state policies compel Rohingyas to flee.
While 140,000 currently live in refugee camps in Myanmar, 130,000 in Malaysia and as many as 300,000 in Bangladesh and many of them are unregistered immigrants who used smuggler boats to escape persecution. The Rohingyas have also begun to take refuge in Indonesia and a few thousand have already settled in the country.
Several human rights groups have called on the U.N. and international powers to exert pressure on the Myanmar government. However, the recent election of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has paved the way for the country to establish good relations with Europe and the U.S. after the decades-long junta rule.
Expecting Kyi to support the democratization of the country, San Suu Kyi never mentioned the persecution of Rohingyas.
Therefore, just last week, more than ten Nobel laureates urged the U.N. to increase pressure on Myanmar saying in a letter, "If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity, leading us to once again wring our hands belatedly and repeat the dreaded words 'never again.'"
A report released by the Human Rights Watch, dated April 2013, described the actions as crimes against humanity, asserting, "The criminal acts committed against the Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities in the Arakan state since June 2012 amount to crimes against humanity carried out as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing."
The statement continues to say, "The evidence indicates that political and religious leaders in Arakan state planned, organized, and initiated attacks against the Rohingyas and other Muslims with intentions to drive them from the state or, at the very least, forcibly relocate them from areas in which they had been residing – particularly from areas shared with the majority Buddhist population."
A report issued by the International Crisis Groups in October 2014 said the conflict was generated as result of several causes, namely, "The situation in Rakhine state contains a toxic mixture of historical center-periphery tensions, serious intercommunal and interreligious conflict with minority Muslim communities as well as extreme poverty and underdevelopment."
The report also underlined that Rakhines, the majority Buddhist ethnic group who carry out deadly attacks against Muslims, operate under a mentality which does not allow them to show empathy despite also being a minority group with a long history of persecution.
"The grievances of the Rakhine are similar to those of Myanmar's other ethnic minorities – including longstanding discrimination by the state, a lack of political control over their own affairs, economic marginalization, human rights abuses and restrictions on language and cultural expression. Decades of suppression over the anger of the Rakhines has become to morph and, since the transition to the new government, many Rakhines have increasingly felt that the most immediate and obvious threat that they face in rebuilding their communities and re-asserting their ethnic identity is one rooted in demographics," the report said.
Despite the little attention the international audience pays to this travesty, Turkey, which has recently opened an embassy in Myanmar's largest city of Yangon, is following the crisis very closely.
Amid aims to improve relations with Myanmar, Ankara is demanding a peaceful solution but escalating tensions and the recent killings of dozens of Muslims is raising concerns in Ankara, where officials recently said in a statement that, "We are deeply concerned about the civilian casualties and escalation of tensions in Myanmar's northern Arakan [Rakhine] state after last month's attacks."