The STAND Canada Strategic Policy Report: Rohingya Crisis – Through in-depth research and analysis, STAND Canada has produced a strategic policy report on the Rohingya crisis.

Background

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, governance in Myanmar (Burma) has been largely unstable, changing hands between military and civilian governments. The first coup took place in 1962 where the military governed the country for 5 decades. During this period, a single-party state, the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), was established as the sole political party. The BSPP enacted a new constitution that transferred power to a People’s Assembly, which led to regionally-based minority groups mounting guerilla insurgencies. 

In 1982, a law designating people of non-indigenous background, including the Rohingyas as “associate citizens” was promulgated. The colonial period, starting in 1824 when the British first occupied Myanmar, constructed a race and ethnic identity that did not consider Rohingyas as members of the “national races”. In effect, the discriminatory law deprived the Rohingyas the right to citizenship. The Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, ruled the country until partially ceding control to a democratically elected government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, in 2011 who was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Global watchers expected the leadership of Suu Kyi to unite the country including the recognition of the Rohingyas as citizens. During Suu Kyi’s Presidency, she had multiple failed attempts to repatriate as the Rohingyas refused to voluntarily return to Myanmar as ethnic violence was ongoing. Additionally, her administration neglected to acknowledge the genocide and even appeared before the International Court in 2019 denying that the military had committed acts of genocide

Problem Statement 

While there are ongoing protests in Myanmar against the coup, there has been no indication that a return to democracy would lead to the recognition of the Rohingyas as citizens of the country with a complete set of rights, and with reparations paid to them by the Myanmar government. Rather, the attention that the military coup has received, both in the media and throughout Myanmar, has only further concealed the severity of the persecution of the Rohingyas as it often removes them from the conversation on military abuses. 

As the media and citizens focus on the direct impacts of the military coup on Myanmar as a state, concerns must be extended to the effects that this has on the Rohingyas, who have faced the brunt of these military abuses for decades where it held full control over the country. During the leadership years of Suu Kyi, the military continued to hold control through indirect rule. The Tatmadaw wielded considerable influence in parliament where it held a quarter of the seats, giving it effective veto power over constitutional amendments thereby reducing the likelihood of a repeal of the 1982 citizenship law.

Analytical Approach

Given that the law that made the Rohingyas stateless was promulgated by the Myanmar military, it is necessary to investigate and analyze its influence within the country’s political, economic and social context. In addition, consideration has to be given to third-party influences – geopolitical and international – on the military and relationship with partners which may explain first, its deprivation of Rohingyas of their rights to citizenship and second, of its genocidal actions against them. 

To fully investigate the web of relationships among stakeholders in the fate of the Rohingyas, consideration must also be given to the inter-ethnic relationship among the major and minority tribes of Myanmar and the question of how the Rohingyas are the only stateless ethnic group among 135. 

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