The military regime in Burma, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), continues
to perpetrate gross violations of human rights, amounting to crimes against humanity, against
all its citizens and particularly the ethnic nationalities.
Among the most persecuted and oppressed people groups in Burma are the Rohingya, a
Muslim people residing primarily in northern Arakan State, western Burma, along the border
with Bangladesh. In the words of one representative of the Arakan Rohingya National
Organisation (ARNO), “We are a people at the brink of extermination”.
In addition to the widespread use of forced labour, rape and torture which all the ethnic
nationalities in Burma suffer, including the Rohingya, they are denied full citizenship rights.
The Rohingya are denied National Registration Cards (NRCs) or Citizenship Scrutiny Cards
(CSCs), which are issued to all other Burmese citizens, and instead they are given
Temporary Registration Cards (TRCs). The SPDC has imposed severe restrictions on
freedom of movement, access to education, marriage and freedom of religion, specifically on
the Rohingya. Mosques and religious institutions have been destroyed and permission to
renovate, repair, rebuild or extend mosques is usually denied. Furthermore, Rohingyas are
specifically targeted for extortion.
Thousands of Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh, where they find some
security but little future. Only 27,258 refugees have been officially recognised by the
UNHCR and live in two refugee camps. Thousands more live in dire conditions in temporary
unregistered camps and settlements. Access to education and health care is extremely
limited, and living conditions are very poor, especially in the rainy season.
The Rakhine people, the majority ethnic group in Burma, also face severe human rights
violations including rape and forced labour. Furthermore, the SPDC pursues a deliberate
divide-and-rule policy to stir up ethnic hostilities between the Rakhine and the Rohingya.
From 27-31 August 2008, CSW made its first fact-finding visit to the Bangladesh-Burma
border. CSW interviewed Rohingya refugees, Rohingya and Rakhine political groups, and
Buddhist monks who participated in the Saffron Revolution in September 2007 and fled to
Bangladesh. CSW also visited two camps for unregistered Rohingya refugees. In addition,
CSW interviewed recent defectors from the SPDC’s ‘Na Sa Ka’ (border security force), who
confirmed many of the reports of human rights abuses targeted at the Rohingyas.
CSW calls on the international community, and particularly the United Nations Security
Council, to take immediate and urgent specific action in response to the continuing
deterioration of human rights in Burma and the dire and desperate humanitarian crisis
unfolding in the country. CSW also urges the international community and the Government
of Bangladesh to take steps to improve access to education, health care and livelihood for
the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.