Since June 2012 there has been ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State by Burmese authorities and members of Arakanese groups. They've attacked Muslim neighborhoods, destroyed mosques, organized mass arrests, displaced over 125,000 people and have blocked aid. Survivors say that the Arakanese have used machetes, swords, homemade guns, and Molotov cocktails. There have been public statements promoting ethnic cleansing and use of mass graves.
The violence against the Rohingya first started in four townships, but later spread to nine more townships. Villages and neighborhoods were completely destroyed and as people were killed, some security forces tried to protect the Rohingya's but some also took part in the killings. The camps that the Rohingya and other Muslims have fled to were overcrowded without sufficient food, shelter, water, sanitation, and medical care. There were also instances of rape and violence against the Arakanese Buddhists as well.
The violence between the Buddhists and Muslims continued throughout 2013. Many homes were burned down and the Rohingya's fled to escape persecution. The Rohingya's believed the killings and destruction of homes was a way of driving them out of the county. Around 400,000 of them fled to Bangladesh, but in Bangladesh they are considered illegal immigrants, without any legal rights.
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In 2014 violence between the Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar escalated very quickly. In one event there was a Buddhist woman trying to sell a gold hair clip at a Muslim-owned shop. She wasn't offered as much as she thought it was worth and after calling the owner unreasonable she was slapped and her husband was beaten. Onlookers, mostly Buddhists, gathered quickly and started destroying several shops. Tensions grew and after that a few Muslim men killed a Buddhist monk by slicing his head with a sword, then dousing him with fuel and setting him on fire. A Buddhist witness ran to the market to spread the news and rioting began and they burned down Muslim homes and shops.
In Myanmar there has been a two-child rule restricted to the Rohingya Muslims. Couples wanting to marry also have to get permission from authorities by paying bribes and usually have to wait for long periods of time before permission is granted. Part of the process for marriage application enforces women to take pregnancy tests. The two-child policy is part of the persecution against the Rohingya. Children that are born outside of marriage or in families that already have two children don't receive status from the government, which makes them ineligible for education and other government services.
Thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar to escape persecution. Many of them have gone to Thailand to seek refuge. In 2014 an investigation by Reuters found that Rohingya refugees were removed from immigration detention centers in Thailand and delivered to human traffickers. They were held hostage in camps hidden by the border near Malaysia until family members could pay the ransom of thousands of dollars for their release. Many have died in the camps by murder from the guards or from dehydration and disease.
The Rohingya trafficking business is so extreme to the point that one man estimated 70% of his neighbors were involved in it. One woman, Nur Anquis, was released from a camp since her parents raised enough money pay the ransom and went to Malaysia. Her husband, Ahmed Khan, was stuck in a Thai detention center since there wasn't enough money to free him. He was fed once a day in a very cramped living quarter, fearing he may develop paralysis. Back in Malaysia, Nur Anquis stays in the shadows to avoid harassment, which is common for the Rohingya.
In 2015 there was a crackdown on human trafficking. Thousands of refugees were found to have been abandoned at sea without a sufficient supply of food, water, and medical care. The UN estimated around 370 people died from January through June 2015, although Amnesty International believes the figure is higher. Hundreds and possibly thousands of the Rohingya that fled were unaccounted for and some died on their journey or were sold for labor. Some were shot by traffickers or thrown overboard while others died from the lack of food and water or disease. The traffickers also beat the refugees.
As the persecuted Rohingyas fled Myanmar and Bangladesh in refugee boats, many were turned away in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha asked how they would be able to take care of them if they broke the law in Thailand. Indonesia's military chief Gen. Moeldoko thinks it would create social issues and that it would start an exodus. Malaysian Prime Minister said they've been nice to those that have broken the borders, but the Rohingyas can't flood their shores. It's left the already displaced Rohingyas stranded at sea.
In 2016 there was more violence between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar. 9 border police were killed allegedly in a Rohingya village. After that troops came in and the Rohingya villages of Pyit, Kyet Yoe Pyin, and Wa Peik were attacked. 430 buildings were destroyed and the villages burned to the ground from October 22 through November 10.
During the attacks in Myanmar from the fall of 2016 many witnesses said soldiers came in their villages shooting randomly at men, women, and children. Some people were also dragged out of their homes and shot dead. The Myanmar soldiers raped several women and girls. Hundreds of people, mostly Rohingya men that were elderly, businessman, or community leaders were arrested. Many that were arrested were also beaten.
In 2017 the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar has continued. In August 77 were killed along with 12 members of security forces. The attacks occurred in the northern Mangdaw Township; hours after UN chief Kofi Annan said Myanmar should lift restrictions on movement and citizenship for Rohingya. The township of Rathetaung was under a blockade for more than two weeks, with several people starving.
In August 2017 the Maung Nu village was attacked and several Rohingya were killed. They were beaten, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and shot by Burmese soldiers. Survivors recall bullets falling down like rain and people falling everywhere. Some women were stripped naked, touched everywhere, and had money taken from them as well. Around 500,00 Rohingya Muslims have left to Bangladesh in fear for their lives from the recent massacres.
With the Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, the camps have become a place for traffickers to find young girls to recruit. 6 out of 10 of the arrivals are children and thousands of children have been separated from their families. It is easy for them to get lost being in a new place and with so many kidnappers around. There is also the issue of bonded labor; desperate families are selling their children to receive money while their children work off the debt.
Without many opportunities for income, refugees are more susceptible to human trafficking and exploitation. They are willing to take the risky and dangerous options and are often recruited with false offers of paid work. Many are not being paid what was promised, work more hours than the original agreement, become sleep deprived, and can't leave work or contact their families. Several women and girls are also victims of physical or sexual abuse. There are also reports of being forced into jobs that were not agreed to.
The Rohingya refugees living in camps or shacks in Bangladesh are overly cramped with inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, and health services. There has been an outbreak of diphtheria with around 2,000 cases over the past few weeks with 100 new cases daily. Diphtheria is an infectious disease and has killed around two dozen people. Only 12 patients a day have been treated due to the lack of trained medics, but once there are enough people to administer the antitoxins there is the possibility of running out of it.
Rape of Rohingya women has become prevalent and the Myanmar officials downplay it, saying the reported assaults are fake. Phone Tint, the Rahkine minister for border affairs, said women are claiming to be raped. He mocked their appearances asking journalists if they think the women are attractive enough to be raped. In December 2016 there was a government press release of reports of sexual assaults with an image that said, "Fake Rape".
Days after Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a refugee resettlement deal, villages in Myanmar continued to be destroyed. There have been at least 40 Rohingya villages destroyed since October 2017 and around a total of 354 since the start of the targeting against the Rohingya. Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights says the atrocities against the Rohingya could amount to genocide and the perpetrators may one day go to trial in international courts.
The ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya bring the possibility of a lost generation. It's more than likely that the 500,000 Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh will not have the opportunity to go to school this year. Besides learning and an environment that kids can play and be with friends, going to school protects children from trafficking and abuse. About 60 percent of Rohingya children between the ages of 5 and 17 have never gone to school due to poverty, government restrictions, and the lack of schools in Myanmar.
Several of the Rohingya refugees that have fled Myanmar have gone to India. The Indian government has decided that the 40,000 Rohingya refugees should be deported back to Myanmar and that others should not be allowed to enter. The policy before was to welcome refugees that are persecuted which are now being questioned by many. It is also a violation of fundamental rights and principle of international law to deport them back to Myanmar where it's not yet safe.
In September 2017 Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka were attacked. Protestors led by Buddhist monks attacked a building where mostly women and children were living. There was a live stream video on social media that encouraged others to join and intensified the situation. The protestors tried breaking down the gate and stoned windows. The refugees feared for their lives and were moved to a detention center after. The UNHCR said that the refugees need international protection and assistance.