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Burma: A Bearing Witness Trip | Early Warning Signs of Genocide in Burma

—Courtesy of Paula Bronstein Getty Images Reportage for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

May 3, 2015


Early Warning Signs of Genocide in Burma

In March 2015, staff from the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide traveled to Burma to investigate threats facing the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority that has been the target of rampant hate speech, the denial of citizenship, and restrictions on the freedom of movement. These and a host of other human rights violations have put this population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.

In Burma, we visited internment camps and spoke with Rohingya who have been violently displaced from their homes. We also met with Rohingya who are living in cordoned-off ghettos, separated from their Buddhist neighbors, most of whom belong to the Rakhine ethnic group.

We saw firsthand the Rohingya’s physical segregation, which has resulted in a modern form of apartheid, and the devastating impact that official policies of persecution are having on them. When asked what the Burmese government wants to do with them, one Rohingya advocate replied, “They want us all to go away.”

We left Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. But there is still an opportunity to prevent this devastating outcome. Our report (PDF) sounds the alarm about the need for urgent action to address these warning signs and to prevent future atrocities, including genocide, from occurring.

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