Bangladesh, Myanmar: Rohingya Repression in International Spotlight

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.

Six weeks after clashes between Rohingya and Rakhaine broke out in Western Myanmar, which resulted in another influx of refugees towards the Bangladesh border, Amnesty International is reporting that targeted attacks and other violations by security forces against minority Rohingyas and other Muslims have increased. More than 100 people have been killed since the violence began and more than 50,000 people are estimated to have been displaced. BBC published eyewitness accounts of the terror Rohingyas had to face. Meanwhile there are reports from the Burmese sites that Rohingya lynch mobs also escalated the attacks.

On 10th of June, 2012, the Myanmar government had declared a state of emergency in Rakhine State which still remains in effect in some areas. Amnesty International also reports:

Myanmar’s Border Security Force (nasaka), army, and police have conducted massive sweeps in areas that are heavily populated by Rohingyas. Hundreds of mostly men and boys have been detained, with nearly all held incommunicado, and some subjected to ill-treatment.

Restless Beings, which has a project in Myanmar, reports:

In the last two weeks, Burma has had restrained and limited pressure from the international community. With the Burmese economic opportunities being highlighted even more so and America in decisions of lifting the sanctions on Burma, 40 days and counting, the cry of the Rohingyas is still yet to be heard worldwide.

Our sources tell us how thousands of Rohingyas are being arrested in the Maungdaw township and being taken to the Buthidaung Jail where they suffer continuous tortures – 40 prisoners were taken out from the cells to be beaten severly morning and evening time.

This video shows raw footage of the repression against the Rohingyas [Warning: graphic images]:

Mohamed Mufiz, a son of a victim from Rakhine state reports:

Our Rohingyas community in Rakhine state is in the mouth of death ghost (Rakhine chauvinistic and organized hooligans) and we earnestly request international community to save us in time from the unsafe plan of both government of Myanmar and Rakhine people’ master plan to annihilate us from our ancestral land.

A coalition of 58 civil society groups – led by Refugees International, the Arakan Project, and the Equal Rights Trust – condemn the atrocities against the Rohingya community.

However, Reports say that some monks’ organisations have issued pamphlets telling people not to associate with the Rohingya community, and have blocked humanitarian assistance from reaching them.

Angry Asian Buddhist writes:

I believe in the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Burma just as I believe in the rights of Jumma Buddhists in Bangladesh. I condemn the violence against both groups, and I condemn the history of persecution and oppression which cannot simply be washed away overnight. I furthermore condemn the simplification of political and socio-economic conflicts into religious terms of “Buddhist” versus “Muslim.”

Rohingya Muslims in Thailand assemble in front of UN to call for help. Image by Anuchid Lermsum. Copyright Demotix (3/7/2012)

Meanwhile protests around the world are happening against Rohingya repression.

  • New Delhi: Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and numerous other socio-political organizations held a sit-in protest outside the Myanmar Embassy on the 26 July, 2012.
  • Tehran: Hundreds of Iranians gathered in front of the UN office in Tehran on 24 July, 2012 condemning the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims.
  • Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban threatened to attack Myanmar to avenge crimes against the Muslim Rohingya. It has demanded Pakistan to stop all relations with Myanmar and shuts its embassy in Islamabad.
  • Jakarta: Indonesian conservative parties protested in front of Myanmar Embassy in  Jakarta to stop the killings of Rohingya Muslims in the wake of deadly communal unrest.

In an interview Dr Habib Siddiqui explained what was actually happening in Myanmar:

The heart of the problem goes back to 1982 Citizenship Law which says that Rohingyas are not citizens in Burma. They are outsiders. They have to prove their citizenship. And this law is absurd given the fact that the forefathers of Rohingyas had entered into Arakan thousands of years ago. As historians would tell you the Rakhine or the Buddhist people did not enter Arakan until possibly as late as the tenth century. Earlier dynasties were said to be Indians that ruled over people similar to Bengal.

A Rohingya child at the protest. Image by Anuchid Lermsum. Copyright Demotix (3/7/2012).

Zaw Lwin Oo shows that contrary to popular belief that the Muslims in Arakan are recent settlers, they have been living here for centuries. The blogger lists the name of Muslim Kings from the fifteenth century.

Nizam Ahmed at E-Bangladesh reports:

The number of these registered refugees in two camps at Kutupalang and Nayapara under Cox’s Bazar district swelled to more than 30,000 early this year as Myanmar did not take them back despite of repeated pledges and promises.

The Bangladesh foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni has requested the Myanmar Government for an immediate start of the repatriation of Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh.

Here are some Twitter reactions:

@pirate_larry: RT @akrockefeller: Thein Sein: Burmese Gov’t Will Not Recognize 800,000 #Rohingya Citizens #Myanmar #Burma

@aroushimee: RT @HAQnewsorg: “Extremist Buddhists in Rakhine state have raped at least one thousand Rohingya Muslim girls. Some three thousands corpses have been dumped.

@RestlessNadia: Can't imagine what the Rohingya of Arakan are breaking their fast with- no food/aid. Consequences of a racist state and years of oppression.

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.


  • […] Bangladesh, Myanmar: Rohingya Repression in International SpotlightGlobal Voices OnlineSix weeks after clashes between Rohingya and Rakhaine broke out in Western Myanmar, which resulted in another influx of refugees towards the Bangladesh border, Amnesty International is reporting that targeted attacks and other violations by security …Pakistani Taliban threaten Myanmar over RohingyaNew York Daily NewsProtest at Myanmar Embassy in Delhi against killing of Rohingya MuslimsTwoCircles.netShould Bangladesh believe MyanmarE Bangladesh (blog)Business Recorder (blog) -The News Internationalall 162 news articles » […]

  • ziaush shams

    There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel after learning that DASSK has recently moved a motion in the Parliament seeking laws to protect minorities from state sponsored terrorism. We urge upon her to move a bill annuling the dreadful and unjust 1982 citizenship act. Since Muslim World has risen to the occassion, though belatedly, the OIC attempt should facilitate the Burmese opposition leader to enact these laws. We understand her limitations for the present administration can hardly be trusted. But pressure must be on, both nationally and internationally, to not only do justice to these hapless people but to save Burma from utter destruction.

    • Neutral Observer

       Sounds good except that the minorities DASSK referred to are the bona fide ones living in Myanmar since ancient times, not the 20th century cross-border settlers. Prejudiced, religiously motivated, distorted or fabricated reports regarding the historical and recent events will NOT lead to a just AND practical solution to this regional issue, NOR stop the continuing violence perpetrated from ALL sides.

  • Neutral Observer

    This compilation of news articles and blog posts is clearly biased and one-sided. For more objective background facts and better perspective on recent events, read:

    In particular, note this:
    Muslim settlements have existed in Arakan since the arrival of Arabs there in the 8th century CE. The direct descendants of Arab settlers are believed to live in central Arakan, rather than the Mayu frontier area, the present day area where a majority of Rohingya are populated, near Chittagong Division, Bangladesh.

    • Zeitgeist

      Dear “Neutral” – your contention about whether Rohingya are direct descendants of the Arabs or not completely misses the point. Muslims in central Arakan have not fared any better under the Burmese Junta. But the main point is: Arakan was an independent Kingdom for centuries until Burma captured it. Since Arakan stretched all the way to Chittagong, there was naturallly movement between various areas and communities. There are Buddhist Rakhine communities in Bangladesh, just as there are Muslim Rohingya communities in Burma. Even during British rule, subjects of the Queen settling in another part of the Empire was perfectly legal.

      So, for the Burmese government to try to delegitimise the Rohingya people who have lived for centuries in the Arakan is inhumane and barbaric.

  • Yes a number of the Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh near Chittagong in refugee camps as they fled from Myanmar since 1980s. The number of illegal settlement is rising because these people are not being taken back by Myanmar. This is becoming a problem for Bangladesh, however Myanmar finds this convenient. For a better perspective, here is the list of ethnic groups in Bangladesh (897,828 persons all together according to 1981 census) where it is evident that Rohingyas are not Bangladeshi tribes.

    Wikipedia says as of 2012, 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar. I guess the neutral observer can tell what he or she thinks of what to do with those people. After living in Myanmar for generations should they be purged from Rakhine settlements?

    • JohnnyMyanmar

      If you can build mathematical model and
      calculate backward based on current population of 800,000 Rohingya with average
      family size ratio of 4 you will get their original date of immigration to
      Myanmar. very simple Rezwan! Try yourself this is Internet age.

      • In Bangladesh many of the people are migrants from India which happened during 1947 -1971. So I guess in your theory they can be sent back to India including the generation born from them. Same way many Bangladeshis went to India .. So why not send them back with their grandsons and daughters?

        Rohingyas never had a home in Bangladesh, and the migration may have happened hundreds of years ago. And also many from Myanmar came to Bangladesh.

        So I am not getting why you are still being xenophobic on Rohingyas. A few of them may be bad – but that’s the problem with the law and order. Why stereotype a race? Why you are trying to kick them out of Myanmar?

  • JohnnyMyanmar

    What Rohingya doing while DASSK was under house arrest and Myanmar people were protesting in 2007.

  • JohnnyMyanmar

    If you can build mathematical model and
    calculate backward based on current population of 800,000 Rohingya with average
    family size ratio of 4 you will get their original date of immigration to
    Myanmar. try yourself simple enough!!!

  • Aung Aung

    The word Arakan is neither a Burmese word nor a Rakhine word. It is a Persian word as in Persian, they say Namaze Arakan. Every Iranian knows the word Arakan. Before British colonies, there were only Bangali and Persian languages available in Arakan state. Rakhine Buddhist are 100% Theravada Buddhist which was introduced by king Anawratha during 1200s. That showed that Rakhine were late comer compare to Rohingyas.  

  • Theintha

    Do you know why people could cross  India and Pakistan? Read the partition of India;
    However, Rohyngyas are different that Rohingyas never exist as ethnic group in British census but they are Cittagonian from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). They were seasonal workers in the colonial period and British did not enumerate as Arakan residence. Since 1947, those Cittagonian must return to East Pakistan.
    Needless to say, Bangladesh has being over populated exponentially. Thus, its national are constantly crossing the neighboring countries such as India (See recent crises in Assam) and Myanmar. It is obvious that those people, called Rohingyas, are Bangladesh national known as Cittagonian. Rather criticizing to Myanmar, United Nation must resolve the primary cause of growing population with Bangladesh government once for all by means of on Bangladesh’s own ground.

  • Rezwan, I will prove that you are getting money from Pro-Rohingya. I got a evidence for it. I am not wondering you are trying to import Bengali (claimed themselves as Rohingya) people to Myanmar, 
    since you are from Bangladesh.

    • ziaush shams

      We would like to see the evidences. By the way, are you related to the Generals? Your writings suggest that. This is very unfortunate that even DAASK hasn’nt probably talked about the human rights of these hapless people in her recent move in her ( so called) parliament. I couldn’t belive it first. We have found out later that she hasn’nt indeed included this group of people in her move. God knows what will happen to Burma for the whole Burmese society appears to have been taken on a ride by these Generals. Mr Khaing. Please leave us alone for you have no right to comment on a very civilized and cultured race called Bengalis.

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