In August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled attacks by Buddhist gangs and the Myanmar army. Today they are no closer to justice, or their land.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees backed by UN workers joined a rally on Sunday to mark Genocide Day - the two year anniversary of the exodus of majority Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar after a campaign of rape and pillage by Buddhist gangs and Burmese soldiers.
More than 750,000 members of the Rohingya ethnic group fled Myanmar following a crackdown launched by the army in the later summer of 2017 - fleeing what the UN described at the time as ‘textbook ethnic cleansing’ and what rights groups have described as 'genocide'.
The episode marked the culmination of decades of persecution of the Rohingya, during which time the Myanmar government had stripped the entire ethnic group of its citizenship, labelled them infiltrators from Bangladesh, and barred them from accessing public utilities and jobs.
Despite widespread condemnation of the Myanmar government, those responsible for the plight of the Rohingya remain beyond reproach. That lack of accountability has left many Rohingya and human rights groups continuing to call for justice.
Rohingya activist Ro Nay San Lwin told TRT World that what was happening to his community amounted to “genocide and crimes against humanity” but other than a single case at the International Criminal Court very little was being done to help bring about justice.
Is Facebook responsible for what people do on the platform? What if they were inciting violence? Here's how the social media site played a role in the Rohingya crackdown pic.twitter.com/glNNpj8xAx— TRT World (@trtworld) March 16, 2018
“In my view, the world is failing us again and again. No government has the political will to take serious action against Myanmar,” he said, adding: “The genocide has been ongoing since 1978. It is still ongoing but sadly the world is giving us lip service only.
That sentiment is echoed by human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
“This grim anniversary is a stark reminder of the failure of the UN Security Council to stand with the survivors and bring the perpetrators of mass atrocity to justice,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia for the human rights group.
“The Security Council must urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, and impose a comprehensive arms embargo,” he added.
Authorities in both Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed on a provisional framework for the return of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Rakhine state but there are no takers for the plan inside the refugee camps.
They are adamant about not returning unless they are given guarantees of their safety by the international community and measures aimed at their persecution, such as their lack of entitlement to Burmese citizenship, are repealed.
One refugee at a camp in Bangladesh pointed TRT World to the continued persecution of the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar as evidence that it was still not safe to return.
"Since the genocide of Rohingya in 2017, the remaining Rohingya inside Rakhine state are still going through harsh experiences in their daily lives with limited healthcare, no education and heavy restrictions on movement,” the refugee named Yassin Arafat said, adding: “Persecutions and discrimination are normal treatment for Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.”
Even in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees are subject to abject living conditions, confinement to their refugee camps, no right to work, and sexual exploitation of women and young people.
“Those who fled into Bangladesh are living in squalid camps in apartheid-like conditions and are in limbo with an uncertain future,” Arafat said.