IntroductionMyanmar is an ethnically diverse country with 135 recognizednational ethnic groups in its Citizenship Law (1982). These ethnic groups arecategorised into 8 major national ethnic races namely; Bamar (68% of totalpopulation), Chin, Kachin, Kayak, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan (CIA, n.d.). The major religion according to 2014 nationalcensus are Buddhism (88%), Christian (6%), Muslim (4%) and Hindus (1%) (CIA, n.d.).
Ethnic andReligious minorities in Myanmar have a complex contested history. Uponindependence in 1948 Myanmar became a quasi-federal union dominated by Bamarethnic group. Myanmar has seen many internal armed conflict driven byclaims of minorities for self-determination, greater autonomy and an equitableshare of power and resources. This resulted in military assumption of power in1962 and progressive exclusion of ethnic minorities from power. In 2011government embarked on wide ranging reforms including adoption of democracy.
Election were held in 2015 and a civilian government took power in March,2016. Rohingyas forms the largest Muslim percentage in Myanmarwith majority living in Rakhine state. They claim themselves to be a distinctethnic group with their own language and culture. Most governments haverejected these claims. Rohingya were not allowed to participate in the 2015election process.
They are stateless at present. The Rakhine Buddhists viewRohingya as illegal immigrants (Bengalis) with no historical, cultural, religiousor social ties with Myanmar. In 2012 the incidents of religious intolerance andincitement to hatred by extremist and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups reachedthe zenith and Rohingya were portrayed as a “threat to race and religion”. Withthis backdrop the recent series of violence erupted. The June and October violencecaused hundreds of death, injuries, burning of property and displacement of1,40,000 (UNHCHR, 2016). The repressive conditions in IDP camps, ongoing segregation,discrimination and sectarian violence coupled with lack of opportunities forreturn to normal life and systemic human rights violations triggered irregularmigration flows of Rohingya to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Traffickingand smuggling channels were adopted to escape poverty and persecution. The 2015Andaman Sea crisis came to be known as “Boat people crisis in south-east Asia” asthey were stateless and abandoned in the sea by smugglers.
Malaysia and Indonesia after some initial reluctance offeredtemporary shelter to the migrants rescued at sea. Most of them remain detainedin shelters, camps or immigration detention, facing uncertain futures. InOctober and Novemeber,2016 the Rohingya insurgent group named Harakah Al-yaqinor Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) emerged and started attacking policeand army posts. The migration of Rohingya continued to escape poverty anddeath. In August 2017 the ARSA carried out coordinated attack onpolice and army post resulting into the repressive army retaliation i.e.
burningdown of Rohingya Villages leaving more than 400 (some reports 1000). The freshwave of Rohingya mass exodus started to neighbouring Bangladesh to escapepersecution. The severe discrimination and sectarian violence against Rohingyais root cause of their present condition which is still to be addressed inMyanmar as well as International system. The below given Image 2 sourced fromAl Jazeera gives an estimation of Rohingya numbers taking shelter in variouscountries for escaping persecution and violence.