NAYPYIDAW – After a warning from the United Nations that the ongoing violations against the Rohingya could amount to crimes against humanity and an impending UN visit, the Myanmar government has banned the use of the term ‘Rohingya’ by its officials.
This is an endeavour by the country’s Information Ministry to downplay the controversy that has received tremendous global attention. The atrocities against the Rohingya community took such a horrific form that it called for a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee.
Prior to Lee’s visit later this week, Myanmar’s Information Ministry released a letter June 16 labelled “secret”, which said “Rohingya or Bengali shall not be used” by officials, “Instead, ‘people who believe in Islam in Rakhine State’ shall be used” and that ethnic Rakhine should be referred to “as ‘people who believe in Buddhism’ in Rakhine State”.
Myanmar’s Rakhine state has become ground zero for atrocities committed against the one million strong minority Rohingya community. Originally from Bangladesh, this community has lived in the western part of Rakhine state for generations. Despite this, Buddhist hardliners refuse the use of the term ‘Rohingya’ to describe the people, who are instead termed as ‘Bengalis’ because of their Bangladeshi roots.
Predominantly Islamic, the Rohingya people have been facing atrocities at the hands of their Buddhist counterparts since 2012. While many lost their lives in the sectarian violence since 2012, many others have succumbed to inhuman living conditions in displacement camps, where they are forced to live.
While it may seem to be criminal atrocities committed by one community against the other, the government plays an equal part in ongoing violations against the Rohingya people. A shocking majority of the community have been denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, rendering them stateless.
A report by the UN human rights commission suggested that it found “a pattern of gross violations against the Rohingya… [which] suggest a widespread or systematic attack … in turn giving rise to the possible commission of crimes against humanity if established in a court of law”.
– The Global Panorama