Commentary – Lessons of the Rohingya Genocide

A genocide is underway against the Rohingya of Myanmar. Chronic tensions and sporadic episodes of violent persecution of the group – an ethnic Muslim minority group based in Western Rakhine state, along Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal coast – have devolved into a concerted campaign over the past three months. As several recent reports document, in recent months security forces, allied militias, civil society organizations, and citizens have committed atrocities ranging from pillaging, looting, and forced displacement to rape, torture, and murder against the Rohingya.

While atrocities are not in and of themselves tantamount to “genocide,” a 2015 study conducted by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School found ample evidence that the violence against the Rohingya has indeed constituted violations of the United Nations Genocide Convention. The study concluded that the Rohingya constitute a distinct group by ethnicity and (vis-à-vis their perpetrators) religion (pp. 42-44) and that “the massive scale of the persecution, attacks, killing, and intentional displacement of Rohingya demonstrates intent to destroy the group, in whole or in part” (p.58). The 2016-17 violence took place after the release of the Yale report, but by all available accounts the pattern has conformed to precedent.