Following sectarian violence in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine in June, human rights researchers are now warning that the government appears to be attempting to permanently house parts of the stateless Muslim-minority Rohingya in “temporary” refugee camps, segregating them from the rest of the population.
“There has been no acknowledgement that people have to go home eventually – the solution appears to be that the Rohingya can simply live where they have come to be,” John Sifton, with Human Rights Watch (which released a related report in August), said in Washington on Tuesday. “Segregation has become the status quo.”
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in the midst of a series of contested anti-authoritarian reforms following on decades of repression by the military government. Yet even as the country opens up bit by bit, socially ingrained ethnic and racial tensions are proving real impediments to the reforms process, with the Rohingya seen by many as an important test case.
Myanmar is dominated by state-backed Buddhism, which has traditionally allowed little room for other religions. This has been especially true of the long-persecuted Muslims of Rakhine, known as Rohingya, who had their citizenship revoked in the early 1980s on the suggestion that the community was made up of migrants from Bangladesh.