Myanmar’s suppression of the Rohingya, explained in 30 seconds

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A Rohingya refugee reacts while holding his deceased son after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang, October 9, 2017. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Rohingya are a minority Muslim group in Myanmar.
  • More than 740,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the Rakhine State of Myanmar since August 2017, when a military-led ethnic cleansing campaign began, according to the Human Rights Watch.
  • Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in November accusing the country of genocide, according to The New York Times.
  • Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is appearing before the UN International Court of Justice this week to address the accusation of genocide against the Rohingya, according to The New York Times.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

What is happening to the Rohingya people in Myanmar?

An ethnic cleansing campaign since August 2017 has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees out of Myanmar. The spotlight is on Myanmar this week as the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, appears before the UN International Court of Justice to address an accusation of genocide against the Rohingya.


Here’s a 30-second explanation of what’s going on:

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Rohingya refugees raise their hands and shout that they won’t go back to Myanmar during a January 2018 demonstration at Kutupalong near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Associated Press

The Rohingya are a minority Muslim group in Myanmar. More than 740,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the Rakhine State of Myanmar since August 2017, when a military-led ethnic cleansing campaign to remove the Rohingya Muslims began, according to Human Rights Watch.

Reuters won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the Rohingya, including an investigation into 10 Rohingya men who were massacred in September 2017. The two reporters working on the story were arrested in Myanmar and spent over 500 days in prison before they were freed, according to Reuters.

“Most Rohingya remaining in Myanmar are interned in camps or confined to their villages, without access to basic services,” Hannah Beech and Saw Nang wrote in The New York Times on December 10.


The role of social media

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In August 2018, Reuters found that Facebook did not adequately moderate both hate speech and calls for genocide of the Rohingya minority Muslim group in Myanmar.

Reuters uncovered thousands of Facebook posts attacking the Rohingya, including pornographic images. The Reuters investigation found these posts were still on Facebook months after the UN discovered hate speech on Facebook was being used to incite violence against the Rohingya people and after Mark Zuckerberg assured Congress that Facebook was working to fix the problem.


In fall 2019 …

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A Rohingya refugee walks with his children at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

September2019: A press release from the UN Human Rights Council read, “The 600,000 Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide” according to a September 2019 report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

December 2019: The Human Rights Watch published a report that alleged that Rohingya children in Bangladesh are being denied education. Rohingya children are not permitted to attend local schools, and the Bangladesh government is neither providing schooling within refugee camps or allowing outside humanitarian organisations to provide schooling, according to the report.


Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in November accusing the country of genocide.

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Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou and Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi attend a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. Yves Herman/Reuters

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi is appearing before the UN International Court of Justice this week, December 10 through December 12, to address the accusation of genocide against the Rohingya, according to The New York Times.

Sources: New York Times, HRC, HRC, Reuters, New York Times


Here’s a 5-minute explanation of the events, via a timeline of our past coverage:


July 28, 2019

What life is like on the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, where a UN-labelled ‘genocide’ has left 1 million refugees living in limbo


July 18, 2019

Trump asked ‘where is that?’ when a Rohingya refugee asked him if he was doing anything to stop the genocide in Myanmar


January 12, 2019

A 19-year-old Rohingya woman escaped oppression and violence in Myanmar and is now going to college in Bangladesh


December 9, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is facing backlash for encouraging people to visit Myanmar, where social media may have helped fuel a mass genocide


November 14, 2018

Mike Pence grilled Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi directly to her face over the Rohingya crisis


September 28, 2018

Canada’s parliament unanimously voted to strip Myanmar’s leader of her honorary citizenship


September 17, 2018

In Myanmar, economic opportunity and a renewed commitment to democracy are on the horizon if leader Aung San Suu Kyi wants them


September 13, 2018

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said jailed Reuters journalists can appeal their sentences


September 3, 2018

2 Reuters journalists have been sentenced to 7 years in prison for obtaining confidential documents in Myanmar


March 25, 2018

Facebook official who oversees the news feed says his team loses sleep over the site’s alleged role in Myanmar ‘ethnic cleansing’


March 22, 2018

Facebook official who oversees the news feed says his team loses sleep over the site’s alleged role in Myanmar ‘ethnic cleansing’


March 7, 2018

UN says Myanmar likely carried out ‘acts of genocide’ against Rohingya Muslims


February 7, 2018

The US is going to participate in military drills with Myanmar after accusing the country of ‘ethnic cleansing’


February 1, 2018

UN says Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims has the ‘hallmarks of genocide’


January 26, 2018

Philippines Duterte tells Myanmar’s leader human rights activists are ‘just a noisy bunch’ amid Rohingya crisis


January 20, 2018

Why China sees Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis as an opportunity


January 16, 2018

Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to resettle 650,000 displaced Rohingya Muslims within 2 years


January 11, 2018

Myanmar military finally admits it killed some captured Rohingya civilians


January 7, 2018

Rohingya insurgents say they have no option but to fight Myanmar’s ‘terrorism’ after wounding several soldiers in attack


December 24, 2017

Myanmar invited to US-Thailand military exercise, despite accusations of ethnic cleansing


December 20, 2017

Myanmar blocks UN human rights investigators just before scheduled visit


December 4, 2017

Satellite images show how large the Rohingya refugee camps have grown as people flee Myanmar


November 22, 2017

Brutal images show the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar that the US just called ‘ethnic cleansing’


October 24, 2017

Tillerson looks ready to call out Myanmar for ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims


October 18, 2017

Heartbreaking stories of atrocity are coming out of Myanmar – here’s what Rohingya refugees say is happening on the ground


October 11, 2017

Trapped Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar get first substantial food aid in months


October 10, 2017

One heartbreaking photo shows the depth of the crisis facing Rohingya refugees


October 5, 2017

Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority is fighting back with homemade weapons


October 1, 2017

The Rohingya are the new Palestinians


September 28, 2017

Aerial photos show how villages have been burned to ashes in Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis


September 17, 2017

‘We will kill you all’: Rohingya villagers in Myanmar beg for safe passage


September 3, 2017

Rohingya exodus continues in Burma amid accounts of ‘beheadings’


September 2, 2017

Rohingya Muslims flee after more than 2,600 houses were burned down in their Myanmar community


August 30, 2017

At least 110 dead, including women and children, as Myanmar military sweep villages for militants


January 4, 2017

Myanmar faces growing danger from ISIS supporters as persecution of Rohingya Muslims continues


January 2, 2017

Myanmar will investigate police abuse of Rohingya Muslims


December 28, 2016

Myanmar’s potential genocide could be the downfall of the country’s fledgling democracy


December 6, 2016

21,000 Rohingya Muslims are fleeing Myanmar to escape ‘genocide’


November 30, 2016

A genocide is in the making in Southeast Asia


November 5, 2016

‘Recipe for disaster’: Myanmar wants to arm and train non-Muslims to counter the Rohingya


December 5, 2013

Thailand Secretly Sells Myanmar Refugees To Human Trafficking Rings