Since 2010, when a democratic government was elected for the first time in 50 years, the people of Myanmar have had ample reasons to celebrate the country’s growing democracy. However, for nearly a million Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar, there is little to celebrate. Widespread violence against the Rohingya erupted in June 2012 and sporadically continues today. In one incident, police in Rakhine fired on a crowd of Rohingya Muslims who demanded the release of a deceased Rohingya fisherman’s body that was being held by the police. The gunshots killed eight people and injured many others. Yet, the government of Myanmar has done little to suppress communal violence against Rohingya Muslims, and local authorities are further perpetuating human rights abuse.
The persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar extends beyond ad hoc violence to include government policies that are blatantly discriminatory. Presently, a Rohingya woman is only permitted to have two children, and Rohingya men are prohibited from marrying Buddhist women. Even more pejorative than these laws is the government’s refusal to grant the Rohingya citizenship. Without citizenship, the Rohingya do not benefit from the rule of law or the protection of the state. Furthermore, the Rohingya lack access to basic services and are limited in their ability to travel. The situation in western Myanmar has escalated to such a point that Human Rights Watch has describe it as an “ethnic cleansing.”