As part of our Fight for the Rohingya initiative, we’ve assembled a briefing report that provides an overview of the Rohingya situation in Myanmar. The report covers the historical precursors to the crisis, current situation, international involvement and response, and the legal implications. To read the full report, with graphics and images, click here.
The controversy surrounding Myanmar?s Rohingya people is evident in conflicting stories about the ethnic group?s origin. The Burmese government and Burmese historians argue that the Rohingya are actually Bengali Muslims, refusing to recognize the term Rohingya.? They claim that the Rohingya migrated to Rakhine state in Myanmar from Bengal during and after the British colonial era of 1824-1948. However, most experts outside of Myanmar agree that the Rohingya have been living in Rakhine state since at least the 15th century, and possibly as early as the 7th century. Claims that the Rohingya are recent immigrants from Bangladesh are simply untrue.
There are between 800,000 and 1,100,000 Rohingya in Myanmar today, 80% of whom live in Rakhine state. The Rohingya primarily reside in the two northern townships in Rakhine state–Maungdaw and Buthidaung–along the border with Bangladesh. Rakhine Buddhists are the major population group residing in Rakhine state. Tensions leading to violence between these two groups is a regular occurrence.
While the government has played a significant role in the oppression of the Rohingya, it has not been without the help of Burmese citizens. There is widespread dislike and even hatred toward the Rohingya in Myanmar. The Burmese government has ingrained this disdain into it?s citizens, using dislike for the Rohingya as a way to mobilize support. Leading up to November 2015 elections, President Thein Sein has pointed to the passage of numerous discriminatory laws as evidence that he is a strong leader and should be elected for another term. His campaign is fueled, at least in part, by anti-Muslim rhetoric. The Rohingya are a stateless people, hated in their own country and forced to live in appalling living conditions.