Religious or Ethnic Group


The Rohingya people are a Muslim population living in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, close to the border with Bangladesh.

They number approximately 800,000 in Myanmar, and a further 1.5 million displaced as refugees in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand. Although their history is disputed, the Rohingya have been present in Myanmar for generations and were recognised as citizens until a new Citizenship Law by the military regime in 1982 rendered them stateless. After Myanmar's independence from British colonial rule in 1948, the Rohingya participated in the country's parliamentary democracy and Government, and the Burmese Broadcasting Corporation had a dedicated Rohingya language radio station.

However, since General Ne Win seized power in a coup d'etat in Myanmar in 1962, successive military-backed regimes in Myanmar have persecuted the Rohingya. Several massacres occurred, notably in 1978 and 1991, resulting in thousands of Rohingya fleeing the country. A major campaign of violence and persecution began in 2012, resulting in hundreds of deaths and the displacement of more than 100,000. The Rohingya name is strongly disputed. It is not recognised by the Government of Myanmar or by many in Burmese society, who regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and therefore refer to them as 'Bengalis'.

The Rohingya claim their name is in reference to their indigenous roots to Rakhine State (also known as 'Arakan' or 'Rohang'). Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) regards the Rohingyas as one of the ten people groups around the world most at risk of extinction. International experts have warned of indicators of potential genocide.

Photo/Evangelos Petratos, June 2014