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Background: Rohingya, selected articles

The Rohingya people of Myanmar were stripped of citizenship in 1982, because they could not meet the requirement of proving their forefathers settled in Burma before 1823. They have struggled to survive ever since. This age is a work in progress - last updated 2/7/23

Myanmar - Photo by Sergio Capuzzimati on Unsplash
Myanmar / Burma


History debated

The southeast Asian nation of Myanmar includes Rakhine State (known as Arakan State before 1989), a borderland with Bangladesh to the north and the Bay of Bengal to the west. Two major populations reside here: the Rohingya and the Rakhine (also known as the Arakanese) peoples. Whether the Rohingya people are native to Myanmar is contested.

Supporting the Rohingya claim is a 1799 report by the Scottish physician Francis Buchanan, who spent 15 years in the region. A quarter-century before Britain's 1826 conquest of Burma, Buchanan documented that Arakan was also known as “Rovingaw”, among “Mohammedans, who have been long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan”.

Nowadays, the term Rohingya is both recognised and used by the UN, US Congress, European Parliament, and humanitarian agencies including Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Médecins Sans Frontières (The Lancet 2016).


7th Century

The Plight of the Rohingya

This Muslim minority traces its roots back to Arabic merchants of the late 7th Century, who traded with and then settled in Burma. For centuries, the Rohingya had peacefully inhabited the Rakhine area with Buddhists (majority religion in Myanmar) and under British rule there were plans to create an autonomous zone for the Rohingya people (Australian Institute of Int'l Affairs).



A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

Great Britain invades Burma multiple times resulting in three wars (US Holocaust Memorial Museum).


1886 -1942

A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

Burma becomes a province of British-controlled India and is later separated into a British colony (US Holocaust Memorial Museum).



The Rohingya people of Myanmar: health, human rights, and identity

In 1872, British colonial authorities conducted the first census of Burma, and by 1931 statisticians had classified the population of Burma into 15 indigenous races and 135 sub-races, which notably did not refer to the Rohingya (The Lancet 2016).


1942- 1945

A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

Japan invades British-controlled Burma during World War II. People in Burma support different sides of the invasion. Members of the Muslim Rohingya fight alongside the British, and many Rakhine Buddhists side with the Japanese. Tens of thousands of people flee the violence to what is now Bangladesh (US Holocaust Memorial Museum).



A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

Burmese General Aung San and other local leaders fight alongside the British defeating the Japanese (US Holocaust Memorial Museum).


January 1947

A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

In January, Gen. Aung San signs an agreement with the British that guarantees Burma full independence within a year. Gen. Aung San is elected the leader of the transitional government. Rohingya are elected as members of Burma’s governing body, the Constituent Assembly (US Holocaust Memorial Museum). Follow website link for more information


July 1947

A chronology of key events in Burma’s history

n July, political rivals assassinate Gen. Aung San and six cabinet ministers. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum).



The history of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya

In 1962, a military coup culminated in a one-party military state where democratic governance was woefully lacking (Abdelkader 2017).



Rohingya Citizenship

The Immigration Act 1974 of Myanmar refused the Rohingyas' right to citizenship (Hamzah, Daud, & AzizanIdris, 2016.



The history of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya

In 1977, when the army launched a national drive to register citizens, the Rohingya were considered illegal. More than 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh at the time because of further atrocities. Authorities pointed to their flight as purported evidence of their illegal status. (Abdelkader 2017).




Myanmar (then called Burma and ruled by its military) launched “Operation Dragon King.” First, Rohingya national ID cards were confiscated. Later, violence was used to drive 200,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh. The military later allowed Rohingya to return to Burma but many no longer had their ID cards. They were now considered “foreigners” (Medicins sans Frontières 2022).




A new citizenship law was passed in Burma, legally recognising 135 ethnic groups present in the country. However, the Rohingya, with a population of about one million, were not on the list and became stateless people. (Medicins sans Frontières 2022). .




The Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982 (UN-ACT, 2014) did not recognise the Rohingya as part of any ‘ethnic race’ (Mohsin, 2020). The Rohingyas thus became stateless and exposed to decades of persecution and state-sanctioned violence (Parnini, Othman, & Ghazali, 2013). Subsequently, thousands of Rohingyas have crossed multiple international boundaries to seek refuge and avoid brutal discrimination, racism, terror, torture, arbitrary punishment, assassination and extreme poverty (UNHCR, 2019)



The Plight of the Rohingya

The 1982 Citizenship Law officially stripped Rohingyan’s of their nationality and made them stateless, on the unsubstantiated and repugnant claim that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Due to this, the Rohingya lack access to secondary and tertiary education in state-run schools, cannot be issued identification cards to access government benefits and face restrictions on freedoms of religion, association and movement. Rohingya couples have to seek permission from the authorities to marry, usually requiring large bribes, are exclusively limited to having only two children and are not allowed to travel between towns without permission or paying hefty bribes. (Australian Institute of Int'l Affairs 2017).



Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority living in Rakhine State, Myanmar, are not recognized as citizens of the country, making them a stateless population. In the early 1990s, persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar forces them to begin fleeing to Bangladesh. (UNHCR 2019).




Burma had been renamed Myanmar and its military launched “Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation”. Rohingya are subjected to executions, assault, sexual violence, forced labour, marriage restrictions, land seizures and the demolishing of their homes. (Medicins sans Frontières 2022).




More than 250,000 Rohingya refugees had fled to Bangladesh. The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate refugees. Later that year, forced repatriation began, despite protests by the international community. Most refugees were returned to Myanmar by the end of 1996 (Medicins sans Frontières 2022).




Violence erupted between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar. Hundreds of people were killed, neighbourhoods were razed to the ground and religious buildings were destroyed. Rohingya survivors were forced to flee their homes, and were later segregated into camps where 140,000 remain today (Medicins sans Frontières 2022).


April 2014

Desperate Rohingya Kids Flee Alone by Boat

They couldn’t go back to their tiny Muslim village in Myanmar’s northwest Arakan because it had been devoured in a fire set by an angry Buddhist mob. In the smoke and chaos, the siblings became separated from their family. And after seven months of searching, they had lost hope of finding anyone alive.

The only way was forward. Hungry and scared, they eyed a rickety wooden fishing boat in the darkness. Mohamad Husein, just 15, dug into his pocket and pulled out a little wad of money for the captain. He and his 9-year-old sister, Senwara Begum, climbed on board, cramming themselves tightly between the other ethnic Rohingya in the small hull.

As the ship pushed off, they didn’t realize they were among hundreds, if not thousands, of children joining one of the world’s biggest boat exoduses since the Vietnam War. They only understood it wasn’t safe to stay in a country that didn’t want them.

... From Malaysia to Australia, countries easily reachable by boat have been implementing policies and practices to ensure that Rohingya Muslims don’t wash up on their shores — from shoving them back to sea, where they risk being sold as slaves, to flat out barring the refugees from stepping onto their soil.

Despite pleas from the United Nations, which considers the Rohingya to be among the most persecuted groups on earth, many governments in the region have refused to sign refugee conventions and protocols, meaning they are not obligated to help...

“The sense of desperation and hopelessness is growing,” warned Vivian Tan of the U.N. Refugee Agency (The Irrawaddy 2014).



The Rohingya people of Myanmar: health, human rights, and identity

In early 2013, Buddhist monks from the 969 Movement delivered anti-Muslim speeches in various towns in the days before anti-Muslim violence erupted in those same areas. Buddhist residents were urged to boycott Muslim businesses, and display 969 logos on their businesses, homes, and vehicles as a show of solidarity.

The Dalai Lama denounced these attacks on Muslims by Buddhist monks in Myanmar, saying that killing in the name of religion is “unthinkable” (The Lancet 2016).



The Rohingya people of Myanmar: health, human rights, and identity

On May 17, 2015, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned of a deepening humanitarian crisis involving the Rohingya people of Myanmar,who have lacked human security since Burma's first military coup in 1962 (The Lancet 2016).




The state security forces waged the largest campaign of targeted violence against Rohingya in modern history, reportedly in retaliation for an attack by this Rohingya armed group. Following this violent campaign, MSF documented 6,700 deaths among the Rohingya. More than 750,000 people were forced to flee. Bangladesh hosted them, though did not grant refugee status. (Medicins sans Frontières 2022).


August 2017

Timeline: Five years of Rohingya refugee crisis

On August 25, 2017, a shadowy Rohingya armed group, called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), stages coordinated attacks on dozens of police posts in Myanmar’s coastal Rakhine state, killing at least a dozen officers.

The army retaliates with operations in Rohingya villages, ostensibly to flush out ARSA members. It says it killed 400 armed fighters but critics say most of the dead are civilians.

By September 5, 2017, more than 120,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, overwhelming its ill-equipped refugee camps.

International anger mounts against Myanmar. Soldiers are accused of razing Rohingya homes and some world leaders allege “ethnic cleansing”. In her first statement on the crisis, Myanmar’s civilian leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi pledges on September 19, 2017 to hold rights violators to account but refuses to blame the army.

Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017 agree to start repatriating refugees.

But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says conditions are not in place for their safe return and the process halts.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on December 5 warns of possible “elements of genocide” and calls for an international investigation (Al Jazeera 2022).


August 2017

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

On August 25, 2017, a violent military crackdown in Rakhine State, with reports of targeted attacks, murder and arson, forces hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee for their lives. This marks the beginning of the largest exodus of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh (UNHCR 2019).


September 2017

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

Due to the rapid influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, UNHCR declares the Rohingya crisis an emergency.(UNHCR 2019).


September 12, 2017

100 days of horror and hope: A timeline of the Rohingya crisis,

As the first UNHCR emergency airlift lands on September 12, the number of new arrivals tops 370,000. After enduring persecution and extreme poverty in Myanmar, many are already malnourished before setting out on a week-long trek through the jungle under the monsoon rains. The old and sick are among the most vulnerable, some, like 75-year-old Mabia Khatun, are carried to safety by relatives.(UNHCR 2017).


September 19, 2017

100 days of horror and hope: A timeline of the Rohingya crisis,

... more than 415,000 refugees have trekked to southern Bangladesh, many like mother-of-six Rabeya Khattm struggling with rains and flooding along the way. The same day, UNHCR declares Bangladesh a major emergency to scale up its response, deploy more staff and resources. Amid fears of disease outbreaks in the sprawling informal settlements, it steps up vaccine, clean water and sanitation drives. (UNHCR 2017).


October 2017

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees flee to Bangladesh in the first three months of the crisis. Most Rohingya take shelter in the refugee settlements of Nayapara and Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh (UNHCR 2019).



Australia: He Escaped Burma, But Not Australia’s Abusive Refugee Policy

When the Burmese military appeared in “Faruk’s” home village in Rakhine State in 2013, his mother pleaded for him to leave. They are Rohingya Muslims, who have long been persecuted in Burma, and his mom feared for her 18-year-old son’s safety. She’d heard of Rohingya men who had been summarily executed when the military arranged “meetings” in their villages. Faruk fled.

He made the journey from Burma by boat to Thailand, to Malaysia, to Indonesia, and then to Australia’s Christmas Island. But when his boat reached Australian waters, Australian immigration officials questioned him and transferred him to a detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In the years since then, he’s been trapped on Manus Island. “In four years, I couldn’t find any way to live here,” said Faruk, now 23. “We’ve suffered a lot” (Human Rights Watch 2017).


July 2018

Banning Marriage outside of camps

Bangladeshi laws and administrative circulars ban Rohingya-Bangladeshi marriages and limit marriage registration (UNHCR, 2018). Thus, they are certain to marry within the camps, reducing their chances of developing acquaintances with locals. One participant from RC explained that

I'm constantly isolated since I can't leave the camp. I have no national identification, voting rights, or job opportunities, and I am even forced to select my wife inside this camp. In a restricted camp border, I always experience loneliness. For me, these are very frustrating (UNHCR 2018).


July 2018

Illegal activity & unemployment

Similar to prior research, the current study identified that Rohingyas engage in a variety of illegal activities (Tani & Rahman, 2018). The economic survival of Rohingya refugees is seriously harmed by a mixture of constraints and abuses (Mollah, Rahman, & Rahaman, 2004). In this case, Rohingyas use violence to safeguard their economic interests, and their financial demands are often linked to violence (Momem, 2021). Hence, several women-headed households are compelled to partake in begging and sex labor to survive (Zetter & Ruaudel, 2016). One official from RRRC mentioned that,

Male Rohingya are involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including robbery, drug trafficking, abduction, and murder, while female Rohingya are proactive in prostitution. Unemployment, I think, is the primary cause. (UNHCR 2018).


May 2018

Rohingya refugee held on Manus Island dies in motor vehicle incident

The man was witnessed “coming out of a moving vehicle”, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and suffered “very serious head injuries”.

He died at the scene, the organisation said. “It is not know who else was in the vehicle.”

The man, whose identity is not being released until his family is notified, had a long history of physical and mental illness and had been on Manus for more than five years. (Davidson 2018).


May 2018

Vigil to be held on Manus Island after death of Rohingya refugee
Police say asylum seekers are struggling to cope and warn of more suicides

On Friday evening, refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island will hold a vigil for Salim, the seventh of their group to die on the island, and the third apparent suicide in less than a year. Supporters in Sydney and Melbourne will join them.

Salim, a father of three in his 50s, died on Tuesday after jumping out of a moving vehicle. He had been on Manus Island for almost five years, under Australia’s offshore immigration policy.

Salim was a Rohingya from Myanmar – a stateless man with no country claiming him. Because he sought asylum by boat, Australia would not take him. PNG gave him refugee status, but as a developing country that struggles to provide healthcare to its own citizens, Salim’s ailments were beyond it.

On Manus Island, the Australian-financed contractors scaled back healthcare and other services, and by all appearances he fell through the cracks. (Davidson 2018).


July 2018

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

Between July 23rd and July 25th, monsoon storms cause heavy flooding and landslides in Rohingya refugee camps throughout Bangladesh. With over 602,000 refugees in the Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site alone, overcrowding in the settlements exacerbates the risk of landslides. (UNHCR 2019).


April 2019

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

Due to their stateless status, most Rohingya Muslims do not have any form of documentation that verifies their identity. In April, UNHCR begins registering Rohingya refugees, giving them an identity for the first time. (UNHCR 2019).


August 2019

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline

As of August 2019, half a million Rohingya have been registered and given documentation that verifies their identity. This documentation will protect their right to voluntarily return to Myanmar when it is safe. (UNHCR 2019).



Rohingya at risk of trafficking, finds joint study by Holland NGO and three refugee groups

"Rohingyas have been trafficked into bonded labour, domestic servitude, sex work, and for marriage. Socio-economic pressures, increased restrictions and threats to security, and experiences of xenophobia and islamophobia have also driven a ‘reverse migration’ of Rohingyas attempting to flee India to Bangladesh or sometimes Myanmar. To travel within India and to cross international borders without documents, they must turn to brokers. Sometimes the brokers and money lenders exploit or abuse them. Other times, they are arrested and detained in India, where they are at risk of indefinite detention or refoulement.” (the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 2023).



Rohingya Camps Become Dengue Hotspots in Bangladesh

With the monsoon in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar have emerged as a dengue hotspot, with the mosquito-borne disease continuing to spread among the stateless refugees.

"A total of 1,066 dengue cases were reported in highly cramped refugee camps in Cox's Bazar up to May 23 this year, while the case tally was only 426 among the local community there," Dr Nazmul Islam, Director of Disease Control and Line of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said.

However, the latest data of the DGHS revealed that 1,283 people were infected with and 26 people died of dengue in the Rohingya camps and surrounding host community in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar from January 1 to June 6, 2023.

Nazmul said the dengue infection rate is highest in the Rohingya camps. (Global Issues 2023).



Abdelkader, Engy 2017, The history of the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya, September 2017,

Al Jazeera, Timeline: Five years of Rohingya refugee crisis, August 2022

Australian Institute of Intternational Affairs, The Plight of the Rohingya,

Davidson, Helen 2018, Rohingya refugee held on Manus Island dies in motor vehicle incident, The Guardian, May 218,

Davidson, Helen 2018, Vigil to be held on Manus Island after death of Rohingya refugee, The Guardian, May 218,

Hamzah, I. S., Daud, S., & AzizanIdris, N. (2016). Migration and security threat in Malaysia: Analysis on Rohingya's ethnic. Global Journal of Human-Social Science, 16(3), 1–9.

Available from:

Human Rights Watch 2017, He Escaped Burma, But Not Australia’s Abusive Refugee Policy

Rohingya Refugee Has Spent 4 Years on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island,

Mason, Marjorie & MCDOWELL, Robin 2014, Desperate Rohingya Kids Flee Alone by Boat, The Irrawaddy, April 2014,

Medicins sans Frontières 2022, ROHINGYA: A TIMELINE, August 2022,

Mohsin, A. (2020). Caught between the nation and the state: Voices of Rohingya refugee women in Bangladesh. Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, 5(2), 144–157. doi: 10.1177/2057891119874882.

Mollah, D. A. R., Rahman, M. S., & Rahaman, M. M. (2004). Site-level field appraisal for protected area Co-management: Teknaf game reserve. N. C. M. (NACOM). Available from:

Momem, M. N. (2021). The Rohingya refugee crisis: Implications for regional security. In Spring, Ú. O., & Brauch, H. G. (Eds.), Decolonising conflicts, security, peace, gender, environment and development in the anthropocene (pp. 615–629). Springer Singapore. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-62316-6_21.

Parnini, S. N., Othman, M. R., & Ghazali, A. S. (2013). The Rohingya refugee crisis and Bangladesh-Myanmar relations. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 22(1), 133–146. doi: 10.1177/011719681302200107.

Rafiqul Islam (Dhaka) 2023, Rohingya Camps Become Dengue Hotspots in Bangladesh, Global issues, June 2023,

[excellent source] Sultana, N., Sultana, S., Saha, R. and Alam, M.M. (2023), "The challenges and coping of Rohingya refugees: a comparative study of registered and nonregistered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh", Southeast Asia: A Multidisciplinary Journal, Vol.

Syed S Mahmood, Emily Wroe, Arlan Fuller, Jennifer Leaning, The Rohingya people of Myanmar: health, human rights, and identity, The Lancet, December 2016,

Tani, M., & Rahman, M. A. (2018). Deforestation in the Teknaf Peninsula of Bangladesh: A study of political ecology (1st ed.). Springer Singapore. doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-5475-4.

UNHCR, 100 days of horror and hope: A timeline of the Rohingya crisis, December 2017,

UNHCR (2018). Registration of the marriages and divorces of refugees. Cox's Bazar. Bangladesh: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR. (2019). Over 250,000 Rohingya refugees get identity documents, for many a first. Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Available from:

US Holocaust Memorial Museum, A chronology of key events in Burma’s history,

USA for UNHCR, Rohingya Refugee Crisis Timeline, August 2019,

Vincent, Phiroze, Rohingya at risk of trafficking, finds joint study by Holland NGO and three refugee groups, Telegraph India online, June 2023

Zetter, R., & Ruaudel, H. (2016). Refugees' right to work and access to labor markets–An assessment. In World Bank Global Program on Forced Displacement (GPFD) and the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) Thematic Working Group on Forced Migration, KNOMAD Working Paper, Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

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