Jakarta. Rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday (21/11) that Myanmar authorities’ treatment of the Rohingya in its troubled Rakhine State amounts to apartheid.
"The institutionalized system of segregation and discrimination… in the case of Rohingya is so severe and extensive that it amounts to a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic identity and therefore legally constitutes apartheid," Amnesty International said.
Under the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), apartheid is considered a crime against humanity.
The report – entitled "Caged Without a Roof" – details Myanmar government’s denial of the Rohingya’ right to citizenship, restrictions to their freedom of movement and violations of their economic and social rights, as well as their political and social exclusion from the rest of society.
Elise Tillet, Amnesty International researcher for Myanmar, highlighted that restrictions against the Rohingya have "seriously intensified after 2012," in reference to the spread of violence which displaced tens of thousands of people and led to the separation of Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State.
The human rights situation in Rohingya gained international attention in recent months after what Myanmar military described as "clearance operations" since late August led to the exodus of more than 600,000 to neighboring Bangladesh.
The situation and the subsequent government response have prompted international condemnation from human rights groups and the international community.
Amnesty International conducted their research between November 2015 and September 2017, which includes four field trips to Rakhine State, over 200 interviews and extensive literature review.
Elise emphasized that "virtually every aspect of their life has been restricted in the past five years."
The Rohingya require special authorization to travel between townships and villages, are subjected to frequent checkpoints and have to obey curfews that only applies to their community.
Several townships in Rakhine State restrict Rohingya from accessing the nearest hospitals, with access to better equipped facilities at Sittwe General Hospital in cases of medical emergencies requiring prior approval from authorities. The report also cited that the Rohingya are kept in segregated wards inside the hospital, which began after the 2012 violence.
Segregation are also evident in education institutions, with most Rohingya children having been prevented from attending mixed schools with other children from Rakhine State or because teachers refuse to teach schools in Rohingya villages, the latter citing concerns for their safety.
Elise said that the lack of access to higher education "create a sense of hopelessness among the younger generation in Rakhine State."
By taking away their education, they [the government] are basically taking away their future," Elise said during the Jakarta launch of the report.
The "systematic and institutionalized policy" has isolated the Rohingya from the rest of Myanmar society, Amnesty International concluded.
Entrenched discrimination and restrictions also showed that every level of the state has engaged in perpetuating this system.
However, Elise noted that a lot of these institutions are part of Myanmar’s Home Affairs Ministry, which is still under the control of Myanmar military. It means the civilian administration led by Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has no control over them.
Amnesty International urged the adoption of a comprehensive action plan to combat existing discrimination and segregation, a review of current discriminatory laws, regulations, policies and practices, and called for the people responsible for the crimes against humanity in Rakhine State to be held accountable.
Elise also said the international community must ensure that aid and financial assistance provided to address the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State must be delivered on the basis of non-discrimination and non-segregation.