The Myanmar military junta is continuing to ignore the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) orders to protect the Rohingya as state policies are pushing hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of bare survival in Rakhine State, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today in a new report.
The report, Struggling to survive, documents how Rohingya people live increasingly desperate lives amid widespread restrictions on humanitarian aid by the junta. Due to restrictions on their freedom of movement, access to healthcare and livelihoods, Rohingya communities are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. At the same time, the Myanmar military and armed groups have tortured, killed and arbitrarily detained Rohingya people as renewed armed conflict threatens to put even more civilians in the firing line in Rakhine State.
“There is no doubt that the Myanmar military is still trying to erase the Rohingya from the face of the earth. Our report exposes how genocidal practices in Rakhine State are not only continuing, but have even intensified over the last six months,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“Rohingya women, children and men are struggling to survive. Further curbs on aid access, coupled with conflict-related violations, have only made this situation more alarming. The international community must act once and for all to end this ongoing genocide.”
BROUK’s report is timed to coincide with reporting deadlines imposed on Myanmar in the genocide case The Gambia brought to the ICJ in 2019. In 2020, the “World Court” ordered Myanmar to ‘take all measures within its power’ to protect the Rohingya, and to submit reports every six months on its compliance.
A desperate situation in Rakhine State
The report lays bare how policies by the military junta, known as the State Administration Council (SAC), continued to subject Rohingya people to extreme hardships in May-November 2023. Many of these amount to the genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention.
A stark example is the SAC’s failure to protect people in the context of Cyclone Mocha that hit Rakhine State in May 2023, killing some 400 Rohingya and destroying homes, clinics, and sanitation facilities in IDP camps. Long-standing and arbitrary restrictions on Rohingyas’ freedom of movement prevented many from evacuating camps and villages to seek safety. In the cyclone’s aftermath, the regime has blocked humanitarian aid to Rohingya communities, with devastating consequences.
Six months after the cyclone, the 140,000 Rohingya confined to IDP camps have been subjected to increasingly unsanitary, degrading conditions, without enough food, water, or basic shelter. The junta’s restrictions on humanitarian access and lengthy delays in issuing travel authorisations to humanitarian organisations have prevented timely repairs to shelters and sanitation facilities, as well as the delivery of adequate food and nutrition supplies. Discriminatory policies and practices prevent Rohingya from accessing adequate medical care and have led to further preventable deaths since the cyclone.
All Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to live in an open-air prison, with the junta taking no steps to end severe and long-standing restrictions on their freedom of movement and access to education, health care and livelihoods. Threats, extortions and arbitrary detentions are routinely used by security forces against Rohingya.
Despite the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar continues to push ahead with attempts to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. These moves are opposed by Rohingya refugee communities themselves, while UNHCR has clearly stated that conditions in Rakhine State are not safe for refugees to return in dignity and safety. BROUK’s report highlights that ‘model villages’ for the returnees have been constructed in areas where atrocity crimes during the 2016-2017 ‘clearance operations’ are known to have taken place, in breach of the ICJ’s order instructing Myanmar to ‘prevent the destruction of and ensure the preservation of evidence’ related to alleged genocidal acts.
Armed conflict in Rakhine State
Renewed armed conflict threatens to put Rohingya civilians at greater risk of harm. On 13 November, a fragile ceasefire between the Arakan Army (AA) and SAC forces collapsed, sparking armed clashes in Rakhine State. Rakhine and Rohingya civilians have already been killed and injured by indiscriminate shelling by SAC forces over the past week.
Meanwhile, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has been increasingly active in the region in recent months, following a crackdown on the group inside Bangladeshi camps. Armed clashes between ARSA and the AA in July have added to fears that Rohingya civilians will increasingly be caught in the crossfire.
BROUK has documented a catalogue of human rights abuses by the AA and ARSA towards Rohingya civilians, including abductions, extortions, arbitrary arrests, and ill-treatment amounting to torture. In late September, for example, the AA imposed a lockdown on Rohingya villages in southern Buthidaung, and abducted and brutally beat 10 Rohingya men falsely accused of ARSA sympathies. Similarly, a few weeks earlier, ARSA are widely suspected of killing a Rohingya elder they accused of providing transportation to AA and SAC soldiers.
The Myanmar military has further arbitrarily arrested and tortured Rohingya men on accusations of ties to the AA or ARSA, in an act of collective punishment.
The high price of international inaction
BROUK calls on the international community to immediately take action to end Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya. This must include pressure to lift aid restrictions in Rakhine State, strengthened sanctions against the junta, and support for international justice efforts. BROUK welcomes recent moves by the governments of the UK, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Maldives to formally lend support to The Gambia’s genocide case at the ICJ. BROUK urges the international community to find concrete ways to leverage the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ, to ensure they fulfil their purpose of protecting the Rohingya. This includes securing public hearings at the UN Security Council on the junta’s continued breaches of the order and seeking consequences for non-compliance.
“Time is running out for the more than 600,000 Rohingya still living inside Rakhine State. The world must immediately take steps to pressure the Myanmar junta to lift all restrictions on aid as well as Rohingyas’ access to hospitals, schools and livelihoods,” said Tun Khin.
“At the same time, international justice is the only way to hold the military to account for its decades of violence against not just the Rohingya, but all people in Myanmar. More states must lend support to efforts to hold the junta to account for its atrocity crimes.”
For more information, contact Tun Khin on +447888714866
Full report here.