By Sho Shibata, Blog Writer

While much of the world applauds Myanmar for its recent policy shifts towards a democratic system, the Rohingya Muslim population continues to face systematic extermination. The Rohingya are increasingly in danger of a “slow-burning genocide,” and so it is imperative that world leaders speak out against those responsible. Other nations have hardly taken Myanmar’s government to task for its segregationist policies and a situation increasingly reminiscent of apartheid. Such policies are not recent developments either – they are, in fact, very old news.

Ethno-religious conflict in Burma pre-dates its independence. The Rohingya are largely concentrated in the Rakhine province, also known as Arakan, which borders Bangladesh to the east. Even prior to Burma’s independence in 1948, the Muslim population was vocal about wanting to annex East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). However, the government refused requests for secession, giving rise to a jihad by the Mujahideen Party. Intrastate violence intensified until the rebels were pushed into hiding by retaliatory military operations, which eliminated rebels and any affiliates. Most notably, General Ni Wen’s “King Dragon Operation” in 1978 spurred a refugee crisis with nearly three hundred thousand people fleeing into bordering Bangladesh.

These ongoing events have contributed to the ethno-religious tensions and set the precedent for the present-day persecution. Continuing tensions legitimize policies that subordinate the Rohingya culture for the purpose of grander assimilation into the Burmese Buddhist ethos. The 1982 Citizenship Law delineated three classifications of citizenship: citizen, descendants of citizens who lived in Burma prior to 1823 or were born to parents who are citizens; associate citizen, those who acquired citizenship through the 1948 Union Citizenship Act; naturalized citizen, those who lived in Burma before January 4th 1948 and applied for citizenship after 1982. Under this law, over 800 000 Rohingya people effectively became stateless. More recently, the “Regional Order 1/2005” – Two Child Policy – regulates the amount of offspring that Rohingya couples may give birth to. If the primary source of income for a typical Rohingya family is agricultural labour, depriving a source of labour impedes socio-economic mobility into a better lifestyle. Moreover, any subsequent children are not entitled to receive any benefits. Institutionalized persecution proliferates against the Rohingya people in these and many other ways.

This brief only touches the surface of issues plaguing Rohingya society. This passive form of violence not only segregates a whole people, but permits a culture of oppression against them from ordinary citizenry. The continuing segregation of the Rohingya people can no longer be marginalized in international attention; the time for action has come.







Kipgen, Nehginpao. “Addressing the Rohingya Problem.” Journal of Asian and African Studies (2013): 0021909613505269.

Parnini, Syeda Naushin. “The Crisis of the Rohingya as a Muslim Minority in Myanmar and Bilateral Relations with Bangladesh.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 33.2 (2013): 281-297.

Ragland, Thomas K. “Burma’s Rohingyas in Crisis: Protection on Humanitarian Refugees under International Law.” BC Third World LJ 14 (1994): 301.

Zarni, Maung, and Alice Cowley. “THE SLOW-BURNING GENOCIDE OF MYANMAR’S ROHINGYA.” Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 23 (2014): 683-869.