The Rohingya people have been described as “one of the world’s least wanted minorities” and “some of the world’s most persecuted people”. Médecins Sans Frontières (a non-governmental organisation which has conducted work in Bangladesh in the humanitarian field) has claimed that the discrimination and human rights struggles which the Rohingya people have faced by the country’s official institutions such as the government and military are “among the world’s top ten most under-reported stories of 2007.” In February 1992, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a press release that, “In actual fact, although there are national races living in Myanmar today, the so-called Rohingya people is not one of them. Historically, there has never been a ‘Rohingya’ race in Myanmar.”
The Rohingya are deprived of the right to free movement and the right to higher education. They have been denied Burmese citizenship since the Burmese nationality law was enacted. Post the citizenship law in 1982, Burma had different types of citizenship. Citizens were in possession of red identity cards. However, people of the Rohingya population were given white identity cards. This distinction essentially labeled them as foreigners in Burma. Certain limitations and restrictions imposed on Rohingya people can be attributed to this difference in citizenship. For example- being unable to enlist in the army or participate in the government. Furthermore, Rohingya people could potentially be faced with issues of illegal immigration. The citizenship law was the cause of human rights violations conducted by the Tatmadaw (the official military forces in Myanmar) which means that these laws need to be changed by the government in order for the Rohingya people in Arakan and Rakhine to be treated with the same respect as other Burmese nationals.
They are not allowed to travel without official permission and they were previously required to sign a commitment not to have more than two children, though the law was not strictly enforced. They are subjected to routine forced labour. (Typically, a Rohingya man will have to give up one day a week to work on military or government projects, and one night a week for sentry duty.) The Rohingya have also lost a lot of arable land, which has been confiscated by the military and given to Buddhist settlers from elsewhere in Myanmar.
As mentioned, the Tatmadaw is partially responsible for the humans rights violations suffered by the Rohingya people. These violations include the destruction of property, dislocation and forcing them to move to a different country. An example of this is when the military forces dislocated Rohingyas in Arakan and forced them to move to Bangladesh. More instances of human violations against Rohingya Muslims include physical violence, sexual violence and army harassment. These violations were rationalised by the country’s military officials by stating they were requirements for a census that was going to be conducted by Burma and the military needed to do these acts to find out the Rohingya Muslims’s nationality. According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya have suffered from human rights violations under the military dictatorship since 1978, and many of them have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result. The dislocation and relocation of the Rohingya Muslims from their native homes for example in Rakhine to other areas can be attributed to a few factors which affect this occurrence. These factors include how isolated and less progressive Rakhine is, the conflict and issues between the Rohingya Muslims and the Buddhists and the discrimination done by the government.
Members of the Rohingya community were displaced to Bangladesh where the government of the country, non-governmental organisations and UNHCR gave aid to the refugees in terms of homes and food. These external organisations (other than the government) were important because the immigration of the Rohingyas was massive in terms of the number of people requiring help as well as the political change. In 2005, even though the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had assisted with the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps threatened this effort. In 2015, 140,000 Rohingyas remain in IDP camps after communal riots in 2012. Despite earlier efforts by the UN, the vast majority of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are unable to return to Myanmar due to the 2012 communal violence and fear of persecution. The Bangladeshi government has reduced the amount of support it allocates to the Rohingyas in order to prevent an outflow of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. In February 2009, many Rohingya refugees were rescued by Acehnese sailors in the Strait of Malacca, after 21 days at sea.