Myanmar, the state located in south east Asia, attained independence from the Britain in 1948. In 1962, it came under the rule of Military Junta which terminated after the election of government in 2010. The military rule intensified the instability in the political framework of the country. There was aggravation in the ethnic conflicts. There are seven states for the ethnic minority section which is one third of the Myanmar’s Population. The majority population comprise of the Bama or Burman group. The Rakhine state which is also referred as Arakan, is one of the ethnic minority states. Maximum of Rohingya Muslims live in this region which is geographically isolated from the rest of Myanmar.[1]

In the Rakhine state, there is another ethnic minority group which constitutes the major group of the Rakhine state and is known as Rakhine. They are Buddhists. Mro, Daignet, Kamein, Thet, and Chin are some other ethnic groups which are part of the Rakhine state. The Rohingyas refer to the Muslims who live in the northern region of the Rakhine state. The other section of Muslims who live in the Rakhine state term themselves as “Arakanese Muslims”.[2] The Buddhists constitute 87.9 percent of the Myanmar population. The percent of population who follows Islam is 4.3 percent as per the Myanmar Population and Housing Census, 2014 (both enumerated and non-enumerated).[3]

The misery of the Rohingya Muslims commenced in 1784 when the Buddhist King, Bodhaba annexed Myanmar. He promoted the persecution and displacement of the Rohingya Muslims due to fear of rise in the influence of Islam. In 1824, Myanmar was occupied by the Britain. Later, the Rohingyas protested in a violent manner which terrified the Britishers. They instigated and aided the Buddhists in the country to fight against the Rohingyas. This benefited them to weaken the influence of Rohingyas and shattered their unity. The Britishers snatched the jobs of Rohingya Muslims and gave them to the Buddhists. The property of Rohingyas were confiscated and were distributed to Buddhists. The courts and schools of Muslims were demolished. Buddhists were provoked to kill Rohingyas.[4]

In 1947, at the time of planning the provisions related to independence, all classes and ethnic groups except Rohingyas were permitted to participate to decide their future. They were not allowed to vote in the legislative council elections in 1947 on the grounds that their citizenship was suspicious.[5] The crisis even intensified after Myanmar was declared independent and civil war erupted. The Myanmar army which came in power was dominated by the communists. The army considered Islam as their enemy. The Rohingya Muslims were then deprived of their rights to study, work and indulge in trade. They became victims of rape, murder and faced tortures. Later, the communist government deprived thousands of them of their citizenship. Between 1977 and 1992 they were exiled from Myanmar which created the grave refugee crisis in Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingyas were killed in this expulsion process as the Bangladesh government opposed their migration to Bangladesh.[6]

Myanmar government enacted the Citizenship Act in 1982[7] which made Rohingyas legally stateless as their citizenship rights were officially repudiated. They were termed as Bengali Muslims of Bangladesh. The outcome of this act was escalation of violation of the rights of Rohingyas. As they are not considered as the citizens, they are not able to study and get jobs easily which further deteriorates their situation. They are not allowed to move freely and own property. Even after the country adopted the democratic framework in 2010 their persecution has been sustained. There are facing social and economic problems.[8]

The Rohingyas are living under the conditions of abject poverty and unemployment. They are living in isolated region and require permissions to travel out of their region. Their properties were seized by the Burmese government and their cultural and ancestral values were discarded. The 969 movement group which comprises radical Buddhist monks has the capacity to influence the political issues of the country. They are also the persecutors of the Muslim community. The group incited the killings and displacement of the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are vulnerable and the powerholders victimize them.[9]

The constitution of the Myanmar does not consider them as the citizens on the basis that their ancestors were not the natives. They are considered as foreigners who are living there. The Myanmar government recognize them as tribes who belong to Bengal as they are similar to Bengalis. The ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas happens today also.[10] The government carried out a smart plan to utilize them as vote banks through the use of White Cards. The white cards were issued which permitted a temporary accommodation in Myanmar. The White Card holders were allowed to vote in the elections. These white cards instigated violence between communities and provoked military crackdowns in the country.[11]

In 2012, the Rohingya crisis attained global cognizance. Communal conflict broke out due to the rumours that a Rohingya Muslim raped a Buddhist woman which resulted in displacement and deaths of thousands of Rohingya Muslims. This crisis highlighted the violence rooted in the history. The country’s transition to democracy secured attraction from the media and other institutions internationally. The outcome of this attraction was disclosing of the humanitarian disaster which was prevailing in the nation from a long period of time.[12] The military forces indulged in mass killings. The statements given by the President exhibited that the Rohingyas were illegal migrants and there was nothing wrong with the disastrous situation. The president upheld the view that they need to leave the country and can take refuge in the institutions of United Nations or in the countries willing to give them shelter.[13]

Some of the radical Buddhists in Myanmar resented Islam and the hostility increased after the controversy over the word “Rohingyas”. The government decided that the Rohingyas could identify themselves as Bengalis only due to the dissent of the Buddhists to recognize the Rohingya Muslims as Rohingyas. This even took away their rights to identify themselves as per their choice. The Human Rights Organization disclosed that Rohingyas were enduring egregious violation of their rights. Even the government encroached upon their rights to marry and have children. Birth control laws for them was also introduced so that their population does not increase. The growth in the number of Rohingyas and their return from Bengal could strengthen their power which would be troublesome for the Buddhist majority.[14]

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) was constructed in 2016. The army though not capable and power as the military forces of Myanmar, was to secure the welfare and interests of Rohingyas. It objected against the abuse of human rights in the country. In 2017, ASRA attacked the security and military forces of the country. This incited the conflict between the Rohingyas and police, Rakhine community, Buddhist nationals, security and military forces. The extremist Bengalis protested to be identified as Rohingyas and to be given the rights of self-identification. Again, the violence resulted in killings and displacement of the community.[15]

They were expelled to the internally displaced (IDP) camps which were located in the remote regions and in the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh. No proper amenities were provided in these areas and they were deprived of the basic necessities. To cease the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar the government-built landmines in the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army was declared as a terrorist organization but, the international institutions dealing with terrorism asserted that no such association between ASRA and terrorist organizations could be established.[16]

The government states the conflict of 2017 as a reaction to the illegal acts conducted by Rohingyas against the security forces. However, some pictures taken from the satellites reveals that the attack by the governmental and associated forces was pre-planned to suppress the minority. The continued episodes of conflicts and violence in Myanmar demonstrates that such cruel, immoral and illegal acts are increasing. The inequality is rising between Rohingyas and the Buddhists. The living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims is deteriorating. [17]

The Myanmar government is defying the United Nations Convention of Statelessness[18] which provides for prevention of statelessness and addressing the issues of stateless people. The UN Charter[19] provides that the international disputes should be dealt in a peaceful manner without violating the human rights and jeopardizing justice. However, the government is not taking measures to prevent the violent activities in the nation and safeguarding the lives, rights and liberty of the Rohingyas. They are not abiding by the international commitments and responsibilities.[20]

Several International laws delineate that the human rights for the stateless citizens should be assured. The genocide of any ethnic community is prohibited. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948[21] describe the concept of genocide and recognize it as a crime under the international law. However, no adherence to such international provisions can be seen in case of Myanmar. United Nations has formulated several conventions and resolutions which forbids the discrimination on the grounds of races, ethnicity, nationality, etc.[22] Despite all these provisions no efforts are made by the Myanmar government. Suu Kyi’s party National League for Democracy was elected in 2015. The party was against the military rule and inhumane oppression of Rohingyas. Suu Kyi supported them initially and attempted to solve the crisis but due to protests by the ultra-nationalists, Suu Kyi’s party is not working to alleviate their problems.[23]

The Rohingya crisis shows that global support is essential to stop such atrocities against a community on the basis of ethnicity. The legal assistance is vital to put an end to the violation of the human rights. The United Nations and its member institutions, Human Rights Council and  other such institutions need to pressurize the Myanmar government to cease this ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Rohingyas must be supported to safeguard their rights, life and liberty. The forces causing violence and aggravating the brutalities must be punished and proper legal action must be taken. The enforcement of the treaties and conventions of the international bodies is critical to discontinue this genocide and cruelty. This crisis needs to be addressed at the earliest to preserve and uphold the human rights.[24]


[1] Amnesty International, “Myanmar The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied” 1-3 (2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Department of Population Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population MYANMAR, “The 2014 Myanmar      Population and Housing Census” 5 (2016).


[5] Id., at 228.

[6] Ismail Suardi Wekke, Hasbi, M Mawardin, Suyatno Ladiqi and Mohd Afandi Salleh, “MUSLIM MINORITY IN MYANMAR: A CASE STUDY OF MYANMAR GOVERNMENT AND ROHINGYA MUSLIMS”, 25 Walisongo: Jurnal Penelitian Sosial Keagamaan (2017).

[7] The Citizenship Act, 1982.

[8] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” (2015).

[9] Supra note 4 at 231.

[10] Supra note 4 at 230-231.

[11] Afroza Anwary, “Atrocities against the Rohingya Community of Myanmar”, 31 Indian Journal of Asian Affairs 93 (2018).

[12] Jacques P. Leider, “History and Victimhood: Engaging with Rohingya Issues”, 20 Insight Turkey 99-100 (2018)

[13] Supra note 11 at 94-95.

[14] Supra note 11 at 96.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Supra note 11 at 96-97.

[18]  The United Nations Convention of Statelessness, 1961.

[19] The UN Charter, 1945.

[20] Supra note 6.

[21] The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Supra note 11 at 95-96.

[24] Supra note 4 at 237-238.