NEW YORK - Five years ago, the Myanmar military began a sweeping campaign of massacres, rape, and arson in northern Rakhine State. More than 730,000 Rohingya fled to precarious, flood-prone camps in Bangladesh .
600,000 remain under oppressive rule in Myanmar. No one has been held accountable for the crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed against the Rohingya population.
The global community should take concrete action to hold the Myanmar military to account and secure justice and safety for the Rohingya in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and across the region.
“Governments should mark the five-year anniversary of the devastating campaign against the Rohingya with a coordinated international strategy for accountability and justice that draws on Rohingya input,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors should support Rohingya refugees to study and work freely and safely so they can build independent and self-reliant futures.”
Since August 2017, Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of Rohingya in Bangladesh who fled the Myanmar military’s atrocities. They described incidents in which soldiers systematically killed and raped villagers before torching their homes. Altogether, the security forces killed thousands and burned down nearly 400 villages. Those who escaped to neighboring Bangladesh joined a few hundred thousand refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence and persecution.
“Myanmar authorities brutalized us,” said Abdul Halim, 30, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh. “They burned down our houses, raped our mothers and sisters, burned our children. We took shelter in Bangladesh to escape that brutality. Now I’ve been living in Kutupalong camp for five years.” Abdul carried his very ill mother on his back when they fled Myanmar in 2017. She died shortly after reaching Bangladesh.
The Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State face systematic abuses that amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty. They are confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods.
The Myanmar military, since staging a coup on February 1, 2021, has carried out a brutal nationwide crackdown on millions of people protesting its rule. The junta security forces’ mass killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, sexual violence, and other abuses against protesters, journalists, health workers, and political opposition members amount to crimes against humanity. Free speech and assembly face severe restrictions. Renewed military operations have resulted in numerous war crimes. Myanmar has long defied international calls for accountability, including for crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.