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The Rohingya Revisited

(Photo: AP)

By Regina Paulose
December 26, 2013

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article outlining reasons why the ICC should take action in Myanmar (also known as Burma) in order to stop continued religious and ethnic violence towards the Rohingya. During 2013, not surprisingly, the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar has continued.[1] In fact, violence has spread beyond targeting the Rohingya and against the larger Muslim population.[2] Although, the majority displaced from the violence are still the Rohingya.

The human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar have continued, which includes but is not limited to extrajudicial killings, random imprisonment,[3] recruitment of child soldiers, violence against women, and policies which endorse statelessness[4] of the minority group. The government has not taken any significant actions to prevent anti-Muslim groups, such as the 969 Buddhists from continuing on their killing spree.[5]

What do the great nations have to say about such behavior? They have rewarded Myanmar’s “democratic reforms” with trade, despite pleas from the human rights community that such measures will continue anti-Muslim abuses.[6]Unfortunately, the ability of Western countries to sweep this violence under the carpet is par for the course.

Anti-Muslim violence and bigotry is on the rise around the world. In the European Union, violence and bigotry towards Muslims continues.[7] Restrictions on practicing Islam (such as wearing the head scarf) continue to be justified throughout Europe. In the EU, some say that the resurgence of the “far right” and their inflammatory rhetoric in mainstream political culture have incited anti-Muslim sentiment and have continued anti-Semitic rhetoric as well.[8]Some link hate speech directly to hate crimes.[9] In Russia, nationalists have taken to the streets to demonstrate their anger towards Muslim migration, the sentiment shared with other Neo Nazi groups throughout Europe.[10] In the United States, during 2012, Muslim hate crimes saw an increase compared to recent years and the number may be larger because many of the crimes go unreported.[11] In China, persecution of the Uighur Muslims continues because of potential “terrorist” or “separatist” activity.[12]

In Myanmar, we have had a humanitarian issue on our hands. Now, it is beginning to spiral into other problems. Thai officials are now being accused of trafficking the Rohingya.[13] Interestingly, the idea that the Rohingya may be victims of human trafficking (instead of ethnic persecution) has gotten the attention of the United States and the United Nations. Since Myanmar does not afford the Rohingya citizenship, the persecution of the Rohingya leaves little options in where they can seek refuge. Bangladesh does not seem to have the ability to continue to provide safety to the Rohingya, because of internal security concerns, such as terrorists hiding within Rohingya refugee camps.[14] India also has been met with a large influx of Rohingya, due to brutal persecution in Myanmar.[15]

Democracy has not saved the Rohingya, but will it ever?

Practical steps need to be taken in order to stop this calamity. The international community should begin with asking Myanmar to become a party to the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its accompanying Protocol of 1967.[16] This should also include requesting Myanmar to make a “pledge” to prevent statelessness.[17] Beyond acceding to these international treaties and conventions, the criminal acts that are being committed need to be addressed. In November 2013, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., projected images of the Rohingya to raise awareness regarding the “unfolding tragedy.”[18] It is clear that crimes against humanity are occurring and despite “democratic reforms” the government is endorsing and/or participating in this violence.[19]

If the ICC is looking to make its mark in Asia, start in Myanmar.

[1] International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, “The Crisis in Burma” accessed December 26, 2013, available at:

[2] Thomas Fuller, “In Myanmar, Revival of Attacks on Muslims” New York Times, October 2, 2013, available at:

[3] FIDH, “Burma: It is time to free all human rights defenders and stop ongoing arbitrary arrests and imprisonment” December 17, 2013, available at:

[4] UNHCR, “Statelessness” available at: See also UNHCR, “Expert Meeting: The Concept of Stateless Persons under International Law Summar Conclusions” May 27-28, 2010, available at:

[5] I.S. Thandwe, “The Silence of the Muezzin” The Economist, October 29, 2013, available at:

[6] Bloomberg News, “U.S. moved to Boost Myanmar Trade Ties After EU Lifts Sanctions” April 24, 2013, available at:

[7] Al Arabiya News, “US denounces “rise” in anti-sentiment in Europe, Asia” May 20, 2013, available at:

[8] Matthew Schofield, “Far-right Hate Crimes creep back into German society” The Miami Herald, December 24, 2013, available at:

[9] Hansdeep Singh, Simran Jeet Singh, “The Rise of Hate Crimes can be Tied Directly to Hateful Speech” The Daily Beast, September 6, 2012, available at:

[10] Agence France Presse, “Russian Nationalists stage Anti-Muslim march in Moscow” November 4, 2013, available at:

[11] Mary Potok, “FBI: Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Remain Relatively High” Southern Poverty Law Center, December 10, 2012, available at:

[12] Human Rights Watch, “China: Religious Repression of Uighur Muslims” April 13, 2005, available at:

[13] Marshall, Szep, and Mohammed, “UN, US call for investigations into Thai Trafficking of Rohingya” Reuters, December 6, 2013, available at:

[14] Utpala Rahman, “The Rohingya Refugee: A Security Dilemma for Bangladesh” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 8:233-239 (2010), available at:

[15] Palash Ghosh, “Rohingya Muslim Migrants Caught in Limbo Between India and Bangladesh” International Business Times, September 6, 2013, available at:

[16] Saw Greh Moo, “Burma needs a practical long term policy for the Rohingya issue” December 25, 2013, available at:

[17] UNHCR, “State Action on Statelessness” available at:

[18] Matthew Pennington, “Holocaust Museum highlights Myanmar’s Rohingya” Associated Press/ WTOP 103.5 FM, November 6, 2013, available at:

[19] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: End ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims” April 22, 2013, available at: See also Dr. Habib Siddiqui, “International Rohingya Conference in the USA calls for Stopping Genocide in Myanmar” December 24, 2013, available at:

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