Tale of Rohingya repatriation stuck in limbo: One of the biggest humanitarian crises of South Asia

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Dec 30, 2018, 04.13 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

ARSA attacked 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base in the early hours of August 25, 2017, Myanmar troops swept through villages

Over a year ago, in August 2017, Myanmar witnessed a conflict that sparked international concern. Western Myanmar’s Rakhine state saw hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes following an army crackdown. 

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base in the early hours of August 25, 2017, Myanmar troops swept through villages. United Nations agencies estimate as many as around 700,000 Rohingya to have since fled the land so far. 

Rohingyas who crossed the border reported killings, rapes and arson carried out by security forces, in what the UN's top human rights official said seemed to be a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

State Counsellor, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's government have denied allegations of atrocities made by the refugees, saying that security forces lawfully suppressed Muslim militants in Rakhine.

The ARSA had reiterated to “continue our struggle for our right to exist”. The group had "come to exist only to defend, salvage and protect Rohingya people." 

Myanmar’s government, on the other hand, blames ARSA for the deaths of non-Muslim villagers as well as security personnel in last year's crackdown. The group denies targeting civilians.

International pressure continues to mount on Myanmar over the issue. Suu Kyi has faced the brunt to an extent that she was stripped off Amnesty International's most prestigious human rights prize earlier this year. 

Suu Kyi has been accused of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

The Bangladesh government has also urged the global community to increase pressure on Myanmar to ensure the Rohingya repatriation. 

A report by UN investigators in August found that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingyas with “genocidal intent,” and said the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted under international law.

That report called for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions as well as for the suspects to be tried by an ad hoc tribunal or referred to the ICC. However, diplomats say veto-wielding powers China and Russia are likely to protect Myanmar from UN action.

The latest report by Reuters suggests that while Myanmar's government promises Rohingya repatriation, the return looks increasingly unlikely going by the recent developments in the Rakhine state. The areas once inhabited by Muslim-majority inhabitants were subsequently destroyed and are now being rebuilt and occupied mainly by Buddhists, some from other parts of Rakhine. 

The government is both building some of the new homes and helping to facilitate the Buddhist resettlement push, according to local officials and new settlers. The campaign is being spearheaded by Buddhist nationalists who want to establish a Buddhist majority in the area, news agency Reuters reported.

With the passing of another year, the fate of Rohingya repatriation only seems to be stuck in limbo with a bleak ray of hope at the distant horizon. 

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