Myanmar rebuffs U.S. pressure on atrocities against Rohingya Muslims

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi before a bilateral meeting on May 22, 2016, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Credit: State Department/Public Domain/Flickr)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used his official visit in Myanmar to raise the issue of the continued attacks carried out against Rohingya Muslims in the country. Nobel Peace Prize-winning Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi requested that Myanmar be given the opportunity to deal with the problem itself. However, previous comments from Suu Kyi and new reports of attacks indicate that the new government in Myanmar is not addressing the problem.

“Emotive terms make it very difficult for us to find a peaceful and sensible resolution to our problems,” said Suu Kyi during a joint news conference with Kerry, on Sunday. “All that we are asking is that people should be aware of the difficulties we are facing and to give us enough space to solve all our problems.”

The same day, Human Rights Watch published a new report detailing what it says are crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar’s Arkan state. Its investigations show that security forces in the state are not protecting people from attacks and, in some cases, are taking part in the atrocities. Witnesses say security forces watched men carrying machetes, swords, homemade guns and Molotov cocktails attack villages in October.

In one of the attacks, at least 70 Rohingya were killed. Police and soldiers in the Yan Thei village in Mrauk-U Township received advance warning of a pending attack. Rather than protect people, they participated by disarming the Rohingya people in the village.

“First the soldiers told us, ‘Do not do anything, we will protect you, we will save you,’ so we trusted them,” a 25-year-old survivor told Human Rights Watch. “But later they broke that promise. The Arakanese beat and killed us very easily. The security did not protect us from them.”

Some 28 children are counted among the dead as a result of that attack. Human Rights Watch said the government is hiding behind the label of “communal violence” to shirk any responsibility for protecting people from being attacked and punishing the offenders. It is a cycle that dates back to 2012 and has displaced an estimated 125,000 people from their homes.

More than 1 million Rohingya live in Arakan state. The Myanmar government considers them stateless immigrants from Bangladesh. That designation strips them of basic rights, such as not being counted in the official 2012 census. The term carries political baggage. Suu Kyi recently requested that U.S. ambassador Scot Marciel not use the term. And in late April, hundreds of protesters marched on the U.S. embassy in Myanmar to say that the group does not exist in the country.

“I know it arouses strong passions here. At the same time, we all understand, as a matter of fact, that there is a group here in Myanmar that calls itself Rohingya,” said Kerry at the news conference. “What’s critical to focus on is solving the problem; what’s critical to focus on is improving the situation on the ground to promote development, promote respect for human rights, and to benefit all of those who live in Rakhine and throughout Myanmar.”

The persecution against the group and the terrible conditions faced by people displaced from their homes has led many to escape the country and take dangerous sea routes to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand. Continued pressure may cause more to flee and put their lives at risk in order to get out of Myanmar.

“The government needs to put an immediate stop to the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable or it will be responsible for further violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]

  • abhishek

    Impeccable Lies and anti-buddhist Propaganda Tom, where did u learn that in Ireland? I thought Hate isnt part of the Irish now, Here we go, Maligning the Buddhists and Tagging a whole Country by Double Standard Reporting, well done

  • The Barbaric Burmese Military regime and their actions against Rohingya.

    Since independence of Burma on 4 January 1948,Rohingyas are suffering and facing unexpected action of 19 full- fledged operation with frequently state patronized communal riots, have been engineered and carried out of resulting in their death, massive destruction of their settlements , holy places of worship, economic bases and expulsion from their hearths and homes.

    Followings are some of the major armed operations:

    01. Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment) November 1948

    02. Burma Territorial Force (BTF) Operation 1949-50

    03. Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin regiment) March 1951-52

    04. Mayu Operation October 1952-53

    05. Mone-thone Operation October 1954

    06. Combined Immigration and Army Operation January 1955

    07. Union Military Police (UMP) Operation 1955-58

    08. Captain Htin Kyaw Operation 1959

    09. Shwe Kyi Operation October 1966

    10. Kyi Gan Operation October-December 1966

    11. Ngazinka Operation 1967-69

    12. Myat Mon Operation February 1969-71

    13. Major Aung Than Operation 1973

    14. Sabe Operation February 1974-78

    15. Nagamin Operation February 1978-79 (Around 400,000 people have forced migrated from Arakan State )

    16. Shwe Hintha Operation August 1978-80

    17. Galone Operation 1979

    18. Pyi Thaya Operation 1991-92

    19. Na-Sa-Ka Operation 1992 (Around 250, 000 People have forced migrated)

    20. The Genocide has started on 3 June 2012, the recent genocidal campaigns against Rohingya have been documented by Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) , Amnesty International ( AI ) and UN as :

    1- At least 20,000 people killed

    2- At least 3,500 people missing

    3- At least 1000 Women raped

    4- At least 25,000 houses burnt

    5- At least 180,000 displaced

    6- At least 100 Masjid & Madrasas razed

    World crime & action by brutal military regime:

    1. Denial of Citizenship by the act of 1982

    2. Restriction of Movement

    3. Forced Labor

    4. Land Confiscation, Forced Eviction and House Destruction

    5. Restrictions on Marriage of Rohingya

    6. Arbitrary Taxation and Extortion

    7. Registration of Births and Deaths in Families

    8. Deprivation of Right to Education

    9. Arbitrary arrest, torture and Extra- Judicial Killing

    10. Abuse of Rohingya Women and Elders

    11. Depopulation law against Rohingya community by making new population law only 2 children for Rohingya

    12. Undocumented refugees & statelessness

    13. Involvement in human trafficking by authority to reduce Rohingya population

    14.Innocent Rohingya prisoners in the neighbor countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal ,Thailand, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia ).

  • False Allegation and sending wrong information to the world Media and community by the Burmese military regime:

    Arakan State was an independent State from 1434 – 1784.

    Arakan state has occupied by forced in 1784 by Burmese Bodupaya , in 1826 British empire has occupied whole Burma,.

    Burmese military regime is lying to the International community that Rohingya people are coming from Bangladesh or illegal migrant etc. which is completely illogical and false.

    They want to eliminate whole the ethnic Rohingya from Arakan State because of religious back ground.

    Actually, Bengali language has completely different dialect and the script is similar to Hindi alphabets and the language too.

    Rohingya language is formed from the words of Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, English, Bangla and Burman etc.

    However, Rohingya community does not use the script of Bengali which has taken from India (Hindi Script) so Rohingya does not learn, read, write or speak Bengali language anywhere.

    Bengali people can’t speak or understand Rohingya language and the dialect too. So, Rohingya community can realize it easily when a Bengali person speaks face to face.

    Cultural difference:

    Rohingya peole have own cultural dress, food, communication and other difference habits from Bengali people.

    Bengali people follow Indian culture, dress and most of things.


    Burma’s falling into the hands of Dictator Ne Win in 1962, erupted a volcanic lie on the existence of Rohingya through propagandas, policies and laws.

    His successive military regimes continued the legacy of lie – “There is no Rohingya.”

    “We don’t have a people called Rohingya”, [July 13, 2013] become the favourite phrase of Thein Sein’s government.

    Endorsing the lie, the current commander-in-chief of Burma, Min Aung Hlaing, said, “As we have said before, there are no Rohingya.” [May 13, 2016]

    Even the Nobel Peace Laureate and Woman above the current President, Aung San Suu Kyi, “Doesn’t want to hear” the term ‘Rohingya’. [May 6, 2016]

    They continue to lie and ignore the existence and recognition of Rohingya by Governments in Post-Independence Era.

    The truth is Rohingya existed and recognized as an Ethnic group of Burma.

    Following Independence, the first elected President of Burma, Sao Shwe Thaike, said, “Muslims of Arakan (Rohingyas) certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma…. In fact, there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, if they do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races of Burma”

    He was not alone. U Nu, the first Elected Prime Minister of ‪#‎Burma‬‬announced in September 28, 1954, “The people living in northern Arakan are our national brethren. They are called Rohingyas. They are on the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan.”

    U Ba Swe, the second Prime Minister of Burma assured Rohingya in November 4, 1959. “The Rohingya has the equal status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, ‪#‎Rakhine‬‬ and Shan.”

    Unlike Min Aung Hlaing, Brigadier Aung Gyi, Vice Chief of Staff of Burma Armed Forces, observed the Right to Self-identification – “‪#‎Rohingya‬‬leaders asked us not to call the Rohingya “Khaw Taw”, nor “Bengali”, nor Chittagonian Kalar (niggers), nor “Rakhine ‪#‎Muslims‬‬”. Instead they said their preferred and self-referential ethnic name was the Arabic word Rohingya….” [November 15, 1951]

    In Burma, LIE Continues; TRUTH been Ignored.