Solutions Series Roundtable: The Rohingya Crisis

On Monday, January 29th, Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership program to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis in Burma through targeted violence and rape against the Rohingya Muslim minority group. The conversation focused on how the U.S. and Congress can respond to help end the crisis without damaging recent political and economic progress in Burma.

The Rohingya Crisis

Beginning in August 2017, the Burmese government launched widespread and brutal military operations against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the country. The operations, which Burma cited as a counter-terrorist response to attacks by Rohingya militants on military and police stations, have created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Murder, rape, and arson by Burmese military units in conjunction with nationalist Buddhist civilian mobs have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, overwhelming refugee resources there.

Key Details

1982 Citizenship Law

  • Under this law, Burma denies citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims, making them one of the largest stateless populations worldwide. The government views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Relevant Incidents

  • August 2017
    • Rohingya militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) target more than 30 military and police posts, prompting retaliatory operations by Burmese military units and Buddhist civilian vigilantes.
  • September 2017
    • The Burmese government claims that operations against militants ended, contrary to evidence that the military operations continued after this date.
  • November 2017
    • Sec. State Rex Tillerson labels the crisis in Burma “ethnic cleansing.”
    • Bangladesh and Burma sign a deal to return all Rohingya Muslims back to Burma.
  • December 2017
    • The US individually sanctions Burmese general Maung Maung Soe for his role in the military operations.
  • January 2018
    • Bangladesh and Burma finalize details for a repatriation plan and timeframe for the Rohingya refugees. Burma agrees to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week, for a total of 2 years to repatriate all Rohingya.
    • The repatriation of Rohingya Muslims back to Burma is postponed due to fears by refugees that they would be forced to return against their will. The process was slated to begin on January 23, 2018.
    • US diplomat Bill Richardson resigns from an international panel set up by Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to provide advice on the Rohingya crisis, citing a lack of moral leadership by Ms. Suu Kyi.