Report by Refugees International
Despite an abundance of natural resources, Rakhine State is the second-poorest state in Burma. The simmering tension that exists between the Rakhine and stateless Rohingya communities has been stoked by poverty for decades. However, in June 2012 that tension boiled over. What began as inter-communal violence was followed by a wave of state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya, along with a refusal to allow humanitarian agencies access to the northern part of the state, where the majority of Rohingya live. In October, Rohingya and other Muslim communities were attacked again, resulting in the destruction of thousands of houses, the displacement of tens of thousands of people, and an unknown number of deaths. In the state capital, Sittwe, tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya are now living in segregated, squalid camps outside of town and cut off from their livelihoods. The conflict has brought much-deserved international attention to the long-neglected situation of Burma’s Rohingya. The fact that it is taking place during a period of dramatic change in the country’s governance presents the world with a chance to finally put an end to discrimination against the Rohingya and restore their citizenship.