Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burnt entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. They beat Rohingya children to death with rifle butts and, quite possibly, their bare hands. Since then, half the population of Myanmar’s Rohingya has been displaced. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers. If the migrants do not die of dehydration or heat stroke, they are often picked up by pirates or the Thai navy—which may not be much better than getting nabbed by pirates. Exhaustive reporting by Reuters seems to suggest that Thailand’s navy is closely involved in shuttling Rohingya refugees into slave labor in Thailand’s seafood, fishing, and other industries. Rohingya women who do not have enough to pay traffickers are forced into marriages or prostitution.
For more on the state of the Rohingya today, and how they might fare under the NLD-led government in Myanmar, see my new piece on the Rohingya in the Washington Monthly.