Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC), formerly known as ARRC is the key refugee committee of the Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, working for their welfare and advocating their causes to find permanent solution through effective and global initiatives
For Muslim Americans and other concerned citizens in Indianapolis and
elsewhere in the nation, news of still more violence against the largely
Muslim Rohingya of Burma highlights the plight of one of the world’s
most persecuted communities and the need for a global response. The
latest bloodshed, coupled with two prior months of riots and murders,
has left more than 700 dead and 80,000 homeless. This violence has been
compounded by the behavior of the Burmese security forces who, according
to major human rights organizations, have participated in killings and
rapes as well as mass arrests against the Rohingya.
Despite recent democratic reforms, Burma’s new civilian government has
failed to reverse decades of anti-Rohingya discrimination, including
denial of citizenship. As a result, Rohingyas face severe religious
freedom restrictions, including limits on the number of Muslim marriage
ceremonies in certain villages. Authorities routinely deny them permits
to build mosques and often destroy mosques and schools for lacking
permits. The military offers charity, bribes, and promises of jobs or
schooling for Muslim children converting to Buddhism.
This alarming state of affairs reveals how much farther Burma’s new
government must go in advancing reform and protecting human rights,
including religious freedom. Until improvements occur, the United States
should maintain economic and political sanctions, including its
designating Burma as a “country of particular concern” for severe
religious freedom abuses.
We recognize Burma’s recent changes and the positive political opening
they promise. Yet in the face of massive violations of human rights, and
in particular the right to religious freedom, we must address the
plight of the Rohingya. Public condemnations and food aid, while
necessary, are insufficient when Burma’s 800,000 Rohingya remain
stateless and vulnerable. Moreover, Burma’s experiment in democratic
change will surely fail if it excludes the Rohingya and other ethnic and
At least three factors contributed to the crisis confronting Rohingya Muslims.
• First, anti-Rohingya animus runs deep. Many Burmese view the Rohingya
as an unwelcome foreign presence that the British foisted on Burma in
the 19th century. Unfortunately, even Nobel laureate Aun San Suu Kyi
stopped short of publicly endorsing Rohingya citizenship.
• Second, Burma has a history of severe religious freedom violations,
especially against non-Buddhist ethnic minorities, including both
Muslims and many Christians among the Chin, Naga, Karen, and Karenni
• Finally, Burma’s military governments for decades maintained power
through a divide-and-conquer strategy which pitted Buddhists,
Christians, and Muslims against each other, and ethnic Rakhine against
their Rohingya neighbors. Reflecting this strategy, Burma’s military in
1982 stripped the Rohingya of citizenship, and subsequently let
violence, discrimination, and human rights abuses occur with impunity.
The mistreatment of the Rohingya should arouse the world’s conscience.
Besides the ongoing anti-Rohingya violence inside Burma, at least
350,000 Muslim Rohingya languish in refugee camps in Bangladesh,
Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian nations.
The new government’s treatment of the Rohingya serves as a bellwether
for its treatment of other ethnic and religious minorities. Under
military rule, Burma was one of the world’s worst human rights and
religious freedom violators. Under civilian rule, it has yet to put that
image behind it and fully affirm its ethnic and religious diversity by
upholding human rights, including religious freedom, for everyone.
So how can we help the Rohingya?
The international community should speak out against anti-Rohingya
violence and encourage Burma to increase the Rohingya’s protection. The
United States and the UN have spoken out recently, as have countries
like Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan. This emerging coalition must
support immediate security measures and a durable solution for the
Rohingya in Burma and throughout Southeast Asia.
Further, the United States and world community must keep challenging
Burma to embrace democracy and freedom. There must be coordinated
efforts to convince Burma’s new government that protecting religious and
ethnic minorities is not only the humanitarian thing to do, but is
vital to security and prosperity.
If Burma wants a free and prosperous tomorrow, it must uphold the rights of all of its people -- Rohingya included -- today.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact Samantha Schnitzer at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 786-0613.