Although the term "Rohingya" is subject to various interpretations, it has been used in recent times primarily to cover the ethnic Muslim minority found in Myanmar's Rakhine State. Rohingya have sadly been in the news because of the violence, discrimination, dispossession and marginalisation to which they have been subjected. The depth of their tragedy cries out for a robust helping hand from their state of origin and the international community.
Their persistent plight invites deeper understanding of their situation. First, it should be noted that their status in Myanmar was not adequately dealt with at the time of Burma's (later Myanmar) independence. In effect, many of them are stateless. The 2008 constitution of the country perpetuates their marginalisation by providing that a citizen is either a person "born of parents both of whom are nationals of the Republic of Myanmar" or "a person who is already a citizen by law on the day this constitution comes into operation". This is compounded by the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law which fails to list Rohingya as a "national ethnic group" entitled automatically to Myanmar citizenship, even though it recognises other national ethnic groups for this purpose.
Second, for decades, the group has suffered impediments to their rights and livelihood. They are some of the poorest people in the country. There are recurrent breaches of their right to freedom of movement, access to education, freedom of religion and even their right to marry. Matters came to a head in 2012 with widespread inter-ethnic violence in Rakhine State, causing a massive caseload of internally displaced persons, including Rohingya, and their most recent cross-border outflows into neighbouring countries by land and sea.
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