Systematic Ethnic Cleansing: The Case Study of Rohinga Community in Myanmar


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Systematic Ethnic Cleansing: The Case Study of Rohinga Community in Myanmar
By  Yousuf Storai — International Center for Refugee and Migration Studies, Balochistan University of Information Technology Engineering and Management Sciences, Quetta, Pakistan.  

This paper attempts to analyze the situation in Rakhine state of Myanmar with reference to Rohingya ethnic community. The paper primarily focuses, the state polices of Myanmar’s since its inception with Rohingya community. Moreover, the role of counterpart agencies such as major political parties and military are also discussed in the paper. It argues that government machinery as a whole is systematically involved in weakening and expelling the Rohingya community. This systematic weakening is indirectly pushing the said community out from the country, which is called as ethnic cleansing. While the conceptual framework used in the paper is “exclusionary approach/concept” which is derived from the theory of national integration.

In addition to this, the study includes structured interviews, which are conducted from international scholars and researchers as well, which are well up on the issue. These interviews also substantiated that Rohingya are frequently subject of abuses as well as persecution by the Myanmar government. Whereas, the purpose of paper is to understand the issue from its core, as it is one of the burning issue, due to which large number of Rohingya are assuming the status of refugee. Thus, the research will play significant role in the policy recommendations/formulations disk with regard to understanding and solving the long disagreement.

INTRODUCTION — “The displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of Myanmar’s Rohingya community can only be described as ethnic cleansing”  — Antonio Guterres

Mass migration in shape of refugee is one of the emerging issue to the peace and security of the world. Due to it, millions of people across the globe are subject to forced migration in one or the other way. Whereas refugee and migration is most of the time product of inter communal riots, identity crisis, inter religious differences, nationalistic tendencies, plurality, andethnic conflicts (Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2014). So, this makesAsia as one of the most discussed region in the debates related to migration and refugee’s disagreement.

The same is the case of Rohingya; a Muslim minority group, living in Rakhine, the western side of Myanmar, previously it was called as Arakan. This ethnic group, which constitutes 4% population in Myanmar, is living in miserable conditions and their source of income is largely dependent upon fishing and agriculture (Special Issue on Growing Poverty, 2016). Moreover, their dominated areas are totally deprived off basic necessities of life, while the poverty rate in the area is 78% (Dutta, 2015). Not only this, even Rohingya do not possess any legal document of citizenship, due to this government does not own them and consider as refugees in the country. Therefore, each such clash mounts violence and gives birth to persecutions of Rohingya, in shape of death, injuries, hate, burning of property etc. As a result, such kind of violence further enlarges the gap of mistrust, between Rohingya and Buddhists.

So, these unending and unexpected waves of persecutions, force Rohingya to take shelter in the state sponsored camps (Inside Myanmar) as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), while others fly to the neighboring countries of Myanmar. In short, due to the recent unrest in Myanmar, sparked in August 2017 have made more than 600,000 Rohingya subject to mass migration and majority of them have taken refuge in Bangladesh. Therefore, the overall connecting dots shows that major state actors are systematically involve in the weakening and purging of Rohingya out from the country. Thus, due to this systematic weakening, the Rohingya community in Myanmar is often subject of mass migration.

The primary cause of violence against Rohingya is the unsettled questions, which is regarding their identity and origin. At present, the Myanmar government considers them as illegal immigrants, which are living in country from decades rather than their citizens or nationals. Even the government has classified them as Bangladeshi, it is because Myanmar government opinions that these Rohingya share similar physical and cultural characteristics/traits with the people of Bangladesh. Further, government also endorses that their ancestors had migrated from Bangladesh and settled in Rakhine state during the British colonial rule (Nemoto, The Rohingya Issue, 1991). While on other hand, Bangladesh government refutes the claims of Burmese government and condemns the later government, for the use of force against the Rohingya people. In fact, it was the Ne Win regime (1962-1988), which enacted the Emergency Immigration Act in 1974, according to the act Rohingya were declared as foreigners, consequently they lost their national identity (Kipgen, 2014). Thus, the government considers Rohingya as illegal immigrants, so for this reason most of the time government has adopted very anti approach in dealing them.

Generally, people belonging to Buddhists community in the country assume that Islam is an emerging threat to Myanmar. They fear that this community is infusing their ideology in the country, which with the passage of time will ultimately overshadow their state religion. Their fear is because, there are some armed groups, which are operating within the country and most of the time, found in terror incidents. Secondly, they act as pressure groups on government and finally they are shaping public opinions against Rohingya community. The Myanmar’s government has completely adopted the policy of marginalization with respect to small ethnic groups, living in the country. These small groups include the Muslims of Rakhine state, which constitutes somewhat 68% population in Rakhine and is highly affected from the state policy (Holliday, 2010). Whereas, the policy of marginalization has been practicing since long ago. Due to this, Rohingya are deprived from education, property rights, marriage, employment, free movement (travel) and other essentials of a society.

This research paper attempts to investigate Rohingya migration from Myanmar. It examines the causes of Rohingya Mass migration from Myanmar and determines the role of Myanmar’s government with regard to Rohingya migration. Therefore, this study will be helpful for building consensus and understanding the unsettled issue from various perspectives. In addition to this, the study will be useful for policy makers concerning Rohingya issue. Finally, yet importantly, it will act as baseline information for researchers as well as to students in future. This study is qualitative in nature, whereas semi-structured interviews are conducted from researchers and academicians. While thematic an analysis is employed to analyze the data. The study is guided with the political philosophy of “Social Exclusion” as it helps to analyze the causes, effects and role of counter-parts involved in the conundrum. ##


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