By Kelly Hughes.
People in the Rakhine State of Myanmar are under siege, as violent atrocities surge through a town where people have been living since the turn of the 12th century.
The carnage unfolding in the Rakhine State is forcing thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring countries.
The Rohingya people, estimated to be about 1.1 million, have lived in the state of Rakhine in the east of Myanmar for centuries. They have been treated as second-class citizens in a country where Buddhism is the dominant religion.
Rakhine is Myanmar’s poorest state and has endured mass exploitation and violence under a ruthless regime. Violence broke out in August when Rohingya militants attacked and killed government soldiers.
According to UN reports, the government has sanctioned a terror campaign where the use of rape, extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, beheadings and arson attacks against the Rohingya people are being used as ‘clearance operations’ to expel them from Myanmar.
Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Human Rights Watch has described the terror campaign as “ethnic cleansing”.
Villages have been torched to the ground, as thousands of men, women and children flee from the onslaught, sparking a humanitarian catastrophe.
Successive Myanmar governments have put a chokehold on education, study, marriage, travel and access to healthcare, thrusting millions of Rohingya people into poverty as they struggle to survive against a backdrop of repression. Many have likened the regime to a form of apartheid.
Trapped in a callous cycle of violence by Buddhists and Myanmar security forces, the UN has announced they are amongst the world’s most persecuted people.
In 1982, the Rohingya people were stripped of their citizenship, basic human rights and freedom of movement after enduring years of persecution and status as illegal refugees.
In what should have been a dramatic turnaround for change in 2015, with the appointment of Aung San Suu Kyi in government, has instead generated wide scale disappointment.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and avid campaigner for democracy, Kyi has stayed uncharacteristically silent on the crisis.
In August, a wave of refuges descended into refugee camps in Bangladesh as the conditions become unbearable for Rohingyas living in Myanmar.
Reports have emerged that Myanmar’s military groups have planted landmines in the paths of desperate Rohingya people who are attempting to flee the bloodshed.
Yet if they make it alive to the camps, food, water and medicine are dangerously scarce, as adequate aid has failed to reach them.
The people are living in an impossible situation: either survive in war-torn Myanmar or endure unbearable conditions in the camps.
The aftershock dividing non-Muslims and Muslims was felt well before the Myanmar crisis. But fears are emerging this critical divide will only further reinforce hate towards an already marginalised group.
The plight of the Rohingya people could pave the way for a new wave of refugees seeking support from the rest of the world, casting greater political doubt over immigration and boarder security.
Rohingya people are stateless, displaced and vulnerable, as no country steps up to take them, they will continue to cross boarders and filter into neighboring countries to ensure survival.
These stories, horrifying as they are to read are happening now. As well as monetary donations for aid, a small but vital gesture of support is simply being informed. Stories that need telling need people who value the truth. Support institutions that shed light on injustice and give a voice to the voiceless. At the crux of good, independent journalism is transparency.
Image source: The Conversation AU