Myanmar has subjected Rohingya Muslims to durable inequity and persecution that amounts to “dehumanizing racism,” Amnesty International said Tuesday in a report that increments questions about what those who have departed a violent military crackdown would face if they returned home.
Since late August, more than 620,000 Rohingya have departed Myanmar’s Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh, searching safety from what the military described as “clearance operations.” The United Nations and others have said the military’s actions came to be a campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” utilizing acts of violence and coercion and burning down homes to force the Rohingya to leave their communities.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said previous this month that the world body treated it “an absolutely important priority” to stop all violence against the Rohingya and permit them to return to their homes. They are now living in brimming refugee camps in a Bangladesh border district, and officials in Dhaka have also urged that Myanmar permit them to return with their safety sure.
Amnesty International arranged two years’ worth of interviews and witness in its report, detailing how Rohingya lived within Myanmar, where they were subjected to a “cruel system of state-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination that amounts to racism,” meeting the international legal definition of a crime against humankind.
Rohingya Muslims have suffered state-supported discrimination in the mostly Buddhist country for decades. Though members of the ethnic minority first came generations ago, Rohingya were deprived of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless. They cannot travel openly, practice their religion, or work as teachers or doctors, and they have a small access to medical care, food or education.
Amnesty’s report said the discrimination had damaged greatly in the last five years.
“I wanted to go to Sittwe hospital for medical treatment, but it’s forbidden,” Abul Kadir, 36, was cited as telling the human rights group. “The hospital staff told me I couldn’t go there for my own safety and said I required to go to Bangladesh for treatment. It cost a lot of money.”
Rohingya have departed en masse to escape persecution before. Hundreds of thousands left in 1978 and again in the early 1990s, though policies subsequently permitted many to return. Communal violence in 2012, as the country was transitioning from a half-century of autocracy to democracy, sent another 100,000 departing by boat. Some 120,000 remain trapped in camps outside Rakhine’s capital, Sittwe.
Rohingya were thought to number around 1 million people in Myanmar until late last year. That October, a Rohingya militant group killed several officers in attacks on police posts, and the military punishment sent 87,000 Rohingya departing. A bigger militant attack on Aug. 25 killed dozens of security forces, and the military response was swift and extensive.
By the tens of thousands, Rohingya started departing; their villages set aflame, some of the survivors bearing wounds from gunshots and landmines. Though the waves of refugees are now thinner, people are still crossing the Myanmar border nearly three months later.
Amnesty International’s report exhorted that economic development of Rakhine should not be a tool of further discrimination. Myanmar has supported an international professional panel’s recommendations on developing the barren state, but the same report urged Myanmar to grant citizenship and assure that other rights of Rohingya were secured.
Foreign ministers and representatives of 51 countries started a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital, on Monday in a forum that aims to further political and economic cooperation but takes place against the backdrop of the refugee change.
“The international community must wake up to this daily nightmare and face the reality of what has been happening in Rakhine State for years,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research. “While development is an essential part of the solution, it cannot be done in a way which further fortifies discrimination. The international community, and inappropriate donors, must assure that their commitment does not make them complicit in these violations.”