Press Releases


Burma (Myanmar): New Rohingya mass exodus expected

Hundreds of boat people shine a light on the hopeless situation of the Rohingya (Press Release)

After clashes between Buddhist Rakhine and Rohingya in 2012, around 140,000 people had to flee their villages in Rakhine State. While the approximately 20,000 Rakhine were returned to their old settlements by the authorities and received extensive support for the construction, around 121,000 Rohingya are still living in camps in and around the city of Sittw. Photo: Steve Gumaer via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) fears that there will be another Rohingya mass exodus from Burma. In the past two weeks, the Navy picked up three refugee boats packed with people off the coast of the country. "Burma's Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi promised that all Rohingya refugees from abroad will be repatriated – but we are still far from that. At the moment, many Rohingya are fleeing from Burma again because they have no hope to be able to live a life in dignity in their home country," criticized Ulrich Delius, the STP's director, in Göttingen on Thursday. Since mid-October 2018, at least ten refugee boats from Burma reached neighboring Malaysia (which is predominantly Muslim-inhabited), each with about one hundred Rohingya refugees who hoped to find protection.

Most recently, 93 boat people were sent back to the provincial capital of Sittwe (Rakhine State) in Burma on Wednesday, after the Navy had picked up their boat off the coast. 55 of the 93 refugees were women and children. On November 16, a group of 106 Rohingya from the Darpaing Refugee Camp in Sittwe got stranded on Burma's coast.

Following clashes between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya in 2012, around 140,000 people were forced to leave their villages in Rakhine State. While the authorities sent back approximately 20,000 Rakhine to their settlements – promising comprehensive support for necessary reconstruction work – around 121,000 Rohingya are still living in camps in and around the city of Sittwe. There have not been any credible initiatives to repatriate the members of this persecuted Muslim minority, allegedly because their safety cannot be guaranteed, as the authorities stated.

"The fate of these traumatized refugees clearly shows that the Burmese government under Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is unable to solve the Rohingya issue peacefully," Delius stated. Rather than trying to promote reconciliation between the Rohingya and the Rakhine, Burma's government continues to exclude, oppress, and segregate the Muslim minority. This will not help to promote peace and reconciliation, but will lead to even more hopelessness and traumatization. Further, the human rights organization warned that existing prejudices are being reinforced.

Currently, there are around 80,000 Rohingya refugees living in Malaysia. The country is internationally committed to the rights of the Rohingya, but is not willing to offer them a long-term perspective in the country or to grant them fundamental rights.

Header image: Steve Gumaer via Flickr