As days turn into months, and months turn into seasons, the Myanmar Rohingya still struggle on their never-ending journey to find home.
At a temporary camp made due to international pressure in Ache, Indonesia, situations for Rohingya refugees are less than stellar. One evening, four Rohingya women between the ages of 14 and 28 explained that they were attacked by a group of men. More shockingly, three female Rohingya were raped, one of who was only 14 years old. In addition, local men sexually assaulted multiple other Rohingya women in the camp. Inevitably, news of these attacks spread around the camp the following day enraging the refugees seeking shelter in the camp. As a result, many refugees took their few possessions and left the camp. It is said many of them left to head towards Malaysia, in hopes to find a safer and more welcoming place for refuge. Human traffickers promised that they would be able to help them reach Malaysia safe, effectively entrapping many of these refugees.
In Myanmar, the native land of the Rohingya, situations do not seem to be getting better either. Recently, over 800,000 Rohingya were forced to hand back identity cards they were previously given that afforded them voting rights. As a result, the Rohingya have been left voiceless in the upcoming Myanmar election on November 8. Because of this, many Rohingya fear that the Arakan National Party, a newly formed coalition of two Buddhist movement parties, could win a large majority. The Rohingya worry that this group would begin deporting residents who lack papers to prove that their family lineage links to Myanmar. As such, thousands of Rohingya are preparing to set sail again in hopes to find a safer places for themselves and their families. Local smugglers are taking advantage of the Rohingya as they arrange unconscionable agreements to transport them to Malaysia. Yasmin, a mother of four explained, “I will take a risky boat journey . . . dying in a boat journey is better than staying [alive] in miserable conditions in the camps with no access to health care and employment opportunities.” It seems like the Rohingya are going through an endless cycle as they try to find a place where they can live in peace, without fear of persecution and atrocities such as assaults and rape.
While many Rohingya hope that a victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy could lead to better conditions for the Rohingya and dismantling of the camps, the reality seems less likely. Suu Kyi has yet to take any stance to fight for the democratic rights of the Rohigya and she has remained significantly silent on this issue. This is quite surprising from someone who has won a Nobel Peace Prize and someone who has proclaimed to be a major voice for human rights and freedoms in Myanmar. Do the Rohinyga not have any rights or freedoms? Why are the Rohingya, who are Myanmar natives, being denied the same equal rights and freedoms as other Myanmar citizens? Why is Suu Kyi, a human rights and democratic activist, doing nothing to stand up for the Rohingya?
After recounting many stories of the Rohingya suffrage, it becomes more and more clear that the Rohingya need a place that they can affirmatively call home. This place is Myanmar, their native land. Taking boats to other countries and seeking refuge has not been a successful option for the Rohingya. While they may serve as temporary options, the Rohingya need to be able to live in peace in their native land. I can not even fathom what it would feel like to be forced to leave my country, be separated from my family, and live temporarily in makeshift shelters in a foreign country, not knowing my permanent fate and whether I will ever be reunited with my family. We cannot ignore what is happening to the Rohingya. We cannot forget about the Rohingya as they continue their plight to find home.