The Facts

When: 1982 – Present
Location: Southeast Asia
Estimated Dead: Unknown
Displaced Persons: 100,000+


Current Conflict

The Burmese government, along with radical Burmese Buddhists, are attempting to exterminate the Rohingya people through direct violence and denial of rights. Since 1982, the Rohingya people have been denied citizenship and basic human rights both inside their native Burma and in refugee camps throughout southeast Asia. They are not allowed to travel without official permission, subjected to routine forced labour, and have been resettled on unfarmable land while their previous lands have been confiscated and given to Buddhist settlers from elsewhere in Burma. In addition, almost 140,000 Rohingya have been illegally put in internment camps throughout the country. Violence and oppression in Burma have forced many Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh, where they live in abject poverty and where many die each year from disease and starvation.

Background Information: The Rohingya are an ethnic group who primarily live in the Rakhine state in southwest Burma. Most Burmese governmental officials claim the Rohingya are Bengali, despite having lived in Burma for generations. This is because, unlike the rest of Burma residents, the Rohingya are majority Muslim whereas most Burmese are Buddhist. In addition, the Rohingya are not one of the 135 legally recognized ethnic groups within Burma and therefore exist in a complicated legal limbo. In 1982, the Burmese government passed a nationality law strictly defining how one is considered a citizen of Burma. Under this law, to be a citizen one must have had ancestors living in Burma prior to 1823 (before British colonization), or be born to parents who are citizens. The Rohingya people migrated into Burma from neighboring Bangladesh sometime in the late 19th century in the midst of British colonization, making many ineligible to obtain Burmese citizenship. Lacking citizenship has denied the Rohingya of their basic human rights and made them the focus of horrific abuses. Rohingya in Burma are routinely attacked and killed by radical Buddhist militia as well as by government troops.

The Rohingya that still live in Burma have little-to-no rights, and face daily persecution at the hands of the Burmese government and Buddhist milita. Many Rohingya have have fled to neighboring countries in which they live in permanent refugee status because no nation in the region is willing to grant them citizenship. In recent years, many Rohingya have also attempted to flee to nations such as Australia and New Zealand to seek asylum. However, few make it while many drown in the Indian Ocean due to strong currents and overcrowding on poorly made rafts. The Rohingya people have been classified as “the world’s most least-wanted” minority.



Personal stories of those affected in Myanmar
The U.S. Campaign for Burma