Burma

Myanmar's Rohingya: Five Years of Crisis

By AFP 23 August 2022

Myanmar’s military launched a ferocious crackdown against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population in 2017, driving more than 740,000 refugees into neighboring Bangladesh.

Here are the key dates in the five-year crisis:

Army operations

Early on the morning of Aug. 25, 2017 a shadowy Rohingya militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) stages coordinated attacks on dozens of police posts in Myanmar’s coastal Rakhine State, killing at least a dozen officers.

The army retaliates with operations in Rohingya villages, ostensibly to flush out insurgents.

It says it killed 400 militants but opponents say most of the dead are civilians.

The UN says at least 1,000 people were killed in the first two weeks of the military operations.

Refugee exodus

By Sept. 5 more than 120,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh, overwhelming its ill-equipped refugee camps.

There are already at least 200,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh from previous waves of violence.

Suu Kyi breaks silence

International anger mounts against Myanmar. Soldiers are accused of razing Rohingya homes and some world leaders allege “ethnic cleansing” has taken place.

In her first statement on the crisis, Myanmar’s civilian leader and Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pledges on Sept. 19 to hold rights violators to account but refuses to blame the army.

Possible genocide

Bangladesh and Myanmar on Nov. 23 agree to start repatriating refugees.

But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says conditions are not in place for their safe return and the process halts.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Dec. 5 warns of possible “elements of genocide” and calls for an international investigation.

Courts and sanctions

On Aug. 25, 2018, tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees stage protests to mark the first anniversary of their exodus.

UN investigators call for the prosecution of Myanmar’s army chief and five other top military commanders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In November an attempt to repatriate 2,260 Rohingya fails as they refuse to leave without guarantees for their safety.

Reporters jailed

On Sept. 3, two Reuters journalists who are accused of breaching Myanmar’s state secrets law while reporting on a Rohingya massacre are jailed for seven years.

They will spend more than 500 days behind bars before being released on a presidential pardon.

US sanctions

On July 16, 2019, Washington announces sanctions against Myanmar’s army chief and three other top officers.

About 3,500 Rohingya refugees are cleared to return home but none turn up to make the journey on Aug. 22.

Legal challenges mount

On Nov. 11 Gambia files a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of genocide for its treatment of the Rohingya.

Three days later the separate Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) green-lights a full investigation into the persecution of the Rohingya.

In the same week, a third case is filed by rights groups in Argentina under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Suu Kyi in court

On Dec. 11 Gambia lays out its case at the ICJ with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi personally leading Myanmar’s defense.

She refutes accusations of genocide, denying “misleading and incomplete” claims and insisting Myanmar is dealing with an “internal armed conflict”.

She admits the army may have used excessive force.

Court ruling

Delivering its ruling on Jan. 23, 2020, the ICJ orders Myanmar to take urgent steps to prevent alleged genocide and to report back within four months.

Coup detat

Myanmar’s military seizes power on Feb. 1, 2021,m ousting the civilian government and later waging a bloody crackdown on dissent.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is put under house arrest and later jailed for 17 years following a closed-door trial in junta court.

With several charges still hanging over her, the 77-year-old faces the possibility of decades behind bars.

US calls genocide

The United States on March 21, 2022 officially declares that the 2017 violence amounted to genocide, saying there was clear evidence of an attempt to “destroy” the Rohingya.

The ICJ rules on July 22 that the case filed by Gambia can proceed.

In the same month the junta executes four prisoners, the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.

Camp killings

On Aug. 10 two Rohingya community leaders are shot dead in one of the Bangladesh refugee camps, the latest in a string of killings in the settlements.

Rohingya sources tell AFP that ARSA is behind the shootings.

ARSA is accused of running narcotics, murdering political opponents and instilling a climate of fear in the camps.

META DESCRIPTION: A look at the key events that have unfolded since the Myanmar military launched a deadly crackdown on Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2017.

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