The Rohingya people are an ethnic Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) who live in the Rakhine State on the Western coast. Historically, the Rakhine State had multiple independent kingdoms, was ruled by the Burmese (1784 to 1826) and the British (1826 to 1948), and later considered part of independent Burma (1948). The Rohingya trace their origins to one of these historical kingdoms – the Arakan Kingdom.
Since 1948, successive governments have disputed the Rohingya’s history and refused to recognize them as one of Burma’s 135 official ethnic groups. Instead, Burmese government officials consider the Rohingya illegal aliens despite many having been in the Rakhine State for centuries. Because of this refusal, the Rohingya have faced more than 70 years of persecution and discrimination, including being denied citizenship. They are one of the largest stateless populations in the world. (For example, unlike the rest of the population, the Rohingya minority are only allowed to have two children and must seek permission to marry.)
Since 1948, there have been 13 military campaigns against the Rohingya, including the most recent campaign that began in 2017. Since that time, over 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar after extreme violence that included Rohingya villages being cleared and burned by the military. Military efforts have intensified in 2019 at the same time Myanmar blocked humanitarian aid. The United Nations has called the current military offensive “ethnic cleansing.”
The refugee camps located in Bangladesh have dire conditions including malnutrition and disease outbreak, including a 2018 outbreak of diphtheria. This Federal Fiscal Year, 1,508 individuals from Burma, including some who are Rohingya, have been allowed to resettle in the United States.
Find Out More:
New Day Northwest – This Teenage Refugee Found a Home on Mercer Island.
Council on Foreign Affairs – The Rohingya Crisis.
The United Nations – The Rohingya Crisis in 90 Seconds.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Rohingya Refugee Crisis.