By Nathaniel Purtell
Early on Monday, October 9, a boat carrying up to 35 Rohingya refugees overturned. At least 12 bodies were recovered during a rescue operation, according to Al Jazeera. According to a Bangladesh Border Guard,13 refugees were rescued, says Al Jazeera.
The capsizing is just the latest in a series of disasters as Myanmar’s Muslim minority is trying to escape persecution. The crisis began in late August when a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army began to assault military installations in the country.
It is disputed if the militant group qualifies as a terrorist organization or if they are freedom fighters, reports the Washington Post. Civilians have been amongst the fighting between the security forces and the militant group.
Myanma authorities reported 15 members of its security force and 370 militants killed in the fighting. The military responded with retaliatory attacks in villages across the western coast of Myanmar. The U.N. called Myanmar’s actions “disproportionate” in response to the actions done by the militant group, says Time.
The conflict follows a declaration by the Myanma government to develop nearly three million acres for mining its mineral resources, says the Independent. There is a strong incentive to force the native Muslim population to move.
Thousands of Rohingya are subject to rape and extrajudicial executions, reports the New York Times. The actions by Myanmar’s military are being condemned, with U.N. human rights official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein calling them a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Following another flow of refugees from the region in 2015, more than 900,000 Rohingya fled to surrounding countries. In the past, Saudi Arabia gave refuge to tens of thousands of Myanma Muslims, but other Muslim nations have been silent in the past months over the conflict. Saudi Arabia is home to 250,000 Rohingya who were allowed to live there since the 1960s when King Faisal granted refuge to those being persecuted.
The Kingdom of Saud offered $15 million in humanitarian initiatives to the Rohingya in late September. The country recently funded an oil pipeline running through Myanmar carrying oil to inland China. While many in the international community have applauded the kingdom’s response, many posture that it was acting out of economic self-interest by helping the region, reports the Independent.
The Myanma government placed restrictions on aid creating a food crisis. The remaining Rohingya are afraid of being forced out in the following weeks. Bangladesh has taken on the largest amount of refugees, with nearly 519,000 fleeing to the country since August 25, reports the New York Times. Many remain in Myanmar, unable to pay human traffickers to take them into Bangladesh.
The future of over a million Rohingya refugees remains uncertain. International leaders condemned the violence and provided some aid for the affected refugees, but there remains no solid resolution to the issue. Myanma leader Aung San Suu Kyi responded to the conflict by insinuating that the violence is equal on both sides, stating, “It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence.”