Even though their families’ roots go back as far as the Eighth Century in Myanmar’s Rakhine, once called Arakan, Rohingya Muslims are unrecognised, stateless and unwanted.
Often called the most persecuted minority in the world, they have been treated as illegal since World War 2. The ongoing persecution of the Rohingyas, however, has now led to an armed resistance.
Successive governments in Myanmar have maintained Rohingyas are illegal migrants from India and Bangladesh and refused to recognise them as one of the Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups, rendering them unrecognised and stateless.
To get rid of the community, intense military operations have been conducted in the Rohingya villages, ringing the alarm bells of an impending genocide. The treatment meted to Rohingyas was so cruel that it tarnished the image of Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Once a staunch defender of human rights, Aung San Suu Kyi now faces the wrath of Muslim nations. They allege that she failed to stop Myanmar armed forces chief General Min Aung Hlaing, and that she failed to stop soldiers from unleashing cruelty in its worst shape.
Now, a new breed of insurgents known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has reared its head in Myanmar. Although, it’s a small group armed with just knives, sticks and some basic IEDs, the rising anger in the Muslim world about the plight of the Rohingya could give rise to a homegrown militancy.
Rohingya activists claim that these insurgents are mainly young men who have been pushed to the brink by relentless oppression. The Rohingyas are living under apartheid-like conditions. They are devoid of state education, free movement owing to the creation of several ‘Muslim free zones’, even ID cards. The oppression has been mirrored by an upsurge of Buddhist groups who encourage an anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The crisis, which is getting worse by the day could take an even more dangerous turn with support from international jihadists. Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen has already called for attacks against Burmese government while Afghan Taliban urged Muslims to help Rohingyas, using all their abilities.
To avoid the rise in insurgency, it’s time that Myanmar should step up in protecting the rights of the civilians, sadly, it’s doing the exact opposite.