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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

The campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the Rohingya in Myanmar

25 October 2017
Giulia Radice looks into the thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees escaped from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

Thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees escaped from Myanmar into Bangladesh early this week, in addition to the more of 500,000 who have already fled the country since August.

They are fleeing hunger, death and violence and what the United Nations has called one of the worst ethnic cleansing ever happened during a civil war.

The Rohingya are a religious community from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, most of them are Muslim, while their country’s major religion is Buddhism. By the national law they are denied the citizenship and therefore considered as illegal immigrants.

Persecutions against them have been ongoing for several years, however in 2016 the attacks became increasingly violent when a group of Rohingya militants attacked several police offices, killing a significant number of people.

The UN Refugee agency (Unhcr) pointed out that between 10,000 and 15,000 people are currently blocked at the border between the Ukhia district in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Many of them have been interviewed and declared that at the beginning of the civil war they wanted to stay in their houses, but when Myanmar armed forces started to set fire to their villages, they were forced to flee.

Images and footage of the current situation are truly horrific. Most of the survivors are children and  women, many of whom are pregnant. They’ve been found starving to death, with no clothes. They have been deprived of everything, a home, food, water and now they live in overcrowded refugee camps with difficult access to clean water and sanitation.

Bangladesh is now building one of the biggest refugee camp in the world, capable of housing 800,000 Rohingya. However the lack of funds, medical assistance and the spread of water diseases such as cholera and other infections, are destroying every hope to give refugee a safe shelter.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flikr

The majority of them have experienced been subject to rape, slavery, torture and physical abuse.

New York Times journalist, Jeffrey Gettleman, interviewed a woman in the refugee camp. She said that when the soldier assaulted her village they separated men from women. They killed most of the men, then they raped all the women.

She’s been raped several times by Myanmar soldier who took her baby boy out of her arms and threw him into a fire before abusing her. While he was burning to death, she could hear him screaming.

Myanmar’s government has still not taken any responsibility over the violent acts, instead it keeps on accusing the Rohingya militants of having started the feud.

At the moment the military controls most of the government functions, however the leader of the civilian state is the head of the Burmese ‘National League for Security’, Aung San Suu Kyi, who now appears to be no more than a senior advisor.

From the Burmese side, no one has openly spoke out about the issue. Burmese military forces have not only waited for the hostility to explode, but also they contributed to make it even more serious by using violent oppression as a remedy.

Even with an apparent democratic leader, the country appears to be a ‘illiberal democracy’, a hybrid freedom country theoretically based on a successful relationship between the population and its leader, but is practically still institutionally weak. Restriction of freedom, exclusion of minorities and authoritarianism are a daily occurrence.

This happened because of the drastic social change that the country has faced, the rise of the public demand and the new views adopted by the new leaders created a fracture among country.

The Myanmar ‘Democratization process’ is happening in fear. The new democratic system is too scared to start a pact with the old system.

The Myanmar democracy is a hell on earth; a squalid, muddy and overcrowded refugee camp in Bangladesh.


Pictures credits to Reuter and Flikr,

Words by Giulia, @missfunnyg1