Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh held a silent protest on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of the conflict in Myanmar, that sent 1.1 million Rohingyas fleeing to southern Bangladesh for safety. According to news reports, around 600,000 Rohingya remain inside the country and are extremely vulnerable to attacks and persecution.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Aug. 25, the second anniversary of the 2017 refugee crisis. PC: K.M. Asad/LightRocket, via Getty Images
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the refugees did not hold a mass gathering to commemorate what they call "Remembrance Day". Authorities say 88 cases of the virus have been found in the camps and six people have died
“We were forcibly driven out from our motherland to the world’s largest refugee camp,” Rohingya groups said in a statement. The refugees said the Rohingya had faced “hidden genocide” in Myanmar for decades and they appealed to the United Nations and other organisations to declare what happened in 2017 as genocide. "Please stand with innocent Rohingya, and then hopefully we can return to our home,” they said in the statement.
In January, the ICJ imposed “provisional measures” against Myanmar, ordering the country to comply with obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Meanwhile, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the verdict and claimed that it presented a "distorted picture of the situation."
Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its own commission, the Independent Commission of Enquiry, found that there had been no genocide in Rakhine state. However, it did say that war crimes had occurred, and were being investigated and prosecuted by Myanmar's national criminal justice system.
Aung San Suu Kyi is currently standing for re-election this year, and has faced criticism as a defender of the military, for her handling of the Rohingya crisis which she referred to as “a mere internal armed conflict.”
Meanwhile, Rohingya citizens in Mayanmar are being denied the right to stand for election. Six of them ha been rejected after officials said they failed to prove their parents were citizens at the time of their birth, a requirement under the election law. Despite having documents proving so, the Burmese have refused to recognise their citizenship since Myanmar does not recognise the term Rohingya or the community as an Indigenous ethnic group.
Rashid is a Rohingya businessman who tried to stand as a candidate for the November 9th elections. "We have all these documents that the government issued, and they don't accept the fact that my parents are citizens. I feel bad about that and concerned," he told the Reuters news agency.
In August 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh. At the end of his four-day visit to Bangladesh in 2018, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said:
“The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues. I don’t think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox’s Bazar,”
Rohingya refugees are now displaced all over South Asia, with 40,000 of them having illegally migrated to Assam, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir for shelter.