The genesis of the conflict between the Rakhaine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims can be
traced back to 1948 when the British Raj drew up the cartographic map of Burma. After
independence, the latter demanded unification with East Pakistan, who have persecuted since 1970. Myanmar has been ruled by military regimes since 1962, although it was during 2008, that a new Constitution was adopted. The army has dominated the administrative and judicial affairs without civilian surveillance. The armed or the ‘Tatmadaw’ has 25 seats in the
Legislative Assembly which allows it to select three candidates for ministerial posts in
Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs and at least one of the Vice-Presidents (Human
Rights Council, 2018) It was in 1730 that anti-Hindu and anti-Muslims riots had occurred and
racial categorization was widely propagated. Adding to that, the United Citizenship Act was
passed in 1982 which only offered citizenship to those people who had been residing in
Myanmar before 1823, which led many Indians to flee the country. 135 ethnic groups have
been recognized and thereafter categorized into indigenous races. (Sohel, 2017)
In 2001, 28 mosques had been attacked and religious schools. (Sohel, 2017) In 2013, the
Arakan Legaue for Democracy which merged with the RNDP to emerge as the Arakan
National Party (ANP) which espoused anti-Muslim attitudes and its sole purpose to restrict
the electoral rights of Muslims. The party argues that the Bengali Muslim populations are a
threat to Arakan population, right after which Muslim voting rights were completely
withdrawn. The ANP won at least twelve seats in the Parliament and ten in the Upper House.
Their role cannot therefore be eradication in the instigation of communal violence. Yet,
violations of Human Rights and ethnic cleansing was under Aung San Suu Kyi’s regime was
witnessed as National League for Democracy (NLD) soon after it came into power in 2015.
The perpetrator has been her party itself. Aung San Suu Kyi was endowed with the Nobel
Prize in 1991 as she was believed of upholding nonviolence and peace. However, the ethnic
violence on its minority population proves this as a farce. Thirty two per cent of the
populations is composed by ethnic groups, such as the Muslims. Not only that, the Rakhine
state suffers from a high poverty rate and the Rakhine Buddhists are the majority in the South
whereas Rohingya Muslims constitute the majority in the North. (Burke, 2016) Their
relationship has been defined by grievances and a distinction is highlighted in this discourse
as the Rohingya Muslims are perceived as the ‘Other’. They have always been believed to be
illegal immigrants and therefore are denied citizenship, experience forced eviction and land
confiscation. It was in 2002 that the Human Rights Watch stated that that the government
issued the destruction of unauthorized mosques and has been termed as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Such a humanitarian crisis had not gained the attraction of the International media which
failed to understand the Xenophobia that exists. (Leider, 2018)
In November 8, 2020 elections have been held whereby the National League for Democracy
has successfully won a second term which has experienced the exclusion of the Rohingya
Muslims from participation in elections. However, Myanmar will not be able to attain for
itself the title of a democracy until and unless she accepts that rights of this minority.
Elections were cancelled in ethnic constituencies namely Karen, Shan and the Rakhine State
as a measure to suppress votes.
The Rohingya Muslims have been victims of hate speech and dehumanization which has
only disfranchised them. The victimhood discourse is rather pertinent to describe their
experiences who have become refugees.
1. Human Rights Council. (2018) Thirty-Ninth Session.
2. Sohel, Md. Salman. “ The Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar: Origin and Emergence”,
Saudi Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. ISSN 2415-6248 (Online)
3. Burke, Adam (2016) “ New Political Space, Old Tensions: Identity and Violence in
Rakhine State, Myanmar”. Contemporary South Asia, 38(2).
4. Leider, Jacques P. “History and Victimhood: Engaging with Rohingya Issues”.
Insight Turkey, 20(1).
5. Nu, Wai Wai. (2020) Myanmar Went To the Polls for the Second Time Since the
End of Military Rule but the Election Was Not Free or Fair. Time.