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Forced conscription of Rohingya Muslims sparks human rights concerns

Sameera Casmod |
15 April 2024 | 11:38 a.m. SAST
2-minute read

Picture: Burma News International

Human Rights Watch has reported that the Myanmar military has forcibly recruited over a thousand Rohingya Muslim men and boys from the Rakhine state since February 2024.

Despite the Rohingya community being denied citizenship under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, the military junta has exploited a conscription law that specifically targets Myanmar citizens to forcibly enlist Rohingya individuals.

Those who resist conscription face arrest, detention, and coercive training sessions lasting two weeks.

The forced recruitment occurred primarily from three towns: Buthidaung, Sittwe and Kyaukphyu.

Speaking on Radio Islam International’s Sabaahul Muslim programme, the Free Rohingya Coalition co-founder, Nay San Lwin, explains that trained Rohingya recruits are deployed as human shields on the battlefields after the two-week training period, with reports of casualties among them.

In late March, scores of Rohingya youth were reportedly killed in clashes with the Arakan army.

“We had at least 60 or 70 Rohingya youth were killed as they were forced to fight against the Arakan army, which is representing the… Buddhists. So as of now, more than 1 000 have been already trained by the military and they are using them as two groups. One group to protect their battalion in the town and another group is using as the human shield at the battlefield,” Lwin says.

The forced recruitment is seen as a military strategy to stoke tensions between the Rohingya Muslim and Rakhine Buddhist communities.

The Rohingya population faces limited options for escape, with Bangladesh being the only viable route. However, there are over a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who have little hope of returning to their homeland. Meanwhile, travel restrictions within Myanmar prevent movement, leaving many Rohingya with no choice but to succumb to forced military service.

“And as of now, just today, the Arakan army spokesperson released a statement on Twitter calling us the Muslim terrorists. So I mean, we have no choice. Those Rohingya youth living in the Rakhine state, they have no choice. They cannot escape. Only one route they can escape is to Bangladesh. So as of now in Bangladesh, also more than a million Rohingya are taking refuge and their return is uncertain,” Lwin says.

Lwin notes that although there is global attention on the situation, the lack of meaningful action against the Myanmar military perpetuates a cycle of impunity, enabling ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya.

As the situation continues to deteriorate, concerns mount over the potential for further violence and displacement reminiscent of the 2012 conflict that forced thousands of Rohingya into internally displaced camps. Urgent international intervention is needed to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.


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