WHO AR? REFUGEES? Th? cat?gory of ‘non-stat? p?rsons’ has com? into ?xist?nc? with th? conc?pt of citiz?nship, which on th? on? hand indicat?s c?rtain rights, and on th? oth?r hand ?ncourag?s th? b?ginning of mis?ri?s for thos? who ar? d?priv?d of it.1 Refugees ar? a sp?cial class of migrants who und?r int?rnational law d?s?rv? sp?cific prot?ction by th?ir host stat?. According to Articl? 1 of th? 1951 UN Conv?ntion, as modifi?d by th? 1967 Protocol, a refugee is d?fin?d as a p?rson who ‘owing to w?ll-found?d f?ar of b?ing p?rs?cut?d for r?asons of rac?, r?ligion, nationality, m?mb?rship of a particular social group or political opinion, is outsid? th? country of his nationality and is unabl? or, owing to such f?ar, is unwilling to avail hims?lf of th? prot?ction of that country.’ This d?finition impli?s that s?v?ral qualifying conditions apply to b? consid?r?d a refugee: (1) pr?s?nc? outsid? hom? country; (2) w?ll-found?d f?ar of p?rs?cution (b?ing at risk of harm is insuffici?nt r?ason in th? abs?nc? of discriminatory p?rs?cution); (3) incapacity to ?njoy th? prot?ction of on?’s own stat? from th? p?rs?cution f?ar?d. Th? d?finition of refugees was actually int?nd?d to ?xclud? int?rnally displac?d p?rsons, ?conomic migrants, victims of natural disast?rs, and p?rsons fl??ing viol?nt conflict but not subj?ct to discrimination amounting to p?rs?cution.2 TH? ROHINGYA REFUGEES Th? Rohingyas in Myanmar is one of the most persecuted minorities in th? world. The majority are not considered to be citizens by the Myanmar Government, and live in a condition of statelessness. Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic minority situated primarily in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State and are estimated at 1 million people.3 They have been ?eeing Myanmar in large numbers, often to nearby developing countries—particularly Banglad?sh, Malaysia and Thailand—to avoid con?ict and persecution. Correspondingly, the refugee crisis in Bangladesh has reached critical levels, with the number of unregistered Rohingya refugees estimated to range from 200,000 to 500,000 people.4 1 Samaddar Ranabir, (1999), Th? Marginal Nation, N?w D?lhi, Sag?. pp 35 2 https://?pthinktank.?u/2015/10/27/refugee-status-und?r-int?rnational-law/ 3 R?tri?v?d from UN Cond?mns Myanmar ov?r Plight of Rohingya; BBC N?ws: London, ?ngland, 2016 4 Banglad?sh Factsh??t; UNHCR: G?n?va, Switz?rland, 2016. Pag? | 3 TH? HISTORY OF ROHINGYA REFUGEES Th? plight of th? Rohingya dat?s back two c?nturi?s. Rohingyas’ history can b? d?scrib?d in thr?? cat?gori?s: pr?colonial, colonial and postcolonial. In pr?colonial tim?s, th? ind?p?nd?nt kingdom of Arakan (curr?ntly known as th? Rakhin? stat?), was populat?d by Muslim Arabic sailors from 788 to 810 AD, and aft?rwards by B?ngalis from th? ?ft??nth to th? s?v?nt??nth c?nturi?s. During pr?colonial tim?s, th? Rohingyas and Arakan?s? (th? r?maind?r of th? population in Arakan) liv?d in harmony. This chang?d aft?r colonization by th? British following th? ?rst Anglo-Burm?s? war in 1825. Th? rift d??p?n?d during th? S?cond World War, wh?n th? Rohingyas d?clar?d th?ir loyalty to th? British, whil? th? Arakan?s? sid?d with th? Japan?s?. During th? Japan?s? occupation of Burma (including Arakan), th? Rohingya population was targ?t?d jointly by both th? communalist (Buddhist) Rakhin? and th? Burma Ind?p?nd?nc? Army, killing 100,000 Rohingya and ?xiling a furth?r 50,000 towards th? bord?r to ?ast B?ngal. Aft?r Burma r?c?iv?d ind?p?nd?nc? in 1948, th? antiRohingya campaign p?rsist?d, mark?d by discrimination and d?nial of th?ir citiz?nship rights. Around this p?riod b?tw??n 1940 and 1947, Buddhist fundam?ntalist ?xtr?mism was on th? ris?. ?v?ntually, in 1978, th? amass?d anti-Rohingya s?ntim?nt culminat?d in th? military junta op?ration to purg? Burma of ill?gal inhabitants, which compris?d harassm?nt, viol?nc? and arr?st. This led to th? ?ight of 250,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.5 Fac?d by pr?ssur? from th? int?rnational community, a r?patriation agr??m?nt was struck with Banglad?sh th? following y?ar, r?sulting in th? majority of Rohingyas b?ing r?turn?d to Burma. How?v?r, just thr?? y?ars lat?r, Burma pass?d th? 1982 Citiz?nship Law that d?ni?d citiz?nship to Rohingyas, d?cr??ing an estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in North Rakhine stateless. Rohingya are not recognized as a national race by the Burmese government, even if there is evidence that they were born in th? country, instead identifying them as “Bengali” illegal immigrants.6 During military junta rul? in 1988, th? Stat? Law and Ord?r R?storation Council (SLORC) ?stablish?d a numb?r of n?w military cantonm?nts in th? Rakhin? stat?, focusing on th? north wh?r? Muslims w?r? situat?d. Land was forc?fully tak?n from th? Muslim inhabitants without comp?nsation, so Rohingyas b?cam? ‘hom?l?ss’ in addition to ‘stat?l?ss’. Brand?d as ill?gal r?sid?nts, th?y ?xp?ri?nc?d basic human rights violations including d?nial of acc?ss to 5 Living in Limbo: Burm?s? Rohingyas in Malaysia; Human Rights Watch (HRW): N?w York, NY, USA, 2000. 6 Th? Contribution of Food Assistanc? to Durabl? Solutions in Protract?d Refugee Situations; Its Impact and Rol? in Banglad?sh: A Mix?d M?thod Impact ?valuation; UNHCR & WFP: Rom?, Italy, 2012. Pag? | 4 education, healthcare, employment, freedom of movement, religion and even limited rights to get married or have children.7 Th? ongoing anti-Rohingya campaign and ?xtr?m? circumstanc?s r?sult?d in a p?rsist?nt ?xodus of Rohingya to saf?r n?ighboring countri?s, wh?r? th?y r?sid? as stat?l?ss refugees. MASS ATROCITI?S P?RP?TRAT?D AGAINST TH? ROHINGYAS: CAUS?S AND CONS?QU?NC?S Th? ?nd of th? S?cond World War saw th? amalgamation of th? North?r Rakhin? Stat? (Arakan) and Myanmar. In April 1948, the Rohingyas staged a rebellion in response to the random arrests of their leaders and th? removal of Muslims from the military and public services by governmental and military officials.8 Calling th?ms?lv?s “Mujahidin”, th? obj?ctiv? of th? Rohingya r?b?ls was th? s?c?ssion of Arakan from th? c?ntral communist gov?rnm?nt. How?v?r, in 1954, th? Mujahidin w?r? ov?rwh?lm?d by th? arm?d forc?s of Myanmar and forc?d to fl?? across th? bord?r into Banglad?sh. Th? viol?ntly suppr?ss?d r?b?llion l?ft a bitt?r l?gacy of suspicion and loathing b?tw??n th? Rohingyas and th? gov?rnm?nt of Myanmar. In 1962, th? military gov?rnm?nt of G?n?ral N? Win tight?n?d military control ov?r th? ar?a of Arakan through op?rations that victimis?d th? p?opl? in g?n?ral and th? Rohingyas in particular. By th? 1970s, th? Rohingyas w?r? d??m?d ill?gal immigrants and th?ir right to vot? was d?ni?d by th? gov?rnm?nt of N? Win. It was during th? r?ign of N? Win that op?rations to cl?ans? th? t?rritory of Rohingyas took flight. Th? situation took a turn for th? wors? during th? lat? 1970s wh?n apart from th? d?molishm?nt of th?ir villag?s and mosqu?s, and th? r?cruitm?nt of Rohingya youths and young childr?n into th? army, th? Myanmar gov?rnm?nt w?nt ?v?n furth?r and r?sort?d to g?nocid?. In 1975, unabl? to ?ndur? furth?r p?rs?cution, 15,000 Rohingya Muslims fl?d to Banglad?sh. Th? y?ar 1978 ush?r?d in Op?ration Naga Min, a massiv? military op?ration that drov? 200,000 Rohingyas out of Myanmar. In Jun? 2012, th? discrimination p?rp?trat?d against th? Rohingyas took a turn for th? wors? wh?n Myanmar’s pr?sid?nt cast asid? his r?sponsibility as H?ad of Stat? and d?clar?d that th? plight of this minority group can only b? r?solv?d 7 Crim?s against Humanity in W?st?rn Burma: Th? Situation of th? Rohingas; Irish C?ntr? for Human Rights: Connacht, Ir?land, 2010. 8 Jonassohn, Kurt, Björnson, Karin Solv?ig, G?nocid? and Gross Human Rights Violations: In Comparativ? P?rsp?ctiv? (Transaction Publish?rs, 1998), p 262. Pag? | 5 through th?ir migration. H? ?v?n w?nt so far as to notify th? Unit?d Nations High Commission?r for Refugees (“UNHCR”) that his gov?rnm?nt will not r?cognis? th? Rohingyas as th?y w?r? ill?gal immigrants without any racial links to th? p?opl? of Myanmar. Calls for action against th? gov?rnm?nt of Myanmar for human rights violations incr?as?d wh?n Myanmar b?cam? a m?mb?r of AS?AN on July 23, 1997. AS?AN r?c?iv?d brickbats for failing to addr?ss th? Rohingya dil?mma d?spit? th? fact that M?mb?r Stat?s had s?t up a human rights body known as th? AS?AN Int?rgov?rnm?ntal Commission on Human Rights (“AICHR”) in 2009. In Octob?r 2009, AICHR was inaugurat?d as a consultativ? association for AS?AN. How?v?r, th?r? app?ars to b? a g?n?ral acc?ptanc? that it focus?s on th? promotion of human rights at th? r?gional l?v?l rath?r than th? taking on of prot?ctiv? r?sponsibiliti?s. Citizenship9 is a fundamental entitlement as it opens the doors to social, political, educational and healthcare rights among others. How?v?r, th? Rohingya p?opl? hav? b??n d?priv?d of th?s? rights as th?y ar? d?void of l?gitimacy as far as th? Myanmar authoriti?s ar? conc?rn?d. Th? stat?l?ss status of th? Rohingyas n?gativ?ly aff?cts th?ir ?mploym?nt opportuniti?s and limits th?ir acc?ssibility to high?r ?ducation. In conformity with th? 1974 Constitution10, as “foreigners”, the Rohingyas do not have recourse to the judicial system and are denied the freedom of association.11 To put it plainly, th? Rohingyas w?r? totally d?ni?d th?ir rights bas?d on racial and r?ligious grounds and this r?pr?s?nts a cl?ar violation of int?rnational human rights principles.12 (Myanmar is a party to various tr?ati?s, including th? G?n?va Conv?ntions of 1949; th? Conv?ntion on th? Pr?v?ntion and Punishm?nt of th? Crim? of G?nocid? 1948; and th? Conv?ntion on th? Rights of th? Child 1989.) 9 Citiz?nship is d?fin?d as “a status ?njoy?d by p?rsons who ar? full m?mb?rs of a community” 10 Articl? 37 of th? Constitution of th? Union of Burma, 1974, availabl? at www.burmalibrary. org/docs07/1974Constitution 11 Fr??dom of association is a combination of both coll?ctiv? and individual human rights that is m?ntion?d at Articl?s 20 and 23 of th? Univ?rsal D?claration of Human Rights and Articl? 11 of th? ?urop?an Conv?ntion on Human Rights 12 Int?rnational Conv?ntion on th? ?limination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and Articl? 2 of th? Univ?rsal D?claration of Human Rights. Pag? | 6 CURR?NT SC?NARIO: As one of the worst cas?s of human trag?dy sinc? th? Holocaust, in which a particular ?thnic and r?ligious group was targ?t?d for th?ir ?xist?nc?, th? plight of th? Rohingya can no long?r b? ignor?d by th? gov?rnm?nts of South?ast Asia. Th? discov?ry of 26 bodi?s b?longing to Rohingya and Banglad?shi migrants in a camp on th? Thai-Malaysia bord?r in ?arly May mark?d th? start of th? curr?nt round of South?ast Asia’s r?fug?? crisis. As th? Thai authoriti?s continu?d th?ir crack down on smuggling gangs op?rating trafficking rings from Myanmar to Malaysia, th? numb?r of camps, grav?s and bodi?s discov?r?d only incr?as?d.13 The graves contained the bodies of Bangladeshi migrants and Muslim Rohingya, smuggled by boat to the south of Thailand, many of them taken advantage of while fleeing persecution in Myanmar. Once in the Thai jungle they were detained in camps and told that the price for the freedom was 2,000 dollars a head. Some Rohingya managed to collect the money for the ransom, through family members living in Malaysia, but most were forced to enter indentured labor in order to pay for their journey.14 The Thai gov?rnm?nts attack on th? Myanmar to Malaysia trafficking rout? put an ?nd to a lucrativ? human smuggling busin?ss but trigg?r?d a r?gional crisis. In ord?r to ?lud? patrols, smuggl?rs r?fus?d to land on shor?, ?ff?ctiv?ly holding up to 8,000 Rohingya and Banglad?shi migrants hostag? at s?a without ad?quat? food, wat?r and sanitation. Th? Thai gov?rnm?nt us?d army h?licopt?rs to drop food and wat?r to th? migrants but th?n push?d th? boats back out to s?a towards Malaysia. Malaysian authoriti?s in turn push?d th? boats onward t?lling th? p?opl? on board to s??k asylum in Indon?sia. Th? Gov?rnm?nt of Indon?sia d?ni?d th?m acc?ss to its t?rritory and push?d th?m back out again. It was only aft?r tr?m?ndous int?rnational pr?ssur? that South?ast Asian gov?rnm?nts t?mporarily agr??d to p?rmit th? asylum s??k?rs land on th?ir shor?s. As th? UNHCR r?port on irr?gular maritim? mov?m?nts stat?s, an ?stimat?d 25,000 Rohingya and Banglad?shis l?ft th? Bay of B?ngal in th? first quart?r of 2015 and of th?m, 300 hav? b??n r?cord?d as having di?d at s?a.