The situation for Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has deteriorated dramatically since August 2017, when the military unleashed a brutal campaign of violence against the population living in the northern parts of Rakhine State, where the majority of Rohingya normally live. This campaign, launched in response to coordinated attacks on security posts by the armed group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), was unlawful and grossly disproportionate. Instead of attempting to bring the assailants to justice, it targeted the entire Rohingya population on the basis of their identity.
To date, more than 600,000 women, men and children have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they have brought with them accounts of killings, torture, rape and burning of entire villages by the Myanmar security forces, often accompanied by local vigilantes. The UN has described the situation as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, while Amnesty International has concluded the military’s actions amount to crimes against humanity.
This report exposes the human rights crisis that was, and remains, the backdrop to the current crisis. The report maps in detail the violations, in particular discrimination and racially-based restrictions in law, policy and practice that Rohingya living in Rakhine State have faced for decades, and how these have intensified since 2012, following waves of violence between Muslims and Buddhists, often supported by security forces.
The authorities’ response was to separate communities, essentially segregating Muslims from the rest of Rakhine State society. Since then, and as Faisal’s words attest, almost every aspect of their lives has been severely restricted, and for five years their human rights – including to freedom of movement, to a nationality, to adequate healthcare, education, work and food – have been routinely violated.
These human rights violations may not be as visible as those that have hit headlines in recent months, but that does not make them any less serious. What Amnesty International has uncovered in Rakhine State is an institutionalized system of segregation and discrimination of Muslim communities.
In the case of the Rohingya this is so severe and extensive that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under international law.