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Early Warning Signs of Genocide in Burma

May 4, 2015

By USHMM

 

“THEY WANT US ALL TO GO AWAY”

 

Early Warning Signs of Genocide in Burma

 

In March 2015, staff from the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide traveled to Burma to investigate threats facing the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority that has been the target of rampant hate speech, the denial of citizenship, and restrictions on the freedom of movement. These and a host of other human rights violations have put this population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.

 

READ OUR REPORT ON THE PLIGHT OF ROHINGYA IN BURMA (PDF)

 

In Burma, we visited internment camps and spoke with Rohingya who have been violently displaced from their homes. We also met with Rohingya who are living in cordoned-off ghettos, separated from their Buddhist neighbors, most of whom belong to the Rakhine ethnic group.

 

Rohingya gather at a mosque in an internment camp. Mosques throughout the country have been attacked, destroyed, and sometimes turned into Buddhist temples. —Courtesy of Paula Bronstein Getty Images Reportage for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

We saw firsthand the Rohingya’s physical segregation, which has resulted in a modern form of apartheid, and the devastating impact that official policies of persecution are having on them. When asked what the Burmese government wants to do with them, one Rohingya advocate replied, “They want us all to go away.”

 

An estimated 4,250 Rohingya live in the Aung Mingalar ghetto in Sittwe, segregated from their Rakhine neighbors. Police officers and barricades mark the boundaries; many of the ghetto residents referred to it as an “open prison.” —Courtesy of Paula Bronstein Getty Images Reportage for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

The remains of a mosque in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, testify to the violence that swept through the town in 2012. No independent or credible investigations into the attacks have taken place. —Courtesy of Paula Bronstein Getty Images Reportage for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

We left Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. But there is still an opportunity to prevent this devastating outcome. Our report (PDF) sounds the alarm about the need for urgent action to address these warning signs and to prevent future atrocities, including genocide, from occurring.

 

The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is indebted to all those who shared their stories with us.