Bangkok, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- Human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called for an end to the arbitrary and indefinite detention of some 130,000 Rohingya in camps in Myanmar for eight years.
In a report titled “‘An Open Prison without End’: Myanmar’s Mass Detention of Rohingya in Rakhine State” presented in Bangkok on Thursday, HRW describes the conditions of this mostly-Muslim minority that has been confined to camps with “severe limitations on livelihoods, movement, education, health care, and adequate food and shelter.”
“These conditions have increasingly threatened Rohingya’s right to life and other basic rights,” it adds.
The report comes one month before general elections are scheduled to be held in the country on Nov. 8.
Rohingyas will not be allowed to vote in the elections while the authorities have blocked the candidacies of five politicians from the ethnic group.
The vast majority of Rohingya are stateless people whose citizenship was revoked by the Myanmar government in the early 1990s and have discriminated for decades as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite living in Arakan for generations (in western Myanmar).
The camps were set up in 2012 when successive waves of sectarian violence between Rohingyas and the majority Buddhists of the Rakhine ethnicity in the state led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of people being displaced.
The violence also led to the displacement of thousands of members of the Rakhine ethnic group but the displaced Buddhists enjoyed freedom of movement and were soon able to return to their home while the camps for Muslims became permanent and depend on aid from international agencies and nonprofits.
In its report, HRW also claims that the measures recently taken by the Myanmar government to close the camps “appear designed to make permanent the segregation and confinement of Rohingya.”
In 2019, the government launched a plan to close the camps but it has only been implemented in a few cases and has so far entailed building new structures near the camps, not allowing the Rohingyas to return to their land and reconstruct their homes, according to HRW.
The remaining Rohingya inhabitants of Arakan – between 200,000 and 300,000 -, are confined to their villages without being able to move freely.
They are subjected to a strict segregation regime that prevents them from traveling either within or outside the state.
Prior to the sectarian violence eight years ago, it was estimated that just over a million Rohingya lived in Arakan, and the discrimination they have suffered for decades has only intensified since then.
According to UN figures, between 2012 and May 2015, some 170,000 Rohingya from Rakhine were put into the hands of human trafficking networks to flee to Malaysia or Thailand, but the authorities of those countries managed to dismantle these networks in 2015, so the use of these routes was reduced to a minimum.
In August 2017, the Myanmar Army launched an offensive in the Rakhine region following a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya insurgent group, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
The United Nations’ highest court described the offensive as “ethnic cleansing” and said there were indications of a “genocide.”
The brutal military operation led to the exodus of nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees to neighboring Bangladesh, where they live in the largest refugee camp on earth, along with other Rohingya who fled in previous waves of violence.
Moreover, since January 2019, Arakan has been the scene of a fierce war between the Myanmar armed forces and the guerrillas of the Arakan Army that has displaced tens of thousands of the state’s inhabitants. EFE-EPA