BY SHONEL PERERA
The 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis refers to the mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Bangladesh in 2015, collectively dubbed “boat people” by international media.Nearly all who fled traveled to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand by rickety boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 25,000 people have been taken to boats from January to March in 2015 by human traffickers. There are claims that, while on their journey, around 100 people died in Indonesia, 200 in Malaysia, and 10 in Thailand, after the traffickers abandoned them at sea.
The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan. The Rohingya people are considered “stateless individuals”, as the Myanmar government has been refusing to recognise them as one of the ethnic groups of the country since the 80’s.. Because of this, the Rohingya people do not have any legal protection from the Government of Myanmar, are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, and face strong hostility in the country. To escape this dire situation in Myanmar, the Rohingya continuously try to illegally enter Southeast Asian states, begging for humanitarian support from potential host countries.
The Rohingya have faced persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s military since the country’s independence in the late 1940s. In October 2016, a military crackdown in the wake of a deadly attack on an army post sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.Similar attacks in August 2017 led to the ongoing military crackdown, which has led to a new mass exodus of Rohingya.Most Rohingya have sought refuge in and around Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 300,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh in the 1990s. In October 2016, following an attack on the Myanmar border police, the military started a security crackdown on Rohingya, blaming them for the rebellion. This sent about 87,000 Rohingya to rush to Bangladesh for refuge.
The last military crackdown started on Aug 25, 2017, when an armed Rohingya group attacked military posts in Rakhine State. Since then, the Myanmar military is alleged to have burned dozens of Rohingya villages and fired indiscriminately at unarmed men, women and children. The unprecedented crackdown has sent more than 480,000 Rohingya to flee Myanmar and seek refugee in refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.
Now a few days ago in Sri Lanka,An organization named the Sinhalese National Force (SNF) claimed that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was intervening into matters related to the state’s sovereignty by allowing the accommodation of 31 Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka.Holding a demonstration in Colombo against the accommodation of Rohingya refugees, the SNF urged the United Nations (UN) to take immediate actions to throw out the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar from the island.
A few monks exclaimed that there was a threat from the Rohingya muslim refugees to the country’ssovereignty.
The Sri Lankan government then slammed a group of radical Buddhist monks who attacked the Rohingya refugees on the island as “animals”, and have now pledged to take action against police who failed to protect them.
Rajitha Senaratne, the Minister of Health also spoke out on the issue saying that, “the government condemned Tuesday’s storming of a UN safe house where 31 Rohingya refugees, including 16 children and seven women, had been given shelter.”The mob broke down the gates of the multi-storied building near Colombo, smashing windows and furniture as frightened refugees gathered together upstairs.There were no reports of casualties among the refugees, who were later taken to another location, however two police officers were wounded and admitted to hospital. The Minister said that police had been ordered to take disciplinary action against officers found to have failed to control the mob.
Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhist monks have close links with their ultra-nationalist counterparts in Myanmar. Both have been accused of orchestrating violence and racismagainst minority Muslims in both countries.
The 31 Rohingya refugees were rescued by the Sri Lankan navy five months ago after they were found drifting in a boat off the island’s northern coast. They had been living in India for several years before leaving a refugee camp in Tamil Nadu state.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed alarm over Tuesday’s attack and urged Sri Lankans to show empathy for civilians fleeing persecution and violence.
The refugees, who were detained in April along with two suspected Indian human traffickers in a boat off Sri Lanka’s coast, are now in a camp in southern Sri Lanka to ensure their security after the incident in the capital.
In a statement, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the incident was alarming, saying the refugees had been victims of violence and persecution in Myanmar, from which some 422,000 Rohingya have fled to nearby Bangladesh over the past month.
It said the Rohingya had been staying in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka with the Colombo government’s approval and UNHCR was providing assistance “until longer-term solutions can be found”.Witnesses said the monks stormed into the safe house chanting, “Rohingyas are terrorists” and accusing them of having killed Buddhist monks in Myanmar.
Sri Lanka Buddhists make up 70 percent of the island’s 20 million people, while Muslims account for 10 percent.