Horrifying Stories of Rohingya Refugees Fleeing Death in Myanmar
Since late August, Burmese security forces have been waging a systematic campaign of violence against the Rohingya population of Myanmar’s westernmost state of Rakhine. By the latest count, more than 389,000 RohingyaMuslims—a ghettoized stateless minority denied citizenship and basic rights by the Myanmar government—have walked, swam, and crawled through jungles and hills and muddy ravines into neighboring Bangladesh. Most arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many haven’t eaten for days. They report villages burned, possessions looted, women raped, and countless dead, included babies and small children. Around 30,000 Rohingya remain trapped in the mountains, hemmed in by security forces, without food or supplies.
For decades, the government has labeled Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh—despite evidence of their presence in western Myanmar since pre-colonial times—who violate the racial and religious purity of this Buddhist nation and scheme to establish Islamist rule. The government and its allies point to the emergence of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)—which attacked police posts in August, killing 12 security personnel and prompting the massive military backlash—as evidence of this intent. ARSA claim theirs is a resistance born of self-defense, and that the officially sanctioned persecution and demonization of the Rohingya people—which includes restrictions on birth rates, marriages, and higher education—is nothing less than genocide.
The world is beginning to take note: On Monday, the UN high commissioner for human rights called the violence “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.” (The Burmese government continues to euphemistically term the killings “clearance operations.”)