In what phase is the Rohingya refugee issue that has reached 6 years?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – August 25 Scenes

MoeMaKa, August 26, 2023

In what phase is the Rohingya refugee issue that has reached 6 years?


On August 25, 2017, during the monsoon season, an armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, also known as ARSA, attacked the police stations at the border outpost simultaneously, which led to the start of an atrocious retaliatory suppression operation that would go down in history as a brutal genocide by the Myanmar military. That period was the time when the NLD party took charge as the government, and it was 1 year before the widespread fighting between the AA armed forces and the government army in Rakhine State.


Based on the 2012 conflict between the Buddhist Rakhine people and the Muslim Rohingya, the military seems to have had the intention of retaliating or teaching a lesson to the Muslim Rohingya in a certain situation. When ARSA, a Rohingya armed group, started attacking police stations and border guards, the military severely punished and suppressed them.


Although the ARSA armed group may have some influence on the Rohingya community, it is not clear that all Rohingya support ARSA. As a Rohingya community, most of them want to live peacefully by working in agriculture, farming, and fishing. The simultaneous attack of the ARSA armed group on border police stations and police outposts in about 30 places led to a situation where about 1 million people fled to neighboring countries due to the military’s clearance operations, and the massacre of 6,000 to 10,000 civilians, including women and children, occurred between August and September 2017. For these incidents, a country, as a plaintiff, has applied to the International Court as a genocide, and it has reached the point where it has been under investigation since 2019.


At the time of this incident, in the last week of August and early September of 2017, the government army raided Rohingya villages in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung townships in the northern regions of Rakhine State, killing hundreds of people. The Rohingya people living in other nearby villages, who witnessed these incidents and heard about them, fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The villages that were burned by the army and many Rohingya villages that fled to neighboring countries were destroyed with bulldozers by the army in order to prevent them from being rebuilt as villages and to erase the evidence that the villages existed in these places in the past.


In late 2017, when these genocides took place, those in the Myanmar community who did not want to lose friendship with the military and who supported the idea that one’s religion and race should be protected did not know about the killings committed by the military, nor did they try to find out the truth. Even a person like Mahn Winn Khaing Thann, who was the speaker of the government at that time, said in an interview that he thought all the information presented by the military was true.


Genocide by the military, the propaganda that the Rohingya were illegal migrants from other countries, and the expulsion of the Rohingya, killing hundreds of people in just one village and accusing them of being ARSA members or supporters, have caused the problem of millions of refugees. It must be said that no one can anticipate or know the opposition of the international community that could be encountered in the future.


In 2019, the Gambia’s application to the International Court of Justice, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, was accepted for an investigation into genocide, and Myanmar was summoned to defend itself in December of that year. The incident where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the counselor on behalf of Myanmar, went to defend, shocked the world. Why is the elected civilian government defending the killings committed by the military? Many awards and honorary degrees awarded to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were revoked, assuming that they supported the genocide.


The reason for rewriting the historical events and positions of recent years is to learn from the past. After 6 years, in many parts of Myanmar, the military has started committing the same kind of crimes committed against Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine. Burning houses and torturing and killing civilians accused of being supporters of armed groups have already been committed in Sagaing Region, Chin State, Magway Region, Mandalay Region, Karenni Region, and Tanintharyi Region.


As Rohingya refugees who have taken refuge in neighboring countries, there is not enough food, their children cannot get an education, and millions of people have to live in cramped quarters, deteriorating their health. They are living their lives expecting help, and since the help is decreasing as the years go by, it is becoming difficult to live. After the military coup in Myanmar, the Rohingya refugee issue is further away from finding a solution.


The fall of the military dictator came first, and the Rohingya refugee problem was pushed behind the above problem. It is also a situation where the Rohingya issue is not considered a separate or priority issue while the revolutionary forces are fighting with the junta’s armed forces to overthrow the military dictators. The Rohingya refugee problem has passed 6 years with insufficient food, no home, no country, and no right to education, and no one can predict how many more years they will have to face.